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Poetry News In Review

April 9, 2015
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1821 – Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, France, symbolist poet (Flowers of Evil), is born.
1855 – Gyula Reviczky, Hungarian author/poet, is born.
1882 – Dante Gabriel Rossetti, English Pre-Raphaelite poet and painter, dies at 53.
1917 – Edward Thomas, poet, is killed in WW I.
1986 – Jean Mogin, Belgian poet, dies at 64.


I know the art of conjuring up delight,
and I relive my past buried in your lap;
for beauty languorous as yours recurs
only in your loved body, your loving heart;
     I know the art of conjuring up delight.

Those endless kisses, promises, perfumes:
is it forbidden to have them back again
out of the dark, like the sun rising new
out of its purgation in the sea?
     O endless kisses, promises, perfumes!

—from “The Balcony” by Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867)

World Poetry

Artist Murders Poet in Love-Triangle Hit-And-Run

The Omani artist Badria Mohamed al Balloushi and her husband Hamad Obaid Rashash have been sentenced to death by a criminal court after being found guilty of the murder of the Emirati poet and artist Ahmed Hussain Salarey, Al Bawaba reports. Following a lengthy investigation the court found that the killers deliberately ran over the poet.

Recent Reviews

Complete Poems by Jon Silkin – Review
by Nicholas Lezard

In 1998, two similar poetry anthologies were published: The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945, edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford, and The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, edited by Sean O’Brien. In neither did Jon Silkin, one of Britain’s most prolific and influential postwar poets, who had died the year before, appear. This, despite the fact that he had edited a well respected collection of first world war poetry, written the very popular poem “Death of a Son”, and had his work included on the GCSE syllabus. He also founded and edited for 45 years (with a three-year hiatus between 1957 and 1960) the poetry magazine Stand. But then inclusion in anthologies is always a matter of taste and circumstance.

Review: Charles Simic Displays a Poet’s Voice and His Passions
By Dwight Garner

“When our souls are happy,” Charles Simic has written, “they talk about food.” When my soul is happy, often enough, I want to talk about Mr. Simic. A great deal has been written about his poetry, which is comic and elegiac in equal measure. It has an Old World sensibility (Mr. Simic grew up in Belgrade, now in Serbia, during World War II, and his family fled bombing) that he pins to a New World lightness of heart.

Poetry Review: New Collections from Mark Doty and Martha Serpas
by Doni M. Wilson

Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, offers a new collection of poems called “Deep Lane,” in which he examines the nature of descent. In “Deep Lane,” (the shared title of several poems in the collection — all different experiences of the same street), the Rutgers University professor and former University of Houston professor thinks about “Down there, the little star-nosed engine of desire/at work all night, secretive,” where experience carves its indelible marks, but cannot be repeated: “Don’t you wish the road of excess/led to the palace of wisdom, wouldn’t that be nice?” As in most of Doty’s poems, that road might not lead to wisdom, but it does lead to something: knowledge, experience, the images or memories you cannot forget.


Out of This World
James Merrill’s supernatural muse.
by Dan Chiasson

In his poem “An Urban Convalescence,” James Merrill wrote of the “dull need to make some kind of house / Out of the life lived, out of the love spent.” It is a classic Merrill formulation. People are supposed to “make” houses out of blossoming aspirations and love, before busting them up in resignation and defeat. Merrill, rich since birth, as he said, “whether I liked it or not,” and one of the greatest formalist poets this country has ever produced, had seen this pattern play out in his family’s houses (especially the Orchard, his father’s Southampton summer estate, designed by McKim, Mead & White) and, painfully, in his own, in Key West; Stonington, Connecticut; and Athens, Greece. But poetry starts building when love starts dying; it erects its structures durably on emptiness. Rupture and conflict are aesthetic necessities: they turn the broken home into “The Broken Home,” Merrill’s great poem about his childhood. Though his poems can be as grand and spacious as the houses he knew, they are founded on loss. To say that Merrill is among our finest poets of interiors is merely to pick up on a pun implicit in all his work.

Drafts & Framents

Why I wrote 46 poems about Kanye West
By Maggie Coughlan

Mr. West is in the building … and on your bookshelf because now, there’s an entire poetry collection inspired by the Grammy winner. In “Mr. West,” poet Sarah Blake explores the major events in Kanye West‘s life as well as a year in her own spent pregnant, writing and researching. But why choose the 37-year-old hotheaded rapper as a muse?

7 April (1955): William Carlos Williams to Denise Levertov

Here, William Carlos Williams writes to poet Denise Levertov about an exhibition of Leland Bell’s paintings that they had both seen. Williams also discusses the style and trajectory of Levertov’s poetry. He writes to Levertov in 1955, after the publication of her first book of poetry, and although he predicts “[her] sort of composition will never be popular,” she would go on to publish over twenty more books in the decades that followed.

Poetry In The News

Maya Angelou's New Stamp Features Quote that Wasn't Hers

The United States Postal Service is set to honor Maya Angelou today in a dedication ceremony for a new postage stamp depicting the legendary author, poet and singer. But there's one problem: The quotation that accompanies Angelou's picture on the stamp was apparently not originally written by her.

Kent State Shooting Victim Sandra Lee Scheuer Inspired B.C. Poet

To honour National Poetry Month, North By Northwest spoke with Vancouver Island political poet Gary Geddes about the inspiration behind his poem, Sandra Lee Scheuer. B.C. poet Gary Geddes was in front of the U.S. Consulate in Toronto in May 1970 protesting the Vietnam War when he heard the news about the killings at Kent State University in Ohio.

New Books

The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall
[Paperback] Haymarket Books, 352 pp., $19.95

This is the first poetry anthology by and for the Hip-Hop generation. It has produced generations of artists who have revolutionized their genre(s) by applying the aesthetic innovations of the culture. The BreakBeat Poets features 78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999, All-City and Coast-to-Coast, who are creating the next and now movement(s) in American letters. The BreakBeat Poets is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who've never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.

Load Poems Like Guns: Women's Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan translated by Farzana Marie
[Paperback] Holy Cow! Press,184 pp., $16.95

Load Poems Like Guns is an important book. It gives an eloquent and wrenching witness to voices from another place and another poetry: voices with a unique mix of formal power and personal pain. Eight Afghan women poets are eloquently translated here by Farzana Marie, including the tragic and luminously gifted Nadia Anjuman. This is a bilingual edition; the English and Dari are side by side, allowing us a glimpse of the mysterious and profound Persian poetic tradition. This is a book every poet and every reader of poetry should seek out. It amplifies our understanding. It broadens our sense of the identity of the poet. Above all, it makes available a rich and troubling narrative we need to hear.”--Eavan Boland

This Present Moment: New Poems by Gary Snyder
[Hardcover] Counterpoint, 88 pp., $22.00

For his first collection of new poems since his celebrated Danger on Peaks, published in 2004, Gary Snyder finds himself ranging over the planet. Journeys to the Dolomites, to the north shore of Lake Tahoe, from Paris and Tuscany to the shrine at Delphi, from Santa Fe to Sella Pass, Snyder lays out these poems as a map of the last decade. Placed side-by-side, they become a path and a trail of complexity and lyrical regard, a sort of riprap of the poet’s eighth decade. And in the mix are some of the most beautiful domestic poems of his great career, poems about his work as a homesteader and householder, as a father and husband, as a friend and neighbor. A centerpiece in this collection is a long poem about the death of his beloved, Carole Koda, a rich poem of grief and sorrow, rare in its steady resolved focus on a dying wife, of a power unequaled in American poetry.

The Kitchen-Dweller's Testimony by Ladan Osman 
[Paperback] University of Nebraska Press,108 pp., $15.95

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony asks: Whose testimony is valid? Whose testimony is worth recording? Osman’s speakers, who are almost always women, assert and reassert in an attempt to establish authority, often through persistent questioning. Specters of race, displacement, and colonialism are often present in her work, providing momentum for speakers to reach beyond their primary, apparent dimensions and better communicate. The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony is about love and longing, divorce, distilled desire, and all the ways we injure ourselves and one another.

What About This? The Collected Poems of Frank Stanford
[Hardcover] Copper Canyon Press, 640 pp., $40.00

The poetry publishing event of the season, this six-hundred-plus page book highlights the arc of Frank Stanford's all-too-brief and incandescently brilliant career. Despite critical praise and near-mythic status as a poet, Frank Stanford's oeuvre has never fully been unified. The mystery and legend surrounding his life—and his suicide before the age of thirty—has made it nearly impossible to fully and accurately celebrate his body of work. Until now.This welcome and necessary volume includes hundreds of previously unpublished poems, a short story, an interview, and is richly illustrated with draft poems, photographs, and odd ephemera.


Man Made Out of Words
Part One of Mark Strand's Last Interview
by Adam Fitzgerald

Last fall, to celebrate and honor the publication of Mark Strand’s Collected Poems (Knopf), I conducted several interviews with the poet and asked him to reflect on his career, both the work and the life behind it. Sadly, it would become, unknown to either of us at the time, Mark’s final interview. On November 29th, 2014, Mark Strand died after a long battle with cancer.

In Praise of Charles Wright
by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

The poet between now and not-now; between know and not-know; between the sun’s fire and a mountain’s snow; the poet between Dante and dude. He says he wished for anonymity—not for his poems but for Charles Wright: an anonymous author of astonishing poems—yet few, very few, American poets have made as great a name for themselves in their lifetime. There is only one Charles Wright. His name is his fate, an imperative mood said as though from the lips of The Muse: “Charles, write!” And has he ever.

Amber Tamblyn's Poetry Book 'Dark Sparkler' Tells The Tragic Stories Of Dead Actresses 
by Maddie Crum

Amber Tamblyn writes about dead actresses. Icons like Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe people her powerful poems, but so do lesser-known starlets, such as Li Tobler, whose acting career was overshadowed by her relationship with a Swiss painter. Depressed, she died tragically at the age of 27. That Tamblyn herself is an Emmy-nominated actress doesn't influence her thematic choices directly; these women, she says, aren't so different from other women, who due to social norms are expected to perform in their own ways.

National Poetry Month: Nate Klug
by Anthony Domestico

In honor of National Poetry Month, I'm going to be offering weekly recommendations of contemporary poets worth reading. Today, I'll start things off with Nate Klug, a young poet whose new collection, Anyone, has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.In his Adagia, Wallace Stevens writes that "the poet feels abundantly the poetry of everything." To the poetic imagination, the world isn't described through poetry; it is poetry, at least when the world is seen most clearly and truthfully. Klug's work offers exactly this kind of reorienting of perspective, showing us the world in all of its particularity and with all of its resonances.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Czesław Miłosz

In Asian poetry there is a certain equilibrium between subject and object rarely attained in the West. I come from a poetic tradition in which history plays a great role, my poetry involving to a large extent the transposition of certain major events, tragedies of history. The tradition in Central Europe is that the individual is weak, quite different from the West, which is very strong in its emphasis on the individual. After I stopped dealing with the big tragedies of the twentieth century, I wanted to find a balance. I didn’t want to write purely personal perceptions, which is typical of so much of the poetry today—seen through a very personal perspective, and thus very often difficult to decipher. I realized that the weakness of the individual is no good in poetry, and that an excess of individualism is a danger as well.

—from The Paris Review, "Czeslaw Milosz, The Art of Poetry No. 70," interviewed by Robert Faggen

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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