May 27, 2015

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1874 – Richard von Schaukal, Austria poet/writer (Eros Thanatos), is born.
1896 – Allard Pierson, theologist/philosopher/art historian/poet, dies.
1900 – Uładzimir Zylka, Belarusian poet (d. 1933), is born.
1902 – Jan van Droogenbroeck, Flemish poet, dies
1922 – Sidney AK Keyes, English poet (Iron Laurel), is born.
1926 – Srečko Kosovel, Slovenian poet (b. 1904), dies.
1989 – Arseny Tarkovsky, Russian poet (b. 1907), dies.


Eating her sandwiches on a pompous vault
And her dog who loves to play tag with tombstones,
Need never recur, yet link me with the drowned ones
Of earth, quite unforgettably.

—from 'The Anti-Symbolist’ by Sidney Keyes (1922–1943)


“And her dog who loves to play tag with tombstones, / Need never recur” —from ‘The Anti-Symbolist’ by Sidney Keyes (1922–1943)

World Poetry

Neruda Foundation Demands Chile Immediately Rebury Poet

Chile's Neruda Foundation demanded on Tuesday that the remains of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda be reburied immediately. Neruda died in the chaos following Chile's 1973 military coup, and his body was exhumed in 2013 to determine the cause of his death, which some people speculated was from poisoning. Forensic tests showed no toxic agents in his bones. Plans to rebury him last month in the coastal town of Isla Negra were suspended after members of the poet's family and other groups asked the courts to block it, demanding more tests.

Sketches of Welsh Poet RS Thomas to be Auctioned

The family of Elsi Eldridge are selling her pencil drawing of R S Thomas – inscribed “Maentwrog, 1939” – and five other lots from her studio art. They will be for sale at auctioneers Rogers Jones Co’s bi-annual Welsh Sale in Colwyn Bay on Saturday, May 23. Also for sale alongside the portrait is a proof copy of the poet’s “Ringless Fingers” poem, and a limited edition pamphlet of family poems published by the couple’s son Gwydion.

Egyptian Court Acquits 17 in Case Arising From Poet’s Death at March

An Egyptian court on Saturday acquitted 17 witnesses who had been facing criminal charges after some of them came forward to testify about the apparent police killing of an unarmed poet and activist in January, lawyers for the defendants said. The group had seen riot police officers violently disperse a peaceful march on Jan. 24, including by firing birdshot. The poet, Shaimaa el-Sabbagh, 31, was fatally wounded as she participated in the march. 

Russians Honor Deceased Poet Brodsky on His 75th Birthday

Sunday marked what would have been the 75th birthday of beloved poet Joseph Brodsky, Russia's most recent Nobel Prize winner in literature. Though he may have died nearly two decades ago, Russians have gone all out in recent days to honor Brodsky's life and work, including with a museum launch, documentaries aired on state television channels and the prospect of a Moscow street named in his honor.

Chile’s Neruda Foundation demanded on Tuesday that the remains of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda be reburied immediately.

Recent Reviews

Poetry Review: Martha Serpas' "The Diener"
by Ben Evans

The best poets concede to uncertainty and are thereby able to write beyond the confines of knowing towards the ineffable, the sublime. It is in fashion for poets to proclaim this lack of surety, but a different game altogether to abandon the didactic and pitch pen-first into the void. Doing so takes courage and faith, two things Martha Serpas has in abundance. Throughout her recently released third collection, The Diener, Serpas puts her convictions (even this aforementioned faith) on trial, knowing only that there is no resolution to be had. So what's the point? Beauty, and one of the finest collections you'll read this year.

"The Lunatic"
by Christian Harder

“The Lunatic,” Charles Simic’s 37th book, is inaptly titled — Simic’s new work is predictably but disappointingly sane. This collection resembles poetry, but it does not move; it is to the art what an exercise bike is to the real vehicle.

Bradley Harrison Reviews ‘Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings’
by Fox Frazier-Foley

As we discover in The Gorgeous Nothings (New Directions, 2013), an entirely new breed of coffee table book, the artistic genius of Emily Dickinson is hardly debatable and absolutely singular. This huge, breathtaking book features high-resolution photos of various scraps of paper written on by Dickinson late in her life. This selection of what scholars have taken to calling Dickinson’s “Radical Scatters”—writings on paper without a discernible literary genre—is equal parts poetry and visual art, and, in a very important sense, neither: a hybridity that challenges the ways we have approached and thought about Dickinson’s work since it first found its way to our eyes.

Throughout Martha Serpas’ recently released third collection, The Diener, Serpas puts her convictions on trial.


How Whitman Remembered Lincoln
by Martin Griffin

The train that brought Abraham Lincoln’s body back to Springfield, Ill., took almost two weeks to complete its journey, making a long, northeasterly loop through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Indiana. The last stretch, from Chicago to Springfield, was completed on the morning of May 3, 1865. The journey was widely covered in the press as millions of Americans turned out to pay their last respects. Generations of historians have described, and tried to interpret the meaning of, this unique funeral procession. But no author has probed the event more deeply than Walt Whitman.

On Vanessa Place, Gone With the Wind, and the Limit Point of Certain Conceptual Aesthetics

When it appeared in 1937, Margaret Mitchell's sole novel, Gone With the Wind, was a publishing sensation, selling one million copies in its first six months and winning its author that year's Pulitzer Prize for the Novel, as the fiction category was then known. The book would sell even more copies after the movie version, starring Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, appeared in 1939 and won its own spate of highest honors, among them Academy Awards for Leigh as Best Actress for her portrayal of Southern bell Scarlett O'Hara; for Victor Fleming as Best Director; and for Selznick International Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn Mayer as the Best Film of the Year. The Academy also broke new ground by nominating, for the first time, and awarding the Oscar to an African American, actress Hattie McDaniel, who reprised Mitchell's novel's "Mammy," who was not just a character in the novel and film but a social archetype and offensive stereotype, with deep roots in the white Southern and broader American racist imaginary. That stereotype, it cannot be emphasized enough, still resonates today.

The train that brought Abraham Lincoln’s body back to Springfield, Ill., took almost two weeks to complete its journey.

Drafts & Fragments

Tattoo You: City Poem Project Getting Done
by John Faherty

The poem of Cincinnati, the one written by the city and inked across its flesh, is making progress. More than 200 people are now wearing their tattoos. The total number will be 263. Eventually, this will be a permanent piece of performance art that tells our story and makes it real. "Seven Hills and a Queen to Name Them" is the poem at the heart of the Cincinnati Tattoo Project.

The Funny Found Poetry of Early-20th-Century Typeface Demos 
by Rebecca Onion

This collection of type specimen pages, published in 1910 by the Keystone Type Foundry of Philadelphia, demonstrates the appearance of the company's type when used to produce headlines of various sizes. In the foundry's choice of demonstration headlines, a strangely poetic vision of daily life in 1910 emerges. 

The Times Literary Supplement Just Wrote About An “Unpublished Philip Larkin Poem” That Wasn’t By Him
by Alan White

Readers of The Times Literary Supplement – and fans of Philip Larkin – were treated to a joyous surprise this morning.

The poem of Cincinnati, the one written by the city and inked across its flesh, is making progress.

Poetry In the News

Poet Stirs Controversy, Axed from Writer Org, for Tweeting ‘Gone With the Wind'

An organization that frequently advocates on behalf of divisive writers has ousted a poet from a committee leadership position for tweeting lines from Gone With the Wind. Vanessa Place, author of several works including La Medusa and a criminal attorney, has been tweeting, line-by-line, the text of the novel for several months. Her account features a picture of Hattie McDaniel, the actress who played Mammy in the movie adaptation of the book.

Book Thief Vents Rage on Laureate's Poetry with Shotgun

Two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has been blasted by critics before but never this literally. Miegan and Chan Gordon, the veteran booksellers of rare and used books at The Captain's Bookshelf, have the proof that poetry, long mourned as dead or dying in American culture, can still rouse angry, even bizarre responses. About a month ago, Miegan Gordon opened up the store on Page Avenue, turning on the lights, but finding an overflow shelf of poetry books had been tampered with. She found a signed first edition of Collins' 2003 collection "Nine Horses.” The book had been blasted with a .410 shotgun at close range that sent more than 20 pellets through the pages and out the back.

Two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has been blasted by critics before but never this literally.

New Books

Fix Quiet: Poems by John Poch
[Hardcover] St. Augustine's Press, 80 pp., $22.00

John Poch’s fourth collection of poems, Fix Quiet, is an ambitious exploration in verse of failure, death, and a redemptive beauty found in the surprise of order. From the opening poem, “Shrike,” which is itself a meditation on poetry as paradoxically both predator and prey, to the final love poem, a crown of sonnets, these poems unite the form and function of line, rhyme, syntax, rhetorical wit, and larger architectures, to capture moments in time and name them. Poems that move from the rivers of northern New Mexico to travel across Italy are concerned with how the limitations of time and place wound and disappoint but also how they expand our vision and take us deeper into experience. A river can’t be apprehended easily, but here by faith the poet takes the measure of the headwaters to the sea, of our greatest moving mysteries of love and death.

The Essential Daryl Hine compiled by James Pollock
[Paperback] Porcupine's Quill, 64 pp., $14.95

The Essential Daryl Hine presents a judicious selection of the work of a poetic virtuoso, a friend of James Merrill, John Hollander, and Richard Howard long celebrated for his learned wit, formal and rhetorical mastery, and cosmopolitan sensibility.

Selected Writings of César Vallejo edited by Joseph Mulligan 
[Hardcover] Wesleyan, 656 pp., $40.00

For the first time in English, readers can now evaluate the extraordinary breadth of César Vallejo’s diverse oeuvre that, in addition to poetry, includes magazine and newspaper articles, chronicles, political reports, fictions, plays, letters, and notebooks. Edited by the translator Joseph Mulligan, Selected Writings follows Vallejo down his many winding roads, from Santiago de Chuco in highland Peru, to the coastal cities of Trujillo and Lima, on to Paris, Madrid, Moscow, and Leningrad. This repeated border-crossing also plays out on the textual level, as Vallejo wrote prolifically across genres and, in many cases, created poetic space in extra-literary modes. Informed by a vast body of scholarly research, this compendium synthesizes a restored literary corpus and—in bold translations that embrace the idiosyncratic spirit of the author’s writing—puts forth a new representation of this essential figure of twentieth-century Latin American literature as an indispensable alternative to the European avant-garde. 

Scattered at Sea by Amy Gerstler 
[Paperback] Penguin Books, 96 pp., $20.00

Amy Gerstler has won acclaim for sly, sophisticated, and subversive poems that find meaning in unexpected places. The title of her new collection, Scattered at Sea, evokes notions of dispersion, diaspora, sowing one’s wild oats, having one’s mind expanded or blown, losing one’s wits, and mortality. Making use of dramatic monologue, elegy, humor, and collage, these poems explore hedonism, gender, ancestry, reincarnation, bereavement, and the nature of prayer. Groping for an inclusive, imaginative, postmodern spirituality, they draw from an array of sources, including the philosophy of the ancient Stoics, diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s disease, 1950s recipes, the Babylonian Talmud, and Walter Benjamin’s writing on his drug experiences.

Dark Energy by Robert Morgan 
[Paperback] Penguin Books, 96 pp., $18.00

In the words of Poetry magazine, Robert Morgan’s poems “shine with beauty that transcends locale.” The work in his newest collection, rooted in his native Blue Ridge Mountains, explores the mysteries and tensions of family and childhood, the splendors and hidden dramas of the natural world, and the agriculture that supports all culture. Morgan’s voice is vigorous and exact, opening doors for the reader, finding unexpected images and connections. The poems reach beyond surfaces, to the strange forces inside atoms, our genes, our heritage, and outward to the farthest movements of galaxies, the dark energy we cannot explain but recognize in our bones and blood, in our deepest memories and imagination.

Swimming Home by Vincent Katz
[Paperback] Nightboat, 108 pp., $16.95

Vincent Katz’s new collection, his first in a decade, presents an aesthetically and emotionally diverse series of poems that attempt to tune in to particular details of the poet’s life, from friends and family to larger geopolitical issues.

Alone and Not Alone by Ron Padgett
[Paperback] Coffee House Press, 84 pp., $16.00

Following Pulitzer Prize finalist Ron Padgett's 2013's Collected Poems (winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the William Carlos Williams Prize) Alone and Not Alone offers new poems that see the world in a clear and generous light.

For the first time in English, readers can now evaluate the extraordinary breadth of César Vallejo’s diverse oeuvre.


Deported 'Home': Kosal Khiev's Path from Prison to Poetry
by Sahra Vang Nguyen

It was during solitary confinement when Cambodian American spoken word artist, Kosal Khiev, found his voice through a weekly prison writing program. Having made some bad decisions as a teenager, Khiev was arrested at fifteen after a gang-led shooting. A year later, he was found guilty by association for attempted murder and sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Micah McCrary interviews Maggie Nelson

“How can a book be both a free expression and a negotiation?” Maggie Nelson writes early on in The Argonauts. The answer to this question is the book itself, in which she not only navigates her way through new motherhood and a genderqueer partnership, but expresses and negotiates the space within and around the “gendered bodies” conversation. Moreover, she manages to engage with other voices — from D. W. Winnicott to Audre Lorde to Paul Preciado — without allowing them to drown out the sound of her own, clearing the way for the most necessary parts of the dialogue.

Remembering Franz Wright, Poet Of Anguish And Transcendence
by Alex Green 

We do not often associate poets with routine unless we hope to insult them. On the contrary, the more erratic and irreverent their behavior seems to be, the more we hold them up. Dylan Thomas and Allen Ginsberg come quickly to mind, and, in recent years, Franz Wright. Wright, who succumbed to cancer last Thursday at age 62, was renowned for his battles with addiction and mental illness, as well as for his sometimes combative outbursts. To detractors, this behavior undermined his qualities as a poet, but to his many readers, they were the attributes of a gifted writer whose verse flourished on extremes. Regardless, few in either camp would call anything to do with Franz Wright routine.

Polish Poet Zagajewski: ‘Being Optimistic Today is Rather Naive’
by Ioanna Zikakou

Ιn an interview to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Thursday, Polish poet Adam Zagajewski spoke of optimism, beauty, young people migrating to seek a better life and the importance of reminiscence. “Being optimistic today would be rather naive,” Zagajewski, who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, said. “Over the last one or two years, the world has become darker and one should be blind to ignore it,” he said citing the crisis in Ukraine, the tragedy in Syria, the African refugees drown “in the beautiful Mediterranean,” the rise of the Islamic State, the economic crisis in Europe, “including the Greek drama.”

During solitary confinement Cambodian American spoken word artist, Kosal Khiev, found his voice.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Walt Whitman

Little or Nothing New, after All  

HOW small were the best thoughts, poems, conclusions, except for a certain invariable resemblance and uniform standard in the final thoughts, theology, poems, &c., of all nations, all civilizations, all centuries and times. Those precious legacies—accumulations! They come to us from the far-off—from all eras, and all lands—from Egypt, and India, and Greece, and Rome—and along through the middle and later ages, in the grand monarchies of Europe—born under far different institutes and conditions from ours—but out of the insight and inspiration of the same old humanity—the same old heart and brain—the same old countenance yearningly, pensively, looking forth. What we have to do to-day is to receive them cheerfully, and to give them ensemble, and a modern American and democratic physiognomy.

Those precious legacies—accumulations! They come to us from the far-off—from all eras, and all lands.