June 18, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1552 – Gabriello Chiabrera, Italian poet (d. 1637), i born.
1588 – Robert Crowley, English printer and poet, is born.
1749 – Ambrose Philips, English poet (b. 1674), dies.
1853 – Branko Radicevic, Serbian poet (1st Serbian Uprising), dies.
1863 – George Essex Evans, Australian poet (d. 1909), is born.
1932 – Geoffrey Hill, English poet, is born.


Admittedly at times this moral landscape 
to my exasperated ear emits
archaic burrings like a small, high-fenced 
electricity sub-station of uncertain age 
in a field corner where the flies
gather and old horses shake their sides.

—from "The Triumph of Love" by Geoffrey Hill

a field corner where the flies / gather and old horses shake their sides – Geoffrey Hill

World Poetry

Carson, Hillman Win Griffin Poetry Prizes

Poets Anne Carson and Brenda Hillman have won the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prizes, given annually since 2000 for books of poetry published in, or translated into, English in the previous year and submitted from anywhere in the world. They each received $65,000 Canadian (approximately $60,000). More.

The Freedom of Futurist Poetry

The Guggenheim Museum was filled with noise on Monday evening during “PAAAAAAroooooooooooole in Libertà Futuriste (Futurist Wwwwwwoooooords-in-Freedom),” an eccentric program that breathed new life into an extensive survey of Futurist art that’s been on view since February. The museum invited musicologist Luciano Chessa, a scholar of Futurist sound, poetry, and music, to perform works by F.T. Marinetti, Carlo Carra, and Fortunato Depero, among others, including several pieces that had not been performed since the early 20th century. The performance was energetic and cacophonous, a welcome burst of noise to balance out the relative silence of the works on view in the rotunda. More.

Russian Poet Yevtushenko Receives UNESCO Medal

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, a representative of the post-Stalin generation of Soviet poets who was particularly popular in the 1960s, has received the UNESCO medal and diploma "for outstanding contribution to developing culture and strengthening inter-cultural dialogue and relations among nations. The award ceremony took place at the opening of Days of Russian Language at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris on Friday. "Thank you very much for this medal," Yevtushenko said in French. More.

Anne Carson is one of the recipients of the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prizes.

Recent Reviews

Accepting the Disaster by Joshua Mehigan

by Patrick Kurp
The first collections of most young poets, even the better ones, carry with them a hint of bravado. Flush with recognition, vindicated by the encouraging attentions of at least one editor and three blurbists, the poet strikes a triumphant pose and high-fives the Muse: “We did it, baby.” When Joshua Mehigan published his impressive first collection, The Optimist, in 2004, one’s pleasure was tempered by the wish that Mehigan had shown off a little more, strutted his content as much as he had his technical mastery. The poems were almost too careful and too prematurely mature—granted, qualities rare and gratifying in poets of any age. In the first lines of that collection’s first poem, “Promenade,” Mehigan matter-of-factly announced his project: “This is the brief departure from the norm / that celebrates the norm.” No pyrotechnics, no obligatory transgressive gestures, no mimicking of madness. More.

American Formality

by Susan Scutti
The sonnet is a formal poem composed of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, which is just long enough for a thought to develop, gracefully pirouette, and shape-shift into something else entirely. In fact, this so-called turn is a key feature of the sonnet and though in most instances it does not lead to utterly surprising revelations, it is always crucial. Within the context of so short a poem, even a slight tonal shift provides dimension. For this reason the most effective turns are often the most subtle. In many ways, the turn of a sonnet is representative of a world view. In most things we do, isn’t there that moment when our purpose suddenly deepens? It is the instant when passion, once a wasteful bonfire, transforms into a less obvious but more prudent flame. All of You on the Good Earth is a new collection of sonnets from Ernest Hilbert, who works as an antiquarian book dealer in Philadelphia. More.

Cavafy in English Accents

by Frederic Raphael
"Everything is Greece to the wise man”, said Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana, at the beginning of the third century AD. The assertion was at once true and defiant: despite the dominance of Rome, Greek was the lingua franca of anyone of intellectual pretensions in the known world. The defiance was both manifest and implicit in Pausanias’s second-century catalogue raisonné of the classical monuments of mainland Hellas: his Description of Greece makes no mention of the temple which the Romans had built adjacent to the Parthenon. Pausanias ignores what all contemporary Greeks found it painful to acknowledge: their long subjection to Rome. More.

June 2014 Exemplars: Poetry Reviews 

by Grace Cavalieri
A monthly feature that looks at books of and about poetry. Congregation: Poems by Natasha Trethewey;This Way Out, by Terrence Winch; Eye to Eye  by Maria Terrone; Twinzilla by Barbara G. S. Hagerty; The Tulip-Flame by Chloe Honum.; Foreword by Tracy K. Smith In Beauty Bright by Gerald Stern; Letter Composed During A Lull in the Fighting by Kevin Powers.  More.

“Everything is Greece to the wise man”, said Philostratus at the beginning of the third century AD.


Poetry: Who Needs It?

by William Logan
We live in the age of grace and the age of futility, the age of speed and the age of dullness. The way we live now is not poetic. We live prose, we breathe prose, and we drink, alas, prose. There is prose that does us no great harm, and that may even, in small doses, prove medicinal, the way snake oil cured everything by curing nothing. But to live continually in the natter of ill-written and ill-spoken prose is to become deaf to what language can do. More.

The Case of Kevin Higgins, or, The Present State of Irish Poetic Satire

The topic of Irish poetic satire prompts me to a number of opening generalisations. Irish satire, I will propose, divides into optimistic and pessimistic strains. The former views the baiting of public nuisances as a contribution to social hygiene: by unmasking the reactionary face of the Catholic hierarchy, runs the logic of a typical Paul Durcan poem, the poet gently encourages the bishops to leave the stage, and cease inserting their croziers where they are not wanted in debates about contraception, divorce and homosexuality. Pessimistic satire takes a dimmer view of our ability to extricate ourselves from the toils of folly, and fears that the best we can hope for is to recognise our idiocy but also the delusory nature of the progress to which we look for relief. This would be broadly the Tory anarchism that Declan Kiberd has diagnosed in the Irish tradition, and of which Swift, greatest of all satirists, remains the lacerating paragon. More.

Docupoetry and Archive Desire

by Joseph Harrington
In 2000, the poet Jena Osman created a lengthy list of “docupoetry” that included poems such as Allen Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra,” Adrienne Rich’s “An Atlas of the Difficult World,” and William Carlos William’s Paterson, as well as many works less familiar to American readers.[2] Nowadays, such a list could be twice as long — we are in the midst of something of a flourishing of documentary literary forms. Usually “docupoetry” designates poetry that (1) contains quotations from or reproductions of documents or statements not produced by the poet and (2) relates historical narratives, whether macro or micro, human or natural. Clearly, such writing is part of a long tradition; without even going back to Virgil or Lucretius, one can see that the poems of Pope and Dryden had everything to do with documenting (with a very definite point of view). More.

Who Wants to Be a Minor Poet?

by Helena Nelson 
How have I missed Louis MacNeice on minor poets until now? Thank you Michael Longley for including his ‘Elegy for Minor Poets’ in your Selected. There’s a lot to be said for selections, especially where a poet has been so prolific you can’t see the woods for the poems. Also I relate – many of us do – to the idea of the Minor poet. It seems to me to be a worthy ambition to aspire to be a good Minor poet. (Not a bad Minor poet, please. Not a totally Forgotten poet, please.) More.

The way we live now is not poetic. We live prose, we breathe prose, and we drink, alas, prose. So, the question becomes, who needs poetry?

Drafts & Fragments

Dylan Thomas Poem to Become Syncronized Mobile Headphone Choir

Celebrating the centenary of the poet's birth, Thomas' first published poem "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," will become a live participatory singing event for a synchronized headphone choir on June 21, conceived by Welsh composer Peter Wyer. More.

Dylan Thomas’ first published poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” will become a live participatory singing event

Poetry In the News

Word for Word: Poetry Films the New Way to Go

Poetry films are bursts of sweetness and stimulation. They vary hugely. Some are as simple as a film of the text of a poem, but just as a music video adds a new dimension to a song, the film can reimagine the poem – and sometimes takes it somewhere else entirely. One example is The Polish Language, a collaboration between Alice Lyons, the Roscommon-based poet and artist, and the artist and film-maker Orla McHardy, from 2009. Lyons’s poem pays homage to the revitalisation of poetry in Polish in the second half of the 20th century. More.

Charles Wright Named America’s Poet Laureate

The Library of Congress is to announce on Thursday that the next poet laureate will be Charles Wright, the author of nearly two dozen collections of verse that fuse the legacy of European modernism with mystical evocations of the landscape of the American South. Mr. Wright, 78, a retired professor at the University of Virginia, has already won just about every other honor in the poetry world, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. More.

Scott Brown Attacked in Poem in Concord Monitor

Personal attacks are the pigeons of politics: dirty and omnipresent. But poetic personal attacks are a rarer bird. This morning’s Concord Monitor ran a piece of “Political Poetry” from former US poet laureate Donald Hall, a resident of Wilmot, N.H., attacking US Senate candidate Scott Brown. The three-line poem paints Brown as a foolish carpetbagger, distilling the Democratic attack against him. More.

James Franco Bukowski Biopic Not a Copyright Infringement on Poet’s “Ham on Rye” Bio

James Franco’s forthcoming film about the formative years of Skid Row poet Charles Bukowski bears no resemblance to a semi- autobiographical novel at the center of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by a British screenwriter, the actor-director contends in court papers obtained today. Cyril Humphris filed the complaint in federal court in April, saying he owns the rights to Bukowski’s “Ham on Rye,” which he alleges Franco adapted for his film. More.

Poetry films are bursts of sweetness and stimulation. They vary hugely.

New Books

Walking in on People by Melissa Balmain

[Paperback] Able Muse Press, 102 pp., $18.95
In Melissa Balmain's Walking in on People, the serious is lightened with a generous serving of wit and humor, and the lighthearted is enriched with abundant wisdom. She shows us how poetry can be fun yet grounded in everyday challenges and triumphs, with subjects ranging from the current and hip (Facebook posts, online dating, layoffs, retail therapy, cell-phone apps, trans fat), to the traditional and time-tested (marriage, child-rearing, love, death). Through it all, her craft is masterful, with a formal dexterity deployed with precision in a showcase of forms such as the villanelle, ballad, triolet, nonce, and the sonnet. 

The Sea Sleeps: New and Selected Poems by Greg Miller  

[Paperback] Paraclete Poetry, 208 pp., $22.95
This collection draws heavily from the core devotional strain in Miller’s poetry, offering what novelist Fenton Johnson described in his review of Iron Wheel as “the vision and experience of that place where dark merges seamlessly into light; the house and home of grace—unasked for and perhaps undeserved, but transformative all the same.” Framed by meditations on the beginnings and possible post-human ends of culture, the new poems reflect on the callings and limits of art in responding to desire, history, mortality, and injustice. Set in the American South, Wales, France, the Czech Republic, and Sudan, the  poems address and invoke the divine.

Newcomer by Nathaniel Farrell

[Paperback] Ugly Duckling Presse, 72 pp., $14.00
Part historical fiction and part nature poem, Newcomer takes place in a wartime landscape estranged by nostalgia and American story-telling. A soldier passes through a landscape that is mutable, both familiar and foreign, while memories of home come in waves, receding and reappearing in images of crisp grass and in the sounds of wind. Military epic mixes with pastoral romance, and neither are resolved. Instead, Newcomer's investigation of entropic minutia suggests a very contemporary (perhaps post-traumatic) confusion of temporality, and by this turns our thoughts toward a phenomenology of historical imagination.

Beachy Head by Emily Toder

[Paperback] Coconut Books, 144 pp., $16.50
"Emily Toder's Beachy Head brims with electrical currents flying backwards and forwards, with the force of poems that have been well fought out and felt. I hear the currents of Alice Notley, of Bernadette Mayer, of Eileen Myles, and Sylvia Plath, through the book, with its sharp wit and grace, with its 'separate set of physics' and the 'venerable uphill' of music that this great poet has at her disposal. I am so happy that this book is here, because I want to share it with all of my friends, so that we may spread the currents this poet has made for us into the air, and everywhere."—Dorothea Lasky

In Melissa Balmain’s Walking in on People, the serious is lightened with a generous serving of wit and humor.


Painful Path To Fatherhood Inspires Poet's New Collection

by NPR Staff
Douglas Kearney's new book of poetry, Patter, is not something you pick up casually. It demands a lot from its audience — one reviewer wrote that the book's readers must be "agile, adaptive, vigilant and tough." But the payoff is worth it. Kearney takes his readers into an extremely private struggle, shared with his wife: their attempt to conceive a child. The poems trace a journey through infertility, miscarriage, in vitro fertilization and, finally, fatherhood. More.

I Love Roses When They're Past Their Best: Harry Burke Interviewed 

by Sam Riviere 
Sam Riviere speaks to poet, curator and editor of recently published poetry anthology 'I Love Roses When They're Past Their Best', Harry Burke, about defying borders and boundaries, technological determinism and whether or not poetry should be free. More.

Spotlight: David Lehman

by John Deming
I interviewed David Lehman for about three hours in his office on a Friday night in October, 2009, two years after I finished studying with him and others at The New School. It was around that time that he published two new books–Yeshiva Boys, a collection of new poems, and A Fine Romance, a book of prose about the great Jewish songwriters in America. I was compelled by both books, and I also found it interesting that his book of poems had some thematic overlap with his book of prose–a pattern we’ve seen in him before, when he published The Last Avant Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets around the same time that he published The Daily Mirror, a book of daily poems that took on some of the improvisational whim that surfaces in some prominent works by New York School poets, especially Frank O’Hara (“just go on your nerve”).  Now, four and half years later, we have succeeded at transcribing and editing the conversation. More.

I interviewed David Lehman in his office in October, 2009, now, years later, we’ve succeeded at transcribing the conversation.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

How To Write Confessional Poetry

Step 1: Understand The Meaning of Confessional Works
You may be asking: what is confessional poetry? This genre of poetry originated in the mid-1900s, and it is much like it sounds: a confession and self-revelation of the author in a poetic form. More.

This came across my screen sometime this week, and it caught my eye. I'm of two minds about confessional poetry. I am grateful for the work of Plath, Snodgrass, Lowell, and Sexton, and others. They produced some of the most searing poetry of their time. And for better and worse, they opened up a frontier that had never before been so fully explored, changing irrevocably the poetic landscape. On the other hand, I am reminded of Edmund Wilson's response on reading D. H. Lawrence's book of poems (a precursor to the poetry of thirty years later),  Look, We Have Come Through. He said, "I'm glad they came through, but don't make me look." But none of this addresses the issue of How to Write Confessional Poetry. My question there is simply, Why would you want to, if you didn't have to?

How to write confessional poetry, a guide.