Category Archives: poetry

Jack Spicer Feature

Amidst the recent (and ongoing) controversy surrounding the publication of Nabokov’s last, unfinished manuscript, The Original of Laura, Boston Review brings us this interesting piece on poet Jack Spicer.

First, a little biographical detail:

Toward the end of his short life, Jack Spicer began to relax some of
his purist principles about the publication and circulation of his
poetry. In 1964, impoverished and unable to hold down a job, he
consented to allow Lawrence Ferlinghetti to sell his books at City
Lights bookstore in San Francisco, officially ending his long-standing
boycott of a local institution he dismissed as a mere tourist
destination. “I still think I was right and poets don’t really need a
middleman and a middleman fucks up poetry,” he explained. . . . The sacramental sharing of poetry among fellow poets should occur at
street level, he believed, in the form of readings, evenings at the
bar, and ephemeral publications to be passed around by hand: Spicer
polemically forbade that his poetry be sent beyond the Bay Area, and he
ridiculed institutions like Poetry magazine for fostering ignominious societies.

Spicer, who died at 40 in 1965, left behind a large body of unfinished work that he asked never be published:

Then, in 1975, Black Sparrow’s landmark edition The Collected Books of Jack Spicer—intended
“for Jack’s friends” according to editor Robin Blaser—honored another
of Spicer’s wishes: that his early work, which he had famously
disowned, be considered separately, if at all, from the serial poems
begun in 1957 with the composition of the breakthrough After Lorca. When an assortment of pre-Lorca poems appeared in 1980 in the aptly titled collection One Night Stand and Other Poems, editor Donald Allen recalled these provocative instructions from Spicer’s letter to Blaser, first printed in the book Admonitions:
“So don’t send the box of old poetry to Don Allen. Burn it or rather
open it with Don and cry over the possible books that were buried in it
. . . all incomplete, all abortive, because I thought, like all
abortionists, that what is not perfect had no real right to live.”

And by now, you all must know what’s coming:

Twenty-eight years later, the long-awaited publication of My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer honors the “right to live” of all
of Spicer’s poetry, by collecting both early and later work, along with
a substantial number of poems exhumed from Spicer’s private notebooks,
which Blaser and Spicer’s brother Holt donated to the University of
California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library in 2004.

It’s a good essay, well-worth reading in its entirety.

New European Poets Review

Three Percent has a review of New European Poets, a new poetry collection that sounds rather impressive: 45 nations, 290 poets, and

The motivation behind the project is two-fold, reintroduce and reengage
American readers with European poetry and express how the borders of
Europe have been redrawn in recent decades there by altering its
regional identities along with its identity as a whole. And what is
contemporary Europe anyway?

In addition to the scope of the undertaking, it’s nice to see they got some of the best American poets to help with the translations:

Rightly in keeping with the dedication of the anthology which reads “to
all who translate” the contributing translators of New European Poets
have brought across the poetry of their European counterparts in the
lingua franca, English, for an American audience. These translators
include, Anselm Hollo, Rosemarie Waldrop, John Ashbery, Wanda Phipps,
Paul Muldoon, Charles Simic, Christian Hawkey, Derek Walcott and Cole
Swenson to name a few. Beyond the role of “translator” it should be
noted that these are the proliferators of contemporary poetry being
written in the English language today. They are our poets, our native
poets, our immigrant poets, our nation-of-birth-hyphenated-American and
international poets.

For a little on the recent and contemporary American poetry scene, see these pieces from The Quarterly Conversation:


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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