Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

July 29, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1596 – Jacobus Latomus, Flemish poet (Psalms/Jeremias) dies at about 84.
1605 – Simon Dach, German poet, is born.
1878 – Don Marquis, Ill, journalist/poet (archy & mehitabel) (d. 1937), is born.
1883 – Porfirio Barba-Jacob, Colombian poet and writer (d. 1942), is born.
1905 – Stanley Kunitz, American poet (d. 2006), is born.

 

The stranger who hammers No Trespass signs   
to the staghorn sumac along the road   
must think he owns this property.   
I park my car below the curve
and climbing over the tumbled stones   
where the wild foxgrape perseveres,   
I walk into the woods I made,
my dark and resinous, blistered land,   
through the deep litter of the years.

—from “River Road” by Stanley Kunitz (1905–2006)

World Poetry

Displaced by Anti-Taliban Military Operation, Pakistani Pashtun Poets Revive Their Craft

For more than five centuries, poets in remote northwestern Pakistan have recited verses about the area’s mountainous scenery, their tribal culture and love. That all changed as Islamist militants tightened their hold on Pakistan’s tribal regions after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Taliban and its allies quickly crushed the poets’ words and spirits. They were warned not to write phrases that referred to women or serenity and instead ordered to compose jihadist messages of war, brutality and conformity. Now, about 50 poets are part of a mass migration of more than 700,000 Pakistanis who have been displaced from the North Waziristan region as the military seeks to dislodge Islamist militants there. And amid the chaos of refu­gee life, they are restoring tradition to their verses. More.

Portrait of the Proletarians’ Poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky

Vladimir Mayakovsky was the proletarians’ poet, the bard of the Bolsheviks. With his 1915 poem "A Cloud in Trousers" he became the celebrated voice of Russian futurism. Another of his famous poems, "Conversation With a Tax Collector About Poetry," reads in part like a communist manifesto in verse: “The working class / speaks / through my mouth, / and we, / proletarians, / are drivers of the pen.” When Lenin died in 1924 Mayakovsky eulogised him in a 3000-line poem. He was a hugely energetic ­artist, a one-man Soviet cultural industry: poet, playwright, actor, graphic designer, propagandist, even a writer of jingles. A well-known image of him, a photomontage by Alexander Rod­chenko, has Mayakovsky’s domed cranium overlaid with a globe, orbited by planes like ­electrons or sputniks. Sydney composer Michael Smetanin discovered Mayakovsky in the mid-1980s, some time after his return from studies with Louis Andriessen in Amsterdam, and before a symphonic standoff over his orchestral work Black Snow. More.

Recent Reviews

House on Fire

by Laura Haynes
In her stunning first collection House and Fire, Maria Hummel (a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford) explores the harrowing, surreal world of a new mother, whose toddler son has been felled by a mysterious, life-threatening illness. The poet finds herself thrust into a parallel reality, where markers of a normal childhood, like puzzles, crayons, and carousels co-exist with sickbed vigils, IVs, and transfusions. More.

Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems by Charles Wright 

by Dan Chiasson
If you want to sample the work of Charles Wright, the nation’s new poet laureate, the best place to start may be Bye-and-Bye: Selected Late Poems, a collection whose marvels culminate in selections from Wright’s fine book Sestets (2009). Wright is sometimes thought of as a writer of wisdom literature, a backyard philosopher potting around in a material world he suspects might not even exist. If for their own sakes you are drawn to questions of “belief,” “materialism,” “the ineffable,” and so on, Wright’s “ascetic discipline” might be an “instruction” (I am sampling phrases from the blurbs on the back of this book). But I regard Wright’s focus on these questions to be, in fact, a fixation on them, an essential oddity of temperament that is more interesting, at least to me, than its symptoms. Temperament is Wright’s great, open variable: he is always solving for it by fixing the other terms. His poetry is therefore attuned not merely to its fluctuations in the moment, but to its own long arc, the history of its ups and downs. More.

Billy Ramsell on Patrick Galvin's New and Selected Poems

Cork’s Connolly Hall epitomises the boxy functionality that marred an entire generation of Irish public buildings. Its square panes glare out with a bouncer’s blank impassivity, staring down the dapper and effete City Hall across the river’s bottle-brown waters. A brute but tolerated landmark, it serves as local headquarters of SI PTU and as a general centre of trade unionism. To date it has hosted precisely one wake or removal—that of the poet Patrick Galvin on Friday 13th of May 2011. The event, we were reliably informed at the time, constituted several significant health and safety violations. But it was entirely appropriate that Galvin, all his life a staunch and unswerving ‘man of the left’, be laid out in such surroundings. And on such an evening; he was carried in under a southern multi-season sky as springtime over-brimmed itself, and along the mall the last cherry-blossoms reeled away in haiku-baiting self-regard. More.

A Pocket Epic & The Hermit Poet: A Review of Robert Lax’s Poems 1962-1997 & Lorine Niedecker’s Lake Superior

by David Wojahn
Over the past several years, Wave Books has carved out a special niche for itself among independent presses, one that brings to mind—on a smaller scale—the role played by the great vanguard presses of the ‘50s and ‘60s, New Directions and Grove. These presses not only published some of the finest “non-mainstream” writers of the era—New Directions’ list included, among others, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Stevie Smith, and George Oppen—but they were also adamant in their desire to introduce American readers to important modernist writers in translation, and unjustly neglected works (sometimes semi-scandalous ones) by figures in the tradition. Thus Grove’s list included all of Beckett’s important drama and fiction, the first credible English translation of Garcia-Lorca’s surrealist masterwork, Poet in New York, the 18th century’s wonderfully campy and salacious proto-Gothic novel, Matthew Lewis’ The Monk (this with an introduction by John Berryman), and Frank O’Hara’s legendary Meditations in an Emergency. More.

Broadsides

Finding the Words

In a book-length elegy, the poet Edward Hirsch confronts the loss of his son.
by Alec Wilkinson
In October, 1988, my friends Janet Landay and Edward Hirsch flew to New Orleans to adopt a boy who was six days old. He was collected from the hospital by their lawyer, who brought him to the house where they were staying. Waiting for her, they stood in the street in front of the house. For several days, they worried that the mother, overcome by love or by guilt, might want the child back, but she didn’t. At the time, Hirsch was an associate professor at the University of Houston. He is now the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, but he is above all a poet. More.

The Vale of Soul-Making

by Jeffrey C. Johnson
Tuberculosis seemed to pursue Keats his whole life. In 1821, three months after he learned of Keats’s death, Percy Shelley wrote Adona├»s: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, in which he described the poet as a delicate, fragile young flower of a man:
Oh gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,
Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
Dare the unpastured dragon in his den?
That dragon was a cruel critic who had mocked Keats’s literary ambitions—John Gibson Lockhart, who, writing under the pseudonym Z, had scolded Keats as if he were a child, insisting in a review of Endymion that “it is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the shop, Mr John, back to the ‘plasters, pills, and ointment boxes.’ ” More.

Is Poetry Dead? Not if 45 Official Laureates Are Any Indication

by Jennifer Schuessler
Literature, Ezra Pound once said, is news that stays news. And for America’s state poets laureate, the news cycle has been churning since earlier this month, when Valerie Macon, North Carolina’s newly appointed laureate,resigned abruptly after an outcry from several of her predecessors. To the former laureates and other detractors, Gov. Pat McCrory’s choice of Ms. Macon — a state disability examiner with two self-published books to her credit — was an outrageous end run around the selection process, if not a cynical prelude to abolishing the position altogether. To the governor, who chose Ms. Macon without the usual advice from the North Carolina Arts Council, critics of his choice were elitists full of “hostility and condescension.” For the broader world of people who read poetry — and many who don’t — the brouhaha was a chance to ask a more basic question: Just who are America’s state poets laureate, and what do they do anyway? More.

I Want My Poetry and I Want to Eat Too.

by Amy King
I tell my friends I think about death all the time.  It is the one certainty we know, for we are not even required to continue one breath after this one right now, and that strikes me as the most absurd thing I know. And don’t know. I don’t know death, but every fiber tells me I will end and to sidestep that fact every chance I get: survival instinct in the face of the one certainty that tells us nothing.  Hence death gives, among other things, urgency and an imperative to live as I see fit, not as others require.  This is, as they say, the only life – so why should I do what others want?  Why shouldn’t I implore? my mother to save herself – her final years for herself – when she stands daily wearing a shit-eating grin at Walmart for minimum wage? More.

Drafts & Framents

Anglia Ruskin University Lecturer Ian Bennett's New App Explores the Works of Poet Wilfred Owen

by Jordan Day 
Ian Bennett, a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, has just published an iPad app featuring the war poetry of Wilfred Owen. A university lecturer has designed and built a new iPad app which explores the works of the poet, Wilfred Owen. Ian Bennett, a lecturer in film and media at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, decided he wanted to use 21st century technology to showcase the works of Owen in the centenary year of the First World War. Forty five of the poet’s works are featured on the app. Mr Bennett, who lives in Mepal Road, Sutton, said: “Owen was such a towering figure that it was felt that his work should be brought into a digital age. More.

Watch James Franco’s Short Film, “The Clerk’s Tale,” based on a Poem by Spencer Reece

by James Franco 
Because my adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God will be released this August, I thought I would pepper the summer with three early adaptations I did when I was at NYU. This one is based on the poem “The Clerk’s Tale" by Spencer Reece. Here's a conversation I had with Matt Rager about my adaptation of "The Clerk's Tale." Matt co-wrote the screenplays for my movies The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying—both of which are also adaptations. Also, check out the other two short films I adapted from poems, "The Feast of Stephen" and "Herbert White." More.

Letter by Letter, Turning Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ into a Work of Art

In an old industrial building in San Francisco, the lines of American poet Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” are being printed exactly as they were when the first edition was published in 1855. Jeffrey Brown visits Arion Press, one of the country’s last fine book printers that handcrafts works from start to finish. More.

Poetry In The News

The Original Manuscripts of Two of the World's Most Famous Poems

When the poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge died on this day 180 years ago, he left behind a legacy so respected that his contemporaries already referred to him as "a giant among dwarfs." His most famous poems are two remarkably different, but both extraordinary, works: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Kubla Khan." In a page from one of his many notebooks, currently held by the British Library, you can see a working copy of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." The poem was originally written in 1797-98, but the notes below are from 1806, when Coleridge must have been fiddling with the arrangement prior to its republication in 1817. The changes didn't make it into the final copy, but you can see his mind at work. More.

Tennessee Junior Wins National Poetry Competition

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a recitation competition that starts as a school contest. Nationwide, a student body of 365,000 vied for vocal distinction in their respective states. In Tennessee alone, 8,000 students competed for a spot at the state competition. Brought to Tennessee through the partnership of the Tennessee Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Poetry Foundation, the program encourages students not only to be familiar with and understand classic and modern poetry, but also to possess strong public-speaking skills and self-confidence. Anita Norman, a junior at Arlington High School in Shelby County, won first place in the ninth annual NEA Poetry Out Loud National Championship on April 30, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Norman edged out every other state champion to win the $20,000 grand prize and $500 for her school to purchase poetry books for its library. She will serve as the NEA’s POL ambassador for the coming year. More.

Derek Walcott Documentary, “Poetry Is An Island,” To Premiere At Karamu House

“Poetry Is An Island,” the new film directed by Dutch filmmaker Ida Does, presents poet and playwright Derek Walcott in his element: his home island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Place has proved central to the Nobel Laureate in his writings about the island, colonialism and beauty.  He won a Lifetime Achievement Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in 2004. “I wanted to feel and smell St. Lucia in the same palpable way that I experience Walcott’s poetry,” Does said in a recent interview. “When I was there, it felt like I could literally touch Derek’s work, the heart of it.” After an early screening, Walcott, 84, praised Does for doing a “beautiful and gentle job” with the film. More.

New Books

The Tatters by Brenda Coultas

[Hardcover] Wesleyan, 68 pp., $22.95
In this nuanced and moving new collection of poems, Brenda Coultas weaves a meditation on contemporary life and our place in it. Coultas, who is known for her investigative documentary approach, turns her attention to landfills and the odd histories embedded in the materials found there. The poems make their home among urban and rural detritus, waste, trinkets, and found objects. The title poem, for example, takes its cue from the random, often perfect, pigeon feathers found on city streets. In a seamless weave of poetic sentences, The Tatters explores how our human processes of examination are often bound up with destruction. These poems enable us to be present with the sorrow and horror of our destructive nature, and to honor the natural world while acknowledging that this world no longer exists in any pure form, calling to us instead from cracks in the sidewalk, trash heaps, and old objects.

Put Your Hands In: Poems by Chris Hosea

[Paperback] Louisiana State University Press, 96 pp., $18.95
"Exactly a century ago, the Armory Show brought European avant-garde art to New York. We are still experiencing its consequences. Among the works on view was Marcel Duchamp's notorious Nude Descending a Staircase, which a derisive critic wanted to rename 'Explosion in a Shingle Factory.' Both titles come to mind as one reads Chris Hosea's Put Your Hands In, which somehow subsumes derision and erotic energy and comes out on top. Maybe that's because 'poetry is the cruelest month,' as he says, correcting T. S. Eliot. Transfixed in midparoxysm, the poems also remind us of Samuel Beckett's line (in Watt): 'The pain not yet pleasure, the pleasure not yet pain.' One feels plunged in a wave of happening that is about to crest." –John Ashbery, from his judge's citation for the Walt Whitman Award

Translations from Bark Beetle: Poems by Jody Gladding

[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 96 pp., $16.00
In this inspired new collection, acclaimed poet and translator Jody Gladding takes the physical, elemental world as her point of inquiry, examining how language arises from landscape, and deriving a lexicon for these poems from the rich offerings of the world around her. In some poems, Gladding steps into the role of translator, interpreting fragments left by bark beetle or transcribing raven calls. In others, poems take the form of physical objects — a rock, split slate, an egg, a feather — or they emerge from a more expansive space — a salt flat at the Great Salt Lake, or a damaged woodlot. But regardless of the site, the source, or the material, the poet does not position herself as the innovator of these poems. Rather, the objects and landscapes we see in Translations from Bark Beetle provide the poet with both a shape and a language for each poem. The effect is a collection that reminds us how to see and to listen, and which calls us to a deeper communion — true collaboration — between art and the more-than-human world.

Correspondences

Small Scenes, Big Issues: Poet Captures Day-to-Day Existence In U.S., Venezuela

by Brian Hardzinski and Suzette Grillot
Venezuelan poet Arturo Gutierrez-Plaza has spent his career crafting poems exploring the scenes of everyday life. He told KGOU’s World Views he views poetry as a way to maintain the experience of childhood discovery as you learn new words, and how to use those words to unfold the tapestry of language. “Poetry is mostly an answer to a question that we didn’t know before we started writing,” Gutierrez-Plaza says. “If you pay attention to reality, you can feel the same thing. You are discovering the mystery of reality in everyday life in the same way that you can discover the mystery of the language.” Gutierrez-Plaza’s work captures the essence of everyday experiences, like doing laundry on a Sunday morning in his poem 414 Ludlow Avenue. More.

Pulitzer Poet Immortalizes Atlantic Avenue, Talks Brooklyn Development

by Tobias Salinger
Carroll Gardens scribe Vijay Seshadri, the 2014 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, took home the honor this spring after devoting a 16-page poem to thoughts evoked by his taxi rides along Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue toJohn F. Kennedy Airport, and the chair of the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College recently took time to explain his mixed views of the street and its continuing development in an exclusive email interview with Commercial Observer. The 60-year-old married father of one’s “3 Sections,” published by Graywolf Press, features a poem called “Personal Essay” that portrays the busy corridor which runs from the Brooklyn waterfront, past the new Barclays Center and into Queens before terminating at the Van Wyck Expressway as a Walt Whitman-inspired launching pad for existential questions and, in the poet’s words, a “redemptive movement.” More.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Carlos Drummond de Andrade

"My first book, Some Poetry (1923–1930) shows a great inexperience in suffering and an ingenuous delight in the individual as such. Already, with Wasteland of Souls (1931–1934), there is something ordered, structured. The individualism has become exacerbated, but there is also a growing consciousness of its own precariousness and a tacit critique of the spiritual conduct (or absence thereof) of the author. I think the elementary contradictions in my poetry resolved themselves in a third volume, Feeling for the World (1935–1940). Only the elementary ones, mind you. . . "
—from the introduction to Travelling in the Family: Selected Poems

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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
Juan Ramon Jimenez
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