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Poetry News In Review

April 16, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1648 – John Luyken, poet/etcher (Duytse Lyre), is born.

1661 – Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax, British poet and statesman (d. 1715), is born.
1816 – Leading Romantic Age poet Lord Byron signs Deed of Separation dissolving his marriage with Lady Byron at her request after 1 year of marriage.

1827 – Octave Crémazie, French Canadian poet (d. 1879), is born.
1871 – John Millington Synge, Ireland, dramatist/poet (Riders to the Sea), is born.
1899 – Emilio Jacinto, Filipino poet and revolutionary (b 1875), dies.
1904 – Maximilian Kronberger, German poet (b. 1888), dies.

1935 – Sarah Kirsch, German poet, is born.


Poor things. They must set out for town.

A few will be allowed to return later.

But most of them are still hanging around out there.

Who knows what will become of them. Before they

Find their peace.


—from "Free Verses" by Sarah Kirsch

World Poetry

Hispanic Poetry in Egypt

Poems by Pablo Neruda, Federico García Lorca, Jorge Luis Borges and other Spanish language poets are being presented to Egyptian audiences at recitals this Tuesday (9th) and Wednesday (10th) in Cairo. The verses have been translated directly from Spanish into Arabic by students from five Egyptian universities. Read more at Brazil-Arab News Agency.

Council Meeting Begins with Poetry Greeting

Monday’s city council meeting began with a poetry reading. Jessy Lee Saas, 16, from Moose Jaw read her poem Shoeless at council following an invitation from the city. The city invited Saas as part of Regina Mayor Michael Fougere’s poetry challenge to have councils across the country to have a poetry reading in a meeting in March or April. Read more at the Moose Jaw Times.

Finalists Announced in Lucrative Griffin Poetry Prize

Seven finalists in two divisions — International and Canadian — of the prestigious annual Griffin Poetry Prize were announced in Toronto Monday after the three-person jury selected them from 509 volumes of poetry published in 40 countries, including 15 translations. With a purse of $65,000 for each of the division winners, the Griffin is among the most prestigious and lucrative poetry awards in the world. Read more at The Star.

Recent Reviews

Heart’s Desire

by William Logan

Carol Ann Duffy, the British poet laureate, is almost unknown in this country, which makes her no worse off than blood pudding, haggis or Marmite. Britain and America are no longer divided by a common tongue — for 50 years or more, we have been listening to British music, watching British television and welcoming British writers as warmly as we once welcomed Dickens. Still, most poets don’t travel well; apart from an oddity like Seamus Heaney or Derek Walcott, poets are rarely known outside their home countries (worse, they’re rarely known outside their hometowns). Read more at the New York Times.

'The Best of the Best American Poetry': An Embarrassment of Riches

By David L. Ulin

I’ve got mixed feelings about National Poetry Month — not because I don’t love poetry but because I do. If you ask me, every month should be poetry month, and the idea of setting one apart feels a bit like cultural condescension, as if we were paying lip service to an art that we all know ought to be important, even though, deep down, we fear it’s not. Read more at the LA Times.

Review: 'New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012' by Charles Simic

By Michael Robbins

How to write a Charles Simic poem: Go to a café. Wait for something weird to happen. Record mouse activity. Repeat as necessary. (For "mouse," feel free to substitute "cat," "roach," "rat," "chicken," "donkey," etc.) Born in Belgrade, Simic emigrated to the United States in 1954. He inherited the uncanny sensibility of Kafka, Bruno Schulz, Vasko Popa and other pale Quixotes whose chivalric romances were flyspecked bulbs illuminating empty cupboards. From the '60s through, say, the late '80s, Simic could summon a creepy malaise, made somehow creepier by his matter-of-fact tone, straightforward syntax and plain language. Read more at the Chicago Tribune.


On Poetry: Poetry Geezers Write about Lives

by Fleda Brown 

April is National Poetry Month. And Sydney Lea and I, two poetry-geezers if there ever were, are launching our e-book of essays, Growing Old in Poetry: Two Poets, Two Lives. E-Book? Autumn House Books (Pittsburgh, PA) has decided to offer it EXCLUSIVELY in this format — an experiment for them — which is kind of interesting, since we’re the geezers. We write about that a bit in the book. Read more at the Record-Eagle.

Adaptations in Bengali Poetry

by Sarah Dowling 

I was first introduced to Bengali poetry when I received a small book coauthored by Aryanil Mukherjee and Pat Clifford. Titled chaturangik/SQUARES, and published in Goa by CinnamonTeal, this book uses the game of chess to bring together two languages, English and Bangla. Each page renders nine squares of the chessboard with one outlined in black — if you flip through the pages this outlined square progresses across the board in accordance with the rules of the game. In this way, the book suggests its inspiration by the renowned director Satyajit Ray’s 1977 classic The Chess Players. One of the film’s plotlines features two chess-loving noblemen, Mirza Sajjad Ali and Meer Roshan Ali, who retreat to a small town where they can continue to play their beloved game of shatranj (chess) unaffected by the turmoil of the British overthrow of Lucknow, India. Read more at Jacket 2.


Drafts & Framents

Hipster Kitchen Eats Poetry for Breakfast

by Clare Dougan 

April is National Poetry Month. Here at Hipster Kitchen, this is a big deal, as only food can contend with literature in the contest for my Absolute Favorite Thing Ever. But what better way to reconcile these two loves than to combine them? This week, I’ve assembled a brief collection ––  a tasting menu, if you will –– of my favorite food- and feast-related poems. Bon appetit, dear readers. Read more at the Cornell Sun.

Poetry In The News

Thomas Hardy's Musical Manuscript Poem Sold for £5,000

A manuscript on which Thomas Hardy set one of his poems to music has been sold for £5,000 at auction. The 16-bar melody in D Major is believed to be the only musical manuscript in the Dorset writer's own hand still to exist. The poem "O, I won't lead a homely life" was written in pencil below the score, though to an old folk tune. A spokesman at Bonhams auctioneers in London said it was bought by an overseas collector. The manuscript, dating from 1922, had been sold by a private owner and did not quite reach its guide price of £6,000. The spokesman said although it meant the manuscript would be leaving the country, it also showed "the international appeal of Hardy". Read more at the BBC.

Penned in Wales, Original Poem Manuscript by Beat Generation Pioneer Sells for Thousands

The original manuscript of a poem considered a key part of Wales’ literary heritage has gone under the hammer for more than £3,000. Wales Visitation was penned by Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the American Beat Generation,  during a trip to Capel-y-ffin in the Black Mountains in the 1960s. Read more at Wales on Line.

Meredith’s Poem Remains Poignant Tribute to ‘Thresher’ Crew

Along with a Pulitzer Prize, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a National Book Award, the late Montville poet William Meredith also was known for his bravery as a Navy aviator. He was awarded two Air Medals and flew missions in World War II and the Korean War — landing 32 of them at night on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Among the several books of poetry published during his lifetime was a 1964 collection called "The Wreck of the 'Thresher'"and Other Poems. Meredith's Navy service inspired many of the works in the compilation; the title piece is a reflection on the 1963 loss, in deep-diving exercises in the North Atlantic, of the nuclear submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593). Red more at The Day.

New Books

Grains of the Voice: Poems by Christina Pugh

[Paperback] Triquarterly, 96 pp., $16.95

Christina Pugh’s Grains of the Voice exhibits a pervasive fascination with sound in all its manifestations. The human voice, musical instruments, the sounds produced by the natural and man-made worlds—all serve at one time or another as both the framework of poems and the occasion for their lightning-quick changes of direction, of tone, of point of reference. The poems are eclectic in their allusiveness, filled with echoes—and sometimes the words themselves—of other poets, but just as often of songs both popular and obscure, of the noise of pop culture, and of philosophers’ writings. 

The Loving Detail of the Living & the Dead by Eleni Sikelianos 

[Paperback] Coffee House Press, 124 pp., $15.95

"Sikelianos, the great-granddaughter of a renowned Greek poet, continues her own explorations of the epic with this dazzling new macro-collage. The resulting lucid cacophony is close to what she described in her earlier work The Book of Jon, ‘enough pipe-dreams to fill up several countries, countries full of pipe-dreamers.’ Hers is a voice, or voices, unlike anything in contemporary poetry.”—John Ashbery

Mezzanines by Matthew Olzmann 

[Paperback] Alice James Books, 80 pp., $15.95

There is no place Matthew Olzmann doesn’t visit in his poignant debut. From underwater to outer space, Mezzanines is a contained universe, constantly shifting through multiple perceptions of the surreal and the real. A lyrical conversation with mortality, Olzmann explores identity, faith, and our sense of place, with an acute awareness of our minute existence.

My Life in Heaven by Mary Ann Samyn 

[Paperback] Oberlin College Press, 104 pp., $15.95

My Life in Heaven, the 2012 FIELD Poetry Prize winner, is "striking in its subtlety, complexity, and utterly distinctive voice," according to the prize judges David Young and David Walker. These moment-to-moment explorations of intimacy's intricacies use the power of the poetic line to illuminate the relationship of self to the beloved, nature, and the divine. This is a book of love poems, romancing the line between self and other.


Poems in the Public Square: Jen Benka

by John Deming

Jen Benka opens her latest poetry book, Pinko, with these lines: “push the needle of the pen burning sensation / then pour grief in // there are many kinds of loss.” The lines underscore a theme that has coursed through Benka’s entire professional career: that language can be transformative. The former Managing Director of Poets & Writers, she was named Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets last year. She brings 25 years of non-profit experience to the Academy. Her life in the service sector has also coincided with the publication of two volumes of politically active poetry–Pinko, and her first book, A Box of Longing With 50 Drawers, which contained a poem named for every word in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Her poetry has always featured uncompromising social conscience, and six months into her tenure at the Academy, she is finding new ways to bring poetry to the public. We met up one morning at the AWP Conference in Boston to discuss her new job and the Academy’s plans for National Poetry Month 2013. Read more at Coldfront.

National Poetry Month Emerging Poet Spotlight: Interview with Lynn Xu, Author of Debts and Lessons

by Anis Shivani

Lynn Xu's debut book of poetry, Debts & Lessons, has just appeared (April 1) from the always terrific Omnidawn Publishing. Together with Robyn Schiff, Nick Twemlow, and Joshua Edwards, Lynn edits Canarium Books. My interview with Lynn follows, but first, here's one of my favorite poems from the book, "For Frank O'Hara," from the "Lullabies" section: "Dear Frank. I am writing you a letter with nowhere to send it. We've taken a room in San Felipe, on the Calle de los Claveles. Separating the bedrooms are fifteen paces covering the length of our courtyard. Purple jacarandas seesaw above us and in the street, blouses dissolve like lozenges to release the natural color. At night we are carried out with our noses missing. Darkness spreads from person to person. Black hills outstretch the rugged profile of the soil." Read more at the Huffington Post.

Crashaw Prize The Shortlist in Profile: Lauren Levin

by Chris Hamilton-Emery

I grew up in New Orleans and live in Oakland now, with my partner, Tony Valadez – it’s the fourth city we’ve lived in together, after New York, Iowa City, and Houston. I have ties to an imaginary New Orleans that inform the way I try to understand Oakland – feeling torn and partial but also loving both places.  I hold onto lines through time and language that connect me to people who are in the world with me, to those who are leaving, to those yet to come. I have a funny feeling because I’ve spent the last couple years trying to work on more collective projects – collective editing and curating, learning about my own interests, about the local landscape, about how to accomplish things together. Read more at Salted.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: William Meredith

"We have all had the experience of fighting a work of art because it was not doing what we were asking of it. John Ashbery said in an interview: 'My feeling is that a poem that communicates something that's already known to the reader is not really communicating anything to him and in fact shows a lack of respect for him.'  Since what is communicated in a work of art is also how it is communicated, a false expectation is almost certain to produce a false reading. And often we confirm this by the happy surprise that comes when a work we had been defeated by suddenly opens itself to us--we find that it performs very well the job of work which was its reason, once we stop asking it to perform some other service which was no part of its intention. . . . Whatever a poem is up to, it requires our trust along with our consent to let it try to change our way of thinking and feeling. Nothing without this risk. I expect hang gliding must be like poetry. Once you get used to it, you can't imagine not wanting the scare of it. But it's more serious than hang gliding. Poetry is the safest known mode of human risk. You risk only staying alive."  See more at Poets. org.

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Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Norman MacCaig
Ezra Pound
Robert Bridges
Robert Herrick
Nicanor Parra
John Betjeman
Mary Jo Salter
Rosario Castellanos
Anne Hebert
Ahmad Shamlou
Donald Davie
Kenneth Fearing
Geoffrey Hill
Sandro Penna
Juan Ramon Jimenez
Julia Randall
Emily Dickinson
Gary Snyder
Yannis Ritsos
Robert Penn Warren
Aime Cesaire
Bella Akhmadulina
George Herbert
Louis Simpson
Gerard Malanga
Mahmoud Darwish
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Kostis Palama
A.M. Klein
David Ignatow
Langston Hughes
Carriera Duke
Jon Stallworthy