Poetry News In Review
1664—Matthew Prior, English poet, is born.
1821—Vasile Alecsandri, Romania, poet/ Foreign Minister/diplomat, is born.
1892—Anton Schnack, German writer/poet, is born.
1899— Hart Crane, US, poet (Bridge), is born.
Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled,
Outspread and motionless, --
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.
Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest, -- or a child.
Forgetfulness is white, -- white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.
I can remember much forgetfulness.
—Hart Crane (1899–1932)
Major literary figures are among more than 150 writers urging Israel to release Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, who has been under house arrest since January for a poem she wrote. They include such renowned international novelists, playwrights and poets as Alice Walker, Edwidge Danticat, Eve Ensler, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Fady Joudah, Tayari Jones, Dale Peck, Russell Banks, Jorie Graham and Dave Eggers.
In Pakistan, insulting Islam is punishable by death. Last week, Yasir Bashir, a Pakistani Muslim, registered a complaint at his local police station in the town of Sarai Alamgir, located in the Gujrat district in the north of the Punjab province of Pakistan, that his Christian friend, Nadeem James, sent him a poem on WhatsApp. The poem contained derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad and other holy figures in Islam. The police registered a case against James on blasphemy charges. However, before they could make an arrest, James fled his home. As of now, he is on the run, and the police are searching for him.
Adrienne Rich’s Poetry Became Political, but It Remained Rooted in Material Fact
by Wayne Koestenbaum
If you want to change the world, why write poetry? The great Adrienne Rich, who should have won a Nobel, tried to do both. Ethics, however, for Rich, stood at a remove from amoral sonic pleasure. Poetry’s system of cultivated sounds was, she grew to feel, a patriarchal racket. Her career staged a revolt against tamed sound. Of this conflict — the attempt to reconcile music and ethics — she founded a perpetually astonishing body of work, filled with battle cries, conversion scenes and illuminating flashes. She followed Walt Whitman’s example — drawing on her own bodily experience, but also exercising, like a census-taker or compassionate sociologist, a democratic wish to compose litanies of representative specimens.
by Peter J. Leithart
Ben Lerner’s elegant, amusing essay turns on a distinction between Poetry and poems. Poetry is Caedmon’s dream, a virtual ideal that actual poems can’t live up to. “The fatal problem with poetry,” Lerner writes, is “poems.” Every poet is, inevitably, “a tragic figure.”
The Poems of Basil Bunting
by Ian Pople
In 1952, Basil Bunting visited T. S. Eliot with a view to getting Eliot to publish his Poems 1950. This volume had been published in America by one of Pound’s acolytes, Dallam Flynn, although Bunting had little involvement with the book, as much because Bunting was living in Teheran at the time. The book contained a strange introduction written by Flynn, part of which was an attack on John Berryman. Flynn was described by Pound’s daughter, Mary, as ‘mad as a hatter’, and Bunting himself told Dorothy Pound that he was completely baffled by the introduction. He also told Victoria Forde that the introduction was ‘florid, effusive as John Barrymore.’ That introduction and Bunting’s refusal to withdraw it, out of loyalty to Flynn, was one reason why Faber and Faber refused to publish the book in the UK.
Carl Sandburg’s Chicago: Stormy, Husky, Brawling at 100
By Liesl Olson
In 1914, when nine “Chicago Poems” exploded on the pages of Poetry magazine, Carl Sandburg was still an obscure newspaper reporter, writing about labor and politics in the local Chicago press. Where did these poems come from?
Yves Bonnefoy, who died earlier this month, at the age of ninety-three, is widely considered France’s greatest poet of the past fifty years. But he also belongs, in part, to a lineage of New England poetry. In 1985, on an invitation from Williams College, Bonnefoy spent an autumn and winter in western Massachusetts, a brief stay that helped inspire the collections “In the Shadow’s Light” and “Beginning and End of the Snow.” In the great tradition of Frenchmen who travel to the United States and describe the place with fresh eyes, he recorded his impressions of the forests, their colors, and the changes of light against the snow:
Drafts & Framents
During the last few years, a small, wooden shack has made its way around New York City. Containing nothing else but a seat, a typewriter, and a 100-foot-long scroll of paper, the booth is part of a wandering project working to engage everyday New Yorkers by giving them a chance to contribute to a long, ongoing poem.
Poetry In The News
Prolific poet and emeritus professor of English and creative writing at Southwest Minnesota State University Philip Dacey died July 7 at 77 after a nearly two-year battle with acute leukemia.
Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing by Marianne Boruch
[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 108 pp., $15.00
A starred review in Library Journal says this about Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing: “Only a poet as accomplished as Boruch could make such beautiful verse while leading us through the everyday, of life’s subtle, steady shiftings (‘the bird’s hunger, seeking shape’). If the opening image of a pool filled with cruelly dredged up roses bespeaks quiet assent (‘I stood before them the way an animal/ accepts sun’), the next poem turns immediately to progress (and hence progression) as a modern invention beyond the heaven-and-hell alternatives; finally, the poet concedes, ‘I lose track of my transitions.’ In fact, transition defines us. Here, a static painting gives way to ‘between and among,’ a simple typeface never yields a perfect copy, and even in a medieval score, two exquisite quavers are connected by a slur. Highly recommended.”
The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb by Stanley Plumly
[Paperback] W. W. Norton & Company, 368 pp., $16.95
The author of the highly acclaimed Posthumous Keats, praised as “full of . . . those fleeting moments we call genius” (Washington Post), now provides a window into the lives of Keats and his contemporaries in this brilliant new work. On December 28, 1817, the painter Benjamin Robert Haydon hosted what he referred to in his diaries and autobiography as the “immortal dinner.” He wanted to introduce his young friend John Keats to the great William Wordsworth and to celebrate with his friends his most important historical painting thus far, “Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem,” in which Keats, Wordsworth, and Charles Lamb (also a guest at the party) appeared. After thoughtful and entertaining discussions of poetry and art and their relation to Enlightenment science, the party evolved into a lively, raucous evening. This legendary event would prove to be a highlight in the lives of these immortals. A beautiful and profound work of extraordinary brilliance, The Immortal Evening regards the dinner as a lens through which to understand the lives and work of these legendary artists and to contemplate the immortality of genius.
The Myth of Water: Poems from the Life of Helen Keller by Jeanie Thompson
[Paperback] University Alabama Press, 104 pp., $19.95
The Myth of Water is a cycle of thirty-four poems by award-winning Alabama poet and writer Jeanie Thompson in the voice of world-renowned Alabamian Helen Keller. In their sweep, the poems trace Keller’s metamorphosis from a native of a bucolic Alabama town to her emergence as a beloved, international figure who championed the rights of the deaf-blind worldwide.
A Poet Puts Down his Teacher's Pen
by Peter D. Kramer
Dan Masterson’s teaching career at Rockland Community College should never have lasted 53 years. In fact, if he had listened to his body, it shouldn’t have started at all.
Pride and delight animated Elli Tzalopoulou-Barnstone as she talked about her daughter the poet. "She is very sociable. We always have guests for dinner. We always dance in our house. We enjoy life,” Tzalopoulou-Barnstone said in a FaceTime interview on July 1 from Greece, where they live every summer. A few minutes later, Aliki Barnstone walked in from the kitchen and handed her mother a bowl of white peaches.
Eileen Myles Talks the 70’s, Patti Smith, and “Poetry Voice”
by Steve Cosson
If you didn’t already know about the Civilians process, we do investigative theater. That means we interview subjects for the pieces we create, which often weave scenes with monologues and songs crafted from interview transcripts. We always leave much good material left on the cutting-room floor, so to speak. This past season, we presented “Rimbaud in New York” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In preparation for the play, artistic director Steve Cosson interviewed poet Eileen Myles in which she recalls the relationship between poets and other artists, Patti Smith’s quick rise, and mentoring younger poets.
In this talk and reading, poet Matthew Dickman speaks eloquently about the often taboo subject of suicide. He says he can’t offer an answer to the question, why do people commit suicide? Instead, he shares what he has learned from the suicides of his brother Darin and close friends, what he has learned from research and what other poets have written.
Envoi: Editor's Notes
A Few Facts about Hart Crane
1. Hart Crane was born in Garrettsville, Ohio, a few miles from my own hometown of Hiram. Of course, there were no markers in Garrettsville commemorating their native son, and I didn't know that he had been born there until I had left town for good. Crane himself had left town much earlier in his life, which ended when he jumped to his death from a steamship into the Gulf of Mexico.
2. His father invented Life-Savers candy.