The Journey

Close your eyes
set sail upon her flesh-home

ride the currents
of this ocean breeze

up and down the waves
where secret isles jut up

surprised by little bumps and mounds
beauty’s dimples

now follow down the spine
where clefts and ridges

like hump back whales

from declivities go unrecognized
as laughter sounds upon the heights

and you hear siren songs from afar
the lover’s moaning of an ancient sea-farer

move on by and into the jungle valley
deep within this hidden world

there is a paradise below this green canopy
that no one yet has conquered

and as it’s gate closes on your eager fingers
you realize you’ve been abandoned

on the threshold
like some half-mad sailor

wandering the earth
stopping at the open tavern door –

you’d tell your tale if only
the orphan at the threshold bid you warm welcome

unlock the door let you step inside
to honor love’s long journey and redress

Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

21st Century Baroque Poetry: Excess, Invention, and Ornament

Stephen Burt in an article Nearly Baroque in the Boston Review tells us that 21st Century poets “of the nearly Baroque want art that puts excess, invention, and ornament first. It is art that cannot be reduced to its own explanation, that shows off its material textures, its artificiality, its descent from prior art, its location in history. These poets want an art that can always give, or could always show, more”. He lists several poets that are within this tradition of excess: Angie Estes, Robyn Schiff, Hailey Leithauser, Marsha Pomerantz, Nada Gordon, Lucie Brock-Broido, Ange Mlinko, Kiki Petrosino, and Geoffrey Nutter.

As Burt describes it this type of poetic or aesthetic “exhibit elaborate syntax and sonic patterning, without adopting pre-modernist forms (they never look or sound like Richard Wilbur). If they derive technique from a modernist poet, it is always Marianne Moore. The poems have subjects—things and characters in a preexisting, historical world—and often include proper nouns. But they rarely focus on one subject; instead, they weave together several topics or scenes in sinuously complicated, multiply subordinated sentences. They may compare their own intricacies to other intricately made things: textiles, jewelry, household machines, braids, spiral staircases, DNA.”

There is also a Southern Gothic neo-Baroque that Burt alludes to in the work of Jane Springer, Atsuro Riley,  and Anna Journey which for me will be of interest if your a Southerner of the USA as I am. The influence of O’Conner, Faulkner, Welty, McCullers and others is still strong in me. So many of the southern poets influence aspects of my own ongoing projects.

I’ve always been fascinated with the magic realists of South America and their growth out of the baroque of Spain, but to see this resurgence in other forms is exciting and worth investigating. I’ve added bio’s and links to a few works and poets. Enjoy the ride!

Angie Estes is the author of five books, most recently Enchantée, and Tryst was selected as one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.

Robyn Schiff was born in New Jersey. She earned an MFA at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an MA at the University of Bristol. She is the author of the poetry collections Revolver (2008), a finalist for the PEN Award, and Worth (2002). Her work has been featured in several anthologies, including Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections (2007) and Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (2006).

Hailey Leithauser was born in Baltimore and raised in Maryland and Central Florida.  Over the years Leithauser has worked as a salad chef, real estate office manager, gourmet food salesperson, freelance copy editor, phone surveyor, bookstore clerk, fact checker, and, most recently, senior reference librarian at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. Swoop: Poems

Marsha Pomerantz grew up in New York, lived in Israel for twenty years, and now lives in Boston. Her poems and prose have been published in journals in the US, UK, and Israel, and she has translated poetry, short fiction, and a novel from the Hebrew. Her writing has been supported by two residencies at the MacDowell Colony and by a Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist grant, and she has twice been a finalist for the Poetry Society of America’s Robert H. Winner Award. She is managing editor at the Harvard Art Museums. The Illustrated Edge

Nada Gordon can be found on her blog ~~ululations~~   Latest books: Vile Lilt, Folly, and Swoon

Lucie Brock-Broido was born in Pittsburgh, was educated at Johns Hopkins and Columbia University, and has taught at Bennington, Princeton, Harvard (where she was a Briggs-Copeland poet), and Columbia. She is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as awards from the American Poetry Review and the Academy of American Arts and Letters. Stay, Illusion: Poems, The Master Letters, A Hunger, and Trouble in Mind: Poems

Ange Mlinko is the author of three books, Shoulder Season (Coffee House Press, 2010), Starred Wire (Coffee House Press, 2005), which was a National Poetry Series winner in 2004 and a finalist for the James Laughlin Award, and Matinees (Zoland Books, 1999). In 2009, she won the Randall Jarrell Award in Criticism. Mlinko was born in Philadelphia, and has worked in Brooklyn, Providence, Boston, and Morocco. She has taught poetry at Brown, the Naropa University Summer Writing Program, and Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. Her poems are about urban life, about language and its failings, about the things we see and do not see. She is often compared to Frank O’Hara. The New Yorker praised her “unique sense of humor and mystery.” Her Latest: Marvelous Things Overheard: Poems

Poet Kiki Petrosino was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of an African American mother and an Italian American father. She earned a BA from the University of Virginia, an MA in humanities from the University of Chicago, and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of Fort Red Border (2009) and Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013).

Geoffrey Nutter is originally from California but has lived in New York for many years. He has published four books: A Summer Evening (winner of the Colorado Prize, 2001); Water’s Leaves & Other Poems (winner of the Verse Prize, 2005); Christopher Sunset (winner of the 2011 Sheila Motton Book Award), and The Rose of January (Wave Books, 2013), and his work has also appeared in many journals and anthologies. One can discover more on his blog:


Southern Baroque

Jane Springer. Born in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, and raised in several small towns across the South, poet Jane Springer earned a PhD at Florida State University. Her debut poetry collection, Dear Blackbird (2007), won the Agha Shahid Ali Prize from the University of Utah Press. Her second collection, Murder Ballad (2012), received the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books. Influenced by Flannery O’Connor and Larry Levis, Springer writes narrative, often long-form poems that portray rural Southern life as at once mythic and passionate. Poet Lynnell Edwards, reviewing Murder Ballad, noted, “Springer’s long line is fearless in its music, indulging luscious sounds and pounding measures. Traversing the despair of the rural south, [she] exploits the urgency and dread of every keening murder ballad, showing how that cleaving is both our undoing and our salvation.” Interview with Jane Springer.

Atsuro Riley grew up in South Carolina and lives in California. His heavily stressed, percussive, consonant-rich, free-verse poems conjure up the elemental images of the lives of people inhabiting a specific, acutely portrayed landscape. His poems are dense with impressions, voices, and glimpses of people who have experienced the Vietnam War, rural life, and the South. His first book, Romey’s Order (2010), received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and a Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress.

Anna Journey  is the author of the poetry collections Vulgar Remedies (Louisiana State University Press, 2013) and If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting (University of Georgia Press, 2009), which was selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series.

Charles Baudelaire: Lilith – The Damned

In glistening shot-silk she seems to wind
Sidelong across the floor as in a dance,
As when a gypsy waves the mystic wand
That puts his writhing viper in a trance.

To the barren dune and desert sky
Humanity is an irrelevance;
In coiling and uncoiling like the sea;
She manifests the same indifference.

Her petrifying eyes burn bright and cold,
As alien as if an angel were
United with a sphinx on some dead star

Where life is crystal-carbon, steel and gold
That radiates through all of human time
The empty womb’s majestic paradigm.

– Charles Baudelaire, from Complete Poems translated by Walter Martin



This poem by Baudelaire brings his mythos of Lilith (Serpent), Gorgon (Medusa), and Vampire (Alien Angel) together. As his biographer F. W. J. Hemmings says:

“But Baudelaire was not a nineteenth-century liberal; indeed, to many of his contemporaries, including one suspects Flaubert, he appeared as something of a throwback: regressive in his moral outlook, however modern he may have been in other respects – in his aesthetic insights, for instance. It is impossible not to be struck, as one reads him, by the frequency of his use of the word damnation and its cognates; the sentence we have picked as epigraph is simply the most memorable instance that can be found in his writings: ‘In short, I believe that my life has been damned from the beginning, and that it is damned forever.’

We notice that Baudelaire does not call himself damned, but only his life; his biographer has to explain how this life came to be damned, but need not take into account the possibility that he who lived that life was and is now among the company of the damned. There is little evidence that Baudelaire seriously visualized the afterlife in conventional terms of heaven and hell, and even if he did, it is most unlikely that he would have imagined hell quite as Dante imagined it … or Wyndham Lewis. As to the kind of existence reserved for humanity beyond the grave, he kept an open mind ; he was curious about it, and curiously hopeful; had it been otherwise, had he seriously entertained the notion of a Catholic God sitting in judgement on the souls of the departed, no doubt he would have embraced again, before his death, the faith that he lost in his late teens. But he did believe very firmly that certain lives are damned on this earth and that his was one of these.”1

1. Hemmings, F. W. J. (2011-09-28). Baudelaire the Damned: A Biography (Bloomsbury Reader) (Kindle Locations 34-39). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.