Leaping Poetry: An Idea with Poems and Translations, Robert Bly. (University of Pittsburgh Press) $15.95
Leaping Poetry is an important reprint of a combination anthology/writerly commentary, first published by Bly in his journal The Seventies, in 1972. Bly’s basic premise, outlined in his essays and backed up by the poems he has collected, is that there exists in all great art a leap that bridges conscious and unconscious thought. Bly’s love of world poetry is evidenced by the many translations included within the collection, which contains relatively few American poets. His insights are useful and considered—he writes in broad but accurate strokes, as in his essay “Spanish Leaping.” Bly’s concept of the leap adds fuel to the fire of the age-old academic-translator versus poet-translator debate. Bly, of course, an accomplished translator in his own right, backs the poets. Leaping Poetry is a great introduction to the leaps Bly describes within. It prompts rereading of many admired poems, in search of their artistic leaps, and in its writerly deconstruction is incredibly practical to the working poet.
The Reality Street Book of Sonnets, ed. Jeff Hilson. (Reality Street Editions) ₤15
Reality Street, the publisher known for its “linguistically innovative poetry,” has done the world of sonnet anthologists a tremendous favor by producing the first collection that proves their life work does not have to culminate in the production of rote textbook anthologies. Beginning with poetry written in 1945, the book compiles contemporary aberrations of the sonnet—in the best possible sense—suggesting that the form is more alive than ever. Some of the most interesting examples are the visual: Jeremy Alder’s “The Pythagorean Sonnet,” Alan Halsey’s discomposed sonnets, and Tim Atkins’ “Petrarch.” The anthology includes a great variety of English-language poets, including Canadian Christian Bök, American Harryette Mullen, and Australian John Kinsella. Other highlights include Philip Nikolayev’s prose poems, which contain sonnets formed of bolded text, and Juliana Spahr’s work, which includes “After Bill Clinton,” a found sonnet produced from an online White House press release about education in America.
Welcome to Forest Island, Bwana Spoons. (Top Shelf Productions) $30
Bwana Spoons is a master of the graphic narrative leap. His world is populated by living mountains, vampire bats, humans, alligators, and whales, all interacting with each other on his uniquely own Forest Island. Welcome is a loose collection of paintings in Spoon’s characteristic style: bright in color and composition, exhibiting a considered sloppiness, and containing a fair amount of words. It’s narrative sequences are among the book’s most interesting pages, as Spoons crafts tales resembling children’s stories on acid. His work is a reminder that story can indeed be enhanced by art, a critique of the plot-fueled black-and-whites of the indy comix writers.