July 25, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days


1517 – Jacques Peletier (du Mans), French poet/scientist, is born.

1626 – Geeraerdt Brandt, Dutch theologist/poet/historian, is born.

1715 – Immanuel J Pyra, German poet (Temple of Real Poetry), is born.

1794 – Andrea-Marie Chenier, French poet (Avis aux Francais sur leurs), dies.

1826 – Kondraty Fyodorovich Ryleyev, Russian poet and revolutionary (b. 1795), dies.

1834 – Samuel Taylor Coleridge, British poet, dies at 61.

1918 – Carlos Guido y Spano, Argentine poet (Mexico, canto epico), dies.

1919 – Hubert Booi, Bonairian poet (Golgotha/Muchila), is born.

1976 – Jovica Tasevski-Eternijan, Macedonian poet, is born.

1980 – Vladimir Vysotsky, Russian poet, singer, and actor (b. 1938), dies.




Dear Babe, that sleepest cradled by my side,

Whose gentle breathings, heard in this deep calm,

Fill up the intersperséd vacancies

And momentary pauses of the thought!

My babe so beautiful! it thrills my heart

With tender gladness, thus to look at thee,

And think that thou shalt learn far other lore,

And in far other scenes! 


—from “Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 1772–1834

“Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

World Poetry

Prominent Bulgarian Poet Refuses to End Anti-Govt Hunger Strike

Edvin Sugarev, a Bulgarian poet and former lawmaker, has once again refused to end his hunger strike against the country’s embattled socialist-led government. Sugarev’s hunger strike has lasted 20 days now and many fear it may have dire consequences on his health and life. The famous Bulgarian poet – who is a former Ambassador to India and Mongolia – has told Dnevnik.bg that he is feeling relatively well, despite having lost a significant amount of weight. Read more at Novinite.

José Kozer Wins Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize

 The prize ($60,000, a medal, and a diploma) was presented to him by Chilean President Sebastián Piñera on Friday, July 12, which was the birthday of Nobel-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda, one of the world’s most acclaimed poets, NBC reported. Established in 2004 for the centennial of Neruda, the award honors a lifetime contribution to poetry. It has been received by Nicanor Parra, Juan Gelman, and Ernesto Cardenal, among others. Read more at Iran Book News Agency.

South Africa: Performance Poetry Takes Cape Town By Storm

There is a movement of art sweeping South Africa–spoken word and performance poetry. Though a relatively modern artform, most agree that South African performance poetry is rooted in the old tradition of the sharing of oral stories and histories and influenced oftentimes by music. Performance poetry is composed with the expressed goal of sharing it with an audience. Read more at All Africa.

Detained Poet Ericson Acosta Released Temporarily

“In jail, I yearned for sea and sky. My temporary release is indeed a breath of fresh air. But freedom and justice are not achieved by mere yearning, only by struggle.” These are the words uttered by poet Ericson Acosta to his elated supporters, friends, and family for the grant of temporary release from jail. On Thursday, the Gandara Regional Trial Court in Samar granted Acosta a temporary release for a medical check-up as an answer to his lawyers motion for medical check-up filed last July 2012 due to displayed symptoms of serious renal problems by the poet.Read more at Manila Channel.

Prominent Bulgarian Poet Refuses to End Anti-Govt Hunger Strike

Recent Reviews

Wes Davis’ An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry: Book Review

by John L. Murphy

While modern, this anthology’s not only modernist in scope; Davis in helpful prefatory essays brings on about fifty poets and gives each perhaps twenty selections. He frames this with a few unobtrusive (if too scanty for a less-informed readership I assume may be often outside of Ireland) endnotes and a helpful, if truncated general introduction. There, anticipating an audience who may take him to task for not including Yeats, he begins with ‘ancestral figures like [Austin] Clarke, [Patrick] Kavanagh, and [Louis] MacNeice’ to show how they responded to the Celtic Twilight of Yeats and predecessors. Kavanagh demanded to diverge from what he summed up or put down as ‘Poems of Fields, Poems of Rocks, Poems of Bogs; Poems of Bigger Fields, Poems of Harder Rocks, Poems of Deeper Bogs’. Read more at Slugger O' Toole.

The Strangest of Theaters edited by Jared Hawkley, Susan Rich and Brian Turner

by Elizabeth Granger

For the wanderlusty, it's difficult to believe that anyone would hesitate to pack her suitcase and zip off to, well, anywhere. But travel requires strategy and persistence. And for writers — or worse, for poets — international travel requires a relative fortune. Or good fortune. In the spirit of easing dislocation, earlier this year, McSweeney's and the Poetry Foundation released The Strangest of Theatres: Poets Writing Across Borders. Part travelogue, essay, verse, roundtable transcription and reference text, the volume is an introduction to the opportunities for international poetic work: fellowships, residencies, translations, festivals, English instruction jobs and volunteer postings. Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff

by Ian McGillis 

“Anapestic tetrameter.” Unless you move in rarefied and specialized circles, it’s a term unlikely to come up in book-club gabfests and water-cooler chats. A whole novel written in rhyming couplets of the meter in question would seem a particularly far-fetched proposition. The last rough equivalent that comes to mind is Vikram Seth’s largely forgotten The Golden Gate; otherwise, for many perfectly good readers, the last encounter with extended narrative poetry may well have been the Byron or Milton they were assigned in school. Well, that’s about to change, and David Rakoff’s Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish is the agent. Read more at the Montreal Gazette.

Obscenely Yours by Angelo Nikolopolous

by Michael Broder

Obscenely Yours, the title of Angelo Nikolopoulos’s first book, is a valediction, a complimentary close, the typically polite termination of a letter that conventionally precedes the author’s signature and expresses the sender’s regard for the recipient (yours truly, sincerely yours, kind regards). This valediction, however, is the opposite of all those things, neither typical nor conventional, and if this sender expresses any regard for his recipient, it is a wry, complex regard indeed. Moreover, a valediction is the opposite of a salutation: a farewell rather than a greeting, an end rather than a beginning. Thus, in some sense, Nikolopoulos’s entire book is in reverse, saying goodbye before it says hello, leaving us before it arrives. Read more at Coldfront.

Rebecca Gayle Howell's Apocalyptic Poetry Collection, Render

By David L. Ulin

On the back cover of Rebecca Gayle Howell’s debut book of poetry Render: An Apocalypse, there’s a definition I’ve never seen. In it, we learn that “apocalypse” can mean “a literary genre informed by hallucination, grief, and a long view of history (primary concerns: the past, the present, and consequence).” Is this for real? A quick look at Webster’s leaves me with my doubts. Read more at the LA Times.

Arcadia Fire: Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep’s The Arcadia Project

by Jesse Lichtenstein

From a mix-CD labeled “Breakup Songs” to a three-pound Norton omnibus of capital-L Literature, anthologists set themselves a task that’s usually simple enough to declare. Often it’s right there in the title—take American poetry, which continues to welcome (or endure) wave upon wave of anthology. You get everything from Specimens of American Poetry in 1829 to Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry: 1945-1960 to Paul Hoover’s Postmodern American Poetry to Rita Dove’s recent Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Then there are the more specific categories, all announcing themselves in the title, from Douglas Messerli’s “Language” Poetries: An Anthology to Billy Collins’s Bright Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds. Read more at Harp and Altar.

Wes Davis’ An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry: Book Review


On Literary Metamodernism

by Seth Abramson

It's not so often anymore that we read a book of poetry and think to ourselves, "This poet means exactly what they say." It's a startling realization, that we so often praise the artistry of a poem or collection for having accurately captured the artistic ambitions of the poet, but less commonly consider how and when contemporary poetry is nonfictional, a direct address from the bared poet within the poet. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Poetry: This Death Is Incomplete

by Amy King

We compose from and are composed of dead stars’ enriched guts (Neil deGrasse Tyson). Adam shaped from dust. The phoenix rises from ash. Death becomes us. Poetry is the sea that cracks the frozen axe within us. It brings the Nothingness we need; Death enters the room with poetry’s spotlights—the gaps falling where they may—and causes anxiety or gives  escape. Poetry can be Death’s release valve, letting it enter, creating a presence where no invitation was issued.   Read more at the Boston Review.

A More Ordinary Poet

by Gillian Osborne

For many of her readers, Emily Dickinson remains the quintessential nineteenth-century poetess: the Belle of Amherst, spooking into high school English classes in virginal white, a real-life Ophelia, her poems full of spiders, flowers, and carriage rides with death. And yet, at least since the publication of R.W. Franklin’s 1981 volume charting Dickinson’s manuscripts and his 1998 variorum edition of her complete poems—both of which reveal the textual complexity of Dickinson’s originals, their variants, and their positions in letters and fascicles or sets—this poet has also been read as a nineteenth-century Gertrude Stein. Dickinson has been seen as a proto-modernist whose white heat was silenced by both patriarchal prejudice and the poetic preferences of her time. Read more at the Boston Review.

On Literary Metamodernism

Drafts & Fragments

Take Your Poet to Work Day

by Matthew Kassel 

Not that you can own a poet. But with the help of Tweetspeak’s handy paper cut-outs, those who are employed have the option to bring one of nine dead scribes–or all nine, we guess–to work on a Popsicle stick tomorrow, which is unofficially designated Take Your Poet to Work Day. Read more at the Observer.

Pownal Farmer Pounds Out Poems at Markets

by Beth Quimby 

At this time of year most growers at the Cumberland Farmers Market are peddling fresh-picked tomatoes, zucchini and green beans. Abigail Kline, 9, of Destin, Fla., at left, watches with other children as organic farmer Holly Morrison of Pownal, loads up the typewriter to create a poem commissioned by the youngster at the Cumberland Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Read more at the Portland Press Herald.

Oldest Hiragana Writing Found on Ancient Pottery

By Jiro Tsutsui 

The oldest and clearest example of hiragana script has been found on ancient clay pottery recovered from the former site of an aristocrat’s residence in Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward, officials from Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute said June 27. An almost legible “iroha uta” poem is inscribed on the back of the earthenware dish, which dates back to around 1200. Iroha uta, an ancient Japanese poem that uses 47 Japanese characters only once each, is said to have been created between the late 10th century and the 11th century. The poem was used for writing practice of hiragana, Japan’s basic phonetic script. Read more at the Asahi Shimbun.

Pownal Farmer Pounds Out Poems at Markets

Poetry In the News

92nd Street Y Reading Series Announces 75th Anniversary Season

Philip Roth, Donna Tartt, E.L. Doctorow, Derek Walcott, Colum McCann, Paul Auster and Elizabeth Gilbert are among the dozens of literary luminaries on the roster for the 2013-2014 season of the 92nd Street Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, which marks its 75th birthday this year. The poetry center, which hosted the world premiere of Dylan Thomas’s “Under Milk Wood” in 1953, will also offer a number of musical and theatrical firsts. Read more at the New York Times.

Late Poet, Author Remembered

Acclaimed poet and author Franklin D’Olier Reeve died at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center on June 28, at 84 years old.  Reeve was professor of Russian literature at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, CT, and the author of several scholarly works on Russian literature, as well as several translations of works by Russian authors. In 1961 Reeve was an exchange professor in the Soviet Union, at a time when such exchanges weren’t common.  In 1962, he accompanied poet Robert Frost on his famous trip to the Soviet Union at the behest of President John F. Kennedy. Reeve acted as translator for Frost’s meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev, but also served as cultural guide for the poet, introducing him to Russian writers and poets during the trip. Read more at Deerfield Valley News. 

The 3rd Annual New York Poetry Festival is Coming

The Poetry Society of New York’s 3rd Annual New York Poetry Festival is coming up on July 27 and 28 on Governors Island. The festival has become a highlight of the New York lit-o-sphere in the summer. A short ferry ride from Manhattan, the fest attracts poets from around the country for two days of poetry on three stages for six hours each day. Read more at The Rumpus.

Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright: William Blake's Cottage is for Sale

William Blake's cottage in Felpham, West Sussex in England, is for sale. The poet who wrote "The Tyger" and the collections "Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience" lived in the brick and stone cottage from 1800-1803. The house has been modernized since he moved. Its features include a blue plaque commemorating the famous poet's time there, two floors, four bedrooms, exposed beams and brick, a glass-walled garden room, a home office, a garage, an enclosed garden and an outbuilding used as a summer house. Read more at the LA Times.

Late Poet, Author Remembered

New Books

Everything Begins Elsewhere by Tishani Doshi

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 64 pp., $16.00

In her second book of poetry—and her American debut—Tishani Doshi returns to the body as a central theme, while extending beyond the corporeal to challenge the more metaphysical borders of space and time. These new poems are powerful meditations born on the joineries of life and death, union and separation, memory and dream, where lovers speak to each other across the centuries and daughters wander into their mothers' childhoods.

Hymn for the Black Terrific: Poems by Kiki Petrosino 

[Paperback] Sarabande Books, 88 pp., $14.95

The poems in this, Kiki Petrosino's second collection, fulfill the promise of her debut effort, Fort Red Border, and further extend the terms of our expectations for this extraordinary young poet. The book is in two sections, the first a focused collection of wildly inventive lyrics that take as launch pad such far flung subjects as allergenesis, the contents and significance of swamps, a revised notion of marriage, and ancestors—both actual and dreamed. The eponymous second section is a cogent series, or long poem, based on a persona named "the eater," who, along with the poems themselves, storms voraciously through tablefuls of Chinese delicacies (each poem in the series takes its titles from an actual Chinese dish), as well as through doubts and confident proclamations from regions of an exploratory self. Hymn for the Black Terrific has Falstaffian panache; it is a book of pure astonishment.

Her Book: Poems by Eireann Lorsung 

[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 96 pp., $16.00

From the poet who brought us Music For Landing Planes By, Éireann Lorsung’s luminous voice is distilled through multiple unnamed female speakers in this, her second collection. Full of youth, wonder, and imagination, Her Book crosses distances and generations to celebrate the lives of women, their individual and shared experiences, and the bonds that bring them together. This is also a book about translation (of experience into art, of knowledge across time and space) and conversation (with, for instance, work by Kiki Smith, widely known as a feminist artist). Lorsung writes additionally about her time spent in England and friendships she formed with women there. Together these poems comprise both her book (Lorsung’s), and hers (encompassing all who identify with that word).

Thunderbird by Jane Miller 

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $16.00

Jane Miller brings a painterly eye to the elegiac in an ambitiously linked sequence that explores ecstasy and desire, memory and loss, the ancient and the ultramodern. Suggesting the thunderbird of Native American lore as readily as modern American warfare, Thunderbird is a book of mourning and loss redeemed by the body and the mind.

Hymn for the Black Terrific: Poems by Kiki Petrosino


Dana Gioia’s Pity the Beautiful: A Talk with a Major Poet

by Mary L. Tabor

The first time I encountered poet Dana Gioia was in 1991 when I read his controversial essay in The Atlantic Monthly, “Can Poetry Matter?” and then the book with that title that followed. Gioia has deeply influenced my own thinking about poetry, about literature and about work. Read more at Facts and Arts.

Illinois' Poet Laureate Kevin Stein Struggles with Chaos, Control

by Leslie Renken

Ancient Chinese poet Li Po eschewed the worries of the world to pursue higher truth — war, social injustice and personal trials were ignored in favor of exalted truths. And while exploring that kind of truth is an intoxicating prospect even for poets today, Illinois' poet laureate Kevin Stein, a professor at Bradley University, is unable to keep his work within those confines – current events have a way of creeping in. "I've always wanted to talk about things I'm not supposed to talk about," he said during an interview at his rural Dunlap home. Read more at the Journal Star.

Jaswinder Bolina: Avoiding the Obvious

by Erica Wright

Jaswinder Bolina’s latest collection, Phantom Camera, is refreshingly complex, rejecting epiphany while embracing subjects as diverse as death and Oldsmobiles, stump speeches and whales. His elegant long lines tumble down the page, carrying his readers through landscapes both real and imaginary. In his widely read 2011 essay for the Poetry Foundation, “Writing Like a White Guy,” Bolina discusses his reluctance to let race enter his work. In the following conversation, we talk about overcoming that reluctance, adopting personas, and capturing the present moment “before the robots take over.” Read more at Guernica.

Interview with Michael Schmidt

by Evan Jones

Michael Schmidt, O.B.E, F.R.S.L., was born in Mexico in 1947. He studied at Harvard and at Wadham College, Oxford. He is Professor of Poetry at Glasgow University, where he is convenor of the Creative Writing programme. Founder (1969) and editorial and managing director of Carcanet Press Limited, and a founder (1972) and general editor of the literary journal PN Review, he has written poetry, fiction and literary history, and is a translator and anthologist. In 1998, he published Lives of the Poets, an epic study which connects the lives and works of over three hundred English-language poets of the last seven-hundred years. The book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in the US. Its notoriety in Canada stems from the fact that Canadian poetry is given very little space in its nine-hundred plus pages, and is dismissed at one point as a ‘short street’ (repeatedly misquoted in Canadian journals recently as ‘a short street not worth going down’). Read more at Notes and Queries.

Dana Gioia’s Pity the Beautiful: A Talk with a Major Poet

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Rainer Maria Rilke

   You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must", then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.  —from Letters to a Young Poet