Celebrating Houston’s Favorite Poems

January 18, 2018, by

All of us have favorites, a song, a color, a book, a restaurant. But what about poems? Which poems have stayed with you over the years, which poems do you come back to and read and reread? Which poems make you think, move you to tears, or make you feel alive?

Former Houston Poet Laureate Robin Davidson took on these questions and the power that poetry can play in our lives when she initiated Houston’s Favorite Poems, now an anthology. Tonight, Thursday, January 18, 6 pm at the Julia Ideson Building, Houstonians will come together to celebrate the launch for the anthology. Click here for more information and join the celebration.

Earlier this week we caught up with Robin to talk about the project and the process of putting the anthology.

INPRINT: What inspired this project?

ROBIN DAVIDSON: Robert Pinsky first came to Houston in the early eighties to stand in for then poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine, Howard Moss, who was teaching a poetry workshop in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. I was a graduate student in that class. When Mr. Moss became ill, Pinsky stepped in as our teacher, and one assignment that was life-changing for me was the personal favorite poem anthology he asked each of us to develop. We were to choose at least ten of our favorite poems and write them out, feeling the line breaks in our hands as we wrote or typed and allowing the poems to become our own for a moment. The poems could come from any poet, language, or century, including from among our classmates’ work—what a thrilling exercise it was! I’ve kept my anthology to this day, adding to it over time, and have, for many years, asked my own students to keep such an anthology that includes a preface discussing why each poem is meaningful to them. The results are always lovely—moving and beautiful—and the poem choices are often surprising.

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Reflecting on meeting James Salter

May 20, 2013, by

James Salter reads from his latest book at the Menil Collection, May 6, 2013.The first thing I did was look for him, in the flesh. The Master himself—a term I have privately used for James Salter, not because Salter has any similarity to the crazed guru in a movie with Joaquin Phoenix, but because I consider him a modern age Henry James. Salter is also a perfectionist and cool stylist. He makes the surface gleam, then cuts to the quick with perfect strokes. Even better, unlike James, Salter is not at all squeamish about sex. His characters pulsate. And his sentences are short, simple, clear. Devastating. Sit on a train with him, as in A Sport and a Pastime, and roll past fields the color of bread and people who stand and freeze in place like cows, then back to port wine stains like channel islands on a female passenger’s legs, and on, flicking through images “as if a huge deck is being shuffled. After this will come a trick. Silence, please.” But Salter is the magician. The magic is about to unfold.

“Did you see the piece in The New Yorker?” This was the man next to me at Salter’s reading for Inprint at The Menil, also fortunate enough to get a seat. The event was sold-out. The New Yorker had just run a marvelous article about Salter. “Perfect timing, right?” He was older, in an expensive sport jacket and good cologne. I felt a little guilty sitting there among the privileged, then a little better when I noticed all the twenty-somethings (I wondered how many were lit students) there to hear this eighty-seven year-old man. My neighbor’s favorite Salter book was Burning the Days, his memoir as a fighter pilot, balanced, as ever, with scenes of love—I expect of the misguided variety. Continue reading

In Memoriam of Ray Bradbury

June 11, 2012, by

I picked up Fahrenheit 451 at fifteen years old during one of my many summer trips to the neighborhood library. It was the first book I read that summer, and I still cannot say why my hands grabbed that ratty paperback. Perhaps I had heard of it before, listed with the likes of other childhood favorites, Animal Farm or Brave New World. Or maybe I was drawn to the title which seemed appropriate to read during a stifling Houston June. Whatever the case, I kept that book for over a month after I finished it (racking up a whopping three dollar late fee). Though I was done with the book, I couldn’t convince myself that it was time for the book to end. Continue reading