October 7, 2015

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1577 — George Gascoigne, English poet, dies.
1849 — Edgar Allan Poe, American writer, poet and critic, dies in Baltimore at 40.
1849 — James Whitcomb Riley, US, poet (Raggedy Man), is born.
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.
1955 — Beat poet Allen Ginsberg reads his poem "Howl" for the first time at a poetry reading in San Francisco.

A Poem for Speculative Hipsters

He had got, finally, 
to the forest 
of motives. There were no 
owls, or hunters. No Connie Chatterleys 
resting beautifully 
on their backs, having casually 
brought socialism 
to England. 
     Only ideas, 
and their opposites 
     he was really 

—Amiri Baraka (1934–2014)

Amiri Baraka, US poet and playwright, was born this week in 1934.

World Poetry

Stephen Hawking Demonstrates Relativity for National Poetry Day

Physicist Stephen Hawking and actors Samantha Morton and Sean Bean have joined forces with leading artists to make a series of short films encouraging people to dispense with prose for a day and “make like a poet”. Organisers of National Poetry Day are hoping to inspire readers to record their own creative responses to poetry, as part of a competition culminating with a display of the winning words, images and videos in the Blackpool Illuminations on Thursday 8 October 2015. This year marks the 21st anniversary of this annual celebration of poetry, with a week-long series of events all over the UK on the theme of light. 

Chilean Poet Neruda's Remains to Undergo New Tests 

Experts will perform new tests on Chilean poet Pablo Neruda's remains to analyse a mysterious bacteria that has heightened his family's suspicions he was poisoned by dictator Augusto Pinochet's regime, officials said Friday. An international team of 13 experts will attempt to determine the origin of a massive Staphylococcus aureus infection in the Nobel laureate's remains, which was identified in May by forensic scientists at the Universidad de Murcia in Spain.

Physicist Stephen Hawking and actors Samantha Morton and Sean Bean are encouraging people to “make like a poet”

Recent Reviews

Thou Hast Thy Music Too: Three Books for Autumn
by Dean Rader

Once again, October has sidled up like a stalker. It's been on our heels for months. We know this because the school bell is ringing. Traffic is worse. We're bored with our books. However, you have clicked on a link which has ferried you, rather magically, to this essay, which has chosen to ignore traffic and the school bell in order to address your book ennui. April may have staked its claim, but for many of us, autumn is the real poetry season. The glib optimism of summer has run its course. The fall movie and television lineups are as appealing as iceberg lettuce without the ranch. Fall was made for reading. Fall is about reimmersion. We return to language and our lives the way we return from a long vacation. It is no coincidence that Keats' "To Autumn" is not only one of the great poems but one of the great poems about poetry. To assist with this shift to the autumnal mindset, I have selected three provocative books of poetry all of which have connection to the Bay Area and all of which contain themes of movement and transformation. Each is wonderfully mysterious and amazingly readable.

Pound: Poet and Political Prisoner
by Alexander Adams

In 1945 Ezra Pound faced the death penalty for the crime of treason. For a poet who had declared that there were only ‘a few hundred people… capable of recognising what I am about’, the matter of being understood (and misunderstood) had become a matter of life and death. A grand three-volume biography by A David Moody, the final volume of which is published this month, traces Pound’s path from the courthouse in Washington DC. 

Poetry Reviews: Irish Collections that Stake their Claim to Art’s Longer Life
by John McAuliffe

Keats lives, declares the title of Moya Cannon’s new book. Our present moment, her poems seem to argue, is fleeting by comparison with, say, lines by Keats, or a fragment of pottery, or a cave drawing. Cannon’s calm authority offers proof after proof of the responsibilities attendant on an art that knows Ars longa, vita brevis.

Irish poet Moya Cannon’s new book declares, “Keats lives!”


There's a New Movement in American Poetry and It's Not Kenneth Goldsmith
Writers of color are not bit players in this man’s drama
By Cathy Park Hong

When New Yorker journalist Alec Wilkinson approached me in June for an interview about Kenneth Goldsmith, I told him that I wasn’t interested in being mentioned as one of Goldsmith’s many naysayers. Last March, after Goldsmith read a slightly altered version of Michael Brown’s autopsy report, ending with the line, “the remaining male genitalia system is unremarkable,” the poetry community fired back about Goldsmith’s crass appropriation of Brown’s body. Wilkinson was now writing a profile of Goldsmith and, having heard from Goldsmith that I was unhappy about the stunt, he wanted to talk to me about my response to it. I told him I didn’t want to take part in a flattering—yet intelligently ambivalent—profile of Goldsmith that would further burnish his reputation as just another glorified yet misunderstood white male artist.

The Tower That Enchanted Yeats
by Dan Barry

In the County Galway parish of Kiltartan, in this bit of a place called Ballylee, a lichen-flecked tower rises from the wet ground to lord over cow and stream and the occasional otter. Its limestone walls shelter a protected species of bats, some field mice and a perpetual dampness evoking the must of the past. The tower also harbors a significant piece of the legacy of William Butler Yeats, whose birth 150 years ago has been cause for a year of celebration throughout Ireland and the world. The poet spent many summers in the tower he christened Thoor Ballylee, and it inspired some of his most enduring work

Cathy Park Hong has responded to the New Yorker profile of Kenneth Goldsmith.

Drafts & Fragments

First-Century Vessel Was Accidentally Printed With Ancient Poem

Archaeology in Bulgaria reports that researchers from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology discovered a pottery vessel covered with lines of printed letters in the fourth and deepest tomb in the Great Mound in Tatarevo. The vessel dates to the first century A.D. and is a balsamarium, made for holding balsam. 

Researchers from the Plovdiv Museum of Archaeology discovered an ancient pottery vessel covered with lines of printed letters.

Poetry In the News

Cabot Poet Wins Genius Grant

Ellen Bryant Voigt, a poet and teacher who lives in Cabot, is the recipient of a MacArthur grant, the foundation announced Tuesday. Voigt is one of 24 MacArthur fellows for 2015, each of whom will receive $625,000 over five years. Voigt, 72, is a former Vermont state poet who has lived in central Vermont since 1969. She started the master's of fine arts writing program at Goddard College in the mid-1970s, the nation's first low-residency graduate writing program.

'It's a horrible kind of theft': Artist daughter of Sylvia Plath Reveals Agony of Seeing Her Father Ted Hughes Punished by 'Outsiders' for his Wife's Suicide in 1963 

Frieda Hughes, the daughter of Sylvia Plath, has broken her 53-year silence to speak about the legacy of her mother's suicide in her first television interview. In the interview with the BBC, the artist whose father Ted Hughes had left his wife for another woman when she killed herself has expressed with people who she claims have used her mother's death to help their cause. The poet and painter, 55, accused the loyalty of Plath's fierce fans towards her mother that saw Frieda's father blamed for her death in 1963 as 'an abuse' in the documentary.

Frieda Hughes, the daughter of Sylvia Plath, has broken her 53-year silence to speak about the legacy of her mother’s suicide.

New Books

She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks by M. NourbeSe Philip        
[Paperback] Wesleyan, 110 pp., $15.95

Brilliant, lyrical, and passionate, this collection from the acclaimed poet M. NourbeSe Philip is an extended jazz riff running along the themes of language, racism, colonialism, and exile. In this groundbreaking collection, Philip defiantly challenges and resoundingly overthrows the silencing of black women through appropriation of language, offering no less than superb poetry resonant with beauty and strength. She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks was originally published in 1989 and won the Casa de Las Americas Prize.

Dawn to Twilight: New and Selected Poems by Daniel Mark Epstein
[Paperback]LSU Press, 164 pp., $22.95

Drawing from a career of almost fifty years, Daniel Mark Epstein’s collection of new and selected poems forms a lyrical autobiography of its author as a poet and a man. Dawn to Twilight examines universal themes such as love and aging, happiness and despair, each of which Epstein approaches differently throughout the decades of his writing career. These poems encapsulate the evolution of Epstein’s work, with the passage of time itself forming a crucial theme as the author grows from student to lover to father. 

Four-Legged Girl: Poems by Diane Seuss 
[Paperback ]Graywolf Press, 88 pp., $16.00

In Diane Seuss's Four-Legged Girl, her audacious, hothouse language swerves into pain and rapture, as she recounts a life lived at the edges of containment. Ghostly, sexy, and plaintive, these poems skip to the tune of a jump rope, fill a wishing well with desire and other trinkets, and they remember past lush lives in New York City, in rural Michigan, and in love. In the final poem, she sings of the four-legged girl, the body made strange to itself and to others. This collection establishes Seuss's poetic voice, as rich and emotional as any in contemporary poetry.

Sailing the Forest: Selected Poems by Robin Robertson    
[Paperback] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 208 pp., $16.00

Filled with haunting and visionary poems, Sailing the Forest is a selection of the finest work from an essential voice in contemporary poetry. Robin Robertson's deceptively spare and mythically charged work is beautifully brutal, ancient and immediate, and capable of instilling menace and awe into our everyday landscape. These are poems drawn in shadow, tinged with salt and blood, that disarm the reader with their precise language and dreamlike illuminations. Robertson's unique world is a place of forked storms where "Rain . . . is silence turned up high" and we can see "the hay marry the fire / and the fire walk."

The Long Haul by Vern Rutsala
[Paperback] Carnegie Mellon, 96 pp., $15.95

The Long Haul moves back and forth through time, touching down on real and imaginary sites. Some of these places are in the public domain, as it were, and others are private. The geography is often in the West&—Oregon and Idaho—but there are significant side trips in the East and Europe as well as regions that can't be found on maps.

Diane Seuss’s Four-Legged Girl employs her audacious, hothouse language that swerves into pain and rapture.


Award-winning Poet Mark Doty Talks Writing on iPhones, Why Poetry Is Still Important
by Logan Saether 

Today the popularity of the written word is not where it once was. A poetry reading is now something of a novelty; a bizarre interruption from the daily entertainment of TV, Netflix and the Internet. A solo performance by a national poet is strange to us, even intriguing. Mark Doty, an internationally renowned poet who has received such prestigious prizes like the National Book Award and the T.S. Eliot Prize, came to prominence in the late '80s and early 90's with his highly praised collection of poems, "My Alexandria." Before attending Drake University in Iowa, Doty spent his high school years in Tucson. In anticipation of his upcoming reading on Oct. 2 at the Phoenix Art Museum, I talked to Doty about writing on an iPhone, making his poems musical and advice for young writers.

Josely Vianna Baptista in Conversation
by Robert Fernandez

Josely Vianna Baptista (Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil, 1957) has written several books of poetry and prose, including a book for young adults which received the VI Prémio Internacional del Libro Ilustrado Infantil y Juvenil del Gobierno de México. She has translated more than one hundred books, including the complete poetry of J.L. Borges for the multi-volume Obra Completa (Globo), for which she was awarded the prestigious Prêmio Jabuti in 1999. Translations of her work were included in the anthology Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain: 20 contemporary Brazilian poets (eds. Michael Palmer, Nelson Ascher & Régis Bonvicino, Sun & Moon Press, Los Angeles, 1997), and in The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry (eds. Cecilia Vicuña & Ernesto Livon-Grosman, OUP, 2009). On the Shining Screen of the Eyelids (Manifest Press), a collection of her poems, and Florid Pores, a poem in six cantos (1913: a journal of forms), have been published in the United States. She is well-known throughout Latin America as a poet and translator.

Mark Doty writes poetry on his iPhone.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Adrienne Rich

You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it. That is not generally taught in school. At most, as if your livelihood depended on it: the next step, the next job, grant, scholarship, professional advancement, fame; no questions asked as to further meanings. And, let's face it, the lesson of the schools for a vast number of children – hence, of readers – is This is not for you.

To read as if your life depended on it would mean to let into your reading your beliefs, the swirl of your dreamlife, the physical sensations of your ordinary carnal life; and, simultaneously, to allow what you're reading to pierce the routines, safe and impermeable, in which ordinary carnal life is tracked, charted, channeled. Then, what of the right answers, the so-called multiple-choice examination sheet with the number 2 pencil to mark one choice and one choice only?

To write as if your life depended on it: to write across the chalkboard, putting up there in public words you have dredged, sieved up from dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence – words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist. No, it's too much; you could be laughed out of school, set upon in the schoolyard, they would wait for you after school, they could expel you. The politics of the schoolyard, the power of the gang.

Or they could ignore you.

—from What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics

“You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it.” —Adrienne Rich