October 27, 2016

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1651—Jan III van Foreest, Dutch lawyer/poet/mayor of Hoorn, dies.
1674—Hallgrímur Pétursson, Icelandic poet (b. 1614), dies.
1873—Henry Tate, Australian composer and poet, born in Melbourne (d. 1926), is born.
1892—Victor E van Vriesland, Dutch poet/critic (Mirror of Dutch Poetry), is born.
1893—Johan G Dancer, Dutch poet (Meetings), is born.
1914—Dylan Thomas, Swansea Wales, poet (Child's Christmas in Wales), is born.
1932–Sylvia Plath, American poet and novelist (Colossus, 3 Women, Bell Jar), born in Boston, Massachusetts (d. 1963), is born.
1938—Lascelles Abercrombie, English poet/critic, dies at 57.
1958—Frederik Gerretson [Geerten Gossaert], historian/poet/politician, dies at 74.
1991—George Barker, English poet (b. 1913), dies.


I think I am going up,
I think I may rise——
The beads of hot metal fly, and I love, I

Am a pure acetylene
Attended by roses,

By kisses, by cherubim,
By whatever these pink things mean!
Not you, nor him

Nor him, nor him
(My selves dissolving, old whore petticoats)——
To Paradise.

—from “Fever 103°” by Sylvia Plath

“I think I am going up, / I think I may rise—— / The beads of hot metal fly, and I love, I // Am a pure acetylene / Virgin” – Sylvia Plath

World Poetry

Erdogan Files Appeal in Germany Over Defamatory Poem Satirizing Him

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has filed an appeal to contest a decision by German authorities to drop a probe into a TV comic who satirised him, local officials said on Monday. The public prosecutor's office in Mainz, western Germany, said Erdogan had formally filed a request to have the decision overturned. The suit was filed by Erdogan's lawyer on Sunday, Mainz head prosecutor Andrea Keller said in a statement.

Poetry Festival, As Lagos Turns 50

The city of Lagos is abuzz with talk about the forthcoming Lagos International Poetry Festival (LIPFEST 2016). The fiesta which holds between October 26 and 30, 2016 at Freedom Park and the MUSON Centre in Lagos will be attended by 35 poets from across the globe. And it features a series of events including workshops, panel discussions, school outreaches, readings and performances.

The city of Lagos is abuzz with talk about the forthcoming Lagos International Poetry Festival (LIPFEST 2016).

Recent Reviews

Robert Pinsky’s New Poetry Collection is Considered and Timely
by Craig Morgan Teicher

Robert Pinsky is one of the most famous living poets in America — he once even appeared on an episode of “The Simpsons.” He was the U.S. poet laureate from 1997 to 2000, and he more or less defined the job for everyone who came after him, starting an enormously popular national poetry program and turning himself into a much coveted speaker and public intellectual. Though it's been 20 years since he was at the height of his celebrity, it can still be hard to see the poems through the scrim of the persona: Pinsky is a public figure, but his poetry is nonetheless esoteric, particular and strange.

'Upstream' Places Poet Mary Oliver in her 'arena of delight'
This collection of essays by Oliver is a testament to a lifetime of paying attention.
by Danny Heitman

Several years ago, Mary Oliver became that rare paradox, a bestselling poet. Although Americans buy and read very little poetry, Oliver’s slender collections, such as “Dog Songs” and “A Thousand Mornings,” have enjoyed popular appeal. Part of the reason, one gathers, is that Oliver writes poems about nature that are simple and easy to understand – or at least appear to be at first glance. But like Robert Frost, who was also praised for poems about the outdoors that seemed plain and straightforward, Oliver’s verse reveals, upon closer scrutiny, deeper and more complex themes

A Part of Denise Riley’s Song
The shadow of ballad meter haunts Riley’s poems, which can never not be a sign of vitality.
by Ange Mlinko

In February 2012, the London Review of Books published “A Part Song,” a long poem by Denise Riley. A feminist philosopher at the University of East Anglia, Riley is also a poet published by Reality Street, associated with the experimental, leftist British Poetry Revival. When “A Part Song” won the Forward Prize for best single poem, The Guardian noted that it was Riley’s first publication in five years. The reason for the silence and the occasion for its breach were the same: the sudden death of her adult son Jacob, of (most probably) cardiomyopathy.

The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Garolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All by C.D. Wright
by Martha Ronk

There is a familiar generosity in the title, in the sentences, the tones and range and heart of it all. One expects such from C.D. Wright’s every move, and here it is again in her posthumous book of essays focused largely on a brief (usually a half to a full page) appreciation of selected poets that moves centrifugally outward urging the reader to follow up, to return to reading one of the many authors mentioned, to move out into the world as she does. Her personal passion further reading. At the same time, her focus is always on the particular, viewing the world in a word as at the outset where she declares her love for “particular lexicons of particular occupations.”:
My relationship to the word is anything but scientific; it is a matter of faith on my part, that the word endows material substance, by setting the thing named apart from all else. Horse, then, unhorses what is not horse.

Collected Works of a Poet Who Took Her Time
by William Logan

Most of Marie Ponsot’s career has been belated. Her first book was published in the City Lights Pocket Poets series in 1956, when she was already 35 — late, but not as late as Frost or Stevens. Her next, not until she was 60. Now 95, she has continued to publish a book every decade or so, as if she had all the time in the world. “Collected Poems” is the model for every poet who worships procrastination.

Most of Marie Ponsot’s career has been belated. Her first book was published when she was 35, late, but not as late as Frost or Stevens.


In ‘Provincetown,’ Poet Mary Oliver Recalls Quiet Fishing Town
by Mary Oliver 

Give me a fish, I eat for a day: teach me to fish, I eat for a lifetime.
—Fisherman’s motto
Now let my fingers and pencils and my beloved old machine with its letters and numbers fly over the sweet harbor and gaze instead into the town itself. A tiny town as towns and cities are now, but to me it held a perfect sufficiency. Front Street and Back Street. Of course they had other names, but this is town talk. One traffic light, one doctor, one drugstore. A scattering of restaurants, saloons. And the boatyards.

Poems I Will Never Write 
by Alan Michael Parker

I recently taught a terrific student who loathed titling poems. Her resistance was neither principled nor practical; instead, as a fanatical rewriter, she had difficulty calling a poem finished, and so titling a piece felt, as she once reported, “Like stamping DEAD on a deer’s forehead.” I provided poor solace. I tried to help, nonetheless. I gave her leads, notions, poems with titles I admire: the Table of Contents from Wallace Stevens's Harmonium, a copy of Alice Fulton’s Sensual Math, and links to the websites of Matthea Harvey and Ross Gay. I offered to buy her a Titleistball cap (a joke she knew wasn’t funny, but she laughed a student laugh).

Beautiful Decay: The Poetry of Lucia Perillo
by Sophie Grimes  

Lucia Perillo has just finished lunch at her home in Olympia, Wash., when she tells me, “Rot is probably my favorite subject.” Perillo, a 2000 MacArthur Genius Fellow, crafts poetry that is often blunt, graphic, and written in a strangely graceful matter-of-fact tone that digs into art, nature, and the body as organism—as lustful and loathsome, as a series of functions, as a tool that is falling apart, rotting, and malfunctioning even as we attempt to force it to assist us throughout our lives. “It’s aesthetically beautiful, really, the process of decay, and biologically quite complex,” she says. “I suppose the reason I’m drawn to it has to do with my own conditions of living.”

“Rot is probably my favorite subject.” – Lucia Perillo

Drafts & Fragments

Gun with which Verlaine Shot Rimbaud Up for Auction
Christie’s to sell weapon fired in 1873 in what would be the culmination of a torrid affair between the French poets

The most famous gun in French literature, the revolver with which the poet Paul Verlaine tried to kill his lover, Arthur Rimbaud, is going under the hammer, Christie’s has said. Verlaine bought the 7mm six-shooter in Brussels on the morning of 10 July 1873, determined to put an end to a torrid two-year affair with his teenage lover.

Poetry In the News

David Antin Dies at 84; Poet Created a New Performance Style

David Antin, whose improvised performances, which he called “talk poems,” introduced a radical new form into American poetry in the 1970s, died on Oct. 11 in San Diego. He was 84. The cause was complications of a broken neck that he suffered in a fall, his wife, the artist Eleanor Antin, said. He had been living with Parkinson’s disease for several years

Phillips Wins PEN Poetry Award

Carl Phillips, professor of English in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, won the 2016 poetry award from PEN Center USA for “Reconnaissance,” his latest collection. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, “Reconnaissance” is Phillips’ 13th  book of poetry. It has been praised as a “characteristically bold and beautiful collection” (Booklist) that “confronts a world that’s constantly redefining itself, faster and faster, a world where the truth can’t be neatly pinned” (Library Journal).

David Antin, who introduced “talk poems” into American poetry in the 1970s, died on Oct. 11.

New Books

Bestiary: Poems by Donika Kelly
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 80 pp., $16.00

Across this remarkable first book are encounters with animals, legendary beasts, and mythological monsters–half human and half something else. Donika Kelly's Bestiary is a catalogue of creatures–from the whale and ostrich to the pegasus and chimera to the centaur and griffin. Among them too are poems of love, self-discovery, and travel, from "Out West" to "Back East." Lurking in the middle of this powerful and multifaceted collection is a wrenching sequence that wonders just who or what is the real monster inside this life of survival and reflection. Selected and with an introduction by the National Book Award winner Nikky Finney, Bestiary questions what makes us human, what makes us whole.

First Nights: Poems by Niall Campbell 
[Paperback] Princeton University Press, 88 pp., $17.95

The Scottish poet Niall Campbell's first book, Moontide, won the Edwin Morgan Poetry Prize, the largest such prize in the United Kingdom, was named the Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for both the Fenton Aldeburgh and Forward prizes for best first collection. First Nights–which includes all the poems in Moontide and sixteen new ones–marks the North American debut of an exciting new voice in British poetry.

Still Life with Poem: Contemporary Natures Mortes in Verse edited by Jehanne Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby 
[Paperback] The Literary House Press, 174 pp., $20.00

With a tradition that can be traced to Pompeii, the genre of the still life or nature morte has most often been used since the Middle Ages and the Renaissance as a vehicle for symbolism and metaphor, objects serving as stand-ins for philosophical ideas, religious principles, or moralizing messages. In STILL LIFE WITH POEM, poets were asked to create (or to imagine) their own still lifes and to write poems in response to these thoughtful arrangements of things. And although still life paintings are often viewed as unmoving, quiet works of art, this anthology presents a collection of energetic, urgent voices; these poems speak to current events, the making of art, the domestic, the past, the body, faith, the environment, and the losses we all face. 

There Now: Poems by Eamon Grennan 
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 88 pp., $16.00

In these short poems full of patient listening, looking, and responding, Eamon Grennan presents a world of brilliantly excavated moments: watching a flight of oystercatchers off a Connemara strand or the laden stall of a fish market in Manhattan; listening to the silence in an empty room or the beat of his partner's heart; pondering violence in the Middle East or the tenuous, endangered nature of even "the fairest / order in the world." Grennan's philosophic gaze manages to allow the ordinary facts of life to take on their own luminous glow. It is the sort of light he finds in some of his favorite painters–Cézanne, Bonnard, Renoir, the Dutch masters–light that is inside things and drawn out to our attention. There Now is a celebration of the momentary recognition of transcendence, all the more precious for being momentary.

Entering History: Poems by Mary Stewart Hammond 
[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 112 pp., $25.60

In her long-awaited second volume, Mary Stewart Hammond chronicles a long marriage with sharp wit, dark irony, and poignancy. As James Merrill says of Hammond’s poems, they “brim with what the whole world knows.” Entering History opens on a middle-aged couple, modern-day travelers in an ancient setting. The collection follows their relationship through time and place, combining the personal and the historical in stories of the family―siblings, a daughter, and the very different marriage of the poet’s parents. The marriage poems share the intimacy, erotic playfulness, irritations, worries, and angers that are part of an enduring love and a long marriage.

Donika Kelly’s Bestiary is a catalogue of creatures–from the whale and ostrich to the pegasus and chimera to the centaur and griffin.


An Interview with Stephanie Brown Part 1: Intentionality & the Influential Six 
by Heather J. Macpherson

Stephanie Brown is by far one of our most fearless contemporary American poets. Her first collection, Allegory of the Supermarket (University of Georgia Press, 1998) explores the dynamic extremes of suburban discord and the self. Her second collection, Domestic Interior (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008) continues in a similar vein, just as strong if not stronger than the first, never once veering away from the societal grotesque. Stephanie's recent work has appeared in Connotation Press, Green Mountains Review, and my own press journal with Lea C. Deschenes, Damfino Journal. I am overtly thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Stephanie about her work.

The Mountains and the Swamp: An Interview with Poet Michelle Boisseau
by Philip Belcher

Michelle Boisseau won the Tampa Review Prize in 2015, and her fifth book of poems, Among the Gorgons, was published by University of Tampa Press in April 2016. One of the poems from this book (“Ugglig”) was chosen by Edward Hirsch for Best American Poetry 2016. Her A Sunday in God-Years (U. of Arkansas P. 2009) in part examines her paternal ancestors’ slave-holding past in Virginia. Trembling Air (U. of Arkansas P. 2003) was a PEN USA finalist. She also published Understory (Northeastern U. P. 1996), which was selected by Molly Peacock as the winner of the Morse Prize, and No Private Life (Vanderbilt U.P. 1990). New poems have appeared in Poetry, Gettysburg Review, Yale Review, Hudson Review,Shenandoah, Cincinnati Review, Missouri Review, Southwest Review, Prairie Schooner, Miramar, New Ohio Review, and others. Five of the poems from Among the Gorgons appeared on Poetry Daily. She was educated at Ohio University (BA, 1977 summa cum laude; MA, 1980) and the University of Houston (PhD 1985).

Contemporary Poets Discuss the Making of Poems: Lucia Perillo
by Brian Brodeur

Lucia Perillo has published five books of poetry including Dangerous Life (Northeastern University Press, 1989); The Body Mutinies (Purdue University Press, 1996), which was awarded the Revson Prize from PEN, the Kate tufts prize from Claremont University, and the Balcones Prize; and The Oldest Map with the Name America (Random House, 1999). Luck is Luck (Random House, 2005) won the Kingsley Tufts Prize. Her new book, Inseminating the Elephant, was published by Copper Canyon in 2009. In 2000, Perillo was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. She lives in Olympia, Washington with her husband and dog.

Stephanie Brown is by far one of our most fearless contemporary American poets.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

I never met the late Lucia Perillo in person but am proud to have had a hand in the publication of her arresting second collection of poetry, The Body Mutinies. In her honor, I want to share here one of the many fine poems from that book:

Thinking About Illness After Reading About Tennessee Fainting Goats

Maybe they’re brethren, these beasts bred clumsy,  
hobbling stiff-legged over cheatgrass tufts.  
Prized for how they’ll freeze unpredictably  
then fall, rehearsing their overwrought deaths.  
Sometimes it’s the woman who brings the meal  
who sets them off by wearing yellow slacks,  
or sometimes the drumming a certain wheel  
makes on the road’s washboard. Stopped in their tracks  
they go down like drunks: Daisy and Willow  
drop always in tandem, while Boot will lean
his fat side first against the hog-hut door.
How cruel, gripes a friend. But maybe they show 
us what the body’s darker fortunes mean –  
we break, we rise. We do what we’re here for.