April 10, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days


1821 – Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, France, symbolist poet (Flowers of Evil), is born.
1855 – Gyula Reviczky, Hungarian author/poet, is born.
1882 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, English Pre-Raphaelite poet and painter, dies at 53.
1917 – Edward Thomas, poet, killed in WW I.

1955 – Joolz Denby, English poet and novelist, is born.

1986 – Jean Mogin, Belgian poet, dies at 64.


No chest of drawers crammed with documents, 

love-letters, wedding-invitations, wills, 

a lock of someone's hair rolled up in a deed, 

hides so many secrets as my brain. 

This branching catacombs, this pyramid 

contains more corpses than the potter's field: 

I am a graveyard that the moon abhors, 

where long worms like regrets come out to feed 

most ravenously on my dearest dead.

—from “Spleen” by Charles Baudelaire, 1821–1867

“Spleen” by Charles Baudelaire

World Poetry

UPDATE: Chile Successfully Exhumes Body of Poet Neruda

Chilean forensic experts exhumed the body of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda on Monday, trying to solve a four-decade mystery about the death of one the greatest poets of the 20th century. The official version is that that the poet died from prostate cancer and the trauma of witnessing the 1973 military coup that led to the persecution and killing of many of his friends. But his driver and many other Chileans say Neruda was murdered by agents of Gen. Augusto Pinochet's brutal dictatorship. Read more at ABC News.

UPDATE:Chile Successfully Exhumes Body of Poet Neruda

Recent Reviews

New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012 by Charles Simic

by John Freeman

Charles Simic, America’s barnyard insomniac, our modern-day beatnik, the only poet equal parts Robert Frost and Charles Baudelaire, has written some of the strangest, most opalescent poems of the past half-century, many of them collected in his new book, New and Selected Poems. Beginning with the Belgrade-born poet’s earliest work and ending in the near present — with Simic, post-US poet laureate, edgily ensconced in New Hampshire — it is a marvelous and punishing assembly. Here is the poet in purgatory, as a witness, as a sensualist chum. Here is the poet, estranged from himself, consuming a new American identity, one poem at a time. Read more at the Boston Globe.

Words Fail Him: The Poetry of Charles Bernstein

by Jason Guriel

In senior year of high school, my friend Tom discovered the works of Marilyn Manson and took up the vestments: hair dye, torn nylons, Doc Martens. He insisted I borrow his Heart of Darkness, his Darkness at Noon. (He preferred his fiction dimly lit.) We convened in Ms. B—’s creative writing class and toyed with the idea of putting together our own literary magazine, which we planned to stack in place of the school newspaper: a blow struck against hegemony. Read more at Parnassus Review.

Stars and Stripes

Poetry of here and beyond

Glyn Maxwell, a British poet and playwright, names his most recent collection of poetry after the ex-planet. Like it, this collection is a strange mix of the dark and the arresting. Mr Maxwell, born in 1962 and formerly the poetry editor for the New Republic, an American magazine, has a more subdued profile than many of his British and American contemporaries. Pluto, a collection of 22 poems, could change that. Read more at the Economist.

Poets in a Landscape

by Gilbert Highet

In the waning years of the fourth century, a Roman scholar named Maurus Servius Honoratus was busily composing a massive twelve-volume commentary of phenomenal erudition on Virgil’s Aeneid—a work as distant from his times as Shakespeare’s plays are from our own. We do not know much about Servius’s life, but it is clear that he was one of the last great literati of antiquity. His work is the most intact of its kind to survive the fall of the Roman Empire, and it could even be argued that it is the last such work of literary criticism until the Renaissance. Servius does not seem to have converted to Christianity; it is tempting to imagine him shaking his head in his study, lamenting the loss of the old gods and rites and ways of life. Read more at Open Letters Monthly.

New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012 by Charles Simic


Tom Lennon Bought A Poem About His Dog From A New Orleans Street Poet And It’s Just Beautiful

If you’ve visited New Orleans in the recent years and strolled around the French Quarter or down Frenchman Street at night, there’s a chance you’ve seen a young lady sitting with a manual typewriter at a desk that has a cardboard sign advertising a “Poet For Hire” affixed to it. Her name is Erin Lierl. With that said, Tom Lennon, one of our favorite comedy people, and his wife Jenny have been in New Orleans vacationing all week (he’s been tweeting about it and posting pics to Instagram regularly) and yesterday he ran into young Erin, which I’d suspected when I saw that he’d posted the photo above along with the note, “‘Poem is ready’ is the kind text you get in New Orleans.” After picking up the poem Erin wrote for him, a poem about his dog, he posted it to Instagram, and I was so taken by it that I just had to share it here. Read more at Uproxx.

The Gaza Poetry Roundtable: Part III 

by Dara Barnat, Fady Joudah, Tala Abu Rahmehand by Marcela Sulak

During the recent events in Gaza, I was struck by how many more questions I had than answers. As poets, we spend our days thinking about specificity and detail. We attempt to make sense of the world, or at least, illuminate the ways comprehension eludes us. If poetry is news that stays news, then what can poets help us understand about seemingly incomprehensible situations? In true 21st century fashion I issued a call on Facebook asking if anyone could put me in touch with poets and critics who were in Israel or the West Bank, Palestine. Within moments I had so many suggestions and offers of help. This in itself says something about the world of poetry. How small it is. And how varied.

It has been my privilege over the last 10 days to work with some very brave and thoughtful poets on the following dispatches on the situation in Gaza. Some of the poets are American citizens. All have a deep connection to the region. Three of our four correspondents are currently living in Israel or the West Bank. All of our correspondents wrote their pieces amidst sirens and fears for the safety of their families. Which also says something about the world of poetry. Read more at the LA Review of Books.

What Poetry Could Teach a Divided America

by Danny Heitman 

With another April has come another observance of National Poetry Month, an annual attempt to raise awareness about one of the world’s oldest literary forms. Such a month-long salute to verse is necessary, one gathers, because not enough people are talking about the power of poetry the rest of the year. One notable exception is US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose recent, bestselling memoir, “My Beloved World,” takes its name from the line of a poem by Puerto Rican writer José Gautier Benitez. “Forgive the exile this sweet frenzy,” Benitez writes. “I return to my beloved world, in love with the land where I was born.” Read more at the Christian Science Monitor.

What Poetry Could Teach a Divided America

Drafts & Fragments

App Helps You Memorize Classic Poetry

By Jason Boog 

Quick! Can you recite a poem by heart? Memorizing poetry used to play a larger role in education, but it is a lost art in our digital age. A new app from Penguin Classics will help you memorize a slew of great poems. AppNewser has all the details: The free Poems by Heart app from Penguin Classics will help you learn new poetry and share the games with your friends. As you can see by the video embedded above, we have a hard time remembering classic poems. The app includes a free William Blake poem to memorize, but you can purchase 22 other classic poems. Currently, the app is only available for iOS devices. Read more at Media Bistro.

60 Minutes or Less: Poetry Readings on SoundCloud

by Kyle MacMillan 

What: During April, the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation invites the public to read and record a poem via SoundCloud, an audio social-networking site. The poems can be classics, obscurities or even something written by the readers themselves. Poetry fans not interested in contributing can log on and listen to the posted recitations. “It’s almost like poetry radio,” said Catherine Halley, the foundation’s director of digital programs. She compared Record-a-Poem to National Public Radio’s StoryCorps program, in which everyday people record anecdotes about their lives. The foundation added about 45-50 poetry readings a day during the beginning of the project, and Halley expects that number to grow. Read more at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Poetry In the News

U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine – A lifetime of Giving a Thundering Voice to the Voiceless

Poet Laureate Philip Levine, still as fit and funny at age 85 as he was as a young man working the night shift at a car factory, shared his special brand of earthy, poignant and insightful poetry – and a sizable measure of good humored repartee ­– with over 1000 fans at UTEP recently. The poet of the working class, who was born in Detroit to poor Russian Jewish immigrant parents, began writing professionally in the early 1950’s and has been giving “a voice to the voiceless” ever since. His message and poetry resonated with his El Paso audience in a city that is predominately Hispanic and working class. Read more at Borderzine.

Poets Explore Native American Heritage in Verse

Anyone who thinks good poetry has to be soft and pretty is hereby invited to read Allison Hedge Coke's "The Year of the Rat." If they dare. Almost as long as a short story in verse, the poem chronicles the harrowing trials of a young mother who escapes her abusive spouse only to discover that the shelter to which she has fled is infested with a rat pack straight out of Stephen King. Or Edgar Allan Poe. "The mother covers the sleeping innocents; she clutches an empty 2-liter glass Coke bottle in the right hand and iron claw hammer with rough, splintered wooden handle in the left; she tells the pack, the herd, the congregation: these are her children; she says this with her eyes." Read more at the News Advance.

U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine – A lifetime of Giving a Thundering Voice to the Voiceless

New Books

The Rattling Window by Catherine Staples 

[Paperback] Ashland Poetry Press, 92 pp., $15.95

"The poems in The Rattling Window reveal an imagination caught up in the wondrous ordinariness of simply being, knowing how complicated in fact such simplicity is. Staples manages this magic by the quality of her attention, the articulate, luminous sympathy she brings to whatever her eye takes in. Whether it's a seashore, a field in winter, the 'whiplong honeycomb casing of a snake,' or the astonishing, unforgettable thereness of a horse, it's all illuminated by this poet's 'bright lines of light.' She speaks of 'unearthly singing—just the wind in the ear of a whelk.' Of such singing—bringing the ordinary and the amazing into illuminating alignment—are these poems made."—Eamon Grennan

Scrap Iron  by Mark Jay Brewin Jr. 

[Paperback] University of Utah Press, 92 pp., $12.95

South Jersey farmland, flooded and made an island. Through landscapes and captivating visuals we begin Mark Jay Brewin’s debut collection of poems. Scrap Iron quickly and fluidly moves from this isolated plot of land—the poet’s childhood home—to the memories associated with that place, its people, and his youth. Throughout the volume, Brewin’s attention to sound and cadence offers the reader a burning exploration of beautiful imagery, while also providing a sharp contrast to the sometimes harsh and dark subject matter. He asks how one grows while remaining rooted. 

Egypt from Space by Beckian Fritz Goldberg 

[Paperback] Oberlin College Press, 76 pp., $15.95

"In Egypt from Space, Beckian Fritz Goldberg energizes and advances the prose poem with her charged and often heartbreaking tales of death and the vulnerability of the body. She moves freely from surrealism to fabulism to meditations, from the waking to dreaming life, from detachment to engagement, with compassion and humor and grace. Her poems contain panoramic sweeps and minutia the rest of us miss, her gift 'paying attention which is the pleasure of itself.' This is a truly amazing book." —Denise Duhamel 

Best of the Best American Poetry: 25th Anniversary Edition edited by David Lehman

[Paperback] Scribner, 352 pp., $18.00

This special edition celebrates twenty-five years of the Best American Poetry series, which has become an institution. From its inception in 1988, it has been hotly debated, keenly monitored, ardently advocated (or denounced), and obsessively scrutinized. Each volume consists of seventy-five poems chosen by a major American poet acting as guest editor—from John Ashbery in 1988 to Mark Doty in 2012, with stops along the way for such poets as Charles Simic, A. R. Ammons, Louise Glück, Adrienne Rich, Billy Collins, Heather McHugh, and Kevin Young.

I Was Thinking of Beauty by Sydney Lea 

[Paperback] Four Way, 76 pp., $15.95

It's been said about Lea that "this extraordinary poet finds an elegance and beauty that can be glimpsed throughout his often harsh landscape." This new collection evidences that skill. Here the natural world coexists with the poet's boundless intellect. Lea's keen narrative eye keeps us fully in the present as he reminisces on the past–which Lea unravels, chisels away at in search of a deeper understanding–so vivid it could be our own.

The Rattling Window by Catherine Staples


An Interview with Joshua Corey

by Stephen Ross

Joshua Corey is the author of three books of poems—Fourier Series, Selah, and Severance Songs—and two chapbooks. He is an assistant professor at Lake Forest College, near Chicago, and runs a popular poetry blog, “Cahiers de Corey.” Recently, he has finished co-editing a poetry anthology, The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral, and has just received the wonderful news that his manuscript, The Barons and Other Poems, will be published by Omnidawn in fall 2014. Corey’s academic and creative work center on modern forms of utopian speculation, primarily the flowering of “avant-pastoral” poetic modes from late-modernism onward. His work on this absorbing substratum of environmental poetics draws extensively from both cultural materialist critique and from what he has called “visionary materialism” (think Heidegger and Robert Duncan). Read more at Wave Composition.

Interview with Adam Fitzgerald, Author of The Late Parade

by Roberto Montes

New School MFA student Brooke Ellsworth interviewed Adam Fitzgerald about his new poetry collection The Late Parade forthcoming this June from W. W. Norton’s Liveright imprint. Lucky for you, it’s currently available for preorder online. About The Late Parade John Ashbery exclaimed: “Adam Fitzgerald is a master of defeating expectations so as to fulfill them farther along. One has the feeling of climbing higher along a path that is giving way under one’s feet, in pursuit always of ‘a waltz on our breath.’ Yet the rhythmic and consonant commotion of these poems ends in joy. This is a dazzling debut.” Read more at New School Writing.

Interview with Adam Fitzgerald, Author of The Late Parade

Envoi: Editor’s Notes


Weighing Pound and drawing the line.

by Sina Queyras

"Writing that is discovering is reaching is tightrope walking.

Insight is not polish: don’t scrub the aleatory, the unresolved, the catch of meter and rhyme out of  your work, yet rewrite and rewrite and rewrite."

The most recent issue of Poetry includes amendations to Ezra Pound's "List of Don'ts."  One of the contributors, Sina Queyras, has some especially wise suggestions:

"If, on a snowy night, you find yourself feeling like you are inside a Robert Frost poem 

and are moved to write, know that you are feeling moved to write

the poem Robert Frost already wrote."

Okay. I need to keep that in mind.

"If, on a crowded street you find your thoughts walking ahead of you, at a steady pace, 

as if they have never been known by you, 

you are probably writing your own poem."

Now that she mentions it, yes.

—David Sanders