November 19, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1492 –Jami, Persian poet (b. 1414), dies. 
1692 – Thomas Shadwell, English poet and playwright, is born.
1711 – Michail V Lomonosov, Russian scholar/poet, is born.
1850 – Alfred Tennyson becomes British Poet Laureate, succeeding William Wordsworth.
1879 – Karel van den Oever, Flemish author/poet (Geuzenstad), is born.
1887 – Emma Lazarus, US poet ("Give us your tired & poor"), dies in New York at 38.
1899 – Allen Tate, US, poet (Mr Pope & Other Poems, is born. 
1931 – Xu Zhimo, Chinese poet (b. 1897), dies.
1942 – Sharon Olds, American poet, is born.

Japanese-American Farmhouse, California, 1942

Everything has been taken that anyone 
thought worth taking. The stairs are tilted,
scattered with sycamore leaves curled
like ammonites in inland rock.
Wood shows through the paint on the frame 
and the door is open–an empty room,
sunlight on the floor. All that is left
on the porch is the hollow cylinder
of an Albert's Quick Oats cardboard box 
and a sewing machine. Its extraterrestrial
head is bowed, its scrolled neck
glistens. I was born, that day, near there, 
in wartime, of ignorant people. 
—Sharon Olds 

“Everything has been taken that anyone / thought worth taking. The stairs are tilted, / scattered with sycamore leaves curled / like ammonites in inland rock.”—Sharon Olds

World Poetry

UNESCO Honours Vietnamese Poet Nguyen Du

The UNESCO General Conference’s 37th session in Paris has issued a resolution honouring great Vietnamese poet Nguyen Du and other international cultural figureheads. Addressing the sidelines of the meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Thanh Son, who is also Chairman of the Vietnam National UNESCO Commission, noted it was a great honour for Vietnam. Son explained the recognition was decided according to the voting rules outlined in UNESCO Executive Board resolution 191/EX32. He said UNESCO has recognised the global influence of Nguyen Du’s masterpiece The Tale of Kieu, now translated into more than 20 languages and cherished for its creativity, independent thinking, and distillation of Vietnamese culture. Read more at Vietnam Net.

Spain's Antonio Lucas Wins Loewe Poetry Prize

Spain's Antonio Lucas was selected Wednesday as this year's recipient of the Loewe International Poetry Award for his work "Los desengaños" (Disillusionments). Accompanied by a 20,000-euro ($26,840) cash prize and the publication of the winning title in the Visor collection, this award is one of the most prestigious in its genre. The 37-year-old Lucas is a native of Madrid, where the Loewe Foundation that awards the prize is based. Read more at La Prensa.

Spain’s Antonio Lucas is this year’s recipient of the Loewe International Poetry Award for his work “Los desengaños” (Disillusionments)

Recent Reviews

Shelley Puhak’s New Collection Sets the Arthurian Round Table in Baltimore

by Baynard Woods
Recasting Arthurian legend so that Camelot is a corporation located in contemporary Baltimore could be a dreadful conceit, a two-minute bit of failed sketch comedy. Put it in verse and the danger is even greater. But Shelley Puhak (who placed in the City Paper Poetry and Fiction Contest twice) avoids the potential pitfalls with her smart, sexy, and slyly devastating Anthony Hecht Prize-winning book Guinevere in Baltimore. Read more at the City Paper.

New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry by Jennifer Wong

With its carefully-selected range of poets and choice of contents, New Cathay is an up-to-date and exciting take on Chinese contemporary poetry. Published by Tupelo Press with the support of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, as part of their "Poets in the World" series, this anthology comprises poems by more than 25 Chinese poets, including those who are living in as well as outside China—Duo Duo, Wang Xiaoni, Xiao Kaiyu, Zang Di and Hu Xudong—translated into English by leading, predominantly US-based translators Ming Di, Neil Aitken, Christopher Lupke, Eleanor Goodman and Cody Reese. The collection's editor, Ming Di (the pen-name of Mindy Zhang), is editor of Poetry East West a leading literary magazine featuring Chinese poems in bilingual versions. Read more at Caixin. 

In the Light Of: after Illuminations

by Matthew Ryan Shelton
In recent years, poetic translation has largely been dominated by “the version,” subject to the will or particular preoccupations of the translator, who is more often than not an accomplished poet in his or her own right.  In the British Isles, we may number such notable versions as Alice Oswald’s Memorial, a refashioning of Homer’s Iliad from the viewpoint of its lesser heroes; Don Paterson’s Orpheus, a versioning of Rilke’s famous sonnets discussed at a glance by Peter Howarth in his recent review ofSelected Poems in London Review of Books; and on this side of the Atlantic, Anne Carson’s Antigonick,which reshapes Sophocles into a multimedia romp of intellectual and artistic nuance only Anne Carson could realize. In this context, Ciaran Carson’s new book becomes a progressive revolution, taking “the version” to its next stage by reintegrating what Walter Benjamin once termed “the original’s mode of signification.” Read more at Coldfront.

Shelley Puhak avoids the potential pitfalls with her smart, sexy, and slyly devastating Anthony Hecht Prize-winning book Guinevere in Baltimore.


What Makes William Wordsworth’s Poem ‘Tintern Abbey’ a Masterpiece

by David Lehman
It is not difficult to see why some poets from Lord Byron to the present have resisted and sometimes even jeered at William Wordsworth (1770-1850). The refreshing heterodoxy of Wordsworth’s youthful verse gave way to the piety of his “Ode to Duty.” He started out full of French revolutionary fervor—”Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, / But to be young was very heaven!”—but grew disenchanted and became a Tory. By the time he was 40 he had lost what he called the “visionary gleam.” But he lived 40 years more and kept writing. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

"Imagine That Happening Again in Poetry": The Future and History of Rhyme

by Robert Archambeau
It is, of course, a debatable proposition that Anthony Madrid's paper on rhyme at the recent Midwest Modern Language Association conference is the most exciting thing to come out of Milwaukee since the introduction of the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy in 1990, but I'm inclined to believe it is just that.  Indeed, in combination with another paper on rhyme by Robert Strong of Bates College, Madrid's paper led me to revise my sense of literary history. Read more at Samizdat.

Good Blurbs, Bad Blurbs

by Timothy Liu
Shall we talk about blurbs? Is it crass to critique a well-meant compliment? Perhaps. But a corrective may be in order. Many poets, poet-editors, and poet-critics gush to a disingenuous fault. Cocktail chatter can provide ample evidence. Such flattery (and flatulent excess) we have even come to expect. But when such utterances find their way to the back of book jackets, time to take stock, even risk a little rudeness. Here I feel emboldened by book reviewers like William Logan. Or Michael Robbins, another maverick poet-critic seemingly fearless about what his candor might cost him. I’d like to propose a new critical genre: blurb reviews. Anyone game? Read more at Coldfront.

Wallace Stevens' Voice Was "Life-Saving"

by Helen Vendler
When I first heard Wallace Stevens’ voice it was by chance: a friend wanted to listen to the recording he had made for the Harvard Vocarium Series. In a listening room in the Harvard Library, the quiet authority of his voice entered my mind like a life-saving transfusion: “Sister and mother and diviner love. . . .” In my younger days, I had been insusceptible to the idea that there were thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird; Stevens’ sophistications were beyond me then. Hearing him read many poems aloud naturalized me in his world. Read more at the New Republic.


“in combination with another paper on rhyme by Robert Strong of Bates College, Madrid’s paper led me to revise my sense of literary history”—Robert Archambeau

Drafts & Fragments

Poet Lost This Fan with His Sandhills Crane Poem

by Rick Brown
Open letter to poet Billy Collins: I wish I could take full credit for your poem, “The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska.” We spoke three years ago when you came here as a nationally known poet for a reading at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. I was atwitter at the possibility of talking with you, an actual professional poet who makes money — a lot of money — writing poetry. Read more at the Kearney Hub.

Tweet Us A Poem: Co-Author A Poem With Richard Blanco

by Elaine Chen
From our prior literary projects, we know South Florida has a lot of aspiring bards. So in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Miami Book Fair International, we want you to help us tweet-compose a poem.  Richard Blanco — a Miami-raised poet who wrote the presidential inaugural poem this year – will start us off with the first line. Here’s the opening: "Why the stars?  Well, just look up, look" How the rest goes is up to you. Read more at WLRN.

Between the Lines: The Beatles

In which Kyle looks at the poetry of the Fab Four. These are words that go together well. Read more atChez Apocalypse.

Poet Billy Collins lost a fan with his poem “The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska.”

Poetry In the News

MAVEN Spacecraft Departs for Mars with 1,100 Haikus

In a previous post, we wrote about how NASA was accepting haikus from anyone on Earth to be included on the MAVEN mission. Sure enough, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter launched yesterday, bringing with it a DVD containing over 1,100 hiakus, those poems that received at least two votes. There were 12,000 submissions. Of course, delivering poetry to Mars is not the primary focus of this mission. MAVEN is on a 10-month journey to explore the Red Planet's climate history. Read more at Big Think.

Former Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur Recipient of Dickinson Museum's "Tell It Slant" Award

Former Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize recipient Richard Wilbur has been chosen as the 2013 recipient of the "Tell It Slant" award by the board of governors of the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst. The presentation, free and open to the public, will be made at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, Dickinson's birthday, in Amherst College's Johnson Chapel, and features a reading and remarks by Wilbur. "Richard Wilbur is widely recognized as the country's greatest living poet," said Jane Wald, the museum's executive director, in a release. "It's a joy and honor to present the 'Tell it Slant' award to one who has indeed perfected the art of telling truth in poetic form." Read more at Mass Live.

“Hip-Hop Hexameter” Gives Virgil The Beat

They started with an age-old dum-diddy-dum. They added snares and high-hats. Then Andrew Sweet and his students brought an ancient Roman poet into a modern Garage Band. The millennia-crossing performance took place in Sweet’s 9th-grade Latin classroom at Foote School, a private K-9 school serving 490 kids in East Rock. Sweet’s class was trying out the “hip-hop hexameter,” a method he devised to help kids grasp the tricky metrics of Latin poetry and commit the lines to memory. The invention won Sweet a $2,000 award from the ING Unsung Heroes Award for Innovative Teaching Program. Sweet was one of 100 winners across the country this year; he used the money to buy recording equipment for his students. Read more at the New Haven Independent.


MAVEN spacecraft is on a 10-month journey to explore Mars with 1,100 Haikus from Earth.

New Books

Intimacy by Catherine Imbriglio 

[Paperback] Center for Literary Publishing, 68 pp., $16.95
Intimacy is a series of experimental poems that play with, resist, and acknowledge complicity with received concepts of intimacy that circulate in this media-centric age. Undertaking an expansive understanding of the word “intimacy”, each poem contains a word or set of words that modifies the noun, uncovering the attending, associative and often contradictory obligations that arise in our relations with one another.

Black Stars: Poems by Ngo Tu Lap translated by Martha Collins 

[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 104 pp.,$16.00
 Simultaneously occupying past, present, and future, Black Stars escapes the confines of time and space, suffusing image with memory, abstraction with meaning, and darkness with abundant light. In these masterful translations, the poems sing out with the kind of wisdom that comes to those who have lived through war, traveled far, and seen a great deal. While the past may evoke village life and the present a postmodern urban world, the poems often exhibit a dual consciousness that allows the poet to reside in both at once. From the universe to the self, we see Lap’s landscapes grow wider before they focus: black stars receding to dark stairways, infinity giving way to now. Lap’s universe is boundless, yes, but also “just big enough / To have four directions / With just enough wind, rain, and trouble to last.”

Dark Healing by Richard E. Messer  

[Paperback] il piccolo editions, 112 pp., $18.00
These poems, written from lived experience, speak for the survivors of personal violence. The pain inflicted on so many families in our violent age has seldom been faced with such unflinching determination to depict it honestly and wrest from it an acceptance of suffering based on a full, active and meaningful view of life. Does anyone escape suffering? No, that is why those who survive and go on to a new acceptance of life, reach out to those who are for the present victims. Tragedy teaches what intuition always whispers: there is a realm in which we are all present to each other; we are One in the deep heart's core. We mourn those who die, and we move on through the knowledge that what has happened to them, no matter how brutal or tragic, does not define them-or us. Our spirits and our souls tell us who we are and give our lives their meaning.

Poems (1962-1997) by Robert Lax

[Hardcover] Wave Books, 400 pp., $40.00
Poems (1962–1997) gathers thirty-five years of Robert Lax's work, rarely published and largely composed in solitude on the island of Patmos. Compiled and edited by the poet's former assistant John Beer, this selection reflects—through meditative sequences in striking vertical columns—Lax's rigorous attention to the world around him and his relentless aspiration to new ways of writing.

Moving Words: Forms of English Poetry by Derek D. Attridge

[Hardcover] Oxford University Press, 256 pp., $55.00
The contemporary reader of English poetry is able to take pleasure in the sounds and movements of the English language in works written over the past eight centuries, and to find poems that convey powerful emotions and vivid images from this entire period. This book investigates the ways in which poets have exploited the resources of the language as a spoken medium – its characteristic rhythms, its phonetic qualities, its deployment of syntax – to write verse that continues to move and delight. 

The Perfect Life by Peter Stitt 

[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 176 pp., $16.95
Poet and essayist Peter Stitt describes not a perfect life achieved, but his search for that unattainable ideal, writing of books he has loved and the often difficult lives of writers, including his teachers John Berryman and James Wright along with his lifelong literary companions Frost, Stevens, Austen, Dickinson, and Poe. Generous and alert in his fascinations, Stitt explores a quest for freedom among the Amish, the French partisans, and the "heretical" Cathars; considers divine interest in college basketball; and offers a fresh perspective on parenting, meditating on the life of an adopted stepdaughter.

Intimacy is a series of experimental poems that play with, resist, and acknowledge complicity with received concepts of intimacy


Poems Against Loss: Joan Naviyuk Kane Talks About "Hyperboreal"

by Dana Jennings 
The poems of Joan Naviyuk Kane are lyrical blasts from a far northern landscape of history and myth. From the first lines of her second book, “Hyperboreal,” just published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Ms. Kane transports us: “Arnica nods heavy-headed on the bruised slope./Peaks recede in all directions, in heat-haze,/Evening in my recollection.” The poet Arthur Sze, who picked the book for the 2012 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry, calls her poems “vivid, disturbing and mysterious.” Ms. Kane, 36, is Inuit/Inupiaq and lives a few miles from where she grew up in Anchorage. Her family originally came from King Island and Mary’s Igloo, Alaska. Recruited by Harvard, she attended the university as an undergraduate, and then earned an M.F.A. from Columbia. Below are excerpts from an email interview. Read more at the New York Times.

Poet Kathryn Levy Delves Into Personal Terrain

by Annette Hinkle
It’s not easy to make a living as a poet … just ask Kathryn Levy who is in the midst of promoting “Reports,” her new collection of poems recently published by New Rivers Press. “I’m in big marketing mode now and it’s not natural to me,” confesses Levy who has been traveling from one book event to the next in recent weeks. “I’m going to Fargo and the Twin Cities and I just did a big event in the city,” says Levy who will be at Canio’s Books this Saturday to read from “Reports,” and has more events lined up for spring. “I’m getting terrific responses, but its not about writing poetry,” says Levy. “I’m so eager to go back to being a poet. I can’t tell you.” Read more at Sag Harbor Online.

Julie Kane: Rhythm in Poetry

by Kelly Pyzik
Julie Kane gave a roundtable discussion and reading in the JRC this Thursday, Nov. 14, as part of the Writers@Grinnell program. Dungy is a poet, editor and scholar, known for her books “Rhythm & Booze” and “Jazz Funeral.” She is also a professor of English at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. The S&B’s Kelly Pyzik sat down with Kane after her reading on Thursday.
What is your relationship with form?
I do have free verse poems in my new manuscript. I have been going back to it, part of the time at least, but I still feel like when I start working on a form that I haven’t done a lot of work in before, it almost makes new subjects or moods possible that I haven’t tackled before. Read more at The S and B.

Virtues of Madness and Vices of Honey: An Interview with Mary Ruefle

by Andrew David King 
Last year, Ruefle and I corresponded via mail; our correspondence is printed below. You can find out more about her on her Wave Books page, or at the Poetry Foundation, which also hosts excerpts from A Little White Shadow and the lecture-essay On Fear. Be sure, also, to take a look at her website, which features information on readings and several scanned erasures of books. Read more at the Kenyon Review.

“Arnica nods heavy-headed on the bruised slope./Peaks recede in all directions, in heat-haze,/Evening in my recollection.”—Joan Naviyuk Kane

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Busman's Holiday

Last week was a good week for me in terms of finding rarities at book sales and antique malls. Among other things, I landed a cloth copy with dust jacket of Elizabeth Bishop's The Complete Poems, published prior to Geography III. My paperback edition has seen better days. The new addition was well worth the thirty cents. I also found a copy of Conrad Aiken's The Coming Forth by Day of Osiris Jones for two dollars. Hard cover but no jacket. Still, a first edition published in 1931. Somewhere I have a children's book that he wrote and signed to me back in 1962 or 63. There were more, hardback copies of Merrill, Kinnell, Kunitz, and others I picked up for a dollar or less. One book I found for a dollar, one that I would take with me on a vacation, next time that happens, just for the pure joy of watching a brilliant mind at play, is The Geography of the Imagination by Guy Davenport. I have a mistreated, water-damaged copy of this book that I got back in the early 80s. It too has seen better days. This new find is a paperback with a heavy paper jacket from North Point Press in nearly pristine shape. Davenport covers the waterfront—everything from hunting arrow-heads to Harvard's glass flowers to his discovery of the cryptic outline for Ezra Pound's "Cantos." Equal parts genius and gossip, Davenport makes each essay he writes a cultural treasure hunt. 
Here he recounts Ezra Pound a few years before his death, after Pound's period of silence had set in. 
"He ate vealburger's in Harry's Bar, and over his ice cream was a good time to tease him out of his glaring silence. Miss Rudge knew the formulae.
"What was Mr. Joyce wont to break into?
A smile, a long pause before speaking:
"My friend Mr. Joyce was wont to break into song."
In this, as in all of Davenport's tellings, we are reminded of the humanness of these flawed and fragile giants who strode the earth, that their words and deeds sprung from the clutter of lives every bit as hobbled and disjointed as our own. And that's just one layer of the strata that is pressed between these pages. The lessons go on from there.

In Guy Davenport’s The Geography of the Imagination, each essay is a cultural treasure hunt.