Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Poetry News In Review

May 7, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1812 – Robert Browning, London England, poet (Pied Piper), is born.

1892 – Archibald MacLeish, Glencoe Ill, polit essayist/poet/dramatist (JB), is born.

1930 – Horst Bienek, German poet, is born.

 

A poem should be palpable and mute

As a globed fruit,

 

Dumb

As old medallions to the thumb,

 

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone

Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

 

A poem should be wordless

As the flight of birds.

 

—from "Ars Poetica" by Archibald MacLeish (1892–1982)

World Poetry

Egyptian Schoolgirl, 10, Becomes Media Sensation with Protest Poem

A 10-year-old prize-winning schoolgirl has become a media sensation in Egypt after being asked to recite a poem to the education minister and using the opportunity to launch into a bloodthirsty denunciation of the state of the country. Habiba Yahya Abdulmoneim, a precocious child who had won a national poetry recital competition, was an obvious choice to perform for the minister, Ibrahim Deif, when he visited her school in the coastal resort of Hurghada. Instead of reciting a traditional epic, however, she surprised her audience with a passionate rendition of a composition by her father, an amateur poet. Read more at the Telegraph.

North Korean “Court Poet” to Publish Memoir

Each London Book Fair brings breathless announcements of mega deals and amazing new books – although how many live up to expectations is another matter. This year however a news item appeared that sounds like a genuine event. Rider Publishing, an imprint of Ebury at Random House, acquired rights to Crossing the Border, a memoir by Jang Jin-sung – former "court poet" to Kim Jong-il, and will publish next spring. Read more at the Guardian.

Recent Reviews

"Letters to Madeleine" by Guillaume Apollinaire

by Christopher Winks

Perhaps the most famous single line in Guillaume Apollinaire’s body of work is the opening declaration of his 1912 poem “Zone:” “You’re tired of this old world at last.” “Zone” heralds modernity—with its urban setting, its montage of images (the Eiffel Tower, billboards, a “ghetto clock running backwards”), and its jump cuts through time and space. The poem marks a transition between the lyricism of a prior generation of French verse and changing ways of seeing and imagining fostered by the proliferation of new technologies of speed and mechanization. Read more at Book Forum.

What It Is Like: New and Selected Poems

by Jordan Davis

Impatience can be a virtue. It has a quickening, comic effect in the poems of Charles North. . . .North, a philosophy-trained clarinetist, suffers from being labeled a New York School poet, third generation. His poems have the consistency of well-steeped tea, Barry’s or Lyons’; they are as energizing as coffee, but they stimulate rather than suppress appetite. Read more at the Constant Critic.

 

Broadsides

On Poet Amy Lowell

by Robert Frost

It is absurd to think that the only way to tell if a poem is lasting is to wait and see if it lasts. The right reader of a good poem can tell the moment it strikes him that he has taken an immortal wound – that he will never get over it. That is to say, permanence in poetry as in love is perceived instantly. It hasn't to await the test of time. The proof of a poem is not that we have never forgotten it, but that we knew at sight that we never could forget it. There was a barb to it and a tocsin that we owned to at once. How often I have heard it in the voice and seen it in the eyes of this generation that Amy Lowell had lodged poetry with them to stay. Read more at the Science Christian Monitor.

Our Hidden Contemporaries*

by Amit Majmudar

Some traits that we value in poetry—irregularity of rhythm, unpredictability of language, a highly personal bent—were things that the Victorians allowed themselves only in their letters. The letter also lent itself to a structural characteristic so ubiquitous in contemporary poems it is almost unrecognized: the  first-person anecdote. So Matthew Arnold is terribly out of favor among contemporary poets; I myself find much of his poetry unreadable. But what a shock in the Letters! Read more at The Dark Horse.

Homer in Translation: The Never-Ending Stream

by Charles Rowan Beye

Such has been the hype in the reviews heralding the issue of Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Iliad* in paperback that one is immediately reminded of Propertius’ nescio quid maius nascitur Iliade (“something greater than the Iliad has just been born”). I had thought that this generation was well served by Robert Fagles, whose 1990 translation signaled to many that it was time to retire the 1974 version of Robert Fitzgerald, which in turn had been supposed to succeed the 1951 offering of Richmond Lattimore. There seem to be two decades intervening between masterpiece translations, and so perhaps we are ready for a new model. But is this the one? Read more at Arion.

Drafts & Framents

Send Your Haiku To Mars! NASA Seeks Poets

Here's how to become famous.

Send your work to Mars! NASA is raising awareness for its upcoming launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft with its Going to Mars project. The MAVEN spacecraft is scheduled for launch this November, to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere; the craft will examine why Mars lost its atmosphere, and how that catastrophe affected the history of water there. But to liven things up, the mission managers have invited the public to submit literary messages that could be tucked into a DVD that will go with the craft. Three lucky poets will get the chance to include their haiku, specifically written for the occasion — and everybody who submits something will have their name included on the DVD. Read more at NPR.

 

Poetry In The News

Introducing Navajo Nation’s First Poet Laureate

The Navajo Nation’s first-ever Poet Laureate has been named and will be officially introduced to the public on May 17. On April 24, Elmer Guy, president of Navajo Technical College, announced the appointment of Luci Tapahonso as the Navajo Nation’s first Poet Laureate. Tapahonso will officially assume her role for the two-year position at the college’s commencement ceremonies on May 17, Guy said in revealing the award. Read more at Urban on Ramps.

First Ever Philip Larkin Poem to Sell at Auction, Even though He Forgot It Existed

A handwritten poem by Philip Larkin, penned about “love” but forgotten just a few years later, has become the first ever to go up for auction, after he proclaimed it “rather good”. The poem, entitled "Love," is to be sold by Bonhams for an estimated £4,000 despite the author forgetting he had ever written it. First composed in December 1962, it was published by magazine Critical Quarterly in 1966 and promptly fell out of popular circulation. Read more at the Telegraph.

Sylvia Plath’s Darkest Sea: What an Unveiled Draft Poem Reveals

Next week, the drafts for one of Sylvia Plath's last poems will go to auction. Olivia Cole uncovers a haunting, unknown fragment—written on the back of a page—from an earlier short story that the poet discarded, but which contains all the themes and preoccupations that haunted Plath—and us. Now that her life story is the stuff of myth, it's hard to imagine that when Sylvia Plath killed herself on February 11, 1963, she was the obscure American wife of Ted Hughes, a much more famous British poet. Read more at The Daily Beast.

Poetry of the Streets, Written by Those Who Know Them Best

The poets work from 5 to 5, day shift or night, conducting their research with the meter running. Three New York City taxi drivers with at least 20 years of experience each, including John McDonagh, 58, at right, and Seth Goldman, 53, seated, recited their poems on Saturday as part of the PEN World Voices Festival. They find muses among the drunks and romantics of the Bowery, or the “Brooks Brothers mannequins” of Wall Street, as one of them riffed. They scrawl notes at times on rolls of receipt paper. And like many men of letters before them, they waste no opportunity to impart wisdom to future generations. Read more at the New York Times.

New Books

We Come Elemental by Tamiko Beyer 

[Paperback] Alice James Books, 104 pp., $15.95

Through "queer::eco::poetics," Tamiko Beyer leads readers to reconsider the true meaning and implications of nature and "natural" order. Reclaiming nature as queer, Beyer inspires us to discard gender dichotomies and uncover the intricate relationships between bodies both human and elemental through syntax as unpredictable as the natural world's movements.

About Crows by Craig Blais 

[Paperback] University of Wisconsin Press, 72 pp., $16.95

An unsentimental and at times disquieting first collection, the poems of About Crows excavate self, family, race, location, sex, art, and religion to uncover the artifacts of a succession of traumas that the speaker does not always experience firsthand but carries with him to refashion into some new importance. This is a book of half-states, broken affiliations, and dislocation.

Centaur by Greg Wrenn 

[Paperback] University of Wisconsin Press, 92 pp., $16.95

Greg Wrenn's debut collection opens with a long poem in which a man undergoes surgery to become a centaur. Other poems speak in voices as varied as those of Robert Mapplethorpe, Hercules, and a Wise Man at the birth of Jesus. Centaur skitters along the blurred lines between compulsivity and following one's heart, stasis and self-realization, human and animal. Here, suffering and transcendence are restlessly conjoined.

Thresherphobe by Mark Halliday

[Paperback] University of Chicago Press, 96 pp., $18.00

In his sixth collection, Mark Halliday continues to seek ways of using the smart playfulness of such poets as Frank O’Hara and Kenneth Koch to explore life’s emotional mysteries—both dire and hilarious—from the perpetual dissolving of our past to the perpetual frustration of our cravings for ego-triumph, for sublime connection with an erotically idealized Other, and for peace of spirit. Animated by belief in the possible truths to be reached in interpersonal speech, Halliday’s voice-driven poetry wants to find insight—or at least a stay against confusion—through personality without being trapped in personality. History will leave much of what we are on the threshing floor, Halliday notes, but in the meantime we do what we can; let posterity (if any!) say we rambled truly.

Little Stranger by Lisa Olstein

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $16.00

Lisa Olstein's third collection reverberates with twinned realities: wonder and terror, beauty and difficulty, celebration and lament. Through encounters with science, war, art, animals, and motherhood, Little Stranger explores the exigencies of close attention, the tenuousness of attachment, and the ever more rapidly shifting nature of knowledge. Intimate lyrics, elegies, and narratives speak in voices familiar yet strange.

 

Correspondences

Interview with Matthew Zapruder

by Hinged Journal 

Matthew Zapruder is the author of several collections of poetry, including Come On All You Ghosts (2010), which was selected by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the Top 5 Poetry Books and a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2010,The Pajamaist (2006), which was selected by Tony Hoagland as the winner of the William Carlos Williams Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and American Linden which was selected as the winner of the 2002 Tupelo Press Editors’ Prize. Sun Bear is the title of his forthcoming collection from Copper Canyon Press. Read more at Hinged Journal.

Milosz as California Poet  

by Cynthia L. Haven

In the winter of 1948-49, a Polish functionary squatted in a canoe in a Pennsylvania river before dawn, waiting for the appearance of beavers, a creature that had been hunted to extinction in Europe. He contemplated the disappearance of the world of esse, the world of essences and eternal truths, and he considered defecting from the Stalinist government, in which he had been a cultural attaché. But he decided to stick it out in Communist Poland. Read more at Quarterly Conversation.

The Poet on the Poem: Robert Wrigley

by Diane Lockward

I'm delighted to have Robert Wrigley as my guest poet for this occasional feature at Blogalicious. Robert Wrigley is the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently Anatomy of Melancholy. His awards include the Kingsley Tufts Award, for Reign of Snakes; the Poets' Prize, for Lives of the Animals; and the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award, for In the Bank of Beautiful Sins. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He lives in Idaho, in the woods, on Moscow Mountain, with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes. He is the Director of the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Idaho. Read more at Blogalicious.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Charles Simic

"The task of poetry, perhaps, is the salvage a trace of the authentic from the wreckage of religious, philosophical and political systems.

Next, one wants to write a poem so well crafted that it would do honor to the tradition of Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens, to name only a few masters.

At the same time, one hopes to rewrite that tradition, subvert it, turn it upside down and make some living space for oneself.

At the same time, one wants to entertain the reader with outrageous metaphors, flights of imagination and heartbreaking pronouncements.

At the same time, one has, for the most part, no idea of what one is doing. Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator. The poem is as much a result of chance as of intention. Probably more so."

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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
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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Auden
A.M. Klein
David Ignatow
Langston Hughes
Carriera Duke
Jon Stallworthy