New In Store: Copper Canyon

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we’re offering a stupendously generous 20% OFF ALL POETRY TITLES this April. That means you still have one week to race down to Malvern Books and pick out some verse bargains—and to make your life a little easier, allow me to recommend this trifecta of recent arrivals from Copper Canyon Press

Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon has been publishing poetry since 1972, and they’ve released over 400 titles. Their impressive list includes renowned and emerging American poets, poetry in translation, anthologies, and re-issues of classic collections. Let’s take a look at three of their outstanding new releases…

Siken is a painter as well as an acclaimed poet, and in War of the Foxes he contemplates the challenges artists and writers face when they seek meaning in their own inventions. This is a rich and thoughtful collection, and a worthy follow-up to the award-winning Crush, his much admired first book.

We’re big fans of Alaskan poet Olena Kalytiak Davis (and in particular her wonderful first book, And Her Soul Out of Nothing), so this new volume of poetry, her first full collection in over ten years, is certainly cause for celebration. In his New Yorker review, Dan Chiasson writes that Davis’ poetry is “at once tawdry and oddly pure,” and suggests that what makes her work so thrilling is the way “it sends us ricocheting from line to line and poem to poem looking for sustenance.” If you’re keen for some brilliant, brutal, deeply intimate verse, be sure to check out The Poem She Didn’t Write

It’s hardly surprising Frank Stanford has become something of a cult literary figure: he was prolific, enigmatic, and handsome, and he died young, shooting himself in the chest three times following an argument with his wife. However, he’s never quite reached legendary status, in part because his poetry has been hard to track down. Copper Canyon has now remedied this with a comprehensive new collection that includes work from each of Stanford’s published titles (including excerpts from his epic, “The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You”), as well as an abundance of unpublished poems and fragments. What About This is a compelling introduction to a fascinating Southern poet.

Poetry, C & D

And now for the second installment in Malvern Books’ arbitrary and occasional Poetry Month A-Z series…

C is for Coleridge, and also constipation

The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!

At length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

ColeridgeWere you forced to memorize lengthy bits of the dead albatross saga in school? Has this experience left you with less-than-fluffy feelings toward Samuel Taylor Coleridge? Let me offer you a little fecal schadenfreude (a phrase with exactly zero google results—until now!) by sharing with you poor Mr. Coleridge’s bowel tribulations.

Coleridge’s addiction to opium inspired some of his most famous poetry (like Kubla Khan, another poem you may have learned by rote), but it also caused terrible constipation. Here’s Coleridge’s diary account of a particularly gruesome bout, which occurred on a sea voyage from Gibraltar to Malta aboard the Speedwell:

Tuesday Night, a dreadful Labour, & fruitless throes, of costiveness—individual faeces, and constricted orifices. Went to bed & dozed & started in great distress.

The following day, “a day of horror,” the captain of the Speedwell had to flag down a passing ship and request that the ship’s surgeon come on board to tend to Coleridge:

The Surgeon instantly came, went back for Pipe & Syringe & returned & with extreme difficulty & the exertion of his utmost strength injected the latter. Good God!—What a sensation when the obstruction suddenly shot up!… At length went: O what a time!—equal in pain to any before. Anguish took away all disgust, & I picked out the hardened matter & after a while was completely relieved. The poor mate who stood by me all this while had the tears running down his face.

Lawks-a-lawdy! Alas, the enemaand its attendant humiliationwas to become a regular occurrence in Coleridge’s life. He knew the constipation was a side effect of his opium use, but he couldn’t kick the habit, and thus he came to see his rectal misfortunes as a punishment for his addiction.

To weep & sweat & moan & scream for parturience of an excrement with such pangs & such convulsions as a woman with an Infant heir of Immortality: for Sleep a pandemonium of all the shames and miseries of the past Life from earliest childhood all huddled together, and bronzed with one stormy Light of Terror & Self-torture. O this is hard, hard, hard.

D is for Davis, Olena Kalytiak

From the ridiculous to the sublime: I can’t say enough good things about the poetry of Olena Kalytiak Davis, and in particular her first collection, And Her Soul Out of Nothing, which won the 1997 Birmingham Prize in Poetry. Her poems are funny, brutal, and brilliant, and she manages that trick of conjuring universal meaning from something deeply idiosyncratic.

In Defense of Marriage

Marry the black horse stuck
Dumb in her humble corral.

Marry the white fences; marry the fenceless
Moon and the defenceless sky.

Marry the feedlot and the threshing
Floor. Like the northern heaven to the southern

Stars, marry the kitchen table, its three strong
Legs. Marry the gate and the small intricate

Cuts on the key and the view spreading
Outback. The streetlamp

Weds the morning light, like that, take the
Nomad. Promise to forsake. Give in

To the cistern full of asters.
To the way the beloved

Story goes: her body from a bone.
And her soul out of nothing.

In a slowly spoiling month find out
You have married the house worn

Blue on the yellowing hill: each of its
Slow budding bedrooms. Marry one or two

Or three varieties of light, in three or four
Different lifetimes. I meant, windows.

Mate, be forsaken.

I married the way moths marry.
I married hard.