June 25, 2015

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1898 — Kay (Katherine Linn) Sage, Albany New York, American painter and poet, is born.
1926 — Ingeborg Bachmann, Austria author/poet, is born.
1962 — Ephraim Lisitsky, Hebrew poet, dies.
1971 — Charles Vildrac, Paris France, poet/playwright, dies at 88.
1986 — Gery Florizoone, Flemish poet, dies at 63.

In The Storm Of Roses

Wherever we turn in the storm of roses,
the night is lit up by thorns, and the thunder
of leaves, once so quiet within the bushes,
rumbling at our heels. 

—Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973)

“Wherever we turn in the storm of roses, the night is lit up by thorns.” —Ingeborg Bachmann

World Poetry

Arab Israeli Poet Breaks Law, Enters 'Enemy' Lebanon

The Arab poet Marwan Makhoul, a 36-year-old citizen of Israel and resident of the Galil, is currently visiting in Lebanon according to the Lebanese paper An-Nahar – and in doing so is breaking the law meant to prevent inroads for Iran's Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah. "Makhoul succeeded in breaking the blockade of the enemy and arriving in Lebanon," wrote the paper, referring to Israel as the "enemy."

Simon Armitage Wins Oxford Professor of Poetry Election

The British poet Simon Armitage has seen off an international field to be chosen as Oxford’s latest professor of poetry. Speaking to the Guardian after the announcement, Armitage said he was “delighted and very excited and suitably daunted as well”. “It’s been such a long process,” he said. “In the time it’s taken we’ve had a general election, Sepp Blatter has come and gone and come again, and we’ve nearly got a new leader of the Labour party.”

Philip Larkin to Get Poets' Corner Memorial

Philip Larkin is to be honoured with a memorial in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.
A floor stone dedicated to Larkin – who died in 1985 – will join the names of the country's best-loved poets including WH Auden, TS Eliot and William Wordsworth. It will be unveiled on 2 December 2016, the 31st anniversary of Larkin's death. The last poet to be honoured was Ted Hughes in 2011. With poems like The Whitsun Weddings and This Be The Verse – which contains his famous musings on "your mum and dad" – Larkin is widely regarded as one of Britain's finest 20th Century poets.


British poet Simon Armitage has been chosen as Oxford’s latest professor of poetry.

Recent Reviews

Warlords Are Not the Only Tyrants

Joanne Diaz's My Favorite Tyrants, Fanny Howe's Second Childhood, Dorothea Lasky's Rome, and Sina Queyras's MxT
by Rebecca Hazelton
My Favorite Tyrants by Joanne Diaz is a tightly crafted collection concerned with how narratives — historical, political, familial, and personal — are formed and shared. What do we privilege in different tellings and what do we omit? When and why do we falsify? The book opens with the exemplary “Larry David on Corregidor,” in which the speaker, on a tour of Corregidor Island, finds herself unable to silence her inner dissident and let the tour guide deliver his sanitized spiel.

Careful, and Days Being Numbered

by Helena Nelson
I spend a lot of time (too much?) thinking about poetry, about what it is, or may be. About what it’s doing, or might be doing. About what I’m doing making it, publishing it, playing with it, endlessly reading it, helping other people to make more of it (and sometimes less). There are wars going on. There is death and pain and work and money. Why poetry?

B. S. Johnson the Poet

by Catherine Morris
B. S. Johnson is well known for his experimental novels – Albert Angelo (1964), Trawl (1966), HouseMother Normal (1971), Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry (1973). Much less well known are his two volumes of poetry (which are out of print) – Poems (1964) and Poems Two (1972). Chris McCabe of the Saison Poetry Library did something to address that neglect last month, hosting an evening of readings and discussion of Johnson’s poetry. In welcoming the speakers – Alan Brownjohn, John Lucas and Julia Jordan – McCabe described Johnson as “a special figure in poetry”. A cult figure, in fact: “I wouldn’t say he’s a popular poet . . . but he is one of those poets whose books get stolen more than others

“My Favorite Tyrants” by Joanne Diaz is a tightly crafted collection.


On Edward Hopper

by Mark Strand
This essay by Mark Strand was originally written for The New York Review of Books as a review of the exhibition of Edward Hopper’s drawings at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2013. It was found as a handwritten text in his notebook after he died in November 2014 and transcribed by his literary executor, Mary Jo Salter.

The Latin American Pope and the Irish Poet 

by Brett Foster
I am as interested in reading it as the next person, but maybe not immediately. That comment may understandably demand some defense, or at least some context. Currently, I am sitting in a friend’s cottage in West Moveen, in the far west side of County Clare, Ireland, and less than a mile from the Atlantic’s breakers crashing upon the  Munster cliffs. I am restfully reveling—if that be possible—in a few uneventful days here devoted to rereading some of the great Irish authors, including Yeats, Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, and Seamus Heaney.

‘Amang the Buiks’

by Richie McCaffery
Writing this feels like i am taking part in a therapeutic programme designed to cure me of my bibliomania and the first step is to admit my addiction. In my mid-teens I had been reading a lot of Thom Gunn’s poetry. On a dreary, rainy trip to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire one day on a family holiday, I was rootling round the now defunct Old Chapel Bookshop when I found a small, sickly-yellow volume. Inside, on the beautiful letterpress title-page it read: Fighting Terms / Poems by Thom Gunn / Fantasy Press, Oxford / 1954. I knew this was Gunn’s first full collection. I suspected it might have a value exceeding its £2.50 asking price. I bought the book because I loved Gunn’s poetry; only afterwards did I discover it was one of about 200 copies of the uncorrected first printing and probably worth forty times what I paid for it. 

A Poets’ Correspondence: Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell

by Ann Kjellberg
This week in our digital edition, Little Star Weekly, we inaugurated an weeklong series, a correspondence on poetic means in the English of here and there (England and the UK) by Rowan Ricardo Phillips and Glyn Maxwell.  Read Glyn’s first installment in Little Star Weekly here (single issues here) and Rowan’s reply in our web diary below. Here is letter #3.  Incidentally, in Little Star Weekly this week we also have the third of three parts of a hitherto uncollected eulogy by W. H. Auden for Louis MacNeice, whom Glyn talks about below.

Mark Strand’s essay, “On Edward Hopper”, was originally written for The New York Review of Books.

Drafts & Fragments

Poem Found in Jim Morrison's Paris Hotel Room Being Auctioned

A handwritten poem by Jim Morrison found among his possessions in the Paris hotel where he died in 1971 ends with the line "Last words, Last words out.” Written on the last page torn out of a thick notebook, the double-sided document is the highlight of an online auction that went live Thursday. Auctioneer Paddle8 said bidding through June 25 is expected to reach between $60,000 and $80,000.


Poem written by Jim Morrison will be auctioned.

Poetry In the News

Creating 'Magnetic Poetry' Using Harvard Sentences Might Just Be the Most Geeky Thing You Do Today

In terms of inventions we owe to Word War II, such as nuclear power or the jet engine, a group of phrases developed in the boiler room of Harvard’s Memorial Hall as part of an effort to test military communication systems is probably one of the least well-known. But they influence us in our daily life, every time we pick up a cell phone or place a VoIP call. The phrases, called “Harvard sentences,” are phonetically balanced, in that they contain the full range of sounds used in everyday speech, making them perfect to test how we hear in loud places or over long distances. You can find a list of 720 sentences, and a tool you can use to create "poetry" with them, below. 

World War II invention, “magnetic poetry”, influences us everyday.

New Books

Multitudinous Heart: Selected Poems: A Bilingual Edition by Carlos Drummond de Andrade
[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 432 pp., $40.00

Drummond, the most emblematic Brazilian poet, was a master of transforming the ordinary world, through language, into the sublime. His poems–musical protests, twisted hymns, dissonant celebrations of imperfection–are transcriptions of life itself recorded by a magnanimous outcast. As he put it in his "Seven-Sided Poem": "When I was born, one of those twisted / angels who live in the shadows said: / 'Carlos, get ready to be a misfit in life!' . . . World so wide, world so large, / my heart's even larger." Multitudinous Heart, the most generous selection of Drummond's poems available in English, gathers work from the various phases of this restless, brilliant modernist. Richard Zenith's selection and translation brings us a more vivid and surprising poet than we knew.

War of the Foxes by Richard Siken
[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $17.00

In reviewing Richard Siken's first book, Crush, the New York Times wrote that "his territory is [where] passion and eloquence collide and fuse." In this long-awaited follow-up to Crush, Siken turns toward the problems of making and representation, in an unrelenting interrogation of our world of doublings. In this restless, swerving book simple questions—such as, Why paint a bird?—are immediately complicated by concerns of morality, human capacity, and the ways we look to art for meaning and purpose while participating in its—and our own—invention.

New and Selected Sorrows by Goran Simic
[Paperback] Smokestack Books,130 pp., $19.00

New and Selected Sorrows draws on Goran Simic's earlier collections, notably Immigrant Blues, Sunrise in the Eyes of the Snowman and From Sarajevo with Sorrow, together with a new sequence, `Wind in the straight-jacket' and many poems published in English for the first time. It is a book about passports and borders, rats and wolves, soldiers and ghosts. It is a record of the realities – and the unrealities – of life in the Balkans, narrated by `an ordinary man with ears of ordinary silk', whose sees the face of sorrow in `the Sarajevo wind leafing through newspapers / glued to the street by a puddle of blood'.

Asperity Street by Gail White
[Paperback] Able Muse Press, 98 pp., $18.95 

Asperity Street, Gail White’s most balanced poetry collection, explores the breadth of human existence with cutting wit, irreverence, keen intelligence, and an uncommon mix of empathy and asperity. Besides the cynical or the lighthearted, which are hallmarks of White’s work, there is a newfound earnestness and gravity in these poems in their survey and interrogation of the human condition. White journeys the span from nursery to hospice—in between, she navigates the prom, family occasions, mating, gossip, and money matters with masterful formal dexterity. This is a collection that rewards the reader with a thoroughly entertaining and illuminating experience.

Firewood and Ashes: New And Selected Poems by Ben Howard 
[Paperback] Salmon Poetry, 264 pp., $24.00

Encompassing forms as diverse as the free-verse lyric, the sonnet sequence, the verse letter, and the meditative monologue, this selection from Ben Howard's six previous books demonstrates the breadth of his cultural awareness and the depth of his poetic achievement. Ranging in locale from Eastern Iowa to Western New York to Dublin, Ireland, these present-centered but historically minded poems integrate the conventions of Western verse with the insights of Eastern meditative practice. Ben Howard is a poet, essayist, classical guitarist, and longtime Zen practitioner. These strands of his life are interwoven in his poems, which evince a sensibility keenly aware of impermanence, acutely alert to linguistic subtleties, and deeply attuned to the sonorities of words. Ben Howard is Emeritus Professor of English at Alfred University in New York.

Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond is a master of transforming the ordinary world in his book, “Multitudinous Heart”.


With a Lot of Poetry Comes Lots of Bad Poetry Says Donald Hall

by Mark Hayward
Cities from Manchester to Pasadena host poetry slams. Hip-hop has entrenched its rhythmical brand of poetry into popular culture. And even small-town bookstores feature readings from poets. Despite the groundswell, New Hampshire's most famous living poet announced two years ago that he was done with the craft.

What is Poetry? Three Masters Look for Answers

Beekeeping, Belfast and Buddhism: books of lectures by Harry Clifton, Paula Meehan and Michael Longley cast the net wide
by Arminta Wallace
The Ireland Chair of Poetry is a solemn, formal, academic institution. The poets who hold it, however, tend to be anything but. Gather the three most recent Ireland Professors of Poetry around a table for a conversation – the incumbent, Paula Meehan; her predecessor, Harry Clifton; and the 2007-2010 chair holder, Michael Longley – and you’ll find yourself dancing across an anarchic range of topics punctuated by recitations, jokes, snatches of song, back-and-forth banter and moments of sudden, striking profundity. The occasion for this gathering at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin is the publication of the first book in a new series called The Poet’s Chair. 

Donald Hall announced that he is giving up poetry.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Philip Levine
How do you learn to trust your imagination? I have no idea. I know that I do, but I don't know how to tell someone. It isn't like assembling a table made in Sweden—this goes here and that goes there. It's something that comes with experience. You can urge people; you can say: "Let the poem go. Follow it. Don't dictate to it." But anybody who hasn't been writing doesn't know what you're talking about. The only way you can really do that, unless you're a genius, a Rilke or an Emily Dickinson, is to keep sharp and wait for inspiration. That's how poets prepare. They keep their minds and their hearts open and hone their craft by writing. And they wait, as Jarrell says, out in the rain to be hit by lightning. You don't have control over it.
—from “An Interview with Philip Levine” by Tom DeMarchi 

“Let the poem go. Follow it. Don’t dictate it.”—Philip Levine