>Winter Feature, December 2008
“Stern is one of those rare poetic souls who makes it almost impossible to remember what our world was like before his poetry came to exalt it.”
—”C. K. Williams
“I turn to Stern’s poetry because he’s so wholehearted in his embrace of the paradoxical nature of life, because of the ebullient way his poems praise the foolishness and grace of our mortal dance.”
—”Gail Mazur, Boston Sunday Globe
“For over two decades, no one has equaled Gerald Stern’s compassionate surreal parables about the burden of and the exaltation at being alive. He wrestles pieces of incomprehensible destiny into harmony, surging between everyday and the ineffable.”
What an immense privilege, then, for The Cortland Review to have the honor of presenting this all-Gerald-Stern Feature.
In TCR’s first conversation with Jerry about this Feature, we decided he should invite poets he wanted to appear with . . . a party of sorts with Stern as host. Every poet here was eager to participate, and The Cortland Review thanks each and every one of them for their eagerness and their poems. I know the pleasure, reader, will be all yours, so grab a cup of something sweet and warm and pull the shade down on everything else. Here is the first of its kind in TCR pages: the Gerald Stern video greeting.Feature, 2008, with a
Listen to the audio from our pages via Adobe Flash Player, probably already downloaded on your computer. With Flash, audio is instantaneous. If you can’t hear the audio, you need to download Flash Player, which is free. Audio, designated by the RealAudio symbol from Issues and Features prior to 2007, is still accessible via RealPlayer. RealPlayer can be downloaded free.
Just as the entire Cortland Review staff sends its readers warm and sincere holiday wishes, I want to personally thank each one of them, past and present, for the dedication and loyalty that has produced not only this exceptional example of their talent and love, but ten years of archived Issues and Features. And all together, we thank ten years of readers for the appreciation you continually express.
With sincerest warm 2008 winter wishes,
1. Winter Feature Released
2 “Getting Down,” by
3. “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road,” by
4. From “While in Brooklyn” by
5. “ ,” by Arthur Vogelsang
6. “The Final Vocabulary of Gerald Stern,” an essay by David Rigsbee
7. “‘ ‘ by Gerald Stern,” a book review by David Rigsbee
WINTER FEATURE RELEASED
1. The full feature:
Five new poems by Gerald Stern. Poems from his invited guests: Christopher Buckley, Michael Burkard, , Ross Gay, Jack Gilbert, Linda Gregg, Jane Hirshfield, , Joan Larkin, Dorianne Laux, Jan Heller Levi, Anne Marie Macari, Ed Ochester, Alicia Ostriker, Katheen Peirce, Peter Richards, Ira Sadoff, Jean Valentine, Arthur Vogelsang, , Anne Waldman, Peter Waldor, and Michael Waters. “The Final Vocabulary of Gerald Stern,” an essay by David Rigsbee, and David Rigsbee’s book review of Gerald Stern’s “Save the Last Dance.”
2. EXCERPT FROM “Getting Down,” by Linda Gregg
The snake leads the way
to a place of absolutes
where no man can talk
you out of anything.
It’s a place as real as
an empty pool in front
of the not-in-service-at-
this-time motel. Each
person has a secret world.
Places where nobody can
visit. Places we live in
after our death.
3. EXCERPT FROM “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road,” by Dorianne Laux
Why didn’t we? When we were young and could have
stopped traffic with our perfect bodies, our silken hair
and white teeth. Why didn’t we dance naked on the balcony,
throwing our clothes to the gathering crowds or swim nude
through the pool’s blue lights, our taut calves shimmering,
crossing our thighs and rolling, our breasts floating, our backs
muscled and shining. Why didn’t we walk into every church. . . .
4. EXCERPT FROM “While in Brooklyn,” by Ira Sadoff
However much you scream, whatever fire,
I will be beyond you, and earth is
beyond you, and the first and the last,
beyond you, and beyond you, I swear it,
even beyond you, there is other.
5. EXCERPT FROM “Raymond Chandler” by Arthur Vogelsang
After the argument, all things were strange.
They stood divided by their eloquence
Which had surprised them after so much silence.
Now there were real things to rearrange.
6. EXCERPT FROM “The Final Vocabulary of Gerald Stern,” by David Rigsbee
It was Kafka who remarked that in the last analysis, when all is said and done, life isn’t ironic. Sadly, I think it was an intuition of this sort that fueled the greatly gifted David Foster Wallace‘s wariness of his own talent for the ironic turn and of his generation’s interest in recentering literature. What I mean is that there has been a perceptible wish to reach for the reset button and refashion serious literature as a species of authenticity (a thesis), rather than let it be one more ironic “take” on some prior and illusory authenticity (an antithesis). In a larger sense—and it is always in the larger sense that the truth of Kafka’s aside takes hold—American literature (including poetry) has been seen as having succumbed too long to the tractor-pull of irony. And yet why not let that tractor do its work? Irony is, after all, a defense against the fear that we may be finally incapable of tragedy. At the same time, as ironists have aimed dart after dart at literature’s many presumptions, those who allow the occasional nod toward the old belief system have been stigmatized as traditionalists in the bad sense, as benighted Sad Sacks of the cultural right. Gerald Stern’s example rejects the injustice of such a claim on its face; as for the assigning of poets into the camp of the right—preposterous!
7. EXCERPT FROM “‘ by Gerald Stern,” a book review by David Rigsbee
The full review: