Newsletter Issue #63 October, 2016

Newsletter Issue #63 October, 2016
October 2, 2016 Plume
Drawing, by Max Bishop Waters


Readers:  Welcome to Plume, Issue 63
October: and again an admonition: this newsletter now contains actual news, with my own thoughts reserved for the – yes, Editor’s Note. This time, in that forum, impressions on my first reading of Max Ritvo’s poetry as this month’s Featured Selection comprises a fine interview with Max, one of if not the last before his recent death.

News, then, to follow – but first, our “secret poem”: Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” masterfully introduced by regular Plume contributor Alexis Levitan.

The Summer Day

—Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver’s poem begins in wonder and mystery, with a child’s fundamental question: “Who made the world?” Then it grows more specific, considering incarnated wonders: swan, black bear, and grasshopper. Then more specific yet: “This grasshopper, I mean.” And we plunge into the fascinating minutia of one small exemplum of the miracle of life, a sharply-etched thingness with its indwelling life, infinitely precious, infinitely fragile, a something and someone here, now,  marked by her peculiar otherness: “moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down.”  We are reminded that small does not mean simple, for she is “gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.” But when this creature of utter otherness “floats away,” the image carries with it a gentle reminder that she is not so other after all, that we, too, will join her when our time comes.

This is a poem about the two sides of the painful miracle in which we all participate: the miracle of life and the shadow miracle of death– and what to do about it.

Death has accompanied me my entire life, certainly since my first gold fish died when I was about four. My mother comforted me by saying: “Look, we will flush him down the toilet and back to the sea, and when he gets there he will become alive again.” I believed her. And yet…

Each day I awake and, though I take each waking for granted, I am astonished each time to realize that someday I must die. It is against this astonishment that the tiniest daily miracle glistens or gleams. It is the thinnest transparent wing, the tenacious trail of diminutive ants, the ballerina grace of a casual deer taking a tentative yet elegant step away from my headlights and on to the grassy verge that remind me how precious this gift is, how deeply I am attached to it all, how howlingly resistant I am to losing it forever.

In another poem called “When Death Comes,” the poet says:

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

In this poem she is clearly both bride and bridegroom, faithful to astonishment, with the world in her arms. As she turns from grasshopper to self, she remarks: “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.” But then she shows us her own form of prayer, which is “to pay attention…to kneel down in the grass… to be idle and blessed… to stroll through the fields.”  After admitting that that is all she has done all day, she confronts the reader, exclaiming: “Tell me, what else should I have done?” But why the almost strident rigor of the question? Isn’t it obvious by now? “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?” After that rhetorical declaration of the irrefutable, dashed like icy water in our face, she turns directly to each of us with the biggest question the human condition forces upon us:  “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ With your one wild and precious life?”

We know her own answer. She has paid attention. And she has written a poem.
Praise the Lord.
Thank you, Mary Oliver.

Alexis Levitin
Plattsburgh, N.Y.
June 10, 2016

Mary Oliver was born in 1935 in Ohio. She is the author of several volumes of poetry, including Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems (1999); West Wind(1997); White Pine (1994); New and Selected Poems (1992), which won the National Book Award; House of Light (1990); and American Primitive (1983), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize.
Oliver has also written three books: Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse (1998), Blue Pastures (1995), and A Poetry Handbook(1994).
Oliver’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (1980-1981) and from the National Endowment of the Arts (1972-1973). She has also received an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Achievement Award, a Lannan Literary Award, and the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize.

Alexis Levitin’s translations have appeared in well over 200 magazines, including  New England Review, APR, Grand Street, Kenyon Review, Mid-American Reviewand Prairie Schooner. His thirty-four books include Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words, both from New Directions. His most recent books are a bilingual edition of Salgado Maranhao’s Blood of the Sun (Milkweed Editions, 2012), a bilingual edition of Tobacco Dogs by Ecuadorian Ana Minga (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2013), and The Art of Patience by Eugenio de Andrade (Red Dragonfly Press, 2013).

Such a fine poem, one that deserves to be read again and more often, as Alexis’s commentary makes clear, I think.

(If you’re interested in introducing a poem, please contact me for cursory guidelines at This Newsletter has a circulation of 1,000+ — discerning and enthusiastic readers of poetry, all – so has become… something of a thing, I suppose.
Now: that promised news – brief, as poets, many of you/them teachers, prepare for the new semester.

First, Plume Editions, in conjunction with MadHat Press, is very pleased indeed to announce the release of Nin Andrews’ Our Lady of the Orgasm.  Ms. Andrews, a regular contributor to Plume and an early, avid supporter of our little journal, in this work continues her saga of the orgasm begun in her classic The Book of Orgasms, meditating on the relationship between the human and the divine, the humdrum and the fantastic, the visible and the invisible; imagining the orgasm as a divine being who dwells in our midst and who can, on special occasions, manifest as Our Lady of the Orgasm.

Nin Andrews is the most accomplished and affecting poet of the erotic in America. In poems, especially prose poems, of uncanny deftness and muscularity, she establishes, to use the ready word, an intercourse among all elements—including the comical, the rhapsodic, and the tragic. She is matchless.
—Sydney Lea

Nin Andrews is a complete original on a lifelong poetic quest to sublimely understand the sublime. Gender–bending and genre-blurring, Andrews is a fabulous fabulist whose talent is only that much more pronounced in Our Lady of the Orgasm. This book is divine pleasure!   —Denise Duhamel

Finally we have an orgasm with some ambition. Here are the secret thoughts, untold longings and yearnings of an orgasm no one really knew before—one just like you and me—with a heart, a selfie, a twitter account, a raison d’etre. How many orgasms in your neighborhood do you encounter every day without realizing, “Hey, this one has some star quality.” We think they come and go. Not true. Now, from humble origins, to self-actualization, here is one you will come to know and love, and wish will go on forever.
—Grace Cavalieri

Next? Ah —

Our initial run of “Essays & Comment” (helmed by Associate Editor for Criticism and Essays Robert Archambeau) has been well-received, as I hoped – and thought, really – it would be. The first essay was Robert’s “The Barbarian Invasion of Poetry (Hurrah!).”   The current issue features Lawrence Raab’s “Poetry and Stupidity.” And we’re off and running.

Thanks are in order, as usual – first to those readers for Plume who graced the stage in Cambridge last week – Karl Kirchwey, Gail Mazur, Dzvinia Orlowsky, Marc Vincenz, and Scott Withiam. How generous of all to lend their talents and hours to Plume.

Next, readings in support of the print anthology Plume Poetry 4 – details to follow, but a cursory look:

Asheville, NC   (More on this in the November Newsletter, Events on FB, Twitter, etc.)

Malaprops Bookstore/Café  Saturday 19 November  7  PM
Partial Roster: Keith Flynn, Joe Bathani

Altamont Theater Monday  21 November 7 PM
Partial Roster: Keith Flynn, Marilyn Kallet, Katherine Soniat, Danny Lawless(Yikes!)

AWP8-11 February 2017   Washington, DC

There will be at least two readings. Venues, dates/times TBA – we’re working on it!

The roster(s) so far: Sally Bliumus-Dunn, Peter Cooley, Lynn Emanuel, Jennifer Michael Hecht, D. Nurkse, Tom Lux, Elizabeth Metzger, Nancy Mitchell, Molly Peacock, Ira Sadoff, Tom Sleigh, Jean Valentine, Marc Vincenz.

(Come see us at AWP! Booth 321-T, opposite Copper Canyon and Grove/Atlantic. We are listed as MadHat Press / Plume Poetry.)

A special note: Afaa Weaver – a steady presence in Plume and past print anthology Featured Poet  — has a new book forthcoming 1 February, of which Ed Ochester observes:

In Spirit Boxing, Weaver revisits his working class core. A veteran of fifteen years as a factory worker in his native Baltimore, he mines his own experience to build a wellspring of craft in poems that extend from his life to the lives that inhabit the whole landscape of the American working class. He writes with an intimacy that is unique in American poetry, and echoes previous comparisons of his oeuvre to that of Walt Whitman. The singularity of his voice resonates here through the prism of his realization of self through a lifelong project of the integration of American and Chinese culture. The work is Daoist in influence and structure as it echoes both a harmonic realization of context and the intuitive and transcendent dance of body, mind, and spirit.

So – haul out that Amex, Visa, whatever you may. Cash, too, I imagine, will be acceptable.

Our cover art “Drawing,” comes to us from by Max Bishop Waters.

Our “classic poem” this issue actually comprises two works from Mikhail Eremin, suggested and translated by Alex Cigale. Eremin turned 80 in May, and this is in celebration of his 60th year of work.

Work Received this month includes new poems from so many, I couldn’t begin to list them all. You’ll find them in the print anthology Plume Poetry 5 and in forthcoming online issues of Plume.

That’s it – I do hope you enjoy the issue!

Daniel Lawless
Editor, Plume

Copyright © |PLUMEPOETRY_2016| All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is: