November 26, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1663 – Pedro de Peralta y Barnuevo, Peruvian poet (Obras Dramaticas), is born. 
1731 – William Cowper, England, pre-romantic poet (His Task) [NS], is born.
1855 – Adam B Mickiewicz, Polish poet (Polish Legion), dies at 56. 
1857 – Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, German poet (That Freier), dies at 69.
1864 – Herman Gorter, Dutch socialist/poet (May, Tiny Hero's Poem), is born. 
1896 – Coventry Patmore, British poet (b. 1823), dies.
1920 – Paul T B Rodenko, poet/author (Stolen Lover), is born. 
1956 – Nico Slothouwer, Dutch poet (Man & his Bag), is born.


February Sun

Again the world goes open like a girl's room
From the white remotenesses street scenes come sailing up
workers with alum hands are building
a windowless house of stairways and pianos.
The poplars with a schoolboy inclination
toss each other a ball full of bird voices
and way up high an invisible airplane
paints bright blue flowers on bright blue silk.
The sun plays at my feet like a serious child.
I wear the downy mask of
the first spring breeze.
—Paul Rodenko (1920–1976)

“The poplars with a schoolboy inclination / toss each other a ball full of bird voices / and way up high an invisible airplane / paints bright blue flowers on bright blue silk.”—Paul Rodenko (1920–1976)

World Poetry

Tamil Poet Arrested in Sri Lanka for Violating Visa Condition

Norwegian Tamil poet and actor V I S Jeyapalan has been arrested in Sri for violating visa regulations. Jaffna-born Jeyapalan,79, was arrested yesterday at Mankulam in the country's north, Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said. Rohana said Oslo-based Jeyapalan, who was in the country on a tourist visa, has been arrested for holding seminars in Jaffna.  "He was reported to have taken part in gatherings aimed at causing communal unrest," Rohana said. Read more at the Business-Standard.

Poet's Vollsmose Event Going Forward Despite Police Concerns

Poet Yahya Hassan will be speaking Tuesday in the troubled Odense suburb of Vollsmose after all. The 18-year-old, whose collection of poems has set off a nationwide debate about immigration and Islam, had expressed his disappointment that the sold-out event was cancelled after police said they could not guarantee public order. Read more at the Copenhagen Post.

Stage Production Based on Ancient Poem Wins Acclaim

A new opera based on a well-known ancient Chinese poem has been well received after its debut at Beijing's Poly Theatre. The poem titled "Ode to the Nymph of the Luo River" has been a favourite of literature lovers for the beautifully written text and heart wrenching love story for centuries. Now the opera has brought the written word to life. Read more at China Central TV.

Jordan’s Underground Female Slam Poetry Scene

Aysha, 25, stands at the front of a small, brightly lit room in Jabal Al Weibdeh, one of Amman’s oldest neighborhoods. The fluorescent light is somehow tempered by the apartment’s soft and eclectic furniture—a clumsy circle of wooden chairs and faded couches. Although it is filled with people, the room is silent, waiting for Aysha to begin to speak. “Tell your governments, the only kingdom my generation will bow to is the one between our temples,” she chants, her voice swelling in the tiny space, as the sound of snapping fingers cuts through the air. “For it is the most compassionate authority we have ever known.” Read more at The Daily Beast.

Poet Yahya Hassan will be speaking Tuesday in the troubled Odense suburb of Vollsmose after all.

Recent Reviews

Fourteen Poets Recommend New and Recent Titles

Welcome to the Seawall’s semi-annual poetry feature. This season, fourteen poets write briefly on some of their favorite new and recent titles. This multi-poet/title feature is posted here in April and November. Read more at On the Seawall.

Perception Is Almost an End in Itself: Lyn Hejinian’s The Book of A Thousand Eyes

by Calum Gardner
The Book of a Thousand Eyes is the culmination of two decades’ work for Lyn Hejinian, and it has been anticipated by some of her readers at least since the 1996 publication of A Little Book of a Thousand Eyes. This is what gives it the character of a compendium; slim volumes and large collaborative projects alike have been the rehearsal for this series of texts; indeed, it can be read as Hejinian’s magnum opus. Previously, the poet has been perhaps best known for her unique autobiographical and poetic prose text My Life as well as a body of challenging lyric poetry. The Book of a Thousand Eyes blends these two tendencies. While the dense and associative prose passages in which she describes dreams resemble snatches of My Life, often the texts are far less assimilable. Read more at the Glasgow Review of Books.

On Poetry

by David Orr
At any given moment, millions of people in this country are happily not reading poems, and dozens of poets are happy to say they don’t care. “I have never been one of the people who feel it essential to increase the audience for poetry,” the former poet laureate Louise Glück remarked several years ago. “The people who need it find it.” Variations on this sentiment are fairly common among poets and critics across the aesthetic spectrum, and for the most part that’s to be expected. Every activity generates experts, and experts typically have little time for novices. This is no less true of poetry folk than of photographers or pastry chefs. Read more at the New York Times.

Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012 by Geoffrey Hill – Review

by Nicholas Lezard
The 1985 edition of Geoffrey Hill's Collected Poems was, by comparison with this, a very slender thing. We had reason, then, to assume that there would not be much more: he had been ill, and depressed; and what is the productive life span of a poet anyway, especially one whose subject, so often, is "the tongue's atrocities", the culpability of words and the responsibility to use them with immense and utmost care, if at all? The next 13 years of silence, apart from lectures, would have encouraged such pessimism. And then, from Canaan (1996) onwards, the dam burst; there were nine collections after that. By the time the 1985 collection ends in this volume, we have a further 800-odd pages to go. If there is a paperback or second edition of his Collected Poems next year, will it be a third as long again as this one? (Remember Hill's epigraph to "Hymns to Our Lady of Chartres" – "As Henry Adams observed at Chartres, the twin powers of the modern world are inertia and velocity" – and note that inertia makes things hard to stop, as well as hard to start.) Read more at The Guardian.

“The 1985 edition of Geoffrey Hill’s Collected Poems was, by comparison with this, a very slender thing” – Nicholas Lezard


The Poem Stuck in My Head 

by Glyn Maxwell
In the last century, a few years of sodden slaughter in France and Flanders turned British poetry from Keatsian lyricism to raw, aghast reportage. Isaac Rosenberg’s poems, for instance, moved from prewar patriotic exultation—“Flash, mailed seraphim, / Your burning spears”—to, three years later, this numb, bone-dry mutter from the trenches: “Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew / Your cosmopolitan sympathies.” In Ivor Gurney’s “To His Love” you see the thing happening not in mid-career but in mid-poem—between lines, in a line break, specifically the last one. It’s the most astonishing line break I’ve ever encountered. It’s the sound of a culture’s poetic history cracking in half. Read more at The Paris Review.

Techne in Textiles: Merrill’s “Investiture at Cecconi’s’”

by Moira Egan
In “Investiture at Cecconi’s,” James Merrill weaves a beautiful, sapphic fabric whose warp and weft intertwine chiaroscuro threads of fate, epiphany, beauty, and death as the expression of an initiation into the realm of living with and dying from AIDS. The poem opens, with notes of intimacy, outside the door of “their” Venetian tailor: “caro,” casual yet natural, the apostrophe, Kalstone. Pre-liminal, before he crosses the threshold, the speaker is already “losing patience” outside the door. This little pun is dear and obvious to me, the wife of a research doctor who has no patients with a “ts,” but, as I always say, has a great deal of patience to be able to deal with me. In the mid-80s, doctors of gay men were indeed losing patients every day. Read more at Contemporary Poetry Review.

“From within the field”: A Survey of the Survey

by Lindsay Turner
I’ve been a quiet blog contributor lately because I am spending the semester reading through a lot of the history of poetry. When I am not reading, I sometimes become frustrated that the lines my history traces are mostly just “begats.” The problem of the literary survey is a tough one: “the field cannot be well seen from within the field,” says Emerson. But then there is the poet. What models can poetry offer the would-be surveyor? Here, from within all the profusion of that field, are four disorderly possibilities. Read more at the Boston Review.

In the last century, a few years of sodden slaughter in France and Flanders turned British poetry from Keatsian lyricism to raw, aghast reportage.

Drafts & Fragments

B O D Y Transatlantic Poetry Reading

Tonight, November 23rd, B O D Y hosts a Transatlantic Poetry reading featuring JOSHUA WEINER (US) and EMILY BERRY (UK). The reading will be streamed live over the Transatlantic Poetry site, Facebook and from Google+ event page. Read more at Literal Lab.

"Paradise Lost": How an Epic Poem About Heaven Can Be a Career Guide

by Brad Smith
In high school, I had a wonderfully gifted English teacher who believed that all students should learn to appreciate fine literature. At the center of his focus was the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton. The premise of the poem is Satan's fall from grace after he leads a rebellion of one third of the angels in Heaven, and how he dealt with the realities he faced due to the choices he had made. Read more at LinkedIn.

John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost, was not based on religious beliefs, but rather a critical assessment of two very human emotions – pride and jealousy.

Poetry In the News

Wanda Coleman, Acclaimed L.A. Poet, Has Died at 67

Poet Wanda Coleman died Friday after a long illness, her husband said. She was 67. Coleman was a key figure in the literary life of Los Angeles. She, as our book critic David Ulin recently wrote, "helped transform the city's literature." She was a finalist for the National Book Award for her poetry collection "Mercurochrome" in 2001. Born and raised in Watts, Coleman often wrote of issues of race, class, poverty and disenfranchisement. Read more at the LA Times.

The Chronicles of C. S. Lewis Lead to Poets’ Corner

C. S. Lewis was a noted polymath: philosopher, theologian, professor, novelist, children’s writer, literary critic, lecturer. But he was not much of a poet. Still, 50 years to the day after his death, Clive Staples Lewis, known to his friends and family as Jack, will be among the more than 100 people commemorated in some fashion in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner, alongside figures like Geoffrey Chaucer, Ben Jonson, Samuel Johnson, Shakespeare, the Brontë sisters, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Keats, John Milton and Ted Hughes. Read more at the New York Times.

One Is Very Happy! The Queen Looks Forward to her 66th Wedding Anniversary by Hosting Poetry Celebration

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh looked  looked forward to their 66th wedding anniversary with an unprecedented celebration of poetry at Buckingham Palace. The royal couple, who married on November 20, 1947, hosted the first Reception for Contemporary British Poetry. And, as these pictures show, it was obviously a moment which the Queen thoroughly enjoyed. As she chatted to her guests, the Queen smiled broadly, clearly enjoying the event. Read more at the Daily Mirror.

Acclaimed L.A. poet, Wanda Coleman, has died at 67 on Friday after a long illness.

New Books

Come Down to Earth: Poems by Nils Michals 

[Paperback] Bauhan, 80 pp.,  $16.00
In a rhythmic collection of a myriad of styles, Nils Michals compiles a book which presents a haunted version of human consciousness, eager to transcend its earthly realm. Filled with distinct styles and unique language, Michals demonstrates his prowess by contemplating our world as we know it–with a drastic re-imaginings. The speaker breaks down all the personal walls of contemporary poetry, incorporating second-person narratives and distant point-of-views. The poet accomplishes the essential task of taking from the ordinary and creating the extraordinary in his observations of nature, news, and everyday life.

This Shadowy Place: Poems by Dick Allen 

[Hardcover] St. Augustines Press, 80 pp., $22.00
Dick Allen’s earlier collections have always included poems written in traditional form. But This Shadowy Place is his only book in which every poem is rhymed and metered. Allen’s “stand alone” new poems – narrative, meditative, lyric, sometimes excursions into Zen Buddhism – consistently merge traditional form with his hallmark cultural, political and religious themes. Even when seeming to write of himself, Allen is actually forever writing of the strange and unique transitions from the American Twentieth Century to the Twenty-first. Known as one of the best craftsmen and poetry performers in the country, Allen here gives us new poems that when read either silently or aloud constantly shift between the literal and the metaphorical. The paths in these new poems lead unexpectedly through both calming and foreboding shadows.

The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov edited by Paul A. Lacey

[Hardcover] New Directions, 960 pp., $49.95
How splendid and impressive to have a complete, clear, and unobstructed view of Denise Levertov at last. Covering more than six decades and including, chronologically, every poem she ever published, Levertov’s Collected Poems presents her marvelous, ground breaking work in full.

I Have Told You and Told You by Elizabeth Cox 

[Paperback] Mercer University Press, 96 pp., $18.00
These poems, written over a period of thirty years, reflect both the experience of growing up and growing old. The poems seek to find a primitive connection to a natural world that is fast disappearing. They look at what is lost and what is still present, though ignored, in twenty-first-century life. The familiar subjects of love, death, disaster, discovery, grief, loss, and joy are explored; but the underlying power that keeps emerging lies in the need to rely on images that try to speak a language that cannot be spoken, of music/rhythm to enter that familiar place of the heart, and of a river, the Tennessee River, that drives the heart of this poet.

Raking the Winter Leaves: New and Selected Poems by Gary Margolis 

[Paperback] Bauhan, 224 pp., $22.50 
Award-winning poet Gary Margolis gathers four books of poetry in Raking the Winter Leaves: New and Selected Poems, including a selection of poems from his new collection, The Other Flag. These poems speak from the heart of New England and our nation, from the worldly places and habitats, stripped by war and the heated climate of politics. They speak in a style familiar to his readers of almost fifty years with thoughtful feeling, humor, curiosity and the surprises to which following the threads of a poem's unexpected, yet inevitable, language can suggest and provide. As he writes in "Consider Yourself," "As a rule stones will sing, Give what you can, what there is to give, what you have been given," these poems fold in and blossom, bring us to a falling night and rising day.

Levertov’s Collected Poems presents her marvelous, ground breaking work in full, covering more than six decades and including, chronologically, every poem she ever published.


Poet Naomi Shihab Nye: 'Telling a story helped us figure out who we were'

When shaping verse, poet Naomi Shihab Nye reflects on her Palestinian heritage, family and the power of humanity. Nye discusses her most recent compilation of work, "Transfer," and what inspires her to continue crafting thoughtful and expressive poems. Read more at PBS.

New Collection by Greensboro Poet Gives Voice to Unloved Creatures

by Jordan Green
Sarah Lindsay wrapped up a hectic day of proofing pages at Pace Communications. Parking on the wrong side of the campus set her back a couple minutes. When she arrived at about 8 o’clock at the UNCG Faculty Center, she found a group of about 50 — a mix of grad students, retired professors and graying boomers — waiting quietly and attentively. Lindsay’s fourth full-length poetry collection, Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower, is due out anytime. Her first book, Primate Behavior, published in 1997, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and since then the Iowa native and UNCG MFA graduate has turned out a new collection roughly every five years. Read more at Yes Weekly.

Sarah Lindsay’s fourth full-length poetry collection, Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower, is due out anytime.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Philip Larkin

In his prose collection, Further Requirements (Faber, 2001), Philip Larkin includes an essay* titled "Living Poet" in which he comments about some of his best-known poems. He begins with this self-effacing, but accurate paragraph:

When I look at my own poems, I can't help feeling that they are not altogether what I should have written had I had the chance. By this I don't mean, or don't only mean, that I should have written a good deal more a great deal better. That goes without saying. My point is that because what one writes depends so much on one's character and environment—either one writes about them or to escape from them—it follows that, basically, one no more chooses what one writes than one chooses the character one has or the environment one has. And further, one no more likes what one writes than the character one has or the environment one has. Critics who are about to censure a poet for the kind of poetry he writes might reflect that the chances are that he would agree with them.

* The essay is accessible at the link here from Google Books, although one and a half pages of the essay have been omitted.

“When I look at my own poems, I can’t help feeling that they are not altogether what I should have written had I had the chance.”— Philip Larkin