May 6, 2015

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1606 – Lorenzo Lippi, [Perlone Zipoli], poet/painter, is born.
1830 – Guido Gezelle, Flemish priest/poet, is born.
1859 – Willem J T Kloos, Dutch poet (Act of Simple Justice), is born.
1861 – Rabindranath Tagore, Hindu poet/mystic/composer (Nobel 1913), is born.
1877 – Johan Ludvig Runeberg, Finnish poet (b. 1804), dies.
1904 – Harry Martinson, Sweden, novelist/poet (Trade Wind-Nobel 1974), is born.
1924 – Carel S Adama van Scheltema, poet/writer (socialism), dies at 47.
1961 – Lucian Blaga, philosopher/poet (Transcendental censor), dies at 65.


Have you seen a tramp collier …

Have you seen a tramp collier come out of a hurricane—
with broken booms, gunwales shot to pieces,
crumpled, gasping, come to grief—
and her captain gone all hoarse?
Snorting, she puts in at the sunlit wharf,
exhausted, licking her wounds
while the steam thins in her boilers.

—Harry Martinson (1904–1978)

“Have you seen a tramp collier come out of a hurricane—” —Harry Martinson (1904–1978)

World Poetry

Enoh Meyomesse, Cameroonian Writer and Activist, Released from Prison

The Cameroonian poet, essayist and political activist Enoh Meyomesse has been released from prison this week after more than three years in jail. “It’s funny to see the prison from outside,” Meyomesse told the writer Patrice Nganang, who campaigned for his release. “They practically threw me outside. It was quite forceful. But if it is kicking me outside to freedom, then there’s nothing to complain about.”

Poet Hrachya Beglaryan's Bas-relief Unveiled in Stepanakert

Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan on Friday attended the opening of the bas-relief of famous Artsakh poet Hrachya Beglaryan in Baghramyan Street of capital Stepanakert.The President highlighted Hrachya Beglaryan's contribution to the development of the Armenian literature and  culture, patriotic upbringing of the younger generation, as well as in the national-liberation struggle and state building process, adding that perpetuation of memories of the nation's devotees is the duty of present and future generations. High-ranking officials and numerous citizens were also present at the ceremony, the President’s press office reports.

The Cameroonian poet and activist Enoh Meyomesse has been released from prison after more than three years in jail.

Recent Reviews

‘Map: Collected and Last Poems,’ by Wislawa Szymborska
By Steven Ratiner 

To readers who never think to trespass down the poetry aisle of the bookstore; to those who point to the arbitrariness and obfuscation rampant in contemporary poetry as proof that the literary emperor has no clothes (and little regard for the harried, hard-working souls who do), I happily offer two words in rebuttal: Wislawa Szymborska. The acclaimed Polish poet and Nobel Prize laureate, who died in 2012 at the age of 88, cast a careful gaze at everyday life and uncovered a quiet dignity in our ache for purpose and emotional clarity.

‘How To Be Drawn’ and ‘The Last Two Seconds’
by Michael Andor Brodeur

A single remark from a 2013 Hot Metal Bridge interview with poet Terrance Hayes can go a long way toward properly tuning into his work. “Language is always burdened by thought,” he said, “I’m just trying to get it so it can be like feeling.” That’s less a retreat from thought than it is a tilt toward music — itself a language liberated from language, veering between structure and freedom. Music serves as both an animating force and resonant presence in Hayes’s poems, especially those of “How To Be Drawn,” his first volume since his 2010 National Book Award winning “Lighthead.”

Sentenced to Life Review: Clive James Veers into the Sentimental
by Robert Gray

Clive James, whom the doctors say has a short time to live, has remarked that of the various kinds of literature he has pursued, he wants most to be known for his poetry. The poems are much influenced by his famous memoirs and his literary journalism. As with his prose, in the poems there is a raciness, a thin clarity, a copious use of paradox (to the point of mannerism), and a boisterousness (maintained despite his being ill), rendered in traditional forms.

“Language is always burdened by thought. I’m just trying to get it so it can be like feeling.” –Terrance Hayes


Can a Poem Listen?
Variations on Being-White
by Ailish Hopper

When the 2011 film The Help came out, it was like a freedom, or racial justice, litmus test. For many viewers of color, and perhaps especially black viewers, the film was yet another Hollywood, which is to say white, co-opting of history, in which white people look faulty but well-meaning, and black people look long-suffering, but ultimately redemptive, reinforcing this white self-perception. The black Americans in the film also look free—existing, however tried and tired, on an equal playing field. This is perhaps most visible in the film’s white viewpoint: it’s based on a book written by a white woman, about a white woman, who not only collects and circulates firsthand accounts of the suffering of black maids in the early 1960s, but also presents them as evidence of her own heroism. This is not to say that her efforts were without sacrifice—that’s not the point. And, in fact, not making white heroism be the point is my point here.

William Faulkner Makes Us Wonder: What's So Great About Poetry, Anyhow?
by Juan Vidal

Poetry is the secret story, the story behind the story — or, as Wordsworth puts it, what is "felt in the blood and felt along the heart." Poetry is language broken down, chiseled, and refined, made to say what is unsayable through any other means. And while it is singular and limitless in its power to affect, poetry is bound to the senses, to memory and to place.

How to Recite “One Art”
by Michael Young

A lifetime ago, I sat with some dear friends in their apartment discussing literature, music, and art as we drank wine. We gathered like this as often as we could. A small group of poets, novelists, painters, and musicians; we composed our own little salon. Elizabeth Bishop was the topic of conversation that night, and we grabbed her collected poems off the shelf. We passed it around for each person to take their turn reciting the poem “One Art” out loud. It was a marvelous time. Each brought their own voice, their own character to the poem and then uttered it forth. It was a night of joy connected through art but also a deepening insight into the subtlety of the poem itself. “One Art” is not easy to recite well. One has to be almost inspired to get it right. This is not a fault in the poem but a consequence of its precise insight and power, a result of its very success.

How to Recite Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”

Drafts & Fragments

14 Twitter Poems that are Wise beyond their Character Counts
by M J Franklin

Sometimes, less truly is more. If there are two mediums that embody this idea, it's Twitter and poetry. So, what happens when you combine the two? We've been thinking about this a lot, because April is National Poetry Month. Every year, National Poetry Month shines a spotlight on poetry by encouraging the reading, writing and teaching of poems.

ZIP Odes from Across the Nation

As April comes to a close, we're sharing just a few more of the incredible Zip Odes Takeaway listeners have been composing all month long. These odes follow just a few rules: They're five lines long, and the number of words in each line is dictated by the digits of your ZIP code.

21 April (1944): Marianne Moore to John Warner Moore

Here, Marianne Moore writes to her brother, John Warner Moore, about a recent trip to read some of her work at Bryn Mawr College. The letter reveals some of Moore’s stylistic habits reserved for correspondence, including referring to herself using male pronouns and titles, calling her brother by eccentric nicknames (“Elephant-Ears,” “Bible”), and providing a wealth of emotional observation not usually seen in her poetry.

Sometimes, less truly is more. If there are two mediums that embody this idea, it’s Twitter and poetry. So, what happens when you combine the two?

Poetry In the News

A Pair of U.S. Poets Laureate for the Price of One

The only rule for the poet laureate of the United States is that there are no rules. So when retiring laureate Charles Wright decided he didn’t want to follow tradition by delivering a closing lecture this month, nobody called the Capitol Police. And besides, he had a better idea: a public conversation with his friend Charles Simic.

Mass. Sells out Poetry for Federal Funds

In fall 1963, President John F. Kennedy memorialized poet Robert Frost at Amherst College. "When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations,” Kennedy said. “When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”

Why You Should Judge a Book by Its Cover: The 9 Stylish Poets Inspiring Our Summer Style

To be a poet means careful consideration of each word laid down on paper—rhythm, aesthetic presentation, and soul. And for many writers, this attention to detail translated to their fashion choices off the page too: Be it a carefully placed brooch here, the right shade of nail polish there, or a patterned scarf tied around one’s head. Take Maya Angelou for example; the colorful prints in her wardrobe echo her uplifting belle lettres; and it only makes sense that Allen Ginsberg’s prophetic calls for revolution were matched by a cool counterculture look.

"Discovery" Poetry Contest Winners

Boston Review, in partnership with the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center, proudly presents the winners of the 2015 “Discovery” Poetry Contest/Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prizes. Now in its sixth decade, the contest recognizes and celebrates the achievements of poets who have not yet published a first book. Many past winners—including John Ashbery, Lucille Clifton, Mark Strand, and Ellen Bryant Voigt—have gone on to distinguished writing careers.

9 Stylish Poets Inspiring Our Summer Style

New Books

The News by Jeffrey Brown
[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 80 pp., $16.00

As a nationally recognized correspondent and anchor for the PBS NewsHour, Jeffrey Brown has reported on important events around the world. In his debut poetry collection, The News, he re-imagines and re-tells his experiences through poems that explore stories he’s covered, places he’s gone, people he’s met, the thrills and doubts of his profession, as well as the profound intimacy of family. In these pages we hear the narratives of artists, inmates, cadets, and survivors of the world’s tragedies, as Brown conveys both suffering and triumph with a music that pays tribute to the multitude of human voices, opening his own life and expression for public viewing. Full of self-examination, brave honesty, and wry humor, The News captures not what’s on one side of the lens but all that surrounds it.

Vise and Shadow: Essays on the Lyric Imagination, Poetry, Art, and Culture by Peter Balakian [Paperback] University Of Chicago Press, 224 pp., $25.00 

Vise and Shadow draws into conversation such disparate figures as W. B. Yeats, Hart Crane, Joan Didion, Primo Levi, Robert Rauschenberg, Bob Dylan, Elia Kazan, and Arshile Gorky, revealing how the lyric imagination of these artists grips experience, "shadows history," and "casts its own type of illumination," creating one of the deepest kinds of human knowledge and sober truth. In these elegantly written essays, Balakian offers a fresh way to think about the power of poetry, art, and the lyrical imagination as well as history, trauma, and memory.

Selfish: Poems by Albert Goldbarth
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 184 pp., $18.00

In his latest collection, the incomparable Albert Goldbarth explores all things "self-ish": the origins of identity, the search for ancestry, the neurology of self-awareness, and the line between "self" and "other." Whether one line long or ten pages, whether uproariously comic or steeped in gravitas, these are poems that address our human essence.


Scavenger Loop: Poems by David Baker
[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 112 pp., $26.95

In this masterful new work by “the most moving and expansive poet to come out of the American Midwest since James Wright” (Marilyn Hacker), David Baker constructs a layered natural history of his beloved Midwest and traces the complex story of human habitation from family and village life to the evolving nature of work and the mysterious habitats of the heart.

Bluestone: New and Selected Poems by James Lasdun
[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 176 pp., $26.00

Lasdun has been winning acclaim since his first collection, 1988's A Jump Start–Helen Vendler has lauded his ability to give "brisk shape to contemporary and classical events"; The New York Times has praised the "sharp, slicing imagery" of his work. Now, in Bluestone, which selects from all three of his previous collections and includes poems from his fourth, Water Sessions, previously available only in the U.K., readers will be able to appreciate the full sweep of this capacious talent: his delicate wit, his gift for invention, his keen observational eye. It is a gathering that affirms Lasdun's position as, to quote Anthony Hecht, one of "the most gifted, vivid, and deft poets now writing in English."

Jeffrey Brown, nationally recognized correspondent and anchor for the PBS NewsHour, has a poetry book out.


An Interview With John Ashbery
by Jonathan Hobratsch 

John Ashbery is the author of nearly thirty books of poetry. He has won nearly every major American poetry award, starting with the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1956. In addition to his own poems, Mr. Ashbery has translated the work of several French poets. His influence on contemporary poetry is such that the literary critic Harold Bloom has deemed the last six decades of American poetry as the "Age of Ashbery." In 2012, President Barack Obama personally awarded Ashbery the National Humanities Medal. Recently, he has inspired an annual writing conference known as the Ashbery Home School.

The Palm Trees and Poetry of W. S. Merwin
by Casey N. Cep

In the beginning, not even native plants would grow. The land had been deforested for firewood to fuel the whaling ships that anchored by the island, and then it was used as grazing land by the settlers who stayed behind. Sugarcane fields were planted when the cattle refused to graze, furling their lips to protest the wild grasses, but it was the pineapple growers who really wrecked this valley. Because of the way they planted their pineapples, up and down instead of along the hillsides, all of the topsoil washed away. Decades of abuse, each chronicling a different period in Hawaii’s history, had leeched this land on the northern coast of Maui so much that not even native plants would grow when W. S. Merwin first tried to plant them, in the seventies

John Ashbery is the author of nearly thirty books of poetry and has won nearly every major American poetry award.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Largeness and Smallness

Reading the article above on the dedication of the bas-relief of Artsakh poet Hrachya Beglaryan (1934 – 2009), which was attended by the president of the Artsakh Republic, causes me to think in two opposite directions. I think of the largeness of the poet whose life and art was so beloved by his country that a bas-relief statue was erected on the house where he lived and the president of the republic attended the ceremony in tribute to him. By extension, I think of the largeness of his people that poetry plays such an important part of their lives that they would honor him so. 
It also, though, caused me to think of the smallness of my own world, small not as in "it's a small world, after all" but in the sense that it is parochial, provincial, not particularly inclusive. I had no idea where the Artsakh Republic was until I looked it up. I didn't even know of its existence until I read the article. And the poet who was being honored? A Google search turns up the fact, primarily, that he recently had a bas-relief statue dedicated to him.

Reading about Hrachya Beglaryan of the Artsakh Republic caused our PNIR Editor to look up where Artsakh Republic is.