Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mark Yakich

Mark Yakich is the author of Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross (National Poetry Series, Penguin 2004), The Making of Collateral Beauty (Snowbound Chapbook Award, Tupelo 2006), and The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine (Penguin 2008).

He is an associate professor of English at Loyola University New Orleans. Yakich divides his time between the bedroom and the kitchen.

Recently I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I am currently finishing Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America by John J. Fialka. I happened upon the book by happy accident, because I wouldn't normally think to read a book about nuns. My only experience with nuns was Sister Beverly Jean who taught 5th grade. I was in her class for three weeks, very much not enjoying the experience, the final straw bending when she made me sing the Star-Spangled Banner by myself in front of the class (I had a ten-year-old singing voice that made flowers flatulate.) But this book, Sisters, has dispelled me of nuns as being only knuckle-crushers. Sisters/nuns are responsible for a great many of the schools and hospitals in the country, and over the years they have been as courageous as soldiers. In fact, sisters served on both sides of the Civil War, treating patients, often diseased, whom no one else would treat. One of my favorite narratives of Sisters is how nuns helped found the Wild West. In one Colorado gold mining town, there were seventy-something saloons and not one hospital until a group of sisters showed up.

I am also reading Frank Stanford's The Light the Dead See, a posthumous collection of his poems. Stanford is one of those cult poet figures; he died at 29 by shooting himself in the chest three times ... but not before leaving behind some exquisite work that no one has been able to imitate readily. (Maybe Gregory Orr's early work compares in some way that makes sense only in my mind.) Here is a small poem from Stanford:

The Minnow

If I press
on its head,
the eyes
will come out
like stars.
The ripples
it makes
can move
the moon.

I almost always loathe poems that contain "the moon," and yet and yet....

One more:


Is a word
That must be
Like a sword
That has worn out
The scabbard

Neither of these poems is absolutely representative of Stanford's oeuvre; they are meant to tease you into discovering him on your own.
Visit Mark Yakich's website and blog. Read sample poems from Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross, The Making of Collateral Beauty, and The Importance of Peeling Potatoes in Ukraine.

--Marshal Zeringue