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Archive for January, 2013

Understanding Etheridge Knight, by Michael S. Collins

January 31, 2013


Michael Collins, a poet and scholar who appeared in Poetry Kanto 2007, has written a new book on Etheridge Knight, a major poet 2007, has written a new book on Etheridge Knight, a major poet for the most part off the radar screen of contemporary poetry readers. This new book by Collins, which has been well received, should help correct that situation. Below are details from the University of South Carolina Press website.


Understanding Etheridge Knight 

Michael S. Collins

7066 Understanding Etheridge Knight, by Michael S. Collins


An in-depth look at the complex life and works of an African American poet

Understanding Etheridge Knight introduces readers to a major—but understudied—American poet. Etheridge Knight (1931–1991) survived a shrapnel wound suffered during military service in Korea, as well as a drug addiction that led to an eight-year prison sentence, to publish five volumes of poetry and a small cache of powerful prose. His status in the front ranks of American poets and thinkers on poetry was acknowledged in 1984, when he won the Shelley Memorial Award, which had previously gone, as an acknowledgement of “genius and need,” to E. E. Cummings, Gwendolyn Brooks, and W. S. Merwin.

In this first book-length study of Knight and his complete body of work, Michael Collins examines the poetry of a complex literary figure who, following imprisonment, transformed his life to establish himself as a charismatic voice in American poetry and an accomplished teacher at institutions such as the University of Hartford, Lincoln University, and his own Free Peoples Poetry Workshops.

Beginning with a concise biography of Knight, Collins explores Knight’s volumes of poetry including Poems from Prison, Black Voices from Prison, Born of a Woman, and The Essential Etheridge Knight. Understanding Etheridge Knight brings attention to a crucial era in African American and American poetry and to the literature of the incarcerated while reflecting on the life and work of an original voice in American poetry.

Michael Collins is an associate professor of English at Texas A&M University. He has published essays and creative works in PMLA, Modern Philology, Michigan Quarterly Review, Callaloo, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, The Best American Poetry 2003, and elsewhere.

“Understanding Etheridge Knight is a superb venture in literary criticism and intellectual biography. Michael Collins brings erudition, intelligence, shrewdness, and deftness of expression to this study of a significant if little-known American poet.”—Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University

Hirsohima Suite, by William Heyen

January 8, 2013


The first four lyrics of William Heyen’s Hirsohima Suite,

interesting as they are as they introduce two of the book’s

main characters, are just asymmetrical purchase, but then,

as he has written elsewhere, “the moment of the poem

arrives,” & it arrives here in waves of 15-line meditative

cerebrations that refract, as art must, “the agonies [that]

encandle us.”

Here they are, then: Mrs. Aoyama who, at Point Zero,

has less than no time to realize anything of what happens

when Little Boy detonates; & heroic Mr. Tanimoto who

ferries the living dead toward green across Hiroshima’s

Ota River. To the poet, too, a fish appears–a blunt-headed

witness creature as aura-drenched as any in our literature

–& a bamboo pole with multitudinious eyes, & a stow-

away mouse. & you. & Heyen’s often double-negative

& triple-negative compromised song as the Enola Gay,

doesn’t it never not, accomplishes its design. Its engines

keep revving in the radiated mnemonic memorial water

that passes through the fish’s gills. “Even the Buddha’s

dilemma/ is how not to drown in it as he sips moon

from that water.”

Hasn’t it never not ever become increasingly unclear

–this question flashing among questions of aesthetics–

after his end-of-nature books Pterodactyl Rose &

The Rope & after his obsessive Erika: Poems of the 

Holocaust, Ribbons: The Gulf War, Crazy Horse in

Stillness, Shoah Train, A Poetics of Hiroshima, The

Angel Voices, The Football Corporations & other

of his exiles & reconciliations–that Heyen has become

the most substantial poet of his American generation?

I invite you to allow this remarkable Hiroshima Suite

–which seems to have heard all at once in one non-

linear audition–to intone for you until, within the

“transluminous horror” of August 6, 1945, we are

never not whole again but are, at the same time, in

Robert Frost’s phrases, “beyond confusion.”

 – Edwina Seaver

                                                Rome/ 2012

HS 201x300 Hirsohima Suite, by William Heyen

For more details about the book, and the author, visit Nine Points,

the  publisher’s site, or Amazon.

* This blogger would like to invite serious translators interested in

translating Hiroshima Suite into Japanese to contact me, with

particulars, at