A Poets’ Correspondence (III): Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell

This week in our digital edition, Little Star Weekly, we inaugurated an weeklong series, a correspondence on poetic means in the English of here and there (England and the UK) by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell

Read Glyn’s first installment in Little Star Weekly here (single issues here) and Rowan’s reply in our web diary below.

Here is letter #3.  Incidentally, in Little Star Weekly this week we also have the third of three parts of a hitherto uncollected eulogy by W. H. Auden for Louis MacNeice, whom Glyn talks about below.

Rowan salut,

Blimey, I didn’t know that about Stevens. Two generations. The absurdity of the delay! I felt the FC9780374533496converse, though, in the nineties. I had trouble finding Louis MacNeice or Edward Thomas in the Frost Library at Amherst. The Frost Library! Bob’s best friend Thomas! And at the time—and still, though I study the situation less than I used to—I felt that they were the two strongest British Isles poets that American poetry (well, young American poets, which was my business at the time) could learn from. This isn’t postcolonial mind-frame bullshit—Stevens mirrors that, Hart Crane seemed unknown to us and we’ve nothing like Whitman. Can’t fit them lines in our country. Anyway, I thought (and still think) that Thomas had a conscientiousness towards breath, and the relationship between light, breath, and thought, that surpassed even Frost’s. Frost is a genius, but he always will be learning me something, while Thomas can sound a mind simply moving through the air taking in oxygen who knows why. That’s not a better poetry, but it’s distinct. And of course America

FC9780141393193isn’t missing Frost, even if so many cluelessly use him as a road not to be taken. I taught an MA student lately; he’d spent two terms immersed in the postmodern and was pretty much unreachable. I told him what I think about (I mean can hear in) “Acquainted With The Night.” He gave me this basilisk stare and said: “Oh you’re making that up.” I was trying to show him what meter does, vowels, rhymes, punctuation, how things actually affect the body. Nah, just making it up. Clearly I had no game, no key, no system, no wink or shrug. Anyway, our Thomas is distinct from your Frost and I still think poets need both.

MacNeice is distinct from Auden—by light years—yet he labors in Auden’s shadow. While Auden muses from above, MacNeice endures the mess below, the chaos, the detail, but you can hear him strolling,

FC9781930630635swaggering, stumbling through it (that’s the “rough” jazzy meter and rhyme working), so it’s not the inanimate clutter of so much “free” American work. “Free” verse is always saying “look at me, I’m a different new animal, oxygen schmoxygen!” So let’s see how much of that survives. T=H=E=Y S=A=I=D W=H=A=T??? Literary Enron, the infinite hedge. There go fifty more campuses I’ll never see…

But I don’t care for most new poems I read because I want to hear how time feels to a living thing, and a living thing breathes in and out, walks up and down, the pupils change size, the bones start to creak. Old forms are that: natural realities made into writing. I love intelligent repetition in poetry. You do it in The Ground. The ludicrously overlooked wonder Schnackenberg does it, working away at an implacable form because the form is a form of grief. Alice

FC9780393347272FC9780374533045Oswald does it on our shores, astoundingly, in Memorial. Runs it by us again like bulletins, the terrible things run by us again like bulletins. I can only believe in a patterned discourse of that kind if I know—if I can hear—that the poet would give it to me straight if s/he could—but either beauty or terror bars the way, chokes the voice, sea-changes it.

Pointless saying I miss New York—take that as read, Rowan—but let’s make a date to watch Arsenal on some midtown big-screen next time I’m over. We now have eleven of the world’s silkiest midfielders, even in goal—why don’t we win everything? … Oh, I see.

All best,


Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ second book of poems, Heaven, appears this month. Glyn Maxwell’s most recent book is Pluto, and his Collected Poems came out in 2011.

For news of our next installment, send us an email:


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A Poets’ Correspondence: Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell

This week in our digital edition, Little Star Weekly, we inaugurate an weeklong series, a correspondence on poetic means in the English of here and there (England and the UK) by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell

Read Glyn’s first installment in Little Star Weekly here.  (Single issues here.) Below is Rowan’s reply. His new book, Heaven, is out this week from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Dear Glyn,

I’m in New York. And now that I’ve made you jealous I can strike that off of my bucket list. Wish you were here. Anyway, your sitting up in your hotel king-size in Boston wading in the undulating thick of this ocean-wide question [do American and English poets read each other?] reminds me of Walcott in his poem, dedicated to Michael S. Harper, “The Arkansas Testament”—the eponymous poem of a book that, I’m just recalling now, I bought while IFC9780374168520was at Oxford. Coincidence. We don’t have to talk about that poem now but it is a great poem for thinking through this as a situation of poetry. Going back to my thought … We’re constituted by and constituents of our coincidences. And it may be at this point but mere coincidence that American and UK poets share a language. I like to think not––I’m a strident optimist, after all––but the esprit de corps of the two, their very sense of purpose and being, feels to me so distinct. But why? My family is from a former British colony, Antigua, and I was the first in my family born here (by “here” I mean New York). That was 1974. I recall asking my parents once why they moved to New York instead of London, which seemed the more familiar tether, and they answered, “Well, we remembered the people who had moved to New York sent back envelopes with money, while people who moved to London sent back envelopes asking for money.” And just like that: simple epigrammatic remembrance, and I’m a different poet. If I grew up in London what type of poet would I be now? What percentage of my reading would have been different? I’m comfortable in English going back to Chaucer. Some of that is from my training. Much of it is from my mother. Regardless, the difference in my American self and my UK self I imagine would have come with the nineteenth century (registers of Whitman, Dickinson, and the spirituals) and then into what was an incredibly loud and at times very cool twentieth century. Glyn, in the grand scheme of things—seven centuries in our language alone—

FC9780374520991the difference we’re then talking about just isn’t that much. But it’s a loud difference, is it not. And yet it certainly feels like much because we’re not yet our history. This no matter how much contemporary canonization attempts to goad you into thinking otherwise. I want to second everything you’ve said except for your feeling nerves at potentially saying whom you like. I, too, avoid this as much as I can but I push out with it instead of feeling any internal anxiety about it. It’s so rare to come across a really great poem; one you don’t love but rather—let’s be honest about this—one you envy. I’m grateful for them and grateful even more when I’m surprised to find them. What I’m saying is that we can over-articulate what we see ourselves as being part of–these are my contemporaries, I’m coming out of this tradition, I’m sticking it to that tradition—and so, until I feel otherwise, I prefer to shut up about it. The worst thing that can happen to a poet is to have the voice leveraged. Poetic relations aren’t a game of tag, poetic relations are strange. I hear a little bit of Stevens in what I just wrote and what better moment to bring this up: Stevens’ collected poems was published in the UK in 2006. Two thousand and six! To put this in perspective, Antigua had been independent from England for twenty-four years before Stevens’ collected poems were published in the UK. Hurrah for de-colonialization coming before Stevens, but there’s really little chance of UK poets finding a common ground to stand on with American poets without a sustained and varied look at Stevens, who was so much greater than Harmonium America

FC9780679726692didn’t have to wait long at all for Larkin or a number of his contemporaries who were not his equal. And while I do not mean at all to imply that understanding Stevens is understanding American poetry now, I no doubt do mean to imply that when two generations pass after the death of Stevens before his complete poems come to press in the UK we poets are not in a rush to understand one another. And must we be? Honestly, I find the finding, the discoveries, quite fun. And sharing our appreciation is a simple letter or email away. Some of the presumption of the problem is that as nearly everything else now is about our accessibility, our poetic relationships (workshops, readings, conferences) should be increasingly more so as as well. But a little bit of difficulty doesn’t hurt, does it? And accessibility is a terrible object for poetry.



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Coming soon! A poet’s correspondence

This week in our digital edition, Little Star Weekly, we inaugurate an occasional series, a correspondence on poetic means in the English of here and there (England and the UK) by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell. 

Read the first installment here.  And stay tuned for part two!

Send us your email address to request notification if you like:

And send them your comments below!

Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ second book of poems, Heaven, appears this month. Glyn Maxwell’s most recent book is Pluto, and his Collected Poems came out in 2011. 

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Happy Birthday Little Star Weekly!

This week our digital mini-magazine Little Star Weekly turns two, and we are celebrating with lots of special offers.

First of all, subscribe to the Weekly for a year—receive it as an app on your iPhone or iPad or read it on the web—and for this week only we’ll send you a gratis copy of one of our print back issues. (We’ll ask you for your preference, choices here.)

Wondering what the Weekly is like? You can read a free special issue here, peruse the table of contents here, take a tour of the app version here.

Each issue offers a digestible serving of literary pleasure: a piece of prose, a poem, a part of a serial, and a dedicated bookshop, plus a work of art chosen by our guest curator, currently Chris Sharp of Lulu in Mexico City.

Peter Kispert wrote on the Ploughshares blog that Little Star has a hand thoughtfully in both digital and print realms, publishing an annual journal of poetry and prose while also offering a weekly mini-magazine available as an app that you should go ahead and download. Read more about us here.

Little Star Weekly was developed by the innovative app shop, 29th Street, which is pioneering efforts to make digital technology available to independent publishers. Read more about them here.

Come along on a literary journey with Little Star.


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Happy Birthday Derek Walcott!

Our beloved contributor Derek Walcott turns eighty-five this Thursday, and we celebrate by opening up his past work in Little Star Weekly as our Weekly Special!

• An early poem revisited in his new collected poems, introduced by editor Glyn Maxwell
• An encounter with a forest succubus from his recent play Moon Child

We posted rare footage of an actors’ reading of Moon Child with music and the author at the American Academy in Rome in 2011.

Other Walcottiana:
• A translation of a poem by Joseph Brodsky
• A memoir of Walcott by our contributing editor, the poet Melissa Green

We also have a poem this week in our Weekly from our very first issue, available as a PDF here.

Happy Birthday Derek!








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Our new cover!

LS6_Cover_SingleIssues arriving in December! Order Little Star #6 now at our special pre-publication price here.

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Welcome Chris Sharp! Little Star Gallery curator beginning this week

As we launch our new web-wide version of Little Star Weekly, we also welcome Chris Sharp as our new curator for Little Star Gallery.  Chris will be selecting an image for each issue of the Weekly for the six next months, following his predecessors painters Mary Weatherford and John Zinsser.  (Our web-based version also makes it easy to see all their work in a big panorama. Mary was our gallerist for most of 2013, and John for last summer. A painting by Mary graces our the free Almanac we posted this week.)

His first selection, “Walnut Hand” (2014), from Becky Beasley’s current show at the Francesca Minini Gallery in Milan, is in our current issue.

Chris co-directs, with the artist Martin Soto Climent, the Mexico City project space, Lulu, and is editor-at-large of Kaleidoscope magazine. He has curated exhibitions at Le Crédac, Ivry; Musée du Château des ducs du Wurtemburg, Montbeliard; The 12th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland; Parc St. Léger, Pougues-les-Eaux; La Fondazione Giuliani, Rome; the Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg; Office Baroque gallery, Antwerp; Studio Voltaire, London; Nomas Foundation, Rome; Museum Tinguely, Basel; The Swiss Institute, New York; the Serpentine Gallery;  Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne; La générale en manufacture, Sèvres; Culturgest, Porto; MoCAD, Detroit; Dunkers Kulterhus, Helsingborg, and others .

map_dispatchmexico_25_902wLulu, Mexico City
Photo: Pablo León de la Barro
from “Dispatch: Mexico,” by Pablo León de la Barro, Guggenheim blog, February 24, 2014



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Supernova! Little Star Weekly goes web-wide

We are very thrilled to announce that our little app, Little Star Weekly, which has been bringing a dollop of poetry and prose every Friday to the pockets of readerly iPhone and iPad users, is about to go web-wide and become visible on any internet enabled device!

On Friday we’ll post a new web page for the Weekly where this week’s issue and all our previous issues will be available through subscriptions that will work both on the web and on our app for iOS. Create a free log-in there to read bonus issues and a free Weekly Special from our archive.

• Our first issue will have a cri de coeur from Jamaica Kincaid about the Ferguson riots and a sneak peak at a work-in-progress by Kathryn Davis.

• We’ll make the brand-new Denis Johnson that we’ve been running for the last three weeks FREE to those who log in on our first day.

We are so happy to be able to spread our app to new readers and hope you will join us on this new adventure! We would like to thank our very ingenious collaborators, 29th Street Publishing and Tugboat Yards, who are working to find ways to make vital reading experiences digitally sustainable and to support writers and publishers in the electronic age.



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Henri Michaux, thirteen ways

This week in Little Star Weekly we feature some little prose poems from a new City Lights book, Thousand Times Broken: Three Books, which translates for the first time, with illustrations from his graphic works, three books by Henri Michaux from the period of his experimentations with mescaline. As Gilian Conoley observes in her introduction: “Both Michaux’s writing and his visual art are marked by two obsessions: to delve into darker, shadowy realms of human consciousness, and to record what he saw in the most scrupulous, exacting fashion he could muster.”

Digging around for news of Michaux we discovered that his publishers are a veritable who’s who of the independent press.  An unclassifiable writer who eschewed his apparent affinities with symbolism and any public attention, he’s been a favorite of generations of the avant garde, first published in English translation in the fifties by The Paris Review (on peyote, alongside Terry Southern and Thornton Wilder) and New Directions (travels in Asia, in Sylvia Beach’s translation). City Lights joined the fray in the sixties, with Miserable Miracle, the first of his books on his experimentation with mescaline, in a translation by Louise Varèse (wife of the composer Edgard Varèse) which New York Review Books recently reissued with an introduction by Octavio Paz. City Lights returns with this new collection of three books composed between 1956 and 1959: Peace in the BreakingWatchtowers on Targets,  and  400 Men on the Cross. Little Star Weekly offers three poems from Watchtowers on Targets.


New from City Lights: Thousand Times Broken, translated by Gillian Conoley. Consists of: Peace in the BreakingWatchtowers on Targets (an automatic collaboration with surrealist painter Roberto Matta) and  400 Men on the Cross (a contemplation of the loss of Catholic faith)



Ideogrammic ink drawings accompany Michaux’s poetic explorations of animals, humans, and the origins of language, translated by Richard Seiburth, published by Archipelago Books




Exploration, in drawings and text, of Michaux’s encounter with mescaline, first published in 1956, translated by Louise Varese, with an introduction by Octavio Paz, reissued by New York Review Books




Prose poem on Chinese ideograms, translated by Gustaf Sobin, published by New Directions. New Directions also publishes Barbarians in Asia (also translated by Sylvia Beach) and  a Selected Writings, translated by Richard Ellman and drawn from Michaux’s collection of prose poems, L’Espace du Dedans.



FC9780520212299Comprehensive selection, translated by David Ball, published by the University of California




FC9780810160910Translated by Robin Magowan, published by Northwestern University Press





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Melissa Green, artist

In a career replete with self-reinventions, our beloved contributing editor Melissa Green has recast herself as a forager of images, both from her native oceanfront landscape of the Winthrop, Massachusetts, and her own capacious imagination. We feature one in Little Star Weekly this week. It’s called “The Marsh at Evening.” Think of it as you read these lines from her memoir of Joseph Brodsky (and Derek Walcott), in the current issue of Parnassus:

[Joseph] would take my arm and we would walk along the marshes and beaches in the little web of my neighborhood. I knew his heart was bad and kept the pace slow, as if it were my long skirts that mandated our slackened gait and not his heart’s need. The first time we came over the crest of Winthrop Boulevard, with its wide expanse of Atlantic and equally wide sky, he was suddenly exhilarated. He kept repeating how much he loved it, how it reminded him of the Black Sea, where his father had taken him when he was young. As we walked slowly down to the seawall, his face was radiant. He was happy and free. He wanted me to look for a house for him in Winthrop, he was so taken with it. It was one of the many ideas and impulses that hopped madly through his mind. I did later look for a house for him in a desultory fashion, but by then his focus was elsewhere and the subject was not brought up again. 

We walked to the end of the boulevard and, since it was low tide, squelched out on the wet sand to sit on the breakwaters, which are under an especially busy route into Logan Airport two miles away. The planes flew low as they crossed over the rocks where we sat, and Joseph, like an American boy, talked about making model airplanes as a child, hanging them from the ceiling of his room among gold foil stars in constellations. 

He’d wanted to be a pilot, he said, but his bad heart had made it impossible. As the tide came in, he pointed enthusiastically at every plane, naming the carrier, the type of engine and fuselage, the country in which the plane had been built. That day, it was as if there had been no Siege of Leningrad, no Stalin, no exile. There was only the moment a plane came close and Joseph shaded his joyous face with his hand to discern its make. The light turned ruddy, and we had to splash through the rising tide to dry sand, but that day he was free and young, had never been hurt, and had the good strong heart of a ten-year-old boy, mad for flight. 

Melissa Green is the author of The Squanicook Eclogues, Fifty-two, and Color Is the Suffering of Light, a memoir. Her selected poems will be published next year by Arrowsmith Press.



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