April 22, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1672 – Georg Stiernhielm, Swedish scholar/author/poet (Hercules), dies at 73.
1699 – Hans A baron von Abschatz, Silesian poet, dies at 53. 1788 – Zacharias H Alewijn, Dutch poet, dies 46.
1816 – Philip James Bailey, English poet (Festus), is born.
1839 – Denis Davydov, Russian general and poet (b. 1784), dies.
1905 – Robert Choquette, French Canadian novelist, poet and diplomat (d. 1991), is born.
1914 – Charles Hubert Sisson, author/poet (Christopher Homm), is born.
1920 – Jos de Haes, Flemish philological/poet (Misery of the Word), is born.
1930 – Jeppe Aakjaer, Danish poet (b. 1866), dies.
1943 – Louise Glück, American poet and 12th US Poet Laureate, is born. 1951 – Ana María Shua, Argentine poet, is born.
1957 – Ignatius Roy D Campbell, British poet (Garcia Lorca), dies at 54.

I open my eyes; you are watching me.
Almost over this room
the sun is gliding.
Look at your face, you say,
holding your own close to me
to make a mirror.
How calm you are. And the burning wheel
passes gently over us. 
—from "Happiness" by Louise Glück

I open my eyes;you are watching me.—from “Happiness” by Louise Glück

World Poetry

Jamaica Names First Poet Laureate Since Revolution

Kingston, Jamaica native Mervyn Morris has been named his nation’s Poet Laureate. The 76-year old poet is the first to hold the position since Jamaica achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. Morris, who was also awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 2009, is Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing & West Indian Literature at the University College of the West Indies. Jamaica Observer writer Balford Henry breaks down the significance of the event, noting Morris is the first Poet Laureate to actually be named by the Jamaican government. Read more at Coldfront.

Bringing Poetry and High Culture To Sao Paulo's Periphery

Poetry in an unlikely place: In a grim urban shanty town in the middle of Sao Paulo, budding poets from the poorest sections of Brazilian society get together weekly to compose and recite poetry. Read more at NPR.

Jamaica native Mervyn Morris has been named his nation’s Poet Laureate.

Recent Reviews

Aimée Sands’ The Green-go Turn of Telling

by Joseph Spece
In attending the Massachusetts Poetry Festival this past May, I was afforded an opportunity to shop a large selection of contemporary poetry books—volumes set on long tables in the sunshine, ready for perusal. My method for this sort of perusal is straightforward: I demand to be clobbered by an author’s wisdom and linguistic gift from the first. In the case of poetry, a single poem is the wager; in fiction, there is the first page of text. What time is there to waste on work that allows itself leisure? Read more at Sharkpack Poetry Review.

I was afforded an opportunity to shop a large selection of contemporary poetry books.


The Fix of Form: An Open Letter*

by Herbert Tucker
There was a time when the New Criticism taught you to pay attention to literary form as the embodied elaboration of meaning. You knew that authors had a design on you, but you learned to bracket questions of intention and affect so as to concentrate on the design itself, where creative purpose got built out in verbal deed. You dealt, by and large, with the concrete particular, anatomizing complexities for the sake of an analytically earned appreciation of distinct instances of formal unity. Read more atWinter Anthology.

James Merrill: “After Greece”

by April Linder
The young James Merrill first saw Greece in 1950 as part of a two-and-a-half-year long European tour, a trip he would later detail in his memoir A Different Person.  He travelled to Greece specifically to visit his friend, teacher and first lover, Kimon Friar, a Greek-American poet and translator.  In 1957, he and his companion David Jackson took a trip around the world, with Greece on the itinerary.  In 1964, they began to spend part of every year in Greece, in a house at the foot of Mt. Lycabettus, in Athens, where they famously threw parties for the local literary set. Read more at Contemporary Poetry Review.

Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 6

For the latest installments in this feature, we’ve once again asked poets to weigh in (briefly) on the long poems that interest them. To avoid spending too much time on the usual suspects, we suggested that most of our contributors focus on poems from the last 70 years.
–David Micah Greenberg on John Ashbery –Idra Novey on June Jordan –Robert Archambeau on W.H. Auden –Jee Leong Koh on Cyril Wong –Joshua Rivkin on Randall Jarrell –Connie Voisine on James McMichael –Sophie Cabot Black on Louise Glück –Carmen Gimenez Smith on Alice Notley –Jill McDonough on Stephen Jonas –Keith Ekiss on Patrick Kavanagh –Sarah Blake on Frank Bidart Read more at At Length.

The Widening Gender Gap in Contemporary American Poetry

by Seth Abramson
Since 2010, the organization Women in the Literary Arts (VIDA) has been conducting groundbreaking, game-changing data research exposing the systemic bias against women authors in American literature. VIDA has been particularly effective at uncovering such bias at the most august publications in the United States and England, those publications of such renown and visibility that they appeal to a general as well as a specialized readership. Read more at the Huffington Post.

There was a time when the New Criticism taught you to pay attention to literary form.

Drafts & Fragments

Holy Shakespeare! A Rare Find Shakes An Industry

George Koppelman and Dan Wechsler may have found the Holy Grail of rare books—a dictionary they claim was owned and annotated by William Shakespeare. If their assertion is true, this book could provide amazing insight into how Shakespeare crafted his plays, poems, and sonnets, all of which feature his highly inventive wordplay and have thus shaped how modern English is used today. Even if the scholarly community does not back their claims, their find will undoubtedly inspire further research and vigorous debate, and the book, Baret’s Alvearie (1580), will still be considered an important 16th century artifact with valuable Elizabethan-era annotations. Read more at Forbes.

Welcome to Another Installment of the Tattooed Poets Project!

This will be our sixth April celebrating National Poetry Month with a month full of tattooed poets’ work – both written and corporeal. Every day this month at 3:00 AM EDT, we will post a tattoo (or two) belonging to a poet, along with a sample of their work. Because interest has been unprecedented this year, most days we will post TWO poets, with the second one appearing at 3:00 PM EDT. Read more atTattoosday.

Sunday Treat – National Poetry Month – The Graphic Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

How wonderful that my very favorite poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot, is now out in a comic-book adaptation by Julian Peters. Read more at Rhapsody in Books.

George Koppelman and Dan Wechsler may have found the Holy Grail of rare books.

Poetry In the News

Nina Cassian, Exiled Romanian Poet, Dies at 89

Nina Cassian, an exiled Romanian poet who sought refuge in the United States after her poems satirizing the regime of President Nicolae Ceausescu fell into the hands of his secret police, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89. The apparent cause was a heart attack, her husband, Maurice Edwards, said.
Read more at the New York Times.

Captive Audience: An Ambush Poetry Reading on the Public Bus

A woman in a black wig and sunglasses mutters to herself in the corner of a bus that runs along Maryland Parkway. Her wig slips slightly as she gets louder and more coherent, until she’s practically shouting, “Shut up! We paid for a bus ride; we didn’t pay for this!” This woman is not as mentally unstable as your average bus mutterer. She has a discernible target that the rest of us can see: a group of local poets who’ve turned out on Saturday to celebrate National Poetry Month by reading to literally captive audiences on public buses. Read more at Las Vegas Weekly.

Claudia Rankine Wins $50,000 Poetry Prize

Claudia Rankine has been named the eighth winner of the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize. The award, run by the nonprofit organization Poets & Writers, is “given annually to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition.” In an email interview on Monday, Ms. Rankine referred to her “dramatic changes stylistically, formally and in terms of content” over the course of her career. Read more at the New York Times.

Nina Cassian, an exiled Romanian poet, died on Monday.

New Books

The Tulip-Flame by Chloe Honum

[Paperback] Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 72 pp., $15.95
''Chloe Honum's brilliant first book The Tulip-Flame traces an identity forming within radically divergent but interlocking systems: a family traumatized by the mother's suicide, a failed relationship, the practice of ballet, a garden. Honum in every case transfigures emotion by way of elegant language and formal restraint.'' —Claudia Emerson

Directing Herbert White: Poems by James Franco

[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 96 pp., $15.00
“There’s never been a book quite like this. Hollywood—fame, celebrity, the promise of becoming an artist—is the beast at its center. Franco knows it like Melville knows whaling. Hollywood in this book devours its young. Obsessed with myths about its own past, it can be survived only by finding a vantage point that is not Hollywood. Bold yet subtle, fearless yet disarming, Franco has made a book you will never forget.” —Frank Bidart

Collected French Translations: Poetry by John Ashbery[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 464 pp., $35.00

In this volume, Ashbery presents a wide selection of France’s finest poets: Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Paul Éluard, and its greatest living poet, Yves Bonnefoy. A rich array of 171 poems by twenty-four poets, this bilingual volume also features a selection from Ashbery’s masterly translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations. The development of modern French poetry emerges through Ashbery’s chronology, as does the depth of French influences on his iconoclastic career and the poets of the New York School. Collected together for the first time, Ashbery’s translations represent decades of remarkable work from the writer hailed by Harold Bloom as a part of the "American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens, and Hart Crane."

Into Daylight: Poems  by Jeffrey Harrison


[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 77 pp., $16.95
In his new book, Jeffrey Harrison reflects on the daily familiarities and fragilities experienced in a long marriage and as a parent of teenagers, refracted through the shock of a brother's suicide. Limpid and direct on the surface but eloquent in resonance, Into Daylight asks what comes after: How to live, how to continue writing, and how to find one's proper relationship with the world and restore some semblance of delight, while giving voice to sadness and pain.

This Blue: Poems by Maureen N. McLane 

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 128 pp., $24.00
From lichens to malls to merchant republics, it’s “another day in this here cosmos,” in Maureen N. McLane’s stunning third poetry collection, This Blue. Here are songs for and of a new century, poems both archaic and wholly now. In the middle of life, stationed in our common “Terran Life,” the poet conjures urban pigeons, Adirondack mountains, Genoa, Andalucía, Belfast, Parma; here is a world sounded out, broken, possibly shareable, newly named: “Take it up Old Adam— / everyday the world exists / to be named.” This Blue is a searching and a singing—intricate, sexy, smart.

I Am the Beggar of the World: Landays from Contemporary Afghanistan translated by Eliza Griswold 

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 160 pp., $24.95
After learning the story of a teenage girl who was forbidden to write poems and set herself on fire in protest, the poet Eliza Griswold and the photographer Seamus Murphy journeyed to Afghanistan to learn about these women and to collect their landays. The poems gathered in I Am the Beggar of the World express a collective rage, a lament, a filthy joke, a love of homeland, an aching longing, a call to arms, all of which belie any facile image of a Pashtun woman as nothing but a mute ghost beneath a blue burqa.

”Chloe Honum’s brilliant first book The Tulip-Flame traces an identity forming within radically divergent but interlocking systems…”—Claudia Emerson


For Poet Tess Gallagher, Creativity Grows from Collaboration

by Colette Bancroft
For many writers, poetry is a solitary craft. But for acclaimed poet Tess Gallagher, creativity is often a matter of collaboration. "It's really neat to have a poetry pal," she says of her recent collaborative work with Lawrence Matsuda. Gallagher and Matsuda will be reading from that work and their own poetry in St. Petersburg on Monday evening. Read more at Tampa Bay.

Israeli Poet Chronicles Vietnamese Exodus

Vaan Nguyen, child of Vietnamese refugees, is one of Israel’s rising stars
by Dana Kessler
Vaan Nguyen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who were among the so-called Boat People who fled Vietnam by sea in the late 1970s. After failing to find refuge in the Philippines, the family was given asylum in Israel by then Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Born in Israel in 1982, Nguyen grew up in Jaffa. Today she is an up-and-coming Israeli poet, championed by some of the country’s leading critics. Read more at Tablet.

An Interview with Bernadette Mayer

by Stephanie Anderson (part 3)
We are thrilled to bring you an interview with Bernadette Mayer that will run in three installments. Much in the spirit of Mayer herself, we will run the interview conducted by Stephanie Anderson with limited edits. Throughout Anderson’s interview she discusses Mayer’s involvement with small press publishing, the Poetry Project, and Mayer’s poetry— all of which has forever altered the landscape of poetry. Read more at Coldfront.

Major Jackson Interviews Dexter L. Booth

Scratching the Ghost by Dexter L. Booth was selected by Major Jackson for the Cave Canem Poetry Prize and published by Graywolf last November. In this conversation between Booth and Jackson, conducted by email, they discuss autobiography in poetry, sentimentality, inventiveness, and the influence of images. Read more at Graywolf.

Vaan Nguyen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Kid Writes the Best Poem Ever about How Much Poetry Sucks

By Miles Klee 
A fifth-grader participating in an “Adventures in Creative Writing” session with the literacy non-profit Open Books was none too enthused about the prospect of penning some slam poetry. Nevertheless, in setting out to malign the medium, he inadvertently brought forth perhaps the greatest poem of our time—unquestionably the work of a master in the making. Read more at Daily Dot.

Among Schoolchildren

This honest—and poetic—appraisal by a fifth-grader brought immediately to my mind my days as a graduate student. Throughout the school year my colleagues and I would travel in pairs on two-day trips to visit elementary, middle, and high school classrooms across the state of Arkansas coaxing bits of poetry out of even the least equipped, although often the product would demonstrate an originality lacking in many of the most studied of verses.
The pdf of the anthology made from the forty-five schools visited in the school year 1979-80 is available here. The title of the preface comes from a group poem written by second-graders (now in their forties) and is indicative of the nature of their efforts. Titled "What They Tell Me at Horse School," the poem, in its entirety, is: Don't never stop running.

A fifth-grader was none too enthused about the prospect of penning some slam poetry.