Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

December 17, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1800 – Gergely Czuczor, Hung/Czech poet/translator (Great Hung dictionary), is born.
1807 – John Greenleaf Whittier, US, poet (Snow-bound), is born.
1916 – Antoine G T "Toon" Hermans, Dutch entertainer/poet (Kolderliedjes), is born.
1933 – Paul Snoek, [Edm Schietekat], Belgian poet, is born.

 

the day broke open 
like an oyster shell 
I saw the white pearl 
of the light 
and what the light lays bare. 

—from “Georgia” by Paul Snoek

World Poetry

Poetry for Peace

South Asian Poetry Festival For Peace 2013 kicked off on December 7 at the beautiful setting of Basantapur Durbar Square and it was witnessed by a huge crowd. On the first day of the two-day long festival, the venue resounded with beautiful poems and appreciation by audience in the form of applause. Before reciting her poems, one of the poets in the festival, Greta Rana expressed, “Pen is a mightier weapon that records the current events or happenings creating history and informing about past actions. Pen in our hands helps to create peace and justice.” She recited four poems in English that had women as central theme. And Rita Limbu read the Nepali translations of her poems. It was followed by another poet Prakash Subedi who recited five poems with war as theme. Peace, struggle of life, poets’ feeling while writing a poem et cetera were other themes. Read more at The Himalayan Times.

Turkish Poet Sezai Karakoc's Poems to Be Translated to Bosnian

Turkey’s great contemporary poet and thinker Sezai Karakoc met with Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national poet Jemaleddin Latic in his office in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district. It was said that in the meeting, which lasted about one hour, Latic asked Karakoc’s permission to translate his works into the Bosnian language. The Islamic theology academician and writer of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s national anthem, Jemaleddin Latic, admitted that he had been a fan of Sezai Karakoc’s work since his youth, expressing his belief that Karakoc was not only Turkey’s most important poet, but the most important living poet in the entire Muslim world. With that, he thanked Karakoc for giving him the pleasure of his company. Read more at the World Bulletin.

NBHF to Host Folk Poetry Evenings

The third National Built Heritage Forum (NBHF) which begins on Sunday in Madinah will host for the first time folk poetry evenings on the Kingdom’s architectural heritage. “The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is organizing for the first time a poetic event to celebrate the architectural heritage of Saudi Arabia through the forum programs with the participation of the most prominent poets of folk and classical poetry,” a statement issued by SCTA on Saturday said. Read more at Arab News.

Yahya Hassan's Attacker Found Guilty

The convicted terrorist Isaac Meyer was today found guilty of assaulting the poet Yahya Hassan in Copenhagen Central Station in November. Hassan is known for his poetry that condemns the behaviour of some immigrants and Muslims who live in ghettos. He has re-ignited a national debate on immigration, and his poems resulted in racism charges being filed against him earlier this month. Hassan originally claimed that Meyer called him a “non-believer” as he attacked Hassan from behind, but the poet told the court today that he couldn’t remember very much of the assault. Read more at the Copenhagen Post.

Recent Reviews

Lines of Defense by Stephen Dunn

by Damon Marbut
Lines of Defense, the newest book of poems from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stephen Dunn, demonstrates the staying power of his art. It is presented in four parts, but with a careful read seems to be comprised of three driving forces: tutorial, story and stunning stand-alone lines. Read more at The Rumpus.

Hymn for the Black Terrific

by Ray McDaniel
Hymn for the Black Terrific is three tiny books bound together. The first section, “Oiseau Rebelle,” is as close as Petrosino comes to a miscellany, in that its poems don’t bear an obvious relationship to each other; the second section, “Mulattress,” is a ten-poem showcase of her manipulation of select lines from that gifted hypocrite Thomas Jefferson; the third, “Turn Back Your Head & There Is The Shore,” depicts the attentions of “the eater,” a figural stand-in for the very gifts of appetite and attention altogether. Three tiny books bound together. Does that sound dismissive? It shouldn’t. Read more at Constant Critic.

Nikki Giovanni Mixes It Up in "Chasing Utopia"


by David L. Ulin
“A poem is not so much read as navigated,” Nikki Giovanni writes in “Chasing Utopia” (Morrow: 144 pp., $19.99). “We go from point to point discovering a new horizon, a shift of light or laughter, an exhilaration of newness that we had missed before. Even familiar, or perhaps especially familiar, poems bring the excitement of first nighters, first encounters, first love … when viewed and reviewed.” That’s a pretty good description of what Giovanni is up to in this book, which is marked by her signature blend of toughness and accessibility, engagement in the private and the public sphere. At the same time, she is doing something different here, mixing prose and poetry to create what she calls “A Hybrid,” a collection that blurs the lines of content and form. Read more at the LA Times.

The Collected Poems of W. S. Merwin

by Paterick James Dunagan
Publication of John Ashbery’s Collected Poems in 2008 came as a surprising inclusion in the Library of America series. He is after all, unlike those poets before him to have the same honor, still alive and actively publishing new work. Yet that surprise was outmatched this year with the LOA publication of W.S. Merwin’s Collected Poems. While the Ashbery Collected leaves off including any collections of his poems published after 1987, the Merwin Collected is a two volume set: 1952-1993 followed by 1996-2011. This is the case, although Merwin like Ashbery continues to be quite alive and active (both poets were born in 1927). Merwin’s latest collection of poems, Shadow of Sirius came out in 2008, he was U.S. Poet laureate in 2010, and this year has won the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award. In addition, both his Selected Translations along with the Collected Haiku of Buson just appeared this year from Copper Canyon Press. Read more at The Rumpus.

New Translation of "Iliad" Showcases Homer’s Prowess with Language of the Gods

by Arlice Davenport
Each year, tourists who make their way to Athens heave themselves to the top of the Acropolis, the highest point in the city, where they stagger forward, winded and windswept, only to wind up disappointed that the Parthenon, the greatest temple of ancient Greece, sits surrounded by scaffolding, cranes and a seemingly endless disarray of marble fragments. Perched halfway between heaven and earth, the Parthenon looms perennially unfinished, forever reaching toward but failing to grasp the glory of its past. Its restoration never ends.
Much the same can be said of the “Iliad.” Read more at the Wichita Eagle.

Poetry by Austin Smith and Robin Robertson

by Lucy Burns
Austin Smith’s debut collection with the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets is an impressive testament to rural life in north-western Illinois. Almanac is arranged concentrically around the family dairy farm and the surrounding landscape, reaching as far as Virginia, South Dakota and Nazi Germany. Smith manages to plot an impossible chain of events on the Midwest landscape: there is a sense that the ‘Nazi Soldier with a Book in His Pants’ or Emmet Gowin’s photographs (‘Nancy and Dwayne, Danville, Virginia, 1970′) are having some sort of real time or retroactive effect on Smith and the farm. At the centre of all this, is a sense of Smith’s mission or responsibility to continue to return to this landscape–either literally, geographically–or by plotting wormholes around it. Read more at The Manchester Review.

Broadsides

Ten Things Successful Poets Do

by David Biespiel
Over on Lifehack, there’s one of those smarmy little lists to help you better yourself called 10 Things Positive People Don’t Do. Enjoy. Reading it got me thinking. What are 10 things successful poets do? It’s not like there’s a special pill you can take. It’s not like you can take control of every poem and improve it. It’s not like you can improve the art of poetry. I mean, looking at the sexy photo on that Lifehack page, we all should admit that writing a poem is not like wearing a red, low cut halter in a summer rain shower. Is it? Check out these and weigh in below with your observations about what successful poets do. Read more at The Rumpus.

Last Words

by Sven Birkerts 
I was in the last days of a family vacation in a house on a lake in northern Vermont when I got the news that Seamus Heaney had died. It was 30 August, not in the ‘dead of winter’, as when W B Yeats, his predecessor as greatest living Irish poet, had died, also at age 74. In his great poem on that loss, W H Auden had written ‘Let the Irish vessel lie/ Emptied of its poetry.’ Yeats died in January of 1939. Heaney was born in April of that year and, remarkably, the vessel was refilled.  Read more at the Aeon.

What Is a Poem?

by Mark Yakich 
When I used to ask students what a poem is, I would get answers like “a painting in words,” or “a medium for self-expression,” or “a song that rhymes and displays beauty.” None of these answers ever really satisfied me, or them, and so for a while I stopped asking the question. Then one time, I requested that my students bring in to class something that had a personal meaning to them. With their objects on their desks, I gave them three prompts: first, to write a paragraph about why they brought in the item; second, to write a paragraph describing the item empirically, as a scientist might; and third, to write a paragraph in the first-person from the point-of-view of the item. The first two were warm-ups. Above the third paragraph I told them to write “Poem.” Read more at The Atlantic.

Drafts & Framents

Which Poet Are You?

Which poet are you?

Which Poetic Form Are You?

Choose the answers below that best suit you. You can make multiple selections for a single question. If you really can't find an answer that suits you, simply don't select any.

Poetry In The News

Right at Home: On John Ashbery’s Hudson House and Its Collections

In the mid-1970s, John Ashbery was in search of a house to buy, one to retreat to on weekends as certain overworked New Yorkers fantasize they must, a place to keep his books. Then, in 1978, approaching the exterior of a sleepily distinguished Victorian-era house plunked down near the center of Hudson, New York—Ashbery turned to the real estate agent (before even entering the house) and exclaimed, “I’ll take it!” Read more at Coldfront.

Poetry in Motion — Heaney's Work Set for TV

A new translation by Seamus Heaney — one of his final works — is to become a major television event in the new year. The late Nobel laureate had finished translating the work of the medieval Scots poet Robert Henryson before his sudden death in August. The work makes up the programme which is to be called 'Five Fables'. They are to be narrated by another, more modern, Scottish legend, Billy Connolly and the music has been composed by Barry Douglas. Read more at the Independent.

New Books

The Moons of August by Danusha Lameris

[Paperback] Autumn House Press, 96 pp., $17.95 
Danusha Laméris writes with definitive, savoring power in perfectly well-weighted lines and scenes. Her poems strike deeply, balancing profound loss and new finding, employing a clear eye, a way of being richly alive with appetite and gusto, and a gift of distilling experience to find its shining core. Don t miss this stunning first book. --Naomi Shihab Nye 

Heaven from Steam:Poems by Carol Light 

[Paperback] Able Muse Press, 108 pp., $18.95 
Carol Light’s Heaven from Steam, a finalist for the 2012 Able Muse Book Award, moves effortlessly from the humorous to the serious, from mundane concerns to sublime. She writes as convincingly of carnal pleasures as of spiritual mysteries. Light’s playful energy is imbued with pleasing rhythms and sonic patterns. With surprising wordplay and associations, she renders complex vistas as understandable simplicities, finds fresh, inventive turns of phrase that will remain with the reader. Her multifarious themes include questions of faith, divorce, childbearing, cathedrals, the Pacific Northwest, the Prairies, Italy—especially Rome—and beyond. This visionary debut collection will delight the discerning lover of poetry.

Enchantee by Angie Estes

[Paperback] Oberlin College Press, 80 pp., $15.95
Angie Estes' previous book, Tryst (also from Oberlin College Press), was named one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, as "a collection of poems remarkable for its variety of subjects, array of genres and nimble use of language." Her much-anticipated new book is another glittering demonstration of her gifts.

Lost and  by Jeff Griffin

[Paperback] University of Iowa Press 170 pp., $20.00 
Lost and is both a chronicle of Griffin’s obsessive journeying and a portal into a world of dispossessed people and enduring desires. At the core of the work is a collection of poems, mostly handwritten and composed without pretense to literary sophistication, that give direct expression to the abiding impulse to tap language’s transformative potential. Assembled with deep regard for the dignity of its collective group of anonymous authors, Lost and is a book of profound conceptual originality—an engrossing, shocking, and tender work of art that strives to awaken voices from the wilderness of the inexpressible.

Freak Show by Valerie Bandura

[Paperback] Black Lawrence Press, 65 pp., $11.95
Valerie Bandura's clean, crafted, headlong-into-the-breach poems are scary in their intensity. They are full of the violence of history, and Europe, and family, and motherhood, and bodies, and fate. Reader, there is a little of hell in them, and a ferocious desire for truth, which is to say, their speaker is engaged is the brave, sometimes appalling struggle to turn into a human being. Freak Show is a terrific book."—Tony Hoagland

Correspondences

The Rumpus Interview with Maureen Seaton

by Julie Marie Wade
A few years ago for my birthday, my partner Angie gave me a coffee grinder and a copy of Maureen Seaton’s memoir, Sex Talks to Girls. By this time, I was already an avid coffee drinker and also an avid reader of Seaton’s poems. Neither habit seemed likely to diminish, but perhaps Angie imagined there was room for these habits to grow, to expand. As with most other things, she was right. When I began to grind the beans myself, my half-conscious preparation of morning coffee evolved into something resembling a ritual. I took new care with the process, and if I hadn’t been fully awake before, the sound of the grinder jolted me to a fuller—one might even say a poetic—state of awareness. Now I never appreciate a cup of coffee as much as when I have seen it through from a bag of promising beans to a full pot of dark, steaming liquid. Read more at The Rumpus.

European Poetry Forum

Why did we do it?
Because we believe there is a great number of poets across Europe (and beyond) worth listening to and the platform could become a unique way of communing for their voices that would otherwise not necessarily meet or reach broader audiences internationally. Because we believe poets are severely disenfranchised in today’s society. So we wanted to offer them a meaningful stage to speak and for their unavowable community to come to the light of the day. Because we believe the poets deserve a chance to address both their and their fellow poets’ works, as well as the very fundamentals of the art of poetry, in the very language they themselves find most apt. Without political, institutional, or market bias. Read more at Poetry Forum.

Meet the Editor: Jeffrey Shotts

by Claire Kirch 
Jeffrey Shotts, executive editor at Graywolf Press, appears to have a golden touch when it comes to identifying talent. Books edited by Shotts have scooped up some of the world’s most prestigious literary awards: Tomas Tranströmer won a 2011 Nobel Prize for Half-Finished Heaven; Tracy K. Smith won a 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Life on Mars; and, just last month, Mary Syzbist won a 2013 National Book Award for Incarnadine. Read more at Publishers Weekly.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Allen Tate

"I confess that the political responsibility of poets bores me; I am discussing it because it irritates me more than it bores me. It irritates me because the poet has a great responsibility of his own: it is the responsibility to be a poet, to write poems, and not to gad about using the rumor of his verse, as I am now doing, as the excuse to appear on platforms and to view with alarm. I have a deep, unbecoming suspicion of such talking poets: whatever other desirable things they may believe in, they do not believe in poetry. They believe that poets should write tracts, or perhaps autobiographies; encourage the public, further this cause or that, good or bad, depending upon whose political ox is being gored."
—from "To Whom Is the Poet Responsible?"

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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
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