December 13, 2017

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1591—Juan de la Cruz, [de Yepes], Spanish Carmelet/poet/saint, dies.
1760—Kacic Miosic, Croatian poet (Razgovar Ugodni Naroda Slovinskoga), dies.
1777—Juan N Gallego, Spanish poet/interpreter (El dos the mayo), is born.
1791—Charles Wolfe, Irish poet (d. 1823), is born.
1853—Salvador Diaz Miron, Mexican poet (Los Cien Mejores Poemas), is born.
1895—Paul Eluard, French poet (d. 1952), is born.
1931 —Jon Elia, Pakistani scholar, poet and philosopher (d. 2002), is born.



Her eyes are always open
And she does not let me sleep
In the light of day her dreams
Make suns evaporate,
Make me laugh, cry and laugh,
And speak when I have nothing to say.
— from “Lady Love” by Paul Éluard
[translated by Paul Auster]

“Her eyes are always open / And she does not let me sleep / In the light of day her dreams” – Paul Éluard

World Poetry

Israeli Court Rejected Dareen Tatour’s Appeal to End her House Arrest

PEN International condemns the decision of the Israeli court in Nazareth, on 4 December 2017, to reject the appeal of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to end her house arrest. Consequently, Tatour remains under house arrest, the conditions of which continue to be strict and include the prevention of her movement outside of her home unless under the supervision of a licensed chaperone, and a blanket ban on accessing the internet or publishing any of her works. According to the Free Dareen website, no date for a final verdict on her case has been set yet, but a new hearing has been scheduled for 28 December 2017 to allow both sides, the defence and the prosecution, to present complementary oral summaries to support their positions.

PEN International has condemned an Israeli court’s decision to reject the appeal of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour to end her house arrest.

Recent Reviews

Do Politics Matter In Poetry? New Biography Explores The Case Of Ezra Pound
by Maureen Corrigan

In the winter of 1949, a group of judges — including poets T.S. Eliot and Robert Lowell — met to decide the winner of the prestigious Bollingen Prize for the best book of poetry published in the United States the previous year. They gave the prize to Ezra Pound for his collection The Pisan Cantos. Then all hell broke loose.


Hobson’s Choice
by William Logan
On recent poetry by C. K. Williams, Michael Longley, Simon Armitage, Brenda Shaughnessy & Robert Pinsky.

C. K. Williams died of cancer two years ago at the age of seventy-eight. His last poems, each restricted to five tercets of unpunctuated free verse, impose a shape on what otherwise might have been unbridled rambling. Waiting for the end is for most unrewarding, nothing but discomfort and dread. Only a cantankerous old Greek can swig down the cup of hemlock, a steely old Roman step into the warm bath and open his veins. Johnson said, “When a man knows he is to be hanged . . . , it concentrates his mind wonderfully”; but the nearness of extinction just makes it hard to focus. A reader must appreciate the will required when the horizon is so bleak—courage is necessary to write at all, or at least the longing for distraction from the unbearable.

Adding Up a Prolific Poet’s Charming Weather Reports
by Dwight Garner

“That’s not writing, that’s typing,” Truman Capote said about Jack Kerouac, who wrote “On the Road” on a 120-foot scroll of paper and rarely revised. The poet A. R. (Archie) Ammons (1926-2001) also wrote a book on a scroll. His “Tape for the Turn of the Year” (1965) was composed on a skinny roll of adding-machine tape, which he threaded through his typewriter, a “ribbon of speech.” It was an endearing performance, and very Ammons.

The Letters of Sylvia Plath and the Transformation of a Poet’s Voice
By Anwen Crawford

In July, 1947, while at summer camp in Oak Bluffs, on Martha’s Vineyard, a fourteen-year-old Sylvia Plath wrote a letter to her mother, Aurelia Schober Plath. “I am very busy, but not too much to write regularly to you,” she writes. “Last night I had three big helpings of potatoes (mashed) and carrots for supper and a scant helping of meatloaf as well as 2 pieces of bread and butter, 2 apricots & a glass of milk.”

C. K. Williams’ last poems, each restricted to five tercets of unpunctuated free verse, impose a shape on what might have been unbridled rambling.


Gained in Translation
by Tim Parks



“But isn’t it all just subjective?” The scene is a Translation Slam, so-called. Two translators translate the same short passage and discuss their versions with a moderator in front of an audience of other translators. “Slam” suggests violent struggle and eventual victory or defeat. In reality, it’s all very polite and even protective. There will be no vote to decide which version wins. Nobody is going to be humiliated.


Long Tables, Open Bottles, And Smoke: Hanging Out with Derek Walcott
by Sven Birkerts



I learned a good deal about poets and poetry from Joseph Brodsky, whose classes I audited in the 1970s in Ann Arbor and whose opinion on most anything I took as holy writ in those days. Joseph was a great one for naming and ranking poets, and much of our conversation consisted of him delivering his various verdicts. “Miroslav Holub is terrific, ya?” Or “Yevtushenko, he’s just shit.” So-and-so was in fact a good poet, “too bad he had to get a Bly-job.” I was all ears, and tuned in closely whenever a new name appeared on his list. “Derek Walcott,” he said one day, “Caribbean poet—look him out [sic].” 


What Makes Poetry Pop?
by Tom Jacobs


If you're crunched for time, but don't want to give up the pleasure of reading literature, there's an obvious answer: poetry. But what is it that gives a piece of verse its verve? New research reports a key factor is its ability to induce internal imagery. A poet's proficiency at using words to conjure images was the strongest predictor of a work's aesthetic appeal.

If you’re crunched for time, but don’t want to give up the pleasure of reading literature, there’s an obvious answer: poetry.

Drafts & Fragments

The Amazon Poets Making Pennies per Verse
by Rob Arcand

On January 2, 2017, a thread on the r/mturk/ subreddit pointed out a strange listing on the Amazon Mechanical Turk site, a crowdsourcing platform for low-wage electronic tasks just a little too difficult or expensive for companies to automate. Amongst routine requests for image identification, speech-to-text transcription, and other tasks demanding the attention of a living person, the post asked for a brief poem. “Write a short poem about your work,” it read. “Do not plagiarize. The poem can be as short or as long as you would like.”

Now You Too Can Bake like Emily Dickinson this Holiday Season
7 delicious recipes from a great American poet
By Emily Temple

It’s fairly common knowledge these days that everyone’s first favorite poet Emily Dickinson was also no slouch in the kitchen. In fact, as others have pointed out, in her lifetime she was almost certainly more famous for being a baker than she was for being a poet. Her creative and culinary works even seem to have influenced one another—or at least she worked on a number of poems in the kitchen, while she worked. So it’s no surprise that the Dickinson family recipes—a few of which have survived—fascinate the faithful.

Emily Dickinson’s recipes continue to fascinate die-hard fans.

Poetry In the News

Poet Robert Frost's Original Christmas Cards on Display

For the first time in more than half a century, a series of Christmas cards and booklets that feature poems by Robert Frost, the poet known for his gritty images of rural New England life, are on display at Vermont's Middlebury College. Some of the poems were published for the first time in the cards, some were early drafts of works in progress that went on to become Frost staples, while still others had been previously published.

What’s a Poetry Reading Doing at a Tech Start-Up Anyway?

The poet Nick Sturm has given dozens of readings at coffee shops and bars and bookstores and universities and once, from inside the bathtub of a house in Akron, Ohio as a shower pounded over his shoulders and sprinkled into his can of Colt45. But it was not until a Thursday evening this September that Sturm, 31, gave a reading from inside the corporate headquarters of a tech start-up, beside a projection of its logo.

Peter Twal Named Winner of 2018 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize

Peter Twal has been named the winner of the annual Etel Adnan Poetry Prize for his collection Our Earliest Tattoos. Twal will receive $1,000, and his collection will be published by the University of Arkansas Press in the fall of 2018. Twal is a Jordanian-American electrical engineer from Baton Rouge. 

Nick Sturm recently gave a reading at tech start-up MailChimp.

New Books

Now Chiefly Poetical by Kevin DiCamillo
[Paperback] BlazeVOX, 102 pp., $16.00

“Kevin DiCamillo's poems are so finely tuned that they risk calling the reader’s attention too exclusively to their form and to all the fragile echoes from other writers that haunt them. This volume is, in itself, plotted as a complicated sequence, and is not merely a gathering of incidental or occasional poems. The opening lyric poems are immediately arresting; but it is in the retrospect afforded them by the “Gradual Psalms” and the Stations of the Cross that they fully reveal themselves. The sequence is in some respects simple—it starts with an account of the world and of the way it has been glimpsed in various writers; then the transience of this is absorbed into the meditative sequences that follow, although the absorption of one world into another is a painful one; then it is celebrated in the Joycean epithalamium. This is poetry of the highest order, deserving of wide recognition.”—-Seamus Deane


Commodore by Jacqueline Waters
[Paperback] Ugly Duckling Presse, 88 pp., $15.00 


Commodore, Waters' third poetry collection, is a book about care, both the two-way street of it and the hierarchy created by it. Or it's about coming very close to your subject, intent on discerning shades of sentiment, full of nostalgia for things you didn't really enjoy when they happened, concerned care might be an exploitable weakness, even as its cultivation becomes the only way to attract the mercy you will inevitably require.

Poems from Underground by Francis Blessington
[Paperback] Deerbrook Editions, 80 pp., $16.95 

Francis Blessington's new book of poetry is an inspiring collection of great imagination. Blessington places the ancient side by side with the contemporary, capturing moments that are gone but live on, reflections and refractions of a visual space that seems endless while being held in a moment s time. Almost every poem lives visually, as an ukiyo-e print sustains the fleeting floating world of solitary events, then anchors the reader with wood, stone, and flesh.

Combed by Crows by Dennis Camire
[Paperback] Deerbrook Editions, 96 pp., $17.49

To apply Dennis Camire s own words to himself, he is indeed a birder of words working at "altruism's altitude." If all poetry implies a vision, what the poems in Combed by Crows see is how important beauty is in a broken world–beauty and compassion–how they can be found almost anywhere, in the autistic boy trying to get a date, in giant pumpkins and lowly earthworms, in our language itself, from the letters of the alphabet to the many names of fishing lures. Camire sees and celebrates it all, not denying our wounds, but finding in them the source of love. These poems become models of attention and curiosity, gratitude and a full-hearted embrace of experience. The images are vivid and compelling, the syntax becomes a river, carrying us through an amazing series of verbal rapids without once tipping us over. I love this book. It s like the donated organs described in one poem, giving our tired cynical minds a transplant of marvel and wonder. –Betsy Sholl


The Amoeba Game by Tara Skurtu
[Paperback] Eyewear Publishing, 84 pp., $14.49

On a journey that begins in South Florida and ends up in Romania, the country of her family's forgotten history, Tara Skurtu plays 'the amoeba game,' a game that has no rules. With subtle and serious humor, with the vivid spontaneity of memory and dreams, and with surgical precision, these compelling, mysterious poems hold up a lens that reveals the slippery and changing dimensions of our many selves.

Francis Blessington’s new book of poetry is an inspiring collection of great imagination.


An Entirely Different Immersion: Talking to Kathleen Fraser
by Andy Fitch

This conversation, transcribed by Nicole Monforton, focuses on Kathleen Fraser’s collection m  ov a  b  le  TYYPE. After years of pioneering work teaching at San Francisco State University, founding the American Poetry Archives, and co-founding the feminist poetics journal HOW(ever), Fraser began regularly immersing herself amid the venerable Roman cityscape. Fraser took with her the supple linguistic register that she had cultivated during decades of writing and living in the Bay Area, and started developing with visual artists a series of poetic/typographical/collage-based collaborations shaped by the palimpsestic textures and tonalities of this new environment. The resulting m  ov a  b  le  TYYPE texts provide any number of what Fraser herself describes as “Stendhalian city moments,” filled with echoes, multiplicity, synesthesia. Talking to Fraser about her intricate, elaborate, often constraint-based yet nonetheless playful process for each project produces the same. 


The Man Who Remade Arabic Poetry
Adonis’s poems reflect a lifelong argument with his culture.
by Robyn Creswell


In March, 2011, when civil protests broke out in cities and towns across Syria, the country’s most famous poet, Adonis—who is in his eighties and has lived in exile since the mid-nineteen-fifties—hesitated to support the demonstrators. Although he had welcomed earlier uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, he flinched when Syria’s turn came. In an editorial published in al-Hayat, a leading Arabic newspaper, in May, 2011, by which time more than a thousand protesters were dead and government tanks had shelled several towns, Adonis wrote, “I will never agree to participate in a demonstration that comes out of a mosque.” 


Dana Gioia – Poet Laureate of California
by Julian May


Dana Gioia is a man with a mission: to take poetry to the whole state, reading his own work and listening to other poets’ and students, in all its 58 counties. He lives on an isolated hilltop and writes in a studio resembling a barn, lined with his 6,000 books. Sometimes, when he needs to get away, he works in a beautiful hut, with just a table and a stove, overlooking the hills and the oaks. He takes the BBC’s Julian May to these places and reveals the inspiration of a major new poem, The Ballad of Jesus Ortiz, and the surprisingly physical way he is working on it. There is, however, grave danger, from wildfires that are threatening to destroy his studio-barn, his writing hut, and his home.

Kathleen Fraser specializes in m ov a b le TYPE texts.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

I enjoyed the story above in the "Poetry in the News" section about a poetry reading that was held at a tech startup. An interesting concept! What is equal interesting to me, on a personal level, is that it happened at MailChimp, which the articled describes as a start-up that "provides small-business owners with a package of marketing tools that help them build, maintain, and grow their client base through email newsletters." In fact, it is MailChimp that I use to forward this newsletter to Prairie Schooner, and by extension, to my readers. I won't—can't!—take any credit for their poetry initiative, but I do take pleasure in the synchronicity.