Max Garland


Max Garland's newest book of poems is Into the Good World Again (2023). Previous books include The Word We Used for It, winner of the Brittingham Poetry Prize, The Postal Confessions, winner of the Juniper Prize, and Hunger Wide as Heaven, winner of the Cleveland State Poetry Prize. He has received an NEA Poetry Fellowship, Michener Fiction fellowship, Bush Artist Fellowship, inclusion in Best American Short Stories, and fellowships in poetry and fiction from the Wisconsin Arts Board. Born and raised in Kentucky, where he worked for many years as a rural letter carrier on the route where he was born, he is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and was the first Writer-in-Residence for the city of Eau Claire. He's also a songwriter and musician, and the former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin.


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The Poetry of Memory

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Short Description
"If we spend our lives remembering what we love/ to be sure who we are..." begins a Richard Hugo poem. The poet goes on, partly recalling and partly creating a remembrance of place and time. Of course, we don’t only remember “what we love,” but also what we lose, lack, long for, laugh at, or even loathe. The combination of recovery and creativity, the shaping, re-shaping, recalling and imaginative revising that constitutes memory, is, perhaps not coincidentally, very much the process of poetry.

How much of the poetry of memory rests on fact, and how much upon imagination? Are poems merely vehicles for expressing what we remember, and hope to preserve, or is memory also inherent in the language itself, if we trust it well, or draw from it deeply? Can poems (sound, metaphor, coherence, surprise, humor) possibly remember more than the poets who wrote them? We live in a time of fragmentation and forgetting, in the shadow of a pandemic and various cultural reckonings that need the very kind of remembering poetry provides, for both private and public reasons. Certainly, poems often call upon memory, but can we learn, as writers, to allow poems to help us remember? Is it even possible to think of memory, for better or worse, as our lifelong poem in progress?

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