January: and a fair amount of Plume activity to report, but first, as always, our “secret poem”: this month it is Seamus Heaney’s “The Peninsula,” introduced by D. EricParkinson:
It is imperative and prayer, narrative and song all at once. That’s what I like: that sort complexity in such a small space. It seems as if, throughout the piece, the reader is moved from one sphere to another, from one temporality to another, without any disturbance; no bumps in the road, as it were.
The magic of the poem is in that: in the way the journey to be undertaken becomes a journey underway, and in the way the vestiges of the human world—the runway, the gable, the ploughed field—fade into the darkness of dusk and night. That fading is followed by an allowance paid to the imagination, a warrant to “[n]ow recall/ The glazed foreshore,” and to perfect the journey’s accumulated visuals in the mind the way a rock tumbler smoothes glass.
This isn’t a pejorative use of idealism, or a consideration of the kind of ideality one dismisses as too facile. Rather, the idealization in these middle quatrains is the kind of work that category does on experience to render the world comprehensible. That’s how it comes to seem as if the tone modulates between sounding like a demand from the poet, and as permission. There is an implied responsibility for self and community in the way the poem arcs from a personalized silence to an experience of particularity that courts the universal. When “you [the individual reader] have nothing more to say” becomes “you [all] have nothing more to say,” that adjustment broadens the field of applicability, or delimits it completely.
If there is a philosophy in the piece, I think I share it. It’s something like a place-based humanism, in which the details of our lived environments inform our comprehension of the full gamut of human experience. Or, it’s a kind of guarantor of community: an insistence that through experience of a place we come back to the task at hand. We return, revitalized, ready to “uncode” the world we experience together. In this moment, that sort of optimism about mutual understanding is hard to come by, harder to sustain. The poem helps.
When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks so you will not arrive
But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable
And you’re in the dark again. Now recall
The glazed foreshore and silhouetted log,
That rock where breakers shredded into rags,
Leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog
And drive back home, still with nothing to say,
Except now, you will uncode all landscapes
By this: things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.
Seamus Heaney was born in County Derry in Northern Ireland. Death of a Naturalist, his first collection of poems, appeared in 1966, and was followed by poetry, criticism and translations which established him as the leading poet of his generation. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and twice won the Whitebread Book of the Years, for The Spirit Level (1996) and Beowulf (1999). Stepping Stones, a book of interviews conducted by Dennis O’Driscoll, appeared in 2008; Human Chain, Heaney’s last volume of poems, was awarded the 2010 Forward Prize for Best Collection. He died in 2013.
D. Eric Parkison received his MA in English from the University of Rochester in 2009, and his MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2016. His poetry has appeared in American Chordata, the Columbia Review, the Midwest Quarterly, and Zyzzyva, among others. He is a staff reader for the Raleigh Review and contributor to the Sharkpack Poetry Review. He lives in Boston, MA, where he teaches English at a private high school.
Thank you, Eric!
Now, some news.
First, many thanks to Sally Bliumis-Dunn for organizing the very successful Plume reading in NYC, at the terrific Jefferson Market library, and to Frank Colerius for stepping in to save the day when the previously booked venue withdrew. Also, of course, the readers — Patricia Clark, Sally Bliumis-Dunn,Elaine Equi, Rachel Hadas, D. Nurkse, Jerome Sala, and Larissa Shmailo. By all accounts a great success.
Our next reading will be at AWP, for the debut of our annual print anthology – this one, Plume Poetry 5, weighs in at 400+ pages of spectacular poetry from a – yes, diverse group: the best poets writing today – or at least the ones I could cajole into sending work. Much gratitude to Marc Vincenz for his hard labor on this!
The particulars (though perhaps a couple of tweaks still to come):
MadHat Press / Plume Poetry Readings at AWP 2017
The Atrium (just across the street from the Convention Center) Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001
7:00 – 9:30 pm
Lynn Emanuel Helene Cardona John Fitzgerald Ira Sadoff Linda Pastan Marc Vincenz Tom Lux Nancy Mitchell Elizabeth Metzger Chard deNiord Peter Cooley Philip Fried
Molly Peacock Marilyn Kallet Philis Levin Jennifer Michael Hecht Dean Kostos D. Nurkse Nin Andrews Leeya Metha Robin Behn Tom Sleigh
(+ 3 MadHat Press authors)
February 10 (w/ White Pine Press)
Patricia Smith Larissa Shmailo Nomi Stone Dan Tobin Kevin Gallagher Sally Blumis-Dunn
(+5 from White Pine Press)
If you are at the conference, please – come to one or all of the readings. Or, stop by our booth: Booth 321-T, opposite Copper Canyon and Grove/Atlantic. We are listed as MadHat Press/Plume Poetry. I’d love to see you!
In this issue’s “Essays & Comment” (helmed by Associate Editor for Criticism and Essays Robert Archambeau) we offer Ernest Hilbet’s immensely interesting take on a neglected subject: The Muse and the Auctioneer’s Gavel: Learning About Poetry from First Editions.
Our Featured Selection this month focuses on the work of Bill Knott – selections from I AM FLYING INTO MYSELF AND OTHER POEMS, with a splendid introduction from Tom Lux. Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for their assistance in seeing this project to fruition.
In this issue’s Book Reviews, a small departure, a bonus: AdamTavel reviews Katherine Rauk’s Buried Choirs, and Nancy Mitchell offers an insightful interview with the author.
What else – ah, our cover art – this month a gif from Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s Un Chien Andalou.
Oh – a special note on the release of long-time Plume contributorTara Skurtu’s Skurtu, Romania. Take a look. Purchse!