Sunday, April 30, 2017

Monday's poet is Jay Parini

Jay Parini was born on April 2, 1948 in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and grew up  in nearby Scranton. He graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1970 and five years later earned a doctorate from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. While still living in Scotland, he published his first book of poetry, Singing in Time (1972). Upon returning to the United States, he taught at Dartmouth College from 1975 to 1982 before accepting the position that he currently holds: teaching English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College in Vermont. In addition to his six volumes of poetry, Jay Parini has published widely in other genres: biography and biographical fiction, novels, literary criticism, and journalism. He has also edited several volumes, including The Columbia History of American Poetry, The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry, and three Breadloaf anthologies (poetry, short stories, and essays). His biographical novel, The Last Station, a chronicle of the final months in the life of Leo Tolstoy, has been translated into more than thirty languages and was adapted into an academy nominated film. His traditional biographical works include volumes on Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Gore Vidal, and Jesus. Recently he has published a New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 (Beacon Press, 2016), which includes selections from his previous collections Anthracite Country (Random House, 1982), Town Life (Henry Holt & Co., 1988), House of Days (Henry Holt & Co., 1998), and The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (George Braziller, 2005). For more information, see his website and blog at

In an interview with Paul Holler, Jay Parini explained, "I write because I like doing it. I can't wait to get out my notebook in the morning, and to start. I always begin the day by working on poetry. I love that moment, when I first open the blank page, and when I begin to hear the voice accumulating in my head, then transferring that energy to the page." 

This week's featured poem, "Hunch," from New and Collected Poems, 1975-2015 (Beacon Press, 2016), metaphorically captures some of that excitement. 


I follow it, the snail of thought
I leave the track, turn off this trail
I crouch in shadows, under ferns
I refuse to answer every bird
I see the liquid glister in its shell
I taste the wind
I smell the smoke of fire in the woods
I hear the crackle of a thousand thorns
I feel the temperature rising
I consider every option valid
I attend each phase
I crumble into wet, black ground
I lose my place in sand and gravel
I listen for the clash of weeds
I wonder where the snail will go today

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Poetry Show -- April 24 -- Lucia Perillo

The Poetry Show, hosted by Janet Harrison, is broadcast Mondays, 7:30 - 9:00 AM, EST, on

This week's featured poet is Lucia Perillo

Lucia Perillo was born in Manhattan on September 30, 1958 and died at her home in Olympia, Washington on October 16, 2016. The third child of a lawyer and a librarian, she grew up in Irvington, New York. She attended McGill University in Montreal and graduated with a degree in wildlife management. While working at the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge, she took a class at San Jose State University taught by poet Robert Hass. After moving to Olympia, Washington, in the 1980s, she earned a Master's degree in English from Syracuse University. Her first book of poetry, Dangerous Life (Northeastern University Press, 1989) was a success, winning the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. However, before the book went to press, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Despite her illness, she continued to write and teach, publishing six subsequent collections of poetry: The Body Mutinies (Purdue University Press, 1996), The Oldest Map with the Name America: New and Selected Poems (Random House, 1999), Luck is Luck (Random House, 2005), Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths (Copper Canyon Press, 2012), and Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones: Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2016). Additionally, she has published a collection of essays, I Hear the Vultures Singing (Trinity University Press, 2007) and a book of short stories, Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain (Norton, 2012). Her awards include the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship—the so-called genius award—and three Pushcart Prizes. 

Responding to the famous Robert Frost quote that "writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down," Perillo said: "but you also have to invent the shape of the ball and whether the paddle is going to be a fishing pole or a fly swatter. And then make up the rules of the game, what the ball bounces off of, etc." "The poem finds its form, and this is liberating but also a burden." 

This week's featured poem is "Women Who Sleep on Stones" from Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones: Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), originally published in her second book, The Body Mutinies (Purdue University Press, 1996). 


Women who sleep on stones are like
brick houses that squat alone in cornfields. 
They look weatherworn, solid, dusty, 
torn screen sloughing from the window frames. 
But at dusk a second-story light is always burning. 

Used to be I loved nothing more
than spreading my blanket on high granite ledges
that collect good water in their hollows. 
Stars came close without the trees
staring and rustling like damp underthings. 

But doesn't the body foil what it loves best?
Now my hips creak and their blades are tender. 
I can't rest on my back for fear of exposing
my gut to night creatures who might come along
and rip it open with a beak or hoof. 

And if I sleep on my belly, pinning it down, 
my breasts start puling like baby pigs
trapped under their slab of torpid mother. 
Dark passes as I shift from side to side
to side, the blood pooling just above the bone. 

Women who sleep on stones don't sleep. 
They see the stars moving, the sunrise, the gnats
rising like a hairnet lifted from a waitress's head. 
The next day they're sore all over and glad
for the ache: that's how stubborn they are. 

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Janet Reads Her favorite Sonnets

Sonnets from Shakespeare to the 21st Century.

As a poetic form, the sonnet traces its lineage to thirteenth century Italy; its name is derived from the Italian word sonetto, translated as "little song." While sonnets traditionally are poems of fourteen lines, they are grouped into different types based primarily on their rhyme scheme. The Italian (or Petrarchan, named for the famous Italian poet Francesco Petrarch—in English referred to as Petrarch) rhymes ABBAABBA CDECDE or ABBAABBA CDCDCD. This rhyme scheme proved difficult in English which is poorer in rhymes than Italian. Consequently, an English variant, the Shakespearean sonnet evolved which rhymed ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Sonnets also traditionally have a thematic turn or volta which in Petrarchan sonnets occurs between the first eight lines (the octave) and the final six lines (the sestet). In a Shakespearean sonnet the volta takes place before the concluding couplet. There are other variants of sonnets, including the Spenserian sonnet, which rhymes ABAB BCBC CDDC EE, or the shortened curtal sonnet invented by Gerard Manley Hopkins which has an opening sestet rhymed ABCABC followed by four and one half lines rhymed DBCDC. In English, sonnets were traditionally written in iambic pentameter, a ten beat line with alternating unstressed (short or weak) and stressed (long or strong) syllables. However, there are many exceptions to this rule, especially in modern practice.

Many of the sonnets for today's show are from the anthologies The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English, edited by Phillis Levin (Penguin, 2001) or The Making of a Sonnet edited by Edward Hirsch and Eavan Boland (Norton, 2008). The former book contains an excellent introductory essay, and the latter book includes translations of sonnets from other languages and a section of quotes about the form.

This week's featured poem, "My Dreams, My Works, Must Wait Till After Hell," is by Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000). While many of the rhymes in this poem are slant rather than exact: bread/lid, will/hell, etc., the poem follows the Shakespearean model.


I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid
I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry, I am incomplete,
And none can tell when I may dine again.
No man can give me any word but Wait,
The puny light. I keep eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love.

The Poet Laureate of Belfast -- Sinead Morrissey

March 13, 2017 raw podcast of the The Poetry Show on Enlighten Radio.

Award-winning poet Sinéad Morrissey was born on April 24, 1972 in Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland and was raised in Belfast. She earned a BA and a PhD from Trinity College, Dublin. She spent the next several years teaching and traveling abroad, spending time in Japan and New Zealand before returning to Northern Ireland to teach at Queen's University, Belfast. In 2016 she was appointed as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle. She has published five collections of poetry all by Carcanet Press: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996), Between Here and There (2001), The State of the Prisons (2005), Through the Square Window (2009) and Parallax (2013), which won the coveted T. S. Eliot Prize, awarded to the best new collection of poetry written in English and published either in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Her subject matter ranges widely. Parallax, which includes poems selected from previous collections as well new verse, contains long poems about prison reform and the debt crisis in Europe. Among her other awards are first place in the 2007 British National Poetry Competition for her poem, "Through the Square Window," the 2005 Michael Hartnett Poetry Prize for The State of the Prisons, and a Lannan Foundation Fellowship. She has also served as poet laureate of the city of Belfast.

This week's featured poem, "Reading the Greats," presents an unique take on reading great literature, risk, and failure.


Is it for their failures that I love them?
Ignoring the regulation of Selected Poems,
with everything in that should be in—
all belted & buttoned & shining—
I opt instead for the omnivorous Completes.
For their froth. Their spite. For avoidable mistakes:
Larkin on Empire, say or Plath on Aunts.

The thrill of when they dip, trip up, run out
of things to write about before they start,
is the consolation of watching
a seascape suddenly drained and stinking
of flies & fisheads & bladderwrack.
And the tide impossibly distant. And no way back.
Yes, I love them for that.

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