Poetry News In Review
1562 – Lope Felix de Vega, Madrid Spain, dramatist/poet (Angelica, Arcadia), is born.
1697 – Gerhard Tersteegen, German evangelist/poet (wrote in blood), is born.
1785 – Richard Glover, British poet (b. 1712), dies.
1840 – Hugo Verriest, Flemish author/poet (Flemish Movement), is born.
1890 – Isaac Rosenberg, English war poet and artist (d. 1918), is born.
1924 – Takaaki Yoshimoto, Japanese poet, critic, and philosopher, is born.
1947 – Léon-Paul Fargue, French poet (b. 1876), dies.
1951 – Raden Mas Noto Suroto, Indonesian poet (Wayang Songs), dies at 63.
Our souls belong
to gravity and buoyancy,
to suspicion and aspiration.
The world is made of coercion,
causes and mistakes,
but surely, a blue the same as the sky
hangs deep in our skulls.
standing on fragile legs,
how could we ride the image of wings
to possess endlessly higher places.
—from “Posession” by Takaaki Yoshimoto (1924–2012)
Penitentiary authorities in Kazakhstan are denying reports from a rights group that says jailed dissident poet Aron Atabek has been tortured. The warden of a detention center in the northern city of Pavlodar, Ernur Saspanov, told RFE/RL on November 14 that Atabek is "a too well-known individual to do anything illegal against him."
During his life, the late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was a great admirer of China and its people, conveying a love for the country in works, statements and deeds. Neruda, who died at age 69 in 1973 and made three trips to China in his lifetime, wrote with fondness about those visits, and returned to Chile to establish a still-operating cultural institute that promotes Chinese culture. "Neruda, as you know, was a great admirer of China," said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who at the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Beijing, unveiled a bronze statue of the celebrated poet.
by Patrick McGuinness
In a 1956 letter to Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery wrote: “I hate all modern French poetry, except for Raymond Roussel”, specifying: “I do like my own wildly inaccurate translations of some of the 20th-century ones, but not the originals”. The editors of this book rather solemnly gloss this as Ashbery musing on “his own hard work”, and his “difficulties in building a canon for his own new poetic journeys”. They may be right, but the comment is also funny and provocative, taking a dandy-esque line on the tired debates (tired even then and comprehensively exhausted now) about accuracy and fidelity in translation.
by Brian Lynch
Now that Seamus Heaney has gone - hard to believe he died more than a year ago - his friend and fellow Northerner, Derek Mahon, is being proposed for the role of Greatest Living Irish Poet. There are two problems with the proposition. First, Seamus was fabulous at being famous; he is an impossible act to follow. Secondly, Mahon doesn't like the limelight. In fact when it searches him out, he runs a mile. No one in the public arena knows much about him.
By Clive James
James Booth’s new biography of Philip Larkin is not very exciting, perhaps because Booth has the sense to leave the exciting writing to Larkin. But it is very welcome. If you believe that Larkin (1922-85) wrote some of the best English-language poems of modern times, then it has been a trial to see his questionable track record as an everyday human being get in the way of his reputation as an artist.
by Maggie Galehouse
As a poet and essayist, Tony Hoagland is a playful - but thoughtful - provocateur. The titles he chose for his last two poetry collections? "Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty" and the deliciously droll "What Narcissism Means to Me." Poets can be funny. It's true. But protecting Hoagland's funny bone requires intellectual muscle. Dexterity. Soul. And his new prose collection, "Twenty Poems That Could Save America and Other Essays," brings these qualities to bear on the craft of contemporary poetry, on its shifting parts and changing wholes, and on its best and most imitated practitioners.
by David Rodrick
It doesn’t take extraordinary insight to see the poet’s role in any culture includes documenting collective experiences and revealing to fellow citizens what is invisible. I don’t intend to burrow here into Shelley’s concept of poets as the unacknowledged legislators of the world, but it’s true that, though an American audience is understandably distrustful of poems with soapbox stances, we poets carry the power of moral persuasion and share values of imagination and reflection that might be useful to the people among whom we live. Otherwise, why bother?
by James Parker
“Poetry is dead!” cried John Berryman, emerging in distraction from the Manhattan hospital room that Dylan Thomas had just exited by another, more conclusive route. Poetry had been unconscious for four days, as a result of alcohol and then morphine. It had finally succumbed while being washed by a nurse—babied into eternity under a woman’s hands, life’s last feebleness recalling its first.
Each week in Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. Shelley once called poets the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” This week, Adam Kirsch and Leslie Jamison discuss how the social role of poetry has changed since then.
by James Longenbach
The medium of Giorgione’s Tempest is “oil on canvas”; the medium of Robert Rauschenberg’s Bed is “oil and pencil on pillow, quilt, and sheet.” Descriptions of a work of art’s medium seem to tell us everything and nothing, for our entire experience of art is dependent upon the artist’s intimacy with the medium, and yet the medium itself may seem weirdly mundane, especially when the artist harnesses everyday materials like a sheet. In the nineteenth century, the stuff from which art is made came to be called the medium because for hundreds of years the word had referred to something that acts as an intermediary, a piece of money or a messenger. The artistic medium enables a transaction between the artist and the world, and, over time, the history of those transactions has become inextricable from the medium as such, an inherited set of conventions. It’s not coincidental that it was also in the nineteenth century that the word medium was first used to describe a person who conducts a séance, a person who exists simultaneously in the worlds of the living and the dead.
Drafts & Framents
by Mark Strauss
During the early- to mid-1800s, a group of British poets marshaled their talents to inspire a popular movement against the "Corn Laws," a set of government policies to further pad the pockets of land-owning aristocrats. Among the most powerful poems were the Corn Law Rhymes, penned by businessman Ebenezer Elliott.
by Sarah Begley
Bill Cosby had plenty of critics before his latest scandal, and in a video from 2007 that has circulated on the Internet this week, poet Nikki Giovanni gave him a thorough skewering. The entertainer was known then for making conservative speeches on what he considers a lack of morality in the black community, and proposing changes that Giovanni took issue with.
Poetry In The News
An East Harlem housing complex rechristened its theater to honor a legendary Nuyorican poet whose life was cut short last year. The Red Carpet Theater at Taino Towers, on E. 123rd St. near Second Ave., has been renamed The Jesús “Tato” Laviera Theater after the Puerto Rican poet and playwright, whose acclaimed work addressed language, cultural identity and race.
A previously unknown notebook by Dylan Thomas containing 49 hand written poems is expected to sell for more than £100,000 at auction next month. The book was left at the Hampshire home of his mother-in-law Yvonne Macnamara in the 1930s. It is by luck it survived as a member of her household staff, Louie King, was apparently asked to burn it - but he kept it safe. The book stayed in the King family and was forgotten until decades later. It is due to be auctioned by Sotheby's London in December with a price tag of between £100,000-£150,000.
Louise Glück, adjunct professor of English and editor of the Yale Series of Younger Poets 2003-2010, has received a 2014 National Book Award for her own book of poetry, “Faithful and Virtuous Night.” Glück, the Rosenkrantz Writer in Residence, is the author of 10 books of poetry. She has bee awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, the Bobbitt National Poetry Prize, the Ambassador’s Award, and Yale’s Bollingen Prize for her poetry, as well as the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for Nonfiction. Her book “Vita Nova” won the first annual New Yorker Readers Award. The judges described “Faithful and Virtuous Night” as “a story of adventure, an encounter with the unknown, a knight’s undaunted journey into the kingdom of death” and said the work “tells a single story, but the parts are mutable and the great sweep of its narrative mysterious and fateful, heartbreaking, and charged with wonder.”
With deep ties to the Berkeley Buddhist Temple, Mimi Kagehiro felt like she was coming full circle, and about to meet an old friend. Though she had never met renowned poet Gary Snyder before, she said she felt connected to him as he returned to the Berkeley Buddhist Temple after a 30-year absence. "He's a living legend," Kagehiro said before his talk Nov. 15 before 100 people at the Berkeley Buddhist Temple on Channing Way. Her grandfather, Heihachi Oda helped found the temple decades ago.
Twenty Poems That Could Save America and Other Essays by Tony Hoagland
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 256 pp., $16.00
Twenty Poems That Could Save America presents insightful essays on the craft of poetry and a bold conversation about the role of poetry in contemporary culture. Essays on the “vertigo” effects of new poetry give way to appraisals of Robert Bly, Sharon Olds, and Dean Young. At the heart of this book is an honesty and curiosity about the ways poetry can influence America at both the private and public levels. Tony Hoagland is already one of this country’s most provocative poets, and this book confirms his role as a restless and perceptive literary and cultural critic.
Repast: Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails by D. A. Powell
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 224 pp., $20.00
Published together for the first time, D. A. Powell’s landmark trilogy of Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails make up a three-course Divine Comedy for our day. With a new introduction by novelist David Leavitt, Repast presents a major achievement in contemporary poetry.
Cat Town by Sakutaro Hagiwara
[Paperback] New York Review Books, 224 pp., $14.00
Modernist poet Sakutarō Hagiwara’s first published book, Howling at the Moon, shattered conventional verse forms and transformed the poetic landscape of Japan. Two of its poems were removed on order of the Ministry of the Interior for “disturbing social customs.” Along with the entirety of Howling, this volume includes all of Blue Cat, Hagiwara's second major collection, together with Cat Town, a prose-poem novella, and a substantial selection of verse from the rest of his books, giving readers the full breadth and depth of this pioneering poet's extraordinary work.
Storm Toward Morning by Malachi Black
[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $16.00
"To be both visionary and accurate, true to physics and metaphysics at the same time, is rare and puts the poet in some rarefied company. Black, like a few other younger poets, is willing to include all the traditional effects of the lyric poem in his work, but he has set them going in new and lively ways, with the confidence of virtuosity and a belief in the ancient pleasures of pattern and repetition."—Mark Jarman
Slant Six by Erin Belieu
[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $16.00
“Belieu oscillates between dark humor, self-consciousness, and pointed satire in a fourth collection that’s equal-opportunity in its critique. In the world of these poems, no one is innocent; everyone is confined to the complexity, absurdity, and, above all, fallibility of their human condition…. Anchoring the work is a conversational, lyrical speaker willing to implicate herself as part of the political and social constructs she criticizes, as when she depicts a Southern American culture still reeling from its history of social injustice, and even the Civil War: “Don’t tell us/ history. Nobody hearts a cemetery/ like we do.” It’s a fantastic collection; Belieu desires not to dress issues up but confront them.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
by Julie R. Enszer
Jana Putrle Srdić (1975, Ljubljana) is a poet, art film reviewer, and translator of poetry who lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where she works as a visual art producer. She has published three collections of poems to date, and also translates poetry from English, Russian, and Serbian, including collections by Robert Hass, Sapphire, Ana Ristović, and other authors. Putrle's collection, Anything Could Happen, translated into English by Barbara Jurša, has just been published by A Midsummer Night's Press as a part of its new Periscope imprint. Recently, I talked with Putrle about her work as a poet.
by Victoria Fleischer
Born in the Mekong Delta and raised in the Washington, D.C. area, Hoa Nguyen is the author of three books of poetry, including “As Long As Trees Last,” “Hecate Lochia” and “Your Ancient See Through.” The ancient Greek goddess Hecate was extremely powerful. So much so that Zeus, father of the gods, gave the goddess a special position, says poet Hoa Nguyen, referencing Hesiod’s epic poem “The Theogeny.” “He honored her and ‘allowed’ her to have dominion over earth, sea, sky,” Nguyen said in an interview with three Advanced Placement poetry students at Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts.
by William Giraldi
In his essay “Meditations of a Sitter,” Louise Glück’s onetime teacher Stanley Kunitz penned a line of such searing veracity it seems a condemnation of entire quadrants of the human tribe: “The empty ones are those who do not suffer their selfhood.” To suffer a selfhood means to embody the soul of self, to know yourself en route to becoming yourself. Glück studied with Kunitz at Columbia University in the mid-sixties, and for nearly five decades she has been the American poet most willing to communicate the flammable vicissitudes of selfhood, to detect the temblors beneath the self’s consistent adaptations to the facts of living. The facts of any life are impotent and ineffectual until literature intercedes, until it takes hold of those facts and twists them into the light, casting a refraction that allows us to glimpse them anew.
Envoi: Editor's Notes
“It seems when we hear a skylark singing as if sound were running forward into the future, running so fast and utterly without consideration, straight on into futurity. And when we hear a nightingale, we hear the pause and the rich, piercing rhythm of recollection, the perfected past. The lark may sound sad, but with the lovely lapsing sadness that is almost a swoon of hope. The nightingale’s triumph is a paean, but a death paean.
So it is with poetry.
But there is another kind of poetry: the poetry of that which is at hand—the immediate present. In the immediate present there is no perfection, no consummation, nothing finished. The strands are all flying, quivering, intermingling into the web, the waters are shaking the moon. There is no round, consummate moon on the face of running water, nor on the face of the unfinished tide. There are no gems of the living plasm. The living plasm vibrates unspeakably, it inhales the future, it exhales the past, it is the quick of both, and yet it is neither. There is no plasmic finality, nothing crystal, permanent. If we try to fix the living tissue, as the biologists fix it with formation, we have only a hardened bit of the past, the bygone life under our observation.”
There was a time when I thought D. H. Lawrence was over the top, too much. As Edmund Wilson said in his review of a collection of Lawrence's poetry, Look, We’ve Come Through! : “I’m glad they came through, but don’t make me look.”
However, his claim for “another kind of poetry,” a poetry that revels in the imperfection of the moment, looking neither too far ahead or too far in the past, that recognizes the incompletion of immediacy, still feels as fresh and as liberating as it must have when he wrote it. As current as its natural poetic heirs of Frank O’Hara, Jean Follain, or Milan Djordjevic, to name a few, his emphasis on the plasticity of the poetry as a reflection of the vagaries of human feeling also owes something to Keats’s notion of negative capability. Regardless, we ignore his insight, I think, not so much at our own peril but more simply at the risk of diminishing our reach for the evanescence that poetry can elicit.
It calls to mind a poem I wrote three years ago and include here (something I don’t think I’ve ever done before), which echoes, at least in its imagery, his point:
Full Moon, Dow Lake, July 2011
I danced on the floating dock
and shook the water hard,
and for a minute each slender reed
of fallen light became a shard.