Posts Tagged ‘Chana Bloch’

Berkeley poet Chana Bloch: “There’s no point in wanting to be a different kind of a writer than you are.”

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

Chana Bloch-Peg SkorpinskiWe’ve written about Berkeley poet Chana Bloch before (here), but it’s been a few years since I spoke with her at the university, so I was happy to get an update at the “Talking Writing” website. Poet and translator Bloch, who has just released a “new and selected” Swimming in the Rain this year, was a longtime professor at Oakland’s Mills College. This first question (or rather, a comment, really) caught my eye – I’m constantly chastising myself because I’m not the fastest, most prolific, most profound writer in the English-speaking world. Apparently I’m not alone. Then I was caught by her list of favored poets.

Excerpt from her Q&A with Carol Dorf:

TW: I’m a slow writer.

CB: Slow is not necessarily bad. There’s no point in wanting to be a different kind of a writer than you are, though I must admit I’ve envied poets who are quicker, more prolific. I myself rarely stay with my early drafts. I tend to go over and over a poem—revising, distilling, trying to get at the essence.

TW: Most of your poems are brief lyrics. How do your longer sequence poems function compared with those that represent a single moment?

CB: I tend to write very short poems. Most of them fit on one page. Sometimes, a group of those poems asks to be stitched together. For example, I wrote a number of poems about my experience of ovarian cancer in 1986 that were then published in various journals. At some point, I realized that, by bringing them together in a sequence I called “In the Land of the Body” (from The Past Keeps Changing, Sheep Meadow Press, 1992), I could offer differing perspectives on the experience: that of my then-husband, our children, the radiologist, the surgeon.

TW: Which poets have been especially important to you?

swimmingInTheRainCB: George Herbert, Emily Dickinson, Yehuda Amichai, Tomas Tranströmer, Elizabeth Bishop, Zbigniew Herbert, Wisława Szymborska, Charles Simic, Gerard Manley Hopkins—not necessarily in that order.

George Herbert was an early influence. In grad school, I fell in love with his work. We made a very odd couple. I was a Jewish girl from the Bronx, and he was a seventeenth-century Anglican minister. But his poetry was about the inner life, and that drew me. There was a human depth in his poems that I found very appealing. He wrote about the self with an unsparing candor—about his irresolution, his inner contradictions. And I loved the music in his poetry.

I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation about his work, and then a book—Spelling the Word: George Herbert and the Bible (University of California Press, 1985)—about how he transforms the biblical sources in his poetry. Seeing him take a verse from the Bible and combine it with something from his life was like watching a mind in the very process of creation.

Read the whole thing here.

Black coffee, and a couple poems for the road

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Poet and coffee.

We don’t usually think of poetry when we think of Tikkun, but maybe we should.  The “magazine dedicated to healing and transforming the world,” according to  its website, just published Kenneth Fields‘s poem, “Black Coffee at Noon,” early this month here.  Ken kindly allowed us to publish it on the Book Haven pages. (Thanks, Ken!)

Black Coffee at Noon

by Kenneth Fields

Black coffee at noon with fellow sufferers.
The bleak cups squeak in our hands.  So do the chairs.
We listen, fidget, smile, occasionally weep
In this ancient ritual of bitterness, joy,
And irritation.  We learn everyday the same
Text for the sermon:  Our compulsion, our need
Push us apart and hold us here—the cup
Ephemeral foam, the grounds at the bottom, the drink
Inside circling the translucent vessel, our fragile
Lives jittery with the freedom of pilgrimage.


coffeeThe magazine also published Chana Bloch‘s “Night Stop” in March here, and Christian Wimans “Wartime Train,” after Hungarian poet and essayist Sándor Csoóri, here. Lots of traveling poems.