A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line

It has arrived!  I wanted to share the lovely cover–as well as some choice blurbs, a description of the book, and a list of contributors–from A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line, a collection of essays that I edited with Emily Rosko.

Please help spread the word by sharing this post on Facebook and elsewhere.  Also, with the permission of the University of Iowa Press, you can check out our two-part introduction here.  The cover art is “Lines” by Helena Maria Vieira da Silva (1908-1992), a Portuguese-born French painter.

In the arena of poetry and poetics over the past century, no idea has been more alive and contentious than the idea of form, and no aspect of form has more emphatically sponsored this marked formal concern than the line. But what, exactly, is the line? Emily Rosko and Anton Vander Zee’s anthology gives seventy original answers that lead us deeper into the world of poetry, but also far out into the world at large: its people, its politics, its ecology. The authors included here, emerging and established alike, write from a range of perspectives, in terms of both aesthetics and identity. Together, they offer a dynamic hybrid collection that captures a broad spectrum of poetic practice in the twenty-first century.

Rosko and Vander Zee’s introduction offers a generous overview of conversations about the line from the Romantics forward. We come to see how the line might be an engine for ideals of progress—political, ethical, or otherwise. For some poets, the line touches upon the most fundamental questions of knowledge and existence. More than ever, the line is the radical against which even alternate and emerging poetic forms that foreground the visual or the auditory, the page or the screen, can be distinguished and understood.

From the start, a singular lesson emerges: lines do not form meaning solely in their brevity or their length, in their becoming or their brokenness; lines live in and through the descriptions we give them. Indeed, the history of American poetry in the twentieth century could be told by the compounding, and often confounding, discussions of its lines. A Broken Thing both reflects upon and extends this history, charting a rich diffusion of theory and practice into the twenty-first century with the most diverse, wide-ranging and engaging set of essays to date on the line in poetry, revealing how poems work and why poetry continues to matter.

I don’t think that broad description will make it onto the back cover, but these thoughtful blurbs certainly will:

“Whether oral or written, ancient or modern, from one hemisphere or another, most poetry has organized itself in basic units that English calls lines. In their energetic collection of brief essay-sprints, Emily Rosko and Anton Vander Zee offer us nearly seventy contemporary writers’ thoughts about poetic lines. The result is a rich and glorious variety of insights and formulations, lavishly inclusive and resolutely uncommitted to any single orthodoxy. The editors’ forthright introduction is illuminating, judicious, and open-handed. This is a book that anyone drawn to the study of poetic form and its largest meanings should know.”—Stephen Cushman, author, Riffraff, and editor, Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

“A Broken Thing is a lovely, useful, and well-conceived book. From the introduction’s astute and informative discussions of the historical embeddedness of tussles over the poetic line in poetry to the essays thereafter, readers and writers will be made aware that there is, as Rosko and Vander Zee note, no consensus, an awareness that can be vital for a young poet. A Broken Thing gathers the arguments and exchanges of the day. It does not offer essays that correct or offer definitive approaches to the line; on the contrary, it gathers the hubbub of voices that any critical approach would need to take into account.”—Lisa Steinman, author, Made in America, Masters of Repetition, and Invitation to Poetry and coeditor, Hubbub

“Negotiating segmentivities (a.k.a. line and sentence) defines poetry as a mode of practice. This energetic anthology examines the line from many poetic formations, assumptions, incarnations, platforms, and positions; it faces multiple debates with panache and frankness. The range and élan of the contributors present a strikingly pragmatic sense of contemporary poetics.”—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, author, Blue Studios and Drafts


Kazim Ali
Bruce Andrews
Hadara Bar-Nadav
Catherine Barnett
Charles Bernstein
Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
Bruce Bond
Marianne Boruch
Scott Cairns
Joshua Clover
Norma Cole
Brent Cunningham
J. P. Dancing Bear
Christina Davis
Johanna Drucker
Camille T. Dungy
John Olivares Espinoza
Kathy Fagan
Annie Finch
Graham Foust
Alice Fulton
John Gallaher
Noah Eli Gordon
Arielle Greenberg
Sarah Gridley
Gabriel Gudding
Kimiko Hahn
Raza Ali Hasan
H. L. Hix
Cynthia Hogue
Fanny Howe
Christine Hume
Catherine Imbriglio
Karla Kelsey
Sarah Kennedy
Ben Lerner
Dana Levin
Timothy Liu
Thomas Lux
Joanie Mackowski
Shara McCallum
Heather McHugh
Wayne Miller
Jenny Mueller
Laura Mullen
Molly Peacock
V. Penelope Pelizzon
Emmy Pérez
Carl Phillips
Patrick Phillips
Donald Platt
Kevin Prufer
Paisley Rekdal
Donald Revell
Martha Rhodes
Alberto Ríos
Dana Roeser
MaryAnn Samyn
Robyn Schiff
Tim Seibles
Ravi Shankar
Evie Shockley
Eleni Sikelianos
Susan Stewart
Stephanie Strickland
Terese Svoboda
Cole Swensen
Sarah Vap
Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Robert Wrigley
Rachel Zucker


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