From Salmon Poetry, Spring 2020

Dead Reckoning by Jude Nutter

Dead reckoning—used by navigators to calculate their position using a record of speed, drift, and the direction travelled relative to a last known location—is the metaphor at the heart of Jude Nutter’s fourth collection, where poems are constantly plotting new positions of departure as they reach back into both human and geological history.  Deeply philosophical, the sustained, complex narratives of Dead Reckoning stay grounded in (and through) the body, and reach outward from various locations in time and space—the contemplations of fossils and cave art, the landscapes of Europe haunted by war, the feral world of loss, those points in childhood when “Eden” was ruptured by an awareness of sexuality and history.  Following the literal and metaphorical reverberations of these journeys, this collection, which is both a record and a guide, asks us to contemplate how we locate ourselves in, and lay claim to, our own lives.

Advance praise for Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning is a collection of high and beautiful seriousness, containing work of exceptional ambition and achievement. Philosophical, unafraid of the big questions (‘And yet why am I here, / father, if I cannot enter?’), Jude Nutter is a poet both well-travelled and well read. Here are poems of collapse and Holocaust, of young love in the Eighties and of love at the end of its long human cycle, all written with an exceptional, cosmopolitan command of language and material. It is part of the very precise genius of this work that Nutter explains how we are each given a body, a buthker, a box, by which we may test and measure our being-in-the-world. In one stunning poem, ‘The Shipping Forecast,’  this generalised box is metamorphised into a specific love-box from which her father removes a ring to place upon the finger of his comatose and dying wife. All of Nutter’s work, no matter how seemingly well-travelled, returns to that inner human circle of love, family memoir and attachment. ‘How is it we can be loved/ so well and remain so famished still?’ she asks in ‘Disco Jesus and the Wavering Virgins in Berlin, 2011.’ This collection, elegant in thought and technique, attempts to answer that question. Jude Nutter has created a work of great beauty, one of the loveliest collections of the poetry year.

— Thomas McCarthy, author of Prophecy, Pandemonium and eight other collections

In Dead Reckoning, Jude Nutter has given us a book of revelation, poems that press wisdom through language, extracting language itself from the dark earth of the body.  Beginning in elegy, and ranging across Europe, she unflinchingly opens doors of our deep mortality: natural history and the fossils that move us and human histories of cave paintings, of the Romans, and especially of World War II and the dead of Bergen-Belsen, where the child-poet once lived. By images at once corporeal and luminous, Nutter’s reckonings render narrative, reflection, and beauty as inseparable.  This gorgeous collection becomes a guide for how to love the dead beyond memory, a book to be returned to again and again.

— Christina Hutchins, author of Tender the Maker and The Stranger Dissolves

There are lines of surpassing beauty in every one of these poems. Jude Nutter manages the exacting task of writing long while never losing focus on the parts that minutely build up the texture of the whole. She is at once deeply psychological and physical, wielding a naturalist’s vocabulary for our common world made strange by our attention to it. When she describes “the quick veer, the glint-thrill, the solid, flexed silm” of a caught trout, we know we are hearing a master of sound. Underneath the elegies in this book is a frighteningly percipient, alert young girl who does not forget the cruelties of private and public history. Dead Reckoning is a stunning reclamation of that girl and her capacity for love.

— Thomas R. Smith, author of The Glory and Windy Day at Kabekona

Advertisements

At the Loft: Fall 2019

Master Class.  The Beautiful Exchange: Advanced Poetry Workshop

9/18/19 – 12/11/19, Wednesdays, 6 p.m.—9 p.m.

“The reader,” claimed Whitman, “will always have his or her part to do, just as much as I have mine.” But what is the part, or role, of the poet as reader? As writers, what can we learn from reading poems and discovering what Edward Hirsch calls “the soul in action.” How can we take what we find there and use it to inform and deepen our own writing?  In looking closely at a poem we begin to see how its technical accomplishments help create our responses to it: to learn about the nature of poetry, then, we must go to the poem.

This advanced workshop is designed for those with a writing practice and a knowledge of poetic craft. Through weekly workshops, discussions (using The Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration by Edward Hirsch), and an in-depth look at one poem a week by a master poet, we will explore the relationships between creativity, technique, and the genesis our own poems, exploring how the larger issues/concerns of our creative lives emerge/manifest through craft as well as subject. Take-home prompts/assignments will ensure you are engaging with new material.

Click here to register.

Aspects of Poetic Craft: Generating New Work

10/5/19 and 10/12/19, Saturdays  10 a.m.–4 p.m.

On-the-spot writing prompts, especially those using other poems as springboards, often enable us to break through blocks and open up new paths of imaginative thought. This double-session class provides the prompts, the structure of a predetermined time and place to write, and a community of writers with whom you can share work and discuss your insights into poetic process.

Each day will involve embarking on two writing journeys to generate new material: one using poems by master poets (which we will discuss in detail in class) and one using a more open-ended approach. The idea is not to necessarily finish a poem, but to generate material without the crushing pressure of “completion,” following lines of thought, tangents and side paths, and entering the playful, surprising and exciting generative phase of poetic creation.

Each day, using poems by master poets, we will also explore one aspect of craft: the music of the line, the figurative image, voice and point of view, effective transitions, and how to “hear” what is really at the heart of the writing and so begin to revise and consciously direct your work towards a completed poem. No experience necessary.

Click here to register.

At the Loft: Fall 2017

 

Singing about The Dark Times: Poetry as Protest and Resistance

9/19/17 – 12/12/17 | Tuesdays, 6:00—9:00 pm
(no class Thanksgiving week)

“In the dark times will there also be singing?” asks Bertolt Brecht in “Motto.” “Yes,” he answers, “there will be singing.  About the dark times.”  Speaking truth to power remains a crucial role for poets who, vigilant to the ways that political and media rhetoric silences, manipulates and discredits, write poems that talk back to the systems that harm and threaten.  The world of “resistance” poetry is vast, and during this class we will read and discuss a selection of poems and essays from South and North America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Middle East, and Europe; poems and essays that sing about/against political, social and cultural oppression; against war, atrocity, and the legacies of colonialism; against greed that puts profit before people or land; about the dangers of Empire and the terrifying possibility of planetary destruction. All these poets rail against complacency, using various techniques and devices to control and heighten their message. Using “model” poems as springboards, you will write and workshop your own poems of resistance employing formal devices that best carry your songs against The Dark Times. Class capped at twelve. Reading packet provided. Please buy Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now (Knopf: May 2017).

At the Loft: Winter/Spring 2017

Poetry Master Class: Memory and Imagination

1/24/17 – 4/11/17 | Tuesday 6:00 – 9:00 pm

This class is an intensive opportunity for advanced poets to explore the relationships between memory, imagination and “autobiography” in their poetry. We live in an age of memoir, but in debates over the blurring of fiction and nonfiction poetry is rarely included; and yet, more than 40 years after the rise of “confessional” poetry, poets are still struggling with issues of poetic truth-telling and responsibility.

This class is for advanced poets who have identified that they are working the borders between poetry and autobiography; poets whose work circles and re-enters—at different points in time and often with a different “I”—a particular event and/or place; poets who are questioning the boundaries/relationships between emotional and literal truth, memory and imagination, person and persona in poems that have an autobiographical imperative.

This class is a combination of reading/discussion of essays, writing, and workshopping. We will also look at several elements of craft: the line and the sentence, the use of syntax, issues of poetic “opening” and “closure” and the magic and chaos of the creative process itself.

Please obtain After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography edited by Kate Sontag and David Graham (Graywolf Press: 2001). Copy fee of $5 payable to the teaching artist.

Click here to register.

At the Loft: Winter/Spring 2017

The Beautiful Exchange: Deepening the Poetic Experience

1/24/17—4/11/17 |  Tuesday 1:00 – 3:00 pm

“The reader,” claimed Whitman, “will always have his or her part to do, just as much as I have mine.” But what is the part, or role, of the reader? As writers, what can we learn from reading poems and discovering what Edward Hirsch calls “the soul in action”?

In looking closely at a poem we begin to see how its technical accomplishments create our physical, emotional and ecstatic responses to it: to learn about the nature of poetry we must go to the poem. Using How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch, a weekly essay, selection of poems and a weekly writing activity, we will explore the relationships between technique and the “shining body” of the poem, between the poem and the reader, and between the reader and the writer. We will discover what we need to do in order to enter and experience a poem completely, and how we can take what we find there and use it to inform and deepen our own writing while letting the larger issues and concerns of poetry emerge as we do so.

Please obtain How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch. Copy fee of $5.00 for supplemental readings payable to the teaching artist.

Click to register.

At the Loft: Spring/Summer 2016

The Craft of Poetry: A Primer

6/14/2016—8/9/2016 (no class Tuesday 5th July) | Tuesday | 6-8 p.m.

What skills do we need to acquire if we are to express, in words, something of our marvelous complexity?  This class is an introduction to the craft of poetry: it is designed for those with little or no experience.  We will experiment with the line, the stanza, devices of sound, metaphor and simile, meter, syllabics, Anglo-Saxon verse and poetic forms; we will explore the relationship between poetic content and form and look at the difficult, and critical, process of revision.  The emphasis of this class is on readings, in-class discussions, and the workshopping of our own poems.  The word “workshop” implies saws, noise, grease, and dust; implies that the work itself, the making, is the pleasure.  Please obtain a copy of the The Poet’s Companion by Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio.

At the Loft: Spring/Summer 2016

 Join me for 

The Art of Imitation: Using the Works of Master Poets to Explore and Develop Craft
6/13/2016—8/8/2016 (no class Monday 4th July) | Monday | 6:00-8:00 p.m.

The painters and sculptors of the Renaissance began their careers as apprentices, copying the work of master artists before attempting their own work.  This class takes this concept as its starting point and is a combination of writing, discussion, sharing and serious play. While every poem has its own formal imperatives, imitating another poet’s strategies allows us to practice technique and gain insights into the relationship of form and content.  What, for example, can we learn about tone and pacing by imitating the syllable count, line length, rhyme and punctuation pattern of Masefield’s “Up On the Downs”?  When we imitate the syntactical and grammatical moves in a poem by Eamon Grennan, what do we discover about narrative suspension and lyric depth?   Weekly discussion of two/three poems will allow you choose one poem and isolate two or more of the strategies you would like to imitate; weekly in-class writing will generate new material to use in your imitations; and because learning poems by heart is yet another way of embodying language, you will be encouraged to memorize a poem of at least twenty lines to recite during our last meeting.  Weekly reading will come from Master Class: Lessons from Leading Writers.

Iowa Summer Writing Festival July 2016

Join me in Iowa City at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival where I’ll be teaching:

Walking in the Field of Words: Using the Natural Landscape in Poems
Saturday, July 16 through Sunday, July 17, 2016,

Barry Lopez claims that landscape is a “shaping force” and that our physical experience of the landscape is integral to the meaning of the landscape itself. Landscape, then, is internal as well as external, and there is an intimate relationship between the physical and emotional terrains. In this workshop, we will look at how modern European and American poets have used nature and the landscape, looking at a variety of poems by poets such as James Wright, Caitlin Cowan, Paul Celan, Pattiann Rogers, Elizabeth Bishop, Ken Smith, Wilfred Owen, Andrew Hudgins, Ted Hughes, Andrew Feld, Henry Reed, Lewis Hyde, Leslie Norris and Gillian Clarke. Most of these poets are not what one would call traditional “nature poets,” and they have been chosen specifically because of this fact: they illustrate how many (if not all) poets use the natural world as a way to reveal and complicate larger human, ethical and spiritual concerns. Through focused, in-class writing prompts, you will generate your own lyric and/or narrative poems that use nature and the natural world to carry and embody the poem’s concern/s. We will workshop these new poems as well as “nature” poems you bring from home. Poets at all levels and work at all stages welcome!

Iowa Summer Writing Festival 2016

Join me in Iowa City at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for a week-long workshop:

Chasing the Poem: A No-Fear Boot Camp for Poets
Sunday July 17-Friday July 22

Are you suffering from writer’s block and needing a push to jump start your writing? Do you need the structure of a predetermined time and place in order to write? Do you work best in a small community of supportive, focused writers; or do you simply want the opportunity to generate new material, workshop new work and discuss the mysteries of the poetic process itself?

In this workshop, you will generate material for new poems through a series of writing prompts, and the idea is to hold your inner critic in check and keep the ideas flowing; to resist staying too wedded to the initial idea and to follow the tangents and side paths down which, as Robert Frost rightly claimed, the true poem often lies. Writing prompts will use poems by master poets as their starting points, and discussing these poems will enable us to explore various aspects of poetic craft and technique. As “homework,” you will be encouraged to work and revise your poems and bring drafts in for workshopping.

This workshop is designed  for beginning poets who are familiar with basic poetic terms and techniques.