September 10, 2013

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1877 – Georgia B D Camp Johnson, US, poet/playwright (Autumn Love Cycle), is born.
1912 – Brother William Oliver Antoninus Everson, poet, is born.
1917 – Franfo Fortini, poet, is born.
1935 – Mary Oliver, American poet, is born.
1979 – Agostinho Neto, poet/1st pres of Angola, dies at 56.
1994 – Amy Clampitt, American poet (Silence Opens), dies at 74.
Like the mushrooms in the oak wood,
Where the high-sloped mountain
Benches the sea,
When the faint rains of November
Damp down the duff,
Wakening their spores—
Like them,
Gross, thick and compelling,
What I fear and desire
Pokes up its head.
—from “Seed” by Brother Antoninus, 1912–1994

Gross, thick and compelling, / What I fear and desire / Pokes up its head.

—from “Seed” by Brother Antoninus, 1912–1994

World Poetry

Kashmiri Poet with German Links Deals Blow to Concert

In occupied Kashmir, Professor Rehman Rahi, the noted Kashmiri poet and only native winner of Jnanpith award, India’s highest literary honour, has turned down the invitation of German embassy to attend the Zubin Mehta concert, calling it ‘ill-timed’. “The German embassy had sent me an invitation, but I will not be going,” Professor Rahi told Kashmir Reader. “The concert is completely ill-timed.” Read more at Kashmir Media Services.

A “New Poetry” Emerges from Syria's Civil War

Ghada al-Atrash, a Syrian-Canadian writer and translator, has been studying Syrian poetry for decades. Yet in all her years of work, she says she has never encountered works of poetry such as the ones emerging today from the depths of a Syria in the throes of a deadly civil war. "Today there is literature coming out of Syria that we could have never even dreamed of just a few years ago," Atrash says. Read more at Al Jazeera.

The Release of Chinese Poet Shi Tao

PEN reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all others currently detained in China for peacefully expressing their views. ‘We welcome news of Shi Tao’s early release, at a time when there seem to be increasingly long shadows over freedom of expression in China,’ said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair, PEN International Writers in Prison Committee. Read more at PEN International.


After the release of Chinese Poet Shi Tao, PEN reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of all others currently detained in China for peacefully expressing their views.

Recent Reviews

David Yezzi's Work in Fluency, Grace and Agility | by Farisa Khalid

I first became familiar with David Yezzi when I stumbled across a poem of his in The Atlantic. That remarkable poem, “Orts”, is included in his newest collection, Birds of the Air. Read more at Pop Matters.

The Invention of Glass, Emmanuel Hocquard (Translated by Cole Swensen and Rod Smith) | by Karla Kelsey

The Invention of Glass. To begin with titles and what does a title propose: Thanks to volcanoes, lightning, and meteorites, glass has always existed in nature, but like many of our oldest technologies that we daily take for granted, glass-as-human-invention has a mysterious and un-namable source. Our oldest known glass objects are glass beads dating from the Middle Bronze Age, but who fashioned them and why and if not by accident upon what natural or established model remains a mystery. Glass is also mysterious for its many forms, which we value for contradictory traits. In glass we have a material that can be transparent, such as a windshield, valued for its visual near-absence, its ability not to stand, visually, in the way of the world. We also have a material that can be quite opaque, such as a stained glass widow, valued for its visual presence. Read more at Constant Critic.

Farisa Khalid reviews David Yezzi’s newest book, Birds of the Air.


Brodsky at Stanford | by Cynthia Haven

It won’t be news to the readers of the Book Haven that the late Nobel poet Joseph Brodsky was a friend to Lithuania – I’ve written about it here and elsewhere. Now visitors to Stanford Libraries will have primary evidence of the affinity, thanks to the Ram?nas and El? Katilius archive. I’m mightily chuffed to have had a role in bringing this treasure to Stanford – so yes, I’m bragging a bit.  It’s been one of the best adventures I’ve ever had at the university that has been my off-and-on home for years – and I owe it all to Lithuanian poet Tomas Venclova.  And we all owe thanks to Romas Katilius. Read more at the Book Haven.

Is There a Future for Poetry? Grolier Says Yes | by Gabriella E. Borter

Tucked away on the quiet Plympton Street in Harvard Square, Grolier Poetry Book Shop, founded in 1927, is the nation’s longest-standing all-poetry bookstore. Today, however, its future is uncertain. In an age of e-readers and online book orders, the antique charm of a hole-in-the-wall bookshop that is closed on Sundays and Mondays might not be enough to retain the public’s patronage. Ifeanyi Menkiti, the current storeowner, a philosophy professor at Wellesley College, and a poet in his own right, put it simply: “The sales are unpredictable.” Read more at the New Criterion.


Is there a future for poetry? America’s longest standing poetry bookstore says, “Yes.”

Drafts & Fragments

5 Steps to Slam Poetry

Do you dream of writing slam poetry? In this three-minute TED-Ed lesson, slam poet and educator Gayle Danley shares “Five Steps to Slam Poetry,” illustrating how one writer crafts a slam poem. We’ve embedded an animated video with the lesson above. Over at the TED website, poetry fans can access a quiz, a discussion board, and more resources. Read more at Media Bistro.

Do you dream of writing slam poetry? Slam poet and educator Gayle Danley shares how one writer crafts a slam poem.

Poetry In the News

Poet Laid to Rest Under Shadow of Sycamore Trees

Seamus Heaney was laid to rest yesterday evening in a country churchyard in south Derry under the shade of sycamore and ash trees. “May the green sods of Bellaghy rest gently upon him,” said Rev Andrew Dolan, the local parish priest who officiated at the simple ceremony before the extended Heaney family and hundreds of mourners. Read more at the Irish Times.

2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship Winners Announced

The Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine announced Harmony Holiday, Matthew Nienow, Hannah Sanghee Park, Natalie Shapero and Phillip B. Williams as the five recipients of the 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowships. Each winner received $15,000 in scholarships intended to encourage further study and writing of poetry. Read more at Publishers Weekly.


Seamus Heaney was laid to rest under the shade of sycamore and ash trees.

New Books

Nothing by Design by Mary Jo Salter

[Hardcover] Knopf, 128 pp., $26.9
The title Nothing by Design is taken from Salter’s villanelle “Complaint for Absolute Divorce,” in which we’re asked to entertain the thought of a no-fault universe. The wary search for peace, personal and public, is a constant theme in poems as varied as “Our Friends the Enemy,” about the Christmas football match between German and British soldiers in 1914; “The Afterlife,” in which Egyptian tomb figurines labor to serve the dead; and “Voice of America,” where Salter returns to the Saint Petersburg of her exiled friend, the late Joseph Brodsky. A section of charming light verse serves as counterpoint to another series entitled “Bed of Letters,” in which Salter addresses the end of a long marriage. Artfully designed, with a highly intentional music, these poems movingly give form to the often unfathomable, yet very real, presence of nothingness and loss in our lives.

Slip by Cullen Bailey Burns 

[Paperback] New Issues Poetry & Prose, 61 pp., $15.00 
''This book, about desire and memory, about discerning what matters in our lives, is a gift for any reader. Cullen Bailey Burns, in partial narratives, in cloaked moments, writes about time's passage, the rules of desire, about mourning done privately, about the interior forces of grief, and also about a kind of willingness to claim and live inside new days, live inside change, and the burdens and blessings change brings.'' —Deborah Keenan

Flirt by Noah Blaustein

[Paperback] University of New Mexico Press, 88 pp., $18.95
In this stunning first collection of poems, Noah Blaustein's narrators face the complexities that shape a life: adolescence, fatherhood, our responsibility for the lives of others, the exhilaration of romantic love, and memory. These anxious, frequently witty poems flirt with physical danger, with grief and happiness, and with mortality as a means to transcend the mundane in our day-to-day lives.

Poets Translate Poets: A Hudson Review Anthology edited by Paula Deitz

[Hardcover] Syracuse University Press, 448 pp., $39.95 
Poets Translate Poets originates from the perception that while the poetry translated in the Hudson Review over the years from ancient Greek to contemporary Russian constitutes a history of world literature, the translators themselves are among the most distinguished American and British poets. These poems belong as much to them as to the original authors. The collection features eighty-three poets in twenty-four languages, translated by sixty writers; it represents the best of more than five hundred translated works originally published in the Hudson Review over the last seven decades.

Marvelous Things Overheard: Poems by Ange Mlinko

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 112 pp., $24.00
“The world—the time has come to say it, though the news will not be welcome to everyone—has no intention of abandoning enchantment altogether.” Roberto Calasso’s words in Literature and the Gods remind us that, in an age of reason, of mechanization, of alienation, of rote drudgery, we still seek out the transcendent, the marvelous. Ange Mlinko’s luminous fourth collection is both a journey toward and the space of that very enchantment. Marvelous Things Overheard takes its title from a collection of ancient rumors about the lands of the Mediterranean.


Reviews of new work by Mary Jo Salter, Cullen Bailey Burns, Noah Blaustein, Paula Deitz, and Ange Mlinko.


Poet D.A. Powell on Sex and Metaphysics | by Stacey Mickelbart

D.A. Powell is most often recognized for his first three poetry collections chronicling gay life and the age of HIV: Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails. But to know him for this trilogy alone would overlook the fullness of his work and ambitions. His latest book of poems, Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, shares glimpses of the rent boys, disaffected suburban kids, and migrant workers among the fields, poppies, and liquor stores of California's rural Central Valley. His 2009 collection, Chronic, won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Powell has also received Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and teaches at the University of San Francisco and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Read more at NUVO.

Being Maxine Kumin | by Mike Pride

Poet Maxine Kumin is the Concord Reads writer this year. Her work will be celebrated and discussed in a series of public events beginning this month. Kumin, who is 88, won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize in poetry and later served as poet laureate of the United States. In 2004-05, I interviewed her four times in the living room of her farm in Warner. I transcribed, compiled and condensed these interviews into an oral history in her voice. Read more at the Concord Monitor.

The Joys of Somali Poetry: The Beauteous Melancholy of Wasan Shire’s Poetry | by Dzekashu

With the clarity of retrospection, when I look back at the 2012 Kwani Literary Festival which took place in Nairobi, I realize that the two poets who moved me the most were Somali poets Warsan Shire and Hadraawi. Hadraawi is a prominent Somali poet and songwriter. He is considered by many to be the greatest living Somali poet, having written many notable protest works. In 1973, Hadraawi wrote the poem Siinley and the play Tawaawac, both of which were critical of the military government that was then in power. For this dissent, he was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in Qansax Dheere until April 1978. Following his release from prison in 1978, Hadraawi became the director of the arts division of the Academy of Science, Arts, and Literature in Somalia. In 2012, Hadraawi was awarded the Prince Claus Award for his contributions to peace through his poetry. Read more at the Ann Arbor Review of Books.


Poet D.A. Powell on Sex and Metaphysics

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Seamus Heaney

A couple of years ago, an American poet told me that he and his generation had rejected irony and artfulness, and were trying to write poems that would not yield much to the investigations of the practical criticism seminar. And another poet present agreed, yes, he was now looking at English poetry to decide which areas seemed most in need of renovation, and then he was going to provide experiments that would enliven these sluggish, provincial backwaters. As poets, both seemed to be infected with wrong habits of the mind. They had imbibed attitudes into their writing life which properly belonged to the lecturer and the anthologist: a concern with  generations, with shifting fashions of style, a belief that their role was complementary and responsible to a demonstrable literary situation. For although at least one spirit of the age will probably be discernible in a poet's work, he should not turn his brain into a butterfly net in pursuit of it.
from "Canticles to the Earth"

Lessons from the Past: Seamus Heaney