November: and Fall-ish here in Saint Petersburg, Florida. (I know, I know.) Busy times for you, I feel sure, but allow me now to take a moment to thank all of the contributors to the upcoming print anthology Plume Poetry 6. I’m pulling names out of a hat here, and they appear mysteriously alphabetically, but: Simon Armitage, Ruy Belo (tr Alexis Levitan) , Linda Bierds, Lydia Davis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Cees Nooteboom (tr David Colmer), Ruth Padel, David Rivard, Chase Twichell,our Featured Poet Nathaniel Mackey — so many. It’s going to be a doorstop, but a very nice, readable doorstop comprising the best of contemporary poetry, here and abroad, I hope. We’ll debut at AWP in March. (Yes, in Tampa, just across the bay.) See a note on that below.
But, first, our “secret poem,” Judy Katz’s “Day Three,” wisely and gracefully introduced by Plume contributor Jessica Greenbaum.
Jessica Greenbaum — Meta-Morphosis: On Judy Katz’s “Day Three,”
I’m sure there is an algorithm to explain this phenomenon, but I find that the most beloved poems—and the most instructive—indirectly evoke the most taboo subject of the genre: writing poems. For example, years after first reading it, I continue to choose Judy Katz’ poem, “Day Three,” as a model for what I can hope to do, and as a beacon to guide me on how to try. Here is the poem in full:
and the coral peony
on the kitchen counter
has opened into
last night, flower
now, half-bird, how
did it cross over, how
does it keep opening—
layer upon layer
of petals feathering
a ragged softness
of Floridian color
if, in three days,
a cut peony
can turn itself
what isn’t possible
for this balled up heart?
from, Cerise Press, Summer, 2011. And reprinted in, Mishkan Hanefesh, eds. Goldberg, Marder, Marder, & Morris, CCAR (2015)
“Day Three,” remains a living document for me; vital at every reading. You can feel how the poet looks at the flower and registers the presence of that elusive, most treasured frisson through her intelligence, recognition that the object of her contemplation holds something deeply important about her person, then trusting that if she listens closely enough, revelation may surface on the page as she was writes. Done. Well, there it is, most of what you need to know! What else do you want her to do?
The authentic clarity of Katz’ sensibility does not exclude depths–it only bears them effortlessly. Katz’ trust of the subconscious brings a lifetime to the moment, and this too, models the art. In the poem’s allusions of days one and two—how much had been compressed, how many likenesses evolved from one another—the poem holds a little cosmology, both of the world and the self. The progressions of the poem’s short lines (24—like the number of hours in a day?), its subtle conflicts (“a cut peony”), its ability to convey a great hank of the human condition through its slim stem and single sentence meantime—these also reflect the art of poetry writing to me.
In its double life as instruction, “Day Three,” says, you have everything you need, don’t send away for accessories. Look closely, trust your thoughts and keep going until you find the relationship between you and the world that sounds the phsst!! of a struck match and throws off new intelligence. (“Find one true feeling and hang on,” as Kenneth Koch taught.) Katz has drawers-loads of this stuff, revelation upon revelation and a manuscript called “How News Travels” that shows their collective shape. But wait—no actual book. Hello, uh, publishing world? It’s us, human beings.
Judy Katz’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including The New York Times Book Review, The Women’s Review of Books, Salamander, Bellevue Literary Review, upstreet and Best Indie Lit of New England. She has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her manuscript, How News Travels, was shortlisted for the Alex Rudnitsky First Book Prize and the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Prize. Judy’s work as a documentary filmmaker and producer of public television includes the award-winning PBS series, Time for School, and the documentary film And Baby Makes Two. She currently teaches creative writing in New York City.
Jessica Greenbaum is a writer and (fairly new) social worker living in Brooklyn. Her last book, The Two Yvonnes, came out from Princeton University Press and was named a year’s Best Book by Library Journal. She teaches inside and outside academia, most recently at Barnard College, The World Trade Center Health Program for 9/11 First Responders, Footsteps (a service agency for people leaving ultra-Orthodoxy), and Brooklyn Poets. She was awarded an NEA grant for literature in 2015, and the Poetry Society of America’s Agnes Fay di Castagnola Prize in 2016. (www.poemsincommunity.org)
And now for another round of gratitude for all who read – Charles Bernstein, Elaine Equi, Jerome Sala, Dean Kostas, Sally Bliumis-Dunn, and Marc Vincenz – at the 12 October reading at the Jefferson Market Library in NYC. Many thanks to Frank Collerius of that fine institution for allowing us in and wrangling what must be some serious paperwork, too.
Also, Plume will become part of the (indoor!) Bryant Park Winter Series; our date is Tuesday, 16 January 2018, at 6 PM. The four poets reading will be D. Nurkse, Rachel Hadas, Jessica Greenbaum, and Tom Sleigh. If you’re in the neighborhood, come by!
As has become our custom of late, a few new or forthcoming poetry book releases from Plume contributors:
Penultimately: For the launch of PlumePoetry 6 we will host readings on 7 and 8 March at AWP, early evening, probably 7:00 – 9:00. We have a beautiful venue – more on that next issue –but suffice to say for now there just happens to be a bar/restaurant in the same building, to which we can repair and chat away — always the best part of these evenings, I think. First round on me. Also, we have somereaders lined up. I’d like a few more; in my experience (confirmed last year in D.C.) the magic number is 10 – 12: each reader takes the podium for 5 minutes or so, and on to the next. Things move along quickly, and the audience remains engaged: if one doesn’t particularly care for one poet, another is in the wings. All of which is to say, if you are a Plume contributor and would like to read, email me — firstname.lastname@example.org — and we can see what’s what. MadHat Press and White Pine Press will join us on the second and third evenings, as well as another bunch for the third.
Last: our cover art – again this this issue as in September comes from Graciela Iturbide: need I say I adore her work? (And thanks to Arthur Vogelsang for the heads up.) Ms. Iturbide studied filmmaking at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos between 1969 and 1972, and worked as an assistant to photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who stimulated her interest in photography. She met Henri Cartier-Bresson while traveling in Europe, and in 1978, was one of the founding members of the Mexican Council of Photography. A major exhibition of her work, “External Encounters, Internal Imaginings: Photographs of Graciela Iturbide,” was presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in addition to retrospectives at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey in Mexico, and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A monograph on her work, Graciela Iturbide: Images of the Spirit (1996), accompanied her Philadelphia show. For more — and there is much more! visit her website .