August 10, 2017

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1556—Philipp Nicolai, Germany, theologist/poet/composer, is born.
1845—Abai Qunanbaiuli, Kazakh poet, composer and philosopher (d. 1904), is born.
1869—Lawrence Binyon, poet (Symbolic Wounds), born in Vienna, Austria, is born.
1886—Hilda Doolittle, poet/prominent member of imagist movement, is born.
1925—Alastair Webster Mackie, poet/teacher, is born.
1953—Mark Doty, American poet and prose writer, is born.


Whirl up, sea— 
Whirl your pointed pines. 
Splash your great pines 
On our rocks. 
Hurl your green over us— 
Cover us with your pools of fir. 

—Hilda Doolittle

“Whirl up, sea— / Whirl your pointed pines. / Splash your great pines / On our rocks.” – Hilda Doolittle

World Poetry

Spanish Born Mexican Poet Ramon Xirau Dies

Spanish-born philosopher and poet Raman Xirau has died in his adopted homeland of Mexico, his family said Thursday. He was 95. The Barcelona native was 15 when his family fled Spain for Mexico following the defeat of the Republican side in the 1936-1939 civil war. Becoming a naturalized Mexican citizen in 1955, Xirau earned a doctorate from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and went on to publish more than 40 books.

Wrocław Gives Refuge to Iraqi Poet

Iraqi poet and musician Umar Abdul–Nasser has been offered temporary shelter in the southwestern city of Wrocław, a member of the International Cities of Refuge Network (ICORN). Mosul-born, 32-year-old Abdul-Nasser specializes in spoken poetry, delivering his verse to his own musical accompaniment. He went into hiding in September 2014 after Islamic State militants threatened his life and said that his creative work violated Islamic law. Wrocław Mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz said his city is one of freedom which remembers the dark days of communism and the repressions of local artists who were committed to the struggle for freedom.

Chinese Poet Awarded Prize during 2017 Xu Zhimo Poetry Art Festival

Chinese poet Jidi Majia was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Prize of Silver Willow during the third Cambridge Xu Zhimo Poetry Art Festival, which opened Saturday at the Cambridge University's King's College. The organizing committee said Jidi Majia is one of the most eminent poets in China and one of the most famous Chinese poet of ethnic minority who is active in contemporary world poetic circles.

Spanish-born philosopher and poet Raman Xirau has died in his adopted homeland of Mexico.

Recent Reviews

A Poetry Collection Born of Fury, Sex and Trauma
by Thomas Simmons

In this new age of the carnivalesque, understatement might be a greater currency than overstatement. So if I say that Dylan Krieger’s “Giving Godhead” will be the best collection of poetry to appear in English in 2017, you can trust the understatement, aside from the casual assertion of prophecy. Seamlessly mixing the religious with the obscene, determined to create a new form of the grotesque that marries autobiography to personal and national trauma, Krieger’s book is easily among the most inventive and successfully performative works to appear in living memory.

by Cat Fitzpatrick

Formalist poetry regularly tries and fails to escape the charge of atavism, so it is to Melissa Range’s credit that she doesn’t make such an attempt. Sometimes, the only way out is through. Her poetry is avowedly poetry with a history, or, more accurately, with several—at least three, by my count.

Exploring the Sources and Consolations of Poetry, in Prose
by Simone White

“Poems are often born out of quarrels and quandaries,” Jill Bialosky writes in the “Mortality” section of “Poetry Will Save Your Life: A Memoir.” This proposition arises from Bialosky’s consideration of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “The Child Is Father to the Man” (“‘The child is father to the man!’ / How can he be? The words are wild!”) and William Wordsworth’s “My Heart Leaps Up.” Wordsworth was famous and dead by the time Hopkins read him in confusion and disgust, and both the fight and the Hopkins poem can be paraphrased thus: Why does anyone care what this crazy old coot says? He can’t even write a grammatical sentence, etc.

England’s Poet of Melancholy, and Why He Never Went Out of Print
by Alan Riding

In 1896, A.E. Housman paid a London publisher £30 to print 500 copies of his first collection of 63 poems. The gamble paid off. “A Shropshire Lad” soon became a cornerstone of English popular verse and has stayed in print ever since. Not bad for a Latin scholar whom John Berryman and others considered a “minor poet” and who merely hoped “to give pleasure to a few young men here and there.”

A.E. Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad” was published in 1896 and has been in print ever since.


Derek Walcott and the Peculiar Disturbance of His Poetry
by Ishion Hutchinson

“Blown canes.” Those were his first words to mark me. Like any true discovery, they came tangled in myth. I was about 16, a sixth former at Titchfield, my high school on a peninsula in Port Antonio, a town on the northeastern coast of Jamaica. Almost daily, for my last thing after school, I went to the town’s library. Once inside, I was at sea, isolated, but not alone. The myth of evening: porous light aslant a single bookshelf labeled West Indian Literature. Was it new? I had never, impossibly, seen it before.

The Problem With Rupi Kaur's Poetry
The milk and honey author's use of unspecified collective trauma in her quest to depict the quintessential South Asian female experience feels disingenuous.
by Chiara Giovanni

Not many poets are able to say that Ariana Grande follows them on Instagram. Rupi Kaur, however, can: The 24-year-old Indian-born Canadian counts the Dangerous Woman singer among her 1.5 million Instagram followers. Indeed, Kaur’s particular brand of celebrity is more akin to that of a pop star like Grande than a traditional poet. Her debut collection milk and honey, 200 sparse poems about love and loss, abuse and healing — first self-published in 2014 while Kaur was still in college — has sold over a million print copies and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 52 consecutive weeks.

Susan Howe’s Patchwork Poems
Howe’s melding of memoir, collage, and New England history has produced one of the great careers in American poetry.
By Dan Chiasson

Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century fire-and-brimstone theologian, often rode from parish to parish on horseback through the country around Northampton, Massachusetts, composing sermons as he went. Sometimes he wrote them down, but on long rides he used a mnemonic device: to remember each insight he had, he would pin a small piece of paper to an area of his clothing that he associated with the thought. After trips of several days, he returned covered in paper. As Edwards journeyed through the wilderness, his mind moved in its own direction; the two trajectories, one physical, the other mental, were joined in those little pinned scraps covering the preacher’s clothes. It was an entirely practical approach, but, like most adaptations to the work of intense thinking, it read as eccentricity.

Brodsky and His Muses
A new collection shows where the great émigré poet Joseph Brodsky found friendship, love, and inspiration.
 by Cynthia L. Haven

The Nobel poet Joseph Brodsky was something of an enfant terrible in his native Leningrad. He began his career in America on much the same footing. A few months after his expulsion from the Soviet Union in 1972, a policeman stopped a car that had been racing down a Michigan high- way. At the wheel, the young Russian poet whose English was barely comprehensible. Beside him, the University of Michigan professor and publisher Carl Proffer, who had brought the redheaded writer to Ann Arbor and was now teaching him to drive.“

Not many poets are able to say that Ariana Grande follows them on Instagram. Rupi Kaur, however, can.

Drafts & Fragments

Poetry in Action

Six contemporary poets share the process behind their poems.

Poetry Foundation
Brand Identity

The brand identity for the independent literary organization that publishes ‘Poetry’ magazine centers on an ever-changing presentation of the name.

The brand identity for the independent literary organization that publishes ‘Poetry’ magazine centers on an ever-changing presentation of the name.

Poetry In the News

What is the Statue of Liberty Poem {The New Colossus” that Started an Argument between a Trump Advisor and a CNN Reporter?

The White House press briefing room has been the backdrop to more than its fair share of acrimony under the Trump administration but the most recent scrap between senior aide Stephen Miller and CNN reporter Jim Acosta came from an unlikely source: a sonnet etched on the Statue of Liberty.

White House aide Stephen Miller and CNN reporter Jim Acosta recently sparred over a sonnet etched on the Statue of Liberty.

New Books

Dots & Dashes by Jehanne Dubrow 
[Paperback] Southern Illinois University Press, 88 pp., $15.95

Moving between the languages of love and war, Jehanne Dubrow’s latest book offers valuable testimony to the experiences of military wives. Frequently employing rhyme, meter, and traditional forms, these poems examine what it means to be both a military spouse and an academic, straddling two communities that speak in very different and often conflicting terms.

The Unaccompanied: Poems by Simon Armitage
[Hardcover] Knopf, 96 pp., $27.00

In The Unaccompanied, Armitage gives voice to the people of Britain with a haunting grace. We meet characters whose sense of isolation is both emotional and political, both real and metaphorical, from a son made to groom the garden hedge as punishment, to a nurse standing alone at a bus stop as the centuries pass by, to a latter-day Odysseus looking for enlightenment and hope in the shadowy underworld of a cut-price supermarket. We see the changing shape of England itself, viewed from a satellite "like a shipwreck's carcass raised on a sea-crane's hook, / nothing but keel, beams, spars, down to its bare bones." In this exquisite collection, Armitage X-rays the weary but ironic soul of his nation, with its "Songs about mills and mines and a great war, / lines about mermaids and solid gold hills, / songs from broken hymnbooks and cheesy films"–in poems that blend the lyrical and the vernacular, with his trademark eye for detail and biting wit.

The Voice of That Singing: Poems by Juliet Rodeman 
[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 74 pp., $16.95

Juliet Rodeman creates a visionary world in which the here and now — each remembered place, historical or mythical landscape, and moment alive with casual gesture — is redeemed by intimacy. Whimsical and sometimes shocking, these poems are filled with the heartbreak of what happens to our bodies. In a series of "anticipatory elegies" the poet journeys to the Underworld, moving through incantations and harmonies, hypnogogic terrors and quiet conversations under the stars, transforming individual grief with tenderness.

Nothing Is Wasted by Shabnam Piryaei 
[Paperback] The Operating System, 66 pp., $16.00 

Poetry, like any creative act, can serve as a rupture to the violences enacted by the many closures we impose, demand, submit to, and reinforce. In particular the violence of knowledge-as-containment, of knowledge-as-possession; and the violence of absolute and singular answers, of an absolute and singular understanding, which ultimately sever one's responsibility toward the other. 'Nothing is Wasted' is Piryaei in conversation with herself, regarding inheritance and the credence that, as Audre Lorde writes, "there is no separate survival."

Before Lyricism by Eleni Vakalo
[Paperback] Ugly Duckling Presse,144 pp., $18.00 

Before Lyricism includes six book-length poems: The Forest (1954), Plant Upbringing (1956), Diary of Age (1958), Description of the Body (1959), The Meaning of the Blind (1962), and Our Way of Being in Danger (1966). Each of these, apart from Plant Upbringing, was published as a separate book, which Vakalo herself designed. (Plant Upbringing was originally included in the volume Wall Painting, of which Vakalo later repudiated all but this single long poem.) For Vakalo, these poems formed a larger, accretive whole, which she titled Prin Apo Ton Lyrismo (Before Lyricism). By bringing these poems together under a single cover, Before Lyricism allows us to see the complex web of intertextual relations that bind these books together.

Eleni Vakalo’s “Before Lyricism” is comprised of six book-length poems.


How a Chatbot Became a Conceptual Poet
by Megan N. Liberty

In a conversation with poet Ulf Stolterfoht, a chatbot pushes language towards its breaking point in a way no human could.

On the Central Tensions of Being
by Christy Davids

Allison Cobb is the author of four books, most recently After We All Died, which was published by Ahsahta in late 2016. Her poetry is invested in locating the self in the landscape of the world, and does so with an eye toward ecology and an ear toward music. Her work incorporates research, considers historical and scientific contexts, and regularly plays with the boundaries of poetry and essay.   

How to Write a Poem about a Cemetery: Speaking with Jennifer Firestone
by MC Hyland

Jennifer Firestone is a poet whose next move is always a thrilling surprise. Her work spans topics and approaches: from a critique of tourism embedded in a first-person travel narrative (Holiday, Shearsman 2008), to a book of invented speech in the voices of her children’s stuffed animals (Fanimaly, Dusie 2013), to an extended meditation on lap-swimming (Swimming Pool, DoubleCross Press, 2016). Her newest book, Gates & Fields, recently out from Belladonna*, takes on funeral practices and mourning with an exquisite sensitivity to language, ritual, and place. This past spring, over the course of a couple of months leading up to its release, Firestone and I discussed Gates & Fields over email.

Allison Cobb is the author of four books, most recently After We All Died, which was published by Ahsahta in late 2016.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Today is also the birthday of the poet Mark Doty. I found an insightful prose piece he wrote, which is worth reading in its entirety. It's an explication of Bishop's "The Fish" in which he discusses the poem from several vantages. Here is a link to it. Enjoy.

Today is also the birthday of the poet Mark Doty.