April 16, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

April 16, 2014
1648 – John Luyken, poet/etcher (Duytse Lyre), is born. 
1661 – Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, British poet and statesman (d. 1715), is born.
1827 – Octave Crémazie, French Canadian poet (d. 1879), is born. 
1871 – John Millington Synge, Ireland, dramatist/poet (Riders to the Sea), is born. 
1899 – Emilio Jacinto, Filipino poet and revolutionary (b 1875), dies.
1904 – Maximilian Kronberger, German poet (b. 1888), dies.
1935 – Sarah Kirsch, German poet, is born.
1972 – Tracy K. Smith, is born.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,
And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,
It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you
Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

—from “I Don’t Miss It” by Tracy K. Smith

We hear so much about what love feels like/Right now, today, with the rain outside—from “I Don’t Miss It” by Tracy K. Smith

World Poetry

Ahwazi: Poet Attacked By Iranian Agents In The Netherlands

Saeed Mousa Mosavi, a famous Arab Poet from Ahwaz living in the Netherlands, was kidnapped and beaten on his way home in the evening of 6 March 2014, after which he was videotaped while beign interrogated by agents of the Iranian regime. He had previously received phone threats from unknown persons in Farsi, which he chose to ignore. Read more at Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.

"Sudan's poet of the people" Mahjoub Sharif Died

The famous Sudanese poet and writer, Mahjoub Sharif, died at his home in Omdurman on Wednesday 2 April, at the age of 66. Thousands have accompanied the body of the 'poet of the people' being brought to a cemetery, baraka. In his career, he has been repeatedly detained by several rulers in Sudan, including during the time of former President Gaafar Nimeiry and current President Omar Al Bashir. Read more at Radio Dabanga.

Leading British Poet Dying of Kidney Failure Makes Desperate Plea for Donor after Doctors Warn He has Just Months to Live

A leading British poet who is dying of kidney failure is appealing for a donor to come forward after doctors warned that he does not have long left. Award-winning writer Hugo Williams was diagnosed with kidney failure two-and-a-half years ago and has to endure gruelling dialysis three times a week for four hours a time. His desperate family has now started a Facebook campaign to find a matching donor who can give the 72-year-old poet his quality of life back. Read more at the Daily Mail. 

Saeed Mousa Mosavi was kidnapped and beaten on his way home.

Recent Reviews

Highlight Reel

On the found poetry of Mary Dalton's Hooking
by Brian Palmu
It’s no surprise that found poetry is popular in an age of jump cuts, hyperlinks, tape mixes and cross-media mashups. In a way, an erasure poem is no different than a Youtube video that recuts Mrs. Doubtfire into a horror flick: both manipulate core works to confuse, intrigue, entertain or denounce. Too often, however, found poems barely aspire to footnote status since the original art is subsumed without a corresponding vision. Enter the cento. This particular sub-form of found poetry has traded lines for seventeen hundred years, so it not’s exactly a johnny-come-lately. Read more at Maison Neuve.

I Have Not Lived Up to It

by Helen Vendler
The Collected Works of Gerard Manley Hopkins Vols I-II: Correspondence edited by R.K.R. Thorton and Catherine Phillips Writing in 1920 to Gerard Manley Hopkins’s sister Kate, the poet Robert Bridges, who had seen Hopkins’s poems through the press in 1918 (almost thirty years after Hopkins’s death), ventured a prophecy: ‘I think it very probable that his letters will some day be printed … It is possible enough that if I should live to be very very old I might myself edit the letters.’ At the time, Bridges was 76, and not in good health. Read more at the London Review of Books.

3 Poetry Collections That Are Full of Surprises

by Elizabeth Lund
The struggle to access paradise. The relationship between language and illusion. The power of childhood memories. These three poetry collections cover significant territory, even as they take readers in unexpected directions. Read more at the Christian Science Monitor.

Poet’s Latest Collection is Born of ‘the Stepchild Hour’

by Arlice Davenport
Haunted by what he has and has not said, Charles Wright pens a poetry of urgent expectation. His verse moves effortlessly from image to emotion to gnomic maxims about life and death. In them, he traces the lineaments of transcendence with delicacy and desire, humility and regret. Read more at theWichita Eagle.

The Self Unstable by Elisa Gabbert

by Ray McDaniel
Although The Self Unstable is her third book, Elisa Gabbert’s dominant mode of publication is the tweet, of which she is queen. As of circa right this moment, she has composed almost 45,000 of them, and, happily, she knows no sign of stopping or slowing down. 45,000 sounds like a lot of anything; it is difficult to present that accounting without provoking a sense of an overwhelming number of tweets, a cascade of tweets, a cacophony, a sky darkened by text. Read more at Constant Critic.

It’s no surprise that found poetry is popular in an age of jump cuts, hyperlinks, tape mixes and cross-media mashups.


Nearly Baroque

by Stephen Burt
"It's the opposite of / Baroque, so I want / none of it,” Angie Estes declares in a poem called “Sans Serif,” from Chez Nous (2004). That brisk and irregularly rhymed poem announces Estes’s opposition not only to the form-follows-function, no-frills side of modernism, but also to any attempt to make poems resemble spontaneous, unornamented speech. Her poem now looks like a manifesto for a set of contemporary poets and poems. Call them nearly Baroque, or else almost rococo. (We probably need both terms—I will say why below.) Their poetry seeks the opposite of simplicity, preferring the elaborate, the contrived, taking toward sound play and simile the attitude of King Lear: “O, reason not the need!” Read more at the Boston Review.

Why Teaching Poetry Is So Important

The oft-neglected literary form can help students learn in ways that prose can't.
by Andrew Simmons  
16 years after enjoying a high school literary education rich in poetry, I am a literature teacher who barely teaches it. So far this year, my 12th grade literature students have read nearly 200,000 words for my class. Poems have accounted for no more than 100. Read more at The Atlantic.

The Ideas of Pure and Impure Poetry

by Edward Hirsch
Today I’d like to juxtapose the ideas of pure and impure poetry. In 1925, the Abbé Henri Bremond delivered a lecture entitled “Pure Poetry” (or in French Poésie Pure), which he followed up the next year with Prayer and Poetry. Two years later, Paul Valéry clarified the idea that poetry aims “to give the impression of a complete system of reciprocal relations between our ideas and images on the one hand and our means of expression on the other—a system which would correspond particularly to the creation of an emotive state in the mind” (“Pure Poetry”). Read more at Best American Poetry.

Their poetry seeks the opposite of simplicity.

Drafts & Fragments

High-rez Scan of Poe's "Raven," Illustrated by Dore

by Cory Doctorow
The Library of Congress's website hosts a high-resolution scan of a rare edition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" illustrated by Gustave Doré. The title-page is at page 11, the list of illustrations is on page 14. Read more at Boing Boing.

The Library of Congress’s website hosts a high-resolution scan of a rare edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”.

Poetry In the News

Cuban Poetry at O, Miami: Many Voices, One History

For the next few weeks, poetry is the language of Miami. But the monthlong O, Miami poetry festival, funded by Knight Foundation, is an ambitious proposition well beyond the literary. This year, the event includes a greater emphasis on Spanish language programming, an approach highlighted by encounters among substantial Cuban poets living stateside and on the island.
Read more at the Knight Foundation.

Poems Next to Sales Posters at BusinessWindows in Vermont Town

More than 50 shops in the Vermont town of Randolph are featuring poems among spring sale advertisements on their windows this month. The idea was inspired by a similar effort called "PoemCity" in Montpelier, said event organizer and Democratic Rep. Marjorie Ryerson of Randolph. "I really wanted to open the door on poetry as a topic and have everybody enjoy it and be less afraid of it," she told Vermont Public Radio. Read more at the Daily Journal.

Indian-Origin Poet Wins Prestigious Pulitzer

Bangalore-born Vijay Seshadri’s volume of verse, “3 Sections,” won the Pulitzer prize for poetry on Monday. Mr. Seshadri lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College. When he was five, he moved with his family from India to the United States. The Pulitzer Prize citation described the book as “a compelling collection of poems that examine human consciousness, from birth to dementia, in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.” Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

Renee Adams’s Poetry Fence

A weathered gray fence, about six feet tall, stands guard at the home on the corner of Windsor and Dewitt in Del Ray. On it hang two bulletin boards: “Some winters, taking leave/Deal us a last, hard blow,” reads one post, a poem by Richard Wilbur entitled “A Storm in April.” “If sunlight fell like snowflakes/gleaming yellow and so bright. . . .” begins another, the children’s poem “Sunflakes” by Frank Asch. For the past five years, Renée Adams has tended to this “poetry fence,” much as she has her garden of zinnias and snapdragons. She changes the poems weekly, selecting them by holidays or season or other themes. There are poems for children and for adults year-round, not just during April, which is National Poetry Month. Read more at the Washington Post.

Poetry Gets a Hip New Look

The Academy of American poets, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, is one of the most important American organizations entirely devoted to poetry. It sponsors readings across the country, prizes that honor poets and their books, publishes a magazine for its membership, and, most notably, it sponsors National Poetry Month (which it founded) each April. Read more at Publishers Weekly.

For the next few weeks, poetry is the language of Miami.

New Books

Guilty Knowledge, Guilty Pleasure: The Dirty Art of Poetry by William Logan

[Hardcover] Columbia University Press, 344 pp., $35.00
William Logan has been a thorn in the side of American poetry for more than three decades. Though he has been called the "most hated man in American poetry," his witty and articulate reviews have reminded us how muscular good reviewing can be. These new essays and reviews take poetry at its word, often finding in its hardest cases the greatest reasons for hope. Logan begins with a devastating polemic against the wish to have critics announce their aesthetics every time they begin a review. "The Unbearable Rightness of Criticism" is a plea to read those critics who got it wrong when they reviewed Lyrical Ballads or Leaves of Grass or The Waste Land. Sometimes, he argues, such critics saw exactly what these books were — they saw the poems plain yet often did not see that they were poems. In such wrongheaded criticism, readers can recover the ground broken by such groundbreaking books.

Out of Place by Richard Jackson

"His lines are clouds of love, piercing the sky with enormous empathy, rolling in the azure, torrents of passion, and are arrows at the same time, reaching a peak where they break, crying, cleansing the air, becoming ether. It is impossible to describe this in discursive language. With a melody that is unmistakably his own, his poems seem to come to us in Europe from the heart of the heart of America, the totally open (and hidden) center from where the power of the continent sprouts.  . . ." —Tomaz Salamun

Clean by David J. Daniels

[Paperback] Four Way, 76 pp., $15.95
From the “basement / of that suburban church with its sad paint / job in Texas” to an old drag queen’s “parlor,” “that bazaar of flounce, chintz, feathers,” Clean, the award-winning collection by David J. Daniels, tears back the curtain of life to expose gorgeousness and grit. These poems pay homage to the addict, the grandmother, the closeted, and the lover, to the dead, the dying, and the living who refuse to die.

And Short the Season: Poems by Maxine Kumin

[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 112 pp., $24.95
From the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, a stunning collection of poems that course with the rhythms of nature. A poet of piercing revelations and arresting imagery, Kumin is "unforgettable, indispensable" (New York Times Book Review). In And Short the Season she muses on mortality: her own and that of the earth. Always deeply personal, always political, these poems blend myth and modernity, fecundity and death, and the violence and tenderness of humankind.

Animism by Dennis Schmitz

[Paperback] Oberlin College Press, 60 pp., $15.95
Since the publication of We Weep for Our Strangeness in 1969, Dennis Schmitz has been widely praised and admired as one of our most original and fearless American poets. Animism finds him at his surprising, wry, elegantly layered, and brilliantly crafted best. The world of Schmitz’s poems is deeply, vividly physical, intense in its sense perception and detail, yet also ultimately spiritual, affirming the presence of divinity and spirit in the most unlikely places and things. 

The Road to Emmaus: Poems by Spencer Reece

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 144 pp., $24.00
Two strangers walk toward Emmaus. Christ has just been crucified, and they are heartbroken—until a third man joins them on the road and comforts them. Once they reach Emmaus and break bread, the pair realizes they have been walking with Christ himself. But in the moment they recognize him, he disappears. Spencer Reece draws on this tender story in his mesmerizing collection—one that fearlessly confronts love and its loss, despair and its consolation, and faith in all of its various guises.

William Logan has been a thorn in the side of American poetry for more than three decades.


Cultural Cross Sections

by Harbhajan Singh Hundal: The Poet as a Wakeful Dreamer
by Rajesh Sharma
Harbhajan Singh Hundal was born in Lyallpur (Pakistan) in 1934. In addition to fifteen books of poetry, he has written travelogues and autobiographical accounts. He is also an avid literary translator. He has translated selections from Neruda, Lorca, Brecht, Mayakovsky, Darwish, and others into Punjabi. He has been at the forefront of people’s struggles and was kept in preventive detention for over four months during the Emergency. Read more at World Literature Today.

Poet George Bilgere Embraces His Lot in Life

by Adrian Rogers 

There’s not a lot of leverage in the middle, not at first glance. As a man in the middle – of life, of the country, of the socioeconomic spectrum – poet George Bilgere has noticed this holds true in the literary world. People at society’s edges – the up-and-comers, the overcomers, the “new perspectives” – imbue a writer with a certain power, a cachet. The straight, white, middle-class guy, born in the middle of the baby boom, living by choice in Cleveland – what’s he got to complain about? Or write about? Read more at the Spokesman-Review.

Subway Poetry Project Connects NYers

Madeline Schwartzman’s mission is connect people in what she sees as an increasingly individualized society. Every day as she travels by subway Madeline asks fellow commuters to write a poem in her notebook. Some refuse, some accept, and now more than 100 of their poems are posted on Madeline’s website, 365 Day Subway: Poems by New Yorkers. Read more at the NewsHour.

Harbhajan Singh Hundal was born in Lyallpur (Pakistan) in 1934.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lucky Strike, Indeed

‘Mad Men’ Enters Its Final Season in an Altered World
by Lorne Manly  

Frank O’Hara: THEN Relatively obscure poet of the New York School. NOW Much less obscure poet of the New York School, at least when it comes to book sales. After Don read aloud from “Meditations in an Emergency” during the opening episode of the second season, annual sales have jumped more than tenfold. In 2007, 197 copies were sold, according to Nielsen BookScan; the next year, the tally rose to 2,028 and has not dipped below 1,971 since. Read more at the New York Times.

If Frank O'Hara is obscure, it would be interesting to know who, among the poets actively writing or being published in the sixties other than Plath, Lowell, and Ginsberg, wouldn't be considered "obscure" by the New York Times. And, as has been pointed out elsewhere, while "Meditations in an Emergency" might have jumped in sales as a result of Mad Men, O'Hara's selected and collected poems have been selling steadily for years, and his work is included in every anthology of poetry that covers the era. I wonder: If NYT can get something like this wrong, what else do they get wrong?

Frank O’Hara: THEN relatively obscure poet of the New York School.