An Author's Assemblage: Brief Notes and Notices

The accumulation of posts to this web page serves merely as an author’s assemblage of brief notes and notices: the collection of informal bits of information, quotations, and observations gathered as one way to display a personal reflection of perceptions on poetry, publication, and related selections of material drawn from my perspectives as a poet or professor of literature and creative writing.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rosanna Warren on Characteristics of Pastoral Poetry

“In the first place, pastoral archetypally situates itself in an idealized and artificial landscape. Whether in the Greek Arcady often invoked by Virgil or Theocritus’s Sicily, the scenery is standard (tamarisks, beeches, willows, galingale, olive trees, musical brooks), and it is understood that nature here has obliged by providing an elemental poetic space. We shall find an analogous space in Strand’s moonlit fields.”

* * *

“The idealization of the landscape requires, as a corollary, a principle of exclusion, and this feature also characterizes Strand’s poems. Pastoral seems to provide shelter from the city, family, politics, illness, and the biological consequences of love. It is the locus amoenus whose very conventionality affords it blessed protection. But the power of pastoral paradoxically rests in its fragility, its evanescence. Its generic purity and artificiality direct our attention inevitably to all it has excluded. We are invited to study the ways in which pastoral poems willingly suffer contamination, and derive from it their most poignant strengths.” —From “Negative Idylls: Mark Strand and Contemporary Pastoral,” a chapter in Rosanna Warren’s Fables of the Self: Studies in Lyric Poetry (W.W. Norton, 2008)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Valparaiso University Press Release for SEEDED LIGHT

I am pleased to note the following press release distributed today by Valparaiso University’s office of public relations:

Professor’s poetry book called “scenic and intimate”

Seeded Light, Dr. Byrne’s sixth collection of poems, is the most extensive book of the English professor’s career.

“‘Seeded Light’ contains a fairly comprehensive scope of poetry,’ Dr. Byrne says, ‘that expresses, through imagery written in accessible language, a variety of views on subjects as diverse as nature, art, literature, music, memory, imagination, friendship, family, love, loss, life, maturity, and mortality.’

“Dr. Byrne says lyrics in his newest collection connect the past to the present, raising readers’ awareness of their own worlds.

“Noted poets have offered praise for the book.

“Award-winning poet David Baker writes ‘Edward Byrne shows the lyric couplet to be a form with its own remarkable flexibility and narrative capacity. Seeded Light is memorial and social, scenic and intimate, by turns, providing a humane pathway of one gentle man’s passage through the world in all its weather and worry.’

“‘Seeded Light,’ poet Alfred Corn writes, ‘offers abundant evidence of a mind’s alertness to the world of nature and to modern urban reality . . . . The fineness of Byrne’s perceptions and the musicality of his lines make following his journeys an instructive pleasure . . . .’”

Visitors are invited to read the rest of the press release.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and the Avant-Garde 50 Years Ago

“I remember that in the spring of 1949 there was a symposium on the arts at Harvard during which a number of new works were performed including Schönberg’s Trio for Strings. My friend the poet Frank O’Hara, who was majoring in music at Harvard, went to hear it and was violently attacked for doing so by one of the young instructors in the music department, who maintained that Schönberg was literally insane. Today the same instructor would no doubt attack O’Hara for going to hear anything so academic. To paraphrase Bernard Shaw, it is the fate of some artists, and perhaps the best ones, to pass from unacceptability to acceptance without an intervening period of appreciation.

“At that time I found the avant-garde very exciting, just as the young do today, but the difference was that in 1950 there was no sure proof of the existence of the avant-garde. To experiment was to have the feeling that one was poised on some outermost brink. In other words if one wanted to depart, even moderately, from the norm, one was taking one’s life—one’s life as an artist—into one’s hands.” —From John Ashbery’s Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles 1957-1987 (Knopf, 1989)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Louise Glück on Ambition and Power of the Implied in Art or Poetry

“What I share with my friends is ambition; what I dispute is its definition. I do not think that more information always makes a richer poem. I am attracted to ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent, deliberate silence. The unsaid, for me, exerts great power: often I wish an entire poem could be made in this vocabulary. It is analogous to the unseen; for example, to the power of ruins, to works of art either damaged or incomplete. Such works inevitably allude to larger contexts; they haunt because they are not whole, though wholeness is implied: another time, a world in which they were whole, or were to have been whole, is implied. There is no moment in which their first home is felt to be the museum. A few years ago, I saw a show of Holbein drawings; most astonishing were those still in progress. Parts were entirely finished. And parts were sketched, a fluent line indicating arm or hand or hair, but the forms were not filled in. Holbein had made notes to himself: this sleeve blue, hair, auburn. The terms were other—not the color in the world, but the color in paint or chalk. What these unfinished drawings generated was a vivid sense of Holbein at work, at the sitting; to see them was to have a sense of being back in time, back in the middle of something. Certain works of art become artifacts. By works of art, I mean works of any medium. And certain works of art do not. It seems to me that what is wanted, in art, is to harness the power of the unfinished. All earthly experience is partial. Not simply because it is subjective, but because that which we do not know, of the universe, of mortality, is so much more vast than that which we do know. What is unfinished or has been destroyed participates in these mysteries. The problem is to make a whole that does not forfeit this power.” —From Louise Glück’s Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry (Ecco, 1994)


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