Short Reads

Short Reads Summer Selection

Started in 1993, the Penguin Poets series has been printing an exciting and eclectic selection of the best contemporary verse that has put poetry back into readers' daily lives.

Here Paul Slovak, the editor entrusted with overseeing the project since its inception, discusses what 2008 has held thus far for the series:

The four books published to date in 2008 in the Penguin Poets program are indicative of the range and diversity of the series. April saw the release of Wayfare, a lively new collection by Lannan Literary Award-winner Pattiann Rogers that addresses human creativity through images, characters and situations that draw upon the physical world. Also published in April was The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine, a second collection of poems by Mark Yakich that features his acclaimed and unconventionally comedic voice. May was appropriately the publication month of Phillis Levin's newest and fifth work of poetry, May Day, a sensuous and musical collection that, in tones both playful and celebratory, explores how tenderness and violence change our lives. Forthcoming in July is Joe Bonomo's Installations, selected for the National Poetry Series competition by Naomi Shihab Nye, a first collection of prose poems that documents a series of twenty art installations where something fantastic, perhaps improbable, occurs at the intersection of installed and imagined.

Listen to an interview with Paul Slovak as he discusses his role in guiding the Penguin Poets series, the state of poetry today in the United States, and his plans for the series' future.

Symphony in Three Movements

1. Lost in the Heart of the Concert

I thread through the assembly
between the rows of violins,
the ritual bows rising and falling.
I confess to the oboes, counsel
with the wisdom of the flutes,
linger in the church of the momentarily
stilled tambourines and timpani.

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after Auden after Dante

O what heavenly suffering—
What she can and can't do.
(Save her a dance, Bruegel.)
From knee to shining knee,
Where is the painting of her
Feet, which have never been
Comfortable, arranged in pairs

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Lo Spinario
(bronze, late first century BCE)

A long day, a long run, a long road
And somewhere on it you felt a pang,
Nothing more. A quiver of lightning,

Nothing to stop for. Only now,
As you sit on the stump of a blasted tree,
Folding one leg over the other,

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A large, well-lit, white-walled room. You walk to a red line painted on the floor.

An eight-by-eight-foot wooden box, twelve inches deep, sits in the center of the room.

Gazing upward, you notice an enormous cutout hole, nearly the size of the ceiling itself. Clouds drift, far, fary away. A bright black bird darts by.

Fortunately the weather is nice. Since this installation opened, the weather has been dry and mild.

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