The Riches of Content – Michigan Quarterly Review

The Riches of Content

November is still upon us, and it brings with it a bumper crop of excellent reading and watching online. When I applied to blog for MQR, I suggested Bay Area poetry as one of my beats. Some of these pieces are by Bay Area writers. Some pieces were crafted for performance in the Bay Area. Some are merely of interest to this Bay Area writer. Rather than simply publishing a list of links, I include a brief description, and my personal pitch for why each piece deserves a read.


Delusions of Whiteness in the Avant-Garde by Cathy Park Hong

Book cover of
Hong’s most recent title (W.W. Norton, 2012)

What it is: A selection from the redoubtable journal Lana Turner, this is a sophisticated, impassioned, and necessary call out of the racism of the avant-garde.

Why you should check it out: As Hong points out, “The most radical writings today are coming from poets of color—writers like Black Took Collective, Rodrigo Toscano, Bhanu Kapil, Tan Lin, M. NourbeSe Philips, Douglas Kearney, Farid Matuk, Monica De La Torre, David Lau, Divya Victor, LaTasha Nevada Diggs, and so many more.”


A Seat at the Writer’s Table: Indira Allegra, interviewed by Erika Gee

What it is: This award announcement features an interview with this “Native American/Black poet who is also a weaver and visual artist.”

Why you should check it out: When asked about her inspiration, Allegra answers:

Attention to intimacy inspires me, as do the aesthetics of grief. Attention to violence is invaluable. In a way, violence is an intimate act also, in the threatening closeness of another person’s body to our own bodies, or in the ability of a sharp word to slit our seams emotionally, causing us to come undone. All of this is included in my scope of poetic study.

The rest of the interview, which also features snippets of Allegra’s poetry, offers similar poignance and insight. It’s a brief introduction to a writer to follow.


The Poetics of Space: The Ethics of Site-Specific Poetry by Cosmo Spinosa

A black and white photgraph of the entrance to the Alameda Naval Air Station featuring several figures at kiosk below four planes flying in formation.
Entrance: U.S. Naval Air Station, Alameda, California

What it is: The Volta Blog is under new management and transitioning from a review outlet to a venue for other kinds of critical work. Spinosa’s piece is part of this transition. He talks about writing about space, giving a personal example of his attempt to write about the Alameda Naval Air Station.

Why you should check it out: It’s ironic that a meditation on failure should succeed so thoroughly as an essay. Spinosa models a relationship both to writing and to place that takes care as its highest value. This is a gentle but powerful antidote to careless writing.


Eileen Myles on Alice Notley

A person reading from a packet of papers in from of a mic.
A screenshot from the video of Myles’ keynote speech on Alice Notley









What it is: One of the greatest living poets talking about the life’s work of another of the greatest living poets.

Why you should check it out: Myles is not just a brilliant writer, she can talk, and when she does, she casts a spell that leaves jaws hanging. If you need further inducement, consider the subject matter.


There were many more links I could include, but plenty has a way of quickly becoming excess in the age of tabbed browsing. Another reason I have for loving this list is that each writer points back outward, whether that is toward people, books, community, or place. To follow these generous clues is to experience another kind of plenty.

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