June 8, 2017

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1611—Jean Bertaut, French poet (b. 1552), dies.
1889—Gerard Manley Hopkins, poet, dies at 54.
1905—Brian Coffey, Irish poet (Avent), born in Dublin (d. 1995), is born.
1920—Gwen Harwood, Australian poet (d. 1995), is born.
1929—Bliss Carman, Canadian poet, dies at 68.    
1931—Ivan V. Lalić, Serbian poet, born in Belgrade (d. 1996), is born.

Over the goldbrown sand my children 
run in the wind. The sky's immense 
with spring's new radiance. Far from here, 
lying close to the final darkness, 
a great-grandmother lives and suffers, 
still praising life: another morning 
on earth, cockcrow and changing light. 

Over the skeleton of thought 
mind builds a skin of human texture. 
The eye's [art of another eye 
that guides it through the maze of light. 
A line becomes a firm horizon. 
All's as it was in the beginning.
—from “Estuary” by Gwen Harwood

“Over the goldbrown sand my children / run in the wind. The sky’s immense / with spring’s new radiance.” – Gwen Harwood

World Poetry

Michael Longley Wins PEN Pinter Prize for 'unflinching, unswerving' Poetry

Belfast poet Michael Longley, whom Seamus Heaney described as “a custodian of griefs and wonders”, has been awarded the 2017 PEN Pinter prize. The prize has a personal resonance for the poet, who is one of the most significant figures in Irish poetry. Not only is he an admirer of Harold Pinter, after whom the award was named, but the playwright had spurred him on as a young poet.

The Icelandic Publisher that Only Prints Books during a Full Moon – Then Burns Them

For Tunglið, how you publish is as important as what you publish. Named after the Icelandic word for the moon, the tiny publisher prints its books in batches of 69 on the night of a full moon. So far, so weird. But keen readers must also buy their books that same night, as the publisher burns all unsold copies. Weirder still.

10-year-old Boy's Arrest for Reading Poetry Shocks Russians

The heavy-handed arrest and detention by Moscow police of a 10-year-old boy who had touched passers-by by reading poetry on the street shocked Russians over the weekend. Officers were shown bundling the screaming boy into a police car in central Moscow as he shouted "Save me!" in distressing mobile phone footage aired on Russian television.

Belfast poet Michael Longley has been awarded the 2017 PEN Pinter prize.

Recent Reviews

Hither & Yon
by William Logan

On Commotion of the Birds by John Ashbery, Falling Awake by Alice Oswald, Album for the Young (and Old) by Vera Pavlova, Lacunae: 100 Imagined Ancient Love Poems by Daniel Nadler & Fast by Jorie Graham.
John Ashbery turns ninety this year, an astonishing thing in itself; and the ability of old Puck to write poems as good as those he wrote half a century ago is either testimony to a well-oiled imagination or a revelation that all along he has been writing poems the way a butcher stuffs sausages.

“A Sweetness in This Sense”: On X. J. Kennedy’s “That Swing: Poems, 2008–2016”
by Patrick Kurp

In his contribution to “A Symposium of Poets,” published half a century ago in the South Dakota Review, X. J. Kennedy concedes his “reactionary position” as a poet and then clarifies things: “I work mostly these days in rime and meter, and more and more feel truth in the old jazz song: ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.’” Aficionados will recognize the allusion to Duke Ellington’s barn-burner from 1931, a year or two before swing — the word, the music — became all the rage. The Oxford English Dictionary cites Ellington’s title and defines swing in words appropriate to Kennedy’s practice as a poet: “a flowing but strongly compelling rhythm.” An unapologetic formalist and swinger, Kennedy turns 88 later this year and straddles, as always, the uncertain boundary between light verse and — well, poetry.

The Uncanny Body: Jennifer Firestone’s Gates and Fields
At its center, the book offers the refusal to accept an already-formulated understanding of loss that lies at the heart of the experience of grief.
by Karen Weiser

It’s a rare writer that can make a book about death pleasurable, and yet Jennifer Firestone’s third poetry collection, Gates & Fields, is nothing if not just that. Firestone writes poetry that breaks through the noise of the political moment and our short attention spans to pull us into wider but ever-present human concerns, reminding us that art is necessary for living. More curious than elegiac, with echoes of Steinian repetition and exactitude of sound, these poems search for the language and music to map out grief, as they explore metaphors, modes, and mythological frames for dying.

Jennifer Firestone’s third poetry collection, Gates & Fields, is a rare book that makes the subject of death pleasurable.


'What a hole': Hull Has Embraced Philip Larkin – But Did the Love Go Both Ways?
Hull continues to put Larkin on a pedestal during its year as City of Culture even though the poet called the city a fish-smelling ‘dump’. Is Larkinmania misplaced?
by Stephen Walsh

Statues in stations were once all grim-faced Victorians and war memorials. Not any more. Today’s railway monuments are dioramas of civic identity, an opportunity for heritage-savvy towns and cities to claim their local heroes. Huddersfield has Harold Wilson; Liverpool, Ken Dodd. Southend’s got a skateboarder, and Paddington has its dopey bear. In Hull, it is Philip Larkin who we have put on a pedestal. At first sight, the poet, all 7ft of him, seems the perfect choice.

Paterson, Poetry, Patricia Jones and Her Prize
by Barry Singer

This is about the confluence of poetry, Paterson, New Jersey, and my friend Patricia Jones, who is the finest poet I know. When Patricia asked me to accompany her to Paterson for a Saturday afternoon poetry reading not long ago, she triggered something that touched my past and her future. This now has played out to a very happy ending in a demi-epic cycle that is worth sharing. I had forgotten about Paterson and me. I went to Kindergarten in Paterson, New Jersey, and elementary school, and junior high school too — all in the same place. Hadn’t crossed my mind in years. Then Patricia called with her invitation and I thought: ‘Yeah. Paterson.’

Is Patricia Jones Paterson New Jersey’s finest poet?

Drafts & Fragments

‘King of May’: An Illustration Revisiting Allen Ginsberg’s Epic Poem
by Nathan Gelgud

If you’re feeling grim about the fact that the United States is facing a major image problem in the eyes of, you know, the rest of the entire planet, I hope to offer you some light. There were better moments in our history, and we might hope that there can be better moments in our future. In July of 1965, Richard Kostelanetz wrote in the New York Times that “second to John F. Kennedy, [Allen] Ginsberg would seem to be the most widely acclaimed American cultural ambassador.” Which would have made Ginsberg, at that time, the most widely acclaimed living cultural ambassador.

Five Complaints
by Anthony Madrid

Suppose you want to know whether a given Czesław Miłosz poem rhymes in the original. Or you want to know if it’s in meter. If you don’t speak Polish, friend, you have some serious fuss ahead of you. Tell you one thing. You won’t find out by reading the introduction to any English translation of Miłosz I’ve ever looked at. Questions of this sort are regarded as matters of absolutely no interest. Why would you want to know anything about a poet’s prosody.

Some believe there was a time when Allen Ginsberg was America’s most widely acclaimed cultural ambassador.

Poetry In the News

How CUNY Became Poetry U.

The City University of New York is many things. It is vast. It is accessible to students without a lot of money. It is exceptionally diverse. It is not, however, particularly fancy, the kind of place that oozes exclusivity or prestige. And yet CUNY is home to a surprising number of extremely accomplished, recognized — some might even say fancy — poets.

Micah Fletcher, Survivor and Hero of the MAX Attack, Wrote a Poem From His Hospital Bed

Micah Fletcher, the 21-year-old sole survivor of Friday's brutal stabbing on the MAX, is a PSU student and poet. In 2013 he won the city-wide high school poetry competition Verselandia with a powerful poem condemning prejudice against Muslims. You can watch his performance of the poem here (he starts at about 2:03:45). At around 10:15 pm on Saturday, Micah Fletcher published his newest poem to Facebook. It was written from his hospital bed a little over 24 hours after the attack.

The City University of New York has become a much sought after place for poets looking for employment.

New Books

The Stranger World by Ryan Wilson
Hardcover] Measure Press, 104 pp., $25.00

“Ryan Wilson’s unsettling debut collection The Stranger World is filled with poems of menace and promise, surprise and sorrow, tempered by gentle humor and always tuned to a fine music. The long poem ‘Authority’ reads like a masterpiece of modern horror. The deeply psychological ‘Xenia’ is a minor miracle of a poem. These pages contain ‘real shores across imagined seas . . . where black suns set,’ where the poet meditates on ‘that present unity / of absences the living move among.’ Each page of The Stranger World yields a new delight. Wilson proves himself a worthy heir to Anthony Hecht with this remarkable, disarming, and genuinely moving book. Seek it out.” — Ernest Hilbert

Hothouse by Karyna McGlynn
[Paperback] Sarabande Books, 80 pp., $14.95

Karyna MyGlynn takes readers on tour through the half-haunted house of the contemporary American psyche with wit, whimsy, and candid confession. Disappointing lovers surface in the bedroom; in the bathroom, "the drained tub ticks with mollusks & lobsters;" revenge fantasies and death lurk in the basement where they rightly belong. With lush imagery and au courant asides, Hothouse surprises and delights.

Lessons: Selected Poems by Joel Oppenheimer 
[Paperback] White Pine Press, 220 pp., $18.00

Joel Oppenheimer was a student of Charles Olson at the original Black Mountain College, a fixture in New York’s West Village, and a lover of the NY Mets. His work embraces the taunt line of W. C .Williams. Lessons returns the work of this essential American poet to print.

Alarum by Wayne Holloway-Smith
[Paperback] Bloodaxe Books, 64 pp., $22.00

A debut collection by one of Britain's liveliest young poets. Wayne Holloway-Smith has been a strong presence on the London poetry scene for several years, renowned for his wildly imaginative poems and compelling stage presence. Wayne Holloway-Smith was born in Wiltshire and lives in London.

Strange Roof by Catherine Higgins-Moore
[Paperback] Finishing Line Press, 42 pp., $13.99

Strange Roof is a bold collection that shines a light on women as immigrants, emigrants, mothers, daughters, wives and artists. The poems are fresh; searingly honest, sharp, poignant and accessible.

Strange Roof is a bold collection that shines a light on women as immigrants, emigrants, mothers, daughters, wives and artists.


On Grief and Inheritance: A Conversation with Brionne Janae
by Olivia Kate Cerrone

Brionne Janae’s poems are driven by fierce, hypnotic voices as individual and alive as songs themselves. Her work propels readers through time and history, offering rich, nuanced insight into the presence of racial violence and the intergenerational trauma that continues to shape black families, communities and individual lives. Rendered with exquisite detail and beautiful language, Janae’s poetry also explores one’s transcendence through grief and suffering to places of empowerment and joy. Her debut collection After Jubilee will be released by BOAAT Press, where it was a finalist for the 2016 BOAAT Book Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from the Southern Humanities Review, Cincinnati Review, Mass Poetry, New South, Redivider, Rhino, and The Comstock Review, where she won the Muriel Craft Bailey Award judged by Kwame Dawes. A Cave Canem Fellow, Janae was also a recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph Emering Artist award and received a 2017 residency fellowship to Hedgebrook. I recently had the privilege of speaking to Brionne Janae about After Jubilee.

Boomerangs Toward Mystery: An Interview with Keith Leonard
by Cate Lycurgus

Keith Leonard is the author of the poetry collection Ramshackle Ode (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016). He is also the author of a chapbook, Still, the Shore (YesYes Books, 2013). His poems have recently appeared in the Academy of America Poets Poem-A-Day Program, Horsethief, and Copper Nickel. Keith has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Indiana University, where he earned an MFA. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Keith Leonard is the author of the poetry collection Ramshackle Ode.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes


Anthony Madrid's complaint, above, about translations is intriguing to me. He is right, of course. An introduction should indicate, assuming there is no en face presentation, what the nature of the original form is, including the basic prosody, the sounds of the wordplay—all those things that may or may not be present in the translated version. And it should be noted, rather than be taken for granted, that the translation is very much a rendering, an approximation, and not to be treated as an original. It belongs to a different culture, and what is familiar there will likely seem strange when transported to a different culture. It is the translator's obligation to give the reader a true sense of what is not readily apparent on the page. Having said that, it should be understood by the reader that the world entered in a translated work, especially poetry, is an attempt to balance that strangeness with a universal familiarity. Translations exist to share a human experience that is otherwise walled off by the distinctions of language and culture, to heighten the common thread of our individuality even as that individuality is absorbed in the uniqueness of our own particular and limited world, whether that's the world of the original work or of the reader's.