The Uncommon Speech of Paradise: Poems on the Art of Poetry - edited by Robert Hedin & James Lenfestey
$20.00, ISBN 978-1-945680-48-9
Edited by poets Robert Hedin and James Lenfestey, The Uncommon Speech of Paradise showcases the work of 120 modern and contemporary poets from seventeen countries—Seamus Heaney, Czeslaw Milosz, Pablo Neruda, and Anna Akhmatova—as well as works by such premier American poets as John Ashbery, Rita Dove, Mary Oliver, Joy Harjo, and Wallace Stevens. Together, they offer a wide variety of voices, styles, and perspectives on the theory, practice, and purpose of poetry.
“You might know that the making of a poem is an act of devotion and fumbling, a cleaving, that words are “daisies and bruises” (Anne Sexton) and poems “a fluidity, a vapor, of love (Hayden Carruth), or that the muse may bestow, on a whim, “pure transport” (Meena Alexander) or “a dirty little secret” (Kasischke), but nothing will texture the experience of such knowledge the way this cornucopia of ars poetica, the first of its kind, does. In Hedin and Lenfestey’s deft arrangement, the 125 contemporary poems gathered here re-ignite a centuries-old, transcultural conversation on one of the most enduring arts. These are poems about writing as digging, worshipping, baking, dress-making, about abandon to the Unknowing and probing of the unsayable. They are poems that initiate us into the secrets of clockworks, poems that slip us under their sonic skin so we may tremble, as they do, with desire, and that insist on letting us into “the uncommon speech of Paradise” (Denise Levertov). How fortunate we are not only to be granted access, but to be inducted into its intimate vocabularies.”
“This extraordinary anthology acts as both a capacious gathering of meditations on the art of poetry and a stunning testament to the lasting power of language in our experience and in our lives. This collection is not a retrospective “lament” for the makers but instead a true celebration of the making itself, spoken by poets in (sometimes troubled) praise of—and always in intimate conversation with—the act and art of the writing of poetry.”
— David St. John
Robert Hedin is the author, translator, and editor of more than two-dozen books of poetry and prose. The recipient of many honors and awards for his work, including three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships as well as fellowships from the Bush, McKnight, and Yaddo Foundations, he has taught at the University of Alaska, the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf College, and Wake Forest University. He is co-founder (with his wife, Carolyn) and former director of the Anderson Center, a residential artist retreat in Red Wing, Minnesota.
James Lenfestey is a former college professor, administrator, and award-winning editorial writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He is the author of the memoir, Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain, a book of personal essays, as well as seven collections of poetry. He has also edited two poetry anthologies and co-edited Robert Bly in the World. As a journalist, he covers education, energy policy, and climate science. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.