July 13, 2016

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1793—John Clare, Northamptonshire peasant poet (Shepard's Calendar), is born.
1888—Fernando A N de Seabra Pessoa, Portuguese poet (Mensagem), is born.


To John Clare

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes—
The little boy lets home-close nesting go,
And pockets tops and taws, where daisies blow,
To look at the new number just laid down,
With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
And Jack the Giant-killer's high renown.

—by John Clare ( 1793-1864)

John Clare and Fernando Pessoa were both born this week, in 1793 and 1888 respectively.

World Poetry

El Salvador Rights Body Urges Probe of Poet's 1975 Killing

El Salvador's human rights agency said Tuesday that the government has failed to properly investigate the 1975 killing of poet Roque Dalton, who was allegedly slain by leaders of a leftist guerrilla group to which he belonged. The rebel group later joined the Farabundo Marti National Liberation front, the forerunner of the current FMLN political party that governs El Salvador.

El Salvador’s human rights agency said Tuesday that the government has failed to properly investigate the 1975 killing of poet Roque Dalton.

Recent Reviews

Three Promising New Voices at the Identity Crossroads
by Rigoberto González

INTERSECTIONALITY — the overlapping or intersecting of social identities and related systems of oppression and discrimination — is not a new concept in literature. As a theoretical framework, it has been readily embraced since the 1970s, particularly in the study of works by writers of color. The interaction of multiple biological, social, and cultural categories in contemporary letters is unavoidable as writers of color continue to investigate the complex relationships between political histories and identities. Derrick Austin, author of Trouble the Water; Michael Prior, author of Model Disciple; and Phillip B. Williams, author of Thief in the Interior, are all beginning their literary journeys with richly layered poetics that build from, and subsequently add to, our understanding of identity politics and intersectionality.

Solmaz Sharif and the Poetics of a New American Generation
by John Freeman

Step gently on words such as “home” or “citizen” or even “body” with a foot born elsewhere and they combust. Place names are even more incendiary. What happens when we read BEIRUT or TEHRAN or SAIGON while sitting at a cafe in Santa Monica?  This is war’s lexicon. It incorporates and redefines, especially by naming. In the U.S., recent Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Nguyen reminds us, we know the conflict as the Vietnam War; in Saigon, they call it the American War.

Ireland and Its Elsewheres by Harry Clifton Review: Irish poetry’s Other Homes
by Michael O'Loughlin

With its series The Poet’s Chair, UCD Press has set the bar high in terms of book design and production. In Ireland and Its Elsewheres, which collects the three public lectures from his term as Ireland Chair of Poetry, Harry Clifton also sets a high standard in terms of seriousness and willingness to raise some complex issues surrounding contemporary Irish poetry, often discussed superficially.

To Occupy the Terms
by Dan Barrow

What lies behind the one short and six long poems of David Herd's third collection are the crises that the last decade have precipitated in global migration flows. That is, the vast surge in the numbers of those fleeing civil war, resource conflict and economic collapse to other countries, the increasingly authoritarian and racist character of European and particularly British border regimes, the climate of public xenophobia that increasingly harasses migrants and their descendants, and the increasingly fraught and dangerous nature of passage. (Some recent headlines: 'Boris Johnson says immigration figures are scandalous,’ ‘Italian navy saves 550 refugees as smugglers' trawler capsizes in Med,’ ‘Greek riot police move in to clear refugee camp.’) Herd attempts to frame and explore, in texts whose tone and syntax is at once smooth and stuttering, the barbaric strangeness of all this, from somewhere alternately outside and within the experience of those subjected to it.

David Herd’s third collection explores the vast surge in the numbers of those fleeing civil war, resource conflict, and economic collapse.


Pablo Neruda Wrote Me A Poem
by Roa Lynn 

In June, 1968, I was living in Buenos Aires with Patrick, an Anglo-Argentine businessman whose passion was poetry. In the daylight hours, he was a senior executive at a foodstuffs conglomerate known especially for its English-style mustard. At night, and on weekends, he wrote sonnets and villanelles, many of which were published in literary journals in England. I thought that Patrick should experiment with free verse, and told him so, but he did not depart from meter and rhyme.

In the New Yorker, Roa Lynn recalls the time Pablo Neruda wrote her a poem.

Drafts & Fragments

The Poetry of “Mad Men”: When Matthew Weiner First Read Frank O’Hara, “It was just like total time travel”
by Scott Timberg

The series “Mad Men” was woven through with the music, literature, and other culture of the years in which it took place, even when it wasn’t made explicit. The New York poet Frank O’Hara, whose work came out a few years before and during the 1960-1970 period covered in the show, was both a visible and invisible presence in “Mad Men.”

The first time Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner read Frank O’Hara, “was just like total time travel.”

Poetry In the News

U.S. Poet Laureate Posts "Sudden poem" on Week of Grief

Juan Felipe Herrera began his term as the U.S. Poet Laureate last year. He grew up in a migrant campesino family that traveled from farm to farm, job to job all over California, and he is the first Chicano/a poet to be appointed poet laureate. The author of 18 books of poetry, he writes poetry that combines the great written tradition with the extemporaneous energy of spoken-word verse and the populist voice of poets who speak for the common experience.

U.S Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera wrote a “sudden poem” in response to the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and police officers in Dallas.

New Books

Designed Words for a Designed World: The International Concrete Poetry Movement, 1955-1971 by Jamie Hilder
[Paperback] McGill-Queen's University Press, 296 pp., $37.95

Sometimes image, sometimes word, and often both or neither, concrete poetry emerged out of an era of groundbreaking social and technological developments. Television, nuclear weapons, radio transistors, space travel, and colour photography all combined to drastically alter the representation of the world in the period following the Second World War. While never fully embraced as poetry or as visual art, and often criticized for an aesthetic that veers too close to commercial design, concrete poetry is an ambitious critical project that strives to break free of national languages and narrow literary traditions. 

Hemming Flames by Patricia Colleen Murphy
[Hardcover] Utah State University Press, 80 pp., $19.95  

Throughout this haunting first collection, Patricia Colleen Murphy shows how familial mental illness, addiction, and grief can render even the most courageous person helpless. With depth of feeling, clarity of voice, and artful conflation of surrealist image and experience, she delivers vivid descriptions of soul-shaking events with objective narration, creating psychological portraits contained in sharp, bright language and image. With Plathian relentlessness, Hemming Flames explores the deepest reaches of family dysfunction through highly imaginative language and lines that carry even more emotional weight because they surprise and delight. In landscapes as varied as an Ohio back road, a Russian mental institution, a Korean national landmark, and the summit of Kilimanjaro, each poem sews a new stitch on the dark tapestry of a disturbed suburban family’s world.

Antiquity by Michael Homolka

[Paperback] Sarabande Books, 64 pp., $14.95

Winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize, Michael Homolka’s Antiquity offers the present infused with the past, from Ancient Greece to the Holocaust to contemporary battlefields. A haunting and evocative debut.

Corrupted into Song: The Complete Poems of Alvin Feinman edited by Deborah Dorfman
[Paperback] Princeton University Press, 168 pp., $19.95

According to Harold Bloom, "The best of Alvin Feinman's poetry is as good as anything by a twentieth-century American. His work achieves the greatness of the American sublime." Yet, in part because he published so sparsely, Feinman remained little-read and largely unknown when he died in 2008. This definitive edition of Feinman's complete work, which includes fifty-seven previously published poems and thirty-nine unpublished poems discovered among his manuscripts, introduces a new generation of readers to the lyrical intensity and philosophical ambition of this major American poet

Collected Poems by Tony Harrison
[Paperback] Penguin, 464 pp., $18.95

Tony Harrison published his first pamphlet of poems in 1964, and for more than 50 years he has been a prominent force in modern poetry. His poetic range is truly far-reaching, from the intimate tenderness of family life and personal love, to war poems written from Bosnia and savage public outcries against politicians. In The Collected Poems, Harrison draws deeply both on classical tradition and on the vernacular of the street. Combining the private and the public in a way Harrison has made distinctly his own, and drawing on his working-class upbringing in Leeds, these are powerful poems for modern times. This is the first complete paperback collection of one of Britain's most controversial and critically acclaimed poets.

A new anthology collecting works from the concrete poetry movement from 1955 to 1971 is out now from McGill Queen’s University Press.


Syrian-Kurdish Poet Amir Darwish: “It is not a crisis for the Syrian people, it is a universal crisis”

Amir Darwish tells me that poetry chose him at the age of 16. Originally from Kobani in northern Syria, he was born and raised in Aleppo – making poetry not only an unusual choice for someone of his generation, but a dangerous one. It was the nineties and the Assad regime had worked for many years, and in many ways, to stamp out political dissent: “I didn’t think about the danger at the time, or the consequences,” he reflects. “The feeling that drove me towards poetry was much stronger than anything else.”

The Sound of Her Voice
by Lily Blacksell

Since long before the publication of Loop of Jade (2015), her debut collection, Sarah Howe has been a highly regarded and much-loved member of the UK poetry scene. Earlier this year, she won the 2015 T. S. Eliot Prize for that collection, as well as The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award. Sarah is not currently in the UK, however; for a little while longer, she is a Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Like me, she is a Brit abroad, and this was one bullet point on a list of reasons why I wanted to meet her. Our paths finally crossed on Chinese New Year in February, in a bar in Manhattan’s Alphabet City.

Poet Claudia Rankine On Latest Racial Violence

Claudia Rankine's acclaimed 2014 poetry book "Citizen" was a potent and incisive meditation on race. Rankine speaks with NPR's Lynn Neary about where the national conversation about race stands today.

In northern Syria where Amir Darwish grew up, writing poetry wasn’t just an unusual choice, but a dangerous one.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

It's full-on summer. High 80s/ low 90s, in these parts on a regular basis. I'm carried back to summers as a boy, exploring fields and woods mostly. That is one reason why early Heaney appeals to me. He captures the rural life in childhood as well as any. And the poem "Death of a Naturalist" is a prime example. I like the way he merges the point of view of the adult and the child, for example, in the line "You could tell the weather by frogs too/ For they were yellow in the sun and brown/ In rain." 
This is the second poem in his first book. It is the title poem of the collection. Here is a link to the entire poem. "Death of a Naturalist."