Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pg. 69: Annie Finch's "Calendars"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Annie Finch's Calendars.

About the collection, from Publisher Weekly's starred review:
In her third full-length collection, Finch focuses on the cyclical and seasonal, centering on themes of birth, death, family and artistic lineage, sexuality and female spirituality. Following the poems of Eve (1997), the poetics of The Ghost of Meter, and the anthologizing of An Exaltation of Forms (2002) among other books and translation work, Finch here moves through traditional and invented forms, chants and refrains, makes addresses to poets of the past, and at times deploys an exaggerated musicality that is less archaic than rooted in obsessive repetition. In "Paravaledellentine: A Paradelle," for instance, the speaker sings, "Move me the way the seas' warm sea will spend me./ Move me the way the seas' warm sea will; spend me./ Move your sea-warm come to me; will with me; spend/ tender sounds, warning me the way of the seas, the seas." Some of the most compelling poems here explore the interplay of multiple voices; in the title poem, the voices of Demeter, Chorus, Persephone and Hades chant in alternation. Other successful poems move between a voice and an echo-a doubt, a qualification or a redirected train of thought.... Finch almost always draws one in with an unnerving and utterly unexpected phrase or image, as when addressing "The Moon": "Then you are the dense everywhere that moves,/ the dark matter they haven't yet walked through?" Such moments seem to contain the full duration of this book's calendars.
Among the praise for Calendars:
"Annie Finch is a great love poet, and she understands better than any contemporary I know what poetry feels like and sounds like when it is completely at home in its traditions. . . She is a major poet, one of very few who understand how lyric lives in part because it can speak for something larger than the ego."
—Charles Altieri

"The poetry of Annie Finch captivates me. She displays poetic skill as polished as any of the greats. I likewise find her utterly endearing. . Her poetry is an homage to the art."
Michael Parker in MiPoesias

"An oracle, an ecstatic maenad: that is the kind of traditional poet Annie Finch is. . ."
Patricia Monaghan in Web del Sol

" . . . She gets it. Her commitment is to the language . . ."
Ron Silliman, on Silliman's Blog

"Finch's poem speaks to a larger poetic conversation on feminist spirituality and religious revision in the work of Alicia Ostriker, Lucille Clifton, and Eleanor Wilner."
D'Arcy Randall in Blue Mesa Review

"Finch, who has described her work process as including the whispering or muttering, shouting or chanting or singing her words aloud as she writes, has brought that song into the words in a way that we associate with poets of an earlier era, like Tennyson or Kipling. . . "
Tad Richards in Jacket

"Finch has been through the experience of free verse and is trying to redefine "traditional" forms in a way which will allow her to function in what amounts to an unprecedented fashion. . . "
Jack Foley in the Alsop Review

"With paradoxical economy and fine-tuned irony, Annie Finch's poems embody the seductive, treacherous and redemptive nature of language itself. Her poems remind us how the condition of music re-creates the condition of thought."
—Marilyn Hacker

"Sympathies, passions--so often the opposite of actions—are so intensely held, wrung and used, that Annie Finch's poems spread themselves like so much fresh laundry: sweet, abstergent, redressed."
—Richard Howard
Read some poems from Calendars. Learn more about the poet and her work, and read or listen to some of her poems, at Annie Finch's website.

Calendars (Tupelo, 2003) was shortlisted for the Foreword Poetry Book of the Year Award). Annie Finch’s other recent works include a reissue of her early longpoem, The Encyclopedia of Scotland (Salt Press, 2004), and a book of essays on poetry, The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self (University of Michigan Press, 2005). Since 2005 she has served as Director of the Stonecoast graduate creative writing program at the University of Southern Maine.

The Page 69 Test: Calendars.

--Marshal Zeringue