Las Meninas

The latest in my obsession with Las Meninas is up at Aesthetics for Birds, the philosophy and art website. It’s a short piece about the enigmatic painting, restricted by design to only 100 words. The tight limit provides the kind of challenge that appeals to me as a poet and as someone who writes philosophy about art. One ought to be able to say something meaningful in so little space.  

Las Meninas –

Check out all of their 100x100x100 series. One hundred works of art, written about by 100 philosophers, using only 100 words each. It’s not just paintings; there are entries on film, sculpture, poetry, conceptual art, photography, and some that defy categorization. 

All 100x100x100 –

A favorite of mine, pulled from the long list, is Joshua Hall’s reading of Mark Strand’s poem, in which Hall sees a distillation of Simone De Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity

Las Meninas, Diego Velázquez, 1656 (Prado)

Podcast discussion on poetic meaning, philosophy of poetry

My friend and colleague Cody Turner really digs podcasts. He listens to them, recommends them, and even started his own. His Tent Talks are wide-ranging conversations on everything from what psychedelics can tell us about consciousness to truth models in philosophical logic. This past week, Cody had me on the show to talk about my work in poetry and philosophy. I’m grateful to Cody for doing such a close reading of my current work in philosophy of language, on the topic of poetic meaning. Like any piece of writing, I learn just as much about what I have written by talking with someone else about how they interpreted my text. 

It’s a long discussion (2:40:25), so here’s a breakdown. The episode opens with general questions about, what he calls, my intellectual history, which I interpret as, how I ended up here. At 36:52, he asks me whether I consider myself to be a poet or philosopher primarily. At 40:44, he then leads us into a close reading and discussion of my claims about the relationship between personal significance and semantic meaning, specifically how poetry blurs the distinction between them. Finally, at 1:30:50, Cody reads some of his favorite poems from my book, What Comes from a Thing, and we talk about the joy and difficulty of writing, reading, and interpreting poetry.

You can also download the episode from iTunes, under Podcasts, here

Or, you can check out the full range of his podcasts at his website,

Homeless Shelter – a literary memoir

The Chaffey Review, the literary journal out of Chaffey College in southern California, released their 2018 issue in May. In it, they kindly published an experiment of mine – a literary memoir that is several parts review of Roberto Bolaño’s books and stories, one part travel memoir to Quito, Ecuador, and one part argument that writing is “lonely work to render the world less lonely.” Read it here.

Book review – Vincent Katz’s Swimming Home

A few months ago, I was reading on Brian’s Leiter’s blog, Leiter Reports, about a new press started by academic, professional philosophers — Mark Anderson and Andy Davis of Belmont University with Charles Ives of the University of Washington — who aimed to engage a non-specialist, non-professional audience. They have in mind a press publishing monographs and a journal that is open to creative writing as well as essays that take up philosophical issues while avoiding the jargon and pedantic language that plague so many of today’s academic presses.

S.Ph. Press, or Sophia and Philosophia Press, is the result.

Their mission statement, which is worth reading in its entirety, gives a clue as to what this new venture is about.

S.Ph. Press intends to provide a platform for philosophically imaginative works of nonfiction and fiction, written either by professional academics in search of an outlet for their creative or popularizing impulses, or by creative thinkers and writers with an academic’s training or independently acquired expertise.

The first issue of the new journal, S.Ph. Essays and Explorations, published online last week. It’s available for free, in HTML and PDF, on their website. Check out the essays, a fictional letter written in the voice of Xanthippe (better known as Socrates’ wife) to her mother, as well as a new review of Vincent Katz’s latest book of poetry, Swimming Home.

I will be serving as the Poetry Reviews Editor for this new journal, so if you have a book that you want me to consider reviewing, please get in touch.

Swimming Home, by Vincent Kaz

Swimming Home, by Vincent Kaz

…The craft of poetry, for Katz, involves observing otherwise unnoticed details which become the images around which his poems take shape. It includes giving weight to some moments rather than others, not extraordinary moments, but the ephemeral everydayness. It also includes the call of “stranded personalities, summoned cops, chewing walkers,” “buildings line up in light,” “pigeons flying in circles,” “coffee in a paper cup,” and the response of the poet who shapes images with language. These are the sensuous interactions that require being alone, the focus of Swimming Home. The aloneness of poetry, the aloneness that life imposes on us. Katz’s volume is a poetic exploration of the existential singularity with which we face the world…

Read the full review at S.Ph. Essays and Explorations.

Book review – Anatomize by Natasha Dennerstein

Review of Anatomize. By Natasha Dennerstein.  Norfolk Press, 2015. $15, 73 pages.

Review of Anatomize at New Orleans Review

Dennerstein grounds her work in the sensuality of sensuality. The variety of poetic forms throughout Anatomize tickle the intellect. Occasionally, the titles give away their constructions, as is the case with “Voodoo Villanelle” and “Ghazal for the Nail Artist.” At other times, the poem’s form is more subtle. “Honeyman,” a pantoum of the heart opens with a number: “Sixty-six times every minute / her muscular heart makes a fist; it clenches.”

But there is nothing natural or sacred about the body with which we are born.

Read the full review at New Orleans Review