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Poetry News In Review

April 28, 2017
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1882—Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet (Representive Men), dies of pneumonia at 78.
1904—Cecil Day Lewis, Irish poet (British Poet Laureate 1968-72), is born.
1904—Ragnar Skrede, Norwegian poet (Lauvfall), is born.
1920—Edwin Morgan, Scottish poet, is born.
1932—Harold "Heart" Crane, US poet (Bridge), commits suicide at 32.


Where Are The War Poets?

They who in folly or mere greed
Enslaved religion, markets, laws,
Borrow our language now and bid
Us to speak up in freedom’s cause.

It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse –
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse.

—C. Day Lewis

World Poetry

Speech Therapist: Poet Hussain Manawer Is Setting his Sights on Space
Hussain Manawer uses poetry to heal the world. Next up: space
by Oliver Franklin-Wallis

Poetry can move the soul – but can it change minds? Hussain Manawer thinks so. The east London-based poet and campaigner uses the spoken word to campaign on issues from mental health to climate change. "I try to write poetry for the betterment of human life," says Manawer, 26.

William Blake's Home

The townhouse where the English poet created some of his most influential work has been preserved in tribute. 
William Blake is well known today as one of England’s most prolific and talented artists. But during his lifetime, he lived in near poverty with his wife Catherine. He lived in London for most of his life, and at the South Molton townhouse between 1803 and 1821. William and Catherine’s apartment was on the floor above the ground level, which during their tenancy was occupied by a vendor of whalebone corsets. This is the only one of Blake’s residences that has survived.

Recent Reviews

Mortician as Poet
by Blake Morrison

Most poets’ accounts of their livelihoods would make dull reading indeed: Classroom Couplets, Shelf Lives and Tales of a Writer in Residence don’t sound as if they’d be much fun. But it was a bright idea of Robin Robertson, an editor at Cape and no mean poet himself, to suggest to the American poet Thomas Lynch, over a meal of raw fish, that there might be a book to be had from his line of work. For Lynch makes his living out of burying the dead , and a very perky subject it proves to be.

Poet on the Edge
Indiana-born, Twitter-savvy, and Millennially mischievous, Patricia Lockwood taps into the temper of the times.
by James Parker

If the number of bullyboys, bootlickers, power nerds, language goons, and slithering propagandists in society remains more or less constant, inflammations and outbreaks notwithstanding, then so—thank God—does the number of poets. And while the former, breathing heavily, go about their work of flattening and coarsening the imagination, the latter are helplessly dedicated to its renewal. They’re more fragile, of course, the poets; seething with nervous debility, in fact. That’s the point of being a poet. And they get paid less, a lot less. But they have reality on their side: Reality desires to have poems written about it, not hack verbiage or ideological jingles, and so gives the poets its best material.

Book Review: Residuum by Martin Rock
by Shekinah Kifer

Residuum, noun: “A substance or thing that remains or is left behind.” Poetry is meant to be evocative and give voice to the themes and concerns of the poet’s time. In our modern, digital, age many poets have toyed with the concept of the ways in which technology can fuse with the natural world and how easy technology has made it to cut out meaning in one’s words. But in Martin Rock’s impressive debut Residuum, he offers a fresh perspective on these notions.


Why Reading Poetry Is Good For Your Brain
by JR Thorpe

Get out your Emily Dickinson and brush off your Sylvia Plath: it's National Poetry Month. In between appreciating your favorite poets, though, you may want to consider another way poetry can light up your life: it can help your brain. Yup — verse can have a neurological impact on us, and the details may make you want to break out the Shakespeare (even if you haven't looked at poetry since high school).

Sylvia Plath: Just Because She Wrote about her Life Doesn’t Mean It’s Public Property
by Claire Nally

Sylvia Plath’s marriage to Ted Hughes is the stuff of legend. Most literature students come into university with at least a passing knowledge of Plath’s emotive, highly charged poetry, as well as her sensationalised life with fellow poet Hughes. They know about Plath’s suicide in 1963, Hughes’s infidelity with Assia Wevill – and the overwrought passion of their initial meeting in 1956 which Plath describes in her Journals.

Drafts & Framents

An Hour Renting Emily Dickinson's Bedroom Where She Wrote Her Entire Life's Work
by Anya Jaremko-Greenwold

You can visit the café in Edinburgh where J.K. Rowling supposedly sat penning Harry Potter, tour Ernest Hemingway’s house in Key West, still crawling with cats, or see William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, a Mississippi home flanked by cedar trees. But few writers have written their entire life’s work—nearly 1,800 poems, in Emily Dickinson’s case—in just one room. For one hundred dollars an hour, you can rent the second-floor bedroom in Amherst, Massachusetts where Dickinson spent a huge portion of her life.

Poetry In The News

American Poets, Refusing to Go Gentle, Rage Against the Right

The poet Jane Hirshfield has never thought of herself as an agitator. A self-described “genuine introvert,” Ms. Hirshfield likes to spend her days gardening, hiking and writing verses about nature, impermanence and interconnectedness. But a couple of months ago, to her own surprise, she emailed the organizers of the March for Science in Washington and urged them to make poetry part of the protest.

Meryl Streep, Meg Ryan among Readers at Poetry Tribute

The Oscar-winning actress sang a lullaby she learned from her mother; read a Gary Snyder poem she had heard about from her sister-in-law, actress Maeve Kinkead; and recited a poem by Maggie Smith (the writer, not the actress, Streep reminded the audience) about a parent protecting her kids from the sorrows of the world:

Patricia Spears Jones Wins $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize

Patricia Spears Jones is the eleventh winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize. Poets & Writers, the New York­­–based service organization for creative writers, annually awards the Jackson Poetry Prize to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition. The $50,000 prize is among the most substantial given to an American poet and is designed to provide what all poets need: time and encouragement to write. A panel of three esteemed poets—Henri Cole, Kwame Dawes, and Mary Szybist—was charged with selecting the winner from a group of twenty nominees.

New Books

Water & Salt by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
[Paperback] Red Hen Press, 96 pp., $17.95

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha's debut, Water & Salt, sings in the voices of people ravaged by cycles of war and news coverage. These poems alternately rage, laugh, celebrate and grieve, singing in the voices of people ravaged by cycles of war and news coverage and inviting the reader to see the human lives lived beyond the headlines.

Collected Poems by Lorna Goodison
[Paperback] Carcanet Press, 624 pp., $12.78

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.

Vanishing Point by William Trowbridge
[Paperback] Red Hen Press, 144 pp., $18.95

Vanishing Point concerns memory, cognition, history, and morality, as experienced through the process of aging and as seen largely through a seriocomic lens. The range is wide, from arrestingly dark to downright hilarious ―sometimes both at once―and all stages in-between. The poet Jim Daniels has said about this book, “With profound wit and humility, with a purity and clarity of language that defines our best poetry, [Trowbridge] takes us on a wild ride and gives us our money’s worth.” The last section contains poems from Trowbridge’s graphic chapbook Oldguy: Superhero, with several new poems added to that series.

Weary Kingdom: Poems by DéLana R. A. Dameron
[Paperback] University of South Carolina Press, 88 pp., $15.99

In this new collection of poems, Weary Kingdom, DéLana R. A. Dameron maps a journey across emotional, spiritual, and geographic lines, from the familiarity of the honeysuckle South to a new world, or a new kingdom―Harlem. Her poems traverse the streets of this Black mecca with a careful eye cast toward the intimacies of the exterior. Still, as the poems move throughout the built environment, they navigate matters of death, love, love loss, and family against the backdrop of a city that has yet to become home. Indeed what looms over this weary kingdom is a longing for the certainties of a lover’s touch, the summer’s sun, and the comforts of a promised land up North. And as the poet longs, so do readers. Ultimately they grow aware of Utopia’s fragility.

Tremulous Hinge by Adam Giannelli 
[Paperback] University Of Iowa Press, 90 pp., $20.98

Rain intermits, bus windows steam up, loved ones suffer from dementia—in the constantly shifting, metaphoric world of Tremulous Hinge, figures struggle to remain standing and speaking against forces of gravity, time, and language. In these visually porous poems, boundaries waver and reconfigure along the rumbling shoreline of Rockaway or during the intermediary hours that an insomniac undergoes between darkness and dawn. Through a series of self-portraits, elegies, and Eros-tinged meditations, this hovering never subsides but offers, among the fragments, momentary constellations: “moths all swarming the / same light bulb.”


Going Crazy in New York and San Francisco: An Interview with Poet Julien Poirier
by Jeffrey Grunthaner

When I first read San Francisco-based poet Julien Poirier’s Out of Print, recently released via the City Lights Spotlight series, I was struck by way Poirier embraces that ephemeral, experiential unity we call a moment. In a poem like “Stage 4 Lung Cancer Won’t Wait,” we read: “Untenable / — that’s the word I’m after . but if you brings you / pleasure, my dear / I’m all for it — though we can’t afford to live / in this city / we can always gad about / in books / picked for portability.” What stands out here is Poirier’s willingness to flirt with hokiness while making a highly nuanced remark (not to say generalization) touching on the overwhelming fragility of existence. Elsewhere, in a poem titled “Investigation,” we read: “we’ll rot, nothing wrong with that, each of us / in a kind of private self-enclosed BIG BANG, the same for everything that lives.”

Secret of the Masters: An Interview with Poet Edward Field
by James Schwartz

This interview was conducted in September 2016 and first published, along with the poem “Secret of the Masters,” the next month in the now-defunct Eris Magazine. The poem “Doggy Love” is published here for the first time. The last two poems are excerpted with the poet’s permission from After The Fall: Poems Old and New (2007). Edward Field is one of America’s greatest poets. Born in 1924, in Brooklyn, New York he was raised in Lynbrook, Long Island. Field began writing poetry while serving in World War II, where he was an as an Air Force navigator. His poetry has been widely published; he has also edited a number of anthologies, taught workshops, and has received a slew of prestigious literary awards. With Neil Derrick, Field is the author of five novels published under a joint pseudonym.

Ishion Hutchinson on his Poetry and the Inspiration of Lee 'Scratch' Perry
by Leah Mirakhor

In Ishion Hutchinson’s breathtaking poetry collection “House of Lords and Commons,” music stirs and rises again and again in a stunning meditation on the landscapes of memory and colonial history, sunlight reflections and the vibrating sounds across the twin experiences of joy and suffering. Born in Port Antonio, Jamaica, Hutchinson currently lives in Ithaca, N.Y., where he teaches in the graduate writing program at Cornell University.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: C. Day Lewis

(a few quotes)

"No good poem, however confessional it may be, is just a self-expression. Who on earth would claim that the pearl expresses the oyster?"

"First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand."

"It is unwise to equate scientific activity with what we call reason, poetic activity with what we call imagination. Without the imaginative leap from facts to generalisation, no theoretic discovery in science is made. The poet, on the other hand, must not imagine but reason--that is to say, he must exercise a great deal of consciously directed thought in the selection and rejection of his data: there is a technical logic, a poetic reasoning in his choice of the words, rhythms and images by which a poem's coherence is achieved."

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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