New Jack Gilbert Collection

No, I don’t mean there’s a new Jack Gilbert–just a new book by the same old Jack Gilbert. At least I hope it’s the same Jack Gilbert–by that I mean I hope the new poems in this collection are just as rich and delicate and ache-inducing as the others.

To have a new Jack Gilbert book out is pretty exciting and surprising. He’s 87 now, and from the last video of a reading he did in Washington I didn’t think there were going to be more poems coming out of him. Anyway, people who know me know that Gilbert is one of my favorite poets, and I was thrilled to meet him years ago in Newtown, thanks to Allen Hoey.

The book is described as a collected works (I already have all his books) combined with some previously unpublished poems. I don’t know how many or if they’re older or newer, but I’ll go for it anyway. You should too. The New York Times review promises lots of nipples.

Two Memorial Readings for the Late Louis McKee

Philadelphia poet Louis McKee passed away in November 2011. He was a well-respected poet and friend to many in the Philadelphia area and beyond. To celebrate his life and work, two separate memorial readings are being held, one hosted by the Mad Poets Society and another by the Fox Chase Review.

The first will be next Sunday, March 18 at 1 pm at the Mansion Parlor and Gallery of Media Borough Hall, 301 North Jackson Street, Media, PA 19063. More information on that event can be found here.

The second event will be April 29th at 1:30pm at Ryerss Museum and Library, 7370 Central Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa. 19111. It will feature one of Lou’s former students. More information can be found here. State Representative Michael McGeehan will present a Pennsylvania State Citation in honor of Louis McKee.

Ted Kooser on Nature and Poetry

UNLPublications and Photography.

Below is a continuation of the Q&As I did with several poets on the connection between poetry and nature/wilderness. The first was with Jane Hirshfield, and if you need to get caught up you can see that one here. These Q&A were all done via email. In this one former U.S. Poet Laureate writes briefly about why corporate/business life plays so small a part in the poetry of people who actually work in business for a living (Kooser worked in insurance before he taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln).

Do you think writers’ approach to nature/wild has changed in the contemporary world?

No. There are certainly lots of writers using urban life and subjects, and they get a lot of attention, but there is always a steady outflow of poetry and nonfiction about the natural world.

Another way of asking—has our dependence on technology and distance from nature changed poets’ relationship to it?

I don’t think so.

Is nature a good yardstick for measuring our own human issues by?

Certainly. Despite our habit of complicating our lives, we are still natural beings.

You’re a poet who spent a good portion of his life in a business/office environment, yet that world doesn’t surface in your work as frequently as fields, farms, animals or laborers? In general, opening any poetry journal, it’s much easier to find birds, mountains and rivers than it is to find references to inter-office mail, insertion orders or spreadsheets, yet they are probably a larger part of most people’s (and most poets) daily lives. Do you have any thoughts on why that is?

In an office, one’s experiences are often the same experiences day after day after day, whereas in nature there may be epiphanous events, coming as us as complete surprises. I did write some poems about my days in the insurance business, “Four Secretaries” is a good example, but, frankly, I just wasn’t very interested in what happened at the office, and why write about something that doesn’t interest you.

Galway Kinnell has said we must include the city in our definition of nature. What do you think of that? Can the city work for the poet in the same way as the forest or the sea?

I don’t know that quote, or its context, but I think he may have been talking about life in the city, rather than the city. His wonderful long poem “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ….” is rich with human life, which is nature. You can almost smell the people in that poem.

The concepts of bewilderment and wonder—brash and sometimes meditative—seems to be a strong thread connecting nature poetry (from the ancient Chinese writers to present writers like Harry Humes). What role do you believe bewilderment plays in nature poetry? I also believe bewilderment is tied into gratitude. And if not that, then what?

You know, I’ve never thought about that word [bewilderment] and what it means and how it’s constructed to include wild until this very moment, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’ll have to give it a lot more thought. Li Po is bewildered, not by nature but by alcohol, and I don’t think of him, or Tu Fu, as being confused by nature in the way that they are confused by their own circumstances.


You can find Ted Kooser’s latest book, Delights and Shadows, here.

Kooser’s website: American Life in Poetry

My next poetry workshop at Musehouse begins the week of March 12. It’s a six-week course held on Wednesday evenings. Go here to view the description and sign up.

Poetry Book Titles that Could Be Super PACs

Happy Life by David Budbill (Copper Canyon Press)

The Cloud Corporation by Timothy Donnelly (Wave Books)

Ballistics  by Billy Collins (Random House)

A Cold Wind From Idaho by Lawrence Matsuda (Black Lawrence Press)

Heavenly Questions by Gjertrud Schnackenberg (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Protection by Gregg Shapiro (Gival Press)

Delights and Shadows by Ted Kooser (Copper Canyon Press)

Unincorporated Territory by Craig Santos Perez (Tinfish Press)

187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border by Juan Felipe Herrera (City Lights Books)

you are a little bit happier than i am by Tao Lin (Action Books)

Another Attempt At Rescue by M.L. Smoker (Hanging Loose Press)

News of the World (paperback) by Philip Levine (Knopf)

One With Others by C. D. Wright (Copper Canyon Press)

Where I Live  by Maxine W. Kumin (W. W. Norton & Company)

The Continual Conditional  by Charles Bukowski (Ecco)

Native Guard  by Natasha Trethewey (Houghton Mifflin)

In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys by Campbell McGrath (Ecco)

Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon (Harper Perennial)

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (Graywolf Press )

Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker (New World Library)

Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls by Erika Meitner (Anhinga Press)

Either Way I’m Celebrating by Sommer Browning (Birds, LLC)

Determination by Kit Robinson (Cuneiform Press)

A Village Life by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


List inspired by this.

Which is your favorite Poetry Super PAC. Know of any other good ones? Post them in the comments section.