October 20, 2016

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1475—Giovanni Rucellai, Italian poet (Le Api), is born.
1854—Arthur Rimbaud, French poet and adventurer (Illuminations), (d. 1891), is born.
1882—Olegario Victor Andrade, Argentina poet (El arpa perdida), dies at 41.
1900—Naim Frashëri, Albanian poet (b. 1846), dies.
1921—Hans Warren, Dutch writer/poet/critic (Secret Diary), is born.
1940—Robert Pinsky, American poet and Poet Laureate of the United States, is born.
2004—Anthony Hecht, American poet (b. 1923), dies.
2011—Tone Pavček, Slovenian poet and translator (b. 1928), dies.

Toy of this sad eye of water, I cannot pluck,
o! motionless boat! o! arms too short! neither this
nor the other flower: neither the yellow one which bothers me,
there; nor the friendly blue one in the ash-colored water.

Ah! dust of the willows shaken by a wing!
The roses of the reeds devoured long ago!
My boat still stationary; and its chain caught
in the bottom of this rimless eye of water,—in what mud?

—from “Memories” by Arthur Rimbaud
[translated by Wallace Fowlie]

World Poetry

Exiled Turkmen Dissident Poet Dies In Sweden

Prominent dissident Turkmen poet Shirali Nurmuradov has died in Sweden at the age of 71. Nurmuradov, a fierce critic of the authoritarian regime in his native Turkmenistan, was arrested and jailed to short terms for his poems by Turkmen authorities several times in the 1990s. He went to Sweden in 1995 shortly after he was arrested in Moscow at Ashgabat's request.

Top Egyptian Poet Shousha Dies at 80

Prominent Egyptian writer and radio host, Farouq Shousha, one of the Arab world’s leading contemporary poets, died on Friday aged 80, state television reported.
Born in the coastal province of Damietta in February 1936, Shousha graduated from the Arab Studies Faculty in 1956. Two years later, he joined the Egyptian state radio where he riveted the audience with his famous programme Our Beautiful Language. On this show, which he presented for many years, Shousha highlighted aesthetics of Arabic by reciting and dissecting selected pieces from Arabic poetry. He had a melodious voice.

Prominent Egyptian writer and radio host, Farouq Shousha, one of the Arab world’s leading contemporary poets, died on Friday aged 80.

Recent Reviews

The Bears and the Bees
by Thomas McCarthy

The Ireland Chair of Poetry, where a poet of national distinction is appointed for three years to a roving professorship, is one of those absolutely daft good things that the powers that be in Irish life come up with now and again. As with the formation of Aosdána, everyone is astonished at the success of what was potentially an embarrassing idea. This Ireland professorship is as unique as a hedge school, bringing furtive teachers down from the mountains where they’d hidden; and calling all children to the bottom of a barley field; to that shade by the blackthorn bush where two streams always meet in Irish poetry. 

Soul and Dual: “Dothead” by Amit Majmudar
By Caitlin Doyle

The epigraph of Amit Majmudar’s new poetry collection Dothead comes from Dr. Seuss: “It is fun to have fun / But you have to know how.” Majmudar, whose parents emigrated from India, frequently writes about American identity, ethnic otherness, and the cost of conflict on the global scale. Though Seuss’s lines may seem like an unusual touchstone for a book that explores such weighty subjects, they capture a central element of Majmudar’s writing. In Dothead and his previous collections, 0˚, 0˚and Heaven and Earth, Majmudar reveals himself as a poet for whom nothing is more serious than play, a quality that keeps even his most politically oriented work rooted in poetry rather than polemics.

Getting to Know Nothing
A review of Peter Gizzi's 'In Defense of Nothing'
by Chris Howea

Book by book, Peter Gizzi has made propulsive advances in style and range. Poems sprawl longer, blaze forth brighter in rich fluidities of argument, bare riddling surfaces of ever-more-intricate logic and sound, and all the while offer readers fuller, faster, more enterable poetic experiences. Meanwhile, the gradual emergence of an authorial alter-ego in these poems — an obdurate speaker grounded in quotidian observation, prone to political outbursts, romantic — this signature persona becomes, for the reader, a companionable figure. 

Odes by Sharon Olds review – in praise of tampons and other taboos
A new collection from the TS Eliot prizewinner finds beauty in the outrages visited on ageing bodies
by Kate Kellaway

Sharon Olds’s inspired new collection alerts us to taboos we barely think about ordinarily. The book is exposed – in more ways than one – and could only have been written by a woman: bold, no longer young and inextinguishably curious. In one poem she reports that her partner mocks her: “My partner says that what I write / about women is self-involved. You’re sixty / something years old,” he exclaims, “and still/writing about the first time you got laid!”

Celebrating the Immigrant Experience: A Review of Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s What Blooms in Winter
by Brian Fanelli 

The last several months have been trying as an American citizen. Donald Trump’s candidacy has used xenophobic rhetoric to demonize minority groups and immigrants. In these times, Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s body of work, which often focuses on her Italian-American family heritage and celebrating the immigrant experience, is especially relevant. Her newest collection, What Blooms in Winter, draws on the deeply personal to vocalize her story and also give praise to the melting pot aspect that has always been a foundation of American culture.

Sharon Olds’s inspired new collection alerts us to taboos we barely think about ordinarily.


Chasing Pasos: On the Trail of Nicaragua’s Lost Modernist
By David Shook

I’m on my way to meet the son of a poet whose name is often mentioned by Latin American critics in the same breath as Vicente Huidobro and Eliot, but who remains almost entirely unknown beyond the confines of the Spanish-speaking world. Joaquín Pasos was born in Granada, Nicaragua, in 1914, and died in 1947, at the age of 32, without having seen a single book into print. Published posthumously, his verse is now an integral part of the Latin American literary tradition, its prophetic warnings of environmental, migratory, and war-fueled crises are timelier than ever

The Architecture of Memory: How Los Angeles Made Me a Poet
By Stephen Kessler

Los Angeles, whose sprawling internal combustion–driven all-consuming reaches I fled half a century ago, remains embedded in my imagination, so that even at this remove it appears unpredictably in my poems, fruitful goop bubbling up from the unconscious like prehistoric tar from the pits of the Miracle Mile. La Brea means tar in Spanish; Los Angeles is Latina in origin — its name in full: El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula, Our Lady Queen of Angels — and the sounds of Spanish explorers and settlers echo ambiguously in street names that spell out questionable histories of conquest and slave labor and coerced conversion. And so the saints come marching in through the canyons of the Santa Monicas and the San Gabriels and the San Bernardinos to declare sacred this violated landscape.

Bob Dylan: Song as Poetry
by A. E. Stallings

At  the news that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature, poets, at least judging from my Facebook feed, were either very much pro- or very much con- (often along generational lines), delighted or outraged, yet in both cases an anxiety simmered underneath, stemming perhaps from the feeling that poetry itself has slipped into insignificance, or at least lost the public’s ear. A prize going to a poet would have given the poet and the art form a larger audience.  “What about W. S. Merwin?”  (Here in Greece, “what about Kiki Dimoula?”) It’s an ancient paradox:  poets long to be popular, and celebrities want to be taken seriously.  Both look back to a time in some misty mythic past when a bard could be both profound and renowned.  But Bob Dylan arguably has a stronger academic claim than many poets to be taken seriously as a literary artist, at least if you look at the critical ink spilled on him, numerous books on his songs, analysing their allusive lyrics, including Dylan’s Visions of Sin by Christopher Ricks.

Bob Dylan: The Poetry Stays Home
by Tim Parks

No one has been a fiercer critic of the Nobel Prize in Literature than I. It’s not the choices that are made, though some (Elfriede Jelinek, Dario Fo) have been truly bewildering; it’s just the silliness of the idea that a group of Swedish judges, always the same, could ever get their minds round literature coming from scores of different cultures and languages, or that anyone could ever sensibly pronounce on the best writers of our time. The best for whom? Where? Does every work cater to everybody? The Nobel for literature is an accident of history, dependent on the vast endowment that fuels its million-dollar award. What it reveals more than anything else is the collective desire, at least here in the West, that there be winners and losers, at the global level, that a story be constructed about who are the greats of our era, regardless of the impossibility of doing this in any convincing way.

Joaquín Pasos was born in Granada, Nicaragua, in 1914, and died in 1947, at the age of 32, without having seen a single book into print.

Drafts & Fragments

TinyLetter: The Mini Saviour of Modern Poetry?
TinyLetters are a simple but radical new email marketing tool that could save poetry and short fiction from obscurity by winning authors a bigger audience
by Lara Williams

The idea of the TinyLetter is largely self-explanatory: you sign up to a mailing list from which emails are then sent out with varying regularity – some are daily, others biweekly, some even monthly. The diminutive “tiny” is appropriate because there is an emphasis on brevity. And note that they are termed “letters”, not “newsletters” – newsletters being irksome things trying to sell you cheap flights or fashionable clothes, while letters offer a more personal, perhaps even somewhat antiquated conceit.

TinyLetters are a simple but radical new email marketing tool that could save poetry from obscurity by winning authors a bigger audience.

Poetry In the News

‘Poetry for the ear’: Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday for work that the Swedish Academy described as “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” He is the first American to win the prize since Toni Morrison in 1993, and a groundbreaking choice by the Nobel committee to select the first literature laureate whose career has primarily been as a musician.

Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poetry to Music

Bringing the hot jams in on little cat feet, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Robbie Fulks, and a number of other Chicago-adjacent artists are helping to set the poetry of Carl Sandburg to music. Fulks, Tweedy, Neko Case collaborator Kelly Hogan, and Sally Timms and Jon Langford of The Mekons are all listed as guest vocalists on Carl Sandburg’s Chicago Poems, which takes beloved works like the Pulitzer Prize winner’s “Chicago,” “Fog,” and “Lost,” and transforms them into songs.

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for work that “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

New Books

In the Volcano's Mouth  by Miriam Bird Greenberg 
[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 112 pp., $15.95 

Miriam Bird Greenberg’s stunning first collection, which roves across a lush, haunting rural America both real and imagined, observed from railyards and roadsides, evokes the world of myth (“I’d spent my childhood / in a house made of bees; on hot days honey // dripped through cracks in the ceiling,” she writes). Yet these capacious, exquisitely tensioned poems are rooted in Greenberg’s experiences hitchhiking and hopping freight trains across North America, or draw from her informal interviews with contemporary nomads, hobos, and others living on society’s edges. Beneath their surface runs a current of violence, whether at the hands of fate or men: she writes “Everyone knows // what happens to women // who hitchhike, constantly // trying a door to the other world made of lake / bottom or low forest, abandoned house // even wild animals / have rejected.” The result is a queering of On the Road, a feminist Frank Stanford at once vulnerable and canny. Richly textured, In the Volcano’s Mouth is an extraordinary portrait of life on the enchanted margins.

Scriptorium: Poems by Melissa Range 
[Paperback] Beacon Press, 96 pp., $18.00

The poems in Scriptorium are primarily concerned with questions of religious authority. The medieval scriptorium, the central image of the collection, stands for that authority but also for its subversion; it is both a place where religious ideas are codified in writing and a place where an individual scribe might, with a sly movement of the pen, express unorthodox religious thoughts and experiences. In addition to exploring the ways language is used, or abused, to claim religious authority, Scriptorium also addresses the authority of the vernacular in various time periods and places, particularly in the Appalachian slang of the author’s East Tennessee upbringing. Throughout Scriptorium, the historical mingles with the personal: poems about medieval art, theology, and verse share space with poems that chronicle personal struggles with faith and doubt.

Float by Anne Carson 
[Hardcover] Knopf, 272 pp., $30.00

Anne Carson consistently dazzles with her inventive, shape-shifting work and the vividness of her imagination. Float reaches an even greater level of brilliance and surprise. Presented in an arrestingly original format–individual chapbooks that can be read in any order, and that float inside a transparent case–this collection conjures a mix of voices, time periods, and structures to explore what makes people, memories, and stories "maddeningly attractive" when observed in spaces that are suggestively in-between. 

Hour of the Ox by Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello 
[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 72 pp., $15.95 

Hour of the Ox received the 2015 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, selected by Crystal Ann Williams, who called it “a timeless collection written by a poet of exceptional talent and grace, a voice as tough as it is tender.” Cancio-Bello examines the multiplicity of distance, wanderlust, and grief at the intersection between filial and cultural responsibility. Desires are sloughed off, replaced by new ones, re-cultivated as mythos. These poems offer a complex and necessary new perspective on the elegiac immigrant song.

The Wug Test: Poems by Jennifer Kronovet 
[Paperback] Ecco, 96 pp., $15.99

Jennifer Kronovet’s poetry is inflected by her fraught, ecstatic relationship with language—sentences, words, phonemes, punctuation—and how meaning is both gained and lost in the process of communicating. Having lived all over the world, both using her native tongue and finding it impossible to use, Kronovet approaches poems as tactile, foreign objects, as well as intimate, close utterances. In The Wug Test, named for a method by which a linguist discovered how deeply imprinted the cognitive instinct toward acquiring language is in children, Kronovet questions whether words are objects we should escape from or embrace. Dispatches of text from that researcher, Walt Whitman, Ferdinand de Saussure, and the poet herself, among other voices, are mined for their futility as well as their beauty, in poems that are technically revealing and purely pleasurable. Throughout, a boy learns how to name and ask for those things that makes up his world.

Jennifer Kronovet’s poetry is inflected by her fraught, ecstatic relationship with language.


“Having a reflection is a very strange thing. Being embodied in general is very odd.”
by Kaveh Akbar

Anaïs Duplan is the author of Take This Stallion (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming on PBS News Hour, in Hyperallergic, FENCE, Redivider, Horse Less Review, The Journal, Boston Review, and elsewhere. In collaboration with Public Space One, she runs the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, an artist residency program for new media artists of color. She lives and works in Iowa City, where she is MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers Workshop.

What the Body Keeps: An Interview with Nikki Wallschlaeger
by Muriel Leung

Nikki Wallschlaeger talks with Apogee Journal Poetry Co-Editor, Muriel Leung about her poem, “This Body Keeps the Key,” which appears in Issue 07 of the journal.
Muriel Leung: Several Apogee Journal editors have exclaimed their love for the title of your poem, “This Body Keeps the Keys” forthcoming in Issue 07. What inspired the title? Did it come first or following the writing of the poem? What does this title mean to you?

Nikki Wallschlaeger talks with Apogee Journal Poetry Co-Editor, Muriel Leung about her poem, “This Body Keeps the Key.”

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Whether or not Dylan's lyrics are poetry is besides the point. As Christopher Ricks said, "literature is best thought of — most of the time — as the art of a single medium, language."

Dylan's lyrics are indeed an artistic shaping of language, like and unlike any other. Are his words a radical departure from poetic tradition? Hmm.

Here is an old piece of lyric poetry from some time in the Middle Ages:

'Westron wynde, when wilt thou blow,
The small raine down can raine.
Cryst, if my love were in my armes
And I in my bedde again!'

Here is a scrap of a Dylan lyric, circa 1963, when he was 22:

"Only if my own true love was waitin’
 Yes, and if I could hear her heart a-softly poundin’
 Only if she was lyin’ by me
 Then I’d lie in my bed once again."

Magpie? Maybe. In the tradition? Definitely.

Whether or not Dylan’s lyrics are poetry is besides the point.