October 15, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

October 15, 2012

70 BC – Virgil, Roman poet (Aeneid), (d. 19 BC), is born.

1595 – Abu al-Faiz ibn Mubarak Faizi, Persian-Dutch E indies poet, dies at 48.
1674 – Robert Herrick, Mass, British poet (Together), dies.

1686 – Allan Ramsay, Scottish poet (d. 1758), is born.

1837 – Ivan Dmitriev, Russian statesman and poet (b. 1760), dies.
1859 – Jaime de Magalhes Lima, Portuguese author/poet (Salmos do Prisoneiro), is born.

1932 – Riekus Waskowsky, poet, is born.
2008 – Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca, Turkish poet (b. 1914), dies.

Upon Julia’s Clothes

Whenas in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes!

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave vibration each way free,
—O how that glittering taketh me!

—Robert Herrick (1591–1674)

Poetry In The News

Twitter Event Brings Poet into 21st Century

Swansea’s Dylan Thomas Centre has won hundreds of new fans on Twitter thanks to an innovative event. Since performing Under Milk Wood on the social media website, the attraction’s following on Twitter has grown by more than 40 per cent. Swansea Council staff at the centre performed Under Milk Wood in 28 tweets to help bring Dylan’s work into the 21st century and win the poet a new generation of fans. Read more at This Is South Wales.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti Declines Hungarian Award over Human Rights

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, publisher and owner of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, has declined a Hungarian award worth more than $64,000, citing concerns over free speech rights and civil liberties. It is with no small irony that the award Ferlinghetti has declined, the Janus Pannonius International Poetry Prize, is from the Hungarian division of PEN. PEN is an international organization that supports the freedom to write internationally, and often campaigns to help writers who have been imprisoned or silenced. Read more at the LA Times.

Causley Poem Goes Up in West End Lights

The words of Cornwall’s greatest poet appeared above London’s busiest thoroughfare on Thursday, briefly upstaging some of the world’s biggest brands. “Lines from I Am The Song,” a short verse by Launceston’s Charles Causley, were flashed up on the famous Piccadilly Lights for five hours to mark National Poetry Day. Normally the preserve of adverts for multinational companies, the big-sell was briefly replaced by a poem that begins: “I am the song that sings the bird.” Read more at This Is Cornwall. 

World Poetry

Yann Perreau Puts Claude Péloquin’s Poetry in Motion

Just a few steps beyond Yousef al-Azma Square in central Damascus lies a different world of ancient alleyways, sidewalk cafes, and a burgeoning new generation of muthaqafeen, Arab intellectuals.These young artists are not the establishment poets and thinkers of yesterday, scribbling in notebooks from the corners of tiled coffee houses. Read more at Albawaba.

New Books

The Golden Road: Poems by Rachel Hadas


[Paperback] Triquarterly 92 pp., $16.95

A central theme of The Golden Road is the prolonged dementia of the poet’s husband. But Rachel Hadas’s new collection sets the loneliness of progressive loss in the context of the continuities that sustain her: reading, writing, and memory; familiar places; and the rich texture of a life fully lived. These poems are meticulously observed, nimble in their deployment of a range of forms, and capacious in their range of reference. They take us to a Greek island, to Carl Schurz Park in New York City, to an old house in Vermont, to a performance of Macbeth, and to the neurology floor of a hospital. Hadas finds beauty in all those places. The Golden Road laments, but it also celebrates.


Here I Throw Down My Heart by Colleen J. McElroy

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press,112 pp., $15.95

The poems in Here I Throw Down My Heart prompt readers to see beyond the surface of images, whether that surface is a uniform, a prescribed setting, a familiar geography, or the surface that evokes the most social commentary, skin—the body itself. The modern world moves at a greater speed than the world of a few generations ago, so we look for ways to sort our likes and dislikes, to set our comfort zones. These poems say: “don’t believe everything you see, look again.” The poems look at how borders between countries, or between genders and class have deepened the lines between the haves and have-nots. While everyone is on a collision course for lack of food and water, those dividing lines seem more impenetrable than ever, underscoring the disparity between gender, race, and class.

The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink edited by Kevin Young

[Hardcover] Bloomsbury USA, 336 pp., $25.00

Kevin Young, distinguished poet, editor of this year’s Best American Poetry, uses the lens of food—and his impeccable taste—to bring us some of the best poems, classic and current, period. Poets include: Elizabeth Alexander, Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Glück, Seamus Heaney, Tony Hoagland, Langston Hughes, Galway Kinnell, Frank O’Hara, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke, Matthew Rohrer, Charles Simic, Tracy K. Smith, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Mark Strand, Kevin Young.

The Sea at Truro: Poems by Nancy Willard

[Hardcover] Knopf, 96 pp., $26.00

From the acclaimed poet of In the Salt Marsh comes a dazzling collection about the magic hiding in the ordinary days of our past and present. Willard turns a keen eye on the natural world that witnesses these revelations, and the myriad, often surprising ways in which it intersects with our own human lot. Willard shows us time and again that “In me nothing of childhood is lost.” She recaptures for us not only the fleeting, distant shreds of a charmed, innocent youth, but brings back the people who have been loved and lost.

Recent Reviews

Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale Translated by Jonathan Galassi

by Steve Donoghue

Even today, bedecked in helpful bridges, tunnels, and train service, the Cinque Terre region of Italy’s Ligurian riviera strikes visitors as almost a portal to another world, an angular, steepled world of bleached air and rustling, restless balm. Houses are stacked with a jeweler’s care off a sea so blue it seems black in places, and the sun seems somehow to disappear into its own light, creating a daily luminescence that feels like it had no beginning and will have no end. Read more at Quarterly Conversation.

Denise Levertov

by Martin Rubin 

When Denise Levertov was a 12-year-old British girl in 1936, she was already so much a poet that she had the chutzpah to send some of her poems to the august T.S. Eliot. Her sensitive and intuitive biographer, Dana Greene, has seen a copy of his response and thinks that Levertov overstated it. But it was encouraging enough for the neophyte, and there can be no overstating its significance for her. As Ms. Greene writes, “desire and embryonic talent had already coalesced in a ‘secret destiny.’ She was an artist, and for the next decades that ambition would direct her life.” Read more at the Washington Times. 

Fall Is Here, So Is the Best of Bay Area Poetry

by Dean Rader

Perhaps it is the transformation of the trees, the change in temperature and light, or the beginning of the school year, but whatever the reason autumn has always been the best season for poetry. Read more at the Huffington Post.


Irish Poet Eavan Boland to Focus on Work about Identity in Dodge Poetry Festival Debut

by Peggy McGlone

 As a young poet in Ireland, Eavan Boland struggled to find her place within a rich tradition dominated by strong male voices. She wanted to write about children, marriage and her suburban Dublin life, but the larger-than-life mythology of her heritage — from Yeats to Heaney — seemed to exclude her. Read more at NJ.com.

Small Press Spotlight: Vievee Francis

by Rigoberto Gonzalez 

Vievee Francis is the author of Blue-Tail Fly(Wayne State University Press, 2006). Her work has appeared in several venues, including the Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, The Best American Poetry 2010, and is forthcoming in Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She was the 2009-2010 Poet-in-Residence for the Alice Lloyd Hall Scholars Program at the University of Michigan, and is the recipient of a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and a 2010 Kresge Award. She is an associate editor of Callaloo. Horse in the Dark won the 2010 Northwestern University Cave Canem Prize for a second book. Read more at Critical Mass.

A Poet Looks Back on a Bloody Week in 1967

by James Barron  

 The man in the tan shirt led the way to a squarish room in his house and sat down at a round table. Quietly, matter-of-factly, he talked about what happened in the summer of 1967. National Guardsmen tried to clear the streets of Newark during the 1967 riots. “Rebellion, I call it,” said the man, the poet Amiri Baraka, as he recalled the riots in Newark, which lasted nearly a week and left 26 people dead and more than 1,000 injured, among them Mr. Baraka himself. Read more at the New York Times.


Streets of the Iron Po(e)t

by Henri Cole

My little apartment in the Latin Quarter is on the Street of the Iron Pot (rue Pot de Fer), which I’ve renamed Street of the Iron Poet. I had to clean for many days before I felt comfortable, but now it is home, and I am searching for a tea kettle and a toilet seat. My neighborhood on Montagne Ste.-Geneviève—a hill on the Left Bank of the Seine in the Fifth Arrondissement—is full of students, bookshops, bars, and cinemas, and has the feel of a village. Geneviève is the patron saint of Paris. In 451 A.D., she led a prayer marathon that is said to have saved Paris by diverting Atilla’s Huns away from the city. Read more at the New Yorker.

What Poetry Teaches Us About the Power of Persuasion

by Dorothea Lasky

A few years ago, I was working for a science teacher professional development program. My job was to go into schools and watch how high school science teachers were integrating the program’s curriculum and content into their lessons. Not many people knew that I was a poet, not a science teacher. In fact, everyone around me asked me science questions. Like “What is the normal sugar level for someone with diabetes?” Or “Why do metals behave differently at different size scales?” These were not questions I could answer easily, but I did my best. I hid my poet self relatively well. Read more at The Atlantic.


Happiness Day 4

by George Bowering 

Irving Layton started one of his most famous poems by saying he was happiest while writing poetry, and for once in a long while I have to agree with him. When a poem has you in its grip, you have to shut up all your usual yapping and listen as hard as you can. If it continues to work, and nothing interrupts it, you will get to be the first reader of the poem. It will be a happy event. Read more at the Vancouver Sun.

Drafts & Fragments

Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets

“Poetic Likeness” will recognize the impact of poetry in America through a survey of its history during the modern period. During this time, the nation’s poets came of age in their command of a distinctly American voice. Beginning with Walt Whitman, and his invention of free verse, through the 1970s, with poets like Yusef Komunyakaa, the exhibition will chart how American poets contributed to the making of American literature by following Ezra Pound’s injunction to “make it new.” Read more at the National Portrait Gallery.

Philip Larkin’s Specs Go on Display

An eye-catching spectacle will now greet patients at a Hull clinic. Three pairs of poet Philip Larkin’s glasses form part of the artwork on display at Hull and East Yorkshire Eye Hospital off Anlaby Road. Read more at This Is Hull and East Riding.

Poet Sharon Olds Reads From Her Book Stag’s Leap

Sharon Olds is one of the country’s best-selling poets. We recently visited her in New Hampshire where she read from her most recent book, Stag’s Leap. Watch it at the PBS NewsHour.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Robin’s Books to Close

by John Timpane

Robin’s Books (established 1936), widely regarded as the city oldest independent bookstore, will close Dec. 31. Forever. No mas. Finis. That means the vibrant, idiosyncratic, bursting-at-the-intellectual-seams Moonstone Arts Center, housed upstairs with Robin’s at 110A S. 13th St., is looking for a new home. Someplace. Location, if any, undecided. Read more at Philly.com.


I remember Robin’s Books. When I moved to Philly after college (and before I got a job as a night auditor in a downtown hotel), I would go into the city and wander the streets. One of the first things I did was to find all the bookstores in downtown Philadelphia. Most of them were located south of Market Street, the main east-west axis. South Street, the enclave of alternative lifestyles was home to a few of the bookstores including a wonderful shop that sold used books whose name I’ve forgotten, just down the street from the offices of The Painted Bride Quarterly. Robin’s was a little farther up the way on South 13th. Farther west on Walnut was Sesslers. If you could imagine the quintessential bookstore, it would probably look a lot like Sesslers. Full, floor-to-ceiling bookcases lining the walls, complete with rolling ladders; tables laden with stacks of books; middle-aged clerks in coats and ties; and no cash register—just handheld mechanical receipt machines where the titles were written down along with the price and the total due. I applied for a job there (not that they were hiring. . . ) and was taken to a room in the back guarded by a wrought-iron gate where I spoke with the manager. They kept their rare books in that room. When I expressed my interest in poetry, he went to a bookcase and pulled out a first edition of The Wasteland. I didn’t get a job there. Instead, I ended up at a bookstore franchise, Paperback Booksmith, located near the waterfront at Headhouse Square, the tourist center of Old Philadelphia. 

      Amazon, digital books, and their ilk are not responsible for the demise of independent bookstores. Independent bookstores were undermined by the likes of Paperback Booksmith (now defunct), B. Dalton’s (now defunct), Waldenbooks (now defunct), Borders (now defunct), and Barnes and Noble. The chains saw a profit margin in volume that the independents couldn’t imagine and undercut the independents in much the same way they themselves have now been undercut by Amazon. Sesslers opened in 1906 and closed in 1986. Eighty years is a good run for any business. Although I obviously couldn’t afford that first edition of The Wasteland, I did leave the store with a copy of the oversized facsimile edition. When I opened my own store six years later, I kept that edition in stock.


—David Sanders