Thursday, April 28, 2011

Poet James Richardson

Being a poet is about the kinds of thinking and feeling,
the drifting and reading and gazing that poets do. . . .
~ James Richardson

With the April 6 announcement that contemporary poet James Richardson had won the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize, bestowed by Poets & Writers on an American poet of "exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition", I did a bit of research to uncover a few of Richardson's poems and to learn a bit more about him. 

One of Richardson's poems I found, and especially like, is "Northwest Passage":

That faint line in the dark
might be the shore
of some heretofore unknown
small hour.

This fir-scent on the wind
must be the forests
of the rumored month
between July and August.
© James Richardson

These concise eight lines seem straightforward-enough, until we take up those images: "the shore / ... of some hour" and "the forests / of the rumored month / between July and August." What does "the shore of some hour" look like, and how will we know when we've reached it? What of that "rumored month"? Who knows about it? Why is it replete with forests? How do you get there? And then there's the contrast of that "might be" with "must be" — the first so open to possibility, the other so determinedly conclusive. There is also the thought-provoking matter of the title, of its history and what it recalls to us about seeking and finding, and, ultimately, what we accept of what we see or what we think we know or have found. It's amazing how quickly complicated the reading of this poem can become when we strip it to its barest.

Here's another tiny poem, "Room Temperature", that shows Richardson's mastery of the short form:

That coffee you forgot to drink,
this light, eight minutes from the sun,
words I thought for a second
the hottest ever written.
© James Richardson

This is a lovely, witty play of words.

Richardson, who teaches beginning and advanced poetry workshops at Princeton, is the author of By the Numbers: Poems and Aphorisms (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), a National Book Award finalist that Publishers Weekly selected as "Book of the Year", and Interglacial: New and Selected Poems & Aphorisms (Ausable Press*, 2004), which offers some wonderful poems. Among his other collections are Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (Ausable Press, 2001; available from Copper Canyon) and How Things Are (Carnegie-Mellon Press, 2000).

The recipient of numerous other awards and fellowships, Richardson has been published frequently in The New Yorker, as well as in the Paris Review, Narrative, PleiadesVersedailyPoetry Daily, and Slate, and in numerous anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2011.

* Copper Canyon Press acquired Ausable Press in 2009. Ausable's titles remain in print under Copper Canyon's auspices.

Some other poems by Richardson that can be found online are: "In Shakespeare" (this poem also appears here, at The Best American Poetry blog), "My Godzilla", "Subject, Verb, Object", "Postmortem Georgic", "End of Summer", "Still Life With Moving Figure" (audio of Richardson reading is poem also is available); "The Worst Team Money Could Buy"; "Northwest Passage"; "How to Read Music"; "Another End of the World" (audio also available); "The God Who"; "Evening Prayer"; "Spellbound"; "Shore Town, Winter"; "Epilogue in Snow".

"44 Aphorisms", Princeton Independent

Interglacial on GoogleBooks

Vectors on GoogleBooks

The Best American Poetry 2010 on GoogleBooks

Richardson Reading in 2010 from Vectors: Video (Go to 8.32 minutes.)

Poetry @ Princeton (Profile of James Richardson)

Interview with James Richardson at National Book Foundation

Interview with James Richardson at BlogTalkRadio

Review of By the Numbers in Coldfront

"Poet as Aphorist", Review of By the Numbers in Cabbage Rabbit Review of Books and Music, March 15, 2011

Review of Interglacial in The New Hampshire Review

The Literary Review: James Richardso "Even More Aphorisms"


Louise Gallagher said...

Thank you for bringing the treasures of James Richardson and his poetry to us here!

And... thank you also for In Song for Love Gone Deeper -- you too have mastered the depth of the short form.

Deborah Lawrenson said...

This is quite wonderful - thank you so much for the introduction to the poems of James Richardson. I shall certainly seek out more.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thank you Maureen--a treat to have such a delightful choice of stanzas, and a full arsenal of links for further reading. Really appreciate the work you do.

S. Etole said...

I grew up in the Pacific NW and so much imagery came to mind as I read that poem ....

signed...bkm said...

Thank you Maureen for introducting James Richardson...and his beautiful poetry...bkm