November 28, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

November 28, 2012

1757 – William Blake, London, poet/painter, (d. 1827), is born.

1880 – Alexander A Block, Russian poet, [OS=11/16], is born.

1881 – Stefan Zweig, Vienna Austria, poet/essayist/dramatist, is born.

1907 – Stanisław Wyspiański, Polish dramatist, poet, painter, and architect (b. 1869), dies.

1911 – Václav Renč, Czech poet (d. 1973), is born.

1935 – Randolph Stow, author/poet, is born.
1994 – Franfo Fortini, poet, dies at 77.

Give pension to the Learned Pig
Or the Hare playing on a Tabor;
Anglus can never see Perfection
But in the Journeyman’s Labour.

—from On Art and Artists, William Blake (1757–1927)

Poetry In The News

Dublin’s Irish Writers’ Centre Launches Pendant Inspired by Seamus Heaney’s Poetry

The Irish Writers’ Centre, on Parnell Square, Dublin, in association with Alan Ardiff have launched a pendant inspired by a line of Seamus Heaney’s poetry. On Wednesday the launch of the pendant was presided over by Joseph O’Connor and Laurence O’Bryan, both writers associated with the centre. Read more at Irish Central.

Breaking Language Barriers with Poetry

Poetry which has been lost in translation has been given a new lease of life thanks to an award-winning lecturer from the University of Sheffield. Dr. Kaarina Hollo, lecturer in Irish at the University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, has been honoured with The Times Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation. Dr. Hollo, who is an expert in the literary culture of early medieval Ireland, was presented with the prestigious award at a special ceremony in London today (13 November 2012) for her translation of Marbhghin 1943: Glaoch ar Liombo (Stillborn 1943: Calling Limbo) from Irish Gaelic into English. Read more at the University of Sheffield.


World Poetry

Poet Jailed for 12 Years

Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature David McCann is an authority on sijo (shee-jo), a poetic form often compared with Japanese haiku. Sijo is traditionally paired with music, and McCann likes to sing the poems . . . to the sounds of the ukulele. Forget “Gangnam Style,” the bigger-than-life song sensation that swept in from South Korea. David McCann is rather big in Korea too. Not for his dancing or his audacious music videos, but for his lyrics, yes. And for his music. At a recent PEN International conference in South Korea, McCann, the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature, pulled out his ukulele and sang a sijo, a Korean poem, to a standing ovation. Read more at the Harvard Gazette.

Freedom for Detained Poet Reaps Int’l Clamor Amidst Military Threats

The world’s oldest international literary organization, the PEN International, heightened its call to release Filipino poet Ericson Acosta and other imprisoned writers in various worldwide activities observing the PEN’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer today, November 15. For the past three months, detained poet Ericson Acosta, 40, has been receiving serious threats from state elements. Acosta, his family, visitors and supporters, have also been subjected to various forms of harassment – from text warnings of a planned assassination, rumors of an armed rescue plot, and outright intimidation. Read more at Samar News.

New Books

Child Made of Sand: Poems by Thomas Lux

[Hardcover] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 80 pp., $23.00

Reader’s familiar with Thomas Lux’s quick-witted images (“Language without simile is like a lung/ without air”) and his rambunctious, Cirque-Du-Soleil-like imagination (“The Under-Appreciated Pontooniers”) will find in his new collection, Child Made of Sand, not only the signature funny, provocative, and poignant super-surrealism that has made him, along with Charles Simic, James Tate, and Dean Young, one of America’s most inventive and humane poets, but they will also find in a surprising series of homages, elegies, rants, and autobiographical poems a new register of language in which time and mortality echo and reverberate in quieter notes. 


Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral by Laura Read

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 104 pp., $15.95

“The poems in Laura Read’s Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral are at once dreamy, precise, innocent, and sinister. One brick at a time they build a house of lives suffused with love, blood, loss, and a magic so simple and clear we cannot resist the feeling that we and everyone we know has, in some sense, lived there. I am astonished by the book’s cohesive charm and freshness and by its deadly accuracy. Bravo! to the nth power.” —Christopher Howell

Charms Against Lightning by James Arthur

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 96 pp., $16.00

Awakening is the theme of this fiery debut about the “ghost world” of shadows and personae. A sense of history, politics, and place is an integrated and integral part of the whole, alive with stirring accounts of travel, intimate moments of solitude, and encounters with the ineffable. Romantic in spirit and contemporary in outlook, James Arthur writes exciting, rhythmical, elastic poems.

The Last Vispo Anthology: Visual Poetry 1998-2008 edited by Crag Hill and Nico Vassilakis

[Paperback] Fantagraphics, 336 pp., $39.99

With The Last Vispo Anthology, Fantagraphics spotlights the intersection of art and language in this innovative new collection — without peer in English — that gathers the work of visual poets from around the world into one stunning volume. The alphabet is turned on its head and inside-out and the results culminate in a compilation of daring and surprising verbo-visual gems.

Recent Reviews

A Variety of Courage: John Foy on Gerry Cambridge’s Poetry

I did not want to write this review.  I don’t have the time to write book reviews.  I’d rather be writing poetry, having a good dinner with my wife, or walking my dog in the park.  I was not put up to this by an editor, nor am I doing it as a favor to Gerry Cambridge, whom I have only met once, at a conference, though he seems like an eminently likable man. I am writing this review as homage to a book of poems that keeps calling me back. Read more at Contemporary Poetry Review.

The Hows and Whys of Writing Poetry

by William Wootten  

Glyn Maxwell and Fiona Sampson have both done traditional poets’ jobs: Maxwell is a playwright and librettist and was poetry editor of the New Republic; Sampson works in translation and, until last year, was Editor of Poetry Review. Other aspects of their CVs, however, reveal more recent trends. Sampson is an expert on “creative writing in healthcare” and has a post at Kingston University; Maxwell has taught on creative writing programmes on campuses in the United States and the United Kingdom. Read more at The Times Literary Supplement.

No More Rules

by Stephen Burt 

If you are a graduate student working on poetry, or a critic writing about an unfamiliar period or tradition, you will probably find yourself opening the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, for a few decades now the best point of departure for such questions as: what was Lettrism? Who are the major Flemish poets? What are the origins of rhyme? The first PEPP appeared in 1965; two of its three editors died in the 1980s, midway through the lengthy task of turning the second edition into the third. Read more at the London Review of Books.

Wiman’s Mandelstam (and Mine)

by Henry Gould

One evening about thirty five years ago, I was browsing the poetry shelves of College Hill Bookstore, in Providence, and picked up the Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam, translated by David McDuff (FSG, 1975). My ears tingled. The hair (metaphorically speaking) stood up on my head. I was captivated by the poems’ mysterious charm, their Rimbaud-like mingling of senses in which images sang and sound-waves made strange pictures. Read more at Critical Flame.


Gerald Stern: A Q&A with New Jersey’s Former Poet Laureate

by Jacqueline Cutler 

New Jersey’s former Poet Laureate Gerald Stern recently published his 17th book of poems, In Beauty Bright. His spare poems are sometimes highbrow, sometimes pop, political and personal, reflecting on his childhood and on animals. Read more at

Writing Without a Mattress: On Louise Glück

Robert Boyers 

I first read the poems of Louise Glück in 1966. They were very early poems, and I was very young, having brought out but one issue of the quarterly magazine I had launched with a few friends several months before. (Glück, born in 1943, was young too.) The poems arrived with a letter from Glück’s teacher, Stanley Kunitz, who urged me to publish them, recommending their “strong voice” and “intensity.” He did not characterize the poems as “confessional” or attempt to link them with any school or predecessors in a tradition. Clearly he believed the poems would speak for themselves, and they did.  Read more at The Nation.


Digiwrimo Challenge: Code Poems

by Chuck Rybak

Code poems are something I don’t know much about, but as a creative writing teacher I probably should. I’ve been thinking for awhile about how subversive code poems are and can be, especially if the audience doesn’t know they’re reading a code poem—only the most intuitive reader would know to “show source” and expose the work in full, rather than the mere semiotics of surface. Would this be too exclusive? No. As Sean Michael Morris reminded me the other evening, a writer should have high expectations of their audience. Read more at Sad Iron.

Memory Traps

Charles Simic

Henry James called them “traps to memory” in The American Scene, the book he wrote about his visit to the United States in 1904 after a twenty-year absence. Walking on West Fourteenth Street and Lower Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, he shuddered at how much the neighborhood had changed. His parental home, the massive stone church that stood nearby, the old building that housed the original Metropolitan Museum of Art, and much else in the city had now “vanished as utterly as the Assyrian Empire.” What remained were these “traps” which “baited themselves with the cheese of association,” and into which anyone who had once known the city might fall. Read more at the New York Review of Books.

Rocket and Lightship: Meditations on Life and Letters*

by Adam Kirsch 

The only copy of Catullus’s poems to survive from antiquity was discovered in the Middle Ages, plugging a hole in a wine barrel. One of two morals can be drawn from this fact. Either pure chance determines what survives, from which it follows that eventually every work will lose its gamble and be forgotten; or else every worthy work is registered in the eye of God, the way books are registered for copyright, so that its material fate is irrelevant. Read more at the Poetry Foundation.

Drafts & Fragments

There’s Poetry on WeHo’s Streets

by Gustave Heully

You are most likely to come across the work of artist Rebecca Lowry when you least expect it. My first experience was when parking in West Hollywood; looking up at the sign hovering over my parking spot to check the restrictions, I was instead treated to a poem. . . . I experienced a beautiful pause at the moment I was assessing my risk of punishment. Read more at WeHoville.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

No editorial, just a few words from García Lorca:


“It was Paul Valéry, the great French poet, who held that the state of inspiration is not the most advantageous one for the writing of poetry. As I believe in heaven-sent inspiration, I believe that Valéry is on the right track. The inspired state is a state of self-withdrawal and not creative dynamism. Conceptual vision must be calmed before it can be clarified. I cannot believe that any great artist works in a fever. Even mystics return to their tasks when the ineffable dove of the Holy Ghost departs from their cells and is lost in the clouds.  One returns from the inspired state as one returns from a foreign country. The poem is the legend of the journey. Inspiration furnishes the image, but not the investiture. To clothe it, it is necessary to weigh the quality and sonority of each word, coolly, and without dangerous afflatus.”  —Federico García Lorca, from “The Poetic Image in Don Luis de Góngora,” translated by Ben Belitt


—David Sanders