August 27, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1635 – Lope Felix de Vega, playwright/poet (Angelica, Arcadia), dies at 72.
1849 – Manuel Acuna, Mexican poet (Nocturno), is born.
1870 – Amado Nervo, [Juan C Ruiz de Nervo], Mexican writer/poet, is born.
1903 – Xavier Villaurrutia, Mexican poet (Nocturno de los Angeles), is born.
1924 – David Rowbotham, Australian poet, is born.
2009 – Sergey Mikhalkov, Russian writer and poet (b. 1913), dies.


Star, you emerge, trembling and awake,
a shy apparition in the impassive sky,
you, like me – centuries ago – are frozen and dead,
but by your own light you continue to be visible,

I will be dust and oblivion in oblivion!
But someone, in the anguish of an empty night,
with his knowing it or my knowing it, someone not yet born
will speak his nocturnal pain with my words.

—from “Nocturnal Stanza” by Xavier Villaurrutia (1903–1950)

I will be dust and oblivion in oblivion! —from “Nocturnal Stanza” by Xavier Villaurrutia (1903–1950)

World Poetry

Chile Honors Cuban Poet with Neruda Prize

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has awarded the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize to Cuba's Reina Maria Rodriguez. "Reina Maria Rodriguez receives the Pablo Neruda Prize 10 years after its creation and is the youngest poet of all those who have passed through this house of Chilean presidents to accept this honor," Bachelet said. The award, established in honor of Chilean Nobel literature laureate and diplomat Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), is accompanied by $60,000 and the publication of an anthology of the winner's poems. More.

Original Manuscript of Urdu Poet Ghalib’s Work Found

Papers were presumed destroyed 50 years ago
In a thrilling discovery for lovers of Urdu poetry, the original manuscript of famous poet Mirza Ghalib’s verses has miraculously survived after being reported missing and presumed destroyed almost 50 years ago. Penned in 1821 by Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, the original manuscript — Nuskha-e-Hameediya — survived after being reported missing during the 1940s’ India — Pakistan division. Commissioned by Nawab Faujdar Mohammad Khan and penned by calligrapher Hafiz Mueenuddin, the manuscript features some of the most authentic and beautiful Urdu poetry ever written. More.

Youth Poetry Blooms in the Lyrical Capital

A vibrant poetry community is blossoming in Johannesburg, a city known to many Americans more for its jazz and traditional music. Throughout the week, poetry performances sprout up everywhere in the city from suburban Melville to trendy Maboneng to the arts district in Newtown. Poets from all over the Joburg region come out to have their voices heard. More.

Simin Behbahani, Outspoken Iranian Poet, Dies at 87

Simin Behbahani, a prizewinning poet known as “the lioness of Iran” for using her verse as a means of courageous social protest, died on Tuesday in Tehran. She was 87.
Her death was announced by the Iranian Republic News agency, the country’s official information service. More.

Poet Miodrag Pavlovic Dies

Miodrag Pavlovic, one of the foremost writers of contemporary Serbian poetry and founder of modernism, has died, aged 87. Pavlovic passed away on August 17 in the German town of Tuttlingen, where he had lived with his family. A poet, essay writer, playwright, literary critic and twice a candidate for the Nobel Prize, Pavlovic is well known in literary circles and among readers of many countries. His poetry, which appeared on the Serbian literary scene after World War Two, marked a radical change in taste and focus on a modern literary expression while departing from the avant-garde and surrealist poetry, as well as the so called socialist realism. Pavlovic’s poetry at first merged realism with classical aesthetics, expressing horror felt in the post-war period and young generations tortured by apocalyptic visions, only to focus later on myth, customs, exploration of the past and Serbian cultural tradition in order to identify the causes of the distress and fear of its time. More.

A vibrant poetry community is blossoming in Johannesburg.

Recent Reviews

Three New Books of Poems: A World of Gadgets, and Something Greater

by Frank Wilson
These very different collections have a couple of things in common. Each displays an acute awareness of how much the world has become a place of instruments and gadgets – whether in the emergency room or just tooling along McKinley Avenue in Mishawaka, Ind. But each also gives the sense of a presence in the world of something greater and more vital, something strictly personal. More.

The Moon Before Morning by W. S. Merwin

by Fiona Sampson 
William Merwin is curiously under-read in Britain. Not so in his native US, where he was until recently poet laureate, and where his distinguished roster of awards includes two Pulitzer prizes. Now 86, he still lives in the house he built in the rainforest of Hawaii, and which is the setting for much of his later work. Merwin's signature refusal to use punctuation, and the way his push-me-pull-you lines capture the connectedness of time, space and the natural world, are unique in Anglo-American verse. So his new collection would be an event even if it consisted of nothing but fragments. More.

'And the time is': The Sonorous Voice of Poet Samuel Hazo, 1958 to 2013

By Kristofer Collins
Long before I knew the man’s poetry, Samuel Hazo was a voice. Working at Jay’s Bookstall in Oakland, I was accustomed to picking up the phone and hearing voices that were instantly recognizable — Mister Rogers, Rick Sebak, Patti Burns. Samuel Hazo, who at the time was the director of the International Poetry Forum, had a voice every bit as distinctive as those local luminaries. Rich and sonorous with an implicit dignity and seriousness of purpose. That was Sam Hazo, the voice. Voice is one of those ephemeral qualities used when discussing poetry. More.

Lynn Xu’s Debts & Lessons 

by Sara Eliza Johnson
I first encountered Lynn Xu’s work in a church in Seattle, which was fitting, as her reading was as close to a spiritual experience as a poetry reading can possibly get for me. I am not typically floored by poetry readings, but I savored every pearlescent syllable, as if each word could be grasped somehow beyond sense and sound—word as star-crumb, vibrating stone, dew-eye on a blade of grass. More.

‘The Blue Buick’ by B.H. Fairchild

by John Freeman  
How many poets in America know the difference between a two- and four-barrel carburetor? Could any of them identify it by sound? Would any of these poets know how to use a spot welder? Or lay down a soil stabilizer? Is there one who can run a lathe? These are not idle questions. In the past century, as the great generation of American poets born in the 1920s left university — largely Harvard (Adrienne Rich, Richard Wilbur, Robert Bly, and John Ashbery) and Princeton (W.S. Merwin, Galway Kinnell) — another group (James Wright and Philip Levine among them) raised themselves out of working-class backgrounds and into the middle class, becoming teachers of poetry. More.

Is This a Clerihew Which I See Before Me?

by Bruce Miller
The ability to make us laugh is a talent the gods do not give out with abandon. Hidden in plain sight today is a book destined to become a classic, a unique contribution to the canon of humorous verse in English: “The Lost Clerihews of Paul Ingram,” by Paul Ingram, illustrated by Julia Anderson-Miller, with a foreword by Elizabeth McCracken. The clerihew, a four-line poem consisting of two rhyming couplets, becomes by turns a dagger or a candid camera in Ingram’s hands, exposing the peccadilloes, obsessions, and intentions—good and bad—that animate famous historical and cultural figures– and playing them for laughs. “The Lost Clerihews” is the fruit of a successful collaboration between an irreverent  writer  and a versatile visual artist. More.

W. S. Merwin is curiously under-read in Britain.


Kurdistan: Where Poets Are More Than Poets 

by Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse
Poets are setting people free, liberating thought through language. The auditorium fills. A janitor weaves through the crowd to unlock the upper balcony, and soon that fills, too. Men sit on each other’s knees, three to a seat, careful not to touch the women around them. Men fill the center aisle, flowing around the five video cameras that will broadcast the event to several television channels. Groups of women sit on the floor, leaning against the bolted-down chairs. Photographers clog the stairs to the stage. When the poet enters the room, those not already on their feet spring out of their seats, applauding. The poet, in a collared shirt beneath a sweater vest and elbow-patched blazer, takes his seat. More.

On Writing Versions of Heraclitus of Ephesus

by Raphael Maurice 
What little is known about Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535–475 B.C.E.) comes down to us in mysterious, powerful fragments, mostly reported by Diogenes Laertius, a third-century biographer of Greek philosophers. Although scholars still dispute his claim, Laertius tells us that Heraclitus had actually written a full-length treatise entitled On Nature, and not just the terse sayings we know as the fragments.  Instead of a complete, systematic work, we are left with those shorter sayings of Heraclitus that often puzzle and stun. More.

“Howl” in Italian

by Evan Fleischer
“Howl” was first translated into Italian by Fernanda Pivano, who at her funeral in 2009 was called “Signora America, signora libertà, signorina anarchia.” She became famous over the course of her life partly for translating Hemingway (with whom – as with Allen – she became a good friend), Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Kerouac, Burroughs, David Foster Wallace, and more. As one online commenter put it, “We grew up literally drinking her translations, before even trying to understand the nimble English jargon used by Allen, Jack and the others.” But that is not method. That is the “who,” not the “how,” and certainly not the “Howl.” More.

Stephen Ratcliffe On Robert Grenier’s ‘Drawing Poems’

On April 23 , 2011 (which happens to have been Shakespeare’s birthday, a fact noted several times in what followed) Robert Grenier and I sat down in my living room in Bolinas to record what became the fourth of four conversations (“On Natural Language”), all four of which together with “images of each of the drawing poems under consideration” can be found at PennSound. What follows here is a reconsideration of the first of the drawing poems (“CICADA / CICADA / CICADA / CICADA”) that we talked about that rainy afternoon, beginning with some further thinking about what it was that we were talking about. More.

Robert Grenier recently sat down to converse about his drawing poems.

Drafts & Fragments

Saudi Poet Divorces Wife over Poem

A Saudi poet divorced his wife after learning that she composed a verse to her horse likening her husband to a “non-thoroughbred” horse. The unnamed poet’s sisters conveyed the poetic words to him after they heard his wife reciting them to her horse ‘Jurouh’. More.

A Saudi poet divorced his wife after learning that she composed a verse to her horse.

Poetry In the News

New Seamus Heaney Collection to be Published

A poem written for his granddaughter and never published before in the UK will form part of a new collection of selected poems by the late Seamus Heaney, spanning 25 years and "complet[ing] the arc of a remarkable career", his publisher announced on Thursday. More.

Salma: The Woman Who Rebelled through Poetry

When Kim’s Italian photographer father went bankrupt, he sent her to a draconian boarding school, whose headmistress punished the girl after she got lost during an excursion. The girls were forbidden to talk to Kim for a whole term. It was as cruel as solitary confinement in a prison. Salma’s home was as good as a jail. For quarter century, she was a prisoner of sorts in her home – first under her father and later her husband. Of course, Salma in the course of an interview at her Chennai flat, avers that it may not be the right thing to say that she was "locked up" – as was being stated in the 90-minute documentary on her. More.

A poem written for his granddaughter will be included in a new collection of selected poems by the late Seamus Heaney.

New Books

The Selected Poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Bilingual Edition edited by Stephen Sartarelli

[Hardcover] University of Chicago Press, 456 pp., $45.00
For the first time, Anglophones will now be able to discover the many facets of this singular poet. Avoiding the tactics of the slim, idiosyncratic, and aesthetically or politically motivated volumes currently available in English, Stephen Sartarelli has chosen poems from every period of Pasolini’s poetic oeuvre. In doing so, he gives English-language readers a more complete picture of the poet, whose verse ranged from short lyrics to longer poems and extended sequences, and whose themes ran not only to the moral, spiritual, and social spheres but also to the aesthetic and sexual, for which he is most known in the United States today. 

The New Oxford Book of War Poetry edited by Jon Stallworthy 

[Hardcover] Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $29.95
There can be no area of human experience that has generated a wider range of powerful feelings than war. Jon Stallworthy's classic and celebrated anthology spans centuries of human experience of war, from Homer's Iliad, through the First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam War, and the wars fought since. This new edition, published to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, includes a new introduction and additonal poems from David Harsent and Peter Wyton, amongst others. The new selection provides improved coverage of the two World Wars and the Vietnam War, and new coverage of the wars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Saint Friend by Carl Adamshick

[Hardcover] McSweeney's, 65 pp., $20.00
Saint Friend is that rare book that speaks in the voice of a generation. The voice comes from an acclaimed young poet who, after working years in obscurity, was fêted with the prestigious Walt Whitman Award for his first collection. This, his second book, is a freewheeling explosion of celebrations, elegies, narratives, psychologically raw persona pieces (one in the voice of Amelia Earhart), and a handful of punchy lyric poems with a desperate humor. It is, as the title suggests, a book exalting love among friends in our scattered times. 

Nude Descending an Empire by Sam Taylor 

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press,104 pp., $15.95
As a collection of politically engaged poetry for the 21st century,  Nude Descending an Empire develops the lyrical voice of a citizen-poet speaking to the urgency of our contemporary moment, especially its ecological crisis. This is a book that brings all the supposed sensitivity of poetry into contact with the world we actually live in—with all its crises, madness, and modernity—and insists that we feel it all. A reader will recognize many of the urgent political issues of our time, yet will find them re-inhabited and transformed here by the imaginative power of poetry. Our great ecological crisis is cast as the fulfillment of a long history of violence, domination, lies, and alienation—in one word, empire—and the book suggests that a livable future requires that we wholly inhabit our body-heart-mind and discover a new paradigm.

If the Tabloids Are True What Are You?: Poems and Artwork by Matthea Harvey

[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 160 pp., $25.00
Prose poems introduce deeply untraditional mermaids alongside mer-tool silhouettes. A text by Ray Bradbury is erased into a melancholy meeting with a Martian. The Michelin Man is possessed by William Shakespeare. Antonio Meucci’s invention of the telephone is chronicled next to embroidered images of his real and imagined patents. If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? combines Matthea Harvey’s award-winning poetry with her fascinating visual artwork into a true hybrid book, an amazing and beautiful work by one of our most ingenious creative artists.

Post Subject: A Fable by Oliver de la Paz

[Paperback] University of Akron Press,104 pp., $14.95
Ecstatic and obsessive, the prose poems that make up Oliver de la Paz's Post Subject: A Fable reveal the monuments of a lost country. Through a series of epistles addressed to Empire a catalog emerges, where what can be tallied is noted in a ledger, what can be claimed is demarcated, and what has been reaped is elided. The task of deposing the late century is taken up. What's salvaged from the remains is humanity.

Saint Friend is that rare book that speaks in the voice of a generation


Inteview with Alice Oswald

by Max Porter
Oswald speaks passionately about her engagement with the land, hard work, plants and natural rhythms, but takes issue with labels such as ‘nature poet’. From her first collection of poems Oswald has been acclaimed, won prizes and consistently sounded unlike anyone else. She has written multi-voice poems of British rivers weaving oral history, drama and social documentary. More.

"The Cement Plant," Annotated

by Joshua Mehigan
This poem, from my second book, Accepting the Disaster, is based on my impressions of a real cement plant in Ravena, New York. My sense of the place developed gradually over the 35 years my father worked there as a welder, and more startlingly during the 9 weeks in 1988 when I worked there on a labor crew. More.

I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends: An Exchange with Michael Lista

by Jason GruielI 
Michael Lista is the poetry editor of the Walrus, and a poetry columnist for the National Post. His latest book, The Scarborough, is set on the weekend in 1992 when Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka abducted, tortured and killed Kristin French. It is out in September 2014 from Vehicule Press. Lista spoke with Jason Guriel about the work. More.

Three Dimensions

Jody Gladding on translation, the sources of language, and how beetles can speak of longing.
by Jen Bervin
Jody Gladding’s latest collection takes her abiding interest in an ephemeral art practice—encompassing ecology, poetry, and translation—and uses it as the jumping-off point to create one of the oddest, most deeply arresting and listening books that I’ve encountered. Translations from Bark Beetle (Milkweed Editions) is made up of two basic types of poems. In the first, Gladding translates notations left by bark beetle (those squiggly inscribed lines one sometimes sees in wood) into poetry; and in the second, she inscribes her own poems on natural materials such as quarried slate or found objects—a pair of tongue depressors, for example, or a scan from a doctor’s office. The collection is an ambitious work that presses the reader to see and read language (and resituate it in the world) anew. More.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

World Oldest Man Still Loves Poetry at Age 111

by Brian Shields
A 111-year-old retired Japanese educator who enjoys poetry has been recognized as the world’s oldest living man. Sakari Momoi received a certificate from Guinness World Records on Wednesday. He succeeds Alexander Imich of New York, who died in June at the age of 111 years, 164 days. More.

A sonnet every morning; an ode before bed. A workable plan.

A 111-year-old retired Japanese educator who enjoys poetry has been recognized as the world’s oldest living man.