Tag: American poets

On Suicide and the New Manifesto Against It

StayJennifer Michael Hecht, author of Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It, felt the terrible effects of suicide twice in two years. The loss of two friends and fellow poets, the second of which seemed prompted by the first, inspired Hecht to write a column for The Best American Poetry. She hoped that this letter would reach an audience of grieving poets and spark a resurgence of loving life.

Most of the scholarly writing on suicide is concerned with religion or law. Suicide is illegal; suicide is not in God’s plan. But Hecht wanted to convey a stronger message to her readers. She wrote:

…I want to say this, and forgive me the strangeness of it. Don’t kill yourself. Life has always been almost too hard to bear, for a lot of the people, a lot of the time. But it isn’t too hard to bear, it’s only almost too hard to bear.

Hecht’s argument hinges on the devastation that is left behind when a loved one commits suicide. While writing on the topic is often focus on saving oneself, Hecht’s plea asks the reader to save his or her friends and family as well, writing:

These days we encourage people to stay alive and not kill themselves, but we say it for the person’s own sake. It’s illegal, sure, but no one actually insists that suicide is wrong. I’m issuing a rule. You are not allowed to kill yourself. When a person kills himself, he does wrenching damage to the community. One of the best predictors of suicide is knowing a suicide. That means suicide is also delayed homicide. You have to stay.

Hecht’s open letter took the conversation about suicide past philosophical ideals or religious beliefs – hers was a heartfelt and desperate plea: stay. Her new book, whose title bears that same request, is a response to the hundreds of readers who reached out to the author after she published the letter. Stay is a combination of philosophy, religion, and cultural study. But it is also more than that; it is a manifesto to everyone suffering:

Don’t kill yourself. Suffer here with us instead. We need you with us, we have not forgotten you, you are our hero. Stay.

Yale Series of Younger Poets 2014 Competition Now Accepting Submissions!

Calling all American poets under 40! Submissions for the 2014 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition are being accepted from now until November 15, 2013. And for the first time, manuscripts can be submitted electronically!

The Yale Series of Younger Poets prize is the oldest literary award in the United States and champions the most promising new American poets. Previous winners include Muriel Rukeyser, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, James Tate, Richard Siken, Jay Hopler, Fady Joudah, Arda Collins, Katherine Larson, Ken Chen, Eduardo Corral, and most recently, Eryn Green, among others. All submissions are reviewed and judged by renowned poet Carl Phillips.

Der arme Poet (“The Poor Poet”) (1839) by Carl Spitzweg.

Der arme Poet (“The Poor Poet”) (1839) by Carl Spitzweg.

The Yale Younger Poets winner will also receive a fellowship from The James Merrill House in Stonington, CT. The fellowship provides its recipients with a furnished living space and daily access to James Merrill’s apartment, allowing them to work on their literary or academic project in a quiet, rural setting in New England that has inspired many writers past and present.

You can submit your manuscript electronically, after which you will receive immediate online confirmation of your submission and be able to check the status of your application. The $20.00 submission fee is payable by credit card or via PayPal.

Click here to learn more about the Yale Series for Younger Poets competition and for manuscript submission guidelines.

Good luck to all!

Westerly: “A book of uncommon wisdom”

WesterlySince 1919 the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize has helped burgeoning artists find a well-deserved audience for their poetry. Last year’s winner, Will Schutt and his new anthology Westerly, is no exception. Carl Phillips, acclaimed poet and the judge of last year’s prize, writes in the Foreword to Westerly:

Will Schutt’s Westerly takes on nothing less than, on the one hand, the ways in which we, the living, both late and soon, make our stumbling way westward, mostly oblivious to the fact of mortality, and, on the other hand, how the dead make their resonant way back to us, sometime as memory, sometimes as guide directing us toward and through the inevitable… This is a book of uncommon wisdom… its poems sustain me. They give me hope – which may very well be, among gifts, the one we need most.

Schutt’s poems are concerned with both the real and the mythical, the modern and the historical. He weaves translations, illusions, and inventive narratives into effortless pieces of a wholly moving collection.

Read a poem excerpt below, then pick up a copy to read the whole work!


Even up close it’s hard to tell

whether the white and blue

church tower is defunct or half-finished

or, like every third house

block after prim block, let for summer.

Only an odd patch of moss

flecks the siding, and thin ginger-colored

stains make a noncomittal

braid, like wicker or wings at rest.

From our third-floor window

long scarves of water push

right up against the houses.

They seem to clip the gutter spouts.

If one were Elizabeth Bishop

one might hear it turn into a tidy music.

Tidy and resolved, the way

history says, “Look West, Future-looker,”

and kids worry a blue vein

of hope in their spiral notebooks.

At night after each boat has pulled in

behind the artificial bulwark

moonlight saddles a galvanized tub

of orange marigold and sedum,

and green and burgundy rosettes

creep upward like weird insect antennae

trucking the earth off to Westerly,

Rhode Island, where nirvana is a long time

coming, or untidy, unresolved,

the way stupid hope won’t shut up.

Excerpted from Westerlyby Will Schutt. Copyright © 2013 by Yale University. All rights reserved.

Eryn Green Named 2013 Winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets

Carl Phillips Chooses Eryn Green as 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets Winner

Yale University Press Yale University Press is pleased to announce a winner in the 2013 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. The judge, prize-winning and critically acclaimed poet Carl Phillips, has chosen Eryn Green’s manuscript, ERUV.

Carl Phillips says that ERUV “reminds us how essential wilderness is to poetry—a wilderness in terms of how form and language both reinvent and get reinvented; meanwhile, the sensibility behind these poems points to another wilderness, the one that equals thinking about and feeling the world—its hurts, its joys—deeply and unabashedly, as we pass through it.

Yale University Press will publish Green’s book in April 2014. The manuscript is Phillips’s third selection as judge and the 108th volume in the series. Carl Phillips’s second selection, Will Schutt’s Westerly, will be published by Yale University Press on April 16, 2013.

Eryn Green, credit Hanna Andrews

Eryn Green, credit Hanna Andrews

Eryn Green is a doctoral candidate at the University of Denver and holds an MFA from the University of Utah. His work has appeared in Jubilat, Colorado Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He lives in Denver.

Awarded since 1919 by Yale University Press, the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize celebrates the most prominent new American poets by bringing the work of these artists to the attention of the larger public. Earlier winners of the prize include such talents as Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Jack Gilbert, Jean Valentine and Robert Hass. It is the longest-running poetry prize in the United States.

Yale University Press will also continue its partnership with The James Merrill House. Winners of the Series will receive one of the five writing fellowships offered at The James Merrill House in Stonington, CT. The fellowship provides a furnished living space and daily access to James Merrill’s apartment for a writer in search of a quiet setting to complete a project of literary or academic merit.

The Art of Robert Frost

Robert Frost holds a coveted position in the category of Poets that (Almost) Everyone Knows. Many first recited “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” in grade school. Its use of chain rhyme and simple imagery provide a nice introduction to poetry, even for the youngest readers. And really, no one is morally opposed to woods, snow, horses, or sleigh bells.

In her recent Vulture.com article, Kathryn Shultz addresses the commonly-adopted casting of Frost as a “folksy gentleman farmer with a gift for words.” Yet one is not mistaken if they start questioning the famous poem, perhaps there is something more to his lovely but quietly sad narratives. This is the incredible aspect of Robert Frost explored in Tim Kendall’s The Art of Robert Frost, a hybrid of a 65-poem anthology and analysis. Kendall breaks down each poem, providing insight and background to some of Frost’s most beloved works.

For example, Kendall addresses the ever-quoted work, “The Road Not Taken,” and its famous last stanza:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

These lines are recited by high school valedictorians at graduations, by supportive family and friends at weddings, by motivational speakers and encouraging greeting cards. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” may be the most quoted poem in the English language, and yet it was not intended as an ode to those who go against the grain.

Instead, Frost wrote the poem from the point of view of his friend Edward Thomas, ironically mocking Thomas’ tendency to over think simple decisions. It is clearly stated throughout the poem that both roads were equal, using phrases like “just as fair,” and “really about the same,” and “equally lay,” to express the sameness of the two roads. There is no significance to the road chosen by Thomas, except for the fact that it was arbitrarily chosen. But despite this, Frost is generally considered the speaker, and thus, the champion of those who dance to the beat of their own drum. Clichés abound.

Kendall describes this wild misinterpretation as a “crisis in poetics.” According to his analysis, Frost was endlessly frustrated by this common and sincere reading of his ironic piece, bothered by the reader’s blatant oblivion to his literary cues.

But perhaps this is the power of Frost’s work – everyone can find some meaning in his lines – regardless of the nuance he had intended. But for those interested in exploring the depths of his work, The Art of Robert Frost may prove a helpful guide.

Lost Without Translation: Peter Cole on The Poetry of Kabbalah

Peter Cole (credit Adina Hoffman)

The latest Margellos World Republic of Letters interview features acclaimed poet and translator Peter Cole on The Poetry of Kabbalah, the first English-language collection of poems from the Kabbalistic tradition. In the excerpt below, Cole discusses the history, culture, language, and identities that have shaped over a millennium of tradition in Jewish mystical verse, and of course, his own role in translating and annotating the edition. Be sure to sign up on the new WRL site to receive full e-mail updates and interviews with authors and translators in advance. You can also listen to Cole read the poems “Nut Garden,” by Yosef Gikatilla, and “Each Day.”

Yale University Press: Could you describe the origins of this project? What led you to The Poetry of Kabbalah and when?

Peter Cole: My co-editor, the Israeli scholar and translator Aminadav Dykman, dreamed this project up some fifteen years ago and approached me with the idea. I’d long been drawn to this poetry, or to what I knew of it at the time, and I relished the opportunity to delve into it…


YUP: Your book not only exposes the beauty and the power of Kabbalistic poetry but also teaches us about history and culture. What do you hope your readers will take away from this collection? How would you like them to approach the poems—as an artistic endeavor, historical document, or as something different altogether?

PC:  I’d like this anthology to bring readers into the world and force field of this verse in every way—acoustically, spiritually, culturally, historically. The poetry itself has a great deal to say to us as readers today—about the nature of the language we use for things great and small, and what it means to maintain a vital connection through speech to spirit; about the ways in which Eros might inform a faithful existence and about the centrality of coupling in our lives; about how first things are bound to what comes last, and where the present stands in relation to both. In a nutshell, the poems function, in many cases, as allegories of inwardness: they embody an intense sense of an inner life and, in their cadences and patterns, capture some of the most elusive, yet poignant and central aspects of existence…


YUP: What about the abstraction that one finds in so much of this verse?

PC: Translating the abstraction of the poetry was another challenge. On the whole, I take my cues from the original poems in question. The abstraction I think you’re talking about—the sort of thing we find in the Poems of the Palaces, say, doesn’t feel abstract. Its incorporation, its embodiment in the pulse and cadence of the lines of verse, along with the manipulation of the verse’s texture, renders it highly physical, aural, even tactile. I aim for something similar in the English…


YUP: The Poetry of Kabbalah opens with liturgical hymns and ends with poems by Hayyim Nahman Bialik. In what ways—thematic, aesthetic, linguistic—has the Kabbalistic tradition influenced modern writing? What is the significance of these poems to world literature?

PC: Kabbalistic literature has had a profound effect on modern writing—often through the mediation of scholarship. One thinks of Borges, for instance, who directly incorporated Kabbalistic elements into his writing, as did the poet Paul Celan, among many others. The inclusion of the two poems by Bialik is meant to mark that transition from the conventionally religious and sometimes ritual context to the far broader matrix of world literature read in humanistic terms. And it also reminds us that it’s important to circle back, like Bialik and his successors, and read the older work through the lens of our own understanding.


Peter Cole is the author of three books of poetry and the translator of more than a dozen volumes from Hebrew and Arabic, including The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492. His many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, and the PEN Translation Award for Poetry. In 2007 he was named a MacArthur Fellow. He divides his time between Jerusalem and New Haven.

Slow Lightning and Eduardo Corral: Yale’s First Latino Younger Poet

The first poem Eduardo C. Corral ever wrote was a response to Beowulf in rhyming couplets. Corral’s high school English teacher, who assigned the poem, thought his response was so good, she read it aloud to her other classes.

More than a decade later, Corral’s poetry is winning even higher praise. In the last twelve months, he became the first Latino poet to receive the Yale Younger Poets Prize, won the 2011 Whiting Award, and now has published his first book of poetry, Slow Lightning, new from Yale University Press this month.

A profile of Corral in the Arizona Republic describes the years between that Beowulf poem and Slow Lightning, the manuscript of which was completed last year in a Starbucks in Corral’s home town of Casa Grande, Arizona. Corral, who grew up speaking Spanish at home, was greatly influenced by the Chicano writers he studied as an undergraduate at Arizona State University, a fact that is obvious in the mixture of English and Spanish that appears in his poems. “I don’t use Spanish as ethnic embellishment,” Corral said in an interview earlier this month with Publishers Weekly. Instead, “It mirrors the way I think…If the Spanish is taken out, the poem collapses.”

Corral’s subject matter is weighty: his poems deal with Mexican-American border politics, AIDS, and broader themes of identity, erotics, and family connection. Yet his poetry is not easily summarized. Indeed, in the foreword to Slow Lightning, Carl Phillips begins his tenure as judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, explaining how Corral’s distinctive bilingual style is just one symptom of the way in which the poet “resists reductivism. Gay, Chicano, ‘Illegal-American,’ that’s all just language, and part of Corral’s point is that language, like sex, is fluid and dangerous and thrilling, now a cage, now a window out.” Corral navigates this fluidity of language with expertise, evoking not only “intimacy, humor, outrage, longing, fear,” but also “quiet beauty” and a “joyful exuberance” Phillips locates in the following excerpt:


…At my touch,

            a piano

melts like a slab

            of black ice. I’m

steam rising,

            dissipating. I’m a ghost undressing.

I’m a cowboy

            riding bareback.

My soul is


above my head like a lasso.

            My right hand

a pistol. My left

            automatic. I’m knocking


on every door…


Excerpted from “Self-Portrait with Tumbling and Lasso” by Eduardo C. Corral in Slow Lightning Copyright © 2011 by Yale University.

World of Letters: The Beginnings of Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich is unforgettable. Last month, we announced the winner of the 2012 Younger Poet Series competition, and beginning our celebration of Poetry Month in April, it takes little effort to remember one of YSYP’s best and greatest poets. The world was sad to note her passing last Tuesday, March 27, but the language of this most noteworthy American poet is her lasting gift, one that is sure to reward us more and more, just as it has in the 61 years since she was first published.

Born May 16, 1929 in Baltimore, Rich was encouraged from an early age to write poetry. Her father took a special interest in her education and that of her younger sister, Cynthia, and Rich herself would later comment that her father intended for her to be a “prodigy.” After finishing high school, Rich enrolled at Radcliffe College, where she continued to study and write poetry.

Meanwhile since 1947, W.H. Auden had been serving as judge of Yale University Press’s Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition, a position he would hold until 1959. His run as series judge brought to light poetry collections from promising mid-century poets like John Ashberry, W.S. Merwin, and John Hollander. In 1951, Rich’s final year at Radcliffe, Auden selected her submission, A Change of World, as the winner of the competition and subsequently wrote the introduction to her first published book. The prestige of the literary award and Rich’s own poetic brilliance and use of form would establish her writing career in the time-honored way that Yale Younger Poets beautifully achieve.

Over the next six decades, Rich challenged convention and conformity alike with her writing. She wrote more than thirty volumes of poetry and prose, the last of which was published by W.W. Norton in 2010, her publisher since the publication of her fourth poetry collection in 1966. Her single identification as a woman evolved into many: as a feminist, a lesbian, and increasingly as a Jew, as the years went on and she began to reflect on her father’s family heritage. As the New York Times reported in an obituary last week, “For Ms. Rich, the personal, the political and the poetical were indissolubly linked,” and as part of the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s, she was involved in civil rights and feminist activism, and turning her writing towards themes of womanhood and motherhood. Following her the end of her marriage to Harvard economics professor Alfred Conrad, Rich came out as a lesbian and began to publish in prose, as forceful and effective as her poetry, about identity politics and the question of rights in the United States. She is best known through this second half of her life, but for YUP’s acquaintance, we remember most the one packet—of the hundreds and thousands of submissions—that started it all and simply read:

Adrienne Cecile Rich.

Will Schutt Named 2012 Winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets

Yale University Press is pleased to announce a winner in the 2012 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. The judge, prize-winning and critically acclaimed poet Carl Phillips, has chosen Will Schutt’s manuscript, Westerly. Yale University Press will publish Schutt’s book in April 2013. The manuscript is Phillips’s second selection as judge. His first selection, Eduardo C. Corral’s Slow Lightning, will be published by Yale University Press on April 3, 2012.

Poet Will Schutt earned his BA from Oberlin College and his MFA from Hollins University. His poems and translations appear in Agni, FIELD, Harvard ReviewThe Southern Review and elsewhere. He lives with his wife in Wainscott, New York.

Awarded since 1919, the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize celebrates the most prominent new American poets by bringing the work of these artists to the attention of the larger public. Earlier winners of the prize include such talents as Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and Robert Hass. It is the longest-running poetry prize in the United States.

Yale University Press is also pleased to announce a new partnership with The James Merrill House. Beginning with the 2012 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, winners of the Series will receive one of the five writing fellowships offered at The James Merrill House in Stonington, CT. The fellowship provides a furnished living space and daily access to James Merrill’s apartment for a writer in search of a quiet setting to complete a project of literary or academic merit.