Sunday, March 14, 2010

POETRY: Dick Allen enlightens listeners


Poet Dick Allen read at the Blue Z Coffeehouse last Wednesday. As always, his work is  fresh and filled with details in layers of image and nuance. Though he had three books for sale, (Present Vanishing, The Day Before: New Poems and Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Selected), he did us the great favor or reading lots of his new work.  When this happens in a reading - not only do you get to see where the writer is headed in terms of  ideas and technique - you also get the heightened delivery because people are frequently more excited about their recent works.

Afterwards during Q&A  Allen spoke to his self-taught Zen Buddhist  roots.  He expressed how mindfulness lends itself to poetry, and his involvement in meditation, his belief in nondualism, and also reincarnation. (I thought those last two seemed to conflict, but I see there are several meanings for nondualism. In one, matter is  illusion, in the other, there is only matter....)

All in all, it was quite a very interesting evening.Allen noted that there are over 3000 print journals publishing poetry and an unknown number of online journals, blogs and sites.  One interesting point: apparently many of these publications are staffed by younger editors who send form rejections to everyone. While even a fine writer's work isn't always a fit with a particular publication,  he said old school notables are hoping for at least a personal rejection not a form letter.  I suspect these editors often don't know who they are rejecting or they would be inviting further submissions. (Makes me wonder who I rejected when I had Bent Pin Quarterly!)

Allen surely qualifies as one of those notables. He has a Pushcart Prize, and has gotten NEA and an Ingram Merrill Poetry Writing Fellowships. He's been published all over the map: The New Criterion, Crab Orchard Review, Ploughshares, American Scholar, The Georgia Review, The Yale Review, Poetry, Stone Boat, Gettysburg Review, The New York Quarterly, and The Hudson Review.  Literally hundreds of his poems  have been in publications ranging from The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic and Agni to The New England Review, as well as 40 + national poetry anthologies including five editions of The Best American Poetry . That's notable.
We also got another insight into  Dick Allen, in the form of his  wife, poet L. N. Allen, who read some fine work during the open mic. I am not sure but a "little bird told me" she may be reading for Wed. poetry fairly soon. Tweet.