June 29, 2017

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1798—Giacomo Leopardi, Italian poet (d. 1837), is born.
1861—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, British poet and writer ("How Do I Love thee"), dies at 55.
1893—Antoon Schweigmann, Dutch religious poet/resistance fighter, is born.
1905—Manuel Altolaguirre, Spanish poet/publisher (La lenta libertad), is born.
1922—Vasko Popa, Yugoslavia/Serbian poet (Heaven is a Side Issue), is born.


The little box remembers her childhood 
And by a great longing 
She becomes a little box again 

Now in the little box 
You have the whole world in miniature 
You can easily put in a pocket 
Easily steal it lose it 

Take care of the little box 

—from “The Little Box” by Vasko Popa

“Now in the little box / You have the whole world in miniature” – Vasko Popa

World Poetry

This Gay Poet Is Writing in his own Blood to Protest Gay Blood Donations Rules

A gay poet is writing in his own blood to protest restrictive rules around blood donations for men who have sex with men. RJ Arkhipov, a Welsh poet living between London and Paris, is using his poetry to raise awareness of discriminatory blood rules. In the UK there is a 12 month deferral period on men who have sex with men, including oral sex, donating.

Israel MK Calls Performance of Darwish Poem a ‘Provocation’

Israeli Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, yesterday expressed opposition to the recitation of a poem by renowned Palestinian author Mahmoud Darwish at an Israeli cultural event, calling it a “provocation” and requesting that the performance be cancelled, according to a Hebrew website. According to news site Maariv, Mira Awwad, a famous Palestinian singer and actress with Israeli citizenship, is set to perform a Darwish poem during an award ceremony of the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel (ACUM) today, where she is to receive a prize.

Czech Poet Eugen Brikcius Receives High Austrian Decoration

Czech poet and artist Eugen Brikcius, who moved from Prague to Vienna for political reasons in 1980, received the Austrian cross of honour for science and art, first class, in Prague today, his wife Zuzana Brikcius told CTK. The high Austrian decoration was bestowed on him by Austrian Ambassador Alexander Grubmayr. Writer and former Czech president Vaclav Havel received the Austrian decoration in 2005.

RJ Arkhipov, a Welsh poet living between London and Paris, is using his poetry to raise awareness of discriminatory blood rules.

Recent Reviews

A Lovely Light: Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Caitlin Doyle

“No woman poet of her generation was as adored, or as widely read or quoted, as Edna St. Vincent Millay,” Holly Peppe writes in her introduction to the new Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Millay’s ascent to the status Peppe describes, well-documented by multiple biographers, could be a movie tagline from the Golden Age of Hollywood: “Young woman of modest means from rural Maine skyrockets to stardom.” Not long after garnering wide accolades for her poem “Renascence” when she was only twenty-one years old, Millay became a sought-after celebrity among Greenwich Village literati. With the publication of her books A Few Figs from Thistles and The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems in the early 1920’s, she achieved national renown and earned a Pulitzer Prize, still just the beginning of a career that would span ten poetry collections along with numerous lauded works in other genres.

Curating Resurrection
by Stephen Collins

Coming after the publication of over thirty books and chapbooks, it is difficult not to read Debths, Susan Howe’s first full-length collection of poetry since Spontaneous Particulars in 2014, as the culminating gesture of her remarkable career. Indeed, Howe, who turns eighty this year, has suggested it is likely her last book. If this is so, I can think of no better way to crown her many decades wandering through the American literary wilderness: Debths reads like the crescendo at the conclusion of a symphony. It is a profound synthesis of Howe’s obsessions, methods, and concerns as a writer—a recursive loop back through her oeuvre, but also a renewal of its main lines, drawing the various threads together into a tighter weave.

How the Cinder Bears the Seed
by William Waddell

“Tell me, ravaged singer, / how the cinder bears the seed”: the title poem of Susan Stewart’s collection of new and selected poems questions the power and potential of her own art within an explicitly retrospective frame. The poem, which first appeared in The Forest (1995) as a prefatory poem to a whole section called “Cinder,” casts the poet, Stewart’s “singer,” as a figure the community asks to bring something back from a span of experience, some understanding of our strivings and our torments, and the comfort that understanding could provide:

No woman poet of her generation was as adored, or as widely read or quoted, as Edna St. Vincent Millay.


In Memoriam Juan Carlos Flores
by Kristin Dykstra

The tragic loss came in 2016. Stop-motion images of death compete unnaturally with his poetics: his poems swivel, cycle, gesticulate, perform. After death the poems hold their ground in an aesthetic awareness of home, one marked with specifics of life in Cuba, where Juan Carlos Flores lived in a public housing community that rose out of the ground in a way that could only have happened in certain decades following the 1959 Revolution.

Why Alberto Rios Is Totally Cool with U2 Using His Poetry on The Joshua Tree Tour
by Lynn Trimble

“It was just thrilling and out of the blue.” That’s how Alberto Ríos recalls feeling when he learned the Irish rock band U2 was using one of his poems on their 2017 Joshua Tree tour. The tour, which is coming to Phoenix this fall, marks the 30-year anniversary of the release of the album The Joshua Tree, which propelled the group to stardom. A regents’ professor at Arizona State University, Ríos became the inaugural Arizona Poet Laureate in 2013. He’s taught English at ASU for more than 30 years and serves as chair of the English department. Basically, he started teaching at ASU just a few years before U2 released The Joshua Tree.

Ukrainian Poets in Translation: Anna Malihon and Taras Malkovych
by Maria Prasko Jennings

Underground Books in New York City has become a new champion of Ukrainian literature. Recently two young poets from Ukraine had their poems translated into English and published as chapbooks. Anna Malihon’s book “Burnt Skin” was published in July 2016 for the New York Poetry Festival and Taras Malkovych’s “Name Over” was published in January of this year.

Underground Books in New York City has become a new champion of Ukrainian literature.

Drafts & Fragments

Why This Poet Is Posting Meaningless Verse on Instagram
by Elizabeth Flock

When Texas-based poet Thom Young joined Instagram around 2010, he noticed a number of poets were already using the platform to share their work. At first, he found this encouraging and began sharing his work there as well, amassing several thousand followers. But as he continued to look around, he also noticed something strange: While most serious, award-winning poets — those who did thoughtful work — got hardly any attention, people who wrote short, trite poetry got tons of likes and followers. Some of these “pop poets,” as he calls them, had become social media celebrities overnight.

How Seamus Heaney Epic Poem Resonates with Syrian War
by Joanne Sweeney

'No such thing as innocent bystanding' – rarely have the words of Seamus Heaney in his lyrical poem Mycenae Lookout resonated so strongly as in the present environment of ideological conflict and international terrorism. The poem, from his 1996 collection The Spirit Level, is inspired by a story from ancient Greece of the murder of Agamemnon by his wife, Clytemnestra, along with the Nobel prizewinner's thoughts on the north, pre-conflict and post-conflict. It will feature in a special exploration of the Syrian conflict at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Co Derry this weekend.

‘No such thing as innocent bystanding’ – Seamus Heaney

Poetry In the News

Tracy K. Smith Is the New Poet Laureate

The Library of Congress has named Ms. Smith its new poet laureate, the nation’s highest honor in that field. With the appointment, announced on Wednesday, Ms. Smith will take on a role held by some of the country’s most revered poets, among them Rita Dove, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, W. S. Merwin, Charles Simic and most recently, Juan Felipe Herrera.

Pitt's Terrance Hayes Named Poetry Editor for New York Times Magazine

Terrance Hayes, winner of the 2010 National Book Award and an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh, has been named The New York Times Magazine’s poetry editor. Mr. Hayes, 45, the weekly publication’s third poetry editor, will choose poems and write brief introductions for them. He begins his role next month.

The Library of Congress has named Ms. Smith its new poet laureate, the nation’s highest honor in that field.

New Books

Debths by Susan Howe 
[Paperback] New Directions, 244 pp., $15.95

A collection in five parts, Susan Howe’s electrifying new book opens with a preface by the poet that lays out some of Debths’ inspirations: the art of Paul Thek, the Isabella Stewart Gardner collection, and early American writings; and in it she also addresses memory’s threads and galaxies, “the rule of remoteness,” and “the luminous story surrounding all things noumenal.”

The Codex Mojaodicus by Steven Alvarez
[Paperback] Fence Books, 80 pp., $15.93

The Codex Mojaodicus collects three novels-in-verse —“My Sweet Conquistador,” “Chaley Way,” and “The Pocho Codex” — all of which mine, mime, record and disgorge the impressions and dissertations of language as it is uttered, stuttered, and felt in a variety of tongues and heads. In these theatrical poems, Alvarez documents a multilingual field, tracing a Xicano genome over and above

The Selfless Bliss of the Body by Gayle Brandeis
[Paperback] Finishing Line Press, 84 pp., $19.99 

Praised by US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera as “a monumental achievement”, The Selfless Bliss of The Body is award-winning novelist Gayle Brandeis’ first full-length poetry collection. Poems from the book have been honored by the Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Competition and the US Department of the Interior, which installed one of the poems at the Visitor Center in Joshua Tree National Park. These poems reach deeply into the body to reach beyond the body; Fresno Poet Laureate Lee Herrick writes “These tender and fierce poems are breathtaking gifts from a writer whose love for the world knows no bounds.”

A Temporary Stranger by Jamie Reid
[Paperback] Anvil Press, 158 pp., $18.00

A Temporary Stranger is the final manuscript that Jamie Reid was working on when he died unexpectedly in June of 2015. The book is comprised of three sections: Homages, Fake Poems, and Recollections. In Homages we find poems of reverence and honour, tributes to writers who had opened up the world of poetry to Jamie and served as guides as he made his way as a poet in the world. There are poems to Spicer, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Breton, Francis Ponge, Tristan Tzara and others. The centerpiece of A Temporary Stranger is Fake Poems, so called, the author says in his introduction to the poems, because "There is no art on earth that can fully represent the exact and flowing experience of viewing stone within the flow of water and the waving light within the water and around the stone, and the subsequent sense of awe and beauty that arises in the interaction between the seer and the seen… In that sense, all art is fake…"

The Knives Of Villalejo by Matthew Stewart
[Paperback] Eyewear Publishing, 66 pp., $14.49

Twenty years in the writing, The Knives Of Villalejo is Matthew Stewart’s first full collection. Stretching from suburban Surrey to the vineyards of Extremadura, Spain, its poems' delicate syllabic structures belie the vast wells of emotion beneath. Throughout the collection, brevity and apparent simplicity pack an unexpected punch—each line, each poem, a perfectly poised, discrete drop, held together by the tensions of home and exile, then and now, before and after. Together, they form a pent-up storm.

Susan Howe’s electrifying new book is a collection in five parts.


Mad Russia Hurt Me into Poetry: An Interview with Maria Stepanova
by Cynthia Haven

Maria Stepanova is among the most visible figures in post-Soviet culture — not only as a major poet, but also as a journalist, a publisher, and a powerful voice for press freedom. She is the founder of Colta, the only independent crowd-funded source of information in Russia. The high-traffic online publication has been called a Russian Huffington Post in format and style, and has also been compared to The New York Review of Books for the scope and depth of its long essays. The Muscovite is the author of a dozen poetry collections and two volumes of essays, and is a recipient of several Russian and international literary awards, including the prestigious Andrei Bely Prize and Joseph Brodsky Fellowship. She was recently a fellow with Vienna’s highly regarded Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen. Her current project is In Memory of Memory, a book-length study in the field of cultural history.

Spotlight: Marisa Crawford
by Erin Lyndal Martin

Tonight, I feel like my whole body is made out of memories. I’m a mix-tape, a cassette that’s been rewound so many times you can hear the fingerprints smudged on the tape,” writes Rob Sheffield.  Poet Marisa Crawford knows this feeling well, as evinced by the poems in her new collection Reversible (Switchback Books, 2017).  Between the book’s covers is the messiness of a mixtape itself, the songs that were anchors and the everything to which the tape is a soundtrack.  For Crawford, that “everything” is fashion and self-discovery and the friendship between adolescent girls. But, like a cassette tape, there is a flipside.

“The pain is real. And I get something from it.” Nick Flynn
by Kaveh Akbar

Nick Flynn has received fellowships and awards from, among other organizations, The Guggenheim Foundation, PEN, and The Library of Congress. Some of the venues his poems, essays, and non-fiction have appeared include The New Yorker, the Paris Review, and National Public Radio's This American Life. He is currently a professor on the creative writing faculty at the University of Houston, where he is in residence each spring. In 2015 he published his ninth book, My Feelings (Graywolf), a collection of poems. His next book is I Will Destroy You (Graywolf 2019).

For Marissa Crawford, “everything” is fashion and self-discovery and the friendship between adolescent girls.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Ilya Kaminsky
(In this case, from the present)

"And, yet, a poet is hardly an ideal human being. We see a moment of light, in a poem, in a line, in a combination of two words, two letters even, perhaps, and then— then— then— that moment is gone. Yes, gone. And, we see the empty page in front of us again.  And we don’t have any answers. A poet does not know the truth, but seeks it, desperately, perhaps, passionately, of course, with joy, yes, there is a seeking for a poem, a word, an image, that makes the world clearer, if only for a moment.
—from "Interview with Ilya Kaminsky" by Ming Di in Poetry East West

“And, yet, a poet is hardly an ideal human being.” – Ilya Kaminsky