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Poetry News In Review

April 24, 2012

Poetry News In Review

Edited By David Sanders

Specimen Days

April 24, 2012

1530 – Jacopo Sannazaro, Italian poet (De partu Virginis), dies
1815 – Anthony Trollope, England, novelist/poet (Barchester Towers)
, is born.
1845 – Carl Spitteler, Switz, poet (Prometheus & Epimetheus; Nobel 1919)
, is born.
1852 – Vasily Zhukovsky, Russian poet (b. 1783), is born.
1905 – Robert Penn Warren, 1st US poet laureate (All the King's Men), is born.

Robert Penn Warren

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse. I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

—from “Tell Me a Story” by Robert Penn Warren, 1905–1989

World Poetry

Last Book of Late Polish Poet Wislawa Szymborska Hits Stores in Poland

A book of poetry by the late Nobel-winning Wislawa Szymborska hit bookstores in Poland on Friday and it sold out in several shops. The slim beige hardcover titled “Wystarczy” — or “That’s Enough” — was intended by Szymborska to be her last, as the title suggests. It contains 13 edited poems she had prepared for publication. The book also has copies of several unedited poems, in microscopic handwriting and a few corrections, that Szymborska was still working on when she died on Feb. 1 of lung cancer at age 88. Read more at the Washington Post.

Pear Tree to Mark Dylan Poem Walk

The granddaughter of poet Dylan Thomas planted a tree in Laugharne is memory of one of his poems last week. Laugharne, the home of the celebrated poet and author of Under Milk Wood, is also the subject of his 1944 work "Poem in October" about a walk on his 30th birthday. A two-mile coastal interpretative walk, called the Dylan Thomas Birthday Walk, has been created by local councillor Bob Stevens of nearby Salthouse Farm, based on the work. Last Friday, Hannah Ellis, the granddaughter of Dylan, took part in the walk, planting a pear tree along part of it. read more at This is South Wales.

Recent Reviews

Among the Tufted Canes: Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry

by James Longenbach
Poetry, said Robert Frost, is what is lost in translation. Consider the opposite formulation: poetry is what is produced by translation. While what is lost would be an indefinable essence, related mysteriously to the language that conveys it, what is produced would inhere in the material fact of language on the page—its rhythm, its sonority. No two poems sound exactly alike, but a good translation produces poetry by taking advantage of the tonal and rhetorical opportunities afforded by the language at hand. Read more at The Nation.

The Last Book of Poetry I Loved, The Living Fire

by Rimas Uzgiris
I had read the book months ago. And then, standing in front of Edward Hopper’s “The House by the Railroad” at the Museum of Modern Art, I found myself trying to explain to a tango-friend from South Africa why this painting—one she wanted to walk past without more than a cursory glance—was important. I wished Edward Hirsch’s book, The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems, had still been in my bag. His poem “Edward Hopper and the House by the Railroad” gets so much right about the painting, and so much right about the artist as well. Read more at The Rumpus.

Death and Life: Thomas Lynch's Argyle Poems
Thomas Lynch

by Maryann Corbett
A reviewer once described the writer Thomas Lynch as a cross between Garrison Keillor and William Butler Yeats. I’ll say more later about the Yeats genes in this hybrid cross. But the comparison with Keillor is apt: both men are big, bearded, jowly and affable in performance. And the writing that comes out of Lynch’s meditations on death and life—several books of poetry, essay collections that have won national honors, and a collection of fiction—all of that is now a settled institution, like A Prairie Home Companion, the mythical Lake Wobegon, and the real Milford, Michigan, where Lynch’s family owns and operates his town’s only funeral home. Read more at Berfrois.


Did Anne Sexton's Therapist Help Her Poetry?

by Susan K. Perry
The tapes of poet Anne Sexton's lengthy therapy were first released by her psychiatrist to biographer Diane Middlebrook years after Sexton's suicide in 1974. Naturally, there was anuproar within and outside the psychoanalytic community. Middlebrook's biography was published in 1991. Now we have a new book based on those tapes: An Accident of Hope: The Therapy Tapes of Anne Sexton by Dawn M. Skorczewski, Ph.D. Read more at Psychology Today.

Louise Glück: American Poetry's "Silent Soldier"
Louise Gluck

by David Godkin
There’s a moment in Proofs and Theories: Essays on Poetry (Ecco, 1994) when Louise Glück describes her father’s decision not to become a writer; Daniel Glück lacked, she writes, “the adamant need which makes it possible to ensure every form of failure: the humiliation of being overlooked, the humiliation of being found moderately interesting, the unanswerable fear of doing work that, in the end, really isn’t more than moderately interesting.” Even well established writers will recognize that fear as their own. Read more at Speaking of Poems.

Why We Wear Masks

Three Contemporary Women Writers and Their Use of the Persona Poem
by Jeannine Hall Gailey
Persona poetry offers contemporary writers opportunities for imagination, empathy, and to undermine expectation and surprise both the reader and the writer with the insights gained from writing under an assumed “mask.” In this essay, I’ll discuss the uses of the persona poem, examine the use of the persona poem by contemporary poets Margaret Atwood, Lucille Clifton and Louise Glück, and discuss why these poets might use the persona as a means of examining their own struggles to subvert a still-patriarchal hierarchical society. I will discuss which characters they choose as speakers, and why the writers might choose those characters and examine how they rewrite well-established narratives to illuminate previously ignored details and characters. Read more at Poemeleon.

Drafts & Fragments

Poetry Parnassus – the full list of poets

204 poets from across the world are taking part in the Poetry Parnassus in London as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Here is the list of poets taking part [Seamus Heaney from Ireland; Kay Ryan from the US] and the countries still looking to be represented.

Book Spine Poetry vol. 1: The Future
Book Spine Poem

by Maria Popova
It’s National Poetry Month and, inspired by Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Booksproject, I decided to have a little fun with some of my favorite books. Here’s a short, and somewhat dystopian, book spine poem: “I live in the future and here’s how it works: People waste and want everything in pursuit of the unknown.”

Poetry In The News

Poetry in Motion
Jorie Graham

"... Harvard, sometimes anxious about its role as a leader in American art, truly got it right when it came to poetry. From its early days to the present moment — but most astonishingly throughout the whole 20th century — Harvard has made a truly unequaled contribution to American poetry,” said Jorie Graham, herself a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. Graham is leading a celebration of Harvard’s lyrical nursery by presenting a communal recitation of poetry titled “Over the Centuries: Poetry at Harvard (A Love Story)” on April 29. Read more at the Harvard Gazette.

Chalk Movement Brings Haiku to the Streets of N.J.

Searching for inspiration on the streets of Orange, Gamal Jones spotted an old, cast-off mirror leaning against a house. His imagination immediately caught fire. Surely, there were words to convey both a sense of history and hope one could see when looking at their own reflection. The 25-year-old East Orange resident pulled out a piece of chalk and scrawled a three-line poem. Read more at nj.com.

Following a Poetic Trail

For all the talk about Chicago having a “second city” complex, Chicago has always shined in the realm of performance poetry. Writing about that scene as I did in this week’s On The Town section took a little detective work. Some of these poets and communities were hard to find because they didn’t have fleshed out websites or buildings with addresses in the phone book, and it was important to me that the story not focus exclusively on the founders of performance poetry who have already been well covered by journalists. Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

New Books

Little Murders Everywhere by Rebecca Morgan Frank
Little Murders Everywhere

[Paperback] Salmon Poetry, 88 pp., $21.95
This lyrical chorus of elegies tracks a contemporary city dweller's observations of a decaying world ripe with miscommunications and the pecadillos and pitfalls of interpersonal relationships. Through wry laments for love lost, addresses to imagined ghostly figures ranging from Edna St Vincent Millay to a local carnival act who drives nails into his face, and a series of contemporary sonnets for every day "sins" such as gossip, bossiness, and lying, the central speaker grapples with the physical demise of the natural and manmade world.

The Banjo Clock: Poems by Karen Garthe

[Paperback] University of California Press, 96 pp., $21.95
For Karen Garthe, poetry is a Molotov cocktail. A master of radical invention, Garthe combines brio of conception with linguistic virtuosity, bringing language to new life from the inside at breakneck speed. The Banjo Clock, her second collection, cultivates a luxuriant sensibility even as it interrupts poetic continuity with cuts, ironies, sharp wit, and wild recklessness. In poems that consider poetry itself, Garthe writes about preparing the medium, the ink, "the motion of new utility." She then turns to America's psychic maladies and the need to rehabilitate our democracy, now floundering in the glare of TV's blue depressive light.

Wishbone by Don Share

[Paperback] Black Sparrow Press, 80 pp., $17.95
What strikes a reader first encountering Don Share's work is the electric energy of his lines, their contemporary music and movement. Reading Wishbone, Share's third book, is akin to picking up the one clear station still transmitting, the frenetic static of the world replaced by a strong signal broadcast. Share's poems are contrapuntal ripostes to the Babel of the present, a voice not above the noise, but speaking from its midst in a self-possessed language that muscles a new way into meaning. The poems take place in America's backyards and byways, intensive care rooms and airports, haunted by fathers and Fathers, informed by philosophy, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and pop culture.

Place: New Poems by Jorie Graham

[Paperback] Ecco, 96 pp., $15.99
In Place, Graham explores the ways in which our imagination, intuition, and experience—increasingly devalued by a culture that regards them as "mere" subjectivity—aid us in navigating a world moving blindly towards its own annihilation and a political reality where the human person and its dignity are increasingly disposable. Throughout, Graham seeks out sites of wakeful resistance and achieved presence. From the natural world to human sensation, the poems test the unstable congeries of the self, and the creative tensions that exist within and between our inner and outer landscapes—particularly as these are shaped by language.


Simon Armitage On Why Poetry Is 'Unkillable' (VIDEO)
Simon Armitage

by Sam Parker
Sat at a poetry reading in church in Laugharne, the small town in South Wales famous for being the home of Dylan Thomas, it's hard to think of a writer better suited to the bill than Simon Armitage. After all, like Thomas, Armitage knows a thing or two about being synonymous in people's minds with a particular part of rural England. His deep association with West Yorkshire is betrayed not only by his poetry (and accent) but his decision, as one of Britain's most successful modern poets, to stay there, living and writing in the environment that first inspired him. Read more at the Huffington Post.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Larkin v. the Gray Lady

by Mark Liberman
Michiko Kakutani, "A Master of Verse Spreads Bad Cheer", NYT 4/9/2012:
Many American readers know Larkin chiefly from his more darkly funny lines: “Sexual intercourse began/In nineteen sixty-three/(Which was rather late for me) —/Between the end of the ‘Chatterley’ ban/And the Beatles’ first LP” (from “Annus Mirabilis”). Or: They mess you up, “your mum and dad./They may not mean to, but they do./ They fill you with the faults they had/And add some extra, just for you” (from “This Be The Verse”). Read more at Language Log.

I don't have much to add to what Mark Liberman says in this post regarding the Times' decision to change the wording of Larkin's most well-known poem to "They mess you up, 'your mum and dad.'" The bowdlerization is more than quaint; it's a perverted sensibility that calls attention to what's unsaid for the sake of propriety. It is exacerbated by the headline for the full review by Paul Muldoon in the most recent Sunday Book Review, which plays off this very poem on the front page of the supplement: "This Be the Verses." All of it becomes a tittering inside joke. I'm not sure whose sensibilites are being protected by this approach to poetry (do we really have to worry about nine-year-olds reading Larkin under the covers?), but I, for one, take offense. Who the mess do they think they are?

—David Sanders

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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