September 22, 2017

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1547—Philipp Nikodemus Frischlin, German philologist and poet (d. 1590), is born.

1680—Barthold Heinrich Brockes, German poet (d. 1747), is born.
1895—Babette Deutsch, US poet (Animal vegetable mineral), is born.
1923—Dannie Abse, Welsh poet and writer, is born.
1959—Benjamin Peret, French writer/poet (Le grand jeu), dies at 60.
1988—Rais Amrohvi, Pakistani poet and psychoanalyst, dies at 74.


Now Time wastes me and there's hardly time
to fuss for more vascular speech.

The aspen tree trembles as I do
and there are feathers in the wind.

Quick quick
speak old parrot,
do I not feed you with my life? 

—from “Talking to Myself" by Dannie Abse

“The aspen tree trembles as I do / and there are feathers in the wind.” – Dannie Abse

World Poetry

Why Is the RSS Afraid of the Revolutionary Punjabi Poet Pash?

The biggest ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on education, Dinanath Batra, recently came out with a proposal to remove Avtar Pash’s only poem ‘Sabse Khatrnak’ from the class XI Hindi textbook Aaroh. The poem by the revolutionary Punjabi poet – who was killed by Khalistani terrorists on March 23, 1988 – was first published in 2006.

Poem on Berlin College Wall Sparks Sexism Debate

Is it offensive to speak of admiring women? While students at a Berlin college are up in arms over a 1950s love poem in huge lettering on a wall of the school, Germany's PEN president has spoken out in defense of art. The controversial poem titled "avenidas" can be translated as following: "Avenues / Avenues and flowers / Flowers / Flowers and women / Avenues / Avenues and women / Avenues and flowers and women and an admirer."

Dinanath Batra came out with a proposal to remove Punjabi poet Avtar Pash’s poem ‘Sabse Khatrnak’ from a textbook.

Recent Reviews

Let Us Be Singing Fools: Norman Finkelstein's The Ratio Reason to Magic: New & Selected Poems
by Barbara Berman

Every reader of The Rumpus knows that the world “changed, changed utterly” on Election Day 2016. It is still too soon to know how effective the literary community will be in producing poems that sing in a way that helps undo the damage. Most of us, I have to hope, are active on more than one front, and are helping each other when despair threatens to paralyze. Because so much good poetry was published before last November, it goes without saying that we should not ignore it. Norman Finkelstein’s work provides a fine look at the way one writer engaged with questions we’ll all continue to face, whatever the political landscape.

This Is Uncorrected Proof
by Emilia Phillips

Morgan Parker’s second poetry collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, revels in music, not only through allusions to figures such as the titular performer, but also through Parker’s unwavering instincts about the musical capabilities of language. In “13 Ways of Looking at a Black Girl,” Parker builds the poem’s catalog structure on internal slant rhymes punctuated by white space:

Morgan Parker’s second poetry collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, revels in music.


How Poets Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Academy
by Evan Kindley

It was, at one time, a striking fact that many of the most prominent and respected poets of the early 20th century were also prolific literary and cultural critics. A century later, the idea of the poet as critic seems relatively mundane. Indeed, a critic is one of the things we tend to expect any serious professional poet to be. Poets write closely argued essays for little magazines like Boston Review, n+1, and Guernica and book reviews for major media outlets like The New York Times and The New York Review of Books. Poets teach courses in critical theory to graduate students and publish abstract philosophical statements of poetics alongside their new creative work. Poets organize conferences whose participants and audiences are other poets. And poets are, increasingly, not just the foremost experts on poetry in our culture but the only experts.

The Large Chestnut in the Garden: On Marina Tsvetaeva
by Subhash Jaireth

One look at the house tells me that I shouldn’t have come. I should have stayed in my hotel or gone to Versailles, which Marina Tsvetaeva adored. The house is unbelievably bright even in the dull evening light of mid-August.  A large garbage bin, green with a yellow lid perched on the kerb, can’t spoil the view; just behind it, a few steps to the right of the reddish-brown wooden door stands a motorbike. The two make the house appear homely. The brick house is painted grey white. On the left-hand side of the house rough bricks have been left deliberately unplastered, as if to confirm that it is an old but renovated house. I move to the rear part of the house where a small backyard is fenced by a brick wall. There are three large windows in the wall of the apartment on the second floor. The one furthest has a satellite dish implanted next to it. For a brief moment, I let myself believe that it was by this window that Marina placed her writing desk when she lived here in the 1930s.

The Poetry of Death
by Donald Hall

Jane Kenyon and I almost avoided marriage because her widowhood would have been so long, between us was there such a radical difference in age. And yet today it is twenty-two years since she died, of leukemia, at forty-seven—and I approach ninety. I was a high-school freshman and decided to write poems five years before Jane was born. She finished primary school in 1958, the year that I took a teaching job in her home town of Ann Arbor. With me came my wife, Kirby, and my son, Andrew; my daughter, Philippa, arrived three years later. The marriage crumbled after a decade, and I endured five wretched years of promiscuity and booze. To our endless good fortune, Jane and I found each other and, three years later, I quit teaching and we moved to New Hampshire. 

The Benefits of Poetry for Professionals
by John Coleman

Wallace Stevens was one of America’s greatest poets. The author of “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” and “The Idea of Order at Key West” was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1955 and offered a prestigious faculty position at Harvard University. Stevens turned it down. He didn’t want to give up his position as Vice President of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company. This lyrically inclined insurance executive was far from alone in occupying the intersect of business and poetry.

When Wallace Stevens was offered a prestigious faculty position at Harvard University, he turned it down.

Drafts & Fragments

Watch This 19-year-old Poet Perform a Stunning Spoken Word Poem about Social Justice
by Matt Petronzio

This summer, 19-year-old Amanda Gorman sat down to outline her priorities. As the very first U.S. youth poet laureate, a position she earned for her literary talent as well as her record of community engagement and leadership, she asked herself, "What do I want to accomplish?” Since Gorman took on the inaugural role, she's embarked on a national tour across the U.S.

U.S. youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman recently penned a stunning spoken word poem about social justice.

Poetry In the News

New U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith Reports for Duty

Tracy K. Smith, the new poet laureate of the United States, arrived for duty Wednesday at the Library of Congress in Washington. By tradition, Smith began by signing the guest book in the Poetry Office, adding her signature to those of Robert Frost, Robert Penn Warren, Billy Collins, Rita Dove and more.

The National Book Awards Longlist: Poetry

Hilton Als recently described “Half-Light: Collected Poems 1965-2016” as “the culmination of a distinguished career and a poetic ur-text about how homophobia, doubt, and a parent’s confusing love can shape a gay child.” The book is now also Frank Bidart’s fifth collection to be long-listed for the National Book Award. Bidart has been contributing poetry to The New Yorker since 1997, the same year that the magazine first published Marie Howe, who is also up for the award. This is Howe’s first time being long-listed.

Tracy K. Smith, the new poet laureate of the United States, has arrived for duty at the Library of Congress in Washington.

New Books

Rocket Fantastic: Poems by Gabrielle Calvocoressi 
[Hardcover] Persea, 96 pp., $25.95

From the author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, a spellbinding reinvention of self, family, and gender. Like nothing before it, Rocket Fantastic reinvents the landscape and language of the body in interconnected poems that entwine a fabular past with an iridescent future by blurring, with disarming vulnerability, the real and the imaginary. Sorcerous, jazz-tinged, erotic, and wide-eyed, this is a pioneering work by a space-age balladeer.

The Moon is Almost Full by Chana Bloch 
[Paperback]Autumn House, 88 pp., $17.93

Chana Bloch’s newest poetry collection, The Moon is Almost Full, focuses frankly and tenderly on the themes of aging and death. Bloch doesn’t shy away from the dark places, but she was a trustworthy guide. These remarkable poems remind the reader to take joy where we can find it and relish the everyday. Bloch’s clear and direct voice makes her poems accessible favorites for all readers. Anyone interested in poetry dealing with aging, cancer, family relationships, and Judaism.

Love in the Last Days: After Tristan and Iseult by D. Nurkse 
[Hardcover] Knopf, 104 pp., $27.00

In D. Nurkse's wood of Morois, the Forest of Love, there's a fine line between the real and the imaginary, the archaic and the actual, poetry and news. The poems feature the voices of the lovers and all parties around them, including the servant Brangien; Tristan's horse, Beau Joueur; even the living spring that flows through the tale ("in my breathing shadow / the lovers hear their voices / confused with mine / promising a slate roof, / a gate, a child . . . "). Nurkse brings us an Iseult who has more power than she wants over Tristan's imagination, and a Tristan who understands his fate early on: "That charm was so strong, no luck could free us." For these lovers, time closes like a book, but it remains open for us as we hear both new tones and familiar voices, eerily like our own, in this age-old story made new again.

Angel Hill by Michael Longley 
[Paperback] Wake Forest University Press, 72 pp., $14.95 

A remote townland in County Mayo, Carrigskeewaun has been for nearly fifty years Michael Longley’s home-from-home, his soul-landscape. Its lakes and mountains, wild animals and flowers, its moody seas and skies have for decades lit up his poetry. Now they overflow into Angel Hill, his exuberant new collection. In addition, Longley has been exploring Lochalsh in the Western Highlands where his daughter the painter Sarah Longley now lives with her family. She has opened up for him her own soul-landscape with its peculiar shapes and intense colors. In Angel Hill the imaginations of poet and painter intermingle and two exacting wildernesses productively overlap. Love poems and elegies and heart-rending reflections on the Great War and the Northern Irish Troubles add further weight to Michael Longley’s outstanding eleventh collection. Angel Hill will undoubtedly delight this great poet’s many admirers.

Hallowed: New and Selected Poems by Patricia Fargnoli 
[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 108 pp. $16.95 

Featuring selections from Patricia Fargnoli's four previous books along with twenty-four new poems, here is a celebration of poetic endurance, filled with quietly distinctive cadences and images closely seen, now freshly understood.

“Hallowed” features selections from Patricia Fargnoli’s four previous books along with twenty-four new poems.


The Poetry Extension’s Poet of the Month: Amy Key
by Natalya Anderson

Amy Key lives in London, England. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, The Poetry Review, Best British Poetry 2015, and other fine publications. Her debut collection, Luxe, was published by Salt. She founded and co-edited the online journal Poems in Which. Her second collection, Isn’t Forever, is forthcoming from Bloodaxe in June 2018.

Black Sun: An Interview with Toby Martinez de las Rivas
by Lucy Mercer

Toby Martinez de las Rivas’s debut collection Terror (Faber and Faber, 2014) established him as a poet of “visionary disposition” and great promise — a promise on which he delivers in his forthcoming collection Black Sun, which will be published by Faber and Faber in February 2018. So much flows into Black Sunthat it feels like a disservice to summarize it: at its core, it is an intensely personal collection of tightly textured lyric poems on childhood, love, parenthood, faith, and death by a continuous speaker who operates beneath the specter of a black sun, a dark full circle. It is complex in its referents, and, for me, more complex due to its political perspective, which differs from my own.

Matthew Zapruder Explains How You Learned Poetry Wrong (but that's easy to fix)
by Agatha French

Matthew Zapruder makes the case for poetry’s accessibility and necessity in his debut work of nonfiction, “Why Poetry” (Ecco, $24.99). “The true meaning of a poem isn’t hidden in a textbook,” he writes. “It comes to be, each time, in the mind of each half-dreaming reader.”

Toby Martinez de las Rivas’s debut collection “Terror” established him as a poet of visionary disposition.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Dannie Abse

"That’s one of the things I always put on the blackboard, when I first went to Princeton, ‘Find the most surprising yet appropriate word.’ To give one obvious example, you know you could describe  trees as green, well that’s not surprising, but if you used a word like ‘clockwork’ to describe trees then it would be surprising but not appropriate, so you have to find one that’s both. If you ask me what I’ve strived for in my writing it’s finding this combination of the surprising and authentic."

—from "In Conversation with Dannie Abse" by Phil Morris, Wales Art Review

“Find the most surprising yet appropriate word.” – Dannie Abse