Sunday, May 18, 2008

An Astonishing Poet You Should Know

I’d like to introduce you all to an amazing and little known poet, Talvikki Ansel. And yes, I did just interview her for my thesis, so perhaps I’m biased. Nevertheless, she is a poet whose work is worth knowing. Her first book, My Shining Archipelago, was published as winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1996. And her second book, Jetty, came out in 2003. Jetty is out of print but can—and should be—found used.

Almost all of Talvikki Ansel’s poems are in some way connected to the natural world—she has spent a significant amount of time working in gardens and cataloging birds for conservation efforts. This influence comes across in her work, which is laced with botanical terms and filled with experiences from the field.

Although her poetry stands strongly on it’s own, Ansel has often been compared to Elizabeth Bishop. They inhabit similar natural landscapes; have an affinity for odd and quirky images, and employ precision description. In one of Ansel’s more recent poems, “Valentine’s,” published in Poetry Magazine 2003, she writes, “I identified that weird / seed pod”… “Magenta capsule and four orange seeds”… “ ‘heart’s a-bustin’ with love’ it’s called” (12-13, 15, 16). This image seems an apt introduction to an astonishing poet.

Please follow these links to read further about Ansel and her work:
Review of Jetty in Blackbird.
Where Poetry Outgrows Hobby Status Artcle in the New York Times, written after Ansel won the Yale Series of Younger Poets.
First Sunday on Poetry A close look at one of Ansel’s poems from Jetty.
Orion Magazine, Poem: “Seed Savers”
Three Of Ansel’s Poems: “Tree List,” “Or Stay Again,” “Blue Collection”

Friday, May 9, 2008

The House on Fortune Street

Book news! Margot Livesey, who made an appearance on our 25 Books Project for her Eva Moves the Furniture, has a new novel out, called The House on Fortune Street. I was able to see her read from it and bought the book at her reading Tuesday at Porter Square Books in Somerville, MA. It was nice to have something weighty and yet fast-paced for my 20+ hour flight to Korea yesterday. Sort of four novellas that add up to a very full novel, and which elicit a lot of reflection on the characters and the way lives are intertwined. Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I used to think "senioritis," that affliction commonly associated with spring time and general procrastination, was only a problem for college students eager to join the "real world" and college-bound high school kids. As a grad student in her mid-twenties who works full-time and has been out of college for more years than she cares to think about, I thought all of that youthful restlessness was a thing of the past.

I was mistaken. Though most of my classmates have finished their final final papers, projects, and theses, and are preparing for graduation and planning for moves to New York or epic job searches, I am still one summer class shy of completing my master's degree. I'm not even done with my spring semester yet--a problem compounded by a pretty severe (and somewhat premature) case of senioritis. One final project (to build a web site) stands between me and a 3-week break before summer classes begin. Though I have been aware of this project for some months, I underestimated the difficulty it would present to me. After all, I know how to blog, I'm pretty familiar with HTML, how hard could it be? Turns out, building a web site is much harder than it looks. The fact that the weather is finally sunny and sometimes even sort of warm, leading to a deep-seated desire to be outdoors, does little to improve my motivation to sit hunched over my laptop, working on a project that makes me feel like I have no skills whatsoever.

This academic brand of senioritis has seeped into other areas of my life as well. For example, instead of reading any of the new literature I have lined up to read this summer, I often find myself staring out the window of the T on my hour commute to work each morning--not contemplating life or love or ethics, but rather thinking things like "ooh, look at the pretty flowers on that tree" and "I love that woman's dress--I wonder where she got it." Once I finally arrive at work, I settle in and diligently begin my work for the day. This burst of productivity usually lasts for about a half hour before I begin to check my email, gchat with friends, and catch up on my blogs--a process that is suprisingly time-consuming. If I don't have class, I find myself lounging on my futon, watching bad reality tv with my roommate instead of going grocery shopping, doing laundry, washing the dishes, or writing--all tasks which linger on my constant to-do list.

All of this inability to focus or motivate myself in any way leads me to wonder--is "senioritis" a malady that is synonymous with laziness, restlessness, and ennui that we're doomed to be plagued with each time certain situations in our lives are about to draw to a close or have reached the point of complete stagnancy? What do you all think?