I’m very pleased to announce the release of my new collection of poetry from Broadstone Books, This Great Green Valley. The work reflects my research in the archives at the Filson Historical Society where I explored Kentucky’s 18th century pioneer history to recover voices from that period and discover new layers in our received narratives about the establishment of Kentucky. The book also includes a long poem about my own childhood spent on the Kentucky River in the same great green valley where once my earliest ancestors settled.
My prose poem debut in Waccamaw this month: “We Were Talking About Guns”. I’ve written several of these in the last year and it’s been a bit of a surprise — a long way, formally, from the sonnet sequence that appeared in The Highwayman’s Wife . But lately, the subjects I’ve been trying to address — and the polyvocal nature of the conversation about those subjects — has increasingly found me frustrated by conventional notions of the line and its integrity, particularly the left-justified line. I’m hardly the first poet to feel this way; I particularly like Cecilia Woloch’s use of the prose poem as “Postcards to….” in her book Carpathia (and here’s a nice review of that book in Rattle ). In both of the new manuscripts I’m drafting — one about our nervous culture, the other about both the pioneer history of and my own history in Kentucky — there’s a lot of composition on the page, some right-justification, and some prose poetry, or non-lineated verse, a term I also like but feels a little poet-geeky.
My thinking about it all still feels more squishy than I’d like; I’m giving a lecture on it at the spring residency for Spalding’s MFA in early June so I intend to have a few things sorted out by then, notably: meaningful distinctions between flash fiction and prose poems; intentionality in white space and indentation in the use of staggered lines; what, if anything, gestures toward the shaped poem might suggest (I tried out some of that in Kings of the Rock and Roll Hot Shop with a poem imitating the shape of glass as it becomes a vessel). More prose poems are forthcoming in Valparaiso Poetry Review and Sou’wester this spring. And maybe more after that.