Friday, 31 October 2014

A new review and interview in Exeposé

A review of my reading at the Exeter Poetry Festival and an interview appear in Exeposé, the University of Exeter's online student magazine. You can read them here.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Helena Eriksson's Strata (Shearsman, 2014)

My student, the poet Wendy Klein loaned me this book; she and Jan Teeland translated it from Swedish, and it came out earlier this year from Shearsman Books. Here are some favourite passages from this book-length poem:

the riverbed, the flat stones comprise the place
for the final scene

                               Fiction is the junction


               This is no real city. They're just acting. It
is real in my memory


                             the way of working stays within the frames
                             the way of working defines the frames


meanings stitched into the embroideries. Out there on the fortress
What was expected of her


Cover the body

               "fluttering golden veil"

        touches every part of the body that isn't listening


They pass in the forest of figures, discover places once again, now without intensity. The sharpness or salinity of these discoveries, and even the radiance itself, has diminished. Nevertheless they send thin rays out over their hands. My body has begun to emit darkness.


after the winter illiteracy


I think of him where he stands with his
grammar    the whole night haunted by


There was frost still lying over the ground, not even the dogs
were out     still longing for you when I
went     the membrane over everything or
the very sheen of the membrane


nothing that is left and nothing that
lies behind     only cupped hands and pairs of eyes


the darkening     remains
stinging silence no: speech
rises     remains


(the only relief is her gown
in her gown his and hollowed out)

You can purchase Strata directly from Shearsman's website here.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

More great reviews of Imagined Sons in Cape Times and Poetry Wales

A short review of Imagined Sons appeared in the South African newspaper, Cape Times, on 24 October, concluding that the poetry "haunt[s] the reader as that lost son haunts the mother." I'm most grateful to author Moira Richards for bringing my work to a new audience. 

In the new issue of Poetry Wales, Katy Evans-Bush comments, "It's one of the most universal untold stories, the giving up of a baby, and it comes at us here with the power of myth, as the narrator sees her missing son in every young man she encounters. The language is plain, unspectacular, and the most disturbing in its near-affectlessness." The review continues in this appreciative, thoughtful vein. I'm heartened by both reviews.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Around Prague 2, October 2014

Some more photos from last weekend in Prague--

These outrageous swan faucets are in the bathrooms of the art nouveau Cafe Imperial (with me smiling in the mirror).

If you have to have bars over your windows, 
why not have them in a funky design like this one?


The astronomical clock. A trip to Prague wouldn't be complete without a visit on the hour.


Prague Castle


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Friday, 17 October 2014

A sterling review of Imagined Sons in The Warwick Review

Here are my favourite passages from Sophie Cook's rich review:

"...she does not shy away from acknowledging, even embracing, a sense of unimaginably impressive self-awareness. Etter's remarkable achievement in Imagined Sons is that she is able to exhibit such a balance; she is pragmatic without seeming unattached, and both emotive and emotional without appearing too overtly sentimental." 

"Etter uses more vibrant though obscure imagery to explore the relationship between people, as reflected in aspects of their environment. [...] Etter's unusual choices for these book-long tropes are perhaps what gives them their potency. [...] There is an unrelenting brutality to Imagined Sons which gives the volume cohesiveness and distinction."

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Another positive review of Imagined Sons appears in Poetry London

Sarah Hesketh has written a nuanced review of Imagined Sons for the Autumn 2014 issue of Poetry London. Here is the final paragraph: "Etter creates a sustained narrative across the whole volume, layering the poems elegantly. The fact that these are prose poems probably made this sense of wholeness easier to achieve, but there are still moments of lovely, isolated imagery that make you want to pause. The answers in the catechisms give Etter an opportunity to be more fragmented and abstract in her descriptions and the final line in the book quotes Celan, a poet well known for taking the horrors of reality and presenting them in dense metaphor: 'It is time, Celan said, the stone made an effort to flower' ('A Birthmother's Catechism'); Etter has found fertility in a scenario of intense loss."

Monday, 8 September 2014

"Imagined Sons 9: Greek Salad" in The Forward Book of Poetry 2015

On my return from Illinois last week, I found The Forward Book of Poetry 2015 and my poem, "Imagined Sons 9: Greek Salad," among the Highly Commended Poems. It seems to me that there's more range in this edition of the Forward anthology, with the likes of Andrea Brady, Lee Harwood, Marianne Morris and Denise Riley alongside such usual suspects as David Harsent, Andrew Motion and Hugo Williams. I may have to take it with me on the train to Norwich today....

Friday, 5 September 2014

Pony League Baseball Starring Nathan Wallace (my nephew), 24 August 2014

A few days into my US visit, I saw my nephew Nathan, 9, play a game of Pony league baseball (akin to Little League, as I understand it). Here are a few choice photos. 

Watching the game and playing around, 
brother-in-law Reggie Wallace and his father 

My lovely sister Laura

My nephew Justin, 12, shows off his post-Icee blue tongue


Nathan at bat

The most exciting moment of the game (for me): 
Nathan sliding into home base. Go, Nathan!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Arielle Greenberg's Given (Wave Books, 2002)

Arielle Greenberg and I were on a delightful panel at AWP in Seattle: on poetry and desire. I'd read her poems here and there, but not read one of her books in toto, and now I regret the delay, as I've relished reading her first collection and now eagerly look forward to more. Here are some favourite passages:

We (the clown, the doll, the murderer and I) are in love.
With the moon.

She ascends: the sky purples, clouds, she rises, now grinning,
becoming a burning door. We love her still.

from "Afterwards, There  Will Be a Hallway"

I know thirst very well because I once belonged to that organization.

from "The Expert"

I've been teaching English at a two-year college and it isn't going well.
Every single one of my students is somehow a furious dolphin.

opening lines of "Teaching English at a Two-Year College"

To debate an aesthetic issue is to go shopping for a party
    dress. You cannot come over till you have something interesting.

last stanza of "Pathos: a ghazal"

The project that loves to hang its head out the car window and smell the ocean

from "A Proposal for a Longer Work 
(Preferring the Dunes)"

They were free to be startled by their bondage.

from "Startle"

there is us
& there is a valley & there is the tight song the air forgot

from "happy holy"

The people who sleep with their socks on,
the day is over to them, adoring and abandoned.
The inside of her long body is a yellow flower. 
Breathe here, in the small hole your life has made.

from "This Train"

I do love my breasts. they are so soft.
but I love my hair more. it's my rosetti.

from "The Teeth of Betty Page"

Night came, blue night. It knew all the terrible choices. It covered the girl like a shawl.


What a catastrophe! Nothing all over, blue shawls, oven mornings. The girl was in a fit, fit of smiles. What was in her pocket? What terrible jealousy was in her mouth?

Come, she said. Come choose the terrible choice.

from "The Girl"

To be a magician's assistant, you must first believe in the real as a Fact in itself. Without the real, there is no awe at its breakage. Lucy was trained in basic chemistry and liked large dogs. She was as real as they come.


"There is something magical about this realism," the audience exclaims, delighted, somewhat dopey on little paper cups of swirled ice cream served with tongue depressor spoons glued to the lids. "It's the chocolate," Lucy says flatly, removing the knife from between her teeth. "I invented it to make you happy."

from "The Secret History of Chocolate"

Are you male or just malnourished?

from "To My Beaux-Artsy Bedfellow"

We make marks, and in this way we are like the species of fish who leave their ink when they are frightened.

from "Berlin Series"

In front of the house, the townspeople have gathered for the nod-out into plush plush love, so easy and out.

from "Nostalgia, Cheryl, Is the Best Heroin"