September 5, 2012

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

September 5, 2012

1568 – Tommaso Campanella, Italian theologian, philosopher, and poet (d. 1639), is born.

1688 – Lukas Fencer, Dutch poet (Fight of Kings & Mice), is born.

1750 – Robert Fergusson, Scottish poet (Scots poems), is born.

1767 – August Wilhelm Schlegel, German poet/translator/critic, is born.

1817 – Aleksei K Tolstoi, [Kozjma Prutkov], Russian poet/writer [NS], is born.

1827 – Goffredo Mameli, Italian poet and writer (d. 1849), is born.

1906 – Semjon I Kirsanov, Ukrainian poet (Semj Dnej Nedeli) [NS=Sept 18], is born.

1914 – Nicanor Parra, Chilean poet (Defense of Violeta Parra), is born.

1914 – Charles Péguy, French poet, essayist and editor (b. 1873), dies.

1936 – Gustave Kahn, French Symbolist poet and art critic (b. 1859), dies.
1944 – Dario Bellezza, Italian poet (d. 1996), is born.
1960 – The poet Léopold Sédar Senghor is elected as the first President of Senegal.

In the end

We are only left with tomorrow.

I raise my glass

To the day that never arrives.

But that is all

We have at our disposal.

— from “The Last Toast” by Nicanor Parra

Poetry In The News

My Darling Margie, I Long to Be in Your Arms: Revealed, Betjeman’s Love Letters to Secret Mistress

Sir John Betjeman once said that his biggest regret in life was not having had ‘enough sex’. Yet for a man with a wife and two mistresses, this may seem an unusual lament. For decades, Britain’s best-loved modern poet was torn between his love for three women — his faithful wife, Penelope; long-term mistress Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, a childhood friend of the Queen; and Margie Geddes, who was revealed to have been his lover only after she died in 2006. Read more at the Daily Mail.

New Candidate for Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” Emerges

William Shakespeare’s mystery woman may be stepping out of the shadows. Shakespeare’s catalog of 154 sonnets has long stymied scholars and casual readers alike with the identity of those they address in tones that are, by turns, amorous, jealous and morose. Three characters — the Youth, the Rival Poet and the Dark Lady — find themselves addressed repeatedly, yet no single contemporary of the poet’s has ever been connected with the names. Read more at the Daily News.

Governor Cuomo Announces State Poet and Author

Governor Cuomo today announced the appointments of Marie Howe to serve as the 10th New York State Poet and Alison Lurie as the 10th New York State Author. Ms. Howe and Ms. Lurie will serve from 2012 to 2014. “Marie and Alison represent the rich talent and diversity that New York has to offer,” Governor Cuomo said. “Both of them have inspired New Yorkers all across the state, and their works are major assets to us all. They are truly deserving of this honor, and hopefully their great work will now reach a new and even wider audience.” Read more at NY TV.

World Poetry

The Poetry of Revolution

Germany’s national poet is omnipresent in the pretty baroque city of Weimar. Walking from Goetheplatz to the Goethe National Museum, I passed the Goethe Cafe, the Goethe Kaufhaus and the Hotel am Goethehaus. The time is ripe, then, for the comprehensive permanent exhibition dedicated to the author of “Faust” that has just opened in the museum building next to his house. Read more at Businessweek.

Quinquagenary a Poetic Gift to the Nation

In honour of T&T’s 50th Anniversary of Independence, six of the country’s emerging poets from the Circle of Poet T&T recently explored the composition of Ekphrastic-styled compositions referencing prominent local personalities, artistic sculptures, paintings and flora to highlight how these have helped shape our social and cultural identity through the last 50 years. Read more at Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online.

New Books

Tantivy by Donald Revell

[Paperback] Alice James Books, 80 pp., $15.95
Through close attention to nature’s myriad syntheses and separations, Donald Revell’s sage lyric meditations seek and find proof of the otherworldly. These poems are ripe with the ecstatic vision we come to expect from Revell’s work.

Theophobia by Bruce Beasley

[Paperback] BOA Editions Ltd., 112 pp., $16.00
Theophobia is the latest volume in Bruce Beasley’s ongoing spiritual meditation which forms a kind of postmodern devotional poetry in a reinvention of the tradition of John Donne, George Herbert, Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and T. S. Eliot. Theophobia is structured around a series of poems called “Pilgrim’s Deviations” and forms a deviant and deviating pilgrimage through science, history, politics, and popular culture. Beasley seeks the Biblical Kingdom of God among Dolly the cloned sheep, the wonders and horrors of extremophilic creatures living in astonishing intensities of temperature, robotic phone operators, and Wikipedia’s explanation of the mysteries of the Holy Spirit.

Thunderbird by Dorothea Lasky

[Paperback] Wave Books, 128 pp., $16.00
Go, brave and gentle reader, with Dorothea Lasky to the “purple motel / where the bird lives.” Go with her, as you have willingly gone down the dark passages before, with her bare-faced poems for guidance. Thunderbird‘s controlled rage plunges into the black interior armed with nothing but guts and Lasky’s own fiery heart to light the way.

Nice Weather: Poems by Frederick Seidel

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 112 pp., $24.00
Frederick Seidel—the “ghoul” (Chicago Review), the “triumphant outsider” (Contemporary Poetry Review)—returns with a dangerous new collection of poems. Nice Weather presents the sexual and political themes that have long preoccupied Seidel—and thrilled and offended his readers. Lyrical, grotesque, elegiac, this book adds new music and menace to his masterful body of work.

Stag’s Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds

[Hardcover] Knopf, 112 pp., $26.95
As she carries us through the seasons when her marriage was ending, Olds opens her heart to the reader, sharing the feeling of invisibility that comes when we are no longer standing in love’s sight; the surprising physical bond that still exists between a couple during parting; the loss of everything from her husband’s smile to the set of his hip; the radical change in her sense of place in the world. Olds is naked before us, curious and brave and even generous toward the man who was her mate for thirty years and who now loves another woman.

Recent Reviews

Olives by A. E. Stallings

by Patrick Kurp

The cover of Olives, A.E. Stallings’ third collection of poems, shows a detail from a late sixth-century-B.C. amphora depicting the harvesting of olives. One figure sits among the branches with a stick, while two others, sticks in hand, stand below. They knock fruit from the tree as a fourth figure, kneeling on the ground, holds a basket and collects the fallen olives. We know little of the artist, who worked in Athens and specialized in the black-figure technique, rendering human forms as sparsely detailed silhouettes. His falling olives might be lumps of coal. Read more at Quarterly Conversation.

Poetry Review: Michael Tyrell’s The Wanted

by Benjamin Evans
Michael Tyrell lives in Brooklyn and teaches at NYU. His poems have appeared in Agni, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Paris Review, among many other journals. The Wanted is his first book of poems. The eerily captivating cover of Michael Tyrell’s first collection of poetry was composed with a finger painting app on, yes, an iPhone 2G. That such an image could be rendered from a device so frigidly modern is a statement indicative of what Tyrell has accomplished in The Wanted. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Going, Going

by William Logan
One summer half a century ago, Randall Jarrell and Robert Lowell spent an afternoon on a bench in Kensington Gardens, talking about contemporary poets. “Cal was for Plath that day, and Gunn—and Larkin,” Jarrell’s wife later wrote. “Randall was for Larkin, Larkin, and Larkin.” Philip Larkin has often had that effect on readers—of immediate sympathy and half-crazed delight. I admit to my own mixed feelings—when I read him I want to run out and press his poems upon strangers, and I want to keep them entirely to myself. Read more at Poetry Magazine via Poetry Daily.

Aditi Machado Reviews Amina Saïd’s The Present Tense of the World: Poems 2000-2009

The poetry of Amina Saïd is a poetry of silence. Here silence is not merely the absence of sound or the absence of speech. It is a language in itself, “born in [the poet’s] mouth” and bound inextricably with the life of the poet who “was born on the shore/ of the sea of the setting sun” and “swam in black waters/ on the light-path traced by the moon” (‘Births’). Read more at Asymptote Journal.


Interview with Eleanor Goodman, Translator from Chinese

by Ilya Kaminsky
You work in several genres and also translate. What inspires you to work with more than one medium and more than one language? Kafka once stated that “all language is but a poor translation”. In light of so many interests that you seem to have, in language–languages!–what is your response?
I suppose the question is: a translation of what? Of course there are thoughts that can’t be satisfyingly expressed in language—I think the attempt to do so is the space in which poetry exists. I find languages fascinating, but I suppose what excites me more is the homologous selves that emerge in different linguistic contexts. A language is a world, and it seems vital to me to be able to move among them. Read more at Poetry International.

A Poet for Our New Gilded Age

By Adam Kirsch
When Frederick Seidel’s career-defining Poems: 1959-2009 was published a few years ago, the poet received a burst of the kind of publicity he spent most of his life avoiding. For the first time, there were photos of Seidel in magazines and profiles describing his life — his St. Louis childhood, his apartment on the Upper West Side, his love of deluxe Italian motorcycles. No one could argue that Seidel didn’t deserve the attention: He has long been one of the best and most exciting American poets and yet had been almost totally ignored by the poetry world, receiving none of the major prizes and omitted from the big anthologies.Read more at Tablet Magazine.

Paul Muldoon: A Poet at Play

by Suzanne Lynch
Paul Muldoon looks utterly at home as he takes a seat in Blake’s bar in Enniskillen. “I used to meet John McGahern here the odd time. He and his wife would come to Enniskillen for the day and have a drink before they’d go back to Leitrim. It’s a nice town, Enniskillen,” he says. “Actually, I bumped into a cousin of mine on the way here, would you believe.” Read more at the Irish Times.


A Critic’s Manifesto

by Daniel Mendelsohn
In the nineteen-seventies, when I was a teen-ager and had fantasies of growing up to be a writer, I didn’t dream of being a novelist or a poet. I wanted to be a critic. I thought criticism was exciting, and I found critics admirable. This was because I learned from them. Every week a copy of The New Yorker would arrive at our house on Long Island, wrapped in a brown wrapper upon which the (I thought) disingenuously modest label NEWSPAPER was printed, and I would hijack the issue before my dad came home from work in order to continue an education that was, then, more important to me than the one I was getting in school. Read more at the New Yorker.

When Authors Disown Their Work, Should Readers Care?

by Maria Konnikova
“September 1, 1939” is one of W. H. Auden’s most famous and oft-quoted poems. Its images of futility and despair in the face of violence, of the inevitable destruction and sacrifice of yet another war have such a universal immediacy that they’ve been revived time and time again, whenever sudden bloodshed rears its head. Perhaps the most quoted line of all is the one that closes the poem’s penultimate stanza: “We must love one another or die.” Read more at The Atlantic.

Celebrating a Gifted Welsh Poet

by Roderick Conway Morris
To win the chair at the annual National Eisteddfod cultural festival is the highest honor to which any Welsh poet can aspire. It has only once been awarded posthumously, and that was in September 1917, to Ellis Humphrey Evans, better known by his bardic name, Hedd Wyn. The adjudicators that year had unanimously awarded the prize to Hedd Wyn for an “awdl” (ode), called “Yr Arwr” (The Hero). The work was inspired by Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound” and has been described by Alan Llwyd, the contemporary poet and two-time winner of the chair, as “a rich, complex, allegorical poem,” which was “possibly the most ambitious of any Eisteddfod winner of the 20th century.” Read more at the New York Times.

Drafts & Fragments

17 Songs Based on the Poetry of e. e. cummings

by Maria Popova
As a lover of the intersection of music and literature, I’m utterly enamored with the rain is a handsome animal — a magnificent new 17-movement song-cycle based on the poetry of e. e. cummings by Tin Hat, composed of the inimitable violinist and vocalist Carla Kihlstedt (whom you might recall from recent Literary Jukebox volumes), guitarist Mark Orton, clarinetist Ben Goldberg, and Rob Reich on the accordion and piano. Read more at Brain Pickings.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes

Beauty & Innovation In Online Publishing—Does It Have to Be One or the Other?

by Travis Kurowski
Daniel Roberts’s recently chose “12 of the Most Beautiful Literary Magazines Online” for Flavorwire. There are honestly some great picks here—Fiddleblack, Paper Darts, The Paris Review (of course)—but I can’t help notice that all the picks are doing pretty expected stuff when it comes to online reading. Not that that’s bad. Just to say, there’s an entire category of beauty missing from the list, magazines that push the screen to do new things, ones that upset our reading expectations. Magazines like Triple Canopy, Born Magazine, and Slope. Magazines that make me hesitate using the word “magazine” to talk about them. I mean, I like reading The Paris Review on my computer, and Guernica—which I read at least once a week—and many others from Roberts’s list. But I wouldn’t want to think that’s all there is when it comes to beautiful experiences reading literature online. Read more at Luna Park.

Like everything else in the print culture, literary magazines have been undergoing a transformation for the last decade. Tthe assessment of Travis Kurowski regarding the duality of online journals is on point. While the magazines listed by Flavorwire are attractive, they don’t do much to incorporate the medium in an innovative way. Rather, they replicate the experience of reading print with some streamlining that web publishing allows. On the other hand, the journals that Kurowski mentions (Triple Canopy, etc.) are (to my mind) not particularly intuitive in terms of use. Each requires its own user manual. Still, they are trying to be something different, to test the margins of the medium and merge the possibilities of the web with those of language. So, if these experiments are not altogether successful right now, they are on the path to a new incarnation of the literary journal. We all know the legend of the many thousand different filaments tried by Edison before he found the right material to make a practical light bulb. Looking ten years down the road, I put my money on these experiments (failed and otherwise) as precursors of literary journals of the future.

—David Sanders