July 16, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1730 – Elijiah Fenton, poet, dies

1736 – Thomas Yalden, poet/fable writer, dies.

1857 – Pierre-Jean de Baranger, poet, dies
1890 – Gottfried Keller, novelist/poet, dies

1923 – Louis M A Couperus, poet/writer (Books of Small Soles), dies at 60.

1943 – Reinaldo Arenas, Cuban poet (d. 1990), is born.

1949 – Vyacheslav Ivanov, Russian poet (b. 1866), dies.



I am that child of always

before the panorama of imminent terror,

imminent leprosy, imminent fleas,

of offenses and the imminent crime.


I am that repulsive child that improvises a bed

out of an old cardboard box and waits,

certain that you will accompany me.


– from "My Lover the Sea" by Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990)

Recent Reviews

“Rock” of Sages Cleft for Thee: Songs & Sonnets from Paul Muldoon and Cornelius Eady

by Joe Francis Doerr

Speaking through Stephen Dedalus, Joyce assured us that at least one (and perhaps the most infamous) symbol of Irish art is the “cracked looking- glass of a servant.” In the hands of Paul Muldoon, the mirror has been further fractured—smashed, in fact, to pieces and reconstructed in mosaic fashion over an outdated political globe until the national borders it depicts are hidden by a reflective veneer. The result is something that more closely resembles a slick disco ball which Muldoon is content to hang above a new stage—most likely one in a smoke-free barroom—where the poet might be seen putting a new spin on an old image. Read more at the Notre Dame Review.

PN Review 212: Editorial 

by Michael Schmidt

Forty years ago, in Poetry Nation II, Donald Davie wrote ‘The Varsity Match’, a review of A Poetry Chronicle, Essays and Reviews by Ian Hamilton. Davie’s thesis was that Oxford generations – Hamilton, John Fuller & Co., and before them John Wain, Kingsley Amis & Co., Sidney Keyes, Drummond Allison & Co., and so on back to Spender, Auden & Co. – led their ‘assault on literary England’ that entailed taking over editorships and review posts and redirecting Readership to their advantage. Read more at Carcanet.

A Poet’s Revolution: A New Biography of Denise Levertov

By Richard Wakefield

Like a good teacher, a good biographer opens doors or shows us new things in rooms to which we thought we already had access. Denise Levertov, whose poetry won countless awards and who spent her last few years in Seattle, never stopped exploring her craft and her subjects, but not always in ways that make it easy for her readers to follow. A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov, goes a long ways toward letting us in. Read more at the Seattle Times.

Milo De Angelis’s Theme of Farewell and After-Poems

by Fiona Sze-Lorrain

Theme of Farewell and After-Poems is the third book by the contemporary Italian poet Milo De Angelis to appear in translation.  A native of Milan, De Angelis was born in 1952.  As in previous collections, the capital of Lombardy—with its recurring metaphor of “asphalt”—serves as geographical muse: Roserio (the Luigi Sacco Hospital), Porta Venezia, and neighborhoods such as Bovisasca and Monferrato are the touchstones of De Angelis’s elliptical and galvanic images, timelines, and situational patterns. In his latest work, though, the poet sets a different task for himself; he writes as if to battle against the failure of words—and feelings—in the aftermath of his wife Giovanna’s untimely death. Read more at Words Without Borders.

“Rock” of Sages Cleft for Thee: Songs & Sonnets from Paul Muldoon and Cornelius Eady


Reading Poems Backward

by Brad Leithauser 

It probably happens now and then, though perhaps you don’t give it much thought. You read a poem backward. You pick up a poetry anthology, or you come upon a poem in a magazine, and your eye chances to fall upon its last lines. You read those. Then you read the poem. You read the poem, that is, knowing exactly where it’s headed. Sometimes this may occur with short stories (you read the last lines of the story first), but far less often. And as for novels—surely most of us carefully avoid the final page; given the time we’ll be investing, we’re reluctant to spoil the book’s surprise. Read more at the New Yorker.

Stephen Burt: State of Poetry

by Jacquelyn Malone 

For much of the past decade, the most imitated new American poets were slippery, digressive, polyvocalic, creators of overlapping, colorful fragments. Their poems were avowedly personal, although they never retold the poets’ life stories (they did not tell stories at all); the poets used, or at least mentioned, difficult ideas, especially from continental philosophy, although they never laid out philosophical arguments (they did not lay out arguments at all). Nor did they describe concrete objects at length. Full of illogic, of associative leaps, their poems resembled dreams, performances, speeches, or pieces of music, and they were, in M.H. Abrams’s famous formulation, less mirror than lamp: the poets sought to project their own experiences, in sparkling bursts of voluble utterance. Read more at Mass Poetry.

Painted Clear, Painted Black

by Eileen Myles 

I feel like the back story of Marjorie’s avant garde mandate is mourning. I think Perloff has sustained an enormous amount of loss in her life and along with her championing of avant garde practice in her criticism she’s also deeply engaged in controlling the emotional climate of the room she’s in. Who gets to feel what when, and how! And that’s a problem because poetry is a community not an institution and we’re always at multiple purposes here in this room. When she opens her piece with Jed Rasula’s assertion of the problem of there being too many poets I wonder why neither of them notice that in the mainstream there aren’t any poets. We’re mainly hearing that no poets are being read.  Read more at Evening Will Come.

Reading Poems Backward

Drafts & Fragments

Who Said It: Pablo Neruda Or Taylor Swift?

It’s Pablo Neruda’s 109th birthday today! Let’s see how the love poet of yore stacks up against our beloved songstress of modern romance. Read more at Buzzfeed.

Letter: Poet Laureate Isn’t Doing His Job

To the Editor:

Vermont poet laureate Sydney Lea’s July 5 Valley News column (“Collins Brings Authority to ‘The Writer’s Almanac’ ”) opens with a poem called "What Followed Your Birth." Lea dismisses the poem as “pretty bad” and never bothers to name the poet. Read more at Valley News.

Who Said It: Pablo Neruda Or Taylor Swift?

Poetry In the News

Friends and Family Celebrate Boulder Poet Anselm Hollo's Life


Friends and family of Anselm Hollo, a beloved Naropa University professor and widely revered poet, celebrated his life today at Naropa by telling stories and reading his poetry and translations. Against a backdrop of pictures, those who loved him filled the room with the language his poetry. “He has the lightest touch with a line of any poet,” said Ron Silliman, who took a poetry class of Hollo's in the 1980s in San Francisco. Hollo died at his Boulder home on Jan. 29. He was 78. Read more at the Daily Camera.

New Music Ensemble Will Interpret James Dickey’s “Falling”

Art is often not intentional, even in its subject matter. Prominent American poet James Dickey found himself fascinated by a story in The New York Times about an airline stewardess who fell out the door of an Allegheny Airlines flight over Connecticut. He imagined what she was thinking as she fell to her death in his acclaimed poem “Falling,” which was first published in 1967. “It's dark, but it's also very life-affirming,” says Matthew Rosenblum, who has written an instrumental piece based on the poem. Read more at Trib Live.

Friends and Family Celebrate Boulder Poet Anselm Hollo’s Life

New Books

Visiting Hours at the Color Line: Poems by Ed Pavlic 

[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 148 pp., $16.00

Often the most recognized, even brutal, events in American history are assigned a bifurcated public narrative. We divide historical and cultural life into two camps, often segregated by a politicized, racially divided "Color Line." But how do we privately experience the most troubling features of American civilization? Where is the Color Line in the mind, in the body, between bodies, between human beings? Ed Pavlic's Visiting Hours at the Color Line, a 2012 National Poetry Series winner, attempts to complicate this black-and-white, straight-line feature of our collective imagination, and to map its nonlinear, deeply colored timbres and hues.

The Beautiful Contradictions by Nathaniel Tarn 

[Paperback] New Directions,  46 pp., $10.95

The Beautiful Contradictions is an awe-inspiring vortex of mythology, history, and anthropology that pushes the lyric to its upper limit. A vast ecopoem for a dying Earth,a socially radical poem, a matrilineal drama, a Judeo-Mayan-Buddhist initiation, a transatlantic epic ending as a transamerican arrival, a testament uniting science and imagination.

Truth Game by Tom Clark

[Paperback] BlazeVOX, 84 pp., $16.00

"What's happening is the language. Not only in the usual sense of being interesting (which it is), but in the new sense that words are events, as real and important in themselves as wars and lovers… It is to the word, then, that the mind moves, and the word responds by taking on a physicality, even a sensuality, we have all been trained to ignore. Words have weight, and the distance between two can be a chasm filled with forces of association… What Clark is doing is genuinely new." — Ron Silliman

Airmail: The Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer 

[Hardcover] Graywolf Press, 476 pp., $35.00

Insightful, brilliant, and often funny, Airmail provides a rare portrait of two artists who have become integral to each other’s particular genius. This publication marks the first time letters by Bly and Tranströmer have been made available in the United States.

Visiting Hours at the Color Line: Poems by Ed Pavlic


D. H. Tracy and the Role of the Poet-Critic

by Garrick Davis

Interviewer’s Note: D. H. Tracy is the author of a book of poems, Janet’s Cottage (St. Augustine’s Press, 2012), which won the New Criterion Poetry Prize.  His essays and reviews have appeared in Contemporary Poetry Review, the New York Times Book Review, Parnassus, and Poetry.  He is a founder of Antilever Press and lives in Illinois. Read more at Contemporary Poetry Review.

From the Heat of Menopause, a Poet Finds Light

by Susan Reimer

For poet Moira Egan, a few sleepless hours before dawn were no longer a chance to write in peace and solitude. There were too many of them during too many nights. Her poetic personality was always "mood-swingy." But things were getting wild, and her husband asked if she was OK. Well, she was and she wasn't. She was 50 and lucky enough to still be alive to experience the unpleasantness of menopause. Read more at the Baltimore Sun.

Patients Need Poetry and So Do Doctors

by Danielle Ofri

Rafael Campo, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, just won a major international prize. It wasn’t for his excellence in internal medicine, or his decades of teaching, or his scholarship. It was for a poem. A poem? Poetry often seems the least practical endeavor on Earth. It’s a smattering of words on the page, often with minimal form, story, or logic. It doesn’t earn money, build cities, cure illness, feed the hungry, or solve the pressing problems of society. Read more at Slate.

The Joan Margarit Interview

by Prithvi Varatharajan 

I was in Barcelona to interview the Catalan poet Joan Margarit for a radio program, for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. I’d arranged to meet the literary interpreter Julie Wark for a drink on the Paseo del Born, in the Gotic quarter of the city down by the harbor. Julie was curious about my radio project, for which I would be making sound recordings around Barcelona. She also very graciously offered to pay the cab fare to the poet’s house, as I had barely any money in hand—having been mugged on the outskirts of the city center, on my very first day there. We arrived at Joan Margarit’s house a few days later, to be greeted by his firm handshake and clap on the shoulder. Read more at Quarterly Conversation.

Fady Joudah: On Poetry, Translation and Power

by Maggie Galehouse

Sitting barefoot in his Bellaire home, Fady Joudah parses the particulars of his life. He is a poet, a physician and a Palestinian-American. Not necessarily in that order and certainly not to the exclusion of other defining parts of the whole. Over the past decade, Joudah, 42, has become a husband and father, as well. All these roles find their way into his poems. Fluent in English and Arabic, Joudah was born in Austin and raised mostly in the Middle East. He returned to the States for college and medical school, landing in Houston for his residency in 1996. Read more at the Houston Chronicle.

From the Heat of Menopause, a Poet Finds Light

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Horse Latitudes

As you can tell from the dearth of news stories above, there isn't much poetry news happening as the dog days approach. Nonetheless, people continue to write reviews, essays, profiles, and conduct interviews, more than I can fit in one issue. To my mind, more than the news items of poetry that manage to find the rays of the visible journalistic light, the steady perseverance, the constant dialogue of those who turn their critical attention to examining poetry on its own terms, is where the news really exists. That we can find in one week essays by Brad Leithauser and Eileen Myles, for example, or profiles of a Palestinian-American poet, a Catalan poet, an American poet living in Rome, and a poet who by day is a professor of medicine at Harvard speaks to the range of the discussion and, ultimately, to the good health of the art form, recent hand-wringing notwithstanding. That should be sufficient reward to help get us through the summer without having to throw any livestock overboard.

Horse Latitudes