Eleanor Wilner, a recipient of the 2019 Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry and MacArthur-winner, had to be coaxed to publish her first collection at age 42. Arthur Vogelsang, her co-editor at the American Poetry Review, “threatened various forms of physical harm if I failed to follow through.” Her reluctance, she says, was “probably a universal fear of rejection but intensified by a woman’s trained reluctance to put her own work forward.” The skid marks in resisting publication, even in Gone to Earth: Early and Uncollected Poems 1963-1975, Wilner’s ninth book of poetry, are further evidence of such modesty. On the acknowledgments page, Wilner includes an excerpt from a poem by her then-young daughter, begging her mother to publish. This is followed by “To the Reader,” a note which assures readers that the poems “belonged to the realm of imagination and not to the world of opinion,” then an italicized eight-line epigraph ending with “she much preferred / what she could not afford: / the luxury of words and light,” and a prelude poem, “Ritual,” set in prehistoric Africa, mourning the muse, “the blackened stone / that once poured fire from its heart.” Only then, a page later, does the book begin, all poems fully fledged.
Unwarranted Reticence: A Review of Eleanor Wilner’s GONE TO EARTH
Is your summer to-be-read list getting sparse? Check out these exciting reading recommendations by TC’s latest contributors, including vibrant poetry that explores identity and relation and two novels that dwell on strange encounters and liminal places.
Maya Marshall’s All the Blood Involved in Love, recommended by Susanna Lang (Contributor)
Those of us already familiar with Maya Marshall’s poetry have wanted to see a collection for years, and her debut, All the Blood Involved in Love (Haymarket, 2022), is worth the wait. There are many poets writing now who focus on their identity, but they do not all have access to such rich language that lifts the concerns linked to her identity—Black, female, queer—to the level of poetry.
Jose Hernandez Diaz speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his poem “Ode to a California Neck Tattoo,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. In this conversation, Jose talks about finding his way to prose poetry, initially drawn in by its casual language and style. He also discusses the process of editing and revising poetry, his interest in the surreal, and what it’s like writing from a first generation point of view.
Podcast: Jose Hernandez Diaz on “Ode to a California Neck Tattoo”
Emma Sloley speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her story “The Cassandras,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. In this conversation, Sloley talks about writing a story based on the fear of men women are taught to have from a young age. She also discusses her decision to include a sort of Greek chorus in the story, apocalyptic isolation in her novel Disaster’s Children, and how travel writing has changed in the age of Instagram.