September 8, 2017

Edited by David Sanders

Filed under: Poetry News in Review |

Specimen Days

1474—Ludovico Ariosto, Italy, poet (Orlando Furioso), is born.

1644—Francis Quarles, English poet (Enchiridion), dies.
1645—Francisco Gomez Quevedo y Villegas, Spanish author/poet, dies at 64.
1660—Daniel von Czepko, German poet, dies at 54.
1774—Anna K Emmerick/Emmerich, German poet, is born.
1778—Clemens Brentano, German poet (d. 1842), is born.
1804—Eduard Mörike, German poet (d. 1875), is born.
1830—Frederic Mistral, French Provencal poet (Nobel 1904), born in Maillane, France (d. 1914), is born.
1999—Moondog, American composer, musician and poet (b. 1916), dies.


White gulls astray over the briny plains
Of Agui-Morto. Utter sadness reigns
In scattered sheep-cots of their tenants left,
And overrun with salicorne. Bereft
In the hot desert, seemed the maid to wake,
And see nor spring nor pool her thirst to slake.

—from “Chateau La Garaye" by Frédéric Mistral

“White gulls astray over the briny plains / Of Agui-Morto. Utter sadness reigns” – Frédéric Mistral

World Poetry

Controversy Continues over Public Poetry Project : As Public and Poets Bicker, Short Form Makes Citizens Snicker

Poetry can be found in almost every subway station in Seoul. Poems are posted on the glass that stands between the platform and the tracks at 299 out of the 355 stations in the capital region. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has been printing the poems across lines 1 through 9 since 2008. Contrary to the city government’s initial goal to “give momentary comfort to citizens who are chased by their busy lives,” the poems brought about mixed reactions from citizens and professional poets from the beginning.

New €10 Coin from Greece Pays Ode to Greek Poet Sappho

The Greek poet Sappho is honored on a Proof 2017 silver €10 coin from Greece.The Bank of Greece celebrates the artist, who lived circa 630 to 570 B.C., on the latest coin in its series showcasing Greek culture. Sappho of the island of Lesbos was one of the greatest lyric poets in ancient Greece and one of the first in the Western world to consistently express personal emotions. She composed her poems in the Aeolian dialect and sang them to the accompaniment of a lyre.

NZ's New Poet Laureate Wants to Share Poetry with Nation's 'Multi-coloured, Multi-hued Voices'

New Zealand's latest Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh has accepted her new post with – what else? – a poem. The prestigious two-year post was announced in a surprise ceremony on Friday night at the tail end of the launch of her new poetry collection, Tightrope. Tusitala Marsh gave a nod to her mother, who came to New Zealand from Samoa speaking no English, as well as the recent controversy regarding Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's pregnancy plans. "I accept this award on behalf of Pasifika peoples/whose brown faces/aspire to higher places," she said.

New Zealand’s latest Poet Laureate Selina Tusitala Marsh has accepted her new post with – what else? – a poem.

Recent Reviews

Celebration of the World
by William H. Pritchard

The poet Richard Wilbur is ninety-six, old enough that his poet-contemporaries—Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman, Randall Jarrell, James Merrill, Anthony Hecht—have been gone for decades. Wilbur’s most recent and probably final book of poems, Anterooms, appeared in 2007,  an attractive completion to the Collected Poems published three years earlier. Altogether his career has yielded ten individual books of poems, five books of illustrated poems for children and adults, fifteen translations of classical French drama, and two collections of literary essays—an achievement to be wondered at. Now comes a biography by Robert Bagg and Mary Bagg, the former a poet and translator of distinction, the latter a freelance editor. Their book suits Wilbur’s kind of career: a “biographical study” in which chapters focusing on the life alternate with ones devoted to some of his best poems and translation. A critical intelligence has been applied both to the man and to the reason we are interested in the man.

The Playful Poetry of Ange Mlinko
“Distant Mandate” channels pain and wisdom through the screwball brilliance of its author.
by Dan Chiasson

A polished, gregarious wit guides Mlinko’s work.Illustration by Eleni Kalorkoti
The American poet Ange Mlinko’s fifth book is “Distant Mandate” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Her title, borrowing a phrase from the writer László Krasznahorkai, refers to art’s primum mobile, its primordial first domino. The drive to create art is a “mandate” so ancient that it should probably by now have expired, and yet when it arrives, still, it is always in a hurry. Mlinko’s readers can easily spot the wit, the elegance, and the play in her poems, but they might miss the urgency, since it is so slyly channelled. 

Tell Me I Belong Here: On Charif Shanahan’s “Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing”
by Natalie Eilbert

“The blackstart is a confident species,” the Wikipedia entry on blackstarts explains, “unafraid of man.” The blackstart also perches on the sturdy lines of Charif Shanahan’s debut poetry collection, Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing. 

Review: 'Whereas,' by Layli Long Soldier
by Elizabeth Hoover

By 1862 a series of unfair treaties and delayed annuity payments had pushed the Dakota Indians in Minnesota to the brink of starvation. Trader Andrew Myrick refused to sell them food on credit, saying if they were hungry they could eat grass. After bands of Dakotas began attacking white settlements along the Minnesota River, Myrick’s body was found, mouth stuffed with grass. In her innovative debut, “Whereas,” poet Layli Long Soldier calls “this act by the Dakota warriors a poem./ There’s irony in their poem./ There was no text.” However, there is no irony to the “straightforward and plainly stated fact” that “The Dakota people starved.”

Richard Wilbur is ninety-six and his contemporaries—Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, John Berryman—have been gone for decades.


Two Versions of Orpheus
Edgar Bowers and Thom Gunn
by Timothy Steele

Thom Gunn once wrote a letter of reference for Edgar Bowers, and he evidently said afterward that the experience made him feel like Philip Sidney recommending Fulke Greville. The story got back to Bowers, who was much amused by it. Those who knew Gunn will recognize the comparison as typical of his charming way of con- necting him and his contemporaries with earlier writers or with characters in his favorite novels and plays. In an autobiographical essay from 1979, ‘‘My Life Up to Now,’’ he reports that when his mother was pregnant with him she read all of Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. ‘‘From her,’’ he says, ‘‘I got the complete implicit idea, from as far back as I can remember, of books as not just a commentary on life but a part of its continuing activity.’’

When Milton met Galileo: the Collision of Cultures that Helped Shape Paradise Lost
A transformative visit to Catholic Florence inspired the Puritan poet to write his epic masterpiece, a BBC documentary reveals
by Jamie Doward

It is an epic poem with a daunting reputation that has struck fear into the hearts of many a student of English literature. Recounting the fall of man, and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Paradise Lost cemented the reputation of its author, the staunchly Protestant poet, John Milton, as one of England’s literary giants. The 10,000-line poem is regarded as one of the defining contributions to the English canon, a work to be mentioned in the same breath as those of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens. But 350 years after its publication, some rather surprising influences on the Puritan imagination of its author have emerged, the result of a little-known journey the poet undertook to the heart of Catholic Italy.

Revision and Revenge        
by Nate Klug

Once, I tried to live the same day twice. My partner was traveling, and I had recently decided to quit my job, without immediate prospects. July in Berkeley: mild-mannered sun, not even the chance of a cloud. The foolishness of bemoaning such consistent niceness was part of my befuddlement. In several languages, the word that came to mean weather originally meant time (“tempestas” in Latin, English’s root for both “tempest” and “temporal”). Changes in the air have long corresponded to, and helped create, the nicks and notches by which people measure their moods. That summer, light on inner and outer weather alike, I hovered halfway over my life, with no notch to fix me in place.

Paradise Lost is an epic poem with a daunting reputation that has struck fear into the hearts of many a student of English literature.

Drafts & Fragments

10 Essential Terms for Poets (and Everyone Else)
by Edward Hirsch


Everybody Hates Portland’s Cigarette Bro-Poet
Oh, and you can buy his book at Powell's.
by Sophia June

A tweet from a Portland Twitter account has gone viral after exposing Instagram posts from a local poet named Collin Yost. The poet frequently posts photos of Courier New poems next to packs of cigarettes. One of his poems simply reads:
 ‘Who hurt him?’ “. . ” ‘ ” Expectation.
Yost currently has a book for sale at Powell's titled A Shot of Whiskey and a Kiss You'll Regret in the Morning, where Twitter user Izzy (@badplantmom) found his book in the small press section, prompting her to craft a Tweet of three of Yosts' poems and the caption: "This guy is a PUBLISHED poet." The Tweet now has more than 2,000 retweets and 8,000 likes, because the internet is a very mean place.

Everyone hates Collin Yost, a Portland poet who frequently posts photos of poems written in Courier New next to packs of cigarettes.

Poetry In the News

John Ashbery, a Singular Poet Whose Influence Was Broad, Dies at 90

John Ashbery, a poet whose teasing, delicate, soulful lines made him one of the most influential figures of late-20th and early-21st-century American literature, died on Sunday at his home in Hudson, N.Y. He was 90.

Palm Springs Pays Poet $30K to Settle Lawsuit over Standing on the Sidewalk

Palm Springs City Hall has paid $30,000 to settle the lawsuit of a street poet who was ticketed two years ago after refusing to leave a sidewalk and arguing with a police officer about free speech. In return for Amy Marschak dropping her suit, City Hall agreed to "take steps to affirm” the rights of street performers, in part by sending a memo to police about those rights, according to the settlement agreement.

John Ashbery, one of the most influential figures of late-20th and early-21st-century American literature, died on Sunday at his home.

New Books

Best American Poetry 2017 edited by Natasha Trethewey 
[Paperback] Scribner, 256 pp., $18.99 

Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner and nineteenth US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, The Best American Poetry 2017 brings together the most notable poems of the year in the series that offers “a vivid snapshot of what a distinguished poet finds exciting, fresh, and memorable” (Robert Pinsky). The Best American Poetry is not just another anthology; it serves as a guide to who’s who and what’s happening in American poetry and is an eagerly awaited publishing event each year. With Trethewey’s insightful touch and genius for plumbing the depths of history and personal experience to shape striking verse, The Best American Poetry 2017 is another brilliant addition to the series.

I Know Your Kind: Poems by William Brewer
[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 88 pp., $15.27 

Selected for the National Poetry Series by Ada Limón, I Know Your Kind is a haunting, blistering debut collection about the American opioid epidemic and poverty in rural Appalachia. In West Virginia, fatal overdoses on opioids have spiked to three times the national average. In these poems, William Brewer demonstrates an immersive, devastating empathy for both the lost and the bereaved, the enabled and the enabler, the addict who knocks late at night and the brother who closes the door. Underneath and among this multiplicity of voices runs the Appalachian landscape―a location, like the experience of drug addiction itself, of stark contrasts: beauty and ruin, nature and industry, love and despair. Uncanny, heartbreaking, and often surreal, I Know Your Kind is an unforgettable elegy for the people and places that have been lost to opioids.

The Complete Poetry of Aimé Césaire: Bilingual Edition translated by Clayton Eshleman and A. James Arnold 
[Hardcover] Wesleyan, 994 pp., $50.00 

The Complete Poetry of Aimé Césaire gathers all of Cesaire’s celebrated verse into one bilingual edition. The French portion is comprised of newly established first editions of Césaire’s poetic œuvre made available in French in 2014 under the title Poésie, Théâtre, Essais et Discours, edited by A. J. Arnold and an international team of specialists. To prepare the English translations, the translators started afresh from this French edition. Included here are translations of first editions of the poet’s early work, prior to political interventions in the texts after 1955, revealing a new understanding of Cesaire’s aesthetic and political trajectory. A truly comprehensive picture of Cesaire’s poetry and poetics is made possible thanks to a thorough set of notes covering variants, historical and cultural references, and recurring figures and structures, a scholarly introduction and a glossary. This book provides a new cornerstone for readers and scholars in 20th century poetry, African diasporic literature, and postcolonial studies.

Collected Poems by Lorna Goodison
[Paperback] Carcanet Press, 622 pp., $29.08

Lorna Goodison is a poet alive to places, from the loved and lived-in world of Jamaica where she began and started a family, to the United States and Canada where she has made her teaching career, but always re-connecting with her Caribbean roots. She travels with an ear alert to histories and voices. How differently English sounds in the tropics and in colder lands, at seaside in sunlight and on prairies, mountains and in cities. The same words say quite different things, depending on who speaks them and who’s listening, obeying or resisting. She covers a wide range of subjects and themes, too. Her instinct is to celebrate being alive in a world that is rich but in peril. ‘And what is the rare quality that has gone out of poetry that these marvellous poems restore?’ asks Derek Walcott. ‘Joy.’ The ‘mango of poetry’, eaten straight from the tree, Goodison somehow finds growing in Wordsworth country and in Sligo, in Russia and Norway, in Spain and Portugal which spilled their empires into the Caribbean, in Cape Town and Far Rockaway.

Zoology by Gillian Clarke
[Paperback] Carcanet Press, 120 pp., $12.95 

Zoology is Gillian Clarke’s ninth Carcanet collection, following her T. S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted Ice. The collection opens with a glimpse of hare, whose "heartbeat halts at the edge of the lawn", holding us "in the planet of its stare". Within this millisecond of mutual arrest, a well of memories draws us into the Welsh landscape of the poet’s childhood: her parents, the threat of war, the richness of nature as experienced by a child. In the second of the collection’s six parts we find ourselves in the Zoology Museum, whose specimens stare back from their cases: the Snowdon rainbow beetle, the marsh fritillary, the golden lion tamarin. "Will we be this beautiful when we pass into the silence, behind glass?" In later sections the poet invites us to Hafod Y Llan, the Snowdonian nature reserve rich in Alpine flowers and abandoned mineshafts, "where darkness laps at the brink of a void deep as cathedrals". 

Best American Poetry 2017 is out and features three poems originally published in Prairie Schooner!


Multiple Effects: An Interview With Erín Moure on Translation
by Rob Mclennan

Over the past decade or so, Erín Moure has become just as well-known for her translation work as for her own writing. She has published sixteen books of poetry, a book of essays, and has translated fifteen volumes of poetry from French, Spanish, Galician, and Portuguese by poets such as Nicole Brossard (with Robert Majzels), Andrés Ajens, Louise Dupré, Rosalía de Castro, Chus Pato, Fernando Pessoa, as well as a chapbook of poems from Ukrainian by Yuri Izdryk (with Roman Ivashkiv). Her work in Canada has received the Governor General’s Award, Pat Lowther Memorial Award, A.M. Klein Prize twice, and has been a three-time finalist for the Griffin Prize. Her latest translations are from the French of François Turcot, My Dinosaur (BookThug, 2016); and from the Galician of Chus Pato, Flesh of Leviathan(Omnidawn, 2016); Rosalía de Castro, New Leaves (Small Stations, 2016); and Antón Lopo; Distance of the Wolf: A Biography of Uxío Novoneyra (Fondación Uxío Novoneyra, 2017). A major retrospective of her poetry, Planetary Noise: Selected Poetry of Erín Moure, edited by Shannon Maguire, appeared in 2017 from Wesleyan University Press. This fall, her translation of Wilson Bueno’s Paraguayan Sea will appear from Nightboat Books, and New Star Books will publish her memorial to a little man, Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots.

Meet the Palestinian Israel Put on Trial for her Poetry
by Orly Noy 

Dareen Tatour has spent over a year and a half under house arrest for publishing a poem on her Facebook page. Since then, she has lost the ability to support herself, and cannot leave the house without a ‘chaperone.’ Orly Noy spoke to Tatour about the difficulty of living under constant surveillance, her love for Hebrew and Arabic poetry, and the need for Jews and Arabs to learn each other’s language. One day in the future, when they write the book on the belligerence and aggression of the State of Israel toward its Arab citizens, the story of Dareen Tatour — who has been under house arrest for nearly two years, including three months of jail time — will have its own special chapter dedicated to it.

A Lifetime in Poetry: Marvin Bell on Iowa and the “Dead Man” Poems
by Loren Glass 

Marvin Bell likes the word “geezer.” As he told me, “It’s hard not to like a word that contains a ‘z.’ It has pizzazz. Doesn’t everyone want to go to Zanzibar? The word ‘geezer’ feels to me joyful and modest.” Indeed, for someone who’s published 24 books, appeared in innumerable anthologies, and mentored generations of poets, Bell is a surprisingly modest man. He calls poetry a “survival skill,” and it seems to have served him well. At 80, he remains active as both poet and teacher. 

How The U.S. Poet Laureate Finds Poetry In Justin Bieber
by Greta Johnson and Tricia Bobeda

As the 22nd United States Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith wants to make poetry more accessible to people across the country. But just how accessible can poems be? We put Tracy to the ultimate test by having her analyze this summer’s hottest hit, “Despacito” featuring Justin Bieber.

Over the past decade or so, Erín Moure has become just as well-known for her translation work as for her own writing.

Envoi: Editor’s Notes


John Ashbery is dead. Although my personal preferences were for others in his cohort—such as Wilbur and Merwin— I recognize and marvel at his Stevensian delight in language. An early poem of his hints at what was to come:  


John Ashbery

These are amazing: each 
Joining a neighbor, as though speech 
Were a still performance. 
Arranging by chance

To meet as far this morning 
From the world as agreeing 
With it, you and I 
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are: 
That their merely being there 
Means something; that soon 
We may touch, love, explain.

And glad not to have invented 
Such comeliness, we are surrounded: 
A silence already filled with noises, 
A canvas on which emerges

A chorus of smiles, a winter morning. 
Placed in a puzzling light, and moving, 
Our days put on such reticence 
These accents seem their own defense.

"A chorus of smiles," indeed.

“A chorus of smiles, a winter morning. / Placed in a puzzling light” – John Ashbery