June 26, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

June 26, 2012

1666 – Richard Fanshawe, diplomat/translator/poet, dies.

1906 – Alexander Muir, poet (Maple Leaf Forever), dies at 76.

1913 – Aimé Césaire, French Martinican poet and politician (d. 2008), is born.

1914 – Laurie Lee, male poet/author (I Can’t Stay Long), is born.
1918 – Peter Rosegger, Austrian poet and Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1843), dies.

1961 – Kenneth F Fearing, US, poet (Afternoon of a pawnbroker), dies at 58.

1963 – Obe Postma, Fries, poet/geography/historian (Own Cart), dies.

1993 – Willy C of Hemert, director/(text)poet (Small Truth), dies at 81.

Because I forgive you, yes, for everything.

I forgive you for being beautiful and generous and wise,

I forgive you, to put it simply, for being alive, and pardon you, in short, for being you.

—from “Love 20¢ The First Quarter Mile” by Kenneth Fearing (1902–1961)

Poetry In The News

Songwriter Rodney Crowell and Poet Mary Karr Play Triple Door

Alt-country patriarch Rodney Crowell didn’t get into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame by teaming up with other tunesmiths. But the woman he’s touring with, Mary Karr, isn’t your typical songwriter. Read more at the Seattle Times.

Songs of Innocence and Experience: The Tone Poems of David Axelrod and William Blake

Los Angeles-born composer and music producer, David Axelrod is a bridge between Dr. Dre and original Romantic poet, William Blake. Axelrod’s irresistible drum breaks and sonic wizardry began in the 1950s culminating with his masterful era at Capitol Records a decade later. Axelrod created an extensive catalog of songs that remain sacred to DJs, vinyl archaeologists and music lovers. Read more at KCET.

Love, Poetry and Life: An Artist Makes Words from Wire in Real Time on Lincoln Road

David Zalben looks ready for a lazy day as he sits on a lawn chair with his feet propped up, fan on and bottle of Peroni beer in hand. But instead of high noon by the pool, it’s 9:30 p.m. and Zalben is sitting inside a tiny white display window in Miami Beach. Zalben is spending 40 nights through July 16 crafting poetry from wire as part of his installation titled, “A Love You Cannot Live Without,” at ArtCenter at 800 Lincoln Rd. The artist uses his hands and a pair of pliers to twist the wire into readable cursive type, which he then hangs from the ceiling. Read more at the Miami Herald.

World Poetry

Poet Heads to Olympics for Marathon Gathering

Syrian poet Faraj Bayrakdar’s daughter was just three when he was arrested in 1987 for his political activism. By the time he was released in a presidential amnesty she was at university. As the international community continued to wrestle with efforts to stop escalating violence in Syria that a U.N. official has described as a civil war, Bayrakdar detailed the personal cost of opposing Syria’s ruling Assad family to book lovers at Britain’s top literary festival in the Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye. Read more at Reuters.

New Books

The Arriere-pays by Yves Bonnefoy

[Hardcover] Seagull Books, 164 pp., $25.00
Since the publication of his first book in 1953, Yves Bonnefoy has become one of the most important French poets of the postwar years. At last, we have the long-awaited English translation of Yves Bonnefoy’s celebrated work, L’Arrière-pays, which takes us to the heart of his creative process and to the very core of his poetic spirit.

My Poets by Maureen N. McLane

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 288 pp., $25.00
In this stunningly original book Maureen N. McLane channels the spirits and voices that make up the music in one poet’s mind. Weaving criticism and memoir, My Poets explores a life reading and a life read. McLane invokes in My Poets not necessarily the best poets, nor the most important poets (whoever these might be), but those writers who, in possessing her, made her.

Fragile Acts by Allan Peterson

[Hardcover] McSweeney’s, 72 pp., $18.00
The world is terrifying and exhilarating. Believing firmly in the romantic notion that “embellishment is love,” Allan Peterson in Fragile Acts combines the intellectual force of T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens, the ethereal wonder of Robert Hass, and the tight lyric beauty of Elizabeth Bishop and Donald Hall. These steely, wide-ranging poems are at once personal and philosophical, incisive and meditative—funny, serious, compassionate and searching.

Upper Level Disturbances by Kevin Goodan

[Paperback] Center for Literary Pub, 64 pp., $16.95
“In Kevin Goodan’s Upper Level Disturbances, we are given the ‘whispered home to the lightning’ where ‘the levees sing of snake-grass burning.’ With a steady hand, Goodan unfurls the line into the rough and jagged physicality of the world until the sublime transcends its earthly frame. These are hard-earned poems, brought back to us from a difficult land. They are ‘prayers . . . adorned with rivets of fire’ within which the ‘laws of nature / Determine all the grief one eye can hold.’ Upper Level Disturbances is one helluva good book, and I recommend it highly. ” —Brian Turner

Recent Reviews

The Poems in Verse by Stéphane Mallarmé, translated by Peter Manson — Review

by David Wheatley
“English and French are a single language,” Wallace Stevens wrote in his “Adagia”. While French poetry was a huge influence on English-language modernism, not all shared Stevens’s belief in the closeness of the two tongues. Debating the issue with André Gide, St-John Perse deplored the concrete nature of English and its desire to “reincarnate the thing itself”. In its abstract way French used words “like coins as values of monetary exchange”, he felt, whereas English “was still at the swapping stage”. Read more at the Guardian.

The Poetry of the Possible

by Peter Campion
The strength of American poetry these days must lie in its sheer variety. Poems that develop with the linear cohesiveness of naturalistic fiction, poems that work by collaging or mashing up received idioms, poems that unfold as narratives yet with an undercurrent of associative strangeness—all these may prove first rate, and all may render the tones and contours of contemporary life. But such variety can also make for beffudlement, at least for readers without some partisan creed about poetry. How do different styles reflect different types of experience? How can we tell between our personal taste and genuine aesthetic judgment? What transcends style? How can we find it? Read more at the LA Review of Books.

You Think I Should Be Concerned? 

by Conor O’Callaghan

As seems to occur with the advent of each new century, the limitations of the well-made personal lyric are once again in question. Much of Timothy Donnelly’s The Cloud Corporation can be read, in its range and ambition, as an implicit critique of that lyric. Read more at Antiphon.


Interview: Jorie Graham’s Poetry

by JP O’Malley
Possessing a meticulously detailed and layered style, as well as having an exceptional ability to describe nature, Jorie Graham’s poetry is primarily concerned with how we can relate our internal consciousness to the exterior natural world we inhabit. In 1996, The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994, earned Graham the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She is currently the Boylston professor of poetry at Harvard University. Her forthcoming book, Place, will be her twelfth collection to date. She spoke to the Spectator about why poetry needs to be reclaimed to the oral tradition, how technology is corrupting our imagination, and why her work is laced with contradictions and paradoxes. Read more at the Spectator.

On a Mission for Preservation, Poet Natalie Diaz Returns to Her Roots

After spending several years away from home, poet Natalie Diaz felt a calling to return to her reservation to help preserve the Mojave language, which is rapidly being lost. Read more at the PBS NewsHour.


What We’re Reading: Henri Cole’s Touch

by Sasha Weiss
Like Elizabeth Bishop before him, Henri Cole writes poised, elegant poems as a way of containing rattling pain. I recently had the luck of hearing him read on the occasion of his receiving the Jackson Poetry Prize. If he’s ever making an appearance in your neighborhood, go: his reading is really a kind of singing, in a reedy, drifting, ethereal voice. Read more at the New Yorker.

Drafts & Fragments

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

A Poem Nearly Anonymous

The Insistence of Memory
A poet doesn’t have to be well-known to be remembered.
by Helena Nelson Categor
When I was recently (and for the first time) in New York, I had the privilege of visiting a lady in that city who had been a great reader all her life. Her Manhattan apartment was a quiet and lovely space, far above the traffic and bustle. Most of the wall space was lined with books, from floor to ceiling. You could sit and read there for weeks, months, years, decades. Read more at Happenstance.

This story about how one woman was touched by one poem and held it close over the course of her lifetime reminds me that the essence of poetry is not to be found in the poet’s biography, or the personal politics, or even in the relative critical merits of the work but in the work itself. I’m reminded that, for better or worse, most of the world reads poetry without thought to the criteria poets, scholars, and critics use. Either the reader is moved by the words or not. This is apart from the poet’s attempt to articulate for herself the source of her yearning, which comes before the reader ever lays eyes on the poem. Buried in the story, not far from the surface, is the suggestion that the criterion for determining the sustaining value of a poem is at heart a personal response, and no matter how we try to clothe the poem in layers of critical texture, that one criterion, for most, is enough.

—David Sanders