May 26, 2014

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1648 – Vincent Voiture, French poet (b. 1597), dies.
1859 – Alfred Edward Housman, Bromsgrove England, poet (A Buried Life), is born.
1916 – Moondog, American composer, musician and poet (d. 1999), is born.
1952 – Damaso Alonso, Spanish linguistic/poet (Hombrey Dios), dies at 55.
If By Chance Your Eye Offend You
If by chance your eye offend you, 
Pluck it out, lad, and be sound: 
'Twill hurt, but here are salves to friend you, 
And many a balsam grows on ground. 
And if your hand or foot offend you, 
Cut it off, lad, and be whole; 
But play the man, stand up and end you, 
When your sickness is your soul. 
—A. E. Housman (1859–1936)


“If by chance your eye offend you, / Pluck it out” –A. E. Housman (1859–1936)

World Poetry

Funeral Held for Late Poet Chou Meng-tieh

Prominent cultural figures and friends gathered Tuesday for the funeral of poet Chou Meng-tieh in Taipei, where they recalled the life of the meditative poet and celebrated him and his beautiful creations. Chou died May 1 at age 92 due to complications from pneumonia. Those who came to pay respects placed a flower inside the poet's casket. Admirers and people close to him spoke about Chou's contributions to literature. Read more at Focus Taiwan.

Poet to Live in Charles Causley Former Home

The Charles Causley Trust has announced its next sponsored poet will live in the former home of the late Cornish author. Dr Alyson Hallett will be based in the final home of the poet for six months. The house in Launceston has recently undergone a major £162,000 refurbishment. Dr Hallett said: "It's a real honour and privilege to be able to work under the guiding spirit of such a great poet as Causley." Read more at the BBC.

Jailed Poet Pens Protest Verses behind Bars

"Today your crumpled faces are evidence/that exhausted by your own failed fakery/ bent in your spine, you have collapsed./Your bag of magic tricks and all your vile powers/could not contain the unstoppable storm/of Dabholkar's rebellion," writes an anguished young Marathi poet called Sachin Mali from a jail cell in Mumbai in protest of the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabhoklar last year. Read more at Times of India.

Dr. Alyson Hallett will live in the home of Charles Causley.

Recent Reviews

The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013 – Review

by Fiona Sampson
At more than 600 pages, this new selection from 15 collections over 65 years of Derek Walcott's poetry is clearly no taster. But then Walcott is a generous writer in every sense. The expansive, celebratory texture of his verse is instantly recognisable. It moves with ease between city and country, between "the snow still falling in white words on Eighth Street" and the way "Sunshine […] stirs the splayed shadows of the hills like moths". This vivid engagement with the sensory world doesn't desert Walcott even in elegy, of which the later books include an increasing amount. Read more at The Guardian.

Dream Testicles and Memphis Guilt 

by Ben Wilkinson
Mark Strand cuts a longstanding figure in post-war American poetry, somewhere between its ageing Buddy Holly and its benign – if somewhat sinister – grandfather. His first books, published in the late 60s, marked him out as a connoisseur of concision, approaching stock themes of absence and negation through a blend of realism and surrealist imagery, and a dark humour that steered feeling clear of sentiment. Since then, his poetry has continued to mine that metaphysical seam, though the early dash and vigour have eased, as if our poet had mellowed with age. Read more at the Poetry Society.

Scottish War Poetry Fights for Both Sides in the Independence Battle

For readers of English verse, the term "war poetry" evokes a very specific set of images: mud, blood, lions led by donkeys, ferocious irony and English village greens to be defended. In effect, the canonical parameters of modern English war poetry were established during the 1914-18 period, on the back of the work of a handful of English-born male writers. In recent decades, these parameters have loosened, especially with the wider recognition of the poetry written by women during and about the two world wars. This act of recovery has expanded our view of what war poetry might be, but there is still much to be done. Read more at The Guardian.

At more than 600 pages, this new selection from 15 collections over 65 years of Derek Walcott’s poetry is clearly no taster.


Stalking the Typical Poem*

by Jan Schreiber
When I tell people I teach and – God help me – even write poetry, they often say, “I wish you could explain modern poetry to me. I just don’t understand most of it.” My response is usually to talk to them about the kinds of modern poem you can understand, among which I include my own, and to give reassurances that with sufficient patience and care they’ll find it’s not such a jungle out there after all. Read more at Contemporary Poetry in Review.

Trespass and Presumption

Susan Howe and Muriel Rukeyser
by Stephania Heim 
Muriel Rukeyser and Susan Howe tell the same anecdote about nineteenth-century mathematician, philosopher, and American Pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce. In it, Peirce has been tasked with defining — among many specialized terms of logic, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy — the word “university” for the Century Dictionary. He calls it “an institution for purposes of study.” They correct him: a university is “an institution for instruction.” Peirce, a profound polemicist, responds, “any such notion was grievously mistaken, that a university had not, never had had, anything to do with instruction.”[1] In Peirce’s understanding of the university, knowledge is to be sought, not imparted or dictated. It remains an institution, but one rooted in shared pursuit, not in hierarchical transmission. Read more at Jacket 2.

The Rose of the Name

by Joshua Glover
The editors asked me to write an essay explaining the evolution of Language poetry. I don’t know how to. I offer instead theory, history, an apology, a reading, a quotation, and a reading list: the usual suspects. “Chickamauga is where I’m from and Canada’s where I’m bound” doesn’t strike me as poetry. On the other hand, “Chickamauga is where I’m from and solitude’s where I’m bound” does. Not a poem, not especially good poetry, but poetry. It’s in the equivalence (the machine of metaphor in the skin of grammar) drawn between “Chickamauga” and “solitude,” which in common speech are not exchangeable terms: one’s a place, one’s an emotional circumstance. This error – the confusion of kind – sets poetry apart from common speech. That, and line breaks. Read more at Fence.

“I gather the limbs of Osiris”: Notes on the New Gnosticism

by Henry Gould
A group of eight middle-aged men, poets and scholars, all employed by universities in some capacity, gather at a conference in Louisville, in 2013, to deliver papers and discuss their shared interest in a rather arcane “gnostic” dimension of American poetry.  A year later, their papers are published in a special section of the venerable avant-garde literary magazine Talisman (co-edited by one of their number, Ed Foster).  In this venue, the group announces a new movement in American poetry, to be known as the “New Gnostics”, or the “New Gnosticism”.  Read more at Coldfront.

A new movement, to be known as the “New Gnosticism” is afoot in American poetry.

Drafts & Fragments

Man Assaulted Friend at Birthday Party Following Drunken Row over Nationality of a Famous Poet, Court Told

by Jessica Magee 
A man has avoided jail after he assaulted a friend following a drunken argument over the nationality of a famous poet. Wojciech Wolny (31), who is originally from Poland, was convicted of assault causing harm at a birthday party in his north Dublin home on January 15, 2012. Read more at the Independent.

A man has avoided jail after he assaulted a friend following a drunken argument over the nationality of a famous poet.

Poetry In the News

University of Sheffield Unveils World's First Air Cleansing Poem

The University of Sheffield is displaying a poem on a giant poster on the side of the Alfred Denny Building. The poem, by Simon Armitage, is called "In Praise of Air." The University calls it the "world's first air-cleansing poem" because the poster is coated in nanoparticles created at the university that help purify the air. Read more at Internet Writing Journal.

Natasha Trethewey Delivers Final Lecture as U.S. Poet Laureate

In her final presentation as U.S. poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey delivered a complex and searching lecture about the ideological evolution of Robert Penn Warren. At the Library of Congress on Wednesday night, Trethewey began, as she often does, with her personal history and then moved into a rich exploration of America’s racial heritage.  Read more at the Washington Post.

Dylan Thomas: a Rock Star Poet in New York

‘Are you all OK for throwing the crucifix?” asks a technician worriedly over the radio, as trucks full of lighting equipment buzz up and down the steep hill above Dylan Thomas’s boathouse. It’s a chilly morning in Laugharne (pronounced “Larn”), the Carmarthenshire township where Thomas spent the last five years of his life. His old local, Brown’s Hotel, is brewing cups of hot coffee for the BBC crew. Up the hill, the poet’s little writing-shed has been restored to its Fifties disarray and heaped with a scrivener’s squalor of fag-ends, tattered paperbacks and sheaves of manuscript. Read more at the Telegraph.

“When I first began writing, I was very didactic and very involved with ‘doing it right.'” –Robert Creeley

New Books

Termination Dust by Susanna Mishler

[Paperback], Boreal, 104 pp., $18.95
Termination dust, the first high-altitude snowfall, marks the end of summer in Alaska. Rooted in the seasons and sense of place, the poems in this collection employ image-driven lyric and dreamlike narrative to grapple with questions of death and belonging.

Unions by Alfred Corn 

[Paperback] Barrow Street Press, 82 pp.,  $16.95
"Few poets could sustain, as Corn does, both the fiery voluptuousness of the abstract oracular passages, and the broken simplicity of the late 20th-century voice, tentative, self-conscious, unheroic."—Wayne Koestenbaum

Winter Ready: Poems by Leland Kinsey 

[Paperback] Green Writers Press, 96 pp., $15.95
Winter Ready is a 96-page collection of new poems by a Vermont-based writer who draws from his impressive repertoire of observations and physical landscape of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont to bring to the reader poems with universal meaning and at times a painful acuity. Kinsey opens the collection perched up high on the chimney top, working and observing his surroundings, and throughout the book, he never really gets down-he chronicles a people and a place and a time-and keeps the hard work of writing poetry hidden in the seeming effortless verse that is often funny and poignant, yet always sharp and clear.   

The Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail

Paperback] New Directions, 112 pp., $15.95
The Iraqi Nights is the third collection by the acclaimed Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail. Taking The One Thousand and One Nights as her central theme, Mikhail personifies the role of Scheherazade the storyteller, saving herself through her tales. The nights are endless, seemingly as dark as war in this haunting collection, seemingly as endless as war. Yet the poet cannot stop dreaming of a future beyond the violence of a place where “every moment / something ordinary / will happen under the sun.” 

Holy Island by Lesley Jenike 

[Paperback] Gold Wake Press, 90 pp., $14.95
"Lesley Jenike's HOLY ISLAND is an exquisite hymn to dwelling—in place, in home, in memory, in divinity, in art, in body. Using austere Monhegan Island, Maine as a lodestone, these wildly intelligent and intricately crafted poems take off on a sweeping geographic and emotional journey that plumbs the very heart of what it means to make art, via Europe and Ohio, Benjamin Britten and Mark Rothko, The Last Supper and surf shatter. With elegant syntax and lush imagery, Jenike deftly navigates the rocky waters of world and self, leaving powerful poems in her wake."—Erika Meitner

Nest by Ed Madden

[Paperback] Salmon Poetry, 86 pp., $22.95
Ed Madden's third book of poetry, Nest, is a book about home-the homes we leave and the homes we learn to make for ourselves. These are emphatically poems of place as well: from poems grounded in the fundamentalist culture of the rural South, through poems of travel and dislocation in Ireland and elsewhere, to a final section emphasizing the repurposed and re-imagined.

Rooted in the seasons and sense of place, the poems in Termination Dust employ image-driven lyric and dreamlike narrative.


On Poetry & Pop Culture 

Lisa Marie Basile Interviews Leah Umansky 
Poets have always written about the world around them, so it’s no surprise that television has worked its way into poetry’s domain. I personally do not respond aesthetically or emotionally to pop-culture poetry. I might fall in love with the tone or mood of a film, but I’d never use lines or stories or characters for my own work. I am constantly engaged with the “esoteric,” which, for me, becomes sullied when the “realness” of culture filters into the work. For me, pop-culture gives too much away. It feels somewhat inorganic or borrowed, but then again, isn’t everything in some way? After reading Leah Umansky’s Game of Thrones poems in Poetry, I contemplated the intersection of poetry and pop culture and the nature of writing when the writer already “has” a built-in registry of character, emotion, tone, etc. I wanted to learn more from a poet who has done this quite a bit, so I expanded on this in our conversation, and I think the answers are interesting. Read more at Coldfront.

A Quick Interview with Ed Skoog

by Weston Cutter
Ed Skoog’s second book, Rough Day, was released actually *last* year on as-always-great Copper Canyon, and I’ve loved Ed’s stuff for a good while (here’s an older interview I did with him; here’s my take on his first book, Mister Skylight), and I asked him some questions over email earlier this year (February), and now here’s the interview, but, bigger: get his books. Follow him on Twitter, too–I’m not one to stump for social media, but the guy enlarges what feel like the possibilities of that medium. Read more at Corduroy Books.

Mark Bibbins Takes ‘little pieces’ to Craft Layers of Meaning

by Victoria Fleischer
In “They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry. They Kill You Because They’re Full,” Mark Bibbins writes what he calls “persona poems.” One of his poems is in the voice of Pat Robertson, another in the voice of Medusa (although not necessarily the classic Medusa from Greek mythology). Sometimes, the voice of his poems changes more subtly, responding more to a mood or a perceived audience than channeling a whole different person. Read more at PBS.

Nuyorican Poet Willie Perdomo Chats About 'The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon' and the Poetry Process

by Nicole Akoukou Thompson 
Nuyorican poet Willie Perdomo has offered his audience rich, gratifying and inviting works for the last three decades. His 1996 collection "Where a Nickel Cost a Dime" was followed by the 2002 release of "Postcards of El Barrio," then by the 2003 release of "Smoking Lovely," and now to the 2014 publication of "The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon," a melodic and masterful account of a man, a woman, his music and his nephew — a poet who has love and respect for his uncle but has never known him. Read more at the Latin Post.

An Interview with Raymond de Borja

by Carlos Quijon, Jr. 
To invent is to present the new as something useful. Thinking in this light, and thinking that utility is a domain of prose and not of poetry, then the new in poetry is not an invention. The new is something the existing language can’t describe. Can you talk more about your ideas of what the “new” in poetry consists of? Read more at Future Transits.

In “They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry. They Kill You Because They’re Full,” Mark Bibbins writes what he calls “persona poems.”

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Robert Creeley

"When I first began writing, I was very didactic and very involved with 'doing it right.' There was so much then to qualify what was acceptably a poem, and what was not. For example, there is a lovely story told me by John Frederick Nims about a friend of his reading somewhere in the Midwest. At the end someone asked if questions were permitted, and being told they were, said that he had one concerning the next to last poem read—to wit, 'Was that a real poem or did you just make it up yourself?'"

“When I first began writing, I was very didactic and very involved with ‘doing it right.'” –Robert Creeley