December 16, 2016

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1598—Philip van Marnix, Flemish ruler of St Aldegonde/poet, dies at 58
1875—Emilio Jacinto, Filipino poet and revolutionary (d. 1899), is born.
1913—Muriel Rukeyser, US, poet (1977 Shelley Memorial Award), is born.


I remember the gulls and the waves
I remember the islands going dark on the sea
I remember the girls laughing
I remember they said he only wanted to get away from me
I remember mother saying: Inventors are like poets, a trashy lot
I remember she told me those who try out inventions are worse
I remember she added: Women who love such are the worst of all
I have been waiting all day, or perhaps longer.
I would have liked to try those wings myself.
It would have been better than this. 

—from Waiting for Icarus” by Muriel Rukeyser

“I have been waiting all day, or perhaps longer. / I would have liked to try those wings myself.” – Muriel Rukeyser

World Poetry

Algerian Blogger Jailed over Facebook Poem Dies

A British-Algerian journalist died Sunday three months into a hunger strike to protest a two-year jail term for offending Algeria’s president in a poem posted online, his lawyer said.  “I can confirm the death of the journalist Mohamed Tamalt in Bab el-Oued hospital after a hunger strike of more than three months and a three-month coma,” Amine Sidhoum said on Facebook

Final Homecoming for Late Poet John Montague
Leading figure in Irish contemporary literature published more than 30 books

The remains of the Irish poet John Montague, who died in Nice early on Saturday, will be flown from Nice to Dublin in the coming days, his widow and daughters have said.

More than Words: Singapore’s Migrant Workers Shine through Poetry

For Bangladeshi worker Bikas Nath, weekends are precious off-days usually spent simply hanging out with his friends. But last Sunday (Dec 11) was slightly different – he was going to make his public debut in Singapore as a poet. The 22-year-old, who hails from Chittagong and came to Singapore last year to work as a shipyard supervisor, spent the morning practicing in front of his test-audience, fellow shipyard workers Hassan and Raselhossain, in a lead-up to the finals of this year’s Migrant Workers Poetry Competition (MWPC).

The remains of the Irish poet John Montague, who died in Nice early on Saturday, will be flown from Nice to Dublin in the coming days.

Recent Reviews

Anne Carson’s Splintered Brilliance
On the pleasures of poetry that deliberately defies our comprehension.
by Charlotte Shane

I love Anne Carson’s work dearly though I suspect I am too stupid for it. I don’t speak any language other than English and there’s much of the Western canon I haven’t studied, so when Carson invokes Hegel or any of the many less famous Greek tragedies, I feel the rumbling of low-grade panic. Carson herself has said of her writing, “i feel i am blundering in concepts too fine for me [sic].” In her latest book Float, an unbound collection of twenty-two separate booklets, she even proposes “an other competence” to combat or correct the notion of incompetence.

The Most Foreign Country
by Karla Kelsey

In early 2017 Ugly Duckling Presse will release for the first time in English Alejandra Pizarnik’s debut collection, The Most Foreign Country, translated by Yvette Siegert. First published in 1955 when Pizarnik was 19, she was later to renounce the book, which remained all but buried, even in Argentina, until it was reprinted in Poesia completa, published in 2000, 28 years after her death. This first book begins precociously self-aware with an epigraph by Rimbaud on adolescence: “Ah! the infinite egotism of adolescence, the studious optimism: how the world was full of flowers that summer! Airs and forms dying…” and moves into 24 associative poems that demonstrate the influence Pizarnik’s early work takes from automatic writing.

The Fuzzy In-Betweenness of Everything
by Christopher Spaide

“Yet by my broken bones// I tell new weather.” When these precocious lines appeared in his 1973 debut New Weather, the Irish poet Paul Muldoon was 21, a student at Queen’s University in Belfast, and generally too self-deprecating, too generalization-averse, for such brash pronouncements. Today, in one of those serendipitous coincidences that buoy his poetry, Muldoon’s forecast sounds like utter understatement. At 65, Muldoon—Princeton professor, New Yorker poetry editor (and honey-tongued host of its poetry podcast), one Nobel shy of amassing the literary world’s biggest prizes—can take credit for an expansive weather pattern in contemporary poetry, a half-century of shapeshifting, inimitable work.

Derek Walcott and Peter Doig’s Double-Barreled Magic
by Ann Lsndi

The poet Derek Walcott and the painter Peter Doig might seem unlikely collaborators for a volume of pictures and verse. Mr. Walcott, born in 1930, was a prodigy, publishing his first poems at the age of 14 and steadily accumulating honors, including a Nobel Prize, throughout his long career. Mr. Doig, born in Edinburgh in 1959 and partly raised in Canada, studied painting in London but was more of a late bloomer; he didn’t earn a master’s degree until he was 31. Two decades later, though, the sale of his painting “White Canoe” for $10 million and a retrospective at the Tate truly put him on the map as one of Britain’s leading artists.

Charlotte Shane on being too stupid for Anne Caron’s poetry.


Clarity, Faith, a Dash of Dyspepsia
How Christian Wiman made poetry matter.
by Jason Guriel

“I don’t really believe in Collected Poems,” the American poet and critic Christian Wiman has said. “They’re almost always bad.” Wiman has long believed that real poetry is rare. As editor of the prestigious magazine Poetry, a position he held for 10 years, he faced a slush pile so big it had slopes, a base camp. But he still struggled to source print-worthy poems. “If poetry is so rare in the world, if so much of it is dross, just think how much rarer it must surely be in your (our!) own work,” he writes in a provocative editorial called “In Praise of Rareness.” Wiman’s argument—that a person who truly respects poetry will find most of it lacking—is the sort of good sense that nevertheless triggers some poetry readers, who tend to be aspiring poets themselves. People don’t prefer to acknowledge that the art they dabble in is probably beyond them.

Poetry and Poets in a Time of Crisis
On How One Imagination Can Activate Another
by Matthew Zapruder

For a long time now, it has been clear to many of us that we are coming to a turning point, if we have not already arrived. We do not yet know whether this election presents a crisis, is the result of one, or is its harbinger. No one does. A destabilized future yawns before us, as a great, worrisome vacuum, into which all our most terrifying visions can easily rush. We might have thought we had some idea about the shape of the future, its challenges and structures, but it seems we do not. Maybe we did not all along.

Matthew Zapruder on poetry and poets in a time of crisis.

Drafts & Fragments

A Beautiful Animation of Philip Larkin’s "The Trees"

For the 30th anniversary of Philip Larkin’s death, BBC Culture commissioned a special animated video of the poet reading The Trees. Click on the arrow above to watch the video.

BBC Culture has commissioned a special animated video of Philip Larkin reading his poem “The Trees.”

Poetry In the News

Nobel Committee: Bob Dylan "Changed Our Idea of What Poetry Can Be"

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden Saturday, where the Swedish Academy's Horace Engdahl explained in the presentation speech why the legendary singer-songwriter was given an award usually reserved for authors, poets and playwrights

Bill English All Diamonds and Poetry in First Press Conference as Prime Minister

Not many new Prime Ministers kick off their tenure with a U-turn and by quoting poetry. Those that do quote poetry tend to sound a bit pretentious. But at his very first media appearance as Prime Minister there was stolid, dour, farmer Bill English quoting poetry to the waiting media pack.

In his first press conference as Prime Minister, Bill English quoted poetry to the waiting media pack.

New Books

The Door That Always Opens: Poems by Julie Funderburk
[Paperback] LSU Press, 70 pp., $17.95

Julie Funderburk’s debut poetry collection, The Door That Always Opens, braids together poems of sharp lyrical imagery and experimental narrative focused frequently on houses: houses under construction or demolition, inhabited, abandoned, and vandalized. Sparkling with details of landscapes and seascapes, her poems depict a state of isometric tension as people struggle to communicate and connect, pulled by feeling and pushed by logic, trapped between choices and mixed loyalties.

One Man's Dark by Maurice Manning
[Hardcover] Copper Canyon Press, 110 pp., $23.00

Pulitzer finalist Maurice Manning is at the height of his powers as he searches through layers of dreams, imagination, and memory to reconnect with oneself and one's place in the cosmos. Drawing deep from his Kentucky roots, Manning's poems are peopled with ordinary and extraordinary rural characters, as he gives voice to a region well-loved and full of tradition.

[Hardcover] Wesleyan, 160 pp., $24.95 

The Work-Shy painstakingly reconstructs a chorus of voices rescued from hermetic “colonies” and fragile communes, from worlds that work in ways that defy work as we know it. Its poetic assemblages offer direct testimony from the first youth prison in California and from asylums for the chronically insane (preserved in the Prinzhorn Collection in Germany and the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York City). Painful facts emerge about “sterilization mills” in California, where thousands of individuals became subject to compulsory procedures (policies that shaped eugenics practice in the Third Reich). In addition, the poems “translate” asylum texts–the writing of the insane–into a wider field of social conflict and utopian fragments of not-yet-being.

Into the Cyclorama by Annie Kim
[Paperback] Southern Indiana Review Press, 80 pp., $14.95

Every history has its holes, every landscape its vanishing point. Fathers and brothers disappear. A bronze helmet winds across centuries from Olympia to Berlin to Seoul. Fish bones turn to thorns in the native tongue. In these poems that explore identity, family, and the hunger to know what can't be known, we discover both vividly recreated scenes and the rips in the canvas. We enter works like the 19th-century Gettysburg Cyclorama at the heart of this book, asking: What art can we make out of violence? What shape from loss? Like snow that leaves no trace in the photographed garden, INTO THE CYCLORAMA answers: Form is everything, even at its most transient.

Wasp Queen by Claudia Cortese 
[Paperback] Black Lawrence Press, 70 pp., $15.95

"Claudia Cortese has given to Lucy what Anne Carson has given to Geryon: a life as desperate and fraught as our own, which is to say, a human rendition of the poetic potential. Here, memory is a potent point of inner excavation, where the threshold of danger and love are often one beam, a beam in which Cortese navigates with harrowingly deft eyes and ears, where Lucy, like so many of us citizens of earth and flesh, 'shines like a gun.' WASP QUEEN possesses something permanent and searing at its core: the will to live, even thrive, despite the shackles of childhood, despite even oneself. I finished this book only to read it all over again, finding and losing myself, gladly, at every turn." —Ocean Vuong

Julie Funderburk’s debut poetry collection braids together poems of sharp lyrical imagery and experimental narrative.


Becoming Invisible: An Interview with Mary Ruefle
by Caitlin Youngquist

When I spoke with Mary Ruefle on the phone recently, she’d just moved into a new house and had spent the morning putting screws into the back of a mirror. “I had my toolbox out and one of the screws was deficient,” she told me, “so I had to find another and it was just endless … You need two people for this sort of thing, but I did it myself.” It’s a statement akin to many in her new collection, My Private Property, a mélange of essays, stories, and prose poems, in which small objects often become vehicles for profound reflection. Ruefle, best known for her poetry, begins much of her work this way—she muses on ordinary things like keys or clouds, yellow scarves or golf pencils, until those descriptions unfurl and beget larger, existential meditations on sadness and boredom, on language and lullabies and autonomy in old age. Our conversation was like that, too, always unraveling toward some arresting observation.

“Even language is not on our side.”
Jericho Brown 
by Kaveh Akbar

Jericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers' Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Buzzfeed, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and The Best American Poetry. His first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. He is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Emory University.

Jericho Brown was recently interviewed at divedapper.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Christina Rosetti

Though not given over much to religious occasions, I am moved by this Christina Rossetti poem set to music by Gustav Holst. I heard it at a local pageant the other night in a marvelously spare rendition for voice, standup bass, and brushes on snare. Although it's been performed many times by the likes of James Taylor, Susan Boyle, the Moody Blues, Annie Lennox, and Julie Andrews, here is a simple and beautiful version of it by Liz Simcock, which is worth a listen.

In the bleak midwinter 

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, / Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone” – Christina Rosetti