Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

March 19, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1556 – Lieven van der Maude, [Ammonius], South Netherlands poet, dies at 70.

1742 – Zacharias H Alewijn, Dutch literary/poet, is born.

1821 – William Allingham, Irish poet (Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland), is born.

1898 – Joao da Cruz, Brazilian poet, dies at 26. 

1924 – American poet e.e. (Edward Estlin) Cummings marries first wife Elaine Orr. The marriage lasts less than 9 months.

1937 – Horacio Quiroga, Uruguayan author/poet, commits suicide at 58.

1946 – Amir Hamzah, Indonesian poet (Buah Rindu), dies at 35.

1971 – Jan Greshoff, Dutch poet/author/journalist (Last Things), dies at 82.
1994 – Jose Coronel Urtecho, poet, dies at 87.

1999 – Jaime Sabines, Mexican poet (b. 1926), dies.

 

In love’s pit at all hours,

inconsolable, in sobs and screams

inside me, I mean to say, I call you,

those who are being born, who are coming from

behind, from you, those who reach you, are calling you.

We are dying, love, and, hour by hour,

we do nothing but die a little more,

and write and talk to each and die together.

—from “I’m not dying from love” by Jaime Sabines, 1926–1999

World Poetry

High School Girl Who Wrote Poem Denouncing Morsi, Expelled and Attacked by Teachers

Two high school girls from the EL Sayeda Zeinab Secondary School For Girls experienced a lesson in democracy after one wrote a poem condemning Morsi’s tyranny and another read it over the school radio. The principal not only expelled both girls, but several teachers pursued them after school threatening to beat and kill them. A teacher was also fired as well. Read more at the Front Page.

Tajik TV Channel Off Air After Dissident Poet Interview

A popular television channel in Tajikistan's capital has gone off the air after broadcasting an interview with a prominent dissident poet. On the evening of February 24, the Poytaht (The Capital) public television channel showed an interview with Gulrukhsor Safieva, who is known for her verses criticizing the Tajik government. Read more at Radio Free Europe.

French Expert Discovers Vietnam's Ancient Epic Poem

Unpublished colour illustrations of Luc Van Tien (The Tale of Luc Van Tien), an epic poem by Nguyen Dinh Chieu written in nom (the old Chinese-based Vietnamese script) in the 1850s, are on display until April 6 as part of a new exhibition in HCM City's Institute of Cultural Exchange with France. They have been discovered after being stored in a Paris museum for more than a century. French researcher Pascal Bourdeaux from the Academy of the Far East (EFEO) in HCM City talks about this important artwork. Read more at Vietnamnet.

 

Recent Reviews

How Baudelaire Revolutionized Modern Literature

Humiliation as a Way of Life

by Adam Thirlwell

Around, let’s say, 1885 the young French poet Jules Laforgue was living in Berlin and scribbling observations in his notebooks. He was reading Charles Baudelaire’s notorious book of poetry, Les Fleurs du Mal—a book that had been prosecuted, successfully, by the French state for obscenity—and as Laforgue read on, he jotted down small aphorisms, mini-observations. These phrases were of a private kind: “a distinguished wanderer in the line of Poe and GĂ©rard de Nerval,” “sensual hypochondria shading into martyrdom . . . ”: that kind of thing. They were private notes for a future essay that Laforgue would never write, attempts to define the genius of Baudelaire—who had died in 1867, around twenty years earlier, at the age of only forty-six. Read more at the New Republic.

New Anthology Captures Postmodern American Poetry

by Jeffrey Brown

What is postmodern poetry? That's the question Paul Hoover poses for his introduction to the Norton Anthology's second edition of Postmodern American Poetry. Hoover, the anthology's editor, sees the answer in two parts: historical and conceptual. Read more at PBS Newshour.

 

How Surfaces Can Be Tweaked and Spun

by Nico Alvarado

Although I haven’t read it since I was fifteen, I vividly remember how the hero of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, a human being raised among Martians, was able to mentally take hold of anything — a bad guy, an ashtray, a car — and effortlessly turn it out of existence, so that it was “ninety degrees from everything else.” I had forgotten all about this until I was reminded of it on almost every page of Michael Gizzi’s New Depths of Deadpan. Lines begin someplace intelligible and just — turn, until they seem to be perpendicular to everything in existence. Read more at Jacket 2.

 

The Relentless Fury of Ed Dorn 

A collected poems of Edward Dorn, the American poet who died in 1999, is a necessary and overdue publication, and, whatever the circumstances, the fact that it was not published in U.S.A. suggests that there is something very wrong with the local culture over there, a fact of which Ed Dorn was very much aware. In fact most of the time it dominated his writing. Read more at Fortnightly Review.

Broadsides

Poetry Matters: Women’s Work: Toward a New Poetic Language

 by David Ward 

In 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne complained to his publisher: “America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash.” Hawthorne’s contempt seethes with the sneering and patronizing discrimination of his era; and demonstrates the double bind of a lot of discriminatory attitudes—the outcast form their own counter-culture, and are further condemned for it. Banished from the highest echelons of literary culture, women responded by tapping a popular audience hungry for “domestic” fiction—romances and the like. They were, then, criticized for undermining serious culture. Nice! Read more at the Smithsonian Magazine.

Another AWP Another Opportunity for Tony Hoagland to Almost Get It Right and Then Blow It

Camouflage and Capitalism: The Intellectual Appropriation of American Poetry, Sponsored by Alice James Books. (Laura McCullough, Tony Hoagland, Kathleen Graber, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Peter Campion) Alice James Books presents Tony Hoagland on the state of American Poetry. Hoagland will present an essay on poetry as camouflage, as something smuggled into the culture and how the poetry community hides behind the overintellectualization of aesthetics. Kathleen Graber, Reginald Dwayne Betts, and Peter Campion respond, offering assessments of the current condition of poetry in this dialogue and debate moderated by Alice James Books board member, Laura McCullough. Read more at Nothing to Say and Saying It.

Frost's Poetics and the Mending Wall

by Al Fileis

One October 11, 2012, I hosted a debate on Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Well, not quite a debate, but I knew that I, sitting in the middle of four poets, would be on the fence, as it were, with two on a side.  The live webcast, hosted by the Kelly Writers House, was associated with the 36,000-person free online course "ModPo," and was viewed synchronously by dozens in the room with us and thousands watching digitally around the world. We made a recording immediately afterward, and have posted it to YouTube here (1 hour, 9 minutes). (And here is a recording of Frost performing the poem. We began our discussion by listening to it; the performance is certainly important to at least the beginning of the debate.) Read more at Jacket 2.

Drafts & Framents

Transforming Deering Library into a Page of Poetry

by Wendy Leopold

World-renowned Italian artist Marco Nereo Rotelli -- best known for his stunning light installations at landmarks across Europe and at the Beijing Olympics -- will transform Northwestern University’s Deering Library into a page of luminous poetry by eight Chicago poets Tuesday, March 12. Between the hours of 6 and 10 p.m. on March 12 only, the historic library on the Evanston campus will project the work of award-winning poets Ana Castillo, Reginald Gibbons, Arica Hilton, Parneshia Jones, Elise Paschen, Ed Roberson, Jennifer Scapettone and Rachel Webster. Read more at Northwestern.

World's Top Poets to Found New Poetry Magazine

Some of the world's leading poets have united for a new venture: the first top-quality magazine for world poetry in English. POEM is set to become the magazine of choice for poetry in the UK and internationally, bringing today's best writing together on a global stage. The prestigious European institutions publishing POEM, and the roster of major UK, American and European figures committed to the project, are second to none. C.K. Williams, John Burnside and Andrew Motion are among more than thirty advisory board members. POEM: International English Language Quarterly is to be edited by Fiona Sampson, the poet and former editor of Poetry Review (UK, who will be working with a team of dedicated professionals to deliver writing space and provocative reading matter for both established and newly emerging poets- from tyros to Nobel nominees. Read more at Society of Authors.

Poetry In The News

An Iraq War Veteran Finds an Outlet in Poetry

Ten years ago, Hugh Martin was slugging through the woods of the United States Army Base at Fort Bragg in North Carolina training for deployment to Iraq. Now, on this 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion, he is releasing a book of poetry about his experiences in Iraq called The Stick Soldiers. Hugh Martin is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and his book will be released later this month. Read more at The Takeaway.

For Sale: Allen Ginsberg Poem Written While on Drugs in Wales

It was the 1960s, free love was at its peak and flower power was in full swing. A bohemian poet stood in the Black Mountains, high on LSD, before creating one of the decade’s most iconic poems. Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the American Beat Generation, wrote Wales Visitation during a trip to Capel-y-ffin in the Brecon Beacons. Now, collectors will have the chance to bid for the original manuscript during an auction to be held at Bonhams in London next month.

Read more at Wales Online.

 

New Books

Birds of the Air by David Yezzi 

[Paperback] Carnegie Mellon, 88 pp., $15.95

Sad and serious, attentive to meter and balance yet no slave to form, the dramatic monologues, rough laments, strict rhymes and accomplished syllabics in this third volume from Yezzi (Azores) go far beyond expectations: it should impress not just those who follow "formal" poetry generally, but almost anyone who has an abiding love for the poetry of Robert Frost.—Publishers Weekly

Starship Tahiti: Poems by Brandon Dean Lamson

[Paperback] Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 72 pp., $15.95

Starship Tahiti immediately engages the reader, and from the first line, to the last, one hears an earthy calling. This collection travels, looping through headspace, with a measured, solid footing that only true genius dares or garners. These poems are risky, but Brandon Lamson knows something about the American psyche that exposes what we re thinking and feeling. This voice has been around a few sharp curves, and now he conducts a knowing music we can trust. And if we re looking for the truth, Starship Tahiti gets to the quick, but hones an edgy grace. --Yusef Komunyakaa

The Switching/Yard by Jan Beatty 

[Paperback]University of Pittsburgh Press, 80 pp., $15.95

In Jan Beatty’s fourth collection, The Switching/Yard, she takes us through the ravaged landscape of the American West. In unflinching lines of burning lyric and relentless narrative, she forges the constructed body into movement. What is still stereotyped as the romantic journey—now becomes as scarred as the Rust Belt. What lives in our collective unconscious as the Golden West becomes almost surreal, as these poems snap that vision in half with extended description of ghost explorers.

Kindertotenwald by Franz Wright 

[Paperback] Knopf, 128 pp., $17.00

A genre-bending collection of prose poems from Pulitzer Prize–winner Franz Wright brings us surreal tales of childhood, adolescence, and adult awareness, moving from the gorgeous to the shocking to a sense of peace. Wright’s most intimate thoughts and images appear before us in dramatic and spectral short narratives: mesmerizing poems whose colloquial sound and rhythms announce a new path for this luminous and masterful poet. 

Broken Hallelujah: New and Selected Poems by Jack Butler

[Paperback] Texas Review Press, 80 pp., $10.95

Jack Butler’s Broken Hallelujah: New and Selected Poems is a celebration that refuses to explain away pain and trouble, or to oversell the very transcendence it seeks. Its poems are always musical, whether formal, improvisational, or written according to the music of speech itself. Butler understands poetry more nearly as the essence of that speech than as one of its products, the heart of the ways we know each other. Some of these forms are as old as English, but the voice stays immediate; and whether dark or hopeful, comic or sober, passionate or calm and knowing, these poems speak with the urgency of praise itself.

 

Correspondences

A Conversation with Gail Mazur

by Sarah Ehrich 

This interview about the Blacksmith House Poetry Series, which will celebrate its fortieth anniversary in2013, was edited and condensed from a tape recording made as part of the Cambridge Historical Society’s oral history initiative. Gail Mazur is the author of six books of poetry, including They Can’t Take That Away from Me, a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award; Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems, winner of the Massachusetts Book Award and finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Paterson Poetry Prize; and Figures in a Landscape, published in spring 2011 by University of Chicago Press. She has long played an active role in the Cambridge and Boston poetry communities, as Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Emerson College and as the founding director of the Blacksmith House Poetry Series. Read more at Ploughshares.

The (Not-So) Accidental Poet

by Hank Kalet

Stephen Dunn never planned to become a poet. The 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner for Different Hours says he grew up in a house without books, began his professional life in corporate communications and wrote a novel when he was 27. And now, nearly 50 years later, he is among the nation’s most highly regarded poets. Dunn, who is among a large contingent of nationally renowned poets who will be headlining the fifth Princeton Poetry Festival, March 15-16, said he took a “very curious path to poetic notoriety. Read mord at CentralJersey.com.

The Inscrutable Brilliance of Anne Carson

by Sam Anderdson

Anne Carson was uncomfortable with the idea of a traditional profile: a journalist following her around for a few days, like a private detective, noting her outfits and mannerisms, shadowing her on errands, making lists of furniture and wall decorations and pets, quizzing her students, standing behind her holding his breath while she tried to write in her journal. Carson is a private person. She prefers to be alone. (When her husband is traveling, Carson will call and tell him, “I miss you, but I’m having a great time.”) Her book jackets have no author photo. Her back-flap biography — “Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living” — is so minimalist that it sounds like a parody of a back-flap biography.  Read more at the New York Times. 

 

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Who Is the Better Poet? Dylan Thomas v RS Thomas

Who’s your favourite Thomas, Dylan or RS? As Wales gears up to mark the centenary of two literary giants – RS this year, and Dylan in 2014 – we asked the experts who should get your vote. Read more at Wales Online.

 

Okay. Bit of a false choice here. Sure, Dylan is whom we all read early on and whose dramatic and inventive use of language we fell in and out of love with along the way.  But R. S. Thomas, about whom many fewer have read, and I only read because my professors introduced me to his work some thirty-odd years ago, is another, more hard-bitten, kind of poet who has staked out his place in the Welsh literary landscape. In many respects, his poetry is a mirror-image of Dylan Thomas's work: spare, dry, unsympathetic, small, and hard, like a rock in a cairn. But it is similar to his Welsh contemporary's verse in its unyielding petition to a greater spirit for meaning, consolation, and some degree of comfort. Here is an example from R. S. Thomas:

 

Study

 

The flies walk upon the roof top.

The Student's eyes are too keen

To miss them. The young girls walk

In the roadway; the wind ruffles

Their skirts. The student does not look.

He sees only the flies spread their wings

And take off into the sunlight

Without sound. There is nothing to do

Now but read his book

Of how young girls walked in the roadway

In Tyre, and how young men

Sailed off into the red west

For gold, writing dry words

To the music the girls sang.

 

 

 

—David Sanders

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