The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody, Alfred Corn. (Copper Canyon Press) $15
The first definitive guide to contemporary prosody is straight forward, with an excellent selection of classic and contemporary examples. Corn does achieve what he sets out to do in his introduction, “to introduce traditional English-language prosodic practice and then progress to fairly advanced levels of competence in it.” His musings on the relationship between music and poetry, terms like “verse libre,” “free verse,” and “unmetered poetry,” and the New Formalists are insightful and offer refreshing pauses. All in all an excellent crash course in prosody, ending in what most practicing poets will find most interesting (and useful): how it all applies to the most contemporary poetry.
The Septet: Proust’s Wager, Joan T. Rosasco. (Red Dust) $9
A short book transcribed from a lecture for the Proust Society in 2006, The Septet is mercifully shorter and more accessible than the text it analyzes. Discussing most of Proust’s major works, it includes some passages in Rosasco’s own translation. At only 21 pages, it’s compact and entertaining, even for the Proust neophyte.
Orange & Peanuts for Sale, Eliot Weinberger. (New Directions Publishing) $16.95
Easily the best and most varied collection of any poet’s prose published this year, Oranges & Peanuts contains essays on the innumerable subjects Weinberger knows intimately: the lives of our most illustrious poets (including Gu Cheng and Octavio Paz), translation (including his criticism of Alter’s versions of the Psalms, one of the few essays with which I do not agree wholeheartedly), the politics of writing, and lyricism itself. Standout essays include his portrait of the color blue, “In Blue,” and an essay on the identity of the translator, “Anonymous Sources.” His essays are much needed in the mainstream culture and the MFA culture alike, where, as he recounts, one newsourrce once wrote of translators as “problematic necesset[ies].” Despite the seemingly infinite depths of his literary knowledge, it’s his conversational tone that makes these essays so valuable; reading it one feels as if seated at the table with a humble legend recounting his lessons and stories.