May 22, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

May 22, 2012

1841 – Catulle Mendès, French poet (d. 1909), is born.

1904 – Paul Viiding, Estonian poet (d. 1962), is born.
1967 – James Langston Hughes, American poet laureate, dies at 65.

2005 – Julia Randall, American poet (b. 1924), dies.

Maid’s Song

I wept on cypress knees,
I made a coat of moss,
I took the glowing worm
And hid him from the grass.

The river moved but once,
I could not plant my foot,
I’d mouths about my arm.
At last my love went out.

—Julia Randall (1924–2005)

Poetry In The News

James Franco Shepherds Two Poetry-themed Pix

Who else but James Franco would cobble together his ongoing higher education, books of poetry, NYU graduate students, independent financing and fellow A-list actors to create not one, but two new feature films? That’s just what the multihyphenate has done with “Tar” and “Black Dog, Red Dog,” two standalone narrative pics based on separate collections of poetry that were adapted by students in Franco’s filmmaking class. Read more at Variety.

Hailey Leithauser Wins Emily Dickinson First Book Award

Hailey Leithauser has won the Poetry Foundation’s 2012 Emily Dickinson First Book Award. The 57-year-old poet has been writing off and on since the late 1970s. Since 2000, her work has been published in The Antioch Review, The Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Best American Poetry, and Poetry. The award, which is given only occasionally, was designed to give recognition to an American poet over the age of forty who has yet to publish a collection of poetry. Read more at Media Bistro.

Annual Roethke Birthday Bash in Saginaw Features Poetry Reading

April’s release of the Theodore Roethke postage stamp turned the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet’s Saginaw homestead into a hub of activity and its organizers tired yet happy hosts. And as the observation of what would have been Roethke’s 104th birthday comes around, they’re at it again from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, with “A Saginaw Celebration: The Life and Work of Theodore Roethke” at the Roethke House, 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw. Read more at M Live.

World Poetry

Soldier Poet Victimized by Egyptian Military, Says Ex-colonel Father

Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet Ran has become one of the six poets to have their poems displayed in London subway trains, as part of the “World Poems on the Underground” project. The English translation of the poet’s “Geceleyin Baku” (Baku at Night) will be on display on the walls of the train carriages until the end of the Olympic Games, to be held in London this summer. Read more at Hurriyet Daily News.

New Books

Hold Me to an Island: Caribbean Place: An Anthology of Writing edited by Kwame Dawes and Jeremy Poynting

[Paperback] Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 320 pp., $29.95
Exploring the relationships between the Caribbean people and their environment, this anthology brings together poetry, fiction, and other pieces of prose that focus on the Caribbean’s natural and man-made environments with an insider point of view. The writings are divided by relating to various places, including constructed, intimate, and natural ones, in addition to the flora and fauna of the region, which has, in some cases, taken on iconic significance. This collection gives a true insight into both the Caribbean landscape and its corresponding mindscape.

The Art of Robert Frost by Tim Kendall

[Hardcover] Yale University Press, 408 pp., $35.00
In addition to close readings of the poems, The Art of Robert Frost traces the development of Frost’s writing career and relevant aspects of his life. The book also assesses the particular nature of the poet’s style, how it changes over time, and how it relates to the works of contemporary poets and movements, including Modernism. The first book on Frost to combine selected poems with a critical study, this appealing volume will be welcome on the shelves of scholars, students, and all other readers who love fine poetry.

Home Burial by Michael McGriff

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $15.00
Michael McGriff’s second full-length collection explores interior landscapes and illustrates life in a rural community in the Pacific Northwest. Whether tender or hard-hitting, McGriff juxtaposes natural images of deep forests, creeks, coyotes, and crows against the harsher oil-grease realities of blue-collar life, creating poems that read like folk tales about the people working in grain mills, forests, and factories.

Inside/Out: Selected Poems by Marilyn Buck

[Paperback] City Lights Publishers, 128 pp., $13.95
Marilyn Buck was a committed political radical, imprisoned for over thirty years for her revolutionary activities. She was also a prolific writer and poet, publishing her work in a prize-winning chapbook, an audio CD, and in various journals and anthologies. She received a PEN American Center prize for poetry in 2001.This selection of her finest poetry is a living testament to the fierce intelligence and huge compassion that inspired and informed her life, and to the transcendence of her poetic vision.

Recent Reviews

Silver Linings

Poems and Stories by Lucia Perillo
by Adam Plunkett
On the cover of Inseminating the Elephant, Lucia Perillo’s 2009 book of poems, minimal brush strokes form what look like four legs and one red trunk with the overlapping color patterns of Cézanne and a few dribbled lines of a Pollock. The painter is in fact Jojo the elephant, “a sweet-tempered, tuskless bull” who had been painting for 11 years at the time of the book’s publication. He also plays harmonica in the Thai Elephant Orchestra. Jojo’s example encourages as it disarms. Nature is more creative than we had imagined — an elephant can make art! — but the human imagination is less distinctive than we had presumed, since art is something even an elephant can make. This note of hopeful disillusionment marks much of Perillo’s poetry, a limber body of work that for 20-odd years has celebrated the world that often hurts her. Read more at the New York Times.

Raw Material by Derek Mahon

by George Potts
“An important school of thought (Nabokov and Ted Hughes for example) has always insisted on literal translation,” writes Derek Mahon. Adhering to a concept of translation markedly different from that of Nabokov and Hughes, he explains that his most recent volume of translated poems are “poems adapted from their originals … to make something not only respectable but also readable, and perhaps re-readable, in a different language.” Read more at Literateur.

Book Review: Uncreative Writing

by Stephan Delbos
The most appropriate way to review Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing, an inspiring, controversial and engaging critical survey-cum-manifesto, would be to simply copy and paste a previous review of the book and claim it as an original. Or perhaps a review of another book, or a chapter from a cookbook. Goldsmith has made a name for himself as the most visible proponent of a strain of avant-garde American poetry that doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel of what poetry can and should be in the Internet age, but rather to push that wheel into territory that has previously been inhabited by artists. Read more at the Prague Post.

My Mouse Field Was a Triumph

by Leah Umansky
Dorothea Tanning’s Coming to That is a book full of imagination, creativity and intellect. Reading this collection, which was published a few months before her death in January of 2012, is a great joy as it reveals the imagination of a poet and an artist (not to mention a centenarian). I’m often impressed with poets who take risks in their writing, and sure, being 100+ definitely takes some edge off, but what I enjoyed most about Tanning’s poetry was her inventive subject matter. For example, in the poem “Cultivation,” Tanning writes in a Peter Rabbit meets Tim Burton sort of way. Read more at The Rumpus.


Poet/Professor Mark Halliday

by Kelee Riesbeck
On this edition of Conversations from Studio B, Kelee Riesbeck talks with poet, Ohio University professor and critic Mark Halliday. Halliday, who has authored five collections of poetry, was recently awarded the rank of distinguished professor at Ohio University. Read more at WOUB.

Stanford’s Eavan Boland Defines What It Means to Be a “Woman Poet”

by Camille Brown
Poetry has been an integral part of Eavan Boland’s life since she was a young girl. In college she wrote her first publication, 23 Poems. She has gone on to publish nearly 20 books of poetry, winning awards and accolades from readers and critics alike. Growing up in Ireland, Boland found poetic inspiration in everyday life. But Boland, a self-described “woman poet,” has always had trouble reconciling those two words. Read more at Stanford University News.

The Man in the Clearing

Iain Sinclair meets Gary Snyder
Coming through the woods, down a soft winding track, two minutes shy of the time we have been instructed to arrive, 10 a.m. on a bright Sunday morning, we see the man already there in the clearing, his right hand on the dog’s collar. Two minutes later, you feel, and he’d be gone. But this is the right person, undoubtedly, the one we have come to see. In a solid, heavy, hired car, a Chevrolet Impala, we have driven down the coast, on 101, from Seattle to Eureka, where a mudslide after weeks of rain diverted us over the mountains to Red Bluff, and on to goldmining country, Nevada City and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The man in the clearing, thin silver hair lit from behind, long blue work shirt over pink, is lean, of modest height, and steady as a post. Read more at the London Review of Books.


“I Saw A Peacock With A Fiery Tail”: What’s Your Favorite “Trick” Art? (VIDEO)

by Mallika Rao
When the Poetry Society of America asked Margaret Atwood to write about her first literary love, she had to coin a phrase to describe her unusual pick. “I Saw A Peacock With A Fiery Tail,” the mysterious 17th-century poem a 4-year-old Atwood found in a nursery rhyme book became known after that as a “trick poem,” a writer’s version of trompe l’oeil. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Why I Still Write Poetry

by Charles Simic
When my mother was very old and in a nursing home, she surprised me one day toward the end of her life by asking me if I still wrote poetry. When I blurted out that I still do, she stared at me with incomprehension. I had to repeat what I said, till she sighed and shook her head, probably thinking to herself this son of mine has always been a little nuts. Now that I’m in my seventies, I’m asked that question now and then by people who don’t know me well. Many of them, I suspect, hope to hear me say that I’ve come my senses and given up that foolish passion of my youth and are visibly surprised to hear me confess that I haven’t yet. Read more at the New York Review of Books.

An ABC of Translating Poetry

by Willis Barnstone
I include this primer on the translation of poetry with pleasure and diffidence since I dislike dogma or prescription. Why not show preferences, to use Jorge Luis Borges’ favorite word for choice, judgment, discrimination, and taste? The ABC itself allows me some escape from a charge of inconstancy in method in that it indicates that method is justified provided it is openly named. Read more at

Death by Poetry? It Happens All the Time.

by Helena Nelson
A circular email arrives. It is addressed to several publishers, so I am one of a list – often quite an interesting list. Occasionally the list of other names is suppressed, so the email appears to be copied to its author, but I know I am one of many because the email will begin, “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear Publisher” or, as in one last week, “Dear Small Publishers”. Then there is an appeal to read some poems. Read more at Happenstance Press.

Drafts & Fragments

Ensemble of Historic Documents, Books, Letters and Poems Featured at Sotheby’s Sale

PARIS.- The 184-lot sale of Books & Manuscripts to be held at Sotheby’s Paris on 15 May 2012 includes an ensemble of historic documents, books, letters and poems concerning two great names of French poetry: Paul Verlaine and Guillaume Apollinaire.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

An Experiment That Failed

I tend to repeat myself. And I know I’ve touched on this issue before in different lights. But I couldn’t help noticing the absurdity of match-ups in this week’s newsletter. What caught my eye was the review of the book Uncreative Writing by Kenneth Goldsmith and the article about the soldier sentenced to a year in prison for writing a poem. To my mind, the notion of Goldsmith’s conceptual poetry as somehow cutting edge or risky is odd. It is experimental. It’s an experiment that failed about a hundred years ago. That we are treated to a manifesto on this as if it is to be taken seriously again is absurd—as absurd as someone sentenced to prison for writing a poem, although for altogether different reasons.

—David Sanders