Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

July 2, 2015
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1724 – Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, German poet, is born.
1877 – Hermann Hesse, Switzerland, novelist/poet (Steppenwolf, Nobel 1946), (d. 1962), is born.
1915 – Bert Decorte, Flemish poet, is born.
1920 – Eliseo Diego, latin American poet, is born.
1923 – Wislawa Szymborska, Prowent, Poland, poet referred to as the 'Mozart of Poetry' (Nobel 1996), (d. 2012), is born.
1939 – Alexandros Panagoulis, Greek politician and poet, is born.
1966 – Jan Brzechwa, Polish poet (b. 1900), dies.
1978 – Aris Alexandrou, Greek novelist, poet and translator (b. 1922), dies.

 

A miracle, less surprising than it should be: 
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers, 
it still has more than four. 

A miracle, just take a look around: 
the world is everywhere. 

An additional miracle, as everything is additional: 
the unthinkable 
is thinkable. 

—from “Miracle Fair” by Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012)

World Poetry

Mexican Writer Granted Political Asylum Leaving Stamp on LA Literary Scene

In March 2011, without packing or telling anyone, writer Dolores Dorantes fled her home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and crossed the border into El Paso.  Ciudad Juarez was the city where she grew up, began work as a reporter, and developed a following as a poet — and it was reeling from drug-related violence. The government responded with deadly military action and the deaths of hundreds of young women went unsolved. In a column for a Mexico City newspaper, Dorantes criticized government policies that failed to put an end to the violence. She received death threats, she said. Then a writer friend was violently killed and someone set fire to the house where an activist she knew lived. And so she fled.

Recent Reviews

You Must Be Suffering from Poetry
by Bruce Whiteman

Poets grow old like everyone else, and often their ideas about poetry grow old too. They come to seem shabby or quaint, old fashioned or even antiquated. Occasionally shabby, quaint, and antiquated approaches to poetry, like Formalism, come back and get re-baptized with a Neo or a New and pass for a while as the opposite of what they are, the old masquerading as something fresh. Yet sometimes truly fresh ideas are promulgated through poems too; they may seem weird, unpoetic, ghastly, even illiterate. Pound’s “Papyrus” surely sounded illiterate in its time. Olson’s “The Kingfishers” must have seemed like a cypher, or at least a poem impossible to scry with the normal tools of the day, post-literate in a way though “postmodern” was the word its composer came up with. And today, as usual, there are young poets writing poems that seem to have little in common with what the established poets of all ages identify as poetry. Allen Ginsberg, and Mina Loy, and T. E. Hulme, and Blake, and Christopher Smart, and many others before him and them did the same. Cicero thought that Catullus was a semiliterate upstart crow.

Where Stands Postmodern American Poetry: Is Paul Hoover's Anthology the Final Word?
by Anis Shivani

There is a rich context for this update of the now-standard anthology of postmodern American poetry, the one Paul Hoover first compiled in 1994, and which now, at nearly 1,000 pages, seeks to be the definitive reference for those seeking a comprehensive overview of the state of experimental American poetry. The fuss in 2011 over Rita Dove's misguided rewrite of the American poetry canon for the twentieth century is still fresh in our minds. In her Penguin anthology Dove excluded many key figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, and so on. The anthology was heavily weighted toward traditional lyric poetry of a certain type favored by the Iowa Writers Workshop and its innumerable writing program offshoots around the country. It included a number of mediocre poets at the expense of the exclusion of many of the innovators of American poetry. Clayton Eshleman, for example, pointed out some of the most shocking omissions; Eshleman's list is so extensive that it utterly disqualifies the Dove anthology.

All the Girls Said So
by August Kleinzahler

As John Berryman tells it, in a Paris Review interview conducted in 1970, he was walking to a bar in Minneapolis one evening in the mid-1950s with his second wife, Anne, the two of them joking back and forth, when Berryman volunteered that he ‘hated the name Mabel more than any other female name’. Anne decided Henry was the name she found ‘unbearable’. For a long time afterwards, ‘in the most cosy and affectionate lover kind of talk … she was Mabel and I was Henry.’ Not long after that Berryman began to write his Dream Songs with a song he later ‘killed’.

The Art of Daring by Carl Phillips
by Mike Puican

In 2007, Graywolf Press launched its excellent The Art of series to "restore the art of criticism while illuminating the art of writing." Each book, written by a practicing writer, focuses on a single aspect of the craft. The series covers a wide range of genres and topics. In poetry, they include syntax (Ellen Bryant Voigt), line (James Longenbach), description (Mark Doty), attention (Donald Revell), and recklessness (Dean Young). The most recent volume is The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination by Carl Phillips. Phillips is an appropriate choice. His work, spanning twelve volumes of poetry, concerns itself with the charged subjects of moral relativity, desire, and risky sexual behavior. These subjects play an unexpected and provocative role in this book on poetic craft as well.

The Great Medieval Yellows
by Emily Wilson

The contemporary moment of critique manifests, among other ways, in a pressing call for artwork that overtly raises consciousness of the racism, classism, sexism, and environment-gutting anthropocentrism permeating our culture. Answering this call, many poetic projects such as Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and Brenda Hillman’s Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire confront the deeply-entrenched narrative and rhetorical frames serving power structures—frames that secure relationships between self and other in a perpetual network of damage and exploitation.

Carrot and Stick
by John McAuliffe

Michael Hofmann is both a tremendous enthusiast for the poets he loves and a vengeful prosecutor of those he feels have sold the art short. His new book of essays is a brilliantly written tour of the Hofmann horizon. More substantial than Between the Lines (2001), his previous collection of mostly short pieces, it retains that book’s characteristically idiosyncratic rhythms and sharply sweet-and-sour tones. Even a reader who disagrees with Hofmann will savour the way he frames his arguments for and against his subjects: poets and poetry, translations (and translated), the lives of artists.

Broadsides

Franz Wright: Solving the Problems of Poetry
by Morgan Meis

Maybe all poets are unhinged. There is historical evidence for this going back to ancient days. The Roman poet Catullus opened one infamous poem (known as “Catullus16”) with the line, “Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.” It’s among the more, shall we say, forthright responses to critics a poet has ever penned (“I will sodomize you and face-fuck you”). Such behavior among the poets continues to this day. Franz Wright—who died in May—was known to take a Catullan stance where critics were concerned. He once threatened to thrash William Logan, the critic who was unkind about Wright’s poems in a review for The New Criterion.

The Measure by Jon Silkin
by Carol Rumens

Jon Silkin gestures towards the metaphysical poets in this early poem, first published in 1961. The title might make you think of mechanical devices like the pulley, which, in the eponymous poem by George Herbert, becomes a figure for God’s compassionate relationship with mankind: then there’s the measuring of Sin and Love which occupies The Agony.

Drafts & Framents

Can You Guess the Poem From a Single Line? Take Our Quiz.

O Slate quiz takers! We’ve challenged you to guess the pop song from its first second and the painting from one eye. Now we want to know whether you can deduce the poem from a single line. Sound easy? Not so fast. It turns out that a lot of versifiers like to write about the same things, including love, birds, and art itself. Can you untangle your Levine from your Levertov, your Yeats from your Keats? Take our quiz and find out!

From Plitter to Drabbletail: the Words We Love

Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.

Poetry In The News

Poets Simon Armitage and Don Paterson Collaborate with Beck and Thurston Moore

Doug Aitken’s Station to Station project, which will take place on June 29th at Barbican Hall, will feature musicians Beck and Thurston Moore, as they collaborate on stage with poets Simon Armitage and Don Paterson among others.

Makar Liz Lochhead Says Analytical Approach Is ‘Spoiling’ How Pupils Learn to Love Poetry

Scotland's Makar has launched an attack on how poetry is taught in schools, describing methods as “disgraceful” and blaming the way the subject is examined for putting children off the art form for life. Liz Lochhead said the Scottish Government’s education policy Curriculum for Excellence, which seeks to foster creativity, and the Scottish Qualifications Authority, which sets exam papers, were taking an over-analytical and technical approach that spoiled pupils’ enjoyment.

A Love Poem to Cincinnati Will Take Center Stage at All-Star Game

Two new larger-than-life art installations will put Cincinnatians’ love for their city on full display for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. ArtWorks is teaming up with the Community Organizing Committee and the Cincinnati Reds to add lines from a crowdsourced poem called “Seven Hills and a Queen to Name Them” to the windows of the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the Great American Ball Park retaining wall along Mehring Way.

New Books

Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems by Scott Cairns
[Paperback] Paraclete Press, 320 pp., $30.00

Scott Cairns has carefully preserved every poem he’s ever published that he cares to preserve. He’s also added previously unpublished work, spanning three decades. A careful introduction by Gregory Wolfe and tribute preface by Richard Howard make this the ultimate collection of Cairns’ work.

Prosody: The Meters of Poetry in English by Donald Justice 
[Paperback] Bauhan, 128 pp., $30.00 

Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Justice died in 2004 after a long and distinguished life as a poet and professor. His famous course on prosody is renewed here by two of his former students—David Koehn and Alan Soldofsky—members of the current generation of acclaimed poets. From novice to professional to critic—every poet will benefit from examples and discussion of Justice’s approach to prosody. Supplemental materials include lecture notes for instructors, and exercises based on Justice’s original text.

The Different War by Michael Miller
[Paperback] Truman State University Press, 70 pp., $16.95

Former Marine Michael Miller, who did his tour of duty from 1958 to 1962, compares the struggles of soldiers in the Vietnam conflict with those of soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and juxtaposes soldiers combat experiences with the other war they face when they come home. In The Different War, Miller's sixth poetry collection, the voices of Marines convey with exceptional understatement the sounds of suffering, whether in combat or in recurring dreams of the maimed and the dying: "His eyes closing upon the charred remains / Of what had been his glory." Miller has written well of memories of war, if not his own then surely of imagined memories that could be true.

Fountain and Furnace: Poems by Hadara Bar-Nadav
[Paperback] Tupelo Press, $11.95 

We fill our days with matter and clutter, objects that might disappear inside their particular and necessary function: soap, a wineglass, nightgown, or thumb. Do we truly think about what the bedroom door has witnessed? Or the fountain, with its sculpture of a boy standing naked in a city square? Like Francis Ponge, Gertrude Stein, Seamus Heaney, and Pablo Neruda, Bar-Nadav makes a poetic investigation of objects to illuminate their visceral and playful potential in our lives.

The Only Afterlife: Poems by Marieve Rugo
[Paperback] University of Washington Press, 80 pp., $16.95

Within the framework of history, both personal and international, in The Only Afterlife Mariève Rugo examines memory, love, family, war, and dying. In the end she finds, through the poems, ways to accept and celebrate her life.

Correspondences

A Word With the Typewriter Poet of Bedford Avenue
by Jaime Come

We’re living in a golden age of public typewriters. For one thing, The Typewriter Project, which we first told you about back in April, has finally come to Tompkins Square Park, meaning that through July 19, weekdays from 3pm to 8pm and weekends from noon to 8pm, you can step into the cabin and type a poem that will be shared with the world right here. Meanwhile, for those who have performance anxiety and would rather have someone type a poem for them, there’s Lynn Gentry.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Edward Hirsch

We live in a superficial, media-driven culture that often seems uncomfortable with true depths of feeling. Indeed, it seems as if our culture has become increasingly intolerant of that acute sorrow, that intense mental anguish and deep remorse which may be defined as grief. We want to medicate such sorrow away. We want to divide it into recognizable stages so that grief can be labeled, tamed, and put behind us. But poets have always celebrated grief as one of the deepest human emotions. To grieve is to lament, to mourn, to let sorrow inhabit one’s very being.
Robert Frost liked to distinguish between grievances (complaints) and griefs (sorrows). He even suggested that grievances, which are propagandistic, should be restricted to prose, “leaving poetry free to go its way in tears.” Implicit in poetry is the notion that we are deepened by heartbreaks, that we are not so much diminished as enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish--to let others vanish--without leaving a verbal record. Poetry is a stubborn art. The poet is one who will not be reconciled, who is determined to leave a trace in words, to transform oceanic depths of feeling into the faithful nuances of art.
—from How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry

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Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Norman MacCaig
Ezra Pound
Robert Bridges
Robert Herrick
Nicanor Parra
John Betjeman
Ravikovitch
Mary Jo Salter
Rosario Castellanos
Anne Hebert
Ahmad Shamlou
Donald Davie
Verlaine
Kenneth Fearing
Geoffrey Hill
Sandro Penna
Lorca
Juan Ramon Jimenez
Julia Randall
Emily Dickinson
Gary Snyder
Yannis Ritsos
Robert Penn Warren
Aime Cesaire
Bella Akhmadulina
George Herbert
Louis Simpson
Gerard Malanga
Mahmoud Darwish
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Kostis Palama
Auden
A.M. Klein
David Ignatow
Langston Hughes
Carriera Duke
Jon Stallworthy