The Open Light: Poets from Notre Dame, 1991-2008

The Open Light: Poets from Notre Dame, 1991-2008 celebrates the distinction and diversity of poets associated with the university during these nearly two decades. This anthology is a companion volume to James Walton's earlier collection, The Space Between: Poets from Notre Dame, 1950-1990. The twenty-four poets represented in The Open Light range from National Endowment for the Arts Award-winner Beth Ann Fennelly, who received her undergraduate degree from Notre Dame, to the Nobel Prize nominee Bei Dao, who taught as a visiting professor at Notre Dame between 2005 and 2007. All have been students at Notre Dame, members of the faculty, or both. Each has published at least one volume of poetry.As evidenced by the founding of Notre Dame's Creative Writing Program in 1991, creative writing has thrived over the years and grown more essential to the intellectual identity and artistic ambitions of the university. Notre Dame's M.F.A. graduates, who have published poetry collections and fiction with both commercial publishers and independent presses, have garnered considerable praise from the literary establishment. In the preface to this anthology, Orlando Ricardo Menes presents a brief historical account of poetry at Notre Dame since 1991, emphasizing the remarkable range of talent and accomplishment of its poets, and the establishment of both The Notre Dame Review and the Ernest Sandeen poetry Prize. The plethora of voices included in this collection and the poems themselves provide a rich and vibrant legacy of poetry at Notre Dame. The principal pleasures of this collection--and rightly so--lie in the richness and diversity of the poems it contains. Varied in style, form, voice, and subject matter, traditional, experimental, centered in the ethnic self, sharply placed in concrete landscapes, or deliberately abstract, they represent the reach, not just of Notre Dame poetry, but of much of recent poetry in America. The Notre Dame connections among these poets invite another kind of tantalizing, speculative reading. There are real commonalities here, a sense throughout that poetry has consequence and gravity in the world and that style is a kind of commitment. Other threads can be followed in autobiographical sketches Orlando Menes has included in the Statements section in the Appendix, but whether reading for poetry's sake or Notre Dame's, Open Light is a treasure. --Michael Anania, University of Illinois at Chicago The poems in The Open Light are not only good. Beyond the fine work of these many excellent poets, what strikes me is the tremendous diversity of voices and sensibilities represented here. Where else could I find the intricate sonic complexity of the work of Robert Archambeau or Michael Coffey set against the wild, energetic playfulness of Jenny Boully's experimental forms? What other anthology might include Bei Dao's lovely, crystalline meditations set against Stacy Cartledge's or Anthony Walton's plainspoken, deceptively complex narratives? These poems cover more aesthetic territory than any ten anthologies and are a ringing testimony to the talent and the catholicity of tastes at work at the University of Notre Dame. --Kevin Prufer, University of Houston