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Rain Taxi interviews Burt Kimmelman



kimmelman2by Eric Hoffman

Burt Kimmelman teaches literary and cultural studies at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is the highly acclaimed author of eight collections of poems. Kimmelman’s poetry has received praise from such notables as Robert Creeley (“a rare evocation”), Jerome Rothenberg (“a strict & powerful accounting”), Alfred Kazin (“artful, fastidious, learned”), and Susan Howe (“a singularly locating force”). In addition to his poetry, Kimmelman has also produced an impressive body of critical work, including numerous penetrative essays as well as two full-length books, The Poetics of Authorship in the Later Middle Ages: The Emergence of the Modern Literary Persona (Peter Lang, 1996) and the ground-breaking study The ‘Winter Mind’: William Bronk and American Letters (Fairleigh Dickinson, 1998). It was this latter effort, first encountered over a decade ago during research on my biography of George Oppen, which led me to contact Kimmelman, initiating a conversation on poetry that continues to this day. A small cross-section of that conversation is here provided, albeit in the less casual format of a formal interview, occasioned by the recent publication of Kimmelman’s Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982-2013 (BlazeVox, $18). This interview was conducted via e-mail primarily from April-May 2014, with a brief follow up in July.

Eric Hoffman: Burt, a fair amount of your work experiments with formal verse, in most cases with syllabics. What is it about working this way that appeals to you? Do you believe that working with syllabics encourages invention?

Burt Kimmelman: I first set eyes on Donald Allen’s watershed anthology, The New American Poetry, in 1965. A decade before the Allen book, Charles Olson had published his ground-shaking essay "Projective Verse" (1950); that essay was given pride of place in the poetics section of Allen’s book. So, for a fledgling poet like myself, the question of writing free verse was not a no-brainer so much as moot (I had written some sonnets, haikus, a couple of concrete poems etc., and did get great pleasure out of set form, but was not at that time in a position to have any particular form work for me in any kind of creative or generative way). Olson's astonishing essay (to say nothing of his amazing poetry, an exemplar I took to heart) explained, so to speak, how to leave free verse behind for something rigorous but not formal in any sense except the sui generis sense—as Robert Creeley had said, “form is nothing more than an extension of content.”

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Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982 – 2013 by Burt Kimmelman reviewed!

Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982 – 2013 by Burt Kimmelman reviewed!


Midwest Review Reviews Burt Kimmelman's new book, Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems 1982-2013! Hurray! We have posted the whole Micro-review here for you., But do visit the current issue of MidWest Review, it's really good. Hurray!  

Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982-2013
Burt Kimmelman
BlazeVOX Publishing
131 Euclid Ave., Kenmore NY 14217
9781609641344, $18.00, www.amazon.com

Rare, powerful, graceful, delicate, and luminescent are words used by critics to describe Kimmelman's poetry. He's earned such words of praise for decades by generously sharing what his eyes see and his mind imagines. Kimmelman doesn't simply tell readers about life. He allows us to experience the journey with him through the changing colors and textures of time.

In this book, I traveled well-worn ancient paths with the poet and marveled at everyday wonders. Through his words, the simple quiet of morning or patterns of light on water became pure visions in my mind. I visited exotic climes, experienced the poet's raw desires, tender sorrows, and small triumphs. Stunning metaphors surprised and delighted me. The old masters provided art that inspired poetry so vivid I could see the paintings through Kimmelman's words.

Whether you've been reading poetry all your life or just recently discovered that pleasure, Burt Kimmelman's work is highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Book Information:

· Paperback: 252 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-134-4


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Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982 – 2013 by Burt Kimmelman reviewed!


Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982–2013

David Cooper, Untitled, New York Journal of Books (22 June 2013),

David Cooper, Untitled, examiner.com  (24 June 2013),


If a Tang Dynasty Chinese poet were reincarnated as a 21st century American poet he might write a poem such as “After the Rain, Autumn” by Burt Kimmelman:

“Blue flowers bow
over the walk
after rain—leaves,
too, have fallen.”

Here Mr. Kimmelman emulates the Lushi verse form with parallel imagery (flowers and leaves) in successive couplets and the same number of words (3) and syllables (4) in each line. Chinese words are monosyllabic, so in a Chinese line of verse the number of words and syllables are the same, and each of is represented by its own character. Most English words are polysyllabic, so Anglophone poets can only approximate Chinese prosody.

Most of the poems Mr. Kimmelman has written since the turn of this century have employed syllabics. Unlike many of his contemporaries who emulate Japanese syllabic forms that vary the number of syllables per line, such as haiku’s 5-7-5, Mr. Kimmelman emulates Chinese verse forms in which each line of a poem has the same number of syllables; at least one of his syllabic poems has only three syllables per line, a few have as many as eight, and most have a number in between.

Basil King, some of whose brushstrokes resemble those of traditional Chinese painters, illustrated this handsome paperback with black and white reproductions of his abstract paintings.

Read the whole review at the New York Journal of Books

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