Summer Reading #4: Susan Stewart Recommends…

Birds, Beasts, and Flowers, by D.H. Lawrence (1923)


A “rush of cochineal” in a patch of scarlet runner beans the other day returned me not only to E.D., but also to D. H.– Lawrence’s near-perfect, truly summery, 1923 book, Birds, Beasts and Flowers. Every poem there opens up perspectives of line and looking–his plan reaches from the heraldry of the Evangelists to the just-vanished glimpse. And each poem closes with a notation of its “place”–of observation? of composition?  The two moments come very close. Here are two of them:


I can imagine, in some otherworld

Primeval-dumb, far back

In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,

Humming-birds raced down the avenues.


Before anything had a soul,

While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,

This little bit chipped off in brilliance

And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.


I believe there were no flowers, then

In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.

I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.


Probably he was big

As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.

Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.


We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,

Luckily for us.


And, from the same book, a far less rare, and far more pesky summer visitor, can be found on the Poetry Foundation website:

They forgot to include the place: it’s Siracusa

–Susan Stewart

12.09.2000 - foto de Ana Branco / AGENCIA O GLOBO -  Susan Stewart , poeta americana -

Susan Stewart is a poet, critic, and translator. She is the Avalon Foundation University Professor of the Humanities, the Director of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, a member of the associated faculty of Princeton’s department of Art and Archaeology, and a Professor in Princeton’s English department, where she teaches the history of poetry, poetics, and issues in aesthetics. Her award-winning books of poetry include The Forest (1995), Columbarium (2003), and Red Rover (2008), Her collection Cinder: New and Selected Poems will appear with Graywolf Press in early 2017. Stewart’s books of criticism, which have received numerous awards, include The Poet’s Freedom: A Notebook on Making (2011); The Open Studio: Essays in Art and Aesthetics (2004); Poetry and the Fate of the Senses (2002), Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation (1991); On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (1984), and Nonsense (1979). Her translations of poetry include Milo De Angelis’s Theme of Farewell and After-Poems, and Love Lessons: Selected Poems of Alda Merini. Stewart is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. This fall, Professor Stewart will teach English 205: Reading Poetry.

(Biographical information selected from Susan Stewart’s pages on the English Department website and on Poetry @ Princeton).


Summer Reading #3: Idra Novey Recommends…

My god is this a man, by Laura Sims (Fence Books, 2014)


Laura Sims Book


Each time I read the news of another horrific mass shooting in the United States, I return to Laura Sims’ haunting third book My god is this a man. With a skill for artful repetitions reminiscent of Gertrude Stein, Sims isolates and mixes single statements from Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and mass murderer Bill Heirens and other sources, shaping their voices into poems of paralyzing familiarity. On each rereading, I find the questions subtly posed in My god is this a man about isolation and connection feel ever more urgent and central to the century ahead. –Idra Novey


Idra-Novey158-300x400-c-default Idra Novey is a member of Princeton’s creative writing faculty and the author of the poetry collection Clarice: The Visitor, as well as Exit, Civilian, selected by Patricia Smith for the 2011 National Poetry Series, and The Next Country, a finalist for the 2008 Foreword Book of the Year Award in poetry.  Her work has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, the Leonard Lopate Show, and in Slate, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Guernica, and Poetry.  She has received awards from the Poetry Foundation, the Poetry Society of America, the National Endowment for the Arts, Poets & Writers Magazine, and the PEN Translation Fund.  Her most recent translation is Clarice Lispector’s novel The Passion According to G.H. This fall, she will be teaching an undergraduate course on Literary Translation.



Summer Reading #2: Jeff Dolven Recommends…

The Odes to TL61P, by Keston Sutherland


Keston Sutherland will be teaching a graduate course at Princeton this fall on Kapital and modern poetry, and this book– named for a “bygone Hotpoint washer-dryer”– would make an excellent primer and aftermath. –Jeff Dolven

jeffdolvenJeff Dolven is a poet and professor in Princeton’s English department who specializes in poetry and poetics of the English Renaissance. Professor Dolven is also the director of Princeton’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities. His first book, Scenes of Instruction, explores poetry’s entanglement with schooling at the end of the sixteenth century. He is the author of Speculative Music, and his poems have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere.



First Summer Reading Post: Monica Youn recommends…


The Wilderness, by Sandra Lim


Winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize, Sandra Lim’s second book The Wilderness reads like a master class in parataxis. Her end-stopped lines have resonance and weight, confident in the subtlety of their rendering. They move like stone doors — each seemingly massive, but perfectly balanced, swinging open at a touch to reveal insights that are often dramatic in their understatement.

— Monica Youn

Monica-Youn-2011-Joanna-Eldredge-Morrissey.-Monica-Youn-Wp-Omicron-MACD-11-125023-600x0-c-defaultMonica Youn is the author of Blackacre (forthcoming Graywolf Press 2016) Ignatz (Four Way Books 2010), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and Barter (Graywolf Press 2003), a member of Princeton’s creative writing faculty, and a Princeton graduate herself. This fall she will be teaching Introductory Poetry and Advanced Poetry.