"What makes art 'modern' and what does 'urgent' mean now?"
Jane Miller loves poetry. In these provocative and deeply insightful essays, she unpacks the work of giants like Adrienne Rich, Paul Celan, Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, and Federico García Lorca alongside painters such as Caravaggio and Paul Klee, as well as ancient Chinese music and techniques of the contemporary poem. Miller explores the use of the question mark in the history of poetry and its function as a revelation of poetic voice. She considers the positive and negative aspects of surrealism on the contemporary poem, its anti-feminist origins in France, its contemporary usage, and the benefits of super-real images. Miller examines how identity politics might affect the imagination. She describes ancient Chinese musical instruments to show how their sounds resonate off/in American poems and on the aural integrity of the lyric poem. She interrogates the political implications of language and the degeneration and regeneration of words. Finally, in an essay about what she dares not say about poetry, she comes out against forms of surrealism, narrative, jargon, rhetoric, irony, and appropriation. This masterful work can be read as advice to a young writer, but it also invites us into the mind of a writer who has developed her craft through the course of a lifetime of writing, reading, and exploring the world, showing not only the ideas that influenced her—feminist, lesbian, and international works—but also how Miller has, in turn, influenced ideas.
Jane Miller is a poet and essayist. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, with artist Valyntina Grenier.
“In From the Valley of Bronze Camels, Jane Miller makes a bold case for poetry’s ongoing relevance by presenting a series of readings and ruminations on poems that, whether they’re ingrained in the canon or have arisen to challenge it, speak to us in ways that are as sincere as they are urgent and influential to our understanding of ourselves, of others, and of the world in which we live.”- Derek Pollard
—Derek Pollard, Series Editor of Poets on Poetry