Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

December 6, 2017
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1718—Nicholas Rowe, English poet and dramatist (Tamerlane) Poet Laureate (1715-18), dies at 45.

1873—Manuel Acuna, Mexican poet (Ante un Cadaver), dies at 24.
1875—Evelyn Underhill, British poet (d. 1941), is born.
1886—Joyce Kilmer, American poet (Trees), born in New Brunswick, New Jersey (d. 1918).
1892—F Osbert S Sitwell, poet/writer (Out of the Flame), born in London, England, is born.
1953 Konstanty I Galczynski, Polish poet (Zielona Ges), dies at 48.

 

The Light of the World 

Now burn, new born to the world,
Doubled-naturéd name,
The heaven-flung, heart-fleshed, maiden-furled
Miracle-in-Mary-of-flame,
Mid -numbered He in three of the thunder-throne!
Not a dooms-day dazzle in his coming nor dark
as he came;
Kind, but royally reclaiming his own;
A released shower, let flash to the shire, not
a lightning of fire hard-hurled. 

—Evelyn Underhill

World Poetry

Poet Arrested for 'insulting Virgin Mary' on Facebook

 

The Lebanese Internal Security Forces’ Intelligence Unit arrested a 65-year-old man Monday for allegedly posting comments on social media that “insulted the Virgin Mary,” according to a report released by the state-run National News Agency.

Poems Highlight Love, Struggles of Migrant Workers in Singapore

When night falls after her 14-hour work day, Indonesian domestic worker Deni Apriyani retreats to her room in Singapore and reaches for a pen to jot down her feelings, in poem after poem. “I usually write about my daily life,” the 27-year-old said.“I feel satisfied - it’s like you have just released something heavy in your head,” Apriyani told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Singapore where she has been a domestic helper for an expatriate family since 2013.

Haredi Rabbi Bans New NIS 50 Banknote Featuring Poet Who Married a Non-Jew  

A senior Haredi rabbi has decreed that it is forbidden to speak to Christians, and forbidden to even look at the new NIS 50 banknote, because it bears the image of the Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernichowsky, who married a non-Jew. Rabbi Ben Tzion Motzpi, a respected and highly conservative Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbi from the Sephardi community, gave these rulings recently in response to questions submitted to his ask-the-rabbi forum on his website.

Recent Reviews

A Book of Absences: Jehanne Dubrow’s Dots & Dashes
by Heidi Czerwiec

I’m trying to concentrate on this book, but my husband is snoring loudly beside me in bed. I’m irritated—I want quiet and solitude—so I escape to the empty bed in the guestroom. I’m reading Dots & Dashes, Jehanne Dubrow’s sixth poetry collection and a thematic successor to 2010’s Stateside. Fraught with empty beds, and describing a long marriage characterized by constant military deployments, Dots & Dashes is a book of absences. The title, a form of military communication sent over distances, transmits itself throughout this collection: in the couple’s correspondence, in what’s left unsaid between them, and in the whitespace in such formal elements as Sapphic fragments and medial caesuras.

Best of 2017: Best Poetry Books and Poetry Collections
by Entropy

Starting off our series of “Best of 2017″ lists curated by the entire CCM-Entropy community, we present some of our favorite selections as nominated by the diverse staff and team here at Entropy, as well as nominations from our readers. This list brings together some of our favorite poetry books & collections published in 2017.

Galway Kinnell's Poetry Transformed the World, but the World has Changed
by Craig Morgan Teicher

Galway Kinnell was often compared to his favorite poet, Walt Whitman, whose “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” Kinnell movingly read aloud every year on the far side of the Brooklyn Bridge at a benefit for the New York poetry library Poets House. Like Whitman, Kinnell — who died in 2014 having won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and a MacArthur, among other honors for books published between the 1960 and 2006 — was a poet of capacious interest in the natural world, profound commitment to social justice, and deep sympathy for the people he saw.

 

One Hundred Poems That Capture the Meaning of Joy
Christian Wiman’s new anthology brings together an admirable range of meditations on an emotion whose place in the world today can seem uncertain.
by Adrianna Smith

In his new anthology, Joy: 100 Poems, the writer Christian Wiman takes readers through the ostensible ordinariness of life and reveals the extraordinary. “We ate, and talked, and went to bed, / And slept. It was a miracle,” Donald Hall writes in “Summer Kitchen.” Through a luminous array of poetry and prose, Wiman captures joy in contemporary contexts. These works span from the 20th century to the present day, and as a result, the real, the specific, and the familiar shine through: “She’s slicing ripe white peaches / into the Tony the Tiger bowl,” Sarah Lindsay describes in “Small Moth.”

Broadsides

The Poet of Ill Tidings
Bertolt Brecht’s poetry captured a world torn apart by war and depression.
by Noah Isenberg

Although far better known internationally as a playwright than as a poet, Bertolt Brecht had a supreme gift for language. He applied much of the same plucky, rebellious spirit to his poems that he did to his world-class theater productions of the late Weimar years, which included The Threepenny Opera and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Brecht began publishing his poetry as a teen, around the same time that Germany was gearing up for the First World War. By the 1930s, his work had taken on a decidedly anti-Nazi bent. In 1937, while exiled in Svendborg, Denmark, Brecht produced a cycle of unrhymed epigrams that he called Deutsche Kriegsfibel (German War Primer), which he published in the Moscow-based German monthly Das Wort and later included in his Svendborg Poems. 

The Anxiety of Poetry
Interpreting the Jill Bialosky scandal
by Sarah V. Schweig

It is common knowledge that over 60 million people died in World War II. By the time poet Czeslaw Milosz wrote “Dedication” in Warsaw in 1945, Poland alone had lost an estimated 6 million. “You whom I could not save,” Milosz’s poem begins, “Listen to me.”

 

Solving Riddles, Reading Poems
By Geoffrey Hilsabeck

 

 “I saw two wonderful and weird creatures / out in the open unashamedly / fall a-coupling,” wrote a monk in Old English a thousand years ago, either composing or transcribing a riddle about a rooster and a hen. This riddle and a hundred others—as well as elegies, proverbs, and dreams—were written into one big book, which was bequeathed to Exeter Cathedral by its bishop and subsequently used by the monks as a cutting board and a beer coaster and left vulnerable to bats and bookworms. Still, ninety-four riddles survived.

Drafts & Framents

This Record Label Is Bringing Live Poetry Back to Vinyl
by Elizabeth Flock

When American poet Alice Notley was very young, she used to sit in front of the radio and just listen. When she got older, she began to hear words and songs in her head everywhere she went — songs she loved, like “Begin the Beguine” by Cole Porter, and her own words that sometimes tumbled out into poems. Now one of America’s most prolific, genre-bending and revered poets, Notley said that when she performs live, she sometimes reads her poems like incantations. “I get in front of the audiences and make mistakes and ride the energy of the room,” she said. “I get involved and forget where I am and go to paradise and then come back.” And so it makes sense that Notley’s latest release is not a written collection but a recorded album of her work, “Live in Seattle,” the latest in a series of albums from a new record label, Fonograf, that is only releasing poetry.

Scientists Identify Precisely Why the Best Poems are Pleasing 
by Ephrat Livni

A New York University study published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts (paywall) on Nov. 30, sought the secret to effective poetry. Psychologists asked 400 American adults to read either haiku or sonnets and respond to them in an extensive survey. They found that form mattered less than vividness when it came to enjoyment.

William Carlos Williams' Plums in the Icebox Poem Somehow Became a Meme, and It's Getting Out of Control
 by Rachel Leishman

It seems as if Twitter is an endless meme machine. Meaning to say that now Twitter’s made even a William Carlos Williams poem go viral. Do we know why his famous “This Is Just To Say” poem was the latest meme to take over the Internet? No. But the plums in the icebox are suddenly everywhere. And, honestly, we’re kind of loving all the crazy tweets inspired by them.

Poetry In The News

Poet Snyder to Enter California Hall of Fame

Professor Emeritus and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder will be inducted into the California Hall of Fame next week, acknowledged for, among other achievements, influencing a generation of writers at UC Davis. The California Hall of Fame, in its biography of Snyder, calls him “one of the most significant environmental writers of the 20th century and an influential figure in the ecology movement.” The hall notes that he has lived sustainably for nearly 50 years in an off-the-grid home he built.

Kim Moore's 'Thrilling' Debut Poetry Collection Wins Geoffrey Faber Prize
The Art of Falling, by a Cumbrian poet and former trumpet teacher, joins illustrious former winners including Seamus Heaney and JM Coetzee

 

A debut poetry collection that tackles the author’s own experiences of domestic violence, in poems that “jolt the heart”, has won the Geoffrey Faber memorial prize. Cumbrian poet Kim Moore’s The Art of Falling covers everything from her experiences as a trumpet teacher to her father’s profession as a scaffolder, as well as the suffragettes and a tattoo inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

New Books

Let’s Not Live on Earth by Sarah Blake
[Hardcover] Wesleyan, 128 pp., $30.00


Sarah Blake follows up her previous book of poetry, Mr. West, with a stunning second collection about anxieties and injury. Blake uses self-consciousness as a tool for transformation, looking so closely at herself that she moves right through the looking glass and into the larger world. Fear becomes palpable through the classification of monsters and through violences made real. When the poems find themselves in the domestic realm, something is always under threat. The body is never safe, nor are the ghosts of the dead. But these poems are not about cowering. By detailing the dangers we face as humans, as Americans, and especially as women, these poems suggest we might find a way through them. 

Wolf Moon Blood Moon: Poems by Ed Falco
[Paperback] LSU Press 72 pp., $17.95         

In Wolf Moon Blood Moon, Ed Falco considers love and the loss of love, what we have today and what we remember of yesterday, the promise of youth and the disappointments and pleasures of aging. By turns whimsical, meditative, and poignant, these poems examine the joys and sorrows of living.

 

 

Selected Proverbs by Michael Brooks Cryer
[Paperback]  Elixer Press, 80 pp., $17.00 

Winner of the Elixir Press Antivenom Poetry Award in 2016. Contest Judge, Seth Brady Tucker had this to say about it: "Michael Brooks Cryer's poetry comes to us riding on static radio frequencies, channeled through the ether of our discontents and our vices; voices that purr and screech and caution us not to look away, but acknowledge that language is mutable, that 'In the beginning, the word was misused like a rag is misused when stopping up the mouth of a hostage.' We hear his epistles loosed by an array of voices, their visions cloudy and clear, strange and comforting; they show us, 'a gurney screech [ing] by with a ballerina on it,' they ask us to pay attention and listen. These poems are assured, lively, and filled with a caustic wit, and Cryer plays his poems like 'a bed of strings where [he] condition[s] your mood.' Let these sequences melt like wax candles over your HAM radio, put your ear to the leather ear pads, listen to this important voice."

Paraíso: Poems by Jacob Shores-Argüello
[Paperback] University of Arkansas Press, 60 pp., $16.95 

 

 

Paraíso, the first book in the new CantoMundo Poetry Series, which celebrates the work of Latino/a poets writing in English, is a pilgrimage against sorrow. Erupting from a mother’s death, the poems follow the speaker as he tries to survive his grief. Catholicism, family, good rum . . . these help, but the real medicine happens when the speaker pushes into the cloud forest alone. In a Costa Rica far away from touristy beaches, we encounter bus trips over the cold mountains of the dead, drug dealers with beautiful dogs, and witches with cell phones. Science fuses with religion, witchcraft is joined with technology, and eventually grief transforms into belief. Throughout, Paraíso defies categorization, mixing its beautiful sonnets with playful games and magic cures for the reader. In the process, moments of pure life mingle with the aftermath of a death.

New & Selected: Poems by Joy Ladin 
[Paperback] Sheep Meadow, 300 pp., $24.05 

“Gender transition is often thought of as either fairy-tale-like transformation, a leap from one side of the gender rainbow to the other, or as a series of impersonal medical procedures. But as these poems attest, gender transition, like other modes of becoming, is far messier, more mysterious and idiosyncratic than such simplifications allow, a life-long process combining shame with triumph, ecstasy with disappointment, the mundane humiliation of airport security screenings with the miraculous experience of incarnation and fully embodied love.” —From the Author’s Note

Correspondences

Hera Lindsay Bird: Poet of Exploding Helicopters and Dick Jokes
The New Zealand poet explains the 90s sitcom references and unembarrassed passions that have gone into her eponymous debut
by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

It is an ungodly hour on a Wednesday morning and Hera Lindsay Bird’s disembodied head is telling me about the time that she wet herself at a supermarket checkout. “It was one of the great humiliations of my life,” she says, over Skype from her home in Wellington, New Zealand. The reason I’m dragging it up again is because it is referenced in the first poem of her debut collection, the self-titled Hera Lindsay Bird, which came out to acclaim in New Zealand in 2016 and is released in the UK this month.

 

The Dream of Suspension: A Conversation with Cedar Sigo
by Jennifer Elise Foerster

Jennifer: I remember when we read together at Poets House in New York. In your craft talk, which you titled, “Becoming Visible,” you spoke of poetry as a “broad element at play” in your culture, and compared it to basket making.

Jorie Graham: ‘I am living in the late season, but it has its songs, too’
The Pulitzer-winning poet on mortality, makeup and capturing life’s complexity
by Aida Edemariam

The last lines of the last poem in Jorie Graham’s most recent collection, FAST, imagine dawn giving way to day: “Leaving / grackle and crow in the sun – they have / known what to find in the unmade / undrawn unseen unmarked and / dragged it into here – that it be / visible” – which is as good a way as any of summing up what Graham has tried to do ever since she began writing poems: to look hard at the world around her, especially the natural world, but also at the hard questions – what does it all mean and what is it all for? To stay as open as possible in order to catch whatever answer there might be unawares, and hold it up to the light.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

WCW & the Icebox

 

It was amusing to read about the meme built around W. C. Williams' rhetoricistic poem "This Is Just to Say." I coin the word "rhetoricistic" here because I think in this poem Williams does for rhetoric what he does for the image in the "The Red Wheelbarrow," which is a high-water mark for Imagism. That is, in "This Is Just to Say" he makes us aware of the rhetorical artistry in the simplest of expression, an apologetic note ("sorry/not sorry") left on the kitchen table. At the time, a radical way to think about poetry, producing an effect not dissimilar to the effect that Duchamp's "Fountain" had on the visual arts. Now, 80-plus years on, commonplace enough to become a meme.  
For a thorough and fascinating discussion of the "The Red Wheelbarrow," seek out William Logan's essay on the subject published in a 2015 issue of Parnassus.

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