Poetry News In Review
1635 – Lope Felix de Vega, playwright/poet (Angelica, Arcadia), dies at 72.
1849 – Manuel Acuna, Mexican poet (Nocturno), is born.
1870 – Amado Nervo, [Juan C Ruiz de Nervo], Mexican writer/poet, is born.
1903 – Xavier Villaurrutia, Mexican poet (Nocturno de los Angeles), is born.
1924 – David Rowbotham, Australian poet, is born.
2009 – Sergey Mikhalkov, Russian writer and poet (b. 1913), dies.
Death is all this and more that encircles us,
and brings us together, pulls us apart,
and finally leaves us confused, startled, hanging,
with a wound that doesn't bleed.
Then, only then, both of us alone know
that it is not love, but darkened death
that makes us look, face and face in each other's eyes,
and reach and come together, more than alone and stranded,
still more, and each time more, even still.
—from “Nocturne: The Bedroom” by Xavier Villaurrutia (1903–1950)
Secrets of Beowulf Revealed: Relics Discovered at Danish Feasting Hall which Featured in Britain's Oldest Epic Poem
The real-life medieval society which spawned the epic poem Beowulf is coming to light in a series of ground-breaking discoveries centred around the royal court of sixth-century Denmark. The poem, one of the oldest literary works written in English, tells the story of how the hero Beowulf defeats the monster Grendel, who has been terrorising the royal hall of Heorot. The fiend is attracted to the court by the sound of feasting - and excavations in the area thought to have inspired the poem have revealed that it did indeed host feasts on an epic scale. Archaeologists are currently working in on a site in Lejre, in eastern Denmark, which was the centre of one of the most powerful Viking kingdoms from the sixth to the 10th century. Read more at the Daily Mail.
By David Orr
The audience for poetry is like a vastly reduced version of the audience for college football — superstitious, gossipy and divided into factions no less fervent for having only an occasional idea of what’s going on outside their own campuses. It’s a hard crowd to write for, and the critic who sets himself up as a color commentator inevitably struggles to find a style that can please Peter without needlessly riling up Paul. Read more at the New York Times.
Robert Wrigley's Anatomy of Melancholy and Other Poems
by Ben Evans
One asks that a poet's linguistic command be equal to the task of their vision. Robert Wrigley regards the world with unrelenting wonder and his precision with language surpasses the surgical. One can ask for little else. Anatomy of Melancholy and Other Poems is Wrigley's ninth book of poetry in a career that has spanned 35 years and garnered him the Poets' Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award and six Pushcart Prizes, among other honors. Despite the precedence given to the title poem (which refers to 17-century scholar Robert Burton's book of the same name), Wrigley's new collection is not overly preoccupied with sorrow. This is a poet with a big heart and an athletic imagination, neither of which would be content, or naive enough, to constrain their focus to melancholia. Read more at the Huffington Post.
Exploring Simic’s Monumental Poetic Output
by Sonja James
Charles Simic's monumental poetry collection, New and Selected Poems 1962-2012, offers a comprehensive look at Simic's prolific poetic output. After reading just one Simic poem, the reader is transported to an alternate universe where the surreal transforms the ordinary everyday world into the comprehensible fiction of beauty unmasked. As we continue to read, we are able to see the world as we have never seen it before. Simic is both a master poet and a cosmic eccentric, and the combination of these two identities enables the poet to gift us with an experience so uniquely necessary that we are sorry to turn the final page of this very hefty book. Read more at the Journal-News.
Eat, Drink, Recite in the Wales Home of Poet Dylan Thomas
by Michael Shapiro
"This is not a museum," says Annie Haden, the vivacious Dylan Thomas enthusiast who has restored the poet's childhood home in Swansea, an industrial city on the south coast of Wales. "I'm the oldest thing in this house!" At about 60, Annie, who tells me to call her by her first name, is displaying some Welsh hyperbole — she's hardly the oldest thing in this loving memorial to Wales' best-loved English-language poet. There's a typewriter from the 1920s, colorful drawings based on phrases from Thomas' poetry, antique copper kettles, even oblong filament light bulbs that look like something fashioned by Thomas Edison. Read more at Heritage.
On the Importance of Taking Sides
When Joyelle and I started Action Books one of the first things we did was write some manifestos about poetry and poetics (about translation, deformation, the gothic etc). We wanted to not only generate a discussion that interested us and that dealt with work we loved (work which was not being published or discussed), but we also wanted to be honest. We hated how so many presses would claim to publish “the best of any style,” setting themselves up as neutral observers, as if their evaluation of what was “the best of any style” wasn’t a style, a point of view hidden beneath the cool veneer of rational and discerning judgment For all his flaws, one hugely important result of Ron Silliman’s blogging is that he made clear that everybody had an aesthetic, made clear that even that “neutral” aesthetic was an aesthetic. Read more at Montevidayo.
Freedom in Poetry
by Robert Pinsky
There are no rules. Or, you can modify that rule by observing that each work of art generates its own unique rules. Consider the exchanges in Frank O’Hara’s poem “Why I Am Not a Painter.” O’Hara sees that his friend Mike Goldberg is working on a painting that contains the letters sardines. “You have sardines in it,” says the poet. “Yes, it needed something there,” the painter responds in O’Hara’s poem: “It needed something there.” After a time, O’Hara returns to the studio, the painting has been finished. “Where’s sardines?” asks the poet, seeing that “All that’s left is just / letters.” “‘It was too much,’ Mike says.” Impulses, swerves, collisions, flights, descents, gags, indirections, surprises, exploding cigars, non sequiturs: all are allowed or encouraged, and all in some sense begin to create their own principles. There are no rules, but uniformity in art can make it feel as though there are rules: the more unconscious or unperceived (as with widely accepted fashions), the more confining. Read more at the Poetry Foundation.
Drafts & Framents
The NSA, Spying, and Your Love Poems
Late Friday, the Journal reported that National Security Agency officers on several occasions have channeled their agency’s enormous eavesdropping power to spy on love interests. The practice isn’t frequent — one official estimated a handful of cases in the last decade — but it’s common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT. The story created a stir on Twitter, with two related hashtags gaining traction. First, #NSAlovepoems, and also #NSAromcom, for story pitches. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.
Poetry In The News
Man Apologizes for Stealing Poet’s Bust from Wichita State in 1987
Mitchel Potter admits he stole a bronze bust of American poet Robert Frost from Wichita State University in 1987. Back then, he was a 19-year-old fraternity pledge, he said, aided by alcohol and adolescence. In retrospect, he said, he should have left the sculpture alone. If he had, there would have been no consequences and no 25-year-old crime. Read more at the Wichita Eagle.
Pretty by Ahren Warner
[Paperback] Bloodaxe Books Ltd, 80 pp., $22.95
Ahren Warner's second collection of poems opens with the sequence Lutce, te amo: a raw paean to the Paris it inhabits that offers both adoration and horror in equal measure. Elsewhere, London `licks and laps'; an anonymous man `works his bones with a micro-plane'; and translations of Baudelaire and Kojve rub shoulders with Kurt Cobain. More capricious, fleshy, and darker than Warner's previous work, Pretty culminates in ""Nervometer"": thirteen poems hovering between a collage, translation, and performance of Antonin Artaud's Le Pse-nerfs, which bring Pretty to a beautifully ugly end.
Failure and I Bury the Body by Sasha West
[Paperback] Harper Perennial, 128 pp., $15.99
In Failure and I Bury the Body, selected by D. Nurkse for the National Poetry Series, Sasha West calls upon the tradition of medieval allegory to speak to modern anxieties. Haunted by a melting Antarctica and the tragedies of the twentieth century, the narrator and the character of Failure take a road trip through the Southwestern desert. Before long, the Corpse, an inescapable passenger, joins them. As the narrator and Failure attempt to rid themselves of his body, the linked poems investigate desire, extinction, and the made world.
Modernist Women Poets: An Anthology edited by Robert Hass and Paul Ebenkamp
[Hardcover] Counterpoint, 208 pp., $24.00
The 20th century was a time of great change, particularly in the arts, but seldom explored were the female poets of that time. Robert Hass and Paul Ebenkamp have put together a comprehensive anthology of poetry featuring the poems of Gertrude Stein, Lola Ridge, Amy Lowell, Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven, Adelaide Crapsey, Angelina Weld Grimke, Anne Spencer, Mina Loy, Hazel Hall, Hilda Doolittle, Marianne Moore, Djuna Barnes, and Hildegarde Flanner. With an introduction from Hass and Ebenkamp, as well as detailed annotation through out to guide the reader, this wonderful collection of poems will bring together the great female writers of the modernist period as well as deconstruct the language and writing that surfaced during that period.
Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire by Brenda Hillman
[Hardcover] Wesleyan, 132 pp., $22.95
Fire —its physical, symbolic, political, and spiritual forms—is the fourth and final subject in Brenda Hillman's masterful series on the elements. Her previous volumes—Cascadia, Pieces of Air in the Epic, Practical Water—have addressed earth, air, and water. Here, Hillman evokes fire as metaphor and as event to chart subtle changes of seasons during financial breakdown, environmental crisis, and street movements for social justice; she gathers factual data, earthly rhythms, chants to the dead, journal entries, and lyric fragments in the service of a radical animism. In the polyphony of Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, the poet fuses the visionary, the political, and the personal to summon music and fire at once, calling the reader to be alive to the senses and to re-imagine a common life.
The Forage House by Tess Taylor
[Paperback] Red Hen Press, 88 pp., $17.95
Attic boxes full of shards. Family stories full of secrets. A grandchild wondering what to save and what to throw away seeks to make sense of what it means to inherit anything at all. In The Forage House, the speaker unravels a rich and troubling history. Some of her ancestors were the Randolph Jeffersons, one of Virginia’s most prominent slaveholding families. Some were New England missionaries. Some were dirt-poor Appalachians. And one was the brilliant, controversial Thomas Jefferson. Shuttling between legend and story, history and family tale, these poems visit cluttered attics, torn wills, and marked and unmarked graves. Working alongside historians and archaeologists, Taylor unearths buttons, pipes, and the accidental rubble of a busy state building its new freeway.
Anne Waldman on Her Book, Gossamurmur, and Keeping the World Safe for Poetry
by Robin Edwards
It was the urgency of preserving art that inspired Anne Waldman's newest book. The visionary poet, activist, and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University was working on transferring the school's collection of fragile tapes of performances by artists like John Cage, Allen Ginsberg, and Diane di Prima to an online archive to preserve them for future generations when she got the idea to write Gossamurmur, which explores ideas of repression of historical memory through sci-fi imagery. Read more at Westword.
Poet of the Week: Michael Dumanis
Michael Dumanis is the author of the poetry collection My Soviet Union (University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), winner of the Juniper Prize for Poetry. He is also the co-editor (with poet Cate Marvin) of the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande, 2006) and (with poet Kevin Prufer) of the volume Russell Atkins: On the Life & Work of an American Master (Pleaides, 2013). Formerly a professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University and Cleveland State University (where he served as Director of the CSU Poetry Center), he teaches literature and creative writing at Bennington College and divides his time between Vermont and Brooklyn. Read more at Brooklyn Poets.
Envoi: Editor's Notes
Poetry Magazine’s July/August Issue
by Alexander Landfair
The latest issue of Poetry features 33 poems by 21 poets, two-thirds of whom are male. The longest poem, James Logenback’s “Allegory” is 572 words long, while the shortest poem, Fanny Howe’s “Yellow Goblins,” has only 30 words. This issue’s average poem has 166 words, though poems by females average about 15 words shorter. The average Poetry poem has 24 lines, each having about seven words per line. Of flora, this issue contains elk-sedge, pine, rosewood, wheat, conifers, more wheat, clover, more conifers, a fern, a cedar, a fir, a Lodgepole, a blue spruce, an iris, evergreens, and plenty of plain old grass. Read more at Sharkpack Poetry Review.
I just got the September issue in the mail this afternoon. I now have my work cut out for me.