Thursday, June 2, 2011

Andromeda: Sexton's latest collection earns NYT kudos



Thanks to Mike E. for leaving a comment alerting us to the inclusion of Tom Sexton in a glowing New York Times roundup of top new collections by five midcareer poets.

The Times reviewer described Sexton, whose latest book is called I Think Again of Those Ancient Chinese Poets (University of Alaska Press) as a "...modern monk seeking refuge in Asian poems. A former poet laureate of Alaska, he revels in the natural: river otters and Arctic char, sedge wrens and yellow warblers, witch hazel and the wolves of Denali. He’s an atavistic avatar of how to look hard yet write simply."

The other poets highlighted were Dean Young, Jim Moore, Dorianne Laux, and Laura Kasischke.

Scott Woodham over at Alaska Dispatch picked up the story and noted the use of the term "Alaskan-Asian poetics" in the review. He writes: It's a quality I've been trying to describe for myself for years, that stark, risky simplicity and bare images (though not necessarily "deep" ones, in the manner of Robert Bly) driving many poems written by Alaska's post-war generation. Anyone else notice that? Is it simply a matter of poetic influence? Or does place itself play a role? If it's simply a matter of influence, why Asia? Why not Canada, Russia or Scandinavia? What is it about Asia's ancients that has so consistently appealed to Alaska's literary life?

Kudos to Tom and feel free to keep the conversation going, either here or at Alaska Dispatch.

A longer review of the poetry collection is here, at a blog by Juneau's Jonas Lamb, who wrote, “I Think Again of Those Ancient Chinese Poets” is a gateway that transcends space and time to bring closer the poetic traditions of East and West. Sexton’s focus on natural observations — moon cycles, seasons, bird migrations and the brief yet wondrous life cycle of perennial plants — bring the seemingly disparate worlds of 8th century China and 21st century Alaska closer."

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