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Preview: Carrie Etter

Carrie Etter

Poet, teacher & critic

Updated: 2018-01-22T12:12:35.095+00:00


New site!


I'm now blogging at my new website, Come along?

Swallows and Waves by Paula Bohince (Sarabande, 2016)


Some favourite passages from this book of lyric poems on "scroll paintings and woodblock prints from Japan's Edo period, which spanned 1603-1868": She from the spent cushiongrasps his clothing, notto keep him but to indicate pleasure-given loyalty.from "Lover Taking Leave of a Courtesan"                                           Bitter-sweet longing becomes inflectedwith song.from "Hibiscus and Korean Nightingale"                                             How coolthe light in this region of no awe. Welcomemiddle register: sane, calm.end of "Sparrows and Camelia"A boatman reclines on the roofand smokes. In mist, he is invisible,swept along, an absent-minded god.from "Riverboat Party"Adrenaline mixes with caution, readyto ride toward what is destined. What molten goldfeels before it's poured into the ring mold.end of "Young Samurai on Horseback"Water holds blueness not much longer. Deathwill costume it in its color, and the honking of geesewill give voice to its grieving.end of "Descending Geese at Katana"As imitation bends toward knowledge, so pleasurebecomes a version of love. from "Courtesan with Her Attendant"A cricket on the pampas grassoutside wants in. Plotting its escapefrom what looks like freedom.end of "Crickets, Cafe, and Flowers"                  Sensuousadmissions, the wildernessof another breached, known.from "Lovers in the Snow"                                                      Delightedagainst a camouflage of like-minded flowers, the yellowsand green work to keep him hidden,safe in imagination, before the world gallops in, offeringpromises of glory, real swords and real horses.end of "Boy Dancing with a Hobby-Horse"It seems the easiest place to obtain Swallows and Waves in the UK is Abe Books here.[...]

Jelly Roll by Kevin Young (Knopf, 2003)


Some favourite passages:If only I'd readthe moss on the tree!instead of shakingit for fruit--from "Cakewalk"You burn meat both ends, sendthe geese bumpingwithin my skin.end of "Jitterbug"Your bordeaux dressuncorked, let'sbreathe awhilefrom "Boogaloo"...your noisynudity--O the brass of your body!sliding, trombone-style....from "Break"O the far-flungmorning, a moonstill among it!from "Calypso"Lady, you are my Mobile,Alabama--lowdown & too hotfor human habitat--opening of "Ramble"Drive until sun staresme down. Radio & the cicadaswith their static wings--I am singingto myself again.opening of "Saxophone Solo"Tonight even the stormcannot calm me.from "Slide Guitar"Outside azaleas bloom loud& red like ambulancesrushing to save someoneor at least try.*Lights out--we navigatethe colding house,feel for matchbookswhich you saveto bring light, Ito remember whereI been.*Ice turns eventhe trees heavy& helpless, allmorning falling--a song of breaking--winter & plunder.from "Pastorale"...take downthe tarnished stars, my breathwill shine them up new. from "Cotillion"In the UK, you can buy Jelly Roll from Abe Books here.[...]

Allison Benis White's Small Porcelain Head (Four Way Books, 2013)


Here are some favourite passages from this powerful, enigmatic book in prose poetry:Please forgive me. I pray and can't make it stop. There were lambswool wigs and paperweight eyes, two factory fires. Instead of blankness, I learned to draw stars with two triangles, one upside and overlapping the other. I covered pages, then like bracelets, my wrists.*What should I do with my mind? Think of the way it broke until the breaking is language.*Unlike the other automatons who lift a hand mirror or balloon, she exists even when we close our eyes, slapping one small brass cymbal into another, frantically, to prove touching.*When I have a headache, I lift my hand over my eyes--if death is a failure of imagination, we are alive.*The mutual helplessness of seeing and being seen.*As with every revelation, midair, oblivion is realigned and clarified: I want to die then decide.*What makes the object alive is desire without relief.*Within the bonnet, the two-faced head is rotated by pulling a string from the torso: one face calm, one crying plastic beads on her cheeks--turning: peaceful, sad, peaceful.Nothing in-between, no transition--I don't remember why she is suffering, why she is glad. It happens so fast: I am hopeless as I pull the string in her torso, then sick with wonder.*After a while, we moan and lift our arms in order to feel what she feels: her pose is agony.In the UK, Small Porcelain Head is available from Wordery.[...]

Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red (Vintage, 1999), fourth and final selection


Here is my last selection of favourite passages from this outstanding book:...fifty red parrots dove and roaredlike a conscious waterfall.*The Pacific at night is redand gives off a soot of desire.from "XXXVII. Eyewitnesses"Enormous pools of a moment kept opening around his handseach time he tried to move them.from "XL. Photographs: Origin of Time"...a light so brilliant it feels cold and hot at once.from "XLI. Photographs: Jeats"In the photograph the face ofHerakles is white. It is the faceof an old man. It is a photograph of the future, thought Geryon months later when hewas standing in his darkroomlooking down at the acid bath and watching likeness come groping out of the bones.from "XLV. Photographs: Like and Not Like"This is a memory of ourbeauty.from "XLVI. Photographs: #1748"We are amazing beings,Geryon is thinking. We are neighbors of fire.And now time is rushing towards themwhere they stand side by side with arms touching, immortality on their faces,night at their back.from "XLVII. The Flashes in Which a ManPossesses Himself"In the UK, you can buy Autobiography of Red from Hive here. [...]

The Great Graduating Poets' Showcase at Bath Brew House, May 2016


In what I hope will become an annual event, we held our second Great Graduating Poets' Showcase at The Bath Brew House last Friday night, and it was standing-room only! Here's a first round of photos from that excellent night.Our compere was the tutor for the third-year poetry module this year, Neil Rollinson.Emma HebronMatthew Mason displays his pamphlet.Graduating poet Aaron Lembo and yours truly (wearing Matthew Mason's wonderful hat)The whole gang! Well done, everyone![...]

Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red (Vintage, 1999), third selection


Some more favourite passages from this amazing book:The pimiento stung his mouth alive like sudden sunset.*You eat like my daughter. With a certainshall I say lucidity.*Black outside air tossed itselfhard against the windows.*Oh don't go, thought Geryon who felt himself startingto slide off the surface of the roomlike an olive off a plate. When the plate attained an angle of thirty degreeshe would vanish into his own blankness.*And for a moment the frailest leaves of life contained him in a widening happiness.from "XXX. Distances"Cars nested along the curb on their shadows. Buildings leaned back out of the street.Little rackety wind went by.Moon gone. Sky shut. Night had delved deep.*He could see the harbor blackly glittering. Cobblestones grew slick. Smell of salt fishand latrines furred the air.*Hardly glancingat one another the three of them playedas one person, in a state of pure discovery. They tore clear and clicked and lockedand unlocked, they shottheir eyebrows up and down. They leaned together and wove apart, they rose and cut away and stalkedone another and flew up in a cloud and sank back down on waves.*Black night sky weighed starlessly on the windows.*The petals of their colognes rose around them in a light terror. from "XXXI. Tango"...the elevator crashed like a mastodon within its hollow cage.from "XXXII. Kiss"Ancash sat very straight,a man as beautiful as a live feather.*Soon they were out on the streetwalking fast along Avenida Bolívar with a hard wind strumming their bodies. *A winter sun had thrown its bleak wares on the skyand people going pastlooked dazzled.from "XXXIV. Harrods"In the UK, you can buy Autobiography of Red from Hive, supporting local independent shops, here. [...]

Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red (Vintage, 1999), second selection


Up on the overpassthe night was wide openand blowing headlights like a sea. He stood against the wind and let it peel himclean.from "XVII. Walls"...a night suddenly gone solid.from "XVIII. She"...Geryoncaught her other arm, it was like a handful of autumn.from "XX. AA"Each morning a shockto return to the cut soul.*Outside the natural world was enjoyinga moment of total strength. Wind rushed over the ground like a sea and battered upinto the corners of the buildings,garbage cans went dashing down the alley after their souls.from "XXIII. Water"Geryon's life entered a numb time, caught between the tongue and the taste.*...Geryon'swhole body formed one arch of a cry--upcast to that custom, the human customof wrong love.from "XXIV. Freedom"As the aeroplane moved over the frozen white flatland of the clouds Geryon lefthis life behind like a weak season.*Geryon closed his eyes and listened to engines vibrating deep in the moon-splashedcanals of his brain.*Outside a bitten moon rode fast over a tableland of snow.from "XXVI. Aeroplane"A cold sprayof fear shot across his lungs. *Four of the roses were on fire.They stood up straight and pure on the stalk, gripping the dark like prophetsand howling colossal intimaciesfrom the back of their fused throats.*He moved off into the tragicomedy of the crowd.from "XXVI. Mitwelt"Pulling his body after himlike a soggy mattress Geryon trudged on uphill.from "XXVIII. Skepticism"Sunset begins early in winter, a bluntness at the edge of the light.*Geryon paused in his listening and saw the slopes of time spin backwards and stop.*It was the hour when the snow goes blueand streetlights come on and a hare maypause on the tree line as still as a word in a book.*His eye traveled to the clock at the front of the room and he fell into the poolof his favorite question.from "XXIX. Slopes"In the UK, you can buy Autobiography of Red from Hive, supporting local independent shops, here. [...]

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, April 2016


One of the best parts of visiting San Francisco is visiting Fisherman's Wharf. Yes, it's too touristy, but 1) the sea lions and 2) clam chowder in Boudin sourdough bread bowls. 

Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse by Anne Carson (Vintage, 1999), first selection


A first selection of favourite passages from this wonderful book:He clothed himself in this strong word each. *Before this time Geryon had not lived nights just days and their red intervals. * Facts are bigger in the dark.from "II. Each"...said his motherrhinestoning past on her way to the door. She had all her breasts on this evening.*She was standing before him nowsmiling hard and rummaging in his face with her eyes.from "III. Rhinestones"They grinned at each other as night climbed ashore.from "IV. Tuesday"Then he met Herakles and all the kingdoms of his life shifted down a few notches.They were two superior eelsat the bottom of the tank and they recognized each other like italics.*The world poured back and forth between their eyes once or twice.from "VII. Change"Her voice drew a circlearound all the years he had spent in this room.*A pure bold longing to be gone filled him.from "IX. Space and Time"He understood that people needacts of attention from one another, does it really matter which acts?*His voice washedGeryon open.from "X. Sex Questions"He could feel the house of sleepersaround him like loaves on shelves.*...and a fragment of human voice tore itself out and came past, it seemedalready long ago, trailinga bad dust of its dream which touched his skin.from "XII. Lava"As in childhood we live sweeping close to the sky and now, what dawn is this.from "XVI. Grooming"In the UK, you can buy Autobiography of Red from Hive here.[...]

Yosemite, April 2016, second of two selections


Sorry it's taken so long to post these--I've been having trouble uploading certain photos in Blogger. 

It was surprising how close to the road and to people the deer came.

After three very misty and rainy days, on the day we left it cleared considerably, and we saw the famous valley view. Glorious.

Trev and I are both hoping to return another time for a longer stay.

rob mclennan's 12 or 20 questions interview


Rob mclennan interviewed me for his blog; the result can be read here. I'd be interested in any responses....

Nerve Damage, a different kind of ekphrastic anthology


"The Poet" by Joel-Peter Witkin

Rupert Loydell sent this image to numerous poets asking for their responses in poetry, and the booklet Nerve Damage collects the results, with contributions from Annabel Banks, Sarah Cave, M.A. Duxbury-Hibbert, A.C. Evans, Mike Ferguson, Peter Finch, John Gimlet, David H.W. Grubb, Alan Halsey, Daniel Y. Harris, H.L. Hix, Aaron Kent, John Mingay, Sheila E. Murphy, John Phillips, Ian Seed, Robert Sheppard, Martin Stannard, Paul Sutton, George Ttoouli, Loydell, and myself. It can be purchased by sending £5 cheque made to R.M. Loydell or a $10 bill for US orders to Stride, 4B Tremayne Close, Devoran, Cornwall TR3 6QE. I'm greatly looking forward to reading the other poems, to see the range of responses to the image. 

Yosemite, April 2016, first of two selections


Bridalveil FallSquirrels with the inside of a fallen tree for a homeYosemite Upper and Lower Falls[...]

Big Sur, California, April 2016


Beauty upon beauty....

Elephant Seals at Big Sur, 4 April 2016


Seals are good huddlers.

So many!

Chest bump!

(Re)visiting UCLA, my alma mater, 3 April 2016, second of two


In the Sculpture Garden. The building behind it is Bunche Hall, where I took many of my Latin classes.More of the Sculpture Garden.This is where the Department of English was housed in my time.Great sculptures in the square of Rolfe Hall.[...]

(Re)visiting UCLA, my alma mater, 3 April 2016, first of two


I graduated from UCLA in 1995 and last visited UCLA briefly around 2000. When we parked the car, I wasn't sure where I was, but with each new thing I saw, I remembered some other item nearby, and puzzle piece by piece, my map of the campus and my time there came together.The majestic Royce Hall, where I took Chaucer with V.A. Kolve.Another view of Royce HallThe quad. The hammocks are a good addition since my time.UCLA's mascot, the great bruin. He provides soothing shade for a dog. [...]

The Frank Gehry / Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles


I love this building. There's a wonderful public garden a floor up that extends around the back, too.

part of said garden

Hanne Bramness's No Film in the Camera (trans. Frances Presley, Shearsman, 2013)


Here are some favourite passages from this splendid book of prose poems:Pools of dew swell with the coming of spring but it will soon freeze, because there is a sense of loss.end of "1"The floor is partially erased by the light, it is still possible to set out and get across. It is still possible to pull back, run home and put an end to this experiment.end of "2"Photographers do not spend their whole lives taking photos in order to recall surfaces, but what has happened just before or long before, and what will happen immediately afterwards.end of "11"The presence of the photographer is not really a threat, but a substitute for one.from "15"There are many who will not dissimulate, they sacrifice their smile.end of "19"She blushes and smiles with her whole body, as much as she possibly can. But trying so hard does not inspire confidence.end of "20"The photographer is hunting Europe's spring, along boulevard and pig sty, he wants to catch the light that deprives things of their value--meaning their place in a hierarchy.end of "27"If there is no sky in this picture it is still an image of the heavens.end of "33"There's no doubt, she is who she pretends to be. end of "67"Some time during the night it happens, she takes a picture of the dream tree just as the clouds are ripped away from the moon.end of "81"A fruit tree with buds, stopped before they could unfold, not shrivelled, not dead, but transformed into an image of longing.end of "77"Like the ice, the photo keeps everything in place for a while. And the picture exposes the silence, but if you listen long enough it will break into a roar.end of "82"You can buy this illuminating book of prose poems directly from the publisher here. [...]

Connie Voisine's Calle Florista (University of Chicago, 2015)


Connie and I are both graduates of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of California, Irvine, and I was glad to have her read to my students Thursday while she's spending her sabbatical in the UK. Here are some favourite passages from her new collection, Calle Florista:There weren't flowers so much ascats, at least a hundred, lounging in the neighbor's yardwhile the bushes roiled with kittens.from "Calle Florista"Maybe the soul isn't a fussy eater--still, it is ravenousand expensive, like a defensive lineman.from "I Admit that I Believe that Ideas Exist Regardless"The book's perfume lifted as you touched it: must, dead clover, wood smoke. Your flesh became silk, limpid, luminous.from "Annunciation"The pond wants to be the sun that dumps its sugar on the grass.*The shoe wants to be the buckle that the girl shines with a cloth.The buckle wants to be the magpie lifting what shines.from "Testament"The holy is otherwise,nowhere. Wherethe non-fogwaits in the no-cleft.end of "After"And of course night comes onjust as you desired. As do the wild pigssnuffling in the desert, as do the wolvesspangled with hunger, and the hunger itself that lopes through my house.Your desire is dark,whoever you are, and igneouslyformed by heat.Cooling, it litters my slopes.end of "Psalm to Whoever Is Responsible"There aren't enough dovesin North America to fillthe gondola of you.Onions are fallible, onlypretending to be infinite....the opening of "A World's Too Little for Thy Tent,A Grave Too Big for Me"This country wakes to turn off the light,and it's no other dark but yours.end of "Prayer of the St. of the Hottest Nightin Las Cruces"Remember, no matter how hard you tried,there were no propershoes for this.from "In the Shade"In the UK, Calle Florista is available from Foyle's Books here.[...]

Michelle Detorie's After-Cave (Ahsahta Press, 2014)


Some favourite passages from the book I've just read, Michelle Detorie's first collection, After-Cave. Note I couldn't always recreate her spacing.These come from the first section, "Fur Birds":Each of us was asked to speak, and it was with reluctance and kindness that I lied.*We swing and twitch the tune, the lungs brimming.*The body is broken into parts and yet flows together like water.*I am animal; there is no becoming.*Your heart, it's a knotof flames, a knaveof feathers. Inthe dream sea, greenwords flex and shiver. From the second section, "Feralscape":A book is a room.I am a house.*There are so many pink bones                           in the yellow paper dress                      a girl wears into the woods. In this story the trees                           are sentences that blow away.*we sleekly become, without teeth                              or tongue like                          seam-ripped frocks:          silky, frayed, gleaming: a continuancefrom the last section, "The Data Is Feminine: After-Cave":                             Your hairwas yellow then, a spoolof floss wound with light.*No sudden for the wintered.*You tell me that the pyramids were the product of collaboration, innovative project management, but I know already that what made them was slave labor--a capsized river of bones and blood.The easiest way I found to obtain Detorie's After-Cave in the UK was through Abe Books here.[...]

Plainwater by Anne Carson (Cape, 1995)


I didn't include any selections from the first section here as they work as brilliant versions of the original Mimnermus fragments. Perhaps I should reconsider. Anyway, here are my favourite passages elsewhere in the manuscript.From Part II, Short Talks:You can never know enough, never work enough, never use the infinitives and participles oddly enough, never impede the movement harshly enough, never leave the mind quickly enough.the end of "Introduction"Rembrandt wakens you just in time to see matter stumble out of its forms.the end of "On the End"From Part III, Canicula di Anna:The fact that Anna is somewhere having coffee or a dreamis an assault on me.I hate these moments of poverty.*Soundthat shines up as a laughand smells like bloodis another troublesome,ancientcategory.From Part V, The Anthropology of Water:...the only rule of travel is, Don't come back the way you went.*It would be an almost perfect love affair, wouldn't it? that between the pilgrim and the road. No mistake, it is a beautiful thing, the camino. It stretches away from you. It leads to real gold. Look at the way it shines. And it asks only one thing. Which happens to be the thing you long to give. You step forward. You shiver in the light. Nothing is left in you but the desire for perfect economy of action, using up the whole heart, no residue, no mistake: camino. * drop through a freedom so clear it is simply pain.*Shapes of life change as we look at them, change us for looking.*What are we made of but hunger and rage? *How surprised I am to be entangled in the knowledge of some other animal.*An entrance is important to a pilgrim: there can be only one.*No photographs--you know what fireworks are like. Tawdry, staggering, irresistible, like human love.*If we strain thought clear of impulse slowly, slowly the day scream subsides to ordered lust.*...a sun-drilled enormity of meadow....*I try to maintain a remote demeanour amid stunning self-accusations.*...little cats go clicking over the snow.You can order Plainwater from Abe Books here.[...]

RIP C.D. Wright, 1949-2016


C.D. Wright was one of my--and many other poets'--heroes. Here's a brilliant overview of her work by Stephen Burt.