July 10, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

July 10, 2012

1873 – French poet Paul Verlaine wounds Arthur Rimbaud with pistol.
1913 – Salvador Espriu, Spanish poet (d. 1985), is born.
1965 – Jacques Audiberti, French poet (Le cavalier seul), dies at 66.

1990 – Hans Faverey, poet, dies.

The rain falls gently on the town.
—Arthur Rimbaud

It’s raining in my heart
Like it rains on the town;
What is this sadness
that penetrates my heart?

—from “Il pleure dans mon coeur” by Paul Verlaine

Poetry In The News

Juan Felipe Herrera Launches “The Most Incredible and Biggest and Most Amazing Poem on Unity in the World”

California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera today kicked off his two-year poetry project, titled “The Most Incredible and Biggest and Most Amazing Poem on Unity in the World.” The project will seek out submissions of poetry — in the form of words, phrases or stanzas — from everybody. Read more at UCR Today.

“The Sonnets” App Brings New Life To Shakespeare’s Poems

William Shakespeare‘s poetry collection The Sonnets is available in various free eBook editions for the iPad. But the latest edition from Faber and Touch Press (coming out next month) includes videos of celebrities reading each of the 154 poems, as well as the compete Arden notes on Shakespeare. The app also includes interviews with Shakespeare scholars including professors Katherine Duncan-Jones, James Shapiro and Henry Woudhuysen. Read more at Media Bistro.

Dylan Thomas Inspires a British Film Noir, “A Visit to America”

Do not go gently, or otherwise, into the rain-slicked, neon-lit streets of Manhattan … The great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who died of pneumonia in St. Vincent’s hospital at the age of 39 in 1953, will feature as a private eye’s quarry in the upcoming film noir “A Visit to America.” According to Screen Daily, the British production company Western Edge has acquired the rights to a screenplay written by Owen Sheers, Thomas’s countryman and a fellow poet, playwright, and screenwriter. Read more at Art Info.

World Poetry

Poetry Parnassus: Meet the Poets from Albania, India and Uganda

Located in the northeast Qaidam Basin on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, Delingha boasts a diversified landscape, including vast grassland, lakes and glaciers. Delingha, which means “the golden city” in Mongolian, has a population of 70,000 with 19 ethnic groups, including Mongolian, Tibetan and Salar. The remote and beautiful place deeply fascinated Haizi, who longed for a spiritual paradise. In 1988, Haizi traveled to Delingha and wrote the poem “Sister, Tonight I am in Delingha,” a sentimental work that reflected the poet’s loneliness on a dark night. Read more at China Daily.

New Books

Gravesend by Cole Swensen

[Paperback] University of California Press, 96 pp., $21.95
The poems in Gravesend explore ghosts as instances of collective grief and guilt, as cultural constructs evolved to elide or to absorb a given society’s actions, as well as, at times, to fill the gaps between such actions and the desires and intentions of its individual citizens. Tracing the changing nature of the ghostly in the western world from antiquity to today, the collection focuses particularly on the ghosts created by the European expansion of the 16th through 20th centuries, using the town of Gravesend, the seaport at the mouth of the Thames through which countless emigrants passed, as an emblem of theambiguous threshold between one life and another, in all the many meanings of that phrase.

Further Adventures in Monochrome by John Yau

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $15.00
John Yau engages art criticism, social theory, and syntactical dexterity to confront the problems of aging, meaning, and identity. Insisting that “True poets and artists know where language ends, which is why they go there,” Yau presses against the limits of language, creating poems that are at once cryptic, playful, and insightful. Included in its entirety is his groundbreaking serial poem, “Genghis Chan: Private Eye,” and a new series invoking the monochromatic painter Yves Klein.

At Lake Scugog: Poems by Troy Jollimore

[Hardcover] Princeton University Press, 96 pp., $35.00
This is an eagerly awaited collection of new poems from the author of Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was hailed by the New York Times as a “snappy, entertaining book.” A triumphant follow-up to that acclaimed debut, At Lake Scugog demonstrates why the San Francisco Chronicle has called Troy Jollimore “a new and exciting voice in American poetry.”

An Individual History: Poems by Michael Collier

[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 80 pp., $25.95
An Individual History describes the fears, anger, and guilt—personal, familial, societal, political, and historical—that comprise a life. The figure of the speaker’s maternal grandmother who was institutionalized for five decades serves as an overriding metaphor for this haunting, bold new work by an essential American poet.

Recent Reviews

Peter McDonald Reviews Clavics and Odi Barbare by Geoffrey Hill

Today would not be the best time for someone to start reading Geoffrey Hill. This is not because it is a bad idea to read Geoffrey Hill – on the contrary, he really is that thing he keeps being called, the best English poet alive – but because new readers of any contemporary poet are always liable to begin with that poet’s newest work. And Hill’s most recent publications, which seem to be coming now at the rate of around one full volume per year, are daunting prospects for even his veteran readers. Read more at Tower Poetry.

Everything in Excess

by Kit Edgar
On the back cover of Anne Carson and Bianca Stone’s sturdy and provokingly designed Antigonick is a quotation from Hegel’s Aesthetics, in which he claims the Antigone as “one of the most sublime and in every respect most excellent works of art of all time”. Time is a central concern in Antigonick: time and the eternal; time and foolishness—how humanity reacts against time and against its judgements. Read more at the Oxonian Review.

Sleeper Awake: Michael O’Brien’s “Avenue”

by James Gibbons
Poems often groan beneath their encumbrances: weighty metaphors, top-heavy conceits. Which is why I like it when Michael O’Brien, in his most recent book Avenue (FloodEditions), writes of a poem being merely “certain words in / a certain order.” This stripped-down formulation courts a charge of banality or even absurdity — after all, even email spam is made up of words in a specific arrangement — but here it evokes O’Brien’s abiding concern with verbal exactness, even out of the depths of dreaming. Read more at Hyperallergic.by James Gibbons
Poems often groan beneath their encumbrances: weighty metaphors, top-heavy conceits. Which is why I like it when Michael O’Brien, in his most recent book Avenue (FloodEditions), writes of a poem being merely “certain words in / a certain order.” This stripped-down formulation courts a charge of banality or even absurdity — after all, even email spam is made up of words in a specific arrangement — but here it evokes O’Brien’s abiding concern with verbal exactness, even out of the depths of dreaming. Read more at Hyperallergic.


An Interview with A. E. Stallings

by Beth Gylys
Well-known and admired for the fluidity and power of her formal verse, A. E. Stallings has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards. Trained in the classics at the University of Georgia and Oxford, she is the author of three books of poetry. The first of these, Archaic Smile (University of Evansville Press), won the 1999 Richard Wilbur Prize. Her second book, Hapax, was published by Northwestern University Press and won the 2008 Poet’s Prize, and her most recent collection—Olives—is newly released from Northwestern. In 2007, Penguin published her translation of Lucretius, The Nature of Things. In 2011, Alicia was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur Genius Award, and was named a fellow of the United States Artists. She lives in Greece with her husband John Psaropoulos and her two children, Jason and Atalanta. The following interview took place via email. Read more at Poetry Daily.

5 for Carl Phillips

by Michael Klein
When the poet Alan Dugan was alive, there used to be a reading every summer in Wellfleet at the local library where members of his workshop would read their poems to, mostly, locals. It was a generous thing of Alan to do, and also something rare – seeing poets sharing their work in obstensibly the early phase of their careers – assuming those summer writers were going to stick with poetry. Marie Howe and I went one summer in the barely nineties – I forget the years, as I forget many years – exact years – and listened to each poet read his work or her work and after someone named Carl Phillips (to my knowledge he had never published a poem at this point) got up and read, Marie and I looked at each other and said, “wow … that was the real thing”. Read more at Ploughshares.

Small Press Spotlight: Monica A. Hand

by Rigoberto González
Monica A. Hand is a poet and book artist currently living in The Bronx. Her poems have appeared in Black Renaissance Noir, Drunken Boat, African-American Poetry for the 21st Century, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade, and elsewhere. She earned a combined MFA from The Drew University MFA Program in Poetry and Translation and is founding member of Poets for Ayiti. Read more at Critical Mass.


Poetry: Next Poet Laureate Stands Out with Poise

by David Biespiel
For some years, I have felt that the new U.S. poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey, is the most Heaney-esque of American poets. So the other day I was delighted to read that she tipped her hat to the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney and identified him as a major influence on her art. In her sense of place, in her sense of decorum and in her sense of morality, Trethewey is a major American writer of the poetry of poise. Read more at Oregon Live.

Drafts & Fragments

Emily Dickinson Attends A Writing Workshop

by Jayne Relaford Brown
Why all the Caps? And dashes?

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Rhythm as so much of art (and life)

Ex. the first stanza of The Second Coming by Yeats:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

vs it rewritten in regular iambic pentameter:

The falcon turns and turns in a wider gyre.
He cannot hear the cry of the falconer.
The center of the cosmos cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is let loose on the world.
The tide that’s dimmed by blood is loosed.
The ritual of innocence is drowned.
The best have lost their firm convictions.
The worst are full of fierce intensity.

– via Carl Dennis

I found this truncated passage at the same interesting blog (Lit Hum) as I did the Emily Dickinson in workshop bit above. (Here it is in fuller context). I was slightly puzzled, though, by the intent. I assume that it is meant to show how Yeats’ mastery of the pentameter line allowed for dynamic and muscular substitutions and alterations to the “regular iambic pentameter” line. And I expect it was meant to demonstrate the slack quality that results in an unbroken string of iambic pentameter lines. But my puzzlement grew because many of the lines ( 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8) are pretty damn regular just as they are, without having to be rewritten to accommodate the meter. Six lines out of eight. What this suggests to me is that the predominance of the iambic line underscores and accentuates the variation found in the other lines. Without the insistent pressure produced by the iambic line, the exceptions wouldn’t be exceptions at all; the rhythm would be all but indecipherable as a pattern.

Even so, the real play, as Frost taught us and what I think Carl Dennis is pointing to, comes between the rhythm of the line as it is spoken and that of the metric overlay. In this case, as it seems to me, after the disturbing rhythm and vision of the first line, the poem settles down rhythmically-speaking. So even in the face of the dire warning that follows, we can, at least, count on the beat that lies beneath the voice.

[Most of this was written before I was able to locate the full article, which clarifies Carl Dennis’s efforts in stressing the effectiveness of the rhetorical rhythm of speech as opposed to the cadence of the iambic pentameter line. And while I’m not entirely convinced by his argument, it doesn’t puzzle me. The excerpt that appeared in Lit Hum still does.—DS]

—David Sanders