August 28, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

August 28, 2012

1646 – Fulvio Testi, Italian poet (Poesie liriche), dies at 53.
1906 – John Betjeman, poet laureate of England (Mt. Zion), is born.

1952 – Rita Dove, American poet, is born.

1967 – Frederick Kesner, Philippine-born Australian poet, is born.
1993 – William Stafford, American poet (b. 1914), dies.

1994 – David Wright, South African poet, dies at 74.

The Last Laugh

I made hay while the sun shone.
My work sold.
Now, if the harvest is over
And the world cold,
Give me the bonus of laughter
As I lose hold.

—John Betjeman (1906–1984)

Poetry In The News

Poem Prompts Tour of B-17 World War II Bomber in N.J.

Never doubt the power of a poem. Besides sometimes touching a reader’s soul, poetry can prompt action – as I recently found out. It started with a poem and ended with a tour of a B-17 – a World War II bomber also known as a “Flying Fortress.” Read more at New Jersey Newsroom.

Fresno State Levine Wine is Liquid Poetry

Starting this weekend, you can buy a bottle of Fresno State wine honoring 2011 U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine. The special-edition wine — only 400 cases were made — will be on sale at Fresno State’s Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market starting Sunday. Read more at the Fresno Bee.

City Hall Announces New Post of LA Poet Laureate

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced creation of an official city of Los Angeles’ poet laureate program, to “serve as the official ambassador of Los Angeles’ vibrant poetry and literary culture. The Poet Laureate will use the position as a platform to promote the City’s greatest writers and the transformative qualities of poetry and the written word throughout all parts of the community.” Read more at LA Observed.

World Poetry

Register Now to Abseil Hallam’s Owen Building

A just-deciphered ancient Greek poem discovered in Egypt, deifies Poppaea Sabina, the wife of the infamous Roman emperor Nero, showing her ascending to the stars. Based on the lettering styles and other factors, scholars think the poem was written nearly 200 years after Nero died (about 1,800 years ago), leaving them puzzled as to why someone so far away from Rome, would bother composing or copying it at such a late date. Read more at Fox News.

Poet Lydia Pasternak Steps Out of the Shadow

Nicolas Pasternak Slater, nephew of celebrated Russian writer Boris Pasternak, is collaborating with the department of Slavonic studies at Vienna University to publish a trilingual edition of his mother’s poetry. Lydia Pasternak Slater has long been in the shadow of her famous brother, one of the most beloved poets of the 20th century and author of Dr. Zhivago. However her poetry allows her to stand alone in this celebrated literary family. Read more at Russia Beyond the Headlines.

New Books

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place by bell hooks

[Paperback]The University Press of Kentucky, 88 pp., $19.95
In Appalachian Elegy, bell hooks continues her work as an imagist of life’s harsh realities in a collection of poems inspired by her childhood in the isolated hills and hidden hollows of Kentucky. At once meditative, confessional, and political, this poignant volume draws the reader deep into the experience of living in Appalachia. Touching on such topics as the marginalization of its people and the environmental degradation it has suffered over the years, hooks’s poetry quietly elegizes the slow loss of an identity while also celebrating that which is constant, firmly rooted in a place that is no longer whole.

If One of Us Should Fall by Nicole Terez Dutton

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 88 pp., $15.95
“Nicole Terez Dutton’s If One Of Us Should Fall is sensational in both the laudatory and literal sense. Her poems are full of exacting language and feeling, the swells and pitfalls of desire, ‘the music that swallows us whole.’ Her muse is not Orpheus so much as a tenacious Eurydice singing, ‘I love that sky the whole way down’ even as she falls. It is a new sense of myth and music this blazing debut gives us. Sensory, sensual, sensational: a whole lot of Hot Damn.” —Terrance Hayes

Collected Poems by Jack Kerouac

[Hardcover] Library of America, 816 pp., $40.00
Poetry was at the center of Jack Kerouac’s sense of mission as a writer. This landmark edition brings together for the first time all Kerouac’s major poetic works—Mexico City Blues, The Scripture of the Golden Eternity, Book of Blues, Pomes All Sizes, Old Angel Midnight, Book of Haikus—along with a rich assortment of his uncollected poems, six published here for the first time.

In Beauty Bright: Poems by Gerald Stern

[Loose Leaf] W. W. Norton & Company, 128 pp., $25.95
The lyric poems of In Beauty Bright, although marked by the same passion and swiftness as Gerald Stern’s previous work, move into an area of knowledge—even wisdom—that reflects a long life of writing, teaching, and activism. They are poems of grief and anger, but the music is delicate and moving.

A Mind Like This by Susan Blackwell Ramsey

[Paperback] University of Nebraska Press, 112 pp., $17.95
Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry, Susan Blackwell Ramsey’s A Mind Like This is a work of humor and wit, unexpectedly delightful and full of surprises as it reflects on the oddness of everyday life, the natural world, literary history, popular culture, and more. Everything is fair game for Ramsey, who finds poetry in love and sickness and life, of course, but also in knitting and unreliable bladders and the peculiar name of Kalamazoo. Neruda makes an appearance, as do Eric Clapton and Brahms, Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and Jimmy Stewart.

Recent Reviews

Under the Influence

by Daisy Fried
Poetry changes nothing, W. H. Auden suggested. For once in his life he was wrong. Poetry changes ­everything, starting with the good behavior of anyone who reads a lot of it, as the poet-critic Maureen N. McLane discovers in her beguiling new book, My ­Poets. Read more at the New York Times.

Everything Moves Close

by Brian Teare
I feel like I need to forget what I know about Eileen Myles in order to review her new book of poems, Snowflake/Different Streets. In 2012 it’s almost impossible to separate the experience of reading her books from the popular mythology that derives from her career as East Village bon vivant, openly female write-in candidate for president, and feminist lesbian icon. This is, of course, the problem with fame, even of the underground sort — it mediates our experience of an artist’s work, which is always already saturated with what we know about them. Read more at LA Review of Books.


Interview: Jean Sprackland, Poet and Writer

by Roger Cox
She used to live near a remote coastline in the north-west of England and what she found on the beaches there inspired a novel. Roger Cox talks to Jean Sprackland about her extraordinary project. A chipped china tea cup, a piece of petrified wood, a toy duck, a sea squirt shaped like a human ear… these are just a few of the things the poet and writer Jean Sprackland keeps on the mantelpiece in the living room of her north London home. Read more at the Scotsman.

Dante, Petrarch, Vico, Coetzee

by Richard Marshall
Giuseppe Mazzotta jives on the triggers of Italian literature. He thinks Dante’s is an aesthetics of failure that casts reading as an existential quest. He thinks Petrarch’s inner phantoms are important and Vico has tantalising obscurities. He has written many clickin’ books, including Dante, Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the Divine Comedy; The World at Play in Boccaccio’s Decameron; Dante’s Vision and the Circle of Knowledge; The Worlds of Petrarch; The New Map of the World: the Poetic Philosophy of Giambattista Vico; Cosmopoiesis: The Renaissance Experiment. With him, the world is yours. Cool. Read more at 3:am Magazine.


Nature Poetry, Black Poetry

by Brian Mann
Poetry is one of the ways we’ve learned to think and talk about the natural world. In the United States writers like Emerson, Dickinson and Frost have shaped the language we bring to nature and wildness. But largely missing from that tradition and conversation is the poetry of African-American writers. Read more at North Country Public Radio.

Poetry Slam Becomes Bar Brawl

by Miles Klee
Last night I had the distinct honor of an early turn on the mic at Vol. 1 Brooklyn’s farewell-to-summer reading, hosted by New York literary impresario Jason Diamond. The event was held in the back of CultureFix, a perhaps fatefully cramped art gallery/ bar on the Lower East Side.” Read more at Blackbook.

Drafts & Fragments

M@h*(pOet)?ica: Summerthings

by Bob Grumman
The poems in my sequence all carry out the operation of long division (except the ones in its prelude). The poems remain poems, I argue, because–in spite of whatever their mathematical (or other) elements do–its words remain the essential basis of each. Read more at Scientific American.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

The Man Who Translated T. S. Eliot in Hindi

by Sumedha Raikar-Mhatre
T. S. Eliot often drew from Indian scriptures, such as the Bhagvad Gita for his famous Four Quartets. Now, a Mumbai-based retired banker has decided to overturn the paradigm. Arun Sharma, 61, has translated three of the modernist American poet’s most famous works in Hindi. Titled T S Eliot Ki Teen Utkrisht Kavitayen, the translations have won a stamp of approval of the United Kingdom based T. S. Eliot Society, of which Sharma is a member. Read more at the Times of India.

Translating poetry is a tricky business, if done well. In addition to matters of denotation, connotation, tone and attitude, place and time, there are also those issues particular to poetry such as prosody, rhyme, and sound. Also of importance is the affinity that the translator feels for the original. As Arun Sharma says, “I feel close to Eliot because he was also an accountant in the Colonial and Foreign Department of Lloyd’s Bank —a strange day job that gave him time to pen verse in the evenings. For someone like me who just retired from National Bank for agriculture and Rural Development, Eliot played a muse.” That affinity, I think, allows the translator to humble him or herself before the original; which is to say the sensibility of the original work and of the original author is paramount. At the same time, that affinity, in which the translator inhabits the poem, gives the translator the courage to offer up the translated version as the worthy interpretation of the original carried over to the new (or, in this case, not-so-new) language. I have no idea how good or faithful the translations are. But translating poets like Eliot and Shakespeare, which Sharma has done, and from English into Hindi— that’s some humility and courage.
—David Sanders