June 18, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1719 – Joseph Addison, English poet/writer/secretary of state, dies at 47.

1838 – Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya/Chatterjee, Bengali writer and poet, is born.

1867 – Henry Lawson, Australian poet (d. 1922), is born.

1871 – Nicolae Iorga, writer/poet/literature historian/pres of Romania, dies.

1960 – Pierre Reverdy, French author/poet (North-South), dies at 70.

Listen I'm not crazy

I laugh at the bottom of the stairs

Before the wide-open door

In the sunlight scattered

On the wall among green vines

And my arms are held out toward you

It's today I love you

—from “For the Moment” by Pierre Reverdy (1889–1960)

“For the Moment” by Pierre Reverdy (1889–1960)

World Poetry

Griffin Poetry Prize Won by Palestinian Ghassan Zaqtan

Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan has won the International Griffin Poetry Prize for Like A Straw Bird It Follows Me, receiving C$65,000 (£41,000). Described by judges as poetry which “reminds us why we live and how, in the midst of war, despair, global changes,” the poems are translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah. The annual award recognises new poetry translated into, or written in, English. Read more at the BBC.

Russian Poetry Week in London

Monday, June 17: The evening will be devoted to the work of three recent winners of the Brodsky-Spender Translation Prize: Alexandra Berlina, Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinski. Sasha Dugdale will interview Boris and Irina about translating Arseny Tarkovsky; Glyn Maxwell and Alexandra Berlina will talk about translating Brodsky. Read more at Russia beyond the Headlines.

Griffin Poetry Prize Won by Palestinian Ghassan Zaqtan

Recent Reviews

Second Acts: A Second Look at Second Books by Geri Doran and Michael S. Harper

by Lisa Russ Spaar

The Fall of 1982 found me in Harrisonburg, Virginia, recently sprung from graduate school and teaching creative writing at James Madison University. A number of my intrepid students were studying both poetry and jazz, and we began to put together some ideas for a collaborative performance. Cornelius Eady, who was in those years doing a similarly purgatorial but also way-forging teaching stint at nearby Sweet Briar College, suggested that I check out the work of Michael S. Harper, who by then had published six books of poems, including the new and selected Images of Kin (Illinois, 1977). Read more at the LA Review of Books.

Finding Country Truths in Nature and in People

by Dana Jennings

When I was a boy growing up in rural New Hampshire there were a few old men who always wore overalls and who lived out in the woods. And those men — Chief, Pop, Jake — knew where to find the best wild dandelion greens, sensed when the sucker fish were running the mill race, and squinted at the sky as if it were a baseball box score printed in the tiniest type. In the poet Tom Hennen, I’ve found their spiritual descendant. Read more at the New York Times.

How Does a Poet Attain Smashing Success? Just Ask Ann Shin

by Leah McLaren

Last week, in a private room in Toronto’s private Soho House club, poet Ann Shin did a very public thing: She smashed her family china. And when she was done, she invited members of the audience onto the stage to do some breaking of their own. The “smash-a-thon,” as she dubbed it, was staged for the launch of Shin’s new poetry collection and accompanying short-film work, The Family China (Brick Books). Read more at the Globe and Mail.

ErranCities by Quincy Troupe

by Mike McDonough

Quincy Troupe has been steadily producing bluesy verse for more than 40 years now, and ErranCities is his eighth full-length collection.  The coinage is loosely based on the French term errance, which means “roving, wandering life” with connotations of edge and risk; it also refers to the “plural wanderings of many lives.” Troupe’s roving patchwork of memory is unpretentious and tuned to joyful sound. Read more at Coldfront.

How Does a Poet Attain Smashing Success? Just Ask Ann Shin


New Nature

Women Poets Escape Family—And Convention

by Katie Peterson

Women have always written poetry that does not have the traditional narrative of family and children at the center. The poems of Jorie Graham and Brenda Hillman (both mothers) never forget a larger political world. Louise Glück (also a mother) does the same with the aesthetic apparatus of myth. They follow in the footsteps of many others, including Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Gertrude Stein. Poems about motherhood, that monumental element of all of our lives nearly forgotten by centuries of literature, aren’t conventionally written simply because motherhood has been a traditional narrative. Motherhood, in the hands of a new generation of writers such as Rachel Zucker and Arielle Greenberg, has become a subject with the complexity of any other. Read more at the Boston Review.

The Poems (We Think) We Know: Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus” 

by Alexandra Socarides

When I tell people that I am writing my first poetry column for the Los Angeles Review of Books about the poem that is on the base of the Statue of Liberty, they often look at me quizzically, as if they only kind of know what I am talking about. They may be thinking, “Did I know there was a poem on the Statue of Liberty?” or, better yet, “Yes, I know there is a poem there, but I can’t remember how it goes or who it is by.” Read more at the LA Review of Books.

Some Thoughts on Biracialism and Poetry

by Paisley Rekdal

To be a biracial and female writer might suggest one of two things: first, that my gender and race are the subject matter of my work or, second, that the forms of my writing reflect my identity. Between these two possibilities–race and gender as theme versus race and gender as enacted form—a tension exists, perhaps arising from our current distrust of both narrative and identity politics. To write from the first position—race and gender as theme—boils a poem down to the recounting of experience, most likely the narrator’s marginalization. It is an easy poetry to identify, and it is a type whose detractors (rightfully and wrongly) criticize as an attempt to engender in the reader both sympathy with and catharsis through the personal revelations of the narrator. Read more at the Boston Review.

Richard Hoffman on the State of Poetry

Good afternoon. Let me start with a poem I wrote for a fellow poet, Baron Wormser. Baron and I are about the same age and have been writing a long time, and for a number of years we were teaching together in Maine, right next to a cow pasture. Read more at Mass Poetry.

The Poems (We Think) We Know: Emma Lazarus’s “The New Colossus”

Drafts & Fragments

The Best Worst Celebrity Poetry

Remember that phase when you wrote awful, sentimental poetry? Some celebs never grew out of it. Read more at Buzzfeed.

The Power of Poetry: Stephen Burt at TEDGlobal 2013

“I read poetry all the time, I write about poetry frequently, and I take poems apart to see how they work,” says Stephen Burt as he takes the TEDGlobal stage. “I’m a word person. I understand the world best and most fully through words, rather than pictures or numbers. When I have a new experience, I’m frustrated until I can try to put that experience into words.” Read more at TED.


The Best Worst Celebrity Poetry

Poetry In the News

W. H. Auden's Juicy Missing Diary Appears! And Then Promptly Disappears, For $74,426.56

Sixty-two years after its publication, notable events in New York City caused the poem “September 1, 1939” to be immediately, and repeatedly, invoked. Its application seemed clear. But so much of Wystan Hugh Auden’s poetry—for both his generation and those to follow—is full of the kind of abstraction that is less readily apparent, of verses that slowly unfurl with each reading. Read more at The Awl.

Struggles Behind Him, a Poet of El Barrio Embraces Life

Inside a cluttered living room six stories above East 111th Street in El Barrio, the sounds of construction crews and laughing children gave way to the strains of “Nessun Dorma,” the Unknown Prince’s aria from Puccini’s “Turandot.” Jesus Melendez sat at his computer, transfixed, his folded hands touching his lips. Read more at the New York Times.

Beat Generation Poet Peter Orlovsky’s Archive Acquired by Ransom Center

The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, acquired the archive of American poet Peter Orlovsky (1933–2010), an important figure in the Beat Generation. Orlovsky was fellow poet Allen Ginsberg’s companion for more than 40 years, and his papers reflect significant aspects of their relationship. Orlovsky’s collection comprises manuscripts, journals and notebooks, correspondence, tape recordings, photographs and other personal documents, including unpublished poetry and prose works. Read more at the University of Texas News.

W. H. Auden’s Juicy Missing Diary Appears! And Then Promptly Disappears, For $74,426.56

New Books

Hollywood & God by Robert Polito

[Paperback] University of Chicago Press, 88 pp., $15.00

Hollywood & God is a virtuosic performance, filled with crossings back and forth from cinematic chiaroscuro to a kind of unsettling desperation and disturbing—even lurid—hallucination. From the Baltimore Catechism to the great noir films of the last century to today’s Elvis impersonators and Paris Hilton (an impersonator of a different sort), Robert Polito tracks the snares, abrasions, and hijinks of personal identities in our society of the spectacle, a place where who we say we are, and who (we think) we think we are fade in and out of consciousness, like flickers of light dancing tantalizingly on the silver screen. Mixing lyric and essay, collage and narrative, memoir and invention, Hollywood & God is an audacious book, as contemporary as it is historical, as sly and witty as it is devastatingly serious.

Collected Haiku of Buson translated by W.S. Merwin and Takako Lento

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 360 pp., $20.00

This is the first complete bilingual (Japanese/English) translation of the Buson Kushu, a comprehensive collection of the haiku of Yosa Buson (1716–83). Buson's haiku brim with paradox: they are bawdy yet delicate, sparse yet powerful. W.S. Merwin and Takako Lento worked for a decade to co-translate these poems into English-language versions as luminous as the original Japanese. An essential volume of world literature.

The Late Parade: Poems by Adam Fitzgerald 

[Hardcover] Liveright, 128 pp., $23.95

Aswirl with waking dreams and phantom memories, The Late Parade is a triumph of poetic imagination. To write about one thing, you must first write about another. In Adam Fitzgerald's debut collection, readers discover forty-eight poems that yoke together tones playful and elegiac, nostalgic and absurd. Fitzgerald's shape-shifting inspirations “beckon us to join an urban promenade” (McLane) with a multiplicity of chimerical stops: from the unreal cities of Dubai to the former Soviet Union, from Nigerian spammers and the Virgin Mary to Dr. Johnson and Cat Power.

Hollywood & God by Robert Polito


Postscript: Peter Kane Dufault (1923-2013)*

by Brad Leithauser

A marvellous poet whom you’ve probably never heard of died some weeks ago. His name was Peter Kane Dufault, and at the time of his death he was a couple of days short of ninety. On the face of it, his lack of renown is surprising, for he had some prominent supporters, including Marianne Moore and Richard Wilbur and Ted Hughes and Amy Clampitt. He was also embraced by Howard Moss, the poetry editor of The New Yorker from 1948 until 1987. Dufault published forty-four poems in the magazine, nearly all of them during Moss’s tenure. Read more at the New Yorker.

Anna Akhmatova: A Charismatic Poet for the Ages

by Yolanda Delgado

When her son Lev was arrested in 1938, Anna Akhmatova burned all her notebooks of poems. From then on, she memorized everything she wrote, to recite afterwards only in private readings with trusted friends. Lev’s father, Akhmatova’s first husband Nikolai Gumilev, had been killed for his supposed role in an anti-Bolshevik conspiracy. But Akhmatova knew her son was probably also targeted because of the uncompromising nature of her own verse. Read more at Russia and India Report.

Nearing 85, Donald Hall’s Habits and Life Have Changed

by Eugenia Williamson 

Former US poet laureate Donald Hall has published scores of poems, a dozen children’s books, two dozen works of prose, and a few plays. He remains a major American poet, even if he has turned his attention away from the form: In 2008, after six decades of poems, he began work on what he considers his final collection, published in 2011 as The Back Chamber. Since then, he has focused on writing essays. He is at work on a collection to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hall lives and writes at Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire, a place he has made familiar through numerous books. Read more at the Boston Globe.

Ian Williams: Poet Seeking Reader

by Mark Medley

There was a period when Ian Williams, at the time a professor of English Studies at Fitchburg State University, in Massachusetts, would spend his lunch hour, or the minutes between classes, trolling the personal ads on Craigslist. He’d scour the serendipitous postings on Missed Connections and the sometimes X-rated appeals on Casual Encounters, where those seeking a clandestine hook-up go in search of willing partners. He was not looking for a relationship, but conducting research for a book of poetry. Read more at the National Post.

Postscript: Peter Kane Dufault (1923-2013)*

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: James Merrill

"Most of Bishop's poems are in the first person, singular or plural. Sometimes she speaks as the Riverman, or Robinson Crusoe, or more often 'simply' as herself. The voice can be idiosyncratic ('Heavens, I recognize the place, I know it!'). Yet because she is to no least degree concerned with making herself any more remarkable than, as the author of these poems, she already is, hers is a purified, transparent 'I,' which readers may take as their virtual own. Whether this voice says hard and disabused things or humorous and gentle ones, its emotional pitch remains so true, and its intelligence so unaffected, that we hear in it the 'touch of nature' which makes the whole world kin. Is this an obsolete way to judge poetry? I cannot envy anyone who thinks so."

Lessons from the Past: James Merrill