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Poetry News In Review

April 8, 2014
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1648 – John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby, English statesman and poet (d. 1721), is born.
1668 – William Davenant, English poet (b. 1606), dies.
1770 – William Wordsworth, England, poet laureate (Prelude), is born.
1842 – Henrik A Bjerregaard, Norw writer/poet (Fjeldeventyret), dies at 50.
1850 – William Lisle Bowles, English poet (14 Sonnets), dies at 87. 1884 – Maria van Ackere-Doolaeghe, Flemish poet (Avondlamp), dies at 80.
1943 – Jovan Ducic, Serbian poet (Blue Legends), dies at 72.
1984 – Samuel C Engel, poet, dies of heart failure at 79.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.
—from "The World Is Too Much With Us" by William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

World Poetry

Polish Poet Adam Zagajewski Strikes Chord in China

Polish poet Adam Zagajewski will see the first two volumes of his poems translated into Chinese launched in Guangzhou this month, but he's already made a name for himself among the mainland's literati. "I find my presence in China intriguing because it happened behind my back - and I say that without any sadness but rather with pleasure," says Zagajewski, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 2010. Read more at the South China Morning Post.

The Always Timely Poet Alexander Timofeyevsky

I don't think it really had anything to do with World Poetry Day, which fell on Friday, March 21, this year. I don't think it had all that much to do with the fact that Alexei Politov and Marina Belova's "Fragments" exhibit was preparing to close last Sunday at Krokin Gallery. It was a little too late to have been organized in honor of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko's birthday on March 9. And surely it had nothing to do with the controversial referendum last Monday whereby Crimea chose to become a part of the Russian Federation — it was scheduled long before anyone knew that would happen. Read more at the Moscow Times.

Belarusian Poet Confident in Ukrainians’ Ability to Build Calm Life

The people of Ukraine should have enough strength to build a calm life, BelTA learned from Nikolai Metlitsky, a Belarusian poet, a laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus, a winner of the Belarus president’s special award for people of culture and art, as he commented on the statements made by the Belarus president with regard to the situation in Ukraine. Read more at the Belarusian Telegraph Agency.

Poet’s Disappearance 16 Years Ago Poses Uncomfortable Questions

Family members of those killed or missing in the May 1998 riots have called on the president to order an inquiry into the violence. Wiji Thukul was among the more prominent voices in the mass protests that eventually led to the downfall of the strongman Suharto and his New Order regime, but had for years before that historic incident been speaking out against the violent methods employed by the state to silence its critics and stifle freedom of expression. Read more at the Jakarta Globe.

Cuban Poet Wins Spain’s Hermanos Machado Poetry Prize

Cuban poet Jose Perez Olivares, based in Seville since 2003, won the 4th Hermanos Machado poetry prize, which includes a cash award of 4,000 euros ($5,516) and was established by the Seville municipal government and the Jose Manuel Lara Foundation, which publishes the winning works. Read more at the Latin American Herald Tribune.

Beloved Libyan Poet Murdered in Benghazi

In the early days of the Libyan revolution, poet Atef Al-Arafi gave inspirational readings in Benghazi. On Monday (March 24th), he died there in a hail of bullets. “Atef went to his car after playing in a football match," said eyewitness Mohamed Moussa, an 18-year-old student. "Shops were open and the street was full of people. Cars stopped, and 12 masked men got out with their Kalashnikovs." The young witness continued describing the scene. "Two of them stepped forward and called Atef," Mousaa said. "When he turned around, they strafed him with bullets. Atef fell to the ground reciting the Shahada. Then the gang drove away." Read more at Magharebia.

Recent Reviews

Reviving the Sonnet

by John Foy
Ernest Hilbert’s new book of poems, All of You on the Good Earth, takes its title from an astronaut speaking at a larger-than-life moment. On Christmas Eve 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 witnessed that heart-stopping image of Earth rising over the Moon’s desolation. In his message to Mission Control, Commander Frank Borman, riven with homesickness, signed off: “Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you—all of you on the good Earth.” Read more at the New Criterion.

A World in Flames

by Dana Levin
Brenda Hillman’s latest poems blaze up like matches—they dance and flicker, flaring out by the bottom of the page. Stars and meteors are recurrent images: the Geminids, the Perseids, the Orionids. For millennia, shooting stars were considered harbingers of great crisis—think of the assassination of Julius Caesar, the Black Death in England, Francisco Pizarro’s catastrophic arrival in the Inca lands of Peru. And Hillman’s stars? Warning of dangers from drone warfare to global warming, from greed to its progeny protest and rage, they streak to wake us. Capping an ambitious elemental project—Hillman’s three previous books focused on earth, air, and water—Seasonal Works with Letters on Firechronicles a world in flames. Read more at the Boston Review.

‘Book of Hours’ by Kevin Young and ‘Bicentennial’ by Dan Chiasson

by Michael Andor Brodeur 
Fathers seldom play bit parts in poetry; that is, when dad shows up at the door of a poem, something serious is happening. Anyone two courses deep into American poetry has scraped an ear on Roethke’s papa’s buckle, or logged hours divining Plath (herself divining Electra, she of the original daddy issues), or encountered any number of other fathers moving “through dooms of love” (as Cummings wrote of his) or through a stockpile of other fatherly tropes all too familiar to list. (Edgar Guest has one of my favorites: “We look to him for theories/ But look to ma for action.”) What makes fathers figure into poems so heavily? From whence comes this reliable tension? (Forget for a moment how many fathers long for their kids to grow up to be poets.) Like any parent in a poem, a father’s presence is loaded — he is both a vision of the past and a glimpse into the future. Read more at theBoston Globe.

March Exemplars: Poetry Review

by Grace Cavalieri
A monthly feature that looks at books of and about poetry. Prodigal by Anne Caston. Caribou by Charles Wright. How To Dance As The Roof Caves In by Nick Lantz. Time Is A Toy: The Selected Poems Of Michael Benedikt, edited by John Gallaher and Laura Boss. Read more at the Washington Independent.

Go Poets

by Dan Chiasson
One big intervention modern poetry made was to change our sense of the word “song,” which for aeons was a relatively uncomplicated synonym for “poem.” Surely poets couldn’t simply “sing” in the midst of war, chaos, historical belatedness, mass production, bottomless anxiety—all the bad things that supposedly came into the world after the moment in 1910 when, as Virginia Woolf put it, “human character changed.” It was about that time that the onslaught of anti-songs began: Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Pound’s discordant Cantos, Frost’s “The Oven Bird” who knows “in singing not to sing.” Read more at the New York Review of Books.

Three Reviews

Daisy Fried's Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice, Carmen Giménez Smith's Milk and Filth, and Emilia Phillips's Signaletics
by Rebecca Hazelton  
As a title, Women’s Poetry: Poems and Advice suggests an earnest, seventies anthology aimed at redressing literary gender inequality, the kind of well-meaning effort that now seems slightly retrograde and isolating to those of us fortunate enough to have benefited from earlier feminist movements. Read more at Poetry.

John Ashbery – Quick Question

by Stephen Ross
Since turning 60, John Ashbery has published thirteen books of poems, three prose collections, and book-length translations of Reverdy and Rimbaud (with volumes of selected French prose and poetry translations on the way), and has twice exhibited collages at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Along with the challenges posed by this great productivity, the difficulty of assimilating ‘late Ashbery’ has been compounded by what many see as the increasingly comic and nonsensical tenor of his poetry over the past quarter century, a shift which has delighted many readers and worked to discourage the kinds of serious critical advances routinely directed at his earlier and middle periods. Read more atShearsman Books.

Dream Testicles and Memphis Guilt 

by Ben Wilkinson
Mark Strand cuts a longstanding figure in post-war American poetry, somewhere between its ageing Buddy Holly and its benign – if somewhat sinister – grandfather. His first books, published in the late 60s, marked him out as a connoisseur of concision, approaching stock themes of absence and negation through a blend of realism and surrealist imagery, and a dark humour that steered feeling clear of sentiment. Since then, his poetry has continued to mine that metaphysical seam, though the early dash and vigour have eased, as if our poet had mellowed with age. Read more at the Poetry Society.

Not Done With Her Changes: A Review of Maria Mazziotti Gillan’s “The Silence in an Empty House”

by Joe Weil  
All griefs are as unprecedented, as original as the whorls in our fingerprints, and yet certain poets are able to take the specific ceremonies of grief and loss and reenact them in such a way that they are meaningful to all who read their work. This portability is something the poet Pessoa mentioned when he wrote: “The personal is not the human. To become the human it must make a bridge.” Read more at The The Poetry.


December 18, 1988: Joseph Brodsky Gives the Greatest Commencement Address of All Time

by Maria Popova
On December 18, 1988, twenty-five years after his writing had been denounced as “anti-Soviet” in his native Russia and mere months after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature “for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity,” prolific poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky took the podium at Ann Arbor and addressed the graduating class at the University of Michigan with one of the most beautiful and timeless commencement speeches ever given, offering six invaluable pieces of wisdom on good-personhood and the meaning of life.  Read more at Brain Pickings.

Sound & Sensibility

by David Yezzi
The musicality of Robert Frost
Poetry readings are like mice, largely unnoticed, though once you’ve become aware of them you begin to see them everywhere. Slams, spoken word, open mics, national recitation competitions—there are more modes and venues for live poetry than ever before. Read more at the New Criterion.

Drafts & Framents

“Poetry is like Pooping” and Other Writing Tips from a TED Superstar

Three years ago, a young spoken word poet named Sarah Kay dazzled the TED Conference, earning two standing ovations. Her performance about writing poetry to entertain and educate has since received over 5 million views on the TED website. Read more at Fast Company.

Kenyon Review New Podcast

The Kenyon Review has just released a new podcast series with new content every couple of weeks. You can listen on the website, download the files, or use the free SoundCloud app (Apple users). "Looking for something to listen to at the gym?" the site reads. "Need a 20-30 minute fix of literature in the car on the way to work? You’ve found the right place!" Read more at New Pages.

Poetry In The News

Getting Poetry to the People in Miami

If you live in Miami and you do not read, recite or listen to a poem in April, something has gone seriously wrong. For the third year, the O, Miami Poetry Festival will flood the city with words, using any pretext to accomplish its mission of putting all 2.6 million residents of Miami-Dade County in contact with at least one poem. Read more at the New York Times.

Poet Laureate Leads Protest against Prison Book Rules

Writers and actors opposed to new rules stopping people sending books to inmates have held a protest outside Pentonville Prison in north London. Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy joined demonstrators including actress Vanessa Redgrave and author Kathy Lette. They say new rules, introduced in England and Wales in November, make books a privilege rather than a staple. But the government has said prisoners can still use jail libraries or earn money to buy books. Read more at the BBC.

Ted Hughes Estate Cuts Off Access, Biographer Says

The poet Ted Hughes has long been criticized for burning some of the diaries of his estranged wife Sylvia Plath after her suicide in 1963. Now, the Hughes estate has abruptly withdrawn access from Hughes’s latest biographer, renewing suggestions that there may be secrets the family still wishes to keep hidden. Read more at the New York Times.

New Books

Deep Snow Country by Bern Mulvey

[Paperback] Oberlin, 60 pp., $15.95
Winner of the 2013 FIELD Poetry Prize, Bern Mulvey’s Deep Snow Country is centered in the subject of Japan and the earthquake, tsunami, and reactor meltdown of 2011, but its voice is never that of the tourist or the travel guide. As an American poet who lives and works in Japan, Mulvey is positioned to respond not only to current events, but to all the rich history of interactions and meanings involving two very different cultures and languages. Such exploration requires unusual expertise and tact. In poems that draw on a sensibility and imagination of great scope, in language as intimate as it is precise, Mulvey guides us repeatedly to discoveries that are dazzling and unforgettable.

Eruv by Eryn Green

[Paperback] Yale University Press, 96 pp., $18.00
Eryn Green’s Eruv is the latest winner of the oldest annual literary award in the United States, which originated in 1919 to showcase the works of exceptional American poets under the age of forty. Taking its title from the Hebrew word for a ritual enclosure that opens from private into public spaces, Eruvincludes poems of love, sadness, and pathos while celebrating the power of ritual and untamed landscapes. Just as a larger home can be fashioned out of communally shared alleyways and courtyards, with passages enabling movement from one world to another, Green’s poems provide a similar doorway into a deeper understanding of ourselves.

River Legs by Jen McClanaghan

[Paperback] Kore Press, 80 pp., $15.95
Jen McClanaghan’s poems roam across the most intimate of terrains: love, loss, and memory. They pause over the poet’s personal tragedies before turning back to the world’s larger calamities, never for long letting the one escape the shadow of the other. River Legs is nostalgic for the prelapsarian world of two-parent households, of dogs half-asleep on the front lawn, of youth and first love. But its wistfulness is tainted by the knowledge that the world is not only fallen but even now falling. Fathers die, mothers drink themselves sick, relationships fray. Meanwhile, these poems turn to the careful order of language, not to keep the world at bay but to finally allow it in.

Selected Poems by Mark Ford

[Paperback] Coffee House Press, 168 pp., $20.00
Selected Poems charts Mark Ford's growing complexity as a writer and his mastery and use of form. John Ashbery calls Ford's work "refreshing" and it's that exuberance and goodwill that animates the poems, giving them their spontaneity and leavening the grim with comic élan and joy. Myth, history, and the everyday are all at play in this wonderfully diverse collection.

Sylph: Poems by Abigail Cloud

[Paperback] Louisiana State University Press, 88 pp., $17.95
In her first collection of poems, Abigail Cloud draws inspiration from nineteenth-century European Romantic ballets, which often portrayed scorned females as mystical spirits such as sylphs, shades, and wilis. Some of these creatures seduced men into dancing until they died punishment for inconstancy or lured them into love. For Cloud, the dark gravity that holds these enchanters to the earth is the same as our own and thus these demons are as everyday as air.


All the Rage in Denmark: Yahya Hassan and the Danish Integration Debate

by Pedja Jurisic
With his long black hair pulled back neat into a ponytail, the poet cuts a dashing, foreign presence on stage. His delivery calls slam poetry to mind. Rhythmic and raw, it crests and crashes over the ears of the audience, his words righteous and accusatory, as if he were preaching of fire and brimstone, or railing against the infidels. Read more at the LA Review of Books.

The Rumpus Interview with W. S. Di Piero

by Brian Spears
W.S. Di Piero writes a lot. He’s a poet whose new collection Tombo, his eleventh, is just out from McSweeney’s. He’s an art critic for the San Diego Reader, an essayist with four books of prose to his credit, and a translator of Euripedes as well as the Italian poets Leonardo Sinisgalli, Sandro Penna, and Giacomo Leopardi. In 2012, he received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement. I first met Di Piero when I was a Stegner Fellow in 2003, and got to know him over the two years I was at Stanford. I was already enamored with his nervous, jittery poems and his incisive essays on art and philosophy, but it wasn’t until I met him that I saw just how much the writing reflected the person behind it. Read more at the Rumpus.

Interview with Matthew Zapruder

Matthew Zapruder is the author of several collections of poetry, including Come On All You Ghosts (2010), which was selected by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the Top 5 Poetry Books and a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2010,The Pajamaist(2006), which was selected by Tony Hoagland as the winner of the William Carlos Williams Prize from the Poetry Society of America, and American Linden which was selected as the winner of the 2002 Tupelo Press Editors’ Prize. Sun Bear is the title of his forthcoming collection from Copper Canyon Press. Read more at the Hinged Journal.

Bridget Lowe 

by Peter Mishler
PM: In your first collection of poems At the Autopsy of Valsav Nijinsky you write from the perspective of a number of public figures. How did you choose these subjects?
BL: I honestly don’t feel like I did choose these subjects. It always seems to happen naturally for me. It was at the thrift store where I found the case study called The Wild Boy of Aveyron, and at a yard sale where I found the diaries of Nijinsky. I have been going to the thrift store my whole life, and I am a big believer in its powers to deliver me what I need. Read more at Parnassus Review.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Czesław Miłosz

“The secret of all art, also of poetry, is distance. Thanks to distance the past preserved in our memory is purified and embellished. When what we remembered was occurring, reality was considerably less enticing, for we were tossed, as usual, by anxieties, desires, and apprehensions that colored everything, people, institutions, landscapes. Remembering, we move to that land of past time, yet now without our former passions: we do not strive for anything, we are not afraid of anything, we become an eye which perceives and finds details that had escaped our attention.”—from the Introduction to A Book of Luminous Things

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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