October 6, 2016

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1576—John Marston, English poet and playwright (d. 1634), is born.
1577—George Gascoigne, English poet, dies.
1849—James Whitcomb Riley, US, poet (Raggedy Man), is born.
1849—Edgar Allan Poe, American writer, poet and critic, dies in Baltimore at 40.
1915—Margarita J Aliger, Russian poet (Zoja) [NS], is born.
1928—Sohrab Sepehri, Persian poet and painter (d. 1980), is born.
1934–Imamu Amiri Baraka, [Everett Leroi Jones], US, poet/writer, is born.
1948—Diane Ackerman, American poet and essayist, is born.
I miss the serpentine Eve
who rarely dozes, the attaché
that sometimes imposes,
all the sprites who sprint
through the high supposes,
the patient saint who aspires
to a heaven which encloses,
and, especially, the touched one
committed to the asylum
and penitentiary of roses.

—from "The Savant of Sunflowers, The Apprentice of Roses" by Diane Ackerman

“the touched one / committed to the asylum / and penitentiary of roses.” – Diane Ackerman

World Poetry

Syrian Poet Adonis Says Poetry 'can save Arab world'

Noted Syrian poet Adonis, whose name surfaces regularly as a top contender for the Nobel literature prize, says religious fanaticism is "destroying the heart of the Arab world", but sees salvation in poetry. The 86-year-old lives in exile and is equally scathing about the West's role in the conflict in his homeland which has claimed more than 300,000 lives over five years. "The Americans are not looking for solutions, they are seeking problems," he told AFP in an interview at the Gothenburg Book Fair.

More Arrests Leave Award-winning Author Murat Özyaşar and Poet Renas Jiyan behind Bars

Pleas to Turkish authorities to halt its repressive crackdown on freedom of speech are going unheeded, PEN International said today, as the organization expressed concern about developments in Turkey over the past week including the detentions of Murat Özyaşar, a renowned writer and academic, and poet Renas Jiyan. PEN International is calling for the release of all journalists and other writers held solely on account of their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and for those detained to be protected from torture and other ill-treatment.

The Poet From Bombay Who Touched Shimon Peres’s Heart

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who died on Wednesday, was said to be an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru and a supporter of India’s bid on the UN Security Council. But there was another Indian who had affected him deeply-the poet Nissim Ezekiel. Peres had come across Ezekiel’s poem Acceptance and was said to love it so much that he often quoted it in his public lectures. Nissim Ezekiel belonged to the minuscule Bene Israeli community of Jews found mainly in western India.

Noted Syrian poet Adonis says religious fanaticism is “destroying the heart of the Arab world”, but sees salvation in poetry.

Recent Reviews

Sharon Olds, Laureate of Sexuality, Scrutinizes the Body in ‘Odes’
by Dwight Garner

Sharon Olds feels bad about her neck. In her new book there is a poem called “Ode to Wattles,” and it is about what you suspect it’s about: the poet’s “face hanging down from the bottom of my face,” the “slackness of the drapery.” In the mirror, Ms. Olds is shocked yet thrilled at her visage. Old age — “my crone beauty, in its first youth” — has given her fresh subject matter, which she does not intend to waste. 

Drinks With Dead Poets: The Autumn Term by Glyn Maxwell – review
by Suzi Feay

Poetry is a pitiless mistress. How else could Sylvia Plath write “The blood jet is poetry / There is no stopping it”, or the freakishly gifted youth Arthur Rimbaud, having refashioned the art for the next century and beyond, give it all up because no one except Paul Verlaine gave a damn? Acknowledging the haters, Marianne Moore announced, in a poem entitled “Poetry”: “I, too, dislike it”. This paradox of irritation and compulsion hovers behind Glyn Maxwell’s brilliantly unclassifiable new book.

Sharp Blue Search of Flame by Zilka Joseph
by Saleem Peeradina

If the American critic Stephen Burt’s precepts for reading new poetry—look for a persona and a world, not for an argument or a plot—are to be heeded, then Zilka Joseph’s first book eminently meets those criteria. In addition to a distinct persona inhabiting a world of dual cultures, Joseph also makes an argument.


The Story behind the First Pulitzer in Poetry

The first Pulitzer Prize poetry jury met in New Haven on Feb. 11, 1922, and chose Edward Arlington Robinson’s Collected Poems for the prize. Robinson’s two competitors were Amy Lowell and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Harriet Monroe, the influential editor of Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, wasn’t crazy about the choice, appearing to favor Millay, but her real beef was with the makeup of the jury that selected Robinson.

Blake Within Blake Within Blake Without End
by Harold Lloyd 

As I have written before, the great William Blake magnificently employed signs beyond mere words in his poetry. His powerful illustrations of verse add much additional meaning to his work. As I have noted before, his symbols such as words are greatly supplemented by other types of signs such as the iconic signs of his drawings.

The first Pulitzer Prize poetry jury met in New Haven on Feb. 11, 1922, and chose Edward Arlington Robinson’s Collected Poems.

Drafts & Fragments

Poets University [infographic]
by Joanne Jeffries and Julian Yanover 

Do you want to make it as a poet? Do you see yourself as the next William Wordsworth? Are you inspired by the likes of Ezra Pound and Sylvia Plath? If so, you might want to replicate how your favourite poet started out. Did you know, for example, that Theodore Roethke went to the University of Michigan? Or, that Gerard Manley Hopkins studied classics at Balliol College in Oxford? Of course, this is not a guaranteed route to success, but getting an education is important, and there are plenty of courses available today to help you hone your skills. Below, we are going to take a look at where some of the most famous poets were educated in further detail.

Poetry’s Place in the History of Banned Books

For as long as there have been writers, there have been texts that have been challenged, censored, burned, and banned. The stories of banned literature do not just belong in the history books; even today, some of the most influential texts in our bookstores and libraries are currently being challenged or have been challenged at some point before. Here we take a look at fifteen significant poems, poetry collections, and poets that have been censored and banned throughout history. 

Poets.org has put together a list of poetry books that have also been banned.

Poetry In the News

David Budbill, a Poet of Small-Town Vermont, Dies at 76

David Budbill, whose pared-down, plain-dress poems about his remote corner of northern Vermont found a national audience thanks to Garrison Keillor, died on Sept. 25 at his home in Montpelier, Vt. He was 76. The cause was progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare form of Parkinson’s disease, his publisher, Copper Canyon Press, said in a statement.



Poets as Heroes in "Paterson," "Neruda"


Two new films honor literature as a life-saving force, presenting poets as heroic protagonists who either wield mighty pens against swords or simply capture some of life’s most intimate moments in passages of carefully-crafted prose. The stories of Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” and Pablo Larrain’s “Neruda” (both of which will screen at the New York Film Festival and open in theatres later this year) use poetry to define their central figures, even when society might view them through the prism of their day jobs.

David Budbill, author of pared-down, plain-dress poems about his remote corner of northern Vermont, died on Sept. 25th.

New Books

Four Reincarnations: Poems by Max Ritvo 

[Hardcover] Milkweed Editions, 96 pp., $22.00

Reverent and profane, entertaining and bruising, Four Reincarnations is a debut collection of poems that introduces an exciting new voice in American letters. When Max Ritvo was diagnosed with cancer at age sixteen, he became the chief war correspondent for his body. The poems of Four Reincarnations are dispatches from chemotherapy beds and hospitals and the loneliest spaces in the home. They are relentlessly embodied, communicating pain, violence, and loss. And yet they are also erotically, electrically attuned to possibility and desire, to “everything living / that won’t come with me / into this sunny afternoon.” Ritvo explores the prospect of death with singular sensitivity, but he is also a poet of life and of love—a cool-eyed assessor of mortality and a fervent champion for his body and its pleasures.

My Private Property by Mary Ruefle 

[Hardcover] Wave Books, 128 pp., $25.00

Author of Madness, Rack, and Honey ("One of the wisest books I've read in years," according to the New York Times) and Trances of the Blast, Mary Ruefle continues to be one of the most dazzling poets in America. My Private Property, comprised of short prose pieces, is a brilliant and charming display of her humor, deep imagination, mindfulness, and play in a finely crafted edition.

The Rain in Portugal:Poems by Billy Collins 

[Hardcover] Random House, 128 pp., $26.00

The Rain in Portugal—a title that admits he’s not much of a rhymer—sheds Collins’s ironic light on such subjects as travel and art, cats and dogs, loneliness and love, beauty and death. His tones range from the whimsical—“the dogs of Minneapolis . . . / have no idea they’re in Minneapolis”—to the elegiac in a reaction to the death of Seamus Heaney. A student of the everyday, here Collins contemplates a weather vane, a still life painting, the calendar, and a child lost at a beach. His imaginative fabrications have Shakespeare flying comfortably in first class and Keith Richards supporting the globe on his head. By turns entertaining, engaging, and enlightening, The Rain in Portugal amounts to another chorus of poems from one of the most respected and familiar voices in the world of American poetry.

Prayer Book of the Anxious by Josephine Yu 

[Paperback] Elixir Press, 96 pp., $17.00

Contest judge, Sarah Kennedy, says: "These are smart, savvy poems, but they are also humane in the best sense of that word: interested in the human and compassionate to all beings. Josephine Yu asks the right questions—'What animal am I?' and 'Ready to go home?'—and the answers she gives are always those of an anxiety-born attention, not just to the self but to all of humanity. At the end of PRAYER BOOK OF THE ANXIOUS, our answer has to be yes, but in this ultimately outward-looking book, home is the world in which we all, nervously, exist."

Landscape with Headless Mama: Poems by Jennifer Givhan 

[Paperback] LSU Press, 80 pp., $17.95

Landscape with Headless Mama explores the experiences of becoming and being a mother through the lens of dark fairy tales. Describing the book as a surreal survival guide, Givhan draws from the southwestern desert, incorporating Latin American fine art and folkloric influences. Drawing inspiration from Gloria Anzaldúa, Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, tattoo artists, and comic book heroes, among other sources, this is a book of intelligence, humor, deep feeling, and, above all, duende.

The poems of Four Reincarnations are dispatches from chemotherapy beds and hospitals and the loneliest spaces in the home.


Max Ritvo: “It takes a ton of chutzpah to reincarnate.”
An interview with the poet Max Ritvo about illness, improvisation, and his first book, published posthumously next week.
by Sarah Ruhl

Max Ritvo, a poet of uncommon grace, vision and originality, died in August at the age of 25. You can read his poems in the New Yorker and Boston Review, and you can even hear and see his poetry read aloud and animated on WNYC. Max wrote with an incandescent mind, a fearless and playful heart, and a thrilling ear. He received his M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia and won a 2014 Poetry Society Fellowship for his chapbook, Aeons. He wrote of the body and his cancer with a scope and metaphysics beyond any simple narrative about illness. 

“The purpose of poetry is to deal with unprecedented experience.”

by Kaveh Akbar

Vijay Seshadri is the author of Wild, Kingdom, The Long Meadow, The Disappearances, and 3 Sections, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and of many essays, reviews, and memoir fragments. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.
V: Do I hear quacking in the background? Do you have a pet duck?
K: Haha. No, I don't. My dad is a poultry geneticist and he had a duck farm my entire life, so it's entirely possible that you're picking up on that through the ether. Do you have any questions before we dive in besides whether or not I've got a duck?

Billy Collins on Being an Only Child, and Why Majoring in Poetry Is Like Majoring in Death
The former U.S. Poet Laureate describes his inspiration for a new poem, taken from his solitary childhood
by Barbara Chai

The Wall Street Journal examines the poem, “Only Child,” by Billy Collins, from his new book, “The Rain in Portugal” (Random House, Oct. 4). Below the poem, Collins describes his inspiration for the poem, how his poems are accessible to readers, and why studying poetry is like studying death.

““The purpose of poetry is to deal with unprecedented experience.” – Vijay Seshadri

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

In honor of Diane Ackerman on her birthday, a quote from her book An Alchemy of Mind: The Marvel and Mystery of the Brain:

“Metaphor isn't just decorative language. If it were, it wouldn't scare us so much. . . . Colorful language threatens some people, who associate it, I think, with a kind of eroticism (playing with language in public = playing with yourself), and with extra expense (having to sense or feel more). I don't share that opinion. Why reduce life to a monotone? Is that truer to the experience of being alive? I don't think so. It robs us of life's many textures. Language provides an abundance of words to keep us company on our travels. But we're losing words at a reckless pace, the national vocabulary is shrinking. Most Americans use only several hundred words or so. Frugality has its place, but not in the larder of language. We rely on words to help us detail how we feel, what we once felt, what we can feel. When the blood drains out of language, one's experience of life weakens and grows pale. It's not simply a dumbing down, but a numbing.” ― Diane Ackerman

“Metaphor isn’t just decorative language. If it were, it wouldn’t scare us so much. . . . ” ― Diane Ackerman