November 19, 2015

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, dies.
1711 – Michail V Lomonosov, Russian scholar/poet, is born.
1879 – Karel van den Oever, Flemish author/poet (Geuzenstad), is born.
1899 – Allen Tate, US, poet (Mr Pope & Other Poems), is born.
1942 – Sharon Olds, American poet, is born.


On the then-below-zero day, it was on,
near the patients' chair, the old heater
kept by the analyst's couch, at the end,
like the infant's headstone that was added near the foot
of my father's grave. And it was hot, with the almost
laughing satire of a fire's heat,
the little coils like hairs in Hell.
And it was making a group of sick noises-
I wanted the doctor to turn it off
but I couldn't seem to ask, so I just
stared, but it did not budge. 

—from “The Space Heater” by Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds was born this week in 1942.

World Poetry

Rimbaud Museum Opens in Poet's Hometown

The town of Charleville-Mézières has renovated the Old Mill on the river Meuse to house a new collection telling the story of its most famous son, the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud only lived to 37, but as unsettled as his poetry can be unsettling, he travelled the length and breadth of Europe as far as Harar in Abyssinia, today Ethiopia.

A Poet’s Election Victory Over a Former General Speaks of a New Myanmar

It was the poet versus the soldier — and the poet won. Of all the high drama surrounding the electoral triumph of the long-suppressed democracy movement in Myanmar, there was perhaps no victory as eloquent as the nail-biter won by U Tin Thit, a poet and former political prisoner. Mr. Tin Thit defeated one of the most powerful candidates on the ballot, a former general who until a few months ago was the minister of defense.

The town of Charleville-Mézières is now home to a museum telling the story of its most famous son, the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud.

Recent Reviews

Review: The Book of Feral Flora by Amanda Ackerman
by Scott Russell Morris

You’re not supposed the judge books by the cover, but I totally judged this one by its title and partially by its minimalist cover. “Feral Flora” is just very fun to say. The idea is delightful, and a book that can delight linguistically and idea-wise in just one title is worth picking up. (The cover is neat, too). Inside the book, things get much more complicated, even as they continue to delight both by the sheer genius of the idea and the linguistic play.

Review: LETTERRS by Orlando White
by Michael Wasson
“It begins at a diacritical spark… of breath… and soma”

And so we enter Orlando White’s meditative, intelligent, and echoing second book, LETTERRS, both a collection of unsettling silence and precise clangor. As a shift from his first book, Bone Light (Red Hen Press, 2009), White moves from the examination of thought to the philosophical relationship between print and sound.

The Poems of TS Eliot: The Annotated Text review – a monumental achievement
by David Wheatley

Buying an edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy in Florence as a student, I was struck by its resemblance to the flood lines marked on the side of buildings to commemorate the great flood of 1966: sometimes the footnotes would creep almost all the way to the top of the page, leaving only one or two lines of actual text. Had Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue adopted footnotes rather than endnotes in their remarkable edition of TS Eliot’s poems, whole pages of apparatus would surge by with barely a line of verse in sight. Volume one contains 346 pages of poems to 965 of commentary. In the second volume, notes follow text on a poem-by-poem basis, but their combined 290 pages is still outweighed by a 367-page “textual history”. It is a monumental achievement, and one that frames important and timely questions about the state of Eliot’s reputation.

Orlando White’s LETTERRS is a collection of unsettling silence and precise clangor.


A Celebration of Asian and Asian American Poetry
By Adam Fitzgerald

The increasing vitality in contemporary American poetry is, to my mind, indistinguishable at present from the aesthetic and moral wealth of an extraordinary number of now active Asian-American poets, both young and old. Organizations like Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Kundiman as well as literary scholars like Sianne Ngai and Dorothy J. Wang are also profoundly shaping the discourse and attention of readers, both in and out of the academy. More specifically, as the poetry community confronts questions of racism prompted by larger cultural events as well as specific recent instances in the poetry community, Asian-American poets have played a tremendous role in challenging the status quo, no less valuable than the black radical tradition exemplified by poets such as Claudia Rankine and Fred Moten, among many, many others.

The increasing vitality in contemporary American poetry is due in large part to an extraordinary number of now active Asian-American poets.

Drafts & Fragments

To Strive, to Seek, to Find … a Career in Poetry

The previous and current young poet laureate for London offer their tips for a career in poetry, from online networks to how to combat a blank page.

London poet laureates offer their tips for a career in poetry.

Poetry In the News

'Lost' Shelley Poem which Helped Get Him Expelled from Oxford to be Seen at Last

A controversial “lost” poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley when he was a teenager is to go on display to the public for the first time, more than 100 years after it helped get him expelled from Oxford University. The 172-line poem, a polemic about war, was thought to have been lost to history after it was first published in 1811, after the young writer upset his university so much they sent him down.

Organizers Seat Woman behind Trump ‘Because she’s black’ — So She Silently Protests by Reading her Book

An Illinois woman became an Internet celebrity after she read a book during a campaign speech by Donald Trump. Johari Osayi Idusuyi, a student at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, said she brought a copy of “Citizen,” an award-winning book on everyday racism by Claudia Rankine, to a rally near her home, reported WICS-TV.

Madeline DeFrees

On November 11, 2015, Poet Madeline DeFrees passed away at her home in Portland, Oregon, from complications of dementia. Her writing career spanned more than sixty years, during which time she published eight poetry collections, including Spectral Waves (2006) and Blue Dusk: New and Selected Poems 1951-2001 (2001), which was awarded the 2002 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, as well as essays, reviews, short stories, and two nonfiction books about convent life.

Johari Osayi Idusuyi became an internet celebrity when she was spotted reading “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine at Donald Trump rally.

New Books

A Timeshare by Margaret Ross
[Paperback] Omnidawn, 104 pp., $17.95

Margaret Ross’s debut unearths the corporeal in the most desolate reaches of corporate speech: Futures exchange. Human resources. Personal life. Lush and visceral, A Timeshare knows that questions and crises of individual existence are inextricably bound to shared experience and its deft music carries from the closest closet to outer space, touching the concrete through the metaphysical: it syncs the bed to the ocean, memory to zero-g, voicemail to lyric, killjar, dive bar, Lascaux, Antarctica, living and waiting rooms. What time is it? What’s time? Your shadow renders you a human sundial. "Countdown," the book begins.

The Animal Too Big to Kill: Poems by Shane McCrae
[Paperback] Persea, 80 pp., $15.95 

This collection, winner of the 2014 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award, further establishes Shane McCrae as an indispensible poetic voice. With his unmistakable cadences, he probes insistently yet big-heartedly into some paradoxes of belief and righteousness, confronting God from the quagmire of his upbringing: half-Black and raised by White supremacists.

Forest Primeval: Poems by Vievee Francis
[Paperback] Triquarterly, 104 pp., $16.95

"Another Anti-Pastoral," the opening poem of Forest Primeval, confesses that sometimes "words fail." With a "bleat in [her] throat," the poet identifies with the voiceless and wild things in the composed, imposed peace of the Romantic poets with whom she is in dialogue. Vievee Francis’s poems engage many of the same concerns as her poetic predecessors—faith in a secular age, the city and nature, aging, and beauty. Words certainly do not fail as Francis sets off into the wild world promised in the title. The wild here is not chaotic but rather free and finely attuned to its surroundings. The reader who joins her will emerge sensitized and changed by the enduring power of her work.

The Inventors: And Other Poems by René Char
[Hardcover] Seagull Books, 112 pp., $21.00

One of the foremost poets of the French Resistance, René Char has been hailed by Donald Revell as “the conscience of modern French poetry.” Translated by Mark Hutchinson, The Inventors is a companion volume to Char’s critically acclaimed Hypnos. It gathers more than forty poems that represent a cross-section of Char’s mature work, spanning from 1936 to 1988. All three genres of Char’s work are represented here: verse poems, prose poems, and the abrupt, lapidary propositions for which he is best known. These maxima sententia combine the terseness of La Rochefoucauld with the probing and sometimes riddling character of the fragments of Heraclitus.

Calazaza's Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius
[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 118 pp., $16.95 

In her polyphonic poems, Suzanne Dracius creates protagonists–usually calazazas, light-skinned mulatto women with red or blond hair–who fight like Amazons against racial and gender discrimination. Dracius's voice is leaping and exalted, often sexually charged, and infused with allusions to Greek and Roman mythology.

n her polyphonic poems, Suzanne Dracius creates protagonists who fight like Amazons against racial and gender discrimination.


An Interview with Rosanna Warren
by Andrés Hax

Born in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1953 to an auspicious pair of writer parents (Robert Penn Warren—the only person to win the Pulitzer Prize for both poetry and fiction; and Eleanor Clark, a recipient of the National Book Award in both non-fiction and poetry), Rosanna Warren was by all accounts a precocious artistic talent.

Interview with Stephen Sandy 
by Chard deNiord

CD:  I’m curious to know when you first started to write poetry.
SS:  Childhood. I was seven, or eight I guess. Seven would be good. Soon I started to save poems. My grandmother Caddie was influential because she had a typewriter (unlike my mother or father). She typed up my early efforts on her pokey little Underwood portable. I had begun to write; some of her typescripts still survive.

Rosanna Warren was born to an auspicious pair of writer parents, Robert Penn Warren and Eleanor Clark.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

. . . Because sometimes the clarity of November turns us inward:

Journey Into The Interior

by Theodore Roethke

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

Enjoy a poem by Theodore Roethke in honor of November.