The Difference Is Spreading
Fifty Contemporary Poets on Fifty Poems
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
272 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780812253238
- Published: March 2022
Since its inception in 2012, the hugely successful online introduction to modern poetry known as ModPo has engaged some 415,000 readers, listeners, teachers, and poets with its focus on a modern and contemporary American tradition that runs from Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson up to some of today's freshest and most experimental written and spoken verse. In The Difference Is Spreading, ModPo's Al Filreis and Anna Strong Safford have handed the microphone over to the poets themselves, by inviting fifty of them to select and comment upon a poem by another writer.
The approaches taken are various, confirming that there are as many ways for a poet to write about someone else's poem as there are poet-poem matches in this volume. Yet a straight-through reading of the fifty poems anthologized here, along with the fifty responses to them, emphatically demonstrates the importance to poetry of community, of socioaesthetic networks and lines of connection, and of expressions of affection and honor due to one's innovative colleagues and predecessors. Through the curation of these selections, Filreis and Safford express their belief that the poems that are most challenging and most dynamic are those that are open—the writings, that is, that ask their readers to participate in making their meaning. Poetry happens when a reader and a poet come in contact with one another, when the reader, whether celebrated poet or novice, is invited to do interpretive work—for without that convergence, poetry is inert.
If you like poems, and like reading smart people writing about poems in bite-sized essays, then The Difference Is Spreading is the kind of book you might like to leave on your nightstand and dip into here and there. It is, as Gertrude Stein might tell us, both 'a spectacle and nothing strange' to encounter all of these wonderful poems through the eyes of our contemporary poets. ~Los Angeles Review of Books
I’m delighted to see, and to have participated in, this collective meditation of artists talking about artists. The creative community thrives when we consider one another and support each other. This anthology affirms the seriousness, care, and fun we have when we sincerely consider our legacies, currents, and futures together. Thanks to Al Filreis and Anna Strong for organizing this paginated, welcoming dinner party. ~Tracie Morris
Poets writing on reading writing: it is thus that in this volume its contributors give evidence of the truth of the last sentence of the first poem of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons which is also the title of this book: ‘The difference is spreading.’ The result as it unfolds here is intertextual abundance, a compilation of poetics, invention, engagement, criticism, and play, all corresponding to a reading practice committed to the proposition that every poem matters and that, until it is read for the very last time, no poem is over. ~Lyn Hejinian
Everybody talks about making poetry accessible, but The Difference Is Spreading does it in an entirely unexpectable way, with elucidating short discussions of fifty poems by fifty quirky, eccentric, brilliant, amiable, engaged poets. ~Charles Bernstein
A paradisiacal gathering of deep dives, devotionals, plus a sub or two, The Difference Is Spreading offers us one hundred luminous invitations to read together. ~Douglas Kearney
Every ‘how to’ poetry book aspires to be the real ‘car talk’ for our practice which is no practice which is each one kind of inventing the car they are working on by referring to other great cars at times or else saying I am not working on this car and then doing it. I like the diversity of approaches here just like this book if you love poetry is a great place to linger while driving. ~Eileen Myles