Journal of Writing & Environment

2013 Recommendations from our Nonfiction Editor

Today we’re ringing in the New Year with a web rove by our nonfiction editor, Lindsay Tigue. 


This holiday break, my online reading has mostly consisted of poetry. I usually fall down a poem rabbit hole; I search out all of the pieces published online by a certain writer and then realize I should just order their collection.

One poet I recently stumbled across in this manner is Nick Lantz. His poems rely on historical research, but they associate to surprising emotional cores. His poems do something I try to do, weaving in facts and the heart of some story, some core feeling at the very bottom of an informative poem.

Nick Lantz has two published collections of poetry We Don’t Know We Don’t Know which won the Bakeless Prize, and The Lightning That Strikes The Neighbors House. In We Don’t Know We Don’t Know, Lantz explores the way politics degrades language.

I couldn’t decide which of poems to share, so here are four that can be read online:
“What We Know of Death by Drowning”
“Will There Be More Than One ‘Questioner’?”
“Ancient Theories”
“The Year We Blew Up the Whale—Florence, Oregan.”

I’ve also been reading some of those inexhaustible year-end best-of book lists lately, particularly which poetry collections people think top 2012. One collection that appeared on some lists was Rebecca Lindenberg’s debut collection, Love: An Index, a book she wrote about her relationship with poet Craig Arnold, who disappeared while hiking a volcano in Japan in 2009. In an interview with The Believer,  Lindenberg talks about the seemingly daunting task of writing a love story. She says, “I wanted to write love poems in a poetic and academic culture that insists love poetry is ‘soft,’ sentimental stuff. The kind of stuff girls like. Of course, anybody who’s read anything knows the tradition of the love lyric is much more than that—it’s economic, political, rebellious, religious, clever, kinky, psychologically slippery, deeply humane.” She talks about how adopting the form of an index helped her “render both the passionate and intellectual aspects of a love story.”

After reading about Lindenberg’s book, I started reading poems by both her and Craig Arnold and thinking about the challenges of writing about love. In the article “How to Write Love Poems” on the Poetry Foundation website, Arnold discussed, in 2009, the pitfalls and rewards of writing one of the most universal human emotions. He said, “Let’s face it, nobody in love is original. We all feel and do pretty much the same things, make fools of ourselves in the same ways, and hopefully come through it alive and well and happily in bed with someone else. But that’s also precisely the appeal of love poetry, the intensely humbling nature of the experience it tries to describe.”

Here are some beautiful poems about love from both Lindenberg and Arnold:
“Bird-Understander” by Craig Arnold
“Marblehead” by Rebecca Lindenberg