September 2011
A review of a POEM

“The Volcano””

by Norman Dubie

Central Question: Can a poem show us what it means to be modern?
Publisher of book in which the poem appears: Copper Canyon Press; Poet teaches at: Arizona State University, where he joined the faculty in 1975 and founded the MFA program; Place and year of the poet’s birth: Barre,Vermont, 1945; Whether the poet’s name is pronounced like, you know, the synonym for “joint”: it is; Number of poetry collections he has published: twenty-two; What the poet sees as the value of Tibetan Buddhist meditation, as told to Poets & Writers: “More than anything else, it makes you aware of your own bullshit.”

The pleasurable and difficult work of reading a Norman Dubie poem is like the endeavor of giving shape to our contemporary experience. Amid the Mach-speed stream of information and sensation, we try to make sense of the world, even while minding the ways our efforts might too easily make sense, might falsify our experience. To read a poem of Dubie’s is to enter into the middle of a story—but the story is always about to crumble, even as you piece it together: the strange and luminous details, glimmering with lyric intensity, pull against any tidy integration into the plot. And yet the general effect is not collage or mashup: the stories do matter here, and as a reader you work to hold the constituent fragments in any kind of truthful relation.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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Peter Campion is the author of two books of poems, Other People (2005) and The Lions (2009), both from the University of Chicago Press. He is the recipient of the Rome Prize, the Larry Levis Reading Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota.

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