March 19, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1548 – Cornelis Ketel, Dutch portrait painter/poet, is born.
1590 – Manuel de Faria e Sousa, Portuguese historian and poet (d. 1649), is born.
1840 – William Cosmo Monkhouse, English poet and critic (d. 1901), is born.
1842 – Stéphane Mallarmé, French poet (d. 1898), is born.
1864 – Karl M Lybeck, Finnish/Swedish language poet (Samlade Arbeten), is born.
1892 – Robert P Tristram Coffin, poet/reporter (WW II), is born. 1893 – Wilfred Owen, England, anti-war poet (Anthem for Doomed Youth), is born. 
1900 – Antonio Nobre, Portuguese poet (So [Lonely]), dies at 32. 
1904 – Srečko Kosovel, Slovenian poet (d. 1926), is born. 1932 – John Updike, Shillington Pa, poet/novelist (Rabbit Run), is born.
1975 – Alain Grandbois, Quebec poet (b. 1900), dies
1992 – Cornelis B Vaandrager, [C Vaan], poet (Giant of Rotterdam), dies at 56.
1996 – Alepoude Odysseus Elytis llis, poet, dies at 84.

. . . Mysticis umbraculis
She slept: her finger trembled, amethyst-less
And naked, under her nightdress:
After a deep sigh, ceased, cambric raised to her waist.
And her belly seemed of snow on which might rest,
If a ray of light re-gilded the forest,
A bright goldfinch’s mossy nest.

 —Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898)

She slept: her finger trembled, amethyst-less/And naked, under her nightdress-Stéphane Mallarmé

World Poetry

Nobel Body Slams Merc Over Poem “Grave Theft”

The Swedish Academy, the body responsible for awarding the Nobel prizes, has announced its intention to sue German carmaker Mercedes Benz over its use of a poem by deceased poet Karin Boye in a new advert. "Fortunately, there is something in copyright law called 'Classics protection'. This means that the Swedish Academy … has the right to protest in court the use of 'literary and artistic works … that violate cultural interests. This is what we will do now," stated Swedish Academy Permanent Secretary Peter Englund in a blog post on Friday. The advert which has caused Englund and the Academy to react has been created by advertising agency ANR for German luxury car brand Mercedes Benz and features Swedish actress Lena Endre reading a poem by Karin Boye. Read more at The Local.

“Blasphemous Verses”: Palestinian Poet’s Work Removed from Saudi Book Fair

Works by the celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish have been withdrawn from the Riyadh International Book Fair amid allegations that they contain blasphemous passages, a Saudi news site reported. The publications administration at the book fair, one of the biggest of its kind in the Arab world, ordered the removal of all books containing Darwish’s work after youths from the religious police complained about the content of the books. A verbal confrontation broke out between the youths and a stall owner, leading large crowds to gather around. Read more at Gulf News.

A Young Sudanese Poet Satisfies Hope for Better Days

A young Sudanese poet has learned that her blog of English-language short stories and poems has the power to transform. Among those who follow her literary work – and many of her readers are Sudanese in the diaspora – she is called the Nubian Queen. But the Sudan she writes about at NubianQ is new to her. Najla Salih grew up far from Sudan but hearing the stories her parents told her about her homeland, she fell in love with it. It was from her mother and father that she learned of golden age Sudan, when the country was filled with what she calls “pure states of mind and transparent hearts.” Read more at VOA News.

Poetry Does Not Help Children Understand the Great War, Says Paxman: Teaching Children the Works of Owen and Sassoon “Passes on Half-baked Prejudices”

Jeremy Paxman at First World War graves: The BBC man says teachers rely too much on poetry to educate children about horror of the war Teachers rely too much on poetry to educate children about the realities of the First World War, Jeremy Paxman has said. After addressing a conference of teachers debating how to mark the centenary of the Great War, he said that the poems of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen 'fail to answer the really interesting questions'.Read more at the Daily Mail.

The Swedish Academy has announced its intention to sue German carmaker Mercedes Benz.

Recent Reviews

Gizzi Collection Showcases Elegant, Profound Works

by Sonja James
Peter Gizzi's "In Defense of Nothing: Selected Poems, 1987-2011" is a volume of unprecedented beauty by one of the major poets of our time. As elegant as they are profound, these poems represent close to 25 years of work. In this substantial volume, Gizzi regales us with minimalist narrative, long lyrics and prose poems which are studies in human perception. Gizzi's central theme is how the human mind converts objects and lived experiences into poetry. For Gizzi, poetry itself is a field of human experience. Read more at the Journal-News.

Daisy Fried, Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice 

by Jason Guriel
I have one thousand words to register something crisp and comprehensive about Daisy Fried's third book Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice, but could easily – irresponsibly, happily – use up the word count on 'Torment', the seven-page lead-off poem. Maybe you remember it from Poetry magazine, where it ran a few years back. 'Torment' takes place on the Dinky, 'the one-car commuter train connecting / Princeton to the New York line'. A pregnant Fried is returning home from an interview for a teaching job she doesn't want. She's also eavesdropping on a pair of her students, Brianna and Justin, who just happen to be sharing the same compartment, and who themselves have just interviewed – for work in the Republican-friendly financial sector. ('Elephants on it' is what Fried says about Justin's tie.) Eventually, they notice Fried. 'Look, Just,' says Brianna. 'It's Professor.' Read more at PN Review.

Jane Mead, Maxine Kumin, Kevin Young, J.D. McClatchy

by Carol Muske-Dukes
Emily Dickinson's "authentication" test for a poem was: "If I feel physically as if the top of my head was being taken off." I admit that I have not experienced that precise brain-bomb, but I have felt something close to it: a tingling shudder-on-the-skull reaction when encountering a remarkable poem. I felt that "Dickinson Top Hat" buzz as I read poem after poem in "Money Money Money Water Water Water" by Jane Mead. Read more at the LA Times.

Subterranean Freshness Rane Arroyo and His Poems

by Tony Leuzzi
In 1936, the great Spanish poet Miguel Hernández wrote:
I am tired of so much pure and minor art . . . I don’t care for the puny voice that goes in ecstasy standing before a poplar, that fires off four little verses and believes that now everything has been done in poetry. Enough of the prudishness and syrupy-sweetness of poets acting like candymakers, all prim, all with sugared fingertips. This critique of minor poets, which in the Spain of that time meant aesthetic formalists who celebrated an apolitical, unerotic view of the “World” and “Nature,” appeared in his rave review of Pablo Neruda’s Residencia en la tierra, a book that Hernández claimed made him want to “throw handfuls of sand in my eyes, to catch fingers in doors.” The effect Neruda’s poetry had on Hernández was immeasurable, and I cite it here because it is this sort of reaction I had when I read two of Rane Arroyo’s books:The Buried Sea: New and Selected Poems and Same-Sex Séances. Read more at the Brooklyn Rail.

Peter Gizzi is a volume of unprecedented beauty.


Ronald Johnson’s “ARK”: A Poem in Three Dimensions

by Stephen Burt
In 1970, the poet and cookbook writer Ronald Johnson, reared in Dust Bowl Kansas, just back from England, and newly settled in San Francisco, began to fashion “a lofty Temple of words, images, and music”—a long poem that he titled “ARK.” “This structure was in the form of a spaceship, to carry mankind, along with the wonder of old earth, to the stars,” he later explained. As models for his poem, Johnson, who was then thirty-five, took the cosmic ambitions, collages, and juxtapositions of other challenging long poems, such as Ezra Pound’s “Cantos”; the monumental constructions of outsider artists, such as Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers; and the visionary journeys of earlier American individualists, from Thoreau’s “Walden” to Charles Ives’s symphonies and L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” Read more at the New Yorker.

Robert Zend – Part 13. Gaskets, Thumbtacks, Toilet Paper Rolls . . . and Doodles

by Camille Martin
Robert Zend dissolved boundaries, or perhaps more accurately, ignored them. The preceding eight installments demonstrated two ways in which he did so: his international outlook and his exploration of humanity’s place within the cosmos. In this last substantive installment, I’d like to show a third way. To create his visual art, Zend used technologies that were available to him, including the typewriter and computer. He also used whatever materials were at hand, including automotive gaskets, thumbtacks, and toilet paper rolls. Zend was also a prolific doodler, drawing his casual sketches (some quite intricate) on everything from Post-It notes to cocktail napkins. Read more at Rogue Embryo.

Poet and cookbook writer Ronald Johnson began to fashion “a lofty Temple of words, images, and music”.

Drafts & Fragments

Readings to Remember: John Berryman

The clip shows John Berryman in Dublin, 1967, reading Dream Song 29 [There sat down, once, a thing on Henry’s heart]. But, as the attentive viewer may notice, Berryman was quite drunk when he was filmed and interviewed here for a BBC arts programme. Read more at Lyrikline.

Three Erasures

—Collier Nogues

A Book of Patriotic Movements This poem erases Chapter 1 of the “Yearbook of Patriotic Movements,” originally published in Japanese in 1936 by the Oka Furabu (Cherry Blossom Club), a radical right-wing organization whose lieutenants had instigated a failed military coup. The text has been digitized by the National Diet Library of Japan, which cites the United States Strategic Bombing Survey as the English translation’s source. Read more at At Length.

The clip shows John Berryman reading Dream Song 29.

Poetry In the News

Poet Bukowski Feted 20 Years after his Death — at Dive Bar, of Course

Charles Bukowski was known for his drinking as much as his poetry. So maybe, the man Time magazine once described as "the laureate of lowlife," would have approved of a 20th-anniversary memorial held in his honor at the dimly lighted King Eddy Saloon on the edge of skid row. Read more at the LA Times.

Louisiana Names Its First French-Language Poet Laureate

The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) in partnership with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH) and the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism (CRT) has named Zachary Richard as its first Poète Lauréat de la Louisiane Française. Richard was selected for the honorary two-year post (2014-2016) for his outstanding contributions in the field of poetry. Chosen on even years, the French language Poet Laureate’s efforts will complement those of the English language Laureate, currently Ava Leavell Haymon, appointed in 2013 by Gov. Bobby Jindal. Read more at the Shreveport Times.

Student's Poetry Issue Called A “Miscommunication”

The poem selected by a high school student to read at a celebration of the arts has been approved after what the Division of Culture and History calls a "miscommunication." Grace Pritt, a student at Hurricane High School and budding poet, asked to read "Black Diamonds," a poem by Crystal Good, at the Governor's Arts Awards on Thursday. However, Pritt was told she couldn't read the poem. According to an email from Tabitha Walter, cultural facilities grant coordinator, Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith requested Pritt select another poem because "your poem deals with coal and many state representatives will be there." Read more at the Charleston Daily Mail.

Poetry Magazine Joins with D.C.’s Split This Rock Festival

The March issue of Poetry magazine focuses on the Split This Rock festival coming up in Washington, March 27-30, 2014. For the first time, Poetry magazine has collaborated with Washington poetry festival Split This Rock. The March issue of the venerable journal includes 16 contributions from poets who will speak at the biennial festival, March 27-30.In her introduction to the issue, Split This Rock Executive Director Sarah Browning explains that the festival “calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets.” This year’s theme is “Poems of Provocation and Witness.” Read more at the Washington Post.

$100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award Goes to Afaa Michael Weaver

Claremont Graduate University announced Wednesday that Afaa Michael Weaver is the recipient of the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his collection "The Government of Nature." The award, one of the nation's most substantial poetry prizes, is given annually to a midcareer poet. Weaver was born in Baltimore, the eldest of five children of a beautician mother and steelworker father. He grew up a big reader and started college, then dropped out in 1970. That was the year his girlfriend got pregnant, they married, and lost their son at 11 months. A daughter was born in 1973, and for 15 years Weaver worked in Baltimore factories while being a part of the Baltimore literary scene. He launched a small press and a literary magazine. Read more at the LA Times.

Charles Bukowski was known for his drinking as much as his poetry.

New Books

Sea Salt: Poems of a Decade, 2004-2014 by David Mason


[Paperback] Red Hen Press, 104 pp., $18.95
Long regarded as one of the best narrative and dramatic poets at work in the United States, David Mason has also been regularly producing soulful lyrics. In the ten years since the publication of his last collection of shorter poems, Mason has refined his art in the fires of wrenching personal change. The result is an almost entirely new poetic voice and his most rigorous and memorable book to date.

Seam by Tarfia Faizullah

[Paperback] Southern Illinois University Press, 80 pp., $15.95
The poems in this captivating collection weave beauty with violence, the personal with the historic as they recount the harrowing experiences of the two hundred thousand female victims of rape and torture at the hands of the Pakistani army during the 1971 Liberation War. As the child of Bangladeshi immigrants, the poet in turn explores her own losses, as well as the complexities of bearing witness to the atrocities these war heroines endured. Throughout the volume, the narrator endeavors to bridge generational and cultural gaps even as the victims recount the horror of grief and personal loss.

Another Reason by Carl Dennis


[Paperback] Penguin Books, 112 pp., $18.95
The poems in Carl Dennis’s new collection Another Reason assume that our efforts to reason with ourselves and with others about what matters to us are necessary to escape the purely private point of view, to provide the houses we live in with doors and windows. These poems enact a drama of attempted persuasion, as the poet confers with himself, with intimates, and with strangers, if only in the hope that by defining differences more precisely one may be drawn into a genuine dialogue.

La Far by Eric Linske

[Paperback] University of Iowa Press, 114 pp., $19.95
How far are we from the Lake District? How far from the garden? Eric Linsker’s first book scrolls down the Anthropocene, tracking our passage through a technophilic pastoral where work and play are both forms of making others suffer in order to exist. In La Far, the world is faraway near, a hell conveniently elsewhere in which workers bundle Foxconn’s “rare earths” into the “frosty kits” that return us our content, but also the sea meeting land as it always has. Both are singable conditions and lead, irreversibly, to odes equally comfortable with praise and lament. 

Bicentennial: Poems by Dan Chiasson

[Hardcover] Knopf, 96 pp., $26.95
From the acclaimed poet—a refreshing, singular collection of poems about boys and boyhood, historical cycles and personal history, memory and meaning. Bicentennial summons the world of Chiasson’s seventies childhood in Vermont: early VCRs, snow, erections, pizza, snowmobiles, high-school cliques, and the Bicentennial celebration,  but his book is also an elegy for his father, whom he never knew and who died in 2009. In these poems, Chiasson movingly revisits the kind of autobiographical poems he wrote as a young man, but with a new existential awareness that individuals are always vanishing in time, and throughout the collection he ponders time’s conundrums. “All of history, even the Romans, / they happen later, tonight sleep tight,” he tells his sons at bedtime. “You’ll learn this later. Tonight, goodnight.” 

Gazelle in the House by Lisa Williams


[Paperback] New Issues Poetry & Prose, 89 pp., $15.00
"Lisa Williams's new collection, Gazelle in the House, is truly a book of stanzas: poetic rooms in which to dwell. Some of these dwellings have the uncanny familiarity of ordinary domestic space and others are as mysterious and disorienting as the depths of the sea. Painting with colors at times opaque, at times transparent, moving between shallows, tide-pools, and the abysses of dreams, Williams's voice is solitary, meditative, intimate—and in the end a means of revelation."—Susan Stewart

David Mason has been regularly producing soulful lyrics.


Remembering Bill Knott


by Robert P. Baird   
Nearly fifty years ago, in the fall of 1966, a mimeographed letter made the rounds among poets, critics, and literary magazines, announcing that a twenty-six-year-old writer named Bill Knott had killed himself in his Chicago apartment. The letter, ostensibly written by a friend of Knott’s, said that the poet was a virgin and an orphan, and that he was tired of living without being loved. Though Knott had published poems in little magazines, he was not especially well known; still, the news, which came just a few years after Sylvia Plath’s suicide, was unsettling. In 1968, however, a poetry collection called “The Naomi Poems” was published, which told another story. Read more at the New Yorker.

A Look at Kim Addonizio: A Featured Poet at the Mass Poetry Festival, 2014

by Jacquelyn Malone 
The Poetry Foundation’s web site says that Kim Addonizio’s poetry is “known for its gritty, street-wise narrators and a wicked sense of wit.”  But don’t misunderstand — there is nothing swaggering about the poems. In fact the same article  declares her work to be wise and crafty, and quotes from a Daniela Gioseffi, who contends,  that Addonizio “is most profound when she’s philosophizing about the transient quality of life and its central realization of mortality.” Here is a wonderful quote from Addonizio herself explaining what poetry means to her: “Writing is an ongoing fascination and challenge, as well as being the only form of spirituality I can consistently practice. I started as a poet and will always return to poetry—both reading and writing it—for that sense of deep discovery and communion I find there. There are only two useful rules I can think of for aspiring writers: learn your craft, and persist. The rest, as Henry James said, is the madness of art.” Read more atMass Poetry.

Advanced Women Poets: Books You May Only Be Hearing about Now

by Denise Duhamel
As the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2013, I had a unique opportunity to examine where we are as a culture in terms of verse. As the series editor, David Lehman, and I searched through literary magazines for an entire year, our list of contributors organically grew. When all was said and done, we'd included 38 women, exactly half of the poets represented. This is the largest number of female poets ever included in a Best American volume. Women poets have the unique privilege of challenging sexism and heteronormative assumptions or celebrating all that is female–its authentic essence as well as its artifice. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Feminist Poet Draws Praise for New Book

by Erika L. Sanchez
Poet and essayist Carmen Giménez Smith knew she wanted to be writer at a very early age.
“I was a big bookworm,” she says. “I would get books at thrift stores and garage sales. I'd just read anything I could get my hands on. I loved it, and I loved the world that it created. And I said, 'I want to do that. I want to create these worlds.'” These "worlds" she has created have clearly resonated with readers and critics; Giménez Smith's latest book, Milk and Filth, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the Poetry category.“That day was like I was walking on air,” of the day when she found out she was a finalist. Giménez Smith is the daughter of South American immigrants. Her mother, who is Peruvian, and her father, who is Argentinean, both worked in the hospitality industry for most of her childhood. She was born in New York and then moved 13 times around the country when she was growing up. Giménez Smith attributes these migrations to her “father's rising and complex relationship to status in this country. We kind of had to go where the fortunes took us.” Read more atNBC News.

The poet was a virgin and an orphan, and he was tired of living without being loved.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Stanley Kunitz

"I'm not sure that a poet should expect to be rewarded for his voluntary choice of a vocation. If he has any sense at all, he should realize that he's going to have a hard time surviving, particularly in a society whose main drives are exactly opposite to his. If he chooses, against the odds, to be a poet, he ought to be tough enough, cunning enough, to take advantage of the system in order to survive. And if he doesn't, it's sad, but the world is full of the most terrible kinds of sadness."

“I’m not sure that a poet should expect to be rewarded for his voluntary choice of a vocation.” -Stanley Kunitz