January 15, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

January 15, 2014

1803 – Marjory Fleming,– Scottish writer and poet (d. 1811), is born.
1850 – Mihail Eminesco, [Eminovici], Romanian poet (Samanul Dionis)
1891 – Osip E Mandelstam, Warsaw Poland, Russian poet (Noise of Time), is born.
1897 – Xu Zhimo, Chinese poet (d. 1931), is born.
1923 – Ivor Cutler, Scottish poet (d. 2006), is born.


A flame is in my blood

A flame is in my blood
burning dry life, to the bone.
I do not sing of stone,
now, I sing of wood.

It is light and coarse:
made of a single spar,
the oak’s deep heart,
and the fisherman’s oar.

Drive them deep, the piles:
hammer them in tight,
around wooden Paradise,
where everything is light. 

— Osip Mandelstam (1891–1938)

“A flame is in my blood / burning dry life, to the bone.” – Osip Mandelstam

World Poetry

Mohi Conferred Gangadhar National Award for Poetry

Renowned poet of Sindhi language Vasdev Mohi was today conferred on the prestigious Gangadhar National Award For Poetry-2012 here. Odisha Governor S C Jamir conferred the prestigious Award on renowned poet of Sindhi language Vasdev Mohi on the occasion of the 47th foundation day function of Sambalpur University here. Read more at Zee News.

Rights Advocacy: Palestinian Poet, Activist for Joint Network

The Palestinian people are fighting for a free, liberated land where human rights are protected, said Dr Hanan Awwad, a Palestinian scholar and rights activist who is currently visiting Pakistan. Awwad was speaking at a gathering at the residence of the Palestinian Ambassador Waleed Abu Ali on Friday. The reception was organised by the Palestinian embassy and the Pakistan chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) for the poet and rights campaigner. The gathering was attended by writers, poets, human rights activists and members of the diplomatic community. Read more at the Tribune.

Poetry Engraved in Market Place Paving Slabs

The work of two great poets, born centuries apart yet both linked to Salisbury have been immortalised in the city’s newly refurbished Market Place. Two lines of poetry from internationally- acclaimed author Vikram Seth’s work Lost have been engraved into four paving slabs just outside Nationwide and RBS. And Lost is based on the work of another of Salisbury’s most famous sons – 17th century religious poet George Herbert, rector of the parish of Fugglestone St Peter with Bemerton. Read more at theSalisbury Journal.

Hong Kong Student's Poem Recital Goes Viral in the Mainland

Hong Kong student Leung Yat-fung became an internet sensation after a recent clip of him reciting two classic Chinese poems in his native Cantonese onstage went viral on social media.Read more at theSouth China Morning Post.

The Palestinian people are fighting for a free, liberated land where human rights are protected.

Recent Reviews

Review: ‘The Hotel Oneira,’ Poems by August Kleinzahler

By Troy Jollimore

“The Hotel Oneira” is August Kleinzahler’s first full-length collection of new poetry since “The Strange Hours Travelers Keep” (2003). In between came a couple of very entertaining prose works and a retrospective collection called “Sleeping It Off in Rapid City.” The titles of these books gesture toward what have become Kleinzahler’s characteristic themes: dislocation, movement, transition, exile. “My ideal reader is a taxi driver in Karachi,” he said upon receiving the Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2004. Read more at the Washington Post.

Daisy Fried, Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice 

by Jason Guriel
I have one thousand words to register something crisp and comprehensive about Daisy Fried's third book Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice, but could easily – irresponsibly, happily – use up the word count on 'Torment', the seven-page lead-off poem. Maybe you remember it from Poetry magazine, where it ran a few years back. 'Torment' takes place on the Dinky, 'the one-car commuter train connecting / Princeton to the New York line'. A pregnant Fried is returning home from an interview for a teaching job she doesn't want. She's also eavesdropping on a pair of her students, Brianna and Justin, who just happen to be sharing the same compartment, and who themselves have just interviewed – for work in the Republican-friendly financial sector. ('Elephants on it' is what Fried says about Justin's tie.) Eventually, they notice Fried. 'Look, Just,' says Brianna. 'It's Professor.' Read more at PN Review.

Christian Bök and the Poetry of the Future

by Michael Lista
A few nights ago, as President Hillary Clinton was concluding her State of the Union address, I heard the Pavlovian whine of an approaching Amazon drone. Its mission: delivery of the most anticipated book in the history of Canadian letters, Christian Bök’s The Xenotext. If your copy hasn’t yet been choppered in, let me unbox it for you. It comes in a metal case about the size of your car’s hydrogen fuel cell. Read more at the National Post.

Yanis Ritsos

by Amy Henry
Yannis Ritsos’ prolific body of poetry made him one of Greece’s most beloved sons, although the scale of his work is nearly surpassed by the suffering he endured. Born in Monemvasia, Greece in 1909, his life was filled with family tragedy, personal illness, political persecution, and years of incarceration. Yet no amount of personal pity infuses his poetry; instead, his love for his homeland is what filled his heart, and from there, to his writing. As Dale Jacobson stated in the Great River Review, “In Ritsos, I found collective grief for the tragedies of history, and especially for social, not only individual, injustice.” Jacobsen noted that Ritsos’ encompassing humanity was a style especially unique and not often found in American poetry. Read more at the Pacific Rim Review of Books.

The Water Stealer : An Evocative, Affectionate and Intelligent Body of Work

by Liam Heylin
The Faber-published slim volume of poetry continues to carry with it a solemn sense of arrival. Maurice Riordan’s new collection, with its slate-grey cover and clean elegant lettering, more than lives up to the promise of the packaging, consisting as it does of an evocative, affectionate and intelligent body of work. Read more at the Irish Examiner.

“The Hotel Oneira” is August Kleinzahler’s first full-length collection of new poetry since 2003’s “The Strange Hours Travelers Keep.”


Let Them Eat Steak: Arts Funding, US-Style

by Linda Besner 
A few weeks ago I wrote a poem that cost $2000. It’s about plastic lawn flamingos, and I wrote it at a lord-of-the-manor desk with knobbly carvings gleaming darkly on its upper thighs. Behind me, a wingback armchair and a thinky sort of sofa stood by in front of a big-ideas fireplace. On the mantelpiece were wooden honour rolls signed by previous occupants of my studio: Susan Orlean, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Wendy Wasserstein, to name-drop a few. I also captained a four-poster bed with snowy linens, lashings of flowered wallpaper, and, from my writing desk, a meadow with gamboling deer—at least one at any given moment, with a seasonal high of six. Deer, like everything else at MacDowell, operate in an economy of abundance. Read more at Hazlitt.

“What Becomes of Us as We Read?”: Ashbery and Ethical Criticism

by Andrew Field
What are some reasons why we read poetry? Why turn to a poem over a novel, a play, a philosophical treatise? In this essay I want to suggest that we turn to poetry out of a fundamental desire to answer the question, How should one live? By making this claim, I am attempting to wonder about poetry’s relationship to the ethical, broadly conceived here as partaking in the four distinctions of ethical criticism as laid out by Wayne Booth in his book The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction and then paraphrased and articulated by Martha Nussbaum in Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. Read more at The The Poetry.

Ishmael Reed on the Life and Death of Amiri Baraka 

I came to New York Monday to support my play,”The Final Version,” a work that touches upon the on again off again relationship between the white and black New York left  from the 1930s to the 1965. My director, Rome Neal, directed five of Amiri Baraka‘s plays throughout the years, yet the obituaries,  some of them mean-spirited and ignorant, confine the playwright’s creative output to 1964, when he wrote “Dutchman.” So why do the obituaries say that Baraka was through after 1964, even though he continued to write plays, poetry and publish books around the world? Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

John Greening Discusses Recent Collections by Two Eminent Irish Poets

These two Irish poets were born on either side of Seamus Heaney: Thomas Kinsella in 1928, Eavan Boland in 1944.  They bracket him, but they also remind us of the scope of recent Irish poetry.  Kinsella and Boland are well known to poetry readers; they have been showered with prizes and their books sell, but neither has achieved Heaney’s degree of popular appreciation.  Both are Dubliners, who have spent long periods of their lives in America.  Both have been responsible for refreshing the art. Indeed, some of their more radical forays make Heaney look timid and reactionary by comparison. Read more at London Grip.

A poem that cost $2000: it’s about plastic lawn flamingos.

Drafts & Fragments

Otaku Poem Contest Hosts Open Call For Male Models With Cat Ears

The 9th Annual Otaku Senryu contest is on in Japan, and this means the open call for the contest mascot Nyako Shikibu is on as well! The Otaku Senryu contest collects witty otaku slice-of-life moments in the form of Japanese poetry from public, and the contest is also hosting open calls for the character mascot of the contest with cat ears and a calligraphy brush for both the illustration and model category. Read more at Crunchy Roll.

The Poets We Read in 2013

As the year comes to a close, Art Beat reflects on our best stories from 2013. On Thursday, we revisited the musicians worth a second listen and on Friday we rediscovered our conversations about great movies and tv shows. Today, it's all about our poets. Read more at the News Hour.

Apple – iPad Air – TV Ad – Your Verse

It's all about the poetry.

The 9th Annual Otaku Senryu contest is on in Japan!

Poetry In the News

Poet Amiri Baraka, Political Activist, Dead at 79

Poet Amiri Baraka, who lost his post as New Jersey's poet laureate because of a controversial poem about the 9/11 terror attacks, died Thursday, his agent said. Baraka was 79. Read more at CNN.

Dive into Whitman Poem with UI's MOOC

If you ever wondered what Walt Whitman was talking about in his classic poem “Song of Myself,” the University of Iowa is offering you an opportunity to find out — and it won’t cost a thing. All you need is access to the Internet. That’s the beauty of Massive Open Online Courses, better known as MOOCs: They are open to anyone, anywhere. You don’t get college credit for completing the course, just the joy of learning. Read more at the Press-Citizen.

Star-Spangled Banner, Song to Be Joined in DC

The original, handwritten manuscript of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the flag that inspired the song's lyrics will be displayed together at the Smithsonian in Washington, the first time the historic pieces are believed to have been shown side by side. The manuscript is normally on display at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and the flag has been at the Smithsonian since the early 1900s. They will be displayed together from Flag Day, June 14, through July 6. The three-week display is the start of celebrations marking 200 years since the song was written on Sept. 14, 1814. Read more at the Seattle PI.

Poet Amiri Baraka died Thursday, Baraka was 79.

New Books

Lines of Defense: Poems by Stephen Dunn

[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 96 pp., $24.95
In his seventeenth collection of poetry, Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Dunn confronts the lines we fight against and the ones we draw for ourselves. Lines of Defense poignantly captures the absurdities of modern life, expectations derailed, the lived life juxtaposed to the imagined life, and the defenses we don to make do. The poems in Lines of Defense are wry and elegiac, precisely observed and wide-reaching. As with the best of Dunn’s work, they take stock of the quotidian aspects of life, of the essential comedy of getting through the day: finding a lost cat; not being invited to a party; taking a granddaughter to a carnival. The lines of defense are the lines of the verse itself, as poetry forms a stronghold against mortality. This essential volume showcases a poet writing at the height of his powers.

Tombo by W. S. Di Piero

[Hardcover]  McSweeney’s, 65pp. ,$20.00
Explosive language, rough sensuousness, and an unflinching eye — here is a poet who doesn't look away and is committed to poetry’s first purpose: to bring song. Tombo is a book of lyrics fueled in equal parts by realism and big-fish storytelling, a book of wanderers, foghorns, summer rain, feral cats, and city jazz. Built on heartbreak particulars, these poems are raw, mysterious dilations of the moments of existence. 

The Wish Book: Poems by Alex Lemon

[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 88 pp., $16.00
In his first collection since Fancy Beasts, a book that "slice[d] straight through nerve and marrow on its way to the heart and mind of the matter" (Tracy K. Smith), Alex Lemon dazzles us again with his exuberance and candor. Whether in unrestrained descriptions of sensory overload or tender meditations on fatherhood and mortality, Lemon blurs that nebulous line between the personal and the pop-cultural. These poems are full of frenetic energy and images pleasantly, strangely colliding: jigsaws and bathtubs and kung-fu and X-rays. It's a distinct brand of edginess that readers of Lemon will once again applaud. A lean and muscular collection, The Wish Book marks a new high in this poet's unstoppable career.

Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford edited by Kim Stafford

[Paperback] Graywolf, 128 pp., $16.00
In celebration of the poet’s centennial, Ask Me collects one hundred of William Stafford’s essential poems. As a conscientious objector during World War II, while assigned to Civilian Public Service camps Stafford began his daily writing practice, a lifelong early-morning ritual of witness. His poetry reveals the consequences of violence, the daily necessity of moral decisions, and the bounty of art. Selected and with a note by Kim Stafford, Ask Me presents the best from a profound and original American voice.

The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog  by Alicia Suskin Ostriker (Author)

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 80 pp., $15.95
This book by a major American poet is for poetry readers at all levels, academic and non-academic. It is a sequence of poems that will surprise and delight readers—in the voices of an old woman full of memories, a glamorous tulip, and an earthy dog who always has the last word.

A Wilderness of Monkeys by David Kirby

[Paperback] Hanging Loose Press 104 pp., #18.00
"[David Kirby's] poetry embraces subjects, words and readers of all types in a blaze of ebullience and humility."—Harvard Review

In his seventeenth collection of poetry, Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Dunn confronts the lines we fight against and the ones we draw for ourselves.


Canada’s New Poet Laureate: “Poetry Belongs to Everyone”

by Ingrid Peritz
Michel Pleau was named Canada’s new poet laureate last week, beginning a two-year mandate to “draw Canadians’ attention to the reading and writing of poetry.” Mr. Pleau, winner of the Governor-General’s Award in 2008, has spent two decades in Quebec giving workshops and teaching classes in poetry to students ranging from grade-school pupils to senior citizens. He has also published a dozen books of poetry. Mr. Pleau spoke to The Globe and Mail from his home in Quebec City. Read more at the Globe and Mail.

Work Ethic

by Bret McCabe
Writer Tim Paggi strides into a midtown coffee shop on the afternoon of the last day of 2013 carrying a large binder. He smiles, removes his hat, and excuses himself to grab a warm beverage and snack. He’s come to talk about Work Ethic, his new poetry chapbook that local imprint Ink Press Productions puts out this month. But he arrives to this interview fresh from a big life moment: He bought a house. His first. And in talking about it, his face stutters through the facial yoga that often afflicts first-time buyers—the pride of homeownership trying to coexist with the fear of homeownership. Read more at the City Paper.

Jane Hirshfield: Why Write Poetry?

by Jennifer Haupt
Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven books of poetry, including most recently Come, Thief, and the classic collection of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. Who better to ask: Why write poetry? Here are her in-depth, thought provoking answers to this two-part question:
Jennifer Haupt: Why do you write poems, and why would anyone want to write a poem? Read more atPsychology Today.

The Rebirth of a Suicidal Genius

by Lucie Brock-Broido
It is September 1977 and this autumn is a gorgeous one, just like the one I am writing to you from three decades later. I am thinking of you now. Richard Howard sails into our first workshop in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins and asks his twelve new graduate poetry students (I am the thirteenth, permitted by luck and circumstance to sit in) to recite the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The best minds of my generation, collectively, come up with about six of them. Richard is not amused. He then requires a recitation of the names of the Nine Muses. We get all but two. A slight scowl is provoked. All the while I am thinking of you. Richard takes from his bookbag this text: Daniel Halpern’s American Poetry Anthology, a new collection of poets, some published for the first time, all under forty, including Frank Bidart, Rita Dove, Louise Glück, Linda Gregg, Robert Hass, Gregory Orr, and Charles Wright. Of the seventy-six poets included, only one has two dates after his name in the index: Thomas James (1946–1974). Read more at the Poetry Foundation.

After a Death, Keeping a Yiddish-Lover’s Weekly Conversations Alive

by Winnie Hujan
Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, a poet and songwriter, died in November. Her chair remains empty at the Monday Yiddish conversation group she led as the group continues to meet. For a quarter of a century, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman gathered friends around her dining room table every Monday afternoon for coffee, tea and Yiddish. An accomplished Yiddish poet and songwriter, she always sat in the same turquoise-upholstered chair by the window, ready to jump in with a Yiddish word or two when her friends struggled to finish their sentences. If they resorted to English, she would say: “Do redt men Yiddish” (Here we speak Yiddish). Read more at the New York Times.

Michel Pleau was named Canada’s new poet laureate last week.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Herbie Hancock Appointed Harvard Professor of Poetry

US musician Herbie Hancock has been appointed the 2014 Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. The 73-year-old Oscar-winning composer will deliver six lectures in his role on a series of topics from next month. Hancock told BBC Radio 5 live he would "be mainly talking about my own experience and give them some stories". The honorary post was introduced in 1925 and has been held by arts luminaries including writer TS Eliot and composer Leonard Bernstein. Read more at the BBC.

This isn't as strange as it might first appear. Leonard Bernstein was so honored, as was "writer" T. S. Eliot. So for a jazz musician to be a professor poetry isn't that much of a stretch, really. Certainly no stranger than the headliners announced yesterday for this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. And then there's Paul Muldoon to complete the circle.

US musician Herbie Hancock has been appointed the 2014 Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University.