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Poetry News In Review

April 23, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

990 – Ekkehart II, [Palatinus], monk to St-Gallen/poet, dies.

1516 – Georg Fabricius, German poet, historian, and archaeologist (d. 1571), is born.

1616 – William Shakespeare, English poet and playwright (b. 1564) (Julian calendar) dies aged 52.

1695 – Henry Vaughan, poet (Silex Scintillans), dies at 72.

1708 – Friedrich von Hagedorn, German poet (Versuch einiger Poem), is born.

1740 – Thomas Tickell, poet, is born.
1850 – William Wordsworth, poet, dies at 80.

1852 – Edwin Markham, US, poet (1st winner of American Acad of Poets Award 1937), is born.

1915 – Rupert Chawner Brooke, English poet (Lithuania), dies at 27.

1923 – James Kirkup, travel writer/poet/novelist (African in Greenland), is born.

1928 – Okke Jager, Dutch theologist/writer/poet, is born.

1972 – Pierre Labrie, Canadian poet, is born.

1993 – Bertus Aafjes, poet/writer (World is a Muze), dies at 78.


That time when all is over, and

Hand never flinches, brushing hand;

And blood lies quiet, for all you're near;

And it's but spoken words we hear,

Where trumpets sang; when the mere skies

Are stranger and nobler than your eyes;

And flesh is flesh, was flame before;

And infinite hungers leap no more

In the chance swaying of your dress;

And love has changed to kindliness. 


—from “And love has changed to kindliness” by Rupert Brooke, 1887–1915

World Poetry

New Baudelaire Self-portrait Illuminates Face of Dark Poet

The discovery of a lost self-portrait of Charles Baudelaire has rekindled interest in the 19th century French poet, revealing a lighter, painterly side to a literary "enfant terrible" known for his dark, erotic poetry. Read more at Reuters.

Recent Reviews

Three Books: An Exchange

Carmine Starnino's Lazy Bastardism, Glyn Maxwell's On Poetry, and Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey.

by Michael Lista and Ange Mlinko and Gwenyth Lewis 

MICHAEL LISTA: Every Canadian poet has an opinion of Carmine Starnino, and yet his detractors dislike him precisely because he has opinions. When it comes to aesthetics — or at least as they pertain to poetry — Canadians are still Victorians: opinions are fine and all, but they’re best kept buried deep within the whalebone corset. Read more at the Poetry Foundation.

“The Virtues of Poetry” — Fascinating But Frustrating

by Susan de Sola Rodstein

The title of James Longenbach’s new collection of essays, The Virtues of Poetry, gives pause. “Virtue” is a daringly old-fashioned word, aligned with moral judgment, goodness, and right behavior. It seems to promise none of the challenge, transgression, sensualism, or irony associated with current poetic values—more like a list of Seven Deadly Sins than Seven Heavenly Virtues. Expectations of a classical taxonomy are quickly dispelled. The essay titles (“The Various Light,” “Best Thought,” “The Visible Core,” for example) give us no clue that each will be largely devoted to the analysis of several canonical poets. The approach is empirical. Read more at Arts Fuse.

Other Labyrinths

by Daisy Fried  

Anne Carson has a history of doing unpredictable and genre-crossing things. A classical scholar who came late to poetry, she rose, in the ’90s and ’00s, quickly and deservedly, to prominence. Many readers (including me) first knew her through “The Glass Essay,” a 38-page multipart lyric narrative in 1995’s “Glass, Irony and God.” The poem is an inspired mash-up: a confessional-style “I” recounts a breakup with a lover and a visit to an aged mother while considering the life and writings of Emily Brontë and reporting on her surrealist visions of nudes. The yoking of disparates, the old and the new, continues to be a Carson strategy. Read more at the New York Times.


Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America

Imagining a renewed role for poetry in the national discourse — and a new canon

By Tony Hoagland

What went wrong? Somehow, we blew it. We never quite got poetry inside the American school system, and thus, never quite inside the culture. Many brave people have tried, tried for decades, are surely still trying. The most recent watermark of their success was the introduction of Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg and some e.e. cummings, of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “In a Station of the Metro” — this last poem ponderously explained, but at least clean and classical, as quick as an inoculation. Read more at Harpers.

A Poem for Boston

by Dan Chiasson

Yesterday’s tragic events in Boston left many without limbs and some without their loved ones, so now is not the time for eloquence. But at times of tragedy, the mind goes to certain favored zones; mine goes automatically to poetry. Certainly there are great poems about the city of Boston and about tragic explosions but none of those feel suited to this moment; nor do any of the countless poems written after 9/11. I can think of one poem that feels right for this moment (readers will help me think of others, I am sure)—but first I need to say what kind of moment this is, for me. Read more at the New Yorker.

Poet-think: 'Is this too loud, too soft, am I going on too long?'

by Reed Johnson

When John Freeman, the editor of Granta, was setting up Sunday morning’s panel discussion on “The Art of the Poetic Line,” he related an anecdote about an exchange between Billy Collins, the former U.S. poet laureate, and Richard Ford, the novelist. How come you novelists get all the credit and all the money, Collins supposedly asked Ford. “It’s really hard, Billy,” Ford replied. “You’ve got to write all the way to end of the page, and all the way down.” Read more at the LA Times.

Pablo Neruda's Importance Was as Much Political as Poetic

by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

On 22 September 1973, Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda – whom Gabriel García Márquez dubbed "the greatest poet of the 20th century" – received some visitors at the Santa María hospital in Chile's capital Santiago. Among them were Sweden's ambassador Harald Edelstam and the Mexican ambassador Gonzalo Martínez Corbala, offering a plane to fly Neruda and his wife Matilde into exile. We know about their conversation thanks to as yet unpublished documents at the National Archive in Sweden. Edelstam asserts he found the poet "very ill" though still willing to travel to Mexico. In a memo sent to his superiors, Edelstam observes: "In his last hours [Neruda] either didn't know or didn't recognize he suffered a terminal illness. He complained that rheumatism made it impossible to move his arms and legs. When we visited him, Neruda was preparing as best he could to travel … to Mexico. There, he would make a public declaration against the military regime." Read more at the Guardian.

Drafts & Framents

In Case You've Never Read "The Wall,"

The Sonnet Donald Justice Wrote to Get Into Berryman's Workshop at Iowa...

 ...well, here it is.  Read more at Intimate, Low-voiced, Delicate Things.

Meet America's Poets Laureate, Past And Present

To celebrate National Poetry Month this April, NPR Books reached into the archives for some interviews with the nation's official poets. Poets Laureate past and present have revealed their eloquence and insight in these interviews, where they discuss their inspirations, their heart-breaking memories, their confrontations with aging — and, in the case of Ted Kooser, how his wife felt about his thousands of Valentines. Read more at NPR.

O, Miami's Pin Up Pop Up Poetry Exhibit Melds Graffiti and Verse

by Travis Cohen 

Poetry is cool shit. It's closely connected to images of a sensitive manly man or a powerful lady heroine, and everybody wants to feel like a hero at some point in the day. And it's at that time of day that O, Miami's ongoing Pin Up Pop Up Poetry event should interest you, because this event is all about making poets out of the whole community. Read more at Miami New Times.

Poetry In The News

On the Train, or at the Laundromat, Your Poem Begins … Now

New York City is invited to a poetry reading. There is no velvet rope to traverse, no waiting in line and no entrance fee. Instead, the poets take their works to New Yorkers: on trains and ferries, in stores, on the street, and in parks and laundromats. The poets call themselves, appropriately enough, Poets in Unexpected Places. Read more at the New York Times.

'Def Poetry Jam' Star Javon Johnson Brings Laughs To The LAT Festival Of Books

Those lucky enough to walk past or be near the University of Southern California stage during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Saturday experienced not only music, but the spoken word stylings of poet-professor Javon Johnson. And it was not your typical performance. Before the two-time National Poetry Slam champion, as seen on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, began, he urged audience members to clap, cheer, and high-five their friends if they agreed with what they heard. And they did. Read more at LAist.

New Books

The First Flag by Sarah Fox 

[Paperback] Coffee House Press, 180 pp., $15.95

"The First Flag is an extremely complex and ambitious book, one that cuts through the dead-serious “playfulness” and studied poses of much other experimental poetry. It is a book fashioned from the quick and the dead, the raw and the cooked. In it, Sarah Fox has created something profoundly daring, unique, unsettling, and beautiful."—Tarpaulin Sky Press

Inter Arma by Lauren Shufran 

[Paperback] Fence Books, 88 pp., $15.95

This debut collection takes its title from a maxim of Cicero’s that, translated loosely as “In times of war the law falls silent,” has been effective in recent discourse around the erosion of citizens’ rights. Lauren Shufran employs a sprightly, activated boot-camp cadence in her metrically rigorous poems to look closely at the uncomfortable positions our military interventions put us in.

Sing This One Back to Me by Bob Holman 

[Paperback] Coffee House Press, 164 pp., $16.95

Starting with Bob Holman's transcription of the griot poems sung to him by West African legend Papa Susso, Holman builds on that oral tradition to share his own intimate history.

The Glacier's Wake: Poems by Katy Didden 

[Paperback] Louisiana State University Press, 92 pp., $17.95

In her debut poetry collection The Glacier’s Wake, Katy Didden attends to the large-scale tectonics of the natural world as she considers the sources and aftershocks of mortality, longing, and loss. A number of the poems in the collection are monologues in recurring voices specifically those of a glacier, a sycamore, and a wasp offering an inventive, prismatic approach to Didden’s ambitious subject matter. 

The Divine Comedy translated by Clive James

 [Hardcover] Liveright, 560 pp., $29.95

“This is the translation that many of us had abandoned all hope of finding. Clive James's version is the only one that conveys Dante’s variety, depth, subtlety, vigor, wit, clarity, mystery and awe in rhymed English stanzas that convey the music of Dante’s triple rhymes. This book lets Dante’s genius shine through as it never did before in English verse, and is a reminder that James’s poetry has always been his finest work.” —Edward Mendelson


Christian Wiman Changes his Meter

by Heidi Stevens

In the first chapter of "My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer," a book Christian Wiman wrote in the wake of a bone marrow transplant to treat his incurable blood cancer, he introduces us to his longings. "What I crave at this point in my life," he writes, "is to speak more clearly what it is that I believe." Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

Interview with Keston Sutherland 

by Natalie Ferris

We met on a steely day in Sutherland’s hometown, Brighton, where he is Reader in English at the University of Sussex. What follows is an edited version of a spooling conversation, ranging from ‘Enron to Xbox’ and back again, occasioned by the upcoming publication of his newest collection The Odes to TL61P (Enitharmon Press, April 2013). A poetry of unworkable postures and melodic germination, made famous by his astonishingly energetic readings (now widely available on Youtube), Sutherland rose to international eminence with the publication of a special edition of the Chicago Review in 2007, positioning his work alongside that of Andrea Brady, Chris Goode, Simon Jarvis and Peter Manson, and forming a major reconsideration of the field of contemporary poetry in Britain today. Read more at The White Review.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Donald Justice

"Sincerity [not in life but in art] is saying what the form obliges you to say regardless of whether or not you believe in it. A more humane version of this, on which has been proposed by several modern critics in other contexts, is discovering what you mean by or in the act of saying it. The poet--the sincere poet-- becomes a performer, a charlatan, a great pretender; art is artifice. What he has to be sincere about is his art. The idea of depersonalization of the artist--appropriated by Eliot from the French--seems to be a by-product of this attitude. At last it would appear that the private life of the poet has ceased to matter."

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