September 3, 2015

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1675 – William Somervile, English poet (d. 1742), is born.
1779 – Onno Zwier van Hairs, Fries poet (Agon), dies at 66.
1901 – Andreas Embirikos, Greek surrealist poet (d. 1975), is born.
1921 – Henry Austin Dobson, English poet (b. 1840), dies.
1960 – John S. Hall, American poet and spoken-word artist, is born.
1994 – Harry Vincent Kemp, poet, dies at 82.


Frenzied but firm
The colt of day charges
Into the mouth of spring and the birds chatter
With the clear sky in their voices
Like pipes echoing in the flora
Of a handful of angels in rapture
Like anemones that issue
From the pearls of pleasure. 

—Andreas Embirikos (1901–1975)

“Frenzied but firm / The colt of day charges / Into the mouth of spring”—Andreas Embirikos (1901–1975)

World Poetry

Russian Singer Joseph Kobzon 'Russian Frank Sinatra' Knows Ukrainian Poetry Better Than Poroshenko

Legendary Ukrainian-born Russian singer Joseph Kobzon, known for his crooner style and dubbed by many Western observers as the 'Soviet/Russian Frank Sinatra', has challenged President Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk to a literary duel, saying that he knows Ukrainian poetry better than either of them. "I am prepared to sit down with both Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, to have a competition to see who really knows how much poetry in Ukrainian. They are constantly making declarative statements, and it's disgusting listening to them," the singer said, giving an interview for Russian News Service radio on Friday.

Poignant Portraits of Seamus Heaney to Go on Display Side by Side for First Time at Ulster Museum

Two years on from the death of Seamus Heaney, the Ulster Museum has brought together the first and last portraits of the poet. Artist Colin Davidson told the Belfast Telegraph: "One of the lovely things I was so glad I did was to drive the painting down to his house to let him see it. It was due to go to on display in an exhibition I had on in Queen's at the time and Seamus and his wife had planned to go and see it there, but he passed away two days before the opening, so I was glad I made the effort and that was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.”

The Ulster Museum has brought together the first and last portraits of the poet Seamus Heaney.

Recent Reviews

The Poetry of Environmental Disaster
by Hannah Rogers

Joanna Klink’s words have what certain connoisseurs would call “good mouthfeel.” A chemical reaction between the words and your mouth produces a sensation worth repeating: you may even find yourself whispering her lines over her pages. This breathless incantation places the reader in Klink’s atmosphere, keenly feeling the poet’s world, at one with the poet’s creation.

Form and Function
New poems by Linda Gregerson and James Tate.
by Dan Chiasson

“The world you have to live in is // the world that you have made,” writes the American poet Linda Gregerson, whose dauntless, serrated work is collected in “Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2014” (Mariner). Gregerson’s poems examine worldly wonder and danger in a single bifocal view. She writes an authentic American georgic, focussed not on Virgilian oxen or olives but on the processes by which, say, cancer cells metastasize or endangered cranes find patches of endangered maize. These operations are terrifying; once catalyzed by human folly, they are mindless, unstoppable, and morally neutral.

‘That Winter the Wolf Came,’ by Juliana Spahr
by Stephen Burt

Nobody has to tell Juliana Spahr that the personal is political: She has spent her career inventing verse and prose forms that show how our intimate feelings emerge, like knots in nets or waves at sea, from systems much larger than any one person’s control. “This Connection of Everyone With Lungs” (2005) ­examined the global effects of 9/11 through the metaphor of polluted air; the piled-up details in “Well Then There Now” (2011) looked at Spahr’s years in Hawaii, and at her ­origins in Appalachia, as if to ask where she could call home.

If you read Joanna Klink’s words you may find yourself whispering her lines to yourself as you read.


What a 107-Year-Old Poet Can Teach You About Mindfulness
by Lisa Elaine Held

It’s a special kind of person who can find meaning in the seemingly pointless, never-ceasing task of daily bed-making. Peggy Freydberg does just that in the first pages of Poems from the Pond, a recently published collection of her poems, all of which she wrote between the ages of 90 and 106.

A Brutal American Epic
by Charles Simic

This summer I read Charles Reznikoff’s long poem Testimony: The United States (1885-1915): Recitative for the first time. I know of nothing like it in literature. Based on thousands of pages of court records spanning three decades around the turn of the twentieth century, Testimony is a compilation of case summaries, a sequence of self-contained pieces. These “recitatives,” as he called them, vary in length between five and over two hundred lines, and are divided into sections according to geographical region and subject matter (Social Life, Domestic Scenes, Machine Age, Negroes, Children, Railroads, Chinese, Thefts and Thieves, etc.). They tell the stories of some five hundred court cases from all over this country and deal with a broad segment of the American population, urban and rural.

Charles Tomlinson Obituary
Poet and translator who bridged the cultural gap between old and new worlds
by Michael Schmidt

The poet Charles Tomlinson has died aged 88, at the Gloucestershire cottage where he had lived since 1958. It is significant that this major English modernist and internationalist should have rooted himself for half a century in a quintessentially rural corner of England. He advocated the poetry of Edward Thomas, Isaac Rosenberg, Ivor Gurney and Keith Douglas before it was fashionable to do so. DH Lawrence was his witness that “all creative art must rise out of a specific soil and flicker with the spirit of place”, to which Tomlinson added: “Since we live in a time when place is threatened by the violence of change, the thought of a specific soil carries tragic implications.”

Octavio Paz in Cambridge, 1970.
Reflections and Iterations.1
by Richard Berengarten

Of all the poets I have known personally, Octavio Paz has had the strongest and most lasting effect on me. For this reason it is a huge pleasure to have been invited to think about him again at this inspiring conference, to have the chance to record some personal memories, to say something about our friendship forty-five years ago, and about his influence on my writing since then. There are many poets around the world who are his direct heirs, including some of us here. I am proud to be counted among them.

Elizabeth Bishop: The Poet’s Eye
by Alice Spawls

Elizabeth Bishop’s (1911–79) first collection of poetry, North and South, published in 1946, begins with a map. Under the poet’s gaze, it becomes a field of enquiry, and the poem a way of navigating it. Does the land lie in water, ‘or does the land lean down to lift the sea from under’? Bishop scans the spatial relationships: ‘the names of seashore towns run out to sea / the names of cities cross the neighbouring mountains…profiles investigate the sea’. Her active looking animates the image, not only in the attribution of agency to peninsulas and bays – ‘Norway’s hare runs south in agitation’ – but in the ekphrasis, which transforms the map into a living scene.

What 107-year-old poet Peggy Freydberg can teach you about mindfulness.

Drafts & Fragments

How Poetic Are New Zealanders?

Kiwis put to the literary test on national poetry day

A Puppet and a Performer Bring “The Waste Land” to Life
by Daniel Larkin

At this year’s New York International Fringe Festival, artist Daniel Domig and actor Christopher Domig (they are brothers) have collaborated on The Waste Land, an installation in which the latter quixotically plays with objects and rolls around in sawdust while reciting T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name.

Unpublished Pound Poem at Auction
by Rebecca Rego Barry

Coming up for auction next week is, according to the auctioneer, an “apparently unpublished” letter and poem from the hand of American expatriate poet Ezra Pound. Offered by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh, Scotland, the autograph letter (with envelope dated April 21, 1909) was sent to Mrs. Isabel Konody, later known as Isabel Codrington, a painter whose circle of friends in London included many poets and artists. Pound was new to the scene, having moved to London only the year before and still finding his way among the city’s cultural elite. On page two of the letter, Pound pens a 14-line sonnet which begins, “If poets whom you know are not all fools, Methinks my songs but march amid the rout.”  The auction estimate is £7,000-9,000 ($11,000-$14,140).

Google has Created a Billboard that Turns Your Words into Poetry

Google has unveiled an interactive art installation that turns random words into poetry, which then appears on an electronic billboard in north London. Called Poetrics, the installation is made up of 17 LED panels that display the words spoken into microphones placed at street level as randomly created poetry. It has been placed on the hoardings around the development site of Google’s new Kings Cross offices for passers-by to interact with, and is promoting the Knowledge Quarter’s upcoming Curious Arts Festival.

Google has unveiled an interactive art installation that turns random words into poetry on an electronic billboard in London.

Poetry In the News

U.S. Poet Laureate to Visit Presidential Library

The nation’s new poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, will bring his unique voice on American identity to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum for a free public reading on Oct. 6. Herrera grew up traveling from field to field with his parents, who were migrant farm workers in California. His poems reflects that childhood. He writes in both Spanish and English, sometimes in the same poem. He includes imagery from the landscapes his family traveled, and addresses the struggles of immigrants, the poor, the overlooked.

World-acclaimed Poet Charles Tomlinson, from University of Bristol, Dies

Tributes have been paid to a lecturer and internationally acclaimed poet, Professor Charles Tomlinson. The Professor Emeritus in the English Department at the University of Bristol was one of the most celebrated and distinguished at the institution.

Professor Charles Tomlinson, Professor Emeritus in the English Department at the University of Bristol, has passed away.

New Books

Application for Release from the Dream: Poems by Tony Hoagland 
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 96 pp., $16.00

Are we corrupt or innocent, fragmented or whole? Are responsibility and freedom irreconcilable? Do we value memory or succumb to our forgetfulness? Application for Release from the Dream, Tony Hoagland's fifth collection of poems, pursues these questions with the hobnailed abandon of one who needs to know how a citizen of twenty-first-century America can stay human. With whiplash nerve and tender curiosity, Hoagland both surveys the damage and finds the wonder that makes living worthwhile. Mirthful, fearless, and precise, these poems are full of judgment and mercy.

Reconnaissance: Poems by Carl Phillips
[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 64 pp., $23.00

The territory of Reconnaissance is one where morals threaten to become merely "what the light falls through," "suffering [seems] in fact for nothing," and "all we do is maybe all we can do." In the face of this, Carl Phillips, reconsidering and unraveling what we think we know, maps out the contours of a world in revision, where truth lies captured at one moment and at the next goes free, transformed. These are poems of searing beauty, lit by hope and shadowed by it, from a poet whose work "reinstates the possibility of finding meaning in a world that is forever ready to revoke the sources of meaning in our lives".

Keeper of Limits: The Mrs. Cavendish Poems by Stephen Dunn
[Paperback] Sarabande Books, 40 pp., $9.95

A Pulitzer Prize-winning author details an unconsummated love affair that sustains political, philosophical, and sexual interest over a lifetime.The truth is always different from what anyone says out loud, but who really cares? Not I, said the man I chose to be, nor I nor I nor I— among the many of us she left teetering.

Prodigal: New and Selected Poems, 1976 to 2014 by Linda Gregerson [Paperback] Mariner Books, 240 pp., $16.95

In her first book of collected work, prize-winning poet Linda Gregerson mines nearly forty years of poetry, bringing us a full range of her talents. Ten new poems introduce Prodigal, followed by fifty poems, culled from Gregerson's five collections, that range broadly in subject from class in America to our world's ravaged environment to the wonders of parenthood to the intersection of science and art to the passion of the Roman gods, and beyond. This selection reinforces Gregerson’s standing as “one of poetry’s mavens . . . whose poetics seek truth through the precise apprehension of the beautiful while never denying the importance of rationality” (Chicago Tribune).  A brilliant stylist, known for her formal experiments as well as her perfected lines, Gregerson is a poet of great vision. Here, the growth of her art and the breadth of her interests offer a snapshot of a major poet's intellect in the midst of her career.

Divinity School by Alicia Jo Rabins    
[Hardcover] American Poetry Review, 80 pp., $23.00 

Divinity School, winner of the prestigious Honickman First Book Award from the American Poetry Review, is a wide-ranging exploration of spirituality, sex, travel, food, holy texts, and coming of age. Poet Alicia Jo Rabins brings a searing eye for surreal beauty in everyday life with a deep knowledge of wisdom literature, and creates a modern manual for living, a fearless investigation of how we learn to live in a human body both prism and flesh.

In her first book of collected work, prize-winning poet Linda Gregerson mines nearly forty years of poetry.


Flames, Too, Are a Form of Literacy
by Zac Gunter

The dedication in Jasper Bernes’s new book of poetry We Are Nothing and So Can You reads “for the partisans,” making clear its commitments. The paths taken in Bernes’s serpentine poem lead the reader through riots, communes, confrontations, and antagonisms in the projected past, lived present, and imagined future. The partisan — less party functionary than militant — is a figure who takes sides, and this new work is emphatically on the side of the riots and rebellions of our time. We Are Nothing and So Can You exemplifies the aesthetics of uprising, taking seriously the social form in which the prevailing conditions are rejected in favor of an as-yet-unformed future.

For Carl Phillips, Poetry Is Experience Transformed — Not Transcribed

Taking chances can sometimes lead to great art. But award-winning poet Carl Phillips says there's a risk to, well, taking risks. "I think there has to be a place for risk and for restlessness in any kind of fully lived life, and especially I think for an artist," he tells NPR's Arun Rath. "I think it's the only way that imagination gets stimulated and continues — but I think it can easily go unchecked."

Speaking of the Demonic with Dorothea Lasky
by Zachary Pace

Dorothea Lasky's poems bewitch with the intense force and phenomenal range of their voice. This voice has become richer and more sonorous through each of her previous books, from Awe to Black Life to Thunderbird. Her style is immediately recognizable: a combination of candor, compassion, bravado, and the utmost verve; as she confronts universal spiritual polarities and abiding dilemmas of morality, her enduring subject is the stigma of eroticism and the inevitability of death. Disarming and deceptively undemanding, her lyrics charm the listener to follow their fearless leaps into a realm of feverish sublimity where mortal limitations cease to exist. Now, in Rome, Lasky has tuned her ear to the most rhapsodic, rapturous speakers, and her vision is sharper, more incisive than before, peering into the deep hollows of being human, illuminating our darkest quandaries. We met to talk over the voices of Rome, voices tuned to the influence of that ancient city and imbued with modern mysticism, hip hop, the demonic, and the so-called “other place.”

A conversation with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet — Decoding Gregory Pardlo
by Christine Parrish

I prefer my poetry straight, no chaser. It can be smoky and complicated — no problem there — but it better be real.

Dorothea Lasky’s poems bewitch with the intense force and phenomenal range of their voice.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Lessons from the Past: Amy Clampitt

"What does a writer need to know? In one word, I’d say, predecessors. I don’t know why it is that things become more precious with the awareness that someone else has looked at them, thought about them, written about them. But so I find it to be. There is less originality than we think. There is also a vast amount of solitude. Writers need company. We all need it. It’s not the command of knowledge that matters finally, but the company. It’s the predecessors. As a writer, I don’t know where I’d be without them."

—from "Predecessors, Et Cetera"

“What does a writer need to know? In one word, I’d say, predecessors.” -Amy Clampitt