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Poetry News In Review

August 12, 2014
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1715 – Nahum Tate, English poet/playwright/poet laureate, dies.
1774 – Robert Southey, English poet laureate/biographer of Nelson, is born.
1827 – William Blake, English poet/painter, dies at 69.
1848 – Macellus Emants, Dutch writer/poet (Along the Nile), is born.
1891 – James Russell Lowell, poet/critic/diplomat, dies.


Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau;
Mock on, mock on; 'tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
And every sand becomes a gem
Reflected in the beams divine;
Blown back they blind the mocking eye,
But still in Israel's paths they shine.

—from "Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire, Rousseau" by William Blake

World Poetry

Poetry Drive to Honor Kaohsiung Victims, Families

The Ministry of Culture, media outlets and more than 100 poets and writers have launched a poetry drive to honor the victims of the Greater Kaohsiung gas pipeline explosions and their families in the hope of providing the survivors with comfort. Poems about the Kaohsiung blasts have been posted on the Facebook page of the ministry’s Qidong Poetry Salon since Monday. More.

Zimbabwe Poet Short-Listed for International Slam

Renowned poet Batsirai Chigama has been listed among the top 10 international poets that made it at this year's edition of Stanza Digital Slam. The Stanza Digital Slam encourages the combination of skill and passion of poetry with the fun and strategy of slam, online on a worldwide stage. The poet said she was humbled to make it at the global event and is seeking for support to win the final prize at a date to be announced soon. More.

Recent Reviews

The Book of Injustice

by Jonathan Farmer
On May 28, Joe Daniels, the president of the 9/11 Memorial Foundation, announced that the 9/11 museum gift shop would no longer sell a ceramic cheese plate molded in the shape of the United States and showing three small, blue decorative hearts in the locations where hijacked planes had crashed. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Daniels also explained a new vetting process meant to ensure, presumably, that future tchotchkes would be more appropriate to the venue. “Merchandise reviews, he said, will now take place in the museum store itself, allowing the vetters to see the items in the context of what many regard as a sacred space.” More.

Jonathan Galassi: Left-Handed; John FitzGerald: The Mind; David St. John: The Auroras

by Diann Blakely
“Men at forty,” as Donald Justice wrote, learn to turn their backs, or close doors—“softly”— on youth and long-passed opportunities as part of their accommodation to a life of mortgages, the body’s increasing betrayals, and other failures of middle age. Perhaps the most painful of these stem from love and marriage, as well as the domestic life that sometimes confines men as inescapably as it does women, though the emotional content of poems that are mirror-images of Justice’s abound too—just pick up any journal and let your eyes fall on lines exulting in “parenthood at fifty.” (Or sixty.) More.

Author Finds an Early Late Flowering

by Fiona Sampson
Truly significant poets continue to challenge their readers from book to book. Some – like W B Yeats, Czeslaw Milosz and even R S Thomas – go on to have "late great" flowerings. David Harsent may not be at the "late" stage yet, but with every book his stature as a truly significant writer becomes more undeniable. More. 

Guilty Knowledge, Guilty Pleasure: The Dirty Art of Poetry

by David Starkey
Anyone who regularly reads poetry sooner or later thinks: I wish this poem didn’t have so many dull moments; I wish that poet didn’t keep tripping up in exactly the same way. Those of us who are also poets shake our heads, make a few snide remarks to close friends, then carry on, knowing the world of poetry is so small and clubby, it doesn’t pay to step on someone’s feet. William Logan, however, is that rare exception in this claustrophobic environment: a practicing poet brave enough to say what he really thinks, in print, year after year. More.


A Crash Course in Japanese Poetry

by Jessica Shortz
I remember reading Japanese poetry for the first time in the second grade. Don’t ask why it stuck with me; I just remember reading a haiku by Matsuo Bashō and thinking it was awesome. I remembered it well enough that I sought out Bashō’s poetry as I grew older. Along with video games, I attribute Bashō with fomenting an early interest in Japan for me. Here’s the lesson: if a seven-year-old can read and enjoy Japanese poetry, so can you. I consider the appreciation of Japanese poetry to be like an onion: there are many, many layers to it. The outmost layer is simply reading Japanese poetry in translation and enjoying it as it is. At its deepest core, enjoyment is reading it in the original Japanese, with deep knowledge of the range and breadth of both Japanese and Chinese poetry (Japanese poetry is full of references to Chinese poetry and other Japanese poetry). More.

Poetry in Motion

by Sadie Stein
Yesterday, I decided to walk home across the Brooklyn Bridge. With this in mind, I had downloaded a fine recording of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” before setting off, and planned to commune with Whitman, or whatever, as I marched, marveling at the ceaseless roll of existence and the beauty of the language and, if I felt like it, crying a little. There was absolutely no question in my mind that this was a fantastic idea. More.

Poetry As Tribute: Erasing David Foster Wallace's 'Infinite Jest'

by Jenni B. Baker 
All lives end eventually, whether at the hands of time or illness, intention or accident. What's left in their stead, however, is never a complete absence. Family, friends and colleagues weave new stories from memories and mementos -- stories that say not just who the departed were, but who they were to those who knew them, stories that hold in spite of the gaps. This appropriation plays out literally in the act of erasure poetry -- the art of marking out words and phrases from an existing text, leaving behind select words that compose a new poem. More.

Drafts & Framents

WATCH: Woman Writes Chinese Poem with Hands and Feet Simultaneously

Watch as this 26-year-old woman in China manages to write a four-line classical Chinese poem with incredible precision by using two hands and two feet simultaneously. Feel inadequate. More.

WWI Poet's Diaries Now Online

As Britain marks the 100th anniversary of its entry into World War I, the notebooks of one of the country’s most famous war poets are being published for the first time. More.

Poetry In The News

Belfast Poet Laureate Sinéad Morrissey's Russian Mission

Belfast's poet laureate is embarking on a mission to Russia to unravel the story of her family's Communist past. T S Eliot Prize for Poetry winner Sinéad Morrissey will also examine her love of Russian literature and the country's influence on her own writing. The poet's parents and her grandfather were committed Communists. Her grandfather, Sean Morrissey, was an executive member of the Communist Party of Northern Ireland and was invited to the Soviet Union on a four-week holiday by the Soviet Communist Party in August 1974 and again in the 1980s. More.

Poet Luis Chaves Wins Coveted German Artist Residency

Margaret Atwood, one of the most famous authors of the 2oth century, was a fellow at the Berliner Künstlerprogramm. So was British artist Damien Hirst, Polish science-fiction guru Stanisław Lem, and writers Susan Sontag and Richard Ford. This year, the program has invited its first Tico: Luis Chaves, Costa Rica’s most successful living poet. And he is ecstatic. More.

Galway Kinnell Honored by Poets, Friends

Poets and common folk filled the seats of the Statehouse chamber Thursday afternoon to honor former Vermont Poet Laureate Galway Kinnell. Flanked by his family, Kinnell, 87, of Sheffield listened in the front row as poets from across New England read his work. The final reader was Kinnell's teenage granddaughter, who recited by heart a poem written for her mother. More.

New Books

Lucky Bones by Peter Meinke 

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 96 pp., $15.95
In Lucky Bones, Peter Meinke moves fluidly through free and formal shapes, taking the reader on a tour through America in the 21st century: family, politics, love, war and peace, old age and death are looked at in ways that are surprising, clear, and warm-hearted. Lit by flashes of anger and laughter as he surveys his territory from the vantage point of old age, the poems are, in the end, both sane and profound, set to Meinke’s own music.

Skandalon: Poems by T. R. Hummer

[Paperback] Louisiana State University Press, 88 pp., $17.95 
In Christian theology, a skandalon is a distraction from grace, a maze of error where we wander pointlessly, wasting our lives. To the ancient Greeks, a skandalon was the trigger of a trap. T. R. Hummer s labyrinthine new collection encompasses these meanings and more, as its poems take various paths some beguiling, some grotesque, some instructive, some opaque to unexpected destinations. Undergirding the collection is a series of progressive vignettes entitled Victims of the Wedding, which follows the quarrels and couplings of a human man and woman as well as the angel and demon who observe them. Skandalon presents poems that consider the subtle, tragic, and ridiculous responses of creatures who lose themselves in a world they had wrongly imagined to be their own.

The Lost Child by Wesley McNair

[Paperback] David R Godine, 224 pp., $17.95
In this volume inspired by the impending death of his mother, Wesley McNair, long a poet of New England places, takes a new path, exploring her homeplace in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri. The linked poems of the book describe characters and events with the small, telling details for which McNair is noted, yet it also includes large themes: hope, delusion, family struggles, and lost selves. But the most important theme of all is reconciliation, as McNair attempts through these poems to know and understand his mother. Combining humor, sorrow, and his singular gift for narrative, this is McNair's most ambitious and moving collection, showing yet again why Philip Levine has called him "one of the great storytellers of contemporary poetry."

New Selected Poems by Les Murray

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 336 pp., $30.00
New Selected Poems contains Les Murray’s own gathering from the full range of his poetry—from the 1960s through Taller When Prone (2004) and including previously uncollected work. One of the finest poets writing today, Murray reinvents himself with each new collection. Whether writing about the indignities of childhood or the depths of depression, or evoking the rhythms of the natural world; whether writing in a sharply rendered Australian vernacular or a perfectly pitched King’s English, his versatility and vitality are a constant. New Selected Poems is the poet’s choice of his essential works: an indispensable collection for readers who already love his poetry, and an ideal introduction for those who are new to it.


Cork Poet Louis de Paor : Irish Language Links Us Wwrite Back to Our Roots

by Alan O’Riordan 
Can a poem ever really be translated? RS Thomas likens poetic translation to kissing through a handkerchief, while for minority languages — such as Irish — there is the problem of translation subsuming the original, damaging the very linguistic diversity that a poem in Irish implicitly celebrates. More.

Prize-winning Poet Still at Work at Age 86

He is 86 years old, his eyesight is failing and much of his recent work reads like a man saying goodbye. But W.S. Merwin continues to write poems; he cannot help himself. “I wrote the last one about 10 days ago, it doesn’t stop, and I don’t know where it comes from,” says Merwin, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate widely regarded as among the greatest poets of the past half-century. More.

2014 Featured Festival Poet: Marie Howe

by Martin Farawell
She has said that “Poetry, to me, is the story of the soul on earth, here and now. What it’s like to be alive, here and now.” It’s clear in “The Gate” that her brother is calling her back to the here and now in the form of a cheese and mustard sandwich. More.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

I'm traveling a bit the next two weeks, so while I'll be able to put together PNIR, I won't be situated to deliver any editor's notes or access my books to pull up any pithy quotes. So the only word from this envoi is: enjoy!

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