Tag Archives: poetry

Wine & Poetry: British Romantics II

Oodles have been written about the British Romantic poets who follow, so only a brief commentary on their lives is provided, most of which comes from the Dover Thrift English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Stanley Applebaum that I’ve had for years. When I came back to the male Romantics for this post, I realized I had forgotten how much I like them. Could it have been the wine? Eh, I’m sure it contributed, but beautiful words are beautiful words with or without a little intoxication.

The Poets

William Blake is considered probably the earliest male Romantic poet, though he was not well known during his time. As many of us know, he was quite the odd ball: he made up his own religion (which his poetry defines), illustrated his works, used his own variety of spellings, and self-published his books. He’s best known now for his Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, from which many of us read “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” for high school literature, but he’s also well known for The Book of Thiel, his rejection of the English Church.

  Because of the contrasting nature of his Songs, I had to go with a dual pairing for Blake’s work, it was difficult to choose between red and white–so in the end, I didn’t. Instead, I decided I’d just have to drink something dark and bold for Experience and something more fresh and spirited for Innocence. I went with the Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel and Chardonnay.

Hogue Savignon Blanc

We covered William Wordsworth’s sister in the first British Romantics pairing, and obviously he makes an appearance on this list. As most likely the most influential poets of the movement, Wordsworth’s poetry embodies the religion of nature that much Romantic work is associated with. He cowrote Lyrical Ballads with Samuel Coleridge, marking the beginning of the movement. He spent much of his life in walks, most notably during his walking tour of France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany in 1790. The Prelude, which is considered his greatest work,  did not make my reading list this time, but maybe I’ll down another bottle of wine and give it a try next week.

 I found a really nice Savignon blanc that went well with Wordsworth’s work. The Hogue Savignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley in Washington has flavors of sage and honey dew. Not nectar sweet, but floral and refreshing, the wine was perfect with Wordsworth dominate nature themes.


Samuel Coleridge was not thought of in his time as a poet, although his “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Kahn” are iconic pieces of the Romantic movement today. He spent his writing immersed in literary criticism, social thought, and philosophy, among other things. He was a teacher and nurturer of young poets (notably among them Byron, Shelley, and Keats–all included here). He was also an opium addict, which is where much of his ideas for Kubla Kahn stem from.

  Since Coleridge wasn’t considered as poetic as the rest of the bunch, I thought an alternate pairing would be good for him, so I picked up a good winter beer (New Belgium’s Accumulation) and dove into Coleridge’s opium-addled writings head first.


Odd among greats, Lord Byron (George Gordon) was the most known and best admired Romantic poet during his time. He was a looker, and his club foot played an interesting role in his life–which was interesting enough as it was. He was involved in many affairs. Despite his less-than-traditional lifestyle, Byron’s verse, considered later, actually has the most traditional rhyme and meter among the other poets listed here. He used especially ottava rima, an Italian-style structure, notable in Don Juan. He was fascinated with the Mediterranean landscape, and he wrote more than just poetry–verse plays and prose letters are available.

  Even though I feel like Byron had a mega-ego, he definitely deserves to be paired with a big, bold red. To me, that means a Cabernet Savignon. Honestly, any one–pick your favorite vintner. You won’t regret it.


This maybe strays too much from my other short notes, but I just have to say, whenever I think of Percy Chariot GypsyShelley, I am reminded of my twelfth-grade English teacher saying, “Oh, that Percy Bysshe,” with a toss of her hand and knowing smile. So, that’s been my impression of him my whole life. Later, I dislike him a bit for his treatment of the women in his life, starting with his first wife, Harriet, whom he left to marry Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women–how did you fall for him Mary?!) Shelley was also friends with Byron, which doesn’t bode well for him in feminists’ books. I digress, he is remembered as a quintessential Romantic, and afterall, he did write “Ozymandias” and “Ode to a Skylark,” so at least he contributed some beauty to the world. Plus, he met an unfortunate end, which is a little redeeming.

  I reread some Shelley with a glass of Chariot Gypsy 2012 red blend, apparently one of the best years for this blend in a while. With a fresh-fruit sweetness, this wine still achieves a bit of complexity in its spicier notes.


Orvieto ClassicoPoor John Keats, so much potential, and such a tragically short life. Perhaps if he had lived longer, though, he would have written some stupid things we all hated and ruined his reputation (unlikely). He developed massively as a poet over a very short period of time. After contracting tuberculosis from his mother and brother (while he was caring for them in their illnesses), he traveled to Rome for his health and ended up dying there. Before he left, he fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne, which just makes the story that much sadder.

  Red wine seemed too sad to pair with Keats’s already sad tale, so I went with an Italian white–an Orvieto region grape to be exact. The Ruffino 2012 Orvieto Classico is fruity and floral with hints of pears and everything you want while musing over “Ode to a Grecian Urn.”

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Gifting Poetry: Anthology Review

Second Tuesday Review

Because it’s the holiday–and gift-buying–season, we’ve assembled a brief review of anthologies that are perfect for bestowing on your poetry-minded friends. Anthologies are great bargain gifts–so many poets, for the price of just one book! While anthologies might not give the in-depth sound and feel of a poet’s voice, they do provide a lot of curating to offer some of the best poetry in their chosen topic. Here are a few we’ve enjoyed recently and that we’d like to enjoy soon. Provide a few of your favorites in the comments!

Poetry Anthologies

The Best American Poetry 2013

Scribner Poetry, 2013

Well, really any year would work, but it seems good to stay current, right? For the past two years, we’ve seen these debut with readings from the poets featured inside at the Decatur Book Festival. Like all the BAPs, this anthology features the seventy-five “best” poems published in literary magazines over the course of the year picked by a special guest editor, in this case, Denise Duhamel. But what we really enjoy about these anthologies is the information in the back–the notes and comments from the contributors. Who doesn’t enjoy a little extra insight into a poem?

(More here)

Word of Mouth: Poems Featured on NPR’s All Things Considered

Vintage Books, 2003

We are big suckers for listening to poetry. BUT we also really like the way a good poem is laid out on a page. Can you guess why we were drawn to Word of Mouth? Though this anthology is a bit older (ten years) than the previous, it remains an examination of contemporary poets and how they “harmonize on the racket and cacophony of our times,” as editor Catherine Bowman notes. Less writers are included, but the pro is that there are multiple pieces by most of the poets.

(More here)

The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food & Drink

Bloomsbury, 2012

Food + Poetry = Greatness. Kevin Young really nailed the pairing with this anthology of great poets talking about what’s really important to us all: our stomachs. But there’s so much more here than just food–family, gluttony, harvest, death, and of course alcohol. Yep, food poetry is way more broad than you thought, and the poets in this collection are, too: Natasha Tretheway, W.B. Yeats, Langston Hughes, Charles Baudelaire, among others.

(More here)

Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry

W.W. Norton, 2013

But let’s be real, any Norton anthology is something we want to read. This one’s just at the top of the list. It covers poets from the 1960s onwards, and according to the publisher, “It is a gathering of poems that demonstrate what happens when writers in a marginalized community collectively turn from dedicating their writing to political, social, and economic struggles, and instead devote themselves to the art of their poems and to the ideas they embody.”

(More here)

Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books

Minor Americana Press, 2014

Even though this one is coming out next year, we wanted to include it–because we’re that excited. Comic books and poetry–enough said.

(More here)

Java Monkey Speaks/[Insert Your Local Poetry Venue’s Anthology and/or Chapbooks]

Because it’s important to support the poets in your area. Just think how happy you’ll make the poet whose work you buy. If that’s not something in the holiday spirit, we don’t know what is.

Good luck with your holiday shopping!

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Independent Press Profile

Sibling Rivalry Press

There are many small, independent presses out there publishing great poetry. We’d like to put a little spotlight on them in this series of Independent Press Profiles. For our first profile, to go along with our earlier review and interview with Collin Kelley, we’ve heard from Bryan Borland at Sibling Rivalry Press. Read on to find out more about the press’s founding, it’s mission, and the amazing work it is doing.

Can you give a brief history of the founding of the press?

One of the first places to accept my work was Ganymede, a journal of gay culture based in New York, which was published by a writer named John Stahle. As a young, inexperienced writer based in rural Arkansas, being published by a New-York-City-Center-of-Everything journal was a huge thing to me. John, in addition to editing and putting out Ganymede, also did freelance book design, and he convinced me hire him and self-publish my first book, My Life as Adam. Not long after I launched the book, John died, and because it was a one-man show, the journal Ganymede died with him. Because John and I became close through the process of working on my book, and because I placed high value on what Ganymede had done for me as I poet and for others in my position, both geographically and culturally, I didn’t want to let the journal become a footnote in history. John had taught me a bit about design work, and I knew the basics of how he put each issue of Ganymede together. I used previous issues as template, put out a call for submissions, and thanks to the kindness of poets, writers, and artists John had published, I published, in the same manner as publishing My Life as Adam, a tribute issue of the journal which I called Ganymede Unfinished.

I didn’t want to continue Ganymede, but I knew I wanted to create something to fill the void left by its sudden absence, particularly in relation to gay poetry. In Greek mythology, Ganymede was the young man swept up by Zeus’s eagle to serve at the god’s feet. Assaracus was Ganymede’s earthbound brother, and it, along with my book and our first chapbook, Burnings by Ocean Vuong (who has matured into a poet who just can’t stop winning awards), became the foundation to Sibling Rivalry Press.


What are your guiding principles for finding and accepting manuscripts/authors?

The last few years we’ve had an open-submission period from March through June, and we’ve signed some fantastic authors through that process. Primarily we publish what we love; it’s as simple as that. Poetry and fiction that change us when we read it. Words that set us ablaze. We’re not walking some line of literary trends. We’re not scared of causing a stir or upsetting some people.

We’ve also reached out to poets and writers we love outside that open-submission period, and in some cases, poets and writers who love us reached out to us.  Books have a tendency, I believe, to find the homes in which they belong, and I’m so proud that SRP is home to so many fine books.


What are the best parts of being a small, independent publisher? What are the most challenging?

The best part of being a small press is the freedom to publish books which might not be picked up by larger presses, such as Stephen S. Mills’s He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, which won a Lambda Literary Award. We tend to operate by doing the opposite of what is expected of presses. And that’s how we’ve succeeded. The typical and traditional publishing blueprint is what has driven so many small presses out of business. That’s one reason we’re not traditional.

The most challenging thing was getting bookstores and the media to take us seriously as a press. After all, we are based in middle America. That all changed, though, when we started winning awards and appearing on bestseller lists. Now they take us seriously. (Sidenote: the key is to not take yourself too seriously.)


What do you think the press’s most distinguishing features are?

Our purpose is best defined by the incomparable Adrienne Rich, who said to Michael Klein in a 1999 interview:

There’s a lot of what I would call comfortable poetry around. But then there is all this other stuff going on—which is wilder, which is bristling; it’s juicier, it’s everything that you would want. And it’s not comfortable. That’s the kind of poetry that interests me—a field of energy. It’s intellectual and moral and political and sexual and sensual—all of that fermenting together. It can speak to people who have themselves felt like monsters and say: you are not alone, this is not monstrous. It can disturb and enrapture.

We’re guided by Rich’s words. What distinguishes us as a press is that we seek work that disturbs and enraptures.

We often are called an LGBT-oriented press, and while it’s true that many of our titles were written by LGBT authors. But we publish work by anyone, no matter that person’s sexuality, as long as it makes us feel electric.


Does the press offer any contests/prizes/awards?

Not at this time, though never say never.


You can learn more about Sibling Rivalry by going to its website or liking them on Facebook.

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