March 25, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1458 – Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, Spanish marquis of Santillana/poet, dies.
1625 – Giambattista Marini, Italian poet (b. 1569), dies.
1808 – Jose de Espronceda y Delgado, Spanish revolutionary/poet (Cortes), is born.
1899 – Jacques Audiberti, French poet (Race of Men), is born.
1914 – Frederic Mistral, French poet (Nobel-1904), dies at 83.
1937 – John Drinkwater, English poet/playwright (Bird in Hand), dies at 54.
1980 – James Wright, American poet (b. 1927), dies.


One of these days
The immortals, clinging to a beam of sunlight
Under water, delighted by delicate crustaceans,
Will dance up thirty-foot walls of radiance,
And waken,
The sea shining on their shoulders, the fresh
Wine in their arms. Their ships have drifted away.
They are stars and snowflakes floating down
Into your hands, love. 

—from “A Way to Make a Living” by James Wright (1927–1980)

“The immortals, clinging to a beam of sunlight / Under water, delighted by delicate crustaceans, / Will dance” – James Wright

World Poetry

Ashes of Poet, Former Leprosy Sufferer, to be Buried in her Proud Hometown

In death, Kazuko To, an award-winning poet and former leprosy patient who lived most of her life in a sanitarium, will finally be coming home for good. To will regain her real name, Yatsuko Izuchi, and be reunited with her parents in the family grave in her native Seiyo, Ehime Prefecture, on March 17. She died in August at age 83 at Oshima Seisho-en, a national sanitarium in Takamatsu, where she spent 70 years. To published 19 collections of poems that reflected the isolation and loneliness of her life. In 1999, she was awarded the Takami Jun Prize, which honors collections of poetry. Read more at Asahi.

Charles Simic wins 2014 Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award

Earlier this week, Charles Simic was named winner of the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award during a ceremony at the Teatr Polski in Warsaw. Simic is only the second recipient of this prize; the first was awarded last year to W.S. Merwin. According to a report on the University of New Hampshire Web site, Simic said, “What a good piece of news to receive first thing in the morning and how wonderful that it comes from a country that has given the world so many great poets, many of whom, like Zbigniew Herbert, have meant so much to me. Read more at Coldfront.

Czech Journalist, Poet Karel Trinkewitz Dies in Germany

Czech journalist, artist and poet Karel Trinkewitz has died at the age of 82 in Germany, where he was living since the late 1980s when he had been forced by the Czechoslovak communist authorities to leave his homeland after his signing of the Charter 77 manifesto. Read more at the Prague Monitor.

On World Poetry Day, PEN Highlights the Challenges and Dangers Facing Poets and Writers around the World

21 March marks World Poetry Day, first declared by UNESCO in 1999, to ‘support linguistic diversity through poetic expression and to offer endangered languages the opportunity to be heard within their communities’. PEN International and PEN Centres around the world have long campaigned on behalf of poets at risk and for the protection and promotion of minority languages. In 2011 PEN’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee developed the Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights – a ten point document designed to be translated and disseminated widely as a tool to defend linguistic diversity around the world. Read more at PEN International.

In death, Kazuko To, a poet and former leprosy patient who lived her life in a sanitarium, will finally be coming home for good.

Recent Reviews

Orange Roses by Lucy Ives

by Stephen Motika
I started reading Lucy Ives’s Orange Roses in the local library; I enjoyed the architecture of the building, the clerestory, but the screaming children did me in. As I walked out, I thought about the modernist ambitions of the library, a concrete brutalist bunker with touches of the International Style. I thought of the modernist ambitions of Lucy Ives’s book, complete with its own architecture of interwoven temporalities, prosodies, and rhythms attempting to engage and understand the space between somatic and intellectual existence, the time between planning and realizing, between counting ahead and being in time, in space, in language. This doesn’t touch on the careful architecture of Ives’s book, which in thirteen pieces, whether poem or lyric essay, creates a text both variegated and toothy. Read more at Constant Critic.

Mother Tongue: New Poetry by Jen Hadfield and John Burnside

Two new collections by Scottish poets characterised by sharp attention to detail.
by Matthew Sperling 
Behavioural scientists are increasingly persuaded that the key to personal happiness lies in how we pay attention. If this is right, part of poetry’s value is how it can teach readers to attend to things that would otherwise escape regard. Two new collections – by John Burnside, the pre-eminent living Scottish poet, and the Shetland-dwelling Jen Hadfield, a more recent emergence in UK poetry – are sustained by acts of close attention. Read more at the New Statesman.

Semi-stable Blobs

by Jack Underwood
Poems are always as much about characterising their speaker as they are about the business they might strategically place in the foreground. The choice of words, the manner of speaking, is the thing. Even when a fact is narrated over the garden fence of a so-called ‘third person’ we’re still aware that meaning must be meant by someone, but who? The claim made on the dust-jacket of Glyn Maxwell’s Pluto, that the collection is the poet’s “most directly personal work to date”, immediately feels problematic then, since it implies there is some deliberate admission of extra Truth on the poet’s part. When a poet says “I am being me” it assumes that “I” is a stable enough blob to tether poems to in the first place. Read more at the Poetry Society.

Best Thing I’ve Read This Month: Abide

From 2004-2005, I was a graduate student of Jake Adam York’s at University of Colorado-Denver; I also worked as a poetry editor with him on some early issues of Copper Nickel. Having known Jake personally and being familiar with his dedication to and enthusiasm for all-things poetry, it was heartbreaking to hear of his untimely death just over one year ago. After recently receiving a copy of his posthumously released Abide (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014) in the mail, I was thankful for the opportunity to read new work by him; but that thankfulness was tempered by the sadness of knowing that he is no longer with us. Read more at Vouched Books.

Poems are always as much about characterizing their speaker as they are about what they strategically place in the foreground.


T. E. Hulme: The First Modern Poet?

by Oliver Tearle
Who wrote the first modern English poem? When — and, indeed, where — was it written? There are numerous candidates, but one could do worse than propose the answer 'T. E. Hulme, in 1908, on the back of a hotel bill.' This poem, 'A City Sunset,' would, along with a handful of others by Hulme, set the blueprint for modern poetry. If we most readily associate 'modern poetry' with brevity, precision of language, understatement, unrhymed verse, written about everyday and often very ordinary things, then we owe many of those associations to T. E. Hulme. Read more at the Huffington Post.

On Poetry Post-Rumsfeld

by Kathleen Rooney
In February 2002, at a press conference in which he responded to concerns about the lack of evidence linking Saddam Hussein’s regime with weapons of mass destruction, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a sublime and oddly poetic utterance. In a now infamous and weirdly beautiful speech, he stated:
Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. Read more at Coldfront.

Ezra Pound, Wai-lim Yip, & Chinese Poetry in America (a Tribute)

by Jerome Rothenberg
It is almost pro forma, in talking of Ezra Pound and Chinese poetry, that we go back to T.S. Eliot’s remark that “Pound is the inventor of Chinese poetry for our time.”  Hugh Kenner does it.  Wai-lim Yip does it.  It is a statement that rings true, once one allows that Eliot was making it with tongue securely in cheek and looking for the maximum effect. Read more at Poems and Poetics.

Was T.E. Hulme the first Modern poet?

Drafts & Fragments

FridgePoems Puts a Million Poems in Your Pocket, but No Fridge

by Kirk Hiner
For 100′s of years, people with bad backs have not been able to write beautiful poetry on-the-go because they couldn’t carry a fridge with them. But now they can!
Well…I, for one, am relieved. You all know what fridge poems are, right? Those littleblack and white word stickers people put on their fridge so they can assemble a quick poem while debating whether to eat a grape or the leftover sloppy joe? Quite honestly, I’m surprised there wasn’t already an app that reproduced this kind of poetic spontaneity, but here it is now: FridgePoems for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Read more at Technology Tell.

You can now take your fridge with you with a new app: FridgePoems for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Poetry In the News

JRR Tolkien Translation of Beowulf to be Published after 90-year Wait

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings author's version of epic Anglo-Saxon poem fleshes out heroes' past, says son who edited manuscript Hwæt! Almost 90 years after JRR Tolkien translated the 11th-century poem Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings author's version of the epic story is to be published for the first time in an edition which his son Christopher Tolkien says sees his father "enter[ing] into the imagined past" of the heroes. Read more at The Guardian.

Following Dylan Thomas in Wales

Climbing along a steep coastal path through a forest in southern Wales, with russet red and tawny brown autumn leaves crunching beneath my feet, I reached a crest where the trailhead looked back onto a long estuary lined with salt flats. The River Taf ran through the headlands before me, its glacier-cut course unmistakable alongside the grass-covered cliffs on either side. The sea spread out before me, a moody canvas of blues and gray. White-topped gorse and cherry-red currant bushes gave color to my panorama, the plaintive chorus of sea birds the only soundtrack. Read more at the New York Times.

JRR Tolkien translation of Beowulf to be published after 90-year wait.

New Books

Complete Minimal Poems by Aram Saroyan 

[Paperback] Ugly Duckling Presse, 288 pp., $20.00
Long cherished in out-of-print editions, anthologies and textbooks, and more recently celebrated on the internet, the groundbreaking Concrete and Minimalist poems of Aram Saroyan (born 1943) are gathered together here in a single, much-needed volume. Working in the 1960s among the so-called Second Generation New York School of poetry and the international Concrete poetry movement, but also informed by Conceptual art, Saroyan brought an intense focus to the sensuality of words–often single words–highlighting their material strangeness. 

The Last Incantations: Poems by David Mura

[Paperback] Triquarterly, 88 pp., $16.95
The personal, historical, and artistic are all in dialogue in David Mura’s daring new collection, The Last Incantations. In a variety of poetic modes, Mura harmonizes and contrasts multiple voices to form a powerful meditation. Certain poems speak from his experiences as a third-generation Japanese American and his family’s struggles to prove their "Americanness." Others speak from the intersections of our multiracial society—an Asian teenager in love with a Somali Muslim girl, an apostrophe to Richard Pryor, poems about a Palestinian American friend, Abu Ghraib, the hapa sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The result is a sustained multifoliate poetry, bursting with elegance, heartache, and truth.

Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass 

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 70 pp., $16.00
Ellen Bass brings a deft touch as she continues her ongoing interrogations of crucial moral issues of our times, while simultaneously delighting in endearing human absurdities. From the start of Like a Beggar, Bass asks her readers to relax, even though "bad things are going to happen," because the "bad" gets mined for all manner of goodness.

The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems by Kiki Dimoula

[Paperback] Yale University Press, 392 pp., $20.00
One of Greece's most beloved contemporary writers, Kiki Dimoula is considered by many to be her homeland's national poet. She has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry, the first in 1952 and others in every decade since. In this new collection, 80 poems selected from throughout Dimoula's long career have been exactingly translated into English by award-winning translators Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser. The poems appear in both Greek and English, side by side. 

My Favorite Tyrants by Joanne Diaz 

[Paperback] University of Wisconsin Press, 80 pp., $16.95
Winner of the 2014 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. The word "tyrant" carries negative connotations, but in this new collection, Joanne Diaz tries to understand what makes tyranny so compelling, even seductive. These dynamic, funny, often poignant poems investigate the nature of tyranny in all of its forms-political, cultural, familial, and erotic.  The result is a powerful exploration of desire, grief, and loss in a world where private relationships are always illuminated and informed by larger, more despotic forces.

The Sleeve Waves by Angela Sorby  

[Paperback] University of Wisconsin Press, 90 pp., $16.95
Winner of the 2014 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye. Inspired by thrift store knit sleeves, punk rock record sleeves, and, of course, print book sleeves, Angela Sorby explores how the concrete world hails us in waves of color and sound. She asks implicitly, "What makes the sleeve wave? Is it the body or some force larger than the self" As Sorby's tough, ironic, and subtly political voice repeatedly insists, we apprehend, use, and release more energy than we can possibly control. 

Cadaver, Speak by Marianne Boruch

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $16.00
"Some books begin as a dare to the self," notes poet Marianne Boruch. Inspired by life-study drawing classes and direct work in a cadaver lab, Boruch's latest book looks at what the body holds, and examines living through bodies deceased.

The personal, historical, and artistic are all in dialogue in David Mura’s daring new collection.


Bridget Lowe

by Peter Mishler
PM: In your first collection of poems At the Autopsy of Valsav Nijinsky you write from the perspective of a number of public figures. How did you choose these subjects?
BL: I honestly don’t feel like I did choose these subjects. It always seems to happen naturally for me. It was at the thrift store where I found the case study called The Wild Boy of Aveyron, and at a yard sale where I found the diaries of Nijinsky. Read more at Parnassus.

Editorial: Octavio Paz

Among the Latin American centenaries being marked in 2014 – including those of Borges's friend and collaborator Adolfo Bioy Casares, anti-poet Nicanor Parra and the fiction writer Julio Cortázar – one in particular is of great importance for PN Review : that of Octavio Paz, born on 31 March 1914. (He died in 1998.)  I sought him out when I was fifteen years old and had fallen in love with his poems. When I knocked, his wife Marie-Jose answered the door of their rented house in San Angel, Mexico City. She had five unlighted matches between her lips, phosphorous ends out, and mumbled that she was slicing onions and the matches kept her from lacrimating. Octavio, recently turned fifty, received me affably in a well-organised book-filled room and our dialogue, which was to continue on and off for three decades in Mexico, London and Cambridge, Massachusetts, began Read more at PN Review.

A Bird Is Not a Stone: The Palestinian Poets ‘Rarely Translated into English’

by Mlynxqualey 
A Bird Is Not a Stone, ed. Henry Bell and Sarah Irving, is a collection of poems by contemporary Palestinian writers forthcoming from Glasgow’s Freight Books. The translations are done — through the bridge method — by 25 of Scotland’s top poets. Irving talks about the collection, which she suggests is perhaps “freer” for being a bridge translation. Read more at Arab Lit.

Latin American writers Adolfo Bioy Cesares, Nicanor Parra, Julio Cortázar, and Octavio Paz all would’ve been 100 years old in 2014.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Barbara Hernstein Smith

". . . if the anti-teleology of the modern poet is not so thoroughgoing as that of the painter or composer, it may be due more to the conservatism of the material of his art than to the conservatism of the poet himself. While he may share the general impulse to "radical empiricism," he is confined by the fact that if his empiricism is too radical, his art loses both its identity and, more important, the source of its characteristic effects. For the material of poetry is not words, but language-—a system of conventions previously determined and continuously mediated by the usage in a community—and if the poem divorces itself utterly from the structure of discourse, it ceases to be poetry and ceases to affect us as such."
from Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End

“If the poem divorces itself utterly from the structure of discourse, it ceases to be poetry and ceases to affect us as such.” – Barbara Hernstein Smith