December 8, 2016

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

65 BC–Horace, Venusia, Lucania, Roman Republian poet (Odes), (d. 8 BC), is born.
1626–John Davies, English poet (b. 1569), dies.
1715–John Althuysen, Frisian vicar/poet (Frisianche rymlery), is born.
1881–Padraic Colum, Irish poet/novelist/poet (Collected Poems), is born.
1889–W Hervey Allen, US writer/poet (Anthony Adverse), is born.
1911–Nikos Gatsos, Greek poet and lyricist (d. 1992), is born.
1913–Delmore Schwartz, US, poet/short story writer/critic (Shenandoah), is born.
1996–Marin Sorescu, poet/dramatist, dies at 60.


I am sad this morning. Do not reproach me. 
I write from a café near the post office, 
Amid the click of billiard balls, the clatter of dishes, 
The pounding of my heart. I have been asked to write 
“A History of Caricature.” I have been asked to write 
“A History of Sculpture.” Shall I write a history 
Of the caricatures of the sculptures of you in my heart? 

Although it costs you countless agony, 
Although you cannot believe it necessary, 
And doubt that the sum is accurate, 
Please send me money enough for at least three weeks. 

—from “Baudelaire” by Delmore Schwartz

“Although it costs you countless agony, / Please send me money enough for at least three weeks.” – Delmore Schwartz

World Poetry

Award-winning Brazilian Poet Ferreira Gullar Dies at 86

Brazilian poet and playwright Ferreira Gullar, winner of the 2010 Camoes Prize, died Sunday in Rio de Janeiro, hospital spokesmen said. He was 86. The poet died at Copa D'Or Hospital in Copacabana, but the cause of death was not made public.

Brazilian poet and playwright Ferreira Gullar, winner of the 2010 Camoes Prize, died Sunday in Rio de Janeiro.

Recent Reviews

Home & Away
by William Logan
On Forever Words by Johnny Cash, George Washington: Poems by Adam Fitzgerald, and more recently published poetry.

Fans of Bob Dylan found it impossible to understand why he would sing a duet with Johnny Cash, at least until they heard “Girl from the North Country.” I recall the kitchen where Nashville Skyline played almost half a century ago, but not who owned the house or even where it was—only that I’d hitchhiked there. That was the year Cash became best known for the chintzy novelty song “A Boy Named Sue.” Still, my ears perk up when “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” or “The Man Comes Around” crackles through my car radio. If there’s an American song book a century from now, they ought to be included.

“You Carved the World Because You Craved the World”: On Banana Palace by Dana Levin and Blackacre by Monica Youn
by Jonathan Farmer

A poet’s job, in as much as one exists, is to make something. Out of the ancient, imputed dominion over earth and animal, poets add more words, configurations, noises, data, drafts, ink on paper, graphite, the pixilated terms of our regard. Even in dismay over humanity’s greed, its endless grafting its appetite so thoroughly into the earth that the earth buckles and retreats, recoils and then revolts, our outrage is additive. Poetry, like all forms of making—even the mandala, even the erasure—adds

A Review of The Selected Poems of Donald Hall
by Ernest Hilbert

“To write something as good as the poems that originally brought you to love the art. It’s the only sensible reason for writing poems,” Donald Hall declared in his early sixties in a Paris Review interview (he served as the magazine’s first poetry editor in the 1950s). Now in his eighties, Hall has assembled what he feels is his very best work in the newly published Selected Poems of Donald Hall.

“To write something as good as the poems that originally made you love the art is the only reason for writing poems.” – Donald Hall


Reading Yeats in the Age of Trump
by Stephen Burt

Like many of you, I have spent the days since the election in a combination of frantic distraction; intermittent, flailing activism; attempts to focus on my private and professional life; and fear. The more I read from experts in relevant fields, the more I envision the next four, or eight, or ten years not so much as a Republican administration—enacting policies that will hurt immigrants, people of color, and the poor—but rather as a kleptocratic, potentially authoritarian, generation-long takeover, one that could extend outward and downward from Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue into the federal judiciary, the civil service, and the national security state.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neruda’s Lost Poems: On Translating His Recent Collection of Never-Before-Seen Poems
by Forrest Gander

It’s true, I’ve been caught in print several times saying, “The last thing we need is another Neruda translation.” It’s not that I don’t love Neruda, but given the attention he’s justly received—he’s the only Nobel Prize winner in literature many people can name—I’ve wanted to champion terrific lesser-known and more contemporary Latin American writers in translation. After all, a lot has happened since Neruda. For starters, Nicanor Parra, Raúl Zurita, Héctor Viel Temperley, Idea Vilariño, Alejandra Pizarnik, Antonio Cisneros, Coral Bracho, and now a new generation of hotshots.
    So when I read, in late 2014, that never-before-seen poems by Pablo Neruda had been discovered and would be published in early 2015, I shrugged it off. I assumed that someone was squeezing the last purple juices from the Neruda estate. Surely the new poems were drafts, scraps, notes that Neruda hid away and never intended to publish. But then came the reviews in Spain and Latin America—and they were surprisingly, alarmingly, enthusiastic.

Emily Dickinson’s Singular Scrap Poetry
by Dan Chiasson

The poems of Emily Dickinson began as marks made in ink or pencil on paper, usually the standard stationery that came into her family’s household. Most were composed in Dickinson’s large, airy bedroom, with two big windows facing south and two facing west, at a small table that her niece described as “18-inches square, with a drawer deep enough to take in her ink bottle, paper and pen.” It looked out over the family’s property on Main Street, in Amherst, Massachusetts, toward the Evergreens, her brother’s grand Italianate mansion, nestled among the pines a few hundred yards away.

The Poem That Made Picasso Possible
by Micah Mattix

In early 1872, Stéphane Mallarmé was planning a luxury magazine. The idea “obsesses me,” he noted to a friend. A little more than two years later, he would become the editor of a fledgling women’s magazine, La Dernière Mode (“The Latest Fashion”). He wrote the entirety of each issue himself, using a variety of pseudonyms. He was “Miss Satin” when advising on fashion and the “Head Chef of Chez Brébant” when explaining how to serve Ostend and Marennes oysters.

“The last thing we need is another Neruda translation.” – Neruda translator Forrest Gander

Drafts & Fragments

Soseki Poem about Bamboo Shrimp Sculpture to be Exhibited

A handwritten poem penned by literary giant Natsume Soseki about a piece of bamboo shaped like a shrimp is to go on display for the first time. The poem, written in classical Chinese style, will be exhibited at the Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature from Dec. 3 until Jan. 22. Dec. 9 marks the centennial of Soseki's death.

A handwritten poem penned by literary giant Natsume Soseki about a piece of bamboo shaped like a shrimp is to go on display.

Poetry In the News

William Wordsworth's Descendant Fights Plan to 'fence in' Part of the Lake District with 'Eyesore' Line of 150ft Electrical Pylons

A £2.8 billion plan to 'fence in' the scenic Lake District with giant electrical pylons is being fought – by the descendant of famous poet William Wordsworth. The National Grid wants to link the proposed new nuclear plant at Moorside near Sellafield, Cumbria, to the UK power network at the Heysham power station in Morecambe.

Poetry Organizations from Across the U.S. Join Together to Form Historic Coalition & Launch March 2017 Programs on Migration

Twenty nonprofit poetry organizations from across the United States have formed a historic coalition dedicated to working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and communities, and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds. With support from Lannan Foundation, the poetry organizations convened last November in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to begin discussing how they might join forces to enhance the visibility of the art form and its impact on people’s everyday lives. Contrary to the public perception that interest in poetry is waning, over the past few years, these organizations have witnessed increases in the number of students participating in poetry recitation and spoken word events, visitors to poetry websites, individuals attending poetry readings, and young poets taking to social media to share their work.

A £2.8 billion plan to ‘fence in’ the scenic Lake District with giant electrical pylons is being fought – by a descendant of William Wordsworth.

New Books

Lithopedia by Anne Keefe
[Paperback] Bull City Press, 86 pp., $15.95

The lithopedion — the stone baby, calcified, entombed within a woman's body or on display in a museum case — lies at the heart of this rich and moving collection of poems concerned with generations of women, with what is kept or withheld, birthed or lost. Anne Keefe's poems are graceful, elegiac, and ghosted by the specter of the irretrievable: the children who could have been, who haunt the children who are. –Mark Doty

The Red Hijab by Bonnie Bolling
[Paperback] BkMk Press, 72 pp., $13.95       

Winner of the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry, selected by H. L. Hix. Inspired by her time in the Persian Gulf, Bonnie Bolling expands the typical American view of the Middle East in The Red Hijab. Her poetry confronts violence, and the anger many residents feel, but it also shows the daily kindness and humanity that occur alongside, and even because of, the region's turmoil. The Red Hijab explores a place filled with beauty, culture, and family, amid the everyday lives of people whose growing collective empowerment has become one of the major issues of our time.

and then we became by devorah major
[Paperback] City Lights Publishers, 88 pp., $14.95

Who are we humans, with our differences and our personal histories, mythologies and urgencies, as well as our collective struggles and dreams? Why are we here? Questions of culture, ethnicity and gender—and the denial of those borders—infuse these poems, rich with social and political commentary, and filled with compassion, love, anger and hope. Even while writing of one child, one homeless person, one soldier, one war survivor, devorah major connects these individual stories to a contemplation of humanity's place in the cosmos.

Lunch Portraits by Debora Kuan
[Paperback]Brooklyn Arts Press, 104 pp., $16.95

Rejecting the purely lyrical mode and its attendant melancholia, the poems in Lunch Portraits attempt to beat back existential dread by reveling in the delightfully banal totems of mass American culture—hot dogs, cinema, cats, money, youth, selfies. They eat their way through exuberance and fear, richness and emptiness, belonging and alienation, locating in the everyday what is human and hopelessly hungry. Yet in this search for satiation, they also stumble upon the vexing paradoxes inherent in this desire, where no insecurity is entirely innocuous. These poems are alive with appetite and yearning, always hopeful to discover, as Kuan writes, "the 'help' button of the burning telephone."

Almost Complete Poems by Stanley Moss
[Hardcover] Seven Stories Press, 624 pp., $45.00

Moss is oceanic: his poems rise, crest, crash, and rise again like waves. His voice echoes the boom of the Old Testament, the fluty trill of Greek mythology, and the gongs of Chinese rituals as he writes about love, nature, war, oppression, and the miracle of language. He addresses the God of the Jews, of the Christians, and of the Muslims with awe and familiarity, and chants to lesser gods of his own invention. In every surprising poem, every song to life, beautiful life, Moss, by turns giddy and sorrowful, expresses a sacred sensuality and an earthy holiness. Or putting it another way: here is a mind operating in open air, unimpeded by fashion or forced thematic focus, profoundly catholic in perspective, at once accessible and erudite, inevitably compelling. All of which is to recommend Moss's ability to participate in and control thoroughly these poems while resisting the impulse to center himself in them. This differentiates his beautiful work from much contemporary breast-beating. Moss is an artist who embraces the possibilities of exultation, appreciation, reconciliation, of extreme tenderness. As such he lays down a commitment to a common, worldly morality toward which all beings gravitate.

Stanley Moss’s voice echoes the boom of the Old Testament, the fluty trill of Greek mythology, and the gongs of Chinese rituals.


The Rumpus Interview with Gregory Pardlo
by Danielle Susi

It’s difficult not to become entranced by Gregory Pardlo’s story. His poems alone will deeply affect you, but what’s more impressive is just how deserving he is of the acclaim around his work. Patient, skilled writing and a true and honest perspective on influence makes him one of the most compelling poets both to read and read about.

Chicagoan Gives Poetry 'Performance' Worthy of National Book Award
by Kathleen Rooney

The son of Chilean-Jewish parents, poet and translator Daniel Borzutzky lives in Chicago and teaches at Wright College. His third full-length volume of poetry, the smart, angry, sad and satirical "The Performance of Becoming Human," published by the small, independent Brooklyn Arts Press, just won the National Book Award in poetry. Borzutzky concluded his acceptance speech by asking "that we all do our part to make sure that this country remains safe and welcoming." Borzutzky answered the following questions by email.

The Rumpus Interview with Gary Pardlo

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Maxine Kumin

"Anne Sexton helped me to open up in ways that I might not have achieved on my own. I helped to formalize some of her concepts. She would read these raw drafts – I even pulled some out of the wastebasket in her study – and I’d say, “This could be a pretty good poem if you could just hammer it into form.” That was pretty much my approach to the private, personal, anguished material which is now called confessional. If you could formalize it, you could make it work. Her best poems were those poems – the poems in All My Pretty Ones, her second book. She helped me get rid of the Latinate terminology in my poems. She was encouraging about my country poems – she titled Up Country. At that time you could put a second telephone line in your house if you were living in the same suburb or a contiguous one for 4 dollars and 80 cents a month, which we did. Then one of us would initiate the call and we would leave the phones connected all day and if we had something to share we would whistle into the phone. It really trains your ear to be hearing poems in process that way. We worked intimately together, and yet I think our voices are very different."

—from “In Her Own Words – Being Maxine Kumin.” edited by Mike Pride

“Anne Sexton helped me to open up in ways that I might not have achieved on my own.” – Maxine Kumin