September 11, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

September 11, 2012

1523 – Pierre de Ronsard, poet, is born.

1804 – Aleksandr I Polezjajev, Russian poet (Sasjka) [NS], is born.

1865 – Rainis, Latvian poet and playwright (d. 1929), is born.
1870 – Eugenio Lucas y Padilla, Spanish poet, dies at about 46.

1921 – Subramanya Bharathy, Tamil poet (b. 1882), dies.

1958 – Robert W. Service, Scottish-born Canadian poet (b. 1874), dies.

1991 – Ernst Herbeck, German Poet (b. 1920), dies.

1997 – Hannah Weiner, American experimental poet (b. 1928), dies.

2006 – William Auld, Scottish poet, writer and supporter of Esperanto (b. 1924), dies.

When you are truly old, beside the evening candle,
Sitting by the fire, winding wool and spinning,
Murmuring my verses, you’ll marvel then, in saying,
“Long ago, Ronsard sang me, when I was beautiful.”

—from Sonnets pour Helene Book III, XlIII by Pierre de Ronsard (1523–1585)

Poetry In The News

Poet Sir Andrew Backs National Park Extensions During Visit

A former Poet Laureate gave his backing to the extension of two national parks during a visit to see the areas in question. Sir Andrew Motion, who is now president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, met members of the Friends of the Lake District yesterday when he toured the Lune Valley and western Dales. Read more at Grough

Olmsted Parks Poetry Project to Explore Poetics of Public Space

This fall, in conjunction with Buffalo State College’s “Year of the City” initiative, the E.H. Butler Library’s Rooftop Poetry Club will present “The Olmsted Parks Poetry Project: Exploring the Poetic Nature of Public Spaces,” a series of seven readings, talks, and workshops celebrating the legacy of Olmsted’s vision for this community, and exploring the uses of poetry in extending the idea of public art in the common, public, and natural spaces of park grounds forward into the 21st century. Read more at the Buffalo News.

Papers of a Puerto Rican Poet Will Find a Home at Columbia

In 1996, Jack Agüeros, a Puerto Rican author and advocate who wrote sonnets about poor immigrants and Latino street life, would have seemed an unlikely candidate for inclusion in the library of New York City’s most prestigious university. Read more at the New York Times.

Urdu Poetry by Muslims in Nepal is a Fading Tradition

For a small portion of Nepalgunj’s Muslim population, the last Saturday of each month in the Nepali calendar is dedicated to poetry. For more than three decades this industrial town has been the unlikely host of mushaira, a monthly poetry symposium. About 20 people gather for each meeting at a guesthouse in the town, in Nepal’s Banke district. Most are Muslims passionate about shayari and ghazal, two forms of Urdu poetry. Other poets, who write in Nepali, along with some spectators, make up the rest. Read more at The National.

World Poetry

3rd Congress of Resistance Poetry Receives 600 Works

New Books

Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations by David Ferry

[Paperback] University Of Chicago Press, 128 pp., $18.00
To read David Ferry’s Bewilderment is to be reminded that poetry of the highest order can be made by the subtlest of means. The passionate nature and originality of Ferry’s prosodic daring works astonishing transformations that take your breath away. In poem after poem, his diction modulates beautifully between plainspoken high eloquence and colloquial vigor, making his distinctive speech one of the most interesting and ravishing achievements of the past half century.

As Long As Trees Last by Hoa Nguyen

[Paperback] Wave Books, 88 pp., $16.00
Clear-eyed and grounded, Hoa Nguyen performs a hook and snare on what it means to be a twenty-first century human in the nearly ego-less space of these chiseled yet spacious poems.

Waxwings by Daniel Nathan Terry

[Paperback] Lethe Press, 68 pp., $13.00
Waxwings is a book that takes observation, meditation, and memory as seriously as men and women take life and death. These elegiac lyrics show that Daniel Nathan Terry is unafraid of putting his experiences to use in the making of poems that ache after transcendence and long for revelation.” —Jericho Brown

The Fourth Dimension of a Poem: And Other Stories by M.H. Abrams

[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 256 pp., $25.95
In the year of his one-hundredth birthday, preeminent literary critic, scholar, and teacher M. H. Abrams brings us a collection of nine new and recent essays that challenge the reader to think about poetry in new ways. In these essays, three of them never before published, Abrams engages afresh with pivotal figures in intellectual and literary history, among them Kant, Keats, and Hazlitt.

Recent Reviews

Yellow Tulips by James Fenton

by Patrick McGuinness
“This is the wind, the wind in a field of corn. / Great crowds are fleeing from a major disaster / Down the long valleys, the green swaying wadis, / Down through the beautiful catastrophe of wind.” “Wind”, the opening poem in James Fenton’s Yellow Tulips: Poems 1968-2011, was written over 30 years ago, but could be about any natural disaster or environmental crisis, and most of today’s wars, revolutions and conflicts. Fenton made his name writing poems about things so difficult that they ran the risk of seeming too easy. They ran that risk not because they wanted to show off, but because risk was part of the gain, part of what the poem had to acknowledge about itself and its place in relation to its subjects. Read more at the Guardian.

On Poetry: The Open Door, edited by Don Share and Christian Wiman

by Michael Lista

The Open Door, an anthology of 100 poems that appeared in Poetry magazine over the last 100 years, is a useful reminder that the 20th century is over. It’s still hard to believe. The century seemed to be sounding the overture to Armageddon, and to rapture, and so it felt almost unfair that by its close even our bathetically moderated expectation of a computer crash would be frustrated on Y2K. The century that midwifed Modernism would peter out unattended by the apocalypse, and in a manner its key proponent had disappointedly described: “Not with a bang but a whimper.” How sad — here we all are, still human, and still Modern. Read more at

Durable Excess

by J. Peter Moore
British poet Tony Lopez seems to know what he’s doing when it comes to titling books. Like other reviewers, I find myself consenting to the poet’s own terms when trying to come up with a heuristic for explaining the wry sensibility present in his newest work, Only More So. Read more at
Free Verse.

A Thirst for Love and Knowledge

by Harry Clifton
“In the early ’60s,” John Montague wrote in his preface to The Rough Field, “I went to Belfast to receive a small poetry prize.” As it happens, I myself was on hand exactly 50 years later in the same city, when Montague presented, in 2011, “a small poetry prize” to a new, younger poet. A wheel had turned, a cycle completed itself. A baton, in the eternal Olympiad, was being handed on. Read more at the Irish Times.


Why Sharon Olds Waited to Publish a Poetry Collection About Divorce

by Barbara Chai
Sharon Olds’s latest book of poems, Stag’s Leap, has just been released this week, but some of the poems — which track the end of her marriage and the years afterward — were written 15 years ago. It was 15 years ago that the early events in the book occurred, and Olds recalls writing the very first poem the morning after she and her ex-husband discussed his leaving. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

Reginald Dwayne Betts: Reflections From a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellow

by Ru Freeman
Upon announcing the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowships, Poetry editor Christian Wiman said, “The history of Poetry is filled with some of the best-known names in American poetry; my guess is that these young poets will be among those we’ll be talking about in the years to come.” Among the winners who include Rickey Laurentis, Nicholas Friedman, Richie Hofmann,and Jacob Saenz, was Reginald Dwayne Betts. When he was 16 years old, Betts carjacked a man along with a friend. Though he had no prior offenses, he was convicted for having committed six felonies, tried as an adult in Virginia, and sentenced to eight years among adult prisoners in some of the worst prisons in the state. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Inspired Lives: Poet Maxine Kumin

By Mary Kuechenmesister
Maxine Kumin’s career has spanned over half a century. She’s the recipient of awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Kumin was the poetry consultant for the Library of Congress in 1981-1982, and has taught at many of the country’s most prestigious universities, including MIT, Princeton, and Columbia. Despite traveling away from home to lecture at schools and universities around the United States, Kumin has retained close ties with her farmhouse in rural New Hampshire. In an interview with Joan Norris published in Crazy Horse, the poet disclosed, “Practically all of [my poems] have come out of this geography and this state of mind.” Read more at New Hampshire Public Radio.


Poetry Changed the World: Injury and the Ethics of Reading

by Elaine Scarry
What is the ethical power of literature? Can it diminish acts of injuring, and if it can, what aspects of literature deserve the credit? All these questions, at first, hinge on another: can anything diminish injury? In his recent book The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker argues that, over 50 centuries, many forms of violence have subsided. Among the epochs he singles out for special scrutiny is a hundred-year period bridging the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries during which an array of brutal acts—executing accused witches, imprisoning debtors, torturing animals, torturing humans, inflicting the death penalty, enslaving fellow human beings—suddenly abated, even if they did not disappear. Read more at the Boston Review.

Love, Sorrow and Joy: Aubade for the Irish Poetry Avant-Garde

by Sarah Bennett
When Galway-born poet Graham Gillespie released his debut collection in March 2010, there was no doubt how he wanted his poems to be received. Love, Sorrow and Joy is charged with the remarkably pre-emptive subheading: ‘A New Voice in Irish Avant-Garde Poetry’. An introduction from Dr Mícheál Ó hAodha of the University of Limerick, and an accompanying interview with the author, seek to bear out the bold claims of the volume’s title and situate the author within the ‘exciting and radical tradition that is the Irish avant-garde’, according to the Cambridge Scholars Press blurb. Read more at Wave Composition.

Drafts & Fragments

Walt Whitman, Poet of . . . Space Exploration

by Megan Garber
In 1865, as part of an updated edition of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman published an ode to the explorers of America’s Western expansion. “Pioneers! O Pioneers” was a typically Whitmanesque tribute to exploration, to progress, to the people who, risking themselves, “take up the task eternal, and the burden, and the lesson.” Now, via the pioneering platform that is YouTube, the poem has been repurposed — as an ode to the contemporary incarnations of Whitman’s pioneers. And as an ode to the space on which they’ve trained their gazes. As its creator notes, “This video was conceived before the passing of Neil Armstrong, but it seems a fitting tribute to his legacy as the first human pioneer to set foot on another world.” Read more at The Atlantic.

Hand-Lettered Illustrations of Emily Dickinson’s Poetry

by Maria Popova
As a lover of literature-inspired art and a longtime admirer of San Diego artist David Clemesha’s whimsical hand-lettered illustrations of classic nursery rhymes, I was utterly delighted to see Clemesha extend his signature style to literature for grown-ups, turning to the poetry of recent Literary Jukebox favorites Emily Dickinson, William Blake, and T. S. Eliot. Here are Clemesha’s takes on Dickinson, based on texts from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Read more at Brain Pickings.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

W.B. Yeats, Magus

by Jamie James
If the paramount project of W. B. Yeats’ professional life was the perfection of the art of poetry, it was intertwined with a personal preoccupation, the study and practice of magic— not in any metaphorical sense, but the dedicated pursuit of supernatural powers based upon the ancient traditions of alchemy and necromancy, which began in his youth and persisted to the end of his long life. Yeats wrote frankly about his vocation as a magician in several memoirs and in A Vision, a dense astrological treatise he labored over for twenty years. A Protestant Irishman in Victorian Britain, Yeats as a young man was pulled in conflicting directions, but the occult always trumped worldly concerns, because it was so deeply connected with his poetic craft. Read more at Lapham’s Quarterly.

This is an interesting essay about Yeats’s involvement with the occult, which played such a large part in his poetry. While I am drawn to the Yeats of “Adam’s Curse,” The Wild Swans at Coole,” and “When You Are Old,” more than, say, “The Second Coming” or “Leda and the Swan,” it’s these latter works, that are more central to his standing as a major poet. Still, it’s no easier to dismiss the effect of his “vision” on his poetry than it would be to dismiss the effect of Dante’s faith on his. Many poets rely on belief and faith, articulated and inarticulated, upper and lower-case, as a way to construct their world view. But at some point that belief has to be dealt with by the reader, not simply as the impulse that provides “the power to write verses” but as a component part—integral to the poetry itself. Here is an attempt by Louise Bogan, written in 1938, the year before his death to provide a perspective of his achievement and to connect his unique sensibility with contemporary knowledge regarding ” the needs of the psyche, and the workings of the subconscious.”

—David Sanders