July 10, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1677 – Angelus Silesius [Johann Scheffer], German medical/mystic poet, dies.

1696 – Waclaw Potocki, Polish poet (Wojna Chocimska), dies.

1721 – Johann Nikolaus Götz, German poet (d. 1781)
, is born.

1936 – June Jordan, US playwright/poet (His Own Where)
, is born.

1980 – Vinicius de Moraes, Brazilian poet and lyricist (b. 1913), dies.


Over my wine I would acquire 

I would inspire big returns to equity 

the equity of capital I am 

accustomed to accept


like wintertime.


I would do nothing. 

That would be enough.


from "What Would I Do White" by June Jordan (1936–2002)

“What Would I Do White” by June Jordan

World Poetry

Glastonbury Poet Clebrates Jagger's Yurt Success

A book of poems written at the Glastonbury Festival and published in record time has become the most downloaded free music book on Kindle. Poet in Residence for the Glastonbury Festival, Thirsk-based stand up poet Kate Fox wrote 12 poems during the four-day music festival, including ones about Mick Jagger's Yurt, Billy Bragg's beard and the festival's sewage systems. Read more at the Northern Echo.

A Monument to the Great Poet Rasul Gamzatov Opens in Moscow

On July 5 the historic part of Yauzovsky Boulevard hosted an official opening ceremony of the monument to the prominent poet and public figure Rasul Gamzatov. The Russian President Vladimir Putin, the acting President RD Ramazan Abdulatipov, the chairman of the republican Parliament Khizri Shihsaidov, the acting Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin . . . the People's Artist of the USSR Iosif Kobzon, the heads of regional representatives of business communities and other admirers of the poet came to emphasize the importance of the event. Read more at Ria Dagestan.

Pattaya Students Honor Ancient Rags-to-riches Poet Who Became Father of Thai Language Day

Each June, an 18th century commoner who became Thailand’s most-heralded poet is remembered as Thais celebrate National Thai Language Day. In Pattaya, students across the area marked the annual holiday with a broad celebration of Thai culture. Sunthorn Phu Day marks the June 26, 1786 birthday of the author of the epic “Phra Aphai Mani” in Bangkok. Read more at the Pattaya Mail.

Austrian Artists Revamp Nazi Poet Memorial

A memorial to Austrian poet Josef Weinheber (1892-1945) stands in Vienna’s First District, the city’s business and historic core. While it honors his literary contribution to his homeland, there’s no mention of his Nazi past – or pro-Hitler works. But that may soon change. A team of Vienna-based artists launched an “intervention” June 28 aimed at “recontextualization and artistic reconfiguration” of the monument, according to Eduard Freudmann, an instructor at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and one of the instigators. Read more at Forward.

A Monument to the Great Poet Rasul Gamzatov Opens in Moscow

Recent Reviews

Songs for the Asking

by Adam Crothers 

Glyn Maxwell observes in On Poetry (2012) that great song lyrics lose more than their accompaniment when printed. They lose their verbal force, muffled by the white space of the page; their blackness "doesn’t have the blood the sung words have." Lyrics need not create exciting rhythms under their own steam, and the line end, key to the pitch and pace of a poem’s voice, is in printed lyrics a matter of transcriptional convenience rather than temporal dynamics or even representational accuracy. Does Bob Dylan really sing "Johnny’s in the basement / Mixing up the medicine" as two "lines"?  Read more at PN Review.

The New York School

by Peter Riley

As soon as Barbara Guest’s authority in poetical writing is established, which is in her first two books, there is an evident urge to tell the story, to push a discourse forward; there is an unfolding, a characteristic pressure towards completion. The poems are tellings and she wants them to tell in full. She wants the poem to reach its conclusion, beyond which there is only silence. Read more at Fortnightly Review.

The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather

by Mark Gurarie

1. The Context is Not the Context. It is an act of sheer audacity. It is a provocation and an embrace, at once deadly serious and playful, a self-canonization without self-aggrandizement, an offering not as much to other poets, or to poetry, but to the mythologies we all carry: the mythologies we see in the mirror. In one volume, Sampson Starkweather gives us The First Four Books of Sampson Starkweather: four bolts of lightning from the same cumulonimbus, a poetry that is electric and that acknowledges the electric condition. “I was so absorbed with my war,” he writes, “I didn’t even notice the storm.” Read more at Coldfront.

Songs for the Asking


Can Song Lyrics Be Considered Poetry?

by Michael Robbins

Because I use pop lyrics in my poems and review records for SPIN and elsewhere, people sometimes ask me whether I think of song lyrics as poetry. Looked at in certain ways, they obviously are; in other respects, it seems worthwhile to preserve a distinction. I have collections of the lyrics of W. S. Gilbert, Stephen Foster, Cole Porter and Stephen Sondheim. What would be the point of denying these lyricists the honorific of "poet"? Read more at Chicago Tribune.

Why Poetry Can’t Find Its Public

by Tasha Golden

Hey Poets. I was in LA last month for music work, and I think I found something you dropped: The public. So—Maybe you weren’t sure when you lost it, but you seem pretty certain music stole it. Or film perhaps? Or YouTube cats? Meanwhile, poetry’s stayed alive. It’s been breeding and cloning; there are more of us all the time! (Thank god; someone’s gotta read our poems.) We’re like the Duggar Couple, happy we’ll always have at least our 19 fans. Read more at Ploughshares.

Complaint of Present Days Is Not the Certain Path to Future Praise

by Jeremy Axelrod

Every age’s poetry is bad, but each age disappoints its critics in its own way. If you follow the literary blogosphere, you know that Mark Edmundsen just weighed in on this age with a tweedily earnest essay in Harper’s, called “Poetry Slam, or The Decline of American Verse.” Perhaps it struck close to home for the editors, whose publication was once charged with a similar decline: “Every year,” lamented Randall Jarrell in 1950, “Harper’s Magazine sounds more like Life and the Saturday Evening Post.” Read more at Parnassus Review.

Why Poetry Can’t Find Its Public

Drafts & Fragments

Hollie McNish, Poet, Delivers an Incredible Defense of Breastfeeding in Public (VIDEO)

Mothers who have been shamed for breastfeeding in public have a new anthem. British poet Holly McNish's incredible spoken word poem, "Embarrassed," attacks everything from aggressive formula marketing to the double standard of anti-breastfeeding discrimination in a world of "billboards covered in tits." Unsurprisingly,it has gone viral. Read more at The Huffington Post.

Ten Guerrilla Poetry Projects

by Alison Nastasi 

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word,” Emily Dickinson once wrote. It’s with that notion in mind that writers have assembled as guerrilla poets, leaving their words on billboards, street corners, and inside books. We discovered a guerrilla poetry project earlier this week on Booooooom, featured below, and wanted to share other unexpected and unconventional poems that have popped up around the world. Read more at Flavorwire.

Hollie McNish, Poet, Delivers an Incredible Defense of Breastfeeding in Public (VIDEO)

Poetry In the News

A Year’s Worth of Verse at Poets House

It’s something of a sport to say that poetry is dying, but nearly 3,000 books currently on display in Battery Park City offer a strong counterargument. The 21st annual showcase at Poets House collects poetry books released in the past year by about 700 different publishers. On display through Aug. 3, the books will eventually move upstairs to be absorbed into the organization’s library of more than 50,000 titles. Read more at the New York Times.

Sylvia Plath’s Daughter on a Remarkable Trove of Her Mother’s Drawings

It’s not surprising that Frieda Hughes, 53, is given to dramatic gestures. Being born the daughter of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes is to be thrust into that role. Plath, the author of the celebrated novel The Bell Jar, killed herself (by sticking her head in an oven in her London flat) on February 11, 1963 — this year marks the fiftieth anniversary — after Hughes left her for another woman. Frieda and her brother Nicholas were sleeping in the next room. Read more at Time.

A Mural of a Spanish Poet in Bushwick, Confounding and Enchanting

A huge portrait of Federico García Lorca peered out onto Stockholm Street in Bushwick, painted on a drugstore wall alongside verses from “Sleepless City (Brooklyn Bridge Nocturne).” “Out in the sky, no one sleeps. No one, no one.” But out on the sidewalk, one man groused. “That doesn’t make sense; everybody sleeps under the sky,” said Hector Morales, a retired construction worker. “Maybe that’s something from an older era, but it doesn’t mean anything to young people today. ‘Stay in school. Don’t do drugs.’ That’s what they should have put.” Read more at the New York Times.

A Year’s Worth of Verse at Poets House

New Books

The Griffin Poetry Prize 2013 Anthology: A Selection of the Shortlist  edited by Wang Ping, Suzanne Buffam, and Mark Doty

[Paperback] House of Anansi Press, 128 pp., $19.95

Each year, the best books of poetry published in English internationally and in Canada are honoured with the Griffin Poetry Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious and richest literary awards. Since 2001 this annual prize has acted as a tremendous spur to interest in and recognition of poetry, focusing worldwide attention on the formidable talent of poets writing in English. And each year The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology features the work of the extraordinary poets shortlisted for the awards, and introduces us to some of the finest poems in their collections.

Walking Distance: Poems by Michael Heffernan

[Paperback] Lost Horse Press 72 pp., $18.00

Michael Heffernan's poems occupy a space in his ordinary life and the world he enters in company with his own multifarious first person singular, who is often talking. When he stops doing that, something may get written down. The poem, then, begins to live in its own place where, for a moment, nothing is ordinary.

Blue Heron by Elizabeth Robinson 

[Paperback] Center for Literary Publishing, 64 pp., $16.95

The poems in Blue Heron delineate a passage through grief and change. Here, personal loss is continuous with threats to other species and landscapes. In response, Robinson has uprooted the terrain of language, “what / bestows itself from / the almost-invisible / and its stain.” If these uprootings are casualties of a poetics seeking to redress imbalance and “pollution,” then they are also opportunities to rethink what can exist in the field of poetic language as “roots also quicken, bruise their plural pronouns, lose tune, / forsake terrain by moving through and on it.”

Landscape with Female Figure by Andrea Hollander

[Paperback] Autumn House Press, 183 pp., $17.95

Andrea Hollander knows what to hold back as she lets us in. And so we willingly bring ourselves into her subtly registered emotional world. There's a lovely blend of qualities at work here an unsparing eye, and a heart that humanizes what that eye sees. –Stephen Dunn

Walking Distance: Poems by Michael Heffernan


California's Poet Laureate Likes to Turn the Tables

by Hector Tobar

When the poet laureate of California is invited to receptions and his hosts ask if there's anything special he'd like to eat, Juan Felipe Herrera likes to give an irreverent answer: "How about some cilantro?" Read more at the LA Times.

Interview with Paul Muldoon

by Alice Whitwham

Muldoon’s poetic voice uniquely unites a deep awareness of the academic canon with contemporary vernacular – filtered through idioms, song, and contemporary cliché. We met at Peels restaurant on Bowery, New York, on Holy Thursday morning. His generous attentiveness was coupled with a playful obliqueness throughout. We discussed the lyric, intuition, prosody… and eggs. Read more at The White Review.

California’s Poet Laureate Likes to Turn the Tables

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from Past Masters: Frank O'Hara

"Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tear). I don't give a damn whether they eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete). Nobody should experience anything they don't want to, if they don't need poetry bully for them. I like the movies too."

Lessons from Past Masters: Frank O’Hara