I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You OK?, tales of driving and being driven by Naomi Shihab Nye
Selected Early Poems, Charles Simic
Sam's Place, Charles H. Johnson
Boy, Patrick Phillips
Dog Years, A Memoir by Mark Doty
Through a Gate of Trees by Susan Jackson
The Poet's Child, a Copper Canyon Press Anthology edited by Michael Wiegers
Paterson Literary Review 36 (2008-2009) edited by Maria Mazziotti Gillan
First off the pile: Are You OK, an enjoyable set of essays, usually very short, about events, encounters and observations by by the author made while between destinations. Has the same feel as other poets' prose: closer to lyric essay than non-fiction, which I expect the Doty book to be, too, given his past efforts at prose (Still Life With Oysters and Lemon, Firebird...).
Another list I've been toying with posting here is "Assumptions Made About Me During The 2008 Dodge Festival" - a list of statements made describing (sometimes unflatteringly) various demographic groups that include me, whether or not the speaker of the statement realized it. But every time I start the list it starts to sound whiny and political, two things I try not to be in this space. Suffice it to say that my fellow attendees should be aware that there was at least audiencemate who sometimes plans his days around football, believes in the power and creativity of scientists, and has voted at least once in his life for a Republican presidential candidate.
Speaking of science, one of the more dissatisfying artifacts of this year's festival was a recurring and derogatory opinion of the natural arts. More than once a presenter, artist, or audience member aired a statement or question that used science or scientists as an analog for a lack of creativity. While I'm not a scientist (scientists ask "Why?", engineers ask "How?"), I have to say this position reflects a complete lack of understanding of the role of science in the world. Science, by definition, is the search for and communication of the broad truths of the universe. Poets use letters. Scientists use numbers. The rest - mostly - is parallel.
On a related topic, I've also been mulling my reaction to the response I got - in the "Poetry and Invention" workshop - to my query about whether technology enabled poetic or literary experimentation in a way that provided the reader more "entry points" (read: ways to engage) into a poem. The response of the panelists ranged from dismissal to bemusement; Forrest Gander offered a pretty extensive list of things going on at Brown on this front, but terminated his list with a "but that's not what I'm looking for in a poem". Maybe I didn't ask the question properly, but it seems to me that was the whole point of my question, if not of the workshop itself. Invention isn't what you're looking for, it's what surprises you in its own creation. It's the solution to a problem you didn't know you had. The US Patent Office requires an invention be "novel" and "non-obvious". If the poem were what you were looking for, it - by definition - would not be an invention.
Perhaps I'm taking the response too personally, it being my question and me being a technologist and all, but I went to that workshop expecting - from its title and panelists - to find openness to more things than just form and political expression. I guess I didn't ask the right question. But I just may complete and send the letter I've started to Jim Haba, the organizer of the Dodge Poetry Festival, with suggestions for a Poetry and Science subtheme for 2010. Or maybe I'll keep the letter to myself and find a way to stage such a presentation somewhere else.
OK, now. My spleen feels lighter. Back to the book pile.