Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

January 21, 2014
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1804 – Eliza Roxcy Snow, American poet (d. 1887), is born.
1823 – Cayetano José Rodríguez, Argentine cleric, journalist and poet (b. 1761), dies.
1829 – Oscar II Frederik, King of Sweden (1872-1907)/Norway (-1905)/poet, is born.
1883 – Olav Aukrust, Norway, poet, is born.
1904 – Richard P Blackmur, Mass, critic/poet (Good European), is born.
1939 – Mary Ellen McAnally, Illinois, poet (Dance of the Zygotes), is born.
1974 – Jan Arends, Dutch poet/author, dies at 48.
1977 – Sandro Penna, Italian poet (b. 1906), dies.
1984 – Giannis Skaribas, Greek writer, dramatist, and poet (b. 1893), dies.
2003 – Paul Haines, American-born Canadian poet (b. 1933), dies.

 

Mirage

The wind was in another country, and
the day had gathered to its heart of noon
the sum of silence, heat, and stricken time.
Not a ripple spread. The sea mirrored
perfectly all the nothing in the sky.
We had to walk about to keep our eyes
from seeing nothing, and our hearts from stopping
at nothing. Then most suddenly we saw
horizon on horizon lifting up
out of the sea's edge a shining mountain
sun-yellow and sea-green; against it surf
flung spray and spume into the miles of sky.
Somebody said mirage, and it was gone,
but there I have been living ever since.

–R. P. Blackmur (1904-1965)

World Poetry

Sinéad Morrissey Wins TS Eliot Poetry Prize with David Niven-inspired Poem

Winning the TS Eliot Prize is hardly a matter of life and death. But the film of that name inspired Sinéad Morrissey to pen a collection which finally secured the UK’s most prestigious poetry prize for Belfast’s first poet laureate. On Monday, the Poetry Book Society (PBS) announced that Dr Morrissey, previously shortlisted on three occasions, had won the most lucrative award in British poetry for Parallax, a collection exploring the artificiality of art. Read more at theIndependent.

Juan Gelman, Argentine Poet, 83

Juan Gelman, 83, a renowned Argentine poet and left-wing activist who was awarded the prestigious Cervantes Prize, died Tuesday in Mexico of undisclosed causes. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Wednesday announced three days of mourning in his native country, where writers paid homage to him as one of the most brilliant writers in Spanish of the 20th century. Read more atPhilly.com.

Urdu Poetry Website Reaches 140 Countries

 An Urdu poetry website launched a year ago has a readership in 140 countries and provides access to more than 8,000 ghazals and 1,000 e-books, its promoter said Saturday as he unveiled an enriched version of the site here. "I am happy to say that the website has more than 8,000 ghazals, 700 nazms and 1,000 e-books from across 700 poets," Sanjiv Saraf, an IIT-Kharagpur graduate and entrepreneur whose company is one of the world's largest producers of PET film, said at a function here to commemorate the first anniversary of www.rekhta.org. Read more at Two Circles.

Recent Reviews

Poetry Works Show Alexie at His Best

by Kathryn Smith

Death. Family. Loss. Love. Wealth. Poetry. Spirituality. Genocide. Prejudice. Sherman Alexie’s new poetry collection, “What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned,” demonstrates the National Book Award-winning writer’s ability to tackle big themes, weaving them together in the context of his Indian identity and with his wry, unapologetic sense of humor. And he wastes no time doing it. Read more at Spokesman.

On Kelly Cherry’s The Life and Death of Poetry

The Life and Death of Poetry, is an ambitious title to fulfill, especially in 68 pages of poetry. I could write about how Kelly Cherry manages to achieve this, but instead I want to think about beginnings. I want to mainly focus on how this book of poems opens and then moves, because after my first reading, I wasn’t convinced the current opening poem was the best poem to open the book with. Read more atThe Linebreak.

Writing in the Dark by Richard Caddel: A Quiet Contemplation of Night

by Billy Mills
Sometime in the late 1990s, the poet Richard Caddel got his hands on a PDA – a Psion handheld mobile with a backlit screen – and started to make notes for poems on it at night. He wrote them in the garden of his Durham home and another garden in Japan. The poems that resulted from this experiment form the 2003 collection, Writing in the Dark. These poems are, naturally enough, full of the sights and sounds of night-time – the moon, stars and planets form one thread of imagery that runs through the collection; the songs of nocturnal birds another, along with those other sounds of darkness – traffic, water, trains, hedge crickets and the laughter of girls in the lane behind the house. A third strand consists of images of breath and breathing, the fine thread of life itself. Read more at The Guardian.

Broadsides

Exploding Poems

by Helena Nelson

Sometimes poems are time bombs. You read them, and read them. You think you’ve ‘got’ them, whatever they are. Meaning extracted. Method noted. They’re compressed and filed somewhere in your brain with the rest, making whatever tiny difference they make. Sometimes you even read them a couple of times before discarding them as ‘useless’. They can sit there for decades before they explode. Read more at Happenstance.

Avoidance and Confrontation

by Jon Davis

One of the qualities I admire in Santa Fe poet Dana Levin’s work is her willingness to address difficult issues head on. In “Moo and Thrall,” the speaker of the poem goes looking for coffee and walks straight into a graphic anti-abortion demonstration. Thematically, the poem weighs avoidance and confrontation, the status of rationality and information in an age of spectacle, and women’s rights and the omnipresent patriarchy. It’s a difficult feat Levin accomplishes here, to enter a politicized situation and address the politics of it without slighting the human needs at play. Read more at the SF Reporter.

Whacked Out: A Case for the Advocacy of the Unlisted

by Amy King

I’ve loved poetry since I discovered Gertrude Stein in my first year of college. I didn’t know the poetry world would be such a hotbed of politics. I couldn’t predict that being a poet would make the list of most competitive jobs, ranked at the top with athletes and choreographers. I only initially experienced the pleasure of having the top of my head taken off whenever I read aloud from A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein to my friends on the phone to annoy them. Until one day I finally admitted that I was infatuated with her words gone wrong and was spreading that love with the gusto of a convert. I had found god, and she was literary. Read more at the Poetry Foundation.

Drafts & Framents

Rafael Campo's Student Physicians Embrace Poetry to Hone Art of Healing

Doctor and poet Rafael Campo thinks medical school distances doctor and patient at the cost of human understanding. A possible cure? He uses poetry to help close the gap. Jeffrey Brown and Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey continue to seek "Where Poetry Lives" by visiting Campo's reading and writing workshop for medical students. Read more at the NewsHour.

Video: Liu Xia Reads Her Own Poetry under House Arrest

Liu Xia, a poet and wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been under house arrest since October 2010. PEN received this video, recorded in December 2013, through the Independent Chinese PEN Center and Friends of Liu Xiaobo. Read more at Sampsonia Way.

Poetry In The News

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan Recovering from Bike Crash

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan was recovering in a Marin rehabilitation hospital on Saturday from injuries suffered while riding her bicycle near her home in Fairfax. The Pulitzer Prize winner has a fractured hip socket, broken ribs, one of which punctured a lung, a broken clavicle and a head injury. Read more at Marin News.

U.S. Poet Laureate Visiting Palm Beach Poetry Festival

Thomas Lux has no patience with obscure poetry. “A poem can be complex and richly emotional and still be accessible to any literate reader of goodwill,” he said. If a poem remains unintelligible after two fair hearings, “The fault is with the poet, not the reader.” He knows what he’s talking about. He’s published no fewer than 10 books of poetry and is considered an eminent teacher and rock-star reader. Lux is one of 16 poets featured in the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, which opens Monday and runs through Saturday at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square. Read more atPalm Beach Daily News.

Young Poet’s ‘Shrinking Women’ Goes Viral

Lily Myers intended her poem “Shrinking Women” to be a personal one. But a video of her recital at the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational was posted to the poetry website Button Poetry and to The Huffington Post, where it went viral. With more than 3 million views, it continues to circulate across social media websites. The poem tells the story of women in her family who for generations have been taught to unconsciously shrink while making space for the men in their lives. Read more at Here and Now.

Team Renovating Poet Al Purdy’s Cabin Find Poem Hidden in the Wall

To contractor Matti Kopamees and colleague Rick Lynette, it looked at first like any other handful of rubble. Then the men, who are renovating an A-frame cabin in Ontario’s Prince Edward County that belonged to poet Al Purdy, noticed writing on a piece of paper. They had found a poem. Read more at The Globe and Mail.

Cowboy Poet Mitchell Named Honorary Poet for Nevada’s 150th Birthday Celebration

Elko County cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell is the honorary poet for the state’s 150th birthday celebrations, officials announced Friday. Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, chairman of the Sesquicentennial Commission, said Mitchell will debut a poem, “The Dame Nevada,” he has written about the state’s birthday on Jan. 27 at the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Read more at the Review Journal.

Poet’s Archive Goes to University of Texas

Billy Collins, a former United States poet laureate and the rare poet to send books onto the best-seller list, can now claim another feather in his cap: a sale of his archive to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where his papers will sit beside collections of such greats as E. E. Cummings and T. S. Eliot. They includes dozens of notebooks containing observations, notes, doodles, clippings and extensive drafts of poems, published and unpublished. Read more at the New York Times.
 

New Books

Fullblood Arabian by Osama Alomar

[Paperback] New Directions, 48 pp., $10.95
A prominent practitioner of the Arabic “very short story” (al-qisa al-qasira jiddan), Osama Alomar’s poetic fictions embody the wisdom of Kahlil Gibran filtered through the violent gray absurdity of Assad’s police state. Fullblood Arabian is the first publication of Alomar’s strange, often humorously satirical allegories, where good and evil battle with indifference, avarice, and compassion using striking imagery and effervescent language.

Selected Poems by Nicolas Boileau 

[Paperback] Yale University Press, 82 pp., $16.00
French poet and critic Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636-1711) was by turns venerated (in the eighteenth century) and reviled (in the nineteenth century) as the lawgiver of French classicism. Today critics see his achievement as more varied and complex than the label of classicism allows. This selection of Boileau's poems, translated with spirit and carefully annotated by Burton Raffel, brings the work of Boileau to English-speaking readers for the first time in a generation. Much admired for his wit, Boileau perceived the role of the satirist as the scourge of bad writing and delighted in the notion of 'l'ami du vrai', the brash truth-teller and enemy of humbug, inflation, and equivocation. Raffel's translations, vigorous and engaging, preserve the meaning of Boileau's poems and invite today's reader to enjoy the poet's astute perceptions. Julia Prest's insightful introduction to the volume provides an overview of Boileau's life and achievement.

Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012 by Geoffrey Hill

[Hardcover] Oxford University Press, 650 pp., $39.95
Broken Hierarchies collects twenty books of poems by Geoffrey Hill, written over sixty years, and presents them in their definitive form. Four of these books (Ludo, Expostulations on the Volcano, Liber Illustrium Virorum, and Al Tempo de' Tremuoti) have never before appeared in print, and three of them (Hymns to Our Lady of Chartres, Pindarics, and Clavics) have been greatly revised and expanded.

Poetry of Witness: The Tradition in English, 1500 - 2001 edited by Carolyn Forché  and Duncan Wu 

[Paperback] W. W. Norton, 672 pp., $29.95
A groundbreaking anthology containing the work of poets who have witnessed war, imprisonment, torture, and slavery. A companion volume to Against Forgetting, Poetry of Witness is the first anthology to reveal a tradition that runs through English-language poetry. The 300 poems collected here were composed at an extreme of human endurance—while their authors awaited execution, endured imprisonment, fought on the battlefield, or labored on the brink of breakdown or death. All bear witness to historical events and the irresistibility of their impact. 

Imperial by George Bilgere

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 72 pa., $15.95
In Imperial, George Bilgere’s sixth collection of poetry, he continues his exploration of the beauties, mysteries, and absurdities of being middle-aged and middle-class in mid-America. In poems that range from the Cold War anxieties of the 1950s to the perils and predicaments of an aging Boomer in a post-9/11 world, Bilgere’s rueful humor and slippery syntax become a trapdoor that at any moment can plunge the reader into the abyss. In Bilgere’s world a yo-yo morphs into an emblem for the atomic bomb. A spot of cancer flames into the Vietnam War. And the death of a baseball player reminds us, in this age of disbelief, of the importance—the necessity—of myth.

Orphan by Jan Heller Levi 

[Paperback] Alice James Books, 80 pa., $15.95
Orphan, Jan Heller Levi’s new collection, is an unabashed confrontation with loneliness, otherness, and abandonment. These poems—ancient, immediate, serene, disgruntled, wickedly humorous, unsettlingly earnest—are also daring explorations of what love is. In the new millennium, with so much loss to mourn—and so much more still to lose—Orphancontemplates how “we make our griefs our tools.”

Correspondences

Poet Tarfia Faizullah on Her Upcoming Book, the 1971 Liberation War, and "Our Complicated Histories"

by Pavani Yalamanchili

Tarfia Faizullah’s first book of poetry, “Seam,” centers around a series of poems that she started writing in graduate school. This adept and moving work explores the tragedy of Bangladeshi women raped by the Pakistani Army during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. In 2008, she received Ploughshares’ Cohen Award for her poem “Interview with a Birangona.” Two years later, she received a Fulbright fellowship that allowed her travel to Bangladesh to record the testimonies of “birangonas,” or war heroines. Her work was honored yet again last year when “Seam” received the Crab Orchard Review’s First Book Award. Read more at The Aerogram.

Poetry Profiles: Coffee House Press

by Dana Jennings
The latest in a series of occasional profiles of poetry publishers. These questions were answered by Chris Fischbach, a longtime editor at Coffee House Press who became publisher in 2011.
What book in the last five years do you wish you had published?
Anything by C.D. Wright. Read more at the New York Times.

Behind The Scenes: William Stafford Project

by Kayo Lackey
On the occasion of the centennial of William Stafford’s birth, OPB explores the life and impact of Oregon’s beloved poet laureate through special programs on Oregon Art Beat, State of Wonder and Think Out Loud. Some of the producers who worked on our coverage were new to William Stafford and some had connections with his poetry dating back to grade school. They share with us how the man and the poet impacted their lives. Read more at OPB.

A Poet of “Mindful” Words

by Rajvinder Singh
How does one remember a poet, a friend, who has just been swallowed by the crevice of history, but who had himself created history with his work and enlivened it throughout his active life? Namdeo Laxman Dhasal, the celebrated Marathi poet, a Padma Shri, and a Lifetime Achievement Award winner of the Sahitya Akademi, who has won various battles in life, has lost his ultimate and most precious war against the disease, myasthenia gravis, deteriorated further by a recently detected colorectal cancer. Ever since I met him some 13 years ago, the cage of his illness had been trying hard to stifle the powerful bird of his being and his creativity, but it had not been able to subdue him all these years. Read more at The Hindu.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Howard Nemerov

"I would hold that there is, in addition to the emotions dealt with by poetry, an emotion of poetry and alone proper to it, a rhythmic or patterned exaltation with takes up and transforms its complex material of feelings and objects, making them dance in a different and noneditorial world, of which, despite the seriousness and sadness of its themes, the dominating traits are gaiety, energy, and control. The wild civility of that other world it is the distinction of poetry to discover or invent, skill at making metaphors (Aristotle) and melodiousness (Coleridge) being but means to this invention or discovery, or particular signs by which its presence may be known." —from "A Wild Civility" in Poetry and Fiction
 

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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
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Geoffrey Hill
Sandro Penna
Lorca
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Julia Randall
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Auden
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Carriera Duke
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