June 24, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1542 – St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic, saint, priest and poet (d. 1591), is born.
1590 – Samuel Ampzing, poet (Taelbericht der Neth Spellinge), is born.
1907 – Arseny Tarkovsky, Russian poet (d. 1989), is born.
1916 – John Ciardi, poet/critic (translated Dante), is born.


I don't believe in omens or fear 
Forebodings. I flee from neither slander 
Nor from poison. Death does not exist. 
Everyone's immortal. Everything is too. 
No point in fearing death at seventeen, 
Or seventy. There's only here and now, and light; 
Neither death, nor darkness, exists. 
We're all already on the seashore; 
I'm one of those who'll be hauling in the nets 
When a shoal of immortality swims by. 

—from “Life, Life” by Arseny Tarkovsky (1907–1989)

I’m one of those who’ll be hauling in the nets / When a shoal of immortality swims by. — Arseny Tarkovsky

World Poetry

Neruda Poems Found

Twenty previously unknown poems by Pablo Neruda have been discovered by the Pablo Neruda Foundation in Santiago, Chile. Seix Barral, Neruda’s Barcelona-based publisher, announced the news on Wednesday. Elena Ramirez, the company’s editorial director, called it “”the biggest find in Spanish literature in recent years,” and emphasized “the extremely high quality” of several of the poems. Researchers at the foundation came across the poems while cataloging Neruda’s manuscripts, which are stored in boxes at the foundation’s library. More.

Kazakhstan – Prison Authorities Denying Medical Treatment to Jailed Poet

PEN International is deeply concerned at reports that the Kazakh prison authorities are denying medical treatment to the imprisoned poet, Aron Atabek. The 61-year-old poet is reportedly suffering intense spine and leg pain due to injuries sustained during an assault by a police officer in 2006. According to Atabek’s son, the poet’s left leg is now so swollen at the knee that he cannot bend it and he is finding it very difficult to walk. His pleas to be examined by a doctor, he says, have been refused. More.

Twenty previously unknown poems by Pablo Neruda have been discovered by the Pablo Neruda Foundation.

Recent Reviews

Without Time

by Samuel Amadon
Poetic speech creates moments of recognition. We see something we know in the poem. We get it. And it is this feeling, rather than the specific meaning of a phrase or a metaphor, that we respond to as readers: a distinction that is never more apparent than in the work of the late Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, who builds his poems out of a series of such moments of recognition. More.

Early Frost

‘The Letters of Robert Frost: Volume 1, 1886-1920’
by William Logan
In the early fall of 1912, a blandly handsome, tousle-headed American schoolteacher arrived in London. Nearing 40, coming without introduction or much of a plan — except, as he later confessed, “to write and be poor” — he was making a last attempt to write himself into poetry. It would have taken mad willfulness to drag his wife and four children out of their ­settled New Hampshire life in a quixotic assault on the London literary scene. Still, he was soon spending a candlelit evening with Yeats in the poet’s curtained rooms, having come to the attention of that “stormy petrel” Ezra Pound, who lauded him in reviews back home. More.

Elder by David Constantine – A New Collection as the Poet Turns 70

by Sean O'Brien
The publication of David Constantine's Elder marks the poet and translator's 70th birthday with a work of impressive range and scale. It manifests his lifelong devotion to the classics and to German, and enables us to see and hear more fully how they have contributed to his own inimitably passionate lyricism. In case anyone should underestimate the seriousness with which he regards the art of poetry, its powers and its responsibilities, Constantine has also published Poetry (OUP £12.99), a short guide to the subject – more than that, a work of urgent advocacy. More.

Poetic speech creates moments of recognition. We see something we know in the poem. We get it.


The New Wave of Sad Pizzazz: Three British Poets

by Dai George
Twentieth-century British poetry had many virtues, but it was not overburdened with a sense of style. Putting the case like that, I risk a needless controversy, since “style”—as understood by literary critics—would seem to be precisely what underlies the achievements of, say, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, R. S. Thomas, and even plain old Philip Larkin, to name just five grandees of mid-century British verse. For what follows, I won’t be concerned so much with this venerable, literary meaning of “style,” defined in the OED as “the manner of expression characteristic of a particular writer . . . a writer’s mode of expression considered in regard to clearness, effectiveness, beauty, and the like” (though, since I am discussing writers, I probably won’t be able to avoid it altogether). Rather, I want to talk about style as it is understood nowadays by normal people. I want to talk about it in terms of swagger, savoir faire, and clothes. I want to use the word like the person who says, “Damn, that guy’s got style.” More.

Geoffrey Hill and the Poetry of Ideas

by Daniel Johnson
It was drizzling and already dusk when I arrived at the Examination Schools in Oxford one afternoon in March to hear Sir Geoffrey Hill lecture on poetry. Entering that forbidding Victorian pile, mounting the long staircase and arriving in the South School triggered a buried, decades-old recollection of the agonies of Finals. More than 60 years ago, my mother had also sat Finals here, alongside Geoffrey Hill; they were both reading English and might have attended the same lectures by (among others) C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. A little later, in London, they might have been to the same readings by such luminaries of the day as T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas. But they never met. My daughter, now also reading English and about to sit Finals in her turn, was waiting for me, having saved me a seat.  More.

How Rhythm Carries A Poem, From Head To Heart

by Lynn Neary  
Poetry, perhaps more than any other form of writing, delves deep into emotions. And rhythm, from the haunting repetitions of "Annabel Lee" to the taunting questions of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," plays a big part in evoking those feelings. Edward Hirsch, author of A Poet's Glossary, says poetry has its roots in song — in the beginning, a poet was a troubadour. "There are still many tribal cultures where poetry and song, there is just one word for them," Hirsch explains. "There are other cultures with literacy where poetry and song are distinguished. But poetry always remembers that it has its origins in music." Hirsch says the merger of poetry and music never disappeared entirely, and in recent years has made a big comeback with performance poetry and rap. More.

Twentieth-century British poetry had many virtues, but it was not overburdened with a sense of style.

Drafts & Fragments

Analytics: Poem by Committee

People sent out more than 1,000 tweets using the hashtag #NYTpoem during our poetry-writing session with Patricia Lockwood on May 30. Here’s how the tweets broke down, with examples. More.

James Franco Plays A Bespectacled Poet In Forever Love! See The Trailer HERE!

He's a poet and we didn't even know it! James Franco plays a super-talented (and super hot) poet in an Forever Love, an upcoming biopic about Pulitzer prize-winning poet C. K. Williams. It also stars marvelous soon-to-be mommy Mila Kunis, funnyman Zach Braff, and the super lovely Jessica Chastain!! More.

Too Much for American Poetry Circles ?? 

Over at Montevidayo James Pate wrote the following about Persona Peep Show: Persona Peep Show is an incredibly visceral work, and, as such, I can imagine it making some parts of the American poetry scene uncomfortable. It’s easy to imagine the standard criticisms: it’s too grotesque, too image-based, it’s too pleasurable (in a funhouse sort of way), it doesn’t properly “critique” or distance itself from XYZ. More.

People sent out more than 1,000 tweets using the hashtag #NYTpoem during a poetry-writing session with Patricia Lockwood.

Poetry In the News

Verse-t Aid: Meet the World’s First ‘Emergency Poet’

She is the angel of mercy who believes you have to get VERSE before you can get better. Because Deborah Alma is the Emergency Poet. She rolls up in her ambulance to prescribe poems to those in need, offering the ‘world’s first mobile poetic first aid service’. “I don’t think anyone else does this, I am unique,” says Deborah, 50, who started dispensing verse after finding an old ambulance on eBay. More.

Louis Daniel ‘L.D.’ Brodsky: He Would Not Let A Day Go By Without Writing A Poem

Louis Daniel Brodsky, a stunningly prolific writer who composed nearly 12,000 poems, including more than 350 on the Holocaust, has died. When Mr. Brodsky decided to become serious about his poetry, he committed himself to writing a poem every day of his life. “He worked at being a poet,” said Eugene Redmond, professor emeritus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and poet laureate of East St. Louis. “Lou went to work like a physician, like a person who worked in a coal mine, like a janitor, like a math teacher. It was amazing.” Mr. Brodsky offered no apologies for what appeared to some to be an obsession. More.

The Poetry Project Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems

This past Wednesday, the Poetry Project, a New York City-based organization dedicated to promoting, fostering, and inspiring the reading and writing of contemporary poetry, hosted a reading—in its entirety—of Frank O’Hara’s iconic, celebrated, and now fifty-year-old Lunch Poems. With the crowd filling the main sanctuary (the headquarters of the Poetry Project are appropriately located in a church), performers such as Edmund Berrigan and The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl each got up and read a single poem to the room’s rapt attention. More.

New Books

The Moon Before Morning by W. S. Merwin

[Hardcover] Copper Canyon Press, 120 pp., $24.00
An elaboration and response to his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Shadow of Sirius, W.S. Merwin examines everything from minute flowers to oceanic destruction, and weaves our complex relationship with the natural world with his own youth, memory, and intense engagement with the passing of days. With considered reverence, subtle might, and generous poetic imagination, Merwin presents a masterful and gorgeous collection.

Retrograde by Puma Perl

[Paperback] great weather for MEDIA, 134 pp., $16.00
 With "Retrograde", Puma Perl goes back in time in order to move forward­­-and what a trip this proves to be. This is a journey of living and survival among the ghosts and dreams of a past captured with full honesty and sharp humor (sometimes self-deprecating, other times pinning the tail on absurdity). Funny, smart, dirty yet tender, Puma Perl brings the descriptive eye of Lou Reed to her apocalyptic rock and roll vision of the world. 

Sooner or Later Frank by Jeremy Reed

[Paperback] Enitharmon Press, 144 pp., $26.00
Sooner or Later Frank finds Jeremy Reed optimizing his London quarter of Soho and the West End, its outlaws, opportune strangers, and rogue mavericks condensed into poems colored by an imagery that pushes pioneering edges towards final frontiers. Right on the big city moment, and with an eye for arresting acute visual detail, Reed makes the capital into personal affairs. His characteristic love of glamour, rock music, seasonal step-changes, and a Ballardian preoccupation with the visionary, render this new Poetry Book Society Recommendation, in John Ashbery's words on Reed's recent work, ""a dazzling tour de force.""

Charming Gardeners by David Biespiel

[Paperback] University of Washington Press. 144 pp., $18.95
The formally nuanced and wise epistolary poems in David Biespiel's new collection are grounded in friendship, camaraderie, and the vulnerability and boldness that defines America. Roving from the old Confederacy of Biespiel's native South to Portland, Oregon, Charming Gardeners explores the wildness of the Northwest, the avenues of Washington, D.C., the coal fields of West Virginia, and an endless stretch of airplanes and hotel rooms from New York to Texas to California. These poems explore the "insistent murmurs" of memory and the emotional connections between individuals and history, as well as the bonds of brotherhood, the ghosts of America's wars, and the vibrancy of love, sex, and intimacy. 

Melange Block by Denise Low

[Paperback] Red Mountain Press, 68 pp., $17.95
Denise Low's Melange Block maps a vivid landscape of Native American and settler lives. High Plains country, volcanic fields, wine country, and ghost towns are among the sites where Low casts spells of her beautifully felt language. Natural processes, like crystallization and aggregation, appear as topics and then reflect in the language itself, which becomes its own geography. Through her lens, the American continent patterns a new poetics in this innovative work. Very conscious of her identities as a person of Native and European heritages, she navigates through past and future until they join in one continuous history. Rain Taxi's reviewer said of her work, it is "surgical with the familiar and charming with the ancient." Midwest Review of Books notes her "talent for tilling the surface and digging deep beneath topsoil to unearth legacies."

A response to his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Shadow of Sirius, W.S. Merwin examines everything from flowers to destruction.


Interview // Cathy Park Hong

by Diana Khoi Nguyen
Cathy Park Hong‘s first book, Translating Mo’um was published in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press. Her second collection, Dance Dance Revolution, was chosen for the Barnard Women Poets Prize and was published in 2007 by W.W. Norton. Her third book of poems, Engine Empire, was published in Spring 2012 by W.W. Norton. Hong is also the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. More.

Poetry Is Not Magic; It Won’t Solve Nigeria’s Problems —JP Clark

by Akintayo Abodunrin
The eminent poet, dramatist and essayist spoke on issues ranging from his writing to the efficacy of poetry and owning the English language as well as the mother tongue during an interaction with writers. There is never a dull moment with poet and dramatist, Professor John Pepper Clark. He is blunt, supremely confident (some mistake this for arrogance) and ever ready for a debate. He is like his friend, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka rightly noted some years ago ‘fiery pepper’ because he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. More.

A Conversation with Danniel Schoonbeek

Danniel Schoonebeek’s first full-length book is American Barricade, just out this month from YesYes Books. A chapbook, Family Album, is available from Poor Claudia. Schoonebeek also writes a poetry column for The American Reader, curates your favorite reading series in Brooklyn HATCHET JOB, and edits the PEN Poetry Series. Early this year, Danniel and I split a Google Doc (which lacks the immediacy of splitting a beer, but does give space for responding at length) to chat about his new book, our old country, and what poetry might have to do with anything at all. More.

An Interview with Charles Simic 

by SJ Fowler
What more can be asked of a poet than that they maintain their own sense of integrity towards what they deem poetic? It follows then if the poet who does maintain a writing life of such commitment is a thinker of originality and insight, and that they maintain this commitment across a lifetime, then their work will have a life far beyond them. All the more so if they do so with an affability that belies their skill, and a determination that proves them to be enduring and oblivious to all that might come before the actual poetry itself. For a lifetime of writing, Charles Simic has been one of world’s most engaging and singular poets. More.

Cathy Park Hong‘s first book, Translating Mo’um was published in 2002 by Hanging Loose Press.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes


Sometimes pulling together the weekly review feels routine. I go to my sources, feeds, alerts, and compile them over the course of the week. I project the day when the issue will go live and research which poets died or were born on that day in history. Sometimes, though, I find stories or poets that I was unaware of, as if a blind spot were suddenly made visible. So it is with the featured poet for June 24th, Arseny Tarkovsky. Here is his biography from Russia-InfoCentre:

Being younger than Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva, his close friends, he imbibed the poetic traditions of that generation and interpreted them through the prism of his personality in his creativity. In his lifetime Arseny Tarkovsky was mainly known as a splendid translator of Abu'l-Ala-Al-Ma'arri, Nezami, Magtymguly, Kemine, Sayat-Nova, Vazha-Pshavela, Adam Mickiewicz, Mollanepes, Grigol Orbeliani and many other poets. Arseny Aleksandrovich Tarkovsky was born on June 25, 1907 in Elisavetgrad into the family of a Narodnik (a revolutionary-minded person). As Tarkovsky put it himself, he started writing poetry “from the potty”. Poetry was a natural form of communication in the Tarkovsky's family. They used to write each other rhymed letters and notes and versify the family doings. Arseny Aleksandrovich kept that habit till the end of his life. After finishing school he moved to Moscow. There the up-and-coming poet attended Higher State Literary Courses attached to the All-Russian Union of Poets. Upon the recommendation of Georgy Shengeli, his first poetic guru, Tarkovsky was employed in the newspaper Gudok. At the same time Arseny got acquainted with Osip Mandelstam and Marina Tsvetaeva, the latter just back from emigration. The year 1932 saw the first publications of Arseny Tarkovsky’s translations. In 1940 he became a member of the Writers’ Union. World War Two broke into the poet’s life making him volunteer to the front, first as a war correspondent in the army newspaper Battle Alarm, then as a soldier in the battles near Moscow, and later in the Western, Bryansk, the 2nd Byelorussian and 1st Baltic fronts. After being badly wounded and having one leg amputated Tarkovsky had to be discharged. By that time he was already a captain. After the war Arseny Tarkovsky prepared his collected works “Verses of different years” for publication. However, the poems were not released due to the notorious decree of the Central Committee of the Communist Party “About journals “Zvezda” and “Leningrad” with annihilating criticism of the most remarkable contemporary poets. For a long time Tarkovsky as a poet remained unknown to general public, though his poetic translations were quite popular. His splendid translations of Oriental poets are still published nowadays. Only in 1962 he managed to release his own collected verses Before Snow. The annotation to the book reads: “Arseny Tarkovsky, a well-known translator, appears as an original poet in the book Before Snow. The book bringing together verses written within several decades sums up big profound work unfolding a complicated realm… of thoughts, feelings and reminiscences of a contemporary.” These few lines implied a whole life of a person who rejected to adjust his gift to the demands of the epoch. Anna Akhmatova estimated the collected verses as “a precious gift to the contemporary reader”. The first book of poetry was followed by others: Earthly to Earth(1966), Messenger (1969), Verses (1974), Winter Day (1980), Selected works (1982), Verses of different years (1983), and From Youth to Senility (1987). The poet died on May 27, 1989 and was laid to rest in Peredelkino (Moscow region), side by side with the gravestone of Boris Pasternak.

And here is another poem from a recent issue of the New York Review of Books: "On the Bank."

I'm glad I found him, although, of course, he was never lost.

Sometimes pulling together the weekly review feels routine. Sometimes, though, I find stories or poets that I was unaware of.