Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

April 2, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1713 – Onno Zwier van Haren, Frisian poet (Fatherland), is born.

1788 – Francisco Balagtas, Filipino poet (d. 1862), is born.

1884 – Sir John Squire, British poet, writer, and historian (d. 1958)), is born.

1925 – George MacDonald Fraser, poet/author (Flashman at the Charge), is born.

1945 – Anne Waldman, American poet, is born.

The audience wants to cry

      when the actors are real & passionate

            Look into footlight, then feed back to eye

You fluctuate in an artful body

      You try to imitate the world’s glory

            Art begins with a lie

                  That’s the story, sharp speck in the eye.

—from “The Lie” by Anne Waldman

World Poetry

Outback Students Gather for Junior Bush Poetry Festival

Children from across outback Queensland meet today for one of Australia's biggest junior bush poetry festivals. Aspiring student performers are at Winton, north-west of Longreach, for the 18th Waltzing Matilda Bush Poetry Festival. Coordinator Louise Dean says there are fewer students travelling this year but bush poetry is still relevant for young people. "Australian bush poetry is known for its rhyme and rhythm, so it is easy to learn," she said. "It's the storytelling from a long time ago." Read more at ABC News.

Recent Reviews

The Place of Love

Robert Kelly & Contemporary American Poetry

by Jordan Reynolds

It would be a disservice to Robert Kelly’s virtuosity to label him as a certain kind of poet who writes a certain kind of poem. Instead, it is instructive to investigate his work as kindred to his contemporaries. Of the kind of poetry he writes, Kelly finds good company with a poet of similarly enormous stature, Charles Olson. Inside of Olson’s breath, on the space of his reaching pages, the place of the poem is investigated, resolved, questioned. The poem and the poet are moored by the body and the breath to the very moment of the poem just as a shadow is moored to the ground. Read more at Rain Taxi.

The Letters of TS Eliot, Volume 4: 1928-1929

by Denis Donoghue

The years 1928 and 1929 were not among the most dramatic of Eliot’s life. No episode in them was as bold as Eliot’s baptism into the Church of England, “the church as by Law established," on June 29th, 1927, and his confirmation the following day. His announcement, in the preface to For Lancelot Andrewes (1928), that his “general point of view” could be described as “classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion” was news only to inattentive readers. Eliot did not wait to be instructed by one of his sages, TE Hulme, that people are divisible into two groups: those who believe in original sin and those (with their master, Rousseau) who don’t. Read more at Irish Times.

Broadsides

In the Wilds of Leopardi

by Tim Parks

I’m starting a translation, my first for many years, and at once I’m faced with the fatal, all-determining decision: What voice do I translate this in? Usually one would say: the same voice as the original’s, as you hear it in the Italian and imagine it in English. This would be along the line of Dryden’s famous injunction to translators to write as the author would write if he were English—a rather comical idea since we are interested in the author largely because he comes from elsewhere and does not write like an Englishman. In any event, this text is a special case. I’m translating a selection of entries from Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone. This is a book all Italians know from school and almost nobody has read in its entirety. Read mord at New York Review of Books.

A “pomenvylope” by Nicholas Moore

by Martin Sorrell

Peter Riley has given a moving account1 of a visit he made in 1984 to a remarkable fellow-poet, once esteemed but by then neglected. Two years before Nicholas Moore died on 26 January 1986 at the age of sixty-seven, Riley went to see him at his address in St Mary Cray, where Kent drifts into London. Since 1948, Moore had been living in a nondescript maisonette on Oakdene Road. I’ve taken a look round the area on Google, and it’s about as unpoetic as it gets. Read more at Fortnightly Review.

“Boris Pasternak” by Anna Akhmatova

by James Crews

Born Anna Gorenko to a wealthy family in Odessa in 1889, Akhmatova was made to adopt a pen name by her father, who cautioned her against shaming the family name by becoming a “decadent poetess”. Yet her first two collections of poetry, Evening (1912) and Rosary(1914), won her instant critical acclaim and popularity. Along with the poets Nikolay Gumilev (Akhmatova’s first husband), Osip Mandelstam and Sergey Gorodetsky, Akhmatova founded the Acmeist school of writing, which emphasized concreteness and craft over the vague, more ephemeral concerns of the Symbolist movement. Read more at the TLS.

“Cool winds wash down your hope, and you slipped…”

by Jeff Sypeck

When I was teaching, and books like Beowulf and The Faerie Queene hove into view, my students gamely kicked around a question: Does America have an epic? Lonesome Dove. The Godfather. Roots. Each book or movie they floated was a lengthy, multigenerational take on an ethnic or regional experience. Other students brought up Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, and one of them argued, with rare passion, for Stephen King’s Dark Tower/Gunslinger series. In the end, no one was satisfied. Ours, they sighed, is an epic-less nation. But if we don’t currently have an epic, the people who will live here someday may. That’s the premise of Marly Youmans’ eerie and beautiful Thaliad, a 24-book poem about seven children who survive a fiery apocalypse—and how one of them becomes the founding matriarch of a lakeside tribe in upstate New York. Red more at Quidplura.

Drafts & Framents

Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir’s Performance Based on Octavio Paz Poem (VIDEO)

Composer and conductor Eric Whitacre has inspired millions by bringing together “virtual choirs,” singers from many countries spliced together on video. Now, for the first time ever, he creates the experience in real time, as 32 singers from around the world Skype in to join an onstage choir (assembled from three local colleges) for an epic performance of Whitacre’s “Cloudburst,” based on a poem by Octavio Paz. Read more at Hispanically Speaking News.

Poetry In The News

Daniel G. Hoffman, 89, Former Poet Laureate

Daniel G. Hoffman, 89, longtime Swarthmore resident, professor at Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, and onetime U.S. poet laureate, died Saturday at the Quadrangle independent living facility in Haverford. He was remembered fondly by students and fellow poets around the world as his latest book of poems was just being published. Read more at Philly.com. See New Books below.

New Books

Westerly by Will Schutt 

[Paperback] Yale University Press, 80 pp., $18.00

"Will Schutt's Westerly takes on nothing less than, on the one hand, the ways in which we, the living, both late and soon, make our stumbling way westward, mostly oblivious to the fact of mortality and, on the other hand, how the dead make their resonant way back to us, sometimes as memory, sometimes as guide directing us toward and through the inevitable. . . . This is a book of uncommon wisdom. . . . Its poems sustain me.  They give me hope - which may very well be, among gifts, the one we need most."—Carl Phillips

Next to Last Words: Poems by Daniel Hoffman

[Paperback] Louisiana State University Press, 88 pp., $16.95

For sixty years Daniel Hoffman has drawn on a lifetime of experiences to engage readers with his powerful imagination. The poems in Next to Last Words illuminated by the poet's unique vision and leavened by touches of humor continue this tradition. Equally skilled in formal and free verse, Hoffman explores our place in the cosmos, our kinship with nature, the violent world in which we must live, and the intense love and grief common to everyone s life.

Silverchest: Poems by Carl Phillips

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 80 pp., $23.00

In Silverchest, his twelfth book, Carl Phillips considers how our fears and excesses, the damage we cause both to others and to ourselves, intentional and not, can lead not only to a kind of wisdom but also to renewal, maybe even joy, if we’re willing to commit fully to a life in which “I love you / means what, exactly?” In poems shot through with his signature mix of eros, restless energy, and moral scrutiny, Phillips argues for the particular courage it takes to look at the self squarely—not with judgment but with understanding—and extend that self more honestly toward others. It’s a risk, there’s a lot to lose, but if it’s true that “we’ll drown anyway— why not / in color?”

Elegy Owed by Bob Hicok

[Hardcover] Copper Canyon Press, 120 pp., $22.00

Gritty, complicated, and earnest, Elegy Owed breaks—then salvages—the rules for mourning. While poet Bob Hicok remembers the departed as ephemera or skin cells, fog is invited to tea and the beauty of dandelion fluff is held for ransom. Hicok's language is so humid with expectation and fearlessness that his poems create a clandestine manual to survival.

You Good Thing by Dara Wier

[Paperback] Wave Books, 64 pp., $16.00

Dara Wier's loose sonnets insist on a living language in the face of death, cycling and vibrant as the water that runs through them. "This anti-elegy, both reverent and funny, anticipates the funny reverence that Wier finds, makes up, and sustains throughout her decades of subsequent writing."—Jacket Magazine

Correspondences

Elena Buixaderas: A Spanish Poet in Prague

by David Vaughan

At a crossroads in Europe, the Czech capital has always been an international city and has attracted writers from many parts of the world. But, despite the rich historical links between the two countries going back to the 16th century and beyond, we would not normally associate modern Prague with Spain. One person who has been building literary Spanish-Czech bridges for the best part of two decades is the Prague based Spanish poet, Elena Buixaderas. She is David Vaughan’s guest in Czech Books. Read more at Radio Praha.

Interview: Al Alvarez

by Ted Hodgkinson

Al Alvarez is a critic, essayist and poet whose many books include his study of suicide, The Savage God, which explores his relationship with Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and his own failed suicide attempt, The Biggest Game in Town, about his passion for poker, Feeding the Rat, on climbing, Where Did It All Go Right?, a memoir, and most recently, Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal. This latest book is a luminous and funny account of his daily trips to the Hampstead pond, and how the cold water miraculously, if only temporarily, halts the ageing process. Here he spoke to Granta’s Ted Hodgkinson about how boarding school gave him a taste for pitting himself against the unknown, why Beckett was wrong about old age and how time – and writing a journal – has changed his opinion of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Read more at Granta.

On the Record with Charles Wright, Famous American Poet from Tennessee

by Collin Segura 

Vox sat down with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Charles Wright, considered one of the greatest American poets of his time. Wright will be speaking at Georgetown on Tuesday, Mar. 26 at 8 p.m. in Copley Formal Lounge. I’ve read a lot about that “magical day” in Italy when you first discovered [Ezra] Pound, as well as the influences you explored after this discovery. But I was wondering if you could speak more about what you were studying in your college years, and what you were trying to write about at the time. Read more at Georgetown Voice.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Spelling Champ Writes Amazing Thank You Poem to Scripps National Bee

by Lauren Williamson

Local kid-hero Alia Abiad wrote a poem incorporating all the words she spelled correctly during her victory at the Suburban Cook County Spelling Bee. Those who know Alia Abiad are already well aware that she’s brilliant with words—the McClure seventh-grader qualified last month for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But now we’ve discovered that Alia is a poet, as well. Read more at Western Springs Patch.

I remember having used my spelling words in a poem when I was in elementary school. I have nothing on this girl. Take a look at the poem she wrote. Where do those rhythms come from? The voice? And beyond "the poetry," the sense of self?

—David Sanders

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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
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Julia Randall
Emily Dickinson
Gary Snyder
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Aime Cesaire
Bella Akhmadulina
George Herbert
Louis Simpson
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Mahmoud Darwish
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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Auden
A.M. Klein
David Ignatow
Langston Hughes
Carriera Duke
Jon Stallworthy