An avid admirer of the Beats, Luttrell has made many pilgrimages to readings and conferences devoted to the subject. “When I was at Naropa one year, and Ginsberg was still alive,” he says with a smile, “I asked him, ‘Allen, if Jack [Kerouac] had lived and you had died, do you think anybody today would remember the Beat Generation?’ I asked him because we all knew how good of a marketer Ginsberg was. But he just smiled when I asked him.”
The deadline for the 2009 Levis Poetry Prize, sponsored by the independent press Four Way Books, is less than a week away. The annual award, which includes a thousand dollars and publication of a book-length collection, is open to any poet writing in English, regardless of publication history. This year's judge is Mary Jo Bang, author, most recently, of the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning collection Elegy (Graywolf, 2007) and the director of the creative writing program at Washington University in St. Louis.
The guidelines for the Levis Poetry Prize are not only practical but also interesting for their description of the press's reading policy, which underscores the lengths legitimate sponsoring organizations will go to ensure that there will be no allegations of unfairness. (Such a description also illustrates how the culture of competition has evolved from what it was four or five years ago, when skepticism and even cynicism about all things contest-related seemed to reach its peak). What's changed, exactly? For starters, the process whereby winners are chosen has become, in many cases, more transparent.
After describing the ways in which poets may submit their work to the contest, the Four Way Books editors end with the following note about a potential submitter's relationship with the judge: "Please do not submit to this contest if you are close enough to Mary Jo Bang that her integrity, your integrity, and the integrity of Four Way Books would be called into question should you be selected as the winner. You may query us if you have questions regarding this matter. We will allow you to submit to us outside of the contest if you feel that you are treading deep water in this regard."
The press's reading policy, which details the path each manuscript travels—from the point at which it's stripped of identifying material to its delivery to preliminary readers to its arrival at the judge's desk—can be read on the Four Way Books Web site.
A new program on youth slam poetry is set to debut on HBO next month. The seven-part series "New Voices," narrated by rapper Queen Latifah, follows forty-four slam teams from seven cities as they advance toward the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival held last year in Washington, D.C.
"They haunt us in their evocation of what has disappeared from view but not from memory," cultural critic Johanna Drucker writes of Waldrop's collages. "How vividly these fragments, exquisitly excised and recombined, proffer their microcosmic scenes and complex ambiguities."
"Collage, at least as I practice it, encourages abstraction," Waldrop writes. "What might ordinarily hold a work together—character, for instance, or chronology—often loses out to foreign bodies appearing from other environments."
"In my tender years, I fretted because I could neither whistle a tune nor draw a likeness," writes Waldrop. "Though I no longer fret about it, I still can't do either one. I do believe this simple inability (drawing, not the whistle) was a factor in my starting to do collage."
The first public showing of poet Keith Waldrop's collages of cardboard and paper, occasionally cloth or wood, was in Providence in 1979. "Like the poems," Waldrop writes in a preface to Several Gravities, "these were made of materials as disparate as possible, picked because I liked their looks or, really, because they somehow called out to me."
"The pictures in general are small, sometimes infinitesimally so, and are rarely larger than the small tabletop at which he works, high up in a cramped studio space under the eaves of his home," writes Robert Seydel in "Imagination's Artifacts: On the Art of Keith Waldrop," an essay included in Several Gravities.
"I have always written rather little, but endlessly revised," Waldrop writes in Several Gravities. "To the extent that I employ collage, I have the happy possibility of revising what I haven't written."