April 22, 2015

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.
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.
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.

In a dream, I watched you ride the horse
Over the dry fields and then
Dismount: you two walked together;
In the dark, you had no shadows.
But I felt them coming toward me
Since at night they go anywhere,
They are their own masters.

Look at me. You think I don't understand?
What is the animal
If not passage out of this life? 

—from “Horse” by Louise Glück

“Look at me. You think I don’t understand? / What is the animal / If not passage out of this life?” —Louise Glück

World Poetry

SC Draws the Line, Reserves Verdict on Mahatma Poem

The Supreme Court on Thursday strongly disapproved of attributing obscene expletives to Mahatma Gandhi, stating artistic freedom cannot be a pretense to justify such attributions to the Father of the Nation, who stood at a “higher pedestal”. A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said there was certainly a difference between “freedom of ideas” and “freedom of words” and that a person, under the pretext of liberty of thoughts, cannot put abusive words in somebody else’s mouth to “accentuate the sensationalism”.

Death Rakes Up Poem Debate

Top al Qaida operative Ibrahim al-Rubeish, who has been killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, was at the centre of a tearing debate in Kerala not long ago with a university being accused of legitimising terror as it had planned to teach a poem penned by him to undergraduate students. Al-Rubeish's poem Ode to the Sea was included in a textbook, Literature and Contemporary Issues, for third-semester undergraduate students of the University of Calicut. It was later dropped following reports in the media and pressure from civil society groups.

Russia Opens 1st Museum for Jewish Nobel-winning Poet Joseph Brodsky

Russia has opened it first museum to dissident poet Joseph Brodsky in the remote house where he lived after being sent into internal exile by the Soviet authorities. The museum — in the abandoned former farming village of Norinskaya, around 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Moscow — commemorates the Nobel-prize winning poet, whose brooding verses clashed with the Soviet ideology and led ultimately to his emigration to the West.

Russia has opened its first museum honoring dissident poet Joseph Brodsky.

Recent Reviews

‘A New Way of Writing About Race’
by Nick Laird

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen opens:
When you are alone and too tired even to turn on any of your devices, you let yourself linger in a past stacked among your pillows.
The reader is forewarned: what follows will explore what happens when the “devices” are switched off, not just the smart phone or the iPad, but techniques of evasion and compromise that let the poet exist in the present. There’s also the suggestion that the repudiated “devices” are poetic, rhetorical tricks that ornament or soften. Accordingly, Rankine’s language is prose, plain, direct, conversational, though simultaneously uncanny and reverberant, continually wrongfooting the reader, swapping referents, mixing the physical and metaphysical at will. (It’s not just “you” “stacked among your pillows” but the past itself.)

Amber Tamblyn Faces Her Own Demons Writing Poetry in 'Dark Sparkler'
by Amy Kaufman

Brittany Murphy was found unconscious in her shower, sick with pneumonia, four different drugs in her system. The actress' death in 2009 was sudden and mysterious and ugly, but posthumous magazine covers showed her looking glamorous, her struggles hidden. The story gnawed at Amber Tamblyn. She'd never met Murphy but felt an odd kinship to her. So she sat down at her kitchen table in Venice and wrote a poem about the late star.

Review: ‘James Merrill: Life and Art,’ a Literary Biography
by Dwight Garner

When the poet James Merrill (1926-1995) was born on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, his mother, Hellen, thought him tiny and ugly, even by newborn baby standards. James weighed only 5 pounds 10 ounces. “Please, please, this is embarrassing,” Hellen said to her doctor. “Can’t you say 6 pounds?” When Hellen added that her son wasn’t very good looking, her maid stepped in. “Maybe not, Mrs. Merrill, but he has personality.”

Brittany Murphy’s death gnawed at poet Amber Tamblyn so much that she wrote a poem about the late star.


A Tale of Two Poets, Thom Gunn and Elizabeth Bishop
by Colm Toíbín

In the month or so after Thom Gunn died in April 2004, I formed the habit at the end of the day’s work of taking down his Collected Poems and reading a poem. One night I noticed a small book beside the Collected Poems called Thom Gunn in Conversation with James Campbell. On page 19, I came on the following passage which made me sit up for a moment. When Campbell said: “Your new book, Boss Cupid, contains some new poems about your mother. Is this the first time you’ve written about her?” Gunn replied: “The second poem about my mother is called ‘The Gas Poker’. She killed herself, and my brother and I found the body, which was not her fault because she’d barred the doors, as you’ll see in the poem. Obviously this was quite a traumatic experience; it would be in anyone’s life. I wasn’t able to write about it till just a few years ago.”

In Ireland, Chasing the Wandering Soul of Yeats
by Derek Speirs

I will arise and go now. …
Surprisingly often, when I get up from a chair to leave a room, those six melodramatic words will unfurl in my mind. Somehow William Butler Yeats’s poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” which, like millions of other people, I first read in college, stays rooted in me:
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree. …  And I’m off, not to the dentist or the shopping mall but, mentally, striding emerald slopes, making for a place of myth.

Pound’s Metro
by William Logan

Early in March 1911, Ezra Pound arrived in Paris. By late May he had moved on. The specters in the Métro obviously haunted him. The lines were finished by fall the following year, when he sent Poetry a batch of poems that, he hoped, would “help to break the surface of convention.”

The ‘Irish Review’, Then and Now
by Edna Longley

The essayist Hubert Butler wrote in 1954: “An Irish journal is like a sortie from a besieged city.” Since then some sieges have been lifted. Others may persist. Meanwhile the “journal”, even in online mode, has come to seem a faintly archaic medium. This was less so in 1986, when, with Kevin Barry, Tom Dunne and Richard Kearney, I became a founding editor of the Irish Review. Cork University Press has just published the 50th issue, which commemorates Seamus Heaney. Looking back, I thought I would compare the new issue with the first.

The Morals Of A Meat Slicer — Sam Riviere On Minnis, Leon & Seidel 
by Sam Riviere

In the second instalment of his new column on contemporary poetry (abstractly titled 'Poetry Column'), Sam Riviere considers the writings of Chelsey Minnis, Frederick Seidel & Jon Leon from the starting point of Leon's own seemingly-innocuous declaration — taking in privilege, obscurity vs. self-exposure and the poet's own contempt for poetry en route — ‘Art is redemptive’.

In the second installment of Poetry Column, Sam Riviere considers the writings of Chelsey Minnis and Jon Leon.

Drafts & Fragments

President Obama Remarks on National Poetry Month

President Obama delivered remarks at a poetry reading featuring poet Elizabeth Alexander.

President Obama delivered remarks at a poetry reading featuring poet Elizabeth Alexander.

Poetry In the News

The Library of Congress Is Uploading 75 Years of Poetry and Literature Recordings

Yesterday selections from the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress became available to stream online for the first time — the launch of a project digitizing some of their 2,000 recordings from the past 75 years of literature.

A Poet Thinks He Was Laid Off after 40 Years at Howard U., but He Isn’t Sure.

E. Ethelbert Miller, a noted poet and longtime director of the Afro-American Studies Resource Center at Howard University, believes he was laid off last week in a round of staff cuts after working for his alma mater for four decades. He cites solid evidence: He was locked out of his university computer and e-mail account. A larger-than-usual paycheck from his employer was deposited Friday in his bank account. A local television news station reported that day that he had been fired along with more than 80 others. 

Another Moving Evening, Another Standing O for Robert Bly

Guild Hall at Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis was packed to the rafters on Monday night with poets and poetry lovers who turned out to see poet Robert Bly. Many of them had turned out on Saturday, too, when Bly was being honored at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual convention, and now here they were again, waiting to hear him read from his "new/old collection" of poetry, "Like the New Moon, I Will Live My Life.” The book is a collection of Bly's Chinese-infuenced poems; the collection, edited by White Pine Press publisher Dennis Maloney, was culled mainly from out-of-print books, uncollected poems, and chapbooks spanning 50 years.

E. Ethelbert Miller, a noted poet at Howard University, believes he was laid off last week in a round of staff cuts.

New Books

The Lunatic: Poems by Charles Simic
[Hardcover] Ecco, 96 pp., $22.95

From Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate Charles Simic comes a dazzling collection of poems as original, meditative, and humorous as the legendary poet himself. This latest volume of poetry from Charles Simic, one of America’s most celebrated poets, demonstrates his revered signature style—a mix of understated brilliance, wry melancholy, and sardonic wit. These seventy luminous poems range in subject from mortality to personal ads, from the simple wonders of nature to his childhood in war-torn Yugoslavia.

Map: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska 
[Hardcover] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 464 pp., $32.00

One of Europe’s greatest recent poets is also its wisest, wittiest, and most accessible. Nobel Prize–winner Wislawa Szymborska draws us in with her unexpected, unassuming humor. Her elegant, precise poems pose questions we never thought to ask. “If you want the world in a nutshell,” a Polish critic remarks, “try Szymborska.” But the world held in these lapidary poems is larger than the one we thought we knew. Carefully edited by her longtime, award-winning translator, Clare Cavanagh, the poems in Map trace Szymborska’s work until her death in 2012. Of the approximately two hundred and fifty poems included here, nearly forty are newly translated; thirteen represent the entirety of the poet’s last Polish collection, Enough, never before published in English.

Violin Playing Herself in a Mirror by David Kutz-Marks
[Paperback] University of Massachusetts Press, 72 pp., $15.95

With rhetorical estrangements that recall John Ashbery, and rhythms and ambitions that recall Wallace Stevens and Walt Whitman, the voice in these poems is nonetheless distinct, aware that its own time is finite—"a minor catarrh / after which the throat clears and it's nighttime again"—but striving with each movement for the sublime. The poems challenge our identities, our thoughts, and our quarrels with each other as they dart back and forth between interior spaces and real human relationships.

Barbaric Vast & Wild: A Gathering of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present: Poems for the Millennium edited by Jerome Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman 
[Paperback] Commonwealth Books, 470 pp., $35.00

Barbaric Vast & Wild is a continuation and a possible culmination of the project that began with Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred in 1968 and led to the first four volumes of Poems for the Millennium in the 1990s and 2000s. In this new and equally groundbreaking volume, Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman have assembled a wide-ranging gathering of poems and related language works, whose outside/outsider and subterranean/subversive positions challenge some of the boundaries to where poetry has been or may be practiced, as well as the form and substance of the poetry itself. 

Some Slow Bees by Carol Potter
[Paperback] Oberlin, 96 pp., $15.95

Carol Potter’s four previous books have earned many admirers and multiple awards. But the scope and depth of Some Slow Bees, winner of the 2014 FIELD Poetry Prize, will be a revelation even to her most devoted fans. Potter’s new collection is a book about trouble, about loss: relationships, farms, parents, places. But there’s also humor, a wry look at the way we invite or stumble into trouble and how we embrace the adventure.

From Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate Charles Simic comes a dazzling collection of poems.


The Money Poet
by Joshua Rothman

Last month, Alissa Quart, a journalist, published her first book of poems. It’s called “Monetized,” and it’s about money, aging, motherhood, work, the Internet, the eighties, nostalgia, journalism, and New York. Quart usually writes about money in a factual way. She’s published three books—one about marketing aimed at teen-agers, a second about rebels who reject the nine-to-five, and a third about the “gifted child” industry—and, with Barbara Ehrenreich, she is the co-editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which sponsors journalism about inequality. But “Monetized” takes a different and more personal tack. “Driftwood,” the book’s first poem, begins with a warning: “One day you are ordering extra / olives and the next day, one / of The Damned.”

2015 Poetry Month: An Interview With Erin Belieu
by Jonathan Hobratsch

Erin Belieu is the author of four books of poetry. She is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University.
It's been twenty years since the publication of your first book, Infanta. You have now written three books since then. Do you feel you have progressed as a writer, book by book? If so, how?
I'm not sure I would call it a progression so much as a deepening of consciousness throughout the books.

Last month, Alissa Quart, a journalist, published her first book of poems. It’s called “Monetized,” and it’s about money.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

There is something fascinating and absurd about the news story above regarding the new Brodsky museum in Russia. It's reportedly in the house he lived in when he was sent into exile by the Soviets at the age of 23, although according to the Moscow Times, "the cottage was in such disrepair that it was knocked down and replaced with a similar cottage found nearby."  Wherever it is, it's located in an abandoned town with only one inhabitant: the security guard who watches over the museum. That there is a museum at all is a bit bizarre. 

A more fitting tribute to Brodsky is the recent memoir by Ellendea Proffer Teasley, who, in 1971 with her husband Carl Proffer, co-founded Ardis Publishers, the acclaimed publishing house of contemporary Russian writers. Brodsky Among Us has only recently been released in Russia but is already in its third printing.

As Cynthia Haven says in her recent post to The Book Haven:
The literary acclaim has caught Ellendea off-guard. Russians generally like their poets stainless, and her memoir is as candid as it is affectionate. Her Brodsky is brilliant, reckless, and deeply human. “I did not expect the response I’m getting,” she wrote to me. “It is so moving to me. They understood exactly what I was doing, and they are grateful that it’s not more myth-making.”

For a full description of the events surrounding the memoir, its publication, and the connection between the Proffers and Brodsky, I recommend you seek out Cynthia's column. It is well worth the read.

There is something fascinating and absurd about the news story above regarding the new Brodsky museum in Russia.