April 17, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

April 17, 2012

1297 – Willem van Afflighem, Flemish poet/abbot St Truiden, dies at about 86.
1622 – Henry Vaughan, English poet (Silex Scintillans), is born.

1699 – Robert Blair, Scottish poet (Grave), is born.

1920 – Bengt N Anderberg, Swedish poet/writer (Kain), is born.
1937 – Yi Sang, Korean Poet (b. 1910), dies.

1945 – Ion Pillat, Romaniams poet/senator (Umbra timpului), is born.

1987 – Richard Wilbur appointed as US poet laureate.
1991 – Jack Yellen, US poet (Sons o’ Fun), dies at 97.

1996 – Eva Jones, poet/novelist, dies at 82.

2008 – Aimé Césaire, French Martinican poet and politician (b. 1913), dies.

the earth makes a bulge of silence for the sea
in the silence

behold the earth alone,
without its trembling nor tremoring
without the lashing of roots
nor the perforations of insects

empty as on the day before day . . .

—from “The Thoroughbreds” by Aime Cesaire, 1913–2008

Poetry In The News

Strong International Short List Proof of Griffin Prize’s Growing Clout, Founder Says

Growing recognition of Canada’s Griffin Poetry Prize as a major global award has led to one of the strongest international shortlists in the prize’s history, founder Scott Griffin said Tuesday. The $75,000 Griffin Poetry Prizes are awarded annually to one Canadian and one international poet. The four international finalists this year are published by major houses and have been nominated for, and won, some of the most prestigious poetry prizes in the world. Read more at The Globe and Mail.

Reed Whittemore, Former Poet Laureate, Dies at 92

Reed Whittemore, who as a Yale sophomore in 1939 helped start a literary magazine that published some of the eminent poets of the age and who himself became a leading ambassador for poetry as writer, editor, college professor and twice poet laureate of the United States, died April 6 in Kensington. He was 92. Read more at the Washington Post.

Poet Robert Bly’s Daughter Talks about His Memory Loss

Yesterday on the Daily Circuit host Kerri Miller interviewed Mary Bly, who has penned a memoir of her year in Paris under the pseudonym Eloisa James. Bly, the daughter of poet Robert Bly and writer Carol Bly, says while she had other plans for her time in Paris, she ended up writing the memoir in part because she wanted to capture those fleeting, precious moments It was a year in which I thought a great deal about memory, and about what we lose as our memories go. I was thinking about my family, and losing my mother. So I wanted to capture the year… Read more at Minnesota Public Radio.

World Poetry

Artists, Poets Come Together for an “Uprising of Words”

New Books

Homeland by LuAnn Keener-Mikenas

[Paperback] Louisiana Literature Press, 74 pp., $14.95
In poems that allow us to taste the bread of mystery and praise, LuAnn Keener-Mikenas imagines a homeland first kindled in human consciousness as Motherworld, a place where hunter and prey / the elegant ones / recommence the necessary ceremony. In so many of these poems, Keener-Mikenas sounds the voice of a patient Eve who regards the creatures as if for the first time, but who knows and laments their future, just as the poet viewing 19th century American paintings recognizes the civilization ( as much curse / as bright idea ) implicit in an ideal wilderness.

Olives: Poems by A.E. Stallings

[Paperback] Triquarterly, 80 pp., $16.95
A. E. Stallings has established herself as one of the best American poets of her generation. In addition to a lively dialogue with both the contemporary and ancient culture of her adopted homeland, Greece, this new collection features poems that, in her inimitable voice, address the joys and anxieties of marriage and motherhood. Stallings possesses the rare ability to craft precise poems that pulsate with deeply felt emotion. Like the olives of the title, the book embraces the bitter but savory fruits of the ancient tree, and the tears and sweetness we harvest in our temporary lives. These poems show Stallings in complete command of her talent, able to suggest the world in a word.

June Fourth Elegies: Poems by Liu Xiaobo

[Hardcover] Graywolf Press, 208 pp., $26.00
Liu Xiaobo has become the foremost symbol of the struggle for human rights in China. He was a leading activist during the Tiananmen Square protests of June 4, 1989, and a prime supporter of Charter 08, the manifesto of fundamental human rights published in 2008. In 2009, Liu was imprisoned for “inciting subversion of state power,” and he is currently serving an eleven-year sentence. He was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for “his prolonged non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.”

Treason by Hedi Kaddour

[Paperback] Yale University Press, 192 pp., $18.00
Full of sensuality, erudition, and wit, Hedi Kaddour’s poetry arises from observation, from situations both ordinary and emblematic – of contemporary life, of human stubbornness, human invention, human cruelty, of the way the past invisibly inflects and inflicts the present. With “Treason”, the award-winning poet and translator Marilyn Hacker presents an English-speaking audience with the first selected volume of his work.

Recent Reviews

The Back Chamber

by James Naiden
This is Donald Hall’s sixteenth collection of poems in six decades, although he has also published books of prose—including three memoirs—and edited several anthologies. A graduate of both Harvard and Oxford, Hall’s education prepared him well for a notable career as a poet, and that he has had. Born in 1928, he has also been an editor and interviewer (most notably at Paris Review) as well as an interviewee, questioned by Peter Stitt for Paris Review in 1991, and more recently by Garrison Keillor on Minnesota Public Radio, sitting beside Robert Bly, Hall’s fellow poet and lifelong friend. Hall has also been an academic, the longest stint at the University of Michigan, where he met Jane Kenyon, who became one of his most gifted students and his future wife. Read more at Rain Taxi.

The Profundity of the Bus Pass

by Paul Perry
Paul Durcan’s new collection is his 22nd. He is a prolific poet, and as he nears a venerable three-score years and 10, his prodigious output shows no signs of slowing. While Derek Walcott, in his most recent collection, White Egrets, worried about his gift as a poet “withering” in older age, and wondered if he might have to abandon poetry “like a woman because you love it / and would not see her hurt”, Durcan becomes Monsieur le Poète and celebrates his free-travel pass with an emphatic and quirky gratitude, brandishing it in order to share a sense of “Recognition, / Of Affirmation, of Participation”. Read more at the Irish Times.

Gustaf Sobin, Collected Poems

by Peter O’Leary
A poet of spectacular deliberateness, Gustaf Sobin transformed the ode into language captured in time-lapse. Reading this carefully assembled Collected Poems, published in 2010 by Talisman House, we come into contact with a mind capable of totally focused attention in which poetic speech unfurls like the fiddlehead of a fern in sunlight. Slowness is a principle expression of beauty in Sobin: “Surrounded today in self-image, we readily forget how slowly we came to represent our own features, to give some kind of graphic form to our own physical presence” (Luminous Debris, 70). That’s Sobin writing about the emergence of representations of the human form in archaic cave paintings in southern France; he could just as easily be writing about poetic form. Read more at the Cultural Society.

Collected Poems by Hope Mirrlees

by Patrick McGuinness
“A swift, fleeting sense of the past is as near as I have ever got to a mystical experience,” wrote Hope Mirrlees in “Listening in to the Past”, an essay published in 1926. A little later she describes her interest in creating an “aural kaleidoscope”: “disparate fragments of Cockney, Egyptian, Babylonian, Provençal, ever forming into new patterns for the ear”. What this “mystical experience” might feel like, and what the “aural kaleidoscope” might look and sound like, can be seen in her long poem “Paris”, written in 1919 and published by Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press in 1920. Read more at the Guardian.


Celebrating Poetry With David St. John

It’s National Poetry Month and to celebrate I caught up with poet, David St. John. Here are a couple of things to know about David (hereafter called DSJ): His latest book The Auroras just came out and it’s already in its second printing. When you call his cell phone, a polite voice tells you to please enjoy the music while your party is reached. Then, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” comes on and, if you had any doubts, you’re now certain you’ve dialed the right number. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Poetically Stated

by Daniel Nester
I am looking at a stack of poetry five books on my desk, each with similar artwork, trim size, typefaces. Each has the same author’s name on the spine: Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. These five books cover a 10-year span of a still-young poet’s career. The first three appeared as self-published chapbooks, starting when Aptowicz, still an undergrad at NYU, founded the NYC-Urbana Poetry Slam series. There’s 2000’s Dear Future Boyfriend, with odes to boys and family foibles; 2001’s Hot Teen Slut, which chronicles the poet’s real-life experience writing and editing porn; and then there’s Working Class Represent and its odes to rejections of all kind with poems addressed to a computer guy and “whoever is sending pictures to my phone.” Read more at Stated Magazine.


Dream a Little Dream of Me: John Berryman

by Stephen Akey
If poetry is going to be tortured, agonized, and morbidly introspective, it might as well be funny too. John Berryman’s The Dream Songs are all that and more. Half elegiac lyricism and half lowdown buffoonery, they’re like nothing else in American literature, though they owe a debt to Saul Bellow’s breakthrough mixture of high and low in The Adventures of Auggie March. (The two men shared an office at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s.) Read more at The Millions.

What’s Going to Happen

by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Every morning when I wake up I think to myself, “What’s going to happen?” Some days that question is tinged with existential dread but most days it’s a call to adventure. Like most worthwhile things in my life my tenure as Poetry Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books began with friendship and a meal. Matthew Specktor invited me to Joan’s on Third where, over a perfectly soft-boiled egg (four and a half minutes), I listened to him tell me about a new literary endeavor dedicated to a serious consideration of the changing culture of the book and the unique and specific vision the city of Los Angeles could bring to this conversation. I’d like to say that I played it cool when he asked if I’d be interested in joining Claudia Rankine as the LARB’s Poetry Editor. I did not. Read more at the LA Review of Books.

The Work of a Critic

by Morris Dickstein
The role of critics varies greatly according to the mission they imagine for themselves and the audience they address. Academic critics writing for their peers will take a different tack from public critics speaking to a general audience, large or small, or from writers themselves using criticism to carve out a space for their own work. Surprisingly, novelists and especially poets have proved to be among our best critics. Read more at Parnassus Review.

Drafts & Fragments

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

A Few Ways of Pulling Apart a Poem

by Reed Whittemore
December 9, 1957
A poem of my own. I put it here because I propose to use it as a whipping post while I discuss high matters. It isn’t a bad poem if I may say so, but it isn’t good either. I struggle to describe its defects, and I find words from several different vocabularies uncomfortably jostling each other to be spoken. I hope to get beyond the jostling, but may not. If not, I find solace in the hope that the jostling itself may be instructive. Read more at The New Republic.

Reed Whittemore, founder of the important modernist little magazine, Furioso, and twice poet laureate of the United States, died last week. The sound of his name will soon return to its place of inaudible bubbling where it has been for some time now. But before it does, I want to take note of his article that The New Republic has graciously reprinted from 1957, in which he submits his own poem for judgment, recognizing there its strengths and weaknesses, and taking stock of how it fares in the face of the critic’s tools. He then goes on at some length to discuss the efficacy of those tools. In that quiet discussion, he shines.

—David Sanders