February 19, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1620 – Roemer P Visscher, poet, buried in Amsterdam.
1716 – Dorthe Engelbrechtsdatter, Norwegian poet (b. 1634), dies.
1754 – Vincenzo Monti, Italian poet/translator (Al Signor di Montgolfier), is born.
1889 – Jose Eustasio Rivera, Colombia, poet/novelist (Vortex), is born.
1896 – André Breton, French poet (d. 1966), is born.
1941 – Stephen Dobyns, US author/poet (Cold Dog Soup), is born.

There are in a shop window in the rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette
Two lovely crossed legs caught in long stockings
Flaring out in the center of a great white clover
There is a silken ladder rolled out over the ivy
There is
By my leaning over the precipice
Of your presence and your absence in hopeless fusion
My finding the secret
Of loving you
Always for the first time 

—from “Always for the First Time” by André Breton (1896–1966)

My finding the secret/Of loving you/Always for the first time —from “Always for the First Time” by André Breton

World Poetry

Cameroon: PEN Publishes Enoh Meyomesse’s Prison Poetry

English PEN launches a print-on-demand version of Enoh Meyomesse’s poetry collection, Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison, to help raise much-needed funds for the imprisoned activist and poet. Cameroonian activist and poet Enoh Meyomesse’s most recent appeal hearing, scheduled for 16 January, was postponed. This is the seventh time that this has happened since his case was first referred to a civil court for appeal in April 2013. The next hearing has now been rescheduled for 20 February. Arrested in November 2011, Enoh Meyomesse was detained for over a year before being sentenced to seven years in prison for supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold. Read more at PEN International.

EU President Forced to Remove Poem from his Website 

European Union president Herman Van Rompuy has been forced to remove a poem from his personal website after Jewish activists complained the author was a well-known Nazi. The poem, The Seagull, was removed yesterday after a group dedicated to fighting anti-semitism pointed out that the author was sentenced to death for collaborating with the Nazis during the Second World War. The poet, Cyriel Verschaeve, was a priest from Flanders in Belgium’s northern half, who in his political pamphlets likened Jews to 'vermin' and 'weeds' that needed exterminating. Read more at the Daily Mail.

Poet Hashem Shaabani Executed in Iran

Iranian poet and human rights advocate Hashem Shaabani was executed in Iran on January 27. According to reports, an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced the poet, and 14 others, to death, for the crimes of ‘waging war on God,’ ‘spreading corruption on earth,’ and ‘questioning the principle of velayat-e faqih’ (the rule of the jurisprudent, Iran’s system of vesting supreme power in an unelected cleric).” Read more at Melville House.

Pioneering Lebanese Poet Ounsi al-Hajj Dies

Lebanese poet Ounsi al-Hajj, who pioneered the use of free verse in Arabic poetry in the 20th century, died Tuesday aged 77, his family told AFP. "His health had deteriorated in recent days. He was suffering from colon cancer and died on Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by his family at his home," a relative said. Akl al-Awit, editor of Lebanese daily An-Nahar's cultural supplement, called the death a "great loss for Arab poetry." Read more at Global Post.

Poet Pablo Neruda Subject of Pablo Larrain’s Next Pic 

Pablo Larrain, whose “No” was the first investment by Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media in a foreign-language film, has set his next movie, “Neruda,” a portrait of the 1971 Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, a towering figure in Latin American literature. Set up at Chile’s Fabula, the production house which Pablo Larrain runs with producer-brother Juan de Dios Larrain, “Neruda” – a working title – is set in a defining moment of Neruda’s life, between 1946 and 1948, when he became a member of Chile’s Communist Party, was elected Senator, spoke out against the imprisonment of striking miners and threatened with arrest, went into hiding and began writing “Canto General,” a 231-poem ode to Latin America. Read more at Variety.

English PEN launches a version of Enoh Meyomesse’s poetry collection, Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison.

Recent Reviews

Bird Thou Never Wert

‘Holding On Upside Down,’ a Biography of Marianne Moore
by Holland Cotter   
Half a century or so ago, when literate Americans still read poetry or thought they should, everyone knew about Marianne Moore, the white-haired, great-auntish New York writer who loved polysyllables, exotic animals and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and turned up around town in a signature Paul Revere hat. Her work was considered “difficult” but, at least in its reader-friendly late style, delightful. Read more at the New York Times.

Poetry in Extremis

by Robyn Creswell   
Can atrocity be the subject matter of poetry? Carolyn Forché’s prose poem “The Colonel” was published in “The Country Between Us” (1981), a volume whose best-known poems concern the civil war in El Salvador. That conflict was just beginning when Forché travelled to the country, on a Guggenheim fellowship, to work with Amnesty International. “The Colonel” describes the poet’s dinner at the home of a military man. After the meal—“rack of lamb, good wine”—the officer leaves the room and comes back with a grocery bag full of human ears, which he spills onto the dinner table. He tells the poet that human-rights workers can go fuck themselves, then raises his glass in an ironic salute and says, “Something for your poetry, no?” Read more at the New Yorker.

Her work was considered “difficult” but, delightful.


On Translating Manuel Forcano

by Anna Crowe
For some reason, I find it quite hard to write about the process of translating poetry. I usually work from languages I know – in my case, they are all Romance languages – and it feels an instinctive thing, like singing in tune with an existing piece of music. I have only once, quite recently, worked from a prose crib, translating poems by Mikhail Lermontov, working to a strict metre and finding rhymes, and it reminded me of the couple of times I've been asked to translate a poem for use as a partitura, fitting syllables and stresses of words to the notes of music. Read more at Modern Poetry in Translation.

Lyric Backlash

Thoughts on the Oulipo and César Vallejo in Response to Calvin Bedient’s Complaint
by Rachel Galvin
A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
—W.B. Yeats, “Adam’s Curse”
In his recent piece, “Against Conceptualism,” Calvin Bedient seeks to “defend the poetry of affect” against the tide of conceptualism. I offer four responses here in nucleo before unfolding them below. Read more at the Boston Review.

Joan Murray and the Bats of Wisdom

by Mark Ford
W.H. Auden spent much of the summer of 1946 in a beach house he shared with his friends James and Tania Stern in Cherry Grove on Fire Island, just south of Long Island. He was at work on his long poem The Age of Anxiety that would be published the following year; he had also recently been appointed editor of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, taking over from Archibald MacLeish, whose multifarious commitments had meant he could devote little time to rigorous perusal of the manuscripts of first volumes of poems sent on to him by Yale University Press. Auden, then at the height of his prestige, was the first choice of the Yale committee that met on May 6 to decide MacLeish’s successor. He accepted in a letter of May 10, characteristically observing: “I am not at all sure that a poet is the best judge of his contemporaries, but I’m willing to have a shot at it if you are.” Read more at the Poetry Foundation.

For some reason, I find it quite hard to write about the process of translating poetry.

Drafts & Fragments

Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali

by George Plimpton
The fighter turned to [Marianne Moore] suddenly and asked, "Mrs. Moore, what have you been doing lately?"
"I have been subduing my apartment," she said in her high, thin voice. "I have just moved in from Brooklyn to a new apartment which is strange to me and needs taming."
"Is that so?" The champion ordered a glass of water. "Yes," he said to the waiter. "We is tiptop at Toots." He turned back to Miss Moore. "Well, I am considering farming, myself," he said. "I'd like to sit and look across the fence at the biggest bull in the world — just sit and rock back and forth and look at him out there in the middle of the field, feeding."
"Oh yes," Miss Moore said. She was quite shy with him, ducking her head and peeking at him. "Can we come and look with you?" Read more at such stuff.

The fighter turned to [Marianne Moore] suddenly and asked, “Mrs. Moore, what have you been doing lately?”

Poetry In the News

Democrats Pushing Poetry over Jobs?

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Sunday said Democrats are pushing poetry as an alternative to holding a job. During an appearance on Fox News, he referred to the results of a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that finds millions of American workers might move away from full-time employment because of benefits offered through ObamaCare. Some lawmakers, such as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), say that the law allows workers to alleviate themselves from “job-lock” — staying in a job that’s otherwise unwanted or disliked, simply to collect healthcare benefits. Media reports say Pelosi fired back at the Republican interpretation of the CBO report — that ObamaCare kills jobs — by saying the workers are now able to leave jobs to “[follow] their aspirations to be a writer; to be self-employed; to start a business.” Read more at The Hill.

Poetry Collection Receives $150K to Catalogue Obscure Yet Influential Post-WWII Literary Magazine Archives

 As writers, Susan Howe and Charles Bukowski don’t have much in common. Yet both wrote poems for small press periodicals called “little literary magazines” before achieving mainstream success. Unfortunately, the contents of many of these magazines, which serve as a proving ground for writers and budding literary movements, aren’t well known outside of their literary communities. That is starting to change, thanks to the Poetry Collection at the University at Buffalo, which received a $150,600 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) to create online records for the editorial archives of 11 such collections, including magazines that featured Howe and Bukowski. Read more at Buffalo News.

Democrats are pushing poetry as an alternative to holding a job.

New Books

All That Might Be Done by Samuel Green 

[Paperback] Carnegie Mellon, 104 pp., $16.95
For the past 30 years, Samuel Green has made his home on a remote island off the grid pursuing themes that have obsessed him: fidelity to a long and abiding love, the obligations of living in a small community, the demands of right work, the nature of loss and mourning, close observation of the natural world, and the persistent demands of memory.

Favor of Crows: New and Collected Haiku by Gerald Vizenor 

[Hardcover] Wesleyan,172 pp., $24.95
Favor of Crows is a collection of new and previously published original haiku poems over the past forty years. Gerald Vizenor has earned a wide and devoted audience for his poetry. In the introductory essay the author compares the imagistic poise of haiku with the early dream songs of the Anishinaabe, or Chippewa. Vizenor concentrates on these two artistic traditions, and by intuition he creates a union of vision, perception, and natural motion in concise poems; he creates a sense of presence and at the same time a naturalistic trace of impermanence. 

The Earth Avails: Poems by Mark Wunderlich

[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 80 pp., $15.00
The Earth Avails evokes an all-but-lost history, when every setting, thought, and action was imbued with ritual: here’s the prayer said in a time of sickness; here’s the blessing spoken upon entering the house; here’s the letter from heaven that protects its holder from harm and misfortune. Rendered in part from folkloric and historical sources, Mark Wunderlich’s poems reinvent these traditions with lyrical and emotive force for a new century of readers.

Ay by Joan Houlihan 

[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 74 pp., $16.95
A powerful sequel to The Us, which ended with the son Ay wounded, rendered silent and immobile by a head injury. In Ay, the boy is propped up and worshiped, as others project a kind of divinity onto his stillness. While Ay recovers, in a series of lyrical monologues he discovers an individual self-awareness, separate from family and tribe.

Pantry by Lilah Hegnauer

[Paperback] Hub City Press, 80 pp., $14.95
The poems in Pantry take their titles from kitchen objects. Some objects are common to most kitchens, like dishwashers and double boilers, and others are less common, like pie birds and olive pitters. The poems are not literally about these objects. Rather, the objects, or some aspect of them a shape, a use, some minute detail are landmarks in an interior domestic landscape. And few domestic landscapes are more interior than the pantry, a place where objects are laid aside for later use, sometimes years later or not at all. These are the things we hold onto, forget, and discover again. 

This Shadowy Place: Poems by Dick Allen

[Hardcover] St. Augustines Press, 80 pp., $22.00
Dick Allen’s earlier collections have always included poems written in traditional form. But This Shadowy Place is his only book in which every poem is rhymed and metered. Allen’s “stand alone” new poems – narrative, meditative, lyric, sometimes excursions into Zen Buddhism – consistently merge traditional form with his hallmark cultural, political and religious themes. Even when seeming to write of himself, Allen is actually forever writing of the strange and unique transitions from the American Twentieth Century to the Twenty-first. Known as one of the best craftsmen and poetry performers in the country, Allen here gives us new poems that when read either silently or aloud constantly shift between the literal and the metaphorical. 

Samuel Green has made his home on a remote island off the grid pursuing themes that have obsessed him.


On Balancing the Visual and the Sonic: An Interview with Joshua Mehigan

by S. Tremaine Nelson
Joshua Mehigan, whose poems “How Strange, How Sweet” and “Believe It” appear in Issue 06 of The Common, was born and raised in upstate New York. His poems have been published in a variety of journals and magazines, including Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, The New Republic, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, and The New York Times. His most recent book, The Optimist, was published in 2004 by the Ohio University Press and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His second book, Accepting the Disaster, is forthcoming in July 2014 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. The exchange below took place over email while Winter Storm Janus snarled the streets of New York City.  Read more at The Common Line. 

Wallace Stevens: Hartford's Private Poet

by Nancy Schoffler
When Wallace Stevens moved to Hartford from New York in 1916 to work in the insurance business, he was well-known in poetry circles but not yet acclaimed as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He had been married for seven years to a woman his family thought beneath him; they didn't attend the wedding. Elsie Kachel had been a milliner and a stenographer, and she posed as the model for the design of the Winged Liberty Head dime, which the U.S. minted from 1916 to 1945. Stevens had cut off ties with his parents. And, outside of poetry and his work at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co., he also seemed to cut ties with the world. He didn't appear to care at all about the lack of attention from the press and often went out of his way to avoid it. Read more at the Hartford Courant.

Robin Becker Leans Toward Poetry, but Still Tells a Good Story

by Jason Klose
Like most poets, Robin Becker writes from her deepest concerns and feelings, with each collection opening a window onto the writer’s obsessions during the period of composition. But what may surprise any reader about her poems from “Tiger Heron” is that the works often read like stories. Becker said she believes these are stories about life experiences that all people will appreciate and relate to. Read more at Centre Daily.

Neruda’s Odes: Making Singing the World Look Easy

by David Shook
Editor Ilan Stavans compiled all 255 of of Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda’s odes for the first time in any language for his new anthology All of the Odes (FSG, $40). In his odes, Neruda praises everything from the  french fries—”the delicious simplicity of the earth”—to elephants, murmurs, and even time itself. Eighteen of Neruda’s translators are included in this bilingual edition, spanning a wide range of translation practices. The list is a who’s who of poet-translators, including William Carlos Williams, Mark Strand, Jane Hirshfield, W.S. Merwin, Philip Levine, and Paul Muldoon alongside respected literary translators like Mitchell, Sayers Peden, Walsh, and Stavans himself, who translated many of the volume’s odes into English for the very first time. I corresponded with Stavans about the book during the week leading up to this Saturday’s The Odes of Pablo Neruda: A Bilingual Reading at the Los Angeles Public Library’s ALOUD Series, featuring Olga García Echeverría, Francisco Letelier, Marisela Norte, and David Shook—your editor—accompanied by acoustic guitarist Geraldo Morales. —DS Read more at Molossus.

Joshua Mehigan was born and raised in upstate New York.