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NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

PHOTOGRAPH BY NANCY CARD

AN OVERLOOK IN A POET’S CAREER: THE OCCASION OF “SELECTED AND NEW POEMS” a review by Eric C. Walker Mark Cox. Sorrow Bread: Poems 1984–2015. Florham Park, NJ: Serving House Books, 2017.

ERIC C. WALKER, a native of North Carolina, has been Professor of English at Florida State University since 1984. He is the author of Marriage, Writing, and Romanticism: Wordsworth and Austen After War (Stanford University Press, 2009), which was awarded the 2010 SAMLA Studies Book Award. He now divides his North Carolina time between Greenville and Black Mountain. MARK COX is the award-winning author of six collections of poetry, including Natural Causes (University of Pittsburg Press, 2004; reviewed in NCLR 2005) and a forthcoming collection from Press 53. He is Professor of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington and has served as poetry editor of Passages North and Cimarron Review, as Poet-in-Residence at The Frost Place, and as the editor of Jack Myers’ posthumous anthology, The Memory of Water. His numerous honors include the Whiting Writers Award (1987), a Pushcart Prize (1993), the Society of Midwest Authors and Oklahoma Book Awards (1999), and a North Carolina Arts Council Literature Fellowship (2017).

Mark Cox, who teaches in the creative writing program at UNC Wilmington and is the recipient of a 2018 North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship, shapes a career milestone with his verse collection Sorrow Bread, which is his first “Selected and New” volume of poems, rearranging and reapportioning four previous publications, the most recent of which appeared in 2004. Sorrow Bread offers eighty-seven poems, twenty-three of them new, arranged in eight thematic sections such as “Inner Rooms,” “Fatherhood,” and “After Rain,” each of which mixes earlier and more recent work. This thematic method of selection trails clouds of Wordsworth, who launched it in 1815 with categories such as “Poems of the Imagination” and “Poems Referring to the Period of Old Age” – and who then spent the rest of his career fussily rearranging, deleting, and adding poems to each category, making much busywork for English professors. The alternative collective method is chronological (either of composition or publication), the method followed, for example, by ABOVE Mark Cox participating in a

reading of the 2017–18 North Carolina Arts Council fellowship recipients, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, 28 Oct. 2017

A.R. Ammons in his first Selected Poems volume in 1968, also after four initial publications; the poems, Ammons announced, are “arranged in chronological order of composition.”* Cox glances over his shoulder at this method by supplying dates of composition for each poem in his table of contents. But the governing order is prominently thematic, and the chronologically random mix of old and new in each thematic section stakes a larger claim: the through-line of Cox’s themes and styles, earlier and later, is more important than a developmental narrative. The through-line of themes is largely domestic (and Midwestern), and the through-line of styles is chiefly the thirty- to forty-verse firstperson lyric, wherein the speaker is often overheard speaking to himself as an apostrophized “you,” in sometimes regular but generally irregular free-verse stanzas. To sample such through-lines of theme and style, a lyric from 1985, “Linda’s House of Beauty,” recalls a chance encounter at a store entrance between the poet’s adolescent self going in and a woman with a bottle of wine going out: * A.R. Ammons, Selected Poems (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1968).

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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