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Poetry News In Review

August 12, 2015
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 – Marcellus Emants, Dutch writer/poet (Along the Nile), is born.
1891 – James Russell Lowell, poet/critic/diplomat, dies.

To A Friend Who Gave Me A Group Of Weeds And Grasses, After A Drawing Of Dürer 

True as the sun's own work, but more refined,
It tells of love behind the artist's eye,
Of sweet companionships with earth and sky,
And summers stored, the sunshine of the mind.
What peace! Sure, ere you breathe, the fickle wind
Will break its truce and bend that grass-plume high,
Scarcely yet quiet from the gilded fly
That flits a more luxurious perch to find.
Thanks for a pleasure that can never pall,
A serene moment, deftly caught and kept
To make immortal summer on my wall.
Had he who drew such gladness ever wept?
Ask rather could he else have seen at all,
Or grown in Nature's mysteries an adept? 

—James Russell Lowell (1819–1891)

World Poetry

80 Fantastic Events for National Poetry Day

From seasoned award-winners to newbies facing a microphone for the first time, National Poetry Day — Friday, 28 August —unleashes the power and excitement of poetry for one incredible day of activity all around New Zealand. Celebrating its 18th year, National Poetry Day 2015 features an astounding 80 events from Kerikeri to Southland and into cyberspace. This year’s calendar holds something for everyone, from aspiring to established poets, and from those who enjoy poetry to those who think poetry isn’t for them. The 2015 calendar of events offers a way for anyone to get involved in the poetry community, discover New Zealand poets, share their own work or find out what it is all about.

Philip Larkin's Hull: Marking 30 years Since the Poet’s Death

A lone figure stands on the white concourse at Hull’s Paragon railway station. Stern, bespectacled, and holding a book, the life-size statue depicts Philip Larkin, who lived and worked in Humberside from 1955 until his death in 1985. The city will mark the 30th anniversary of Larkin’s death today, on what would have been the poet and university librarian’s 93rd birthday. A concert will be held at the Paragon this evening, with new musical compositions due to be played at further sites along the Larkin Trail.

Recent Reviews

The Literature of Lynching
by Hollis Robbins

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book, Between the World and Me, a letter to his son about race in America, takes its title from Richard Wright’s brutal lynching poem, "Between the World and Me" (1935). Coates offers the first three lines of Wright’s poem as an epigraph.

Rigoberto González on Bright Dead Things and Honest Engine and Loose Strife

In the literary profession, the designation “mid-career” is open to interpretation. It’s not necessarily measured by a writer’s age, but by a writer’s publications and/or the span of writer’s participation in the field — at least one to two decades of professional life. For poets, the third book usually covers that territory, though for the more prolific one, it’s the fourth that signals entry into what is known vaguely as “mid-career.” The expectation is that four published poetry books provides enough material to establish a reputation, a trajectory, and a sense of a poet’s vision. To test that theory, I’ve decided to write a retrospective of the bodies of work by three poets whose fourth books appear in 2015: Quan Barry, author of Loose Strife, Kyle Dargan, author of Honest Engine, and Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things. These are poets whose literary careers I’ve been following over the years and whose work continues to engage me, not only because these are three voices from distinct ethnic communities, but because I’ve always appreciated the purpose and drive of their artistry.


Letter of Recommendation: ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’
by Mark Levine

My first hours with the spiky words of T.S. Eliot’s ‘‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’’ are fixed in a precise location: the cluttered space of my teenage bedroom floor. It’s 1982. The light is low. The parquet tiles are coming unglued. Album covers — Talking Heads, David Bowie, the Clash — fan out around me, and an array of paperbacks sprawl among a week’s discarded clothes. I begin to read: ‘‘Let us go then, you and I,/When the evening is spread out against the sky/Like a patient etherized upon a table’’ — and, with a 17-year-old’s sense of imminent upheaval, feel the stirrings of a new language in me, connected to my own language but having passed through fire. I can’t say whether the voice the poem puts in my head as it extends its opening invitation is stiffly formal, smarmy or seductive. ‘‘Spread yourself out on the floor,’’ it seems to whisper, ‘‘and prepare to be turned inside-out.’’

A. Alvarez, Miroslav Holub and Cold War Poetry
by Justin Quinn

In 1962, the same year that his anthology The New Poetry was published, A. Alvarez travelled to several countries in Eastern Europe to interview intellectuals and writers for the BBC’s Third Programme. It was one half of a project that took in equivalent figures in the United States, and the interviews and essays were later published as Under Pressure: The writer in society – Eastern Europe and the U.S.A. (1965). This trip marked the beginning of the rise of Eastern European poets in English translation (fiction writers would come a decade later). Alvarez encountered for the first time the poets he would later help to publish in the series of Penguin Modern European Poets, and as early as 1962 their work began to appear in the Observer, where Alvarez was poetry critic and editor. One of the chapters in the book is devoted to Czechoslovakia, and this would prove instrumental in bringing the Czech poet Miroslav Holub to the attention of English-speakers.

Drafts & Framents

Poems on a Pole
by Jake Parrish

A Coeur d'Alene poet is sharing his love for the craft and creating connections in the community through public poetry postings around town. Roger "Rudge" Dunsmore moved to Coeur d'Alene in 2013. "I retired after 50 years of university teaching in Montana. My identity was all wrapped up in teaching," Dunsmore said. "I came here and really felt out of my element. I wasn't sure how to connect to the community.” It came to him about eight months after he and his wife moved to the Lake City. That was when Dunsmore's pet cat went missing, and his wife suggested he place "missing cat" signs around their neighborhood.

Maya Angelou for Sale: Belongings of Poet Draws Buyers

Crowds are funneling through late poet Maya Angelou's home for a sale of some of the furniture, books and everyday possessions she left behind. The three-day estate sale for the acclaimed writer and activist is wrapping up Saturday in Winston-Salem. Items for sale ranged from boxes of light bulbs and bags of cheese knives to Angelou's personal typewriter. Proceeds will be donated to Angelou's foundation and other charities. Angelou rose from poverty, segregation and violence to become a force on stage, screen and literature. She died in May 2014 at the age of 86 after 30 years as a professor at Wake Forest University.

Poetry In The News

The National Poetry Slam Returns to Oakland

When it comes to performance poetry, nothing quite compares to the National Poetry Slam (NPS). Every August, more than seventy teams from across the United States and abroad gather for the five-day tournament, each with hopes of attaining the coveted championship. According to previous competitors, the NPS is like the World Series of poetry — rife with competitive spirit and passionate, vocal fans.

STL Poet Laureate Opens Ferguson Commission Meeting with Poems on Michael Brown and Police Violence

St. Louis poet laureate Michael Castro opened the August 7 working meeting of the Ferguson Commission by reciting two poems on Michael Brown Jr. and police militarization. “We open every meeting with a devotion for centering purposes,” commission co-chair the Rev. Starsky Wilson told The American. “It is our belief that faith and the arts help to center us on the deeper issues of this work of healing and reconciliation.”

New Books

Interstate by Chard deNiord
[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 96 pp., $15.95

Interstate is a collection of lyrical poems in four sections that concentrate thematically on animals, love and sex, compassion, and loss. A unifying elegiac conceit, even in the more ecstatic and humorous poems, betrays the bittersweet nature of the book's muse. Alternating between free and formal verse, the poems contain a lyrical tension in which their "broken music" evokes metaphysical paradoxes, romantic humor, and the "dark sounds" that effect what Garcia Lorca called "the power everyone feels" in the mystery of duende "but no philosopher can explain."

Self-Portrait with Spurs and Sulfur: Poems by Casey Thayer
[Paperback] University of New Mexico Press, 80 pp., $17.95

Part fun-house hall of mirrors in its distorted and dizzying central narrative, part spaghetti western, and part prayer, Self-Portrait with Spurs and Sulfur is an exploration into the possibilities of storytelling. Through persona poems and odes, the collection argues that the muddier the narrative, the closer the story gets to truth.

Underdays by Martin Ott
[Paperback] University of Notre Dame Press, 72 pp., $15.00

We encounter many voices in life: from friends and family, from media, from co-workers, from other artists. In a highly connected global world, where people and entities are electronically enmeshed, we filter these voices constantly to get to what we determine to be the truth. Taking inspiration from pop culture, politics, art, and social media, Martin Ott mines daily existence as the inspiration and driving force behind Underdays.

That Winter the Wolf Came by Juliana Spahr 
[Paperback] Commune Editions,120 pp., $16.00

That Winter the Wolf Came is written for this era of global struggle. It finds its ferment at the intersection of ecological and economic catastrophe. Its feminist and celebratory energy is fueled by street protests and their shattered windows. Amid oil spills and austerity measures and shore birds and a child holding its mother’s hand and hissing teargas canisters, it reminds us exactly what we must fight to defend with a wild ferocity, and what we’re up against.

The Only Afterlife: Poems by Marieve Rugo
[Paperback] Lynx House Press, 80 pp., $16.95

Within the framework of history, both personal and international, in The Only Afterlife Mariève Rugo examines memory, love, family, war, and dying. In the end she finds, through the poems, ways to accept and celebrate her life.


An Interview with Fred Moten,  Part 1
by Adam Fitzgerald

Literary Hub contributing editor Adam Fitzgerald interviewed Fred Moten this month. Moten lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches at the University of California, Riverside. In 2009, he was recognized as one of ten “New American Poets” by the Poetry Society of America. He is author of Arkansas (Pressed Wafer); In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press); I ran from it but was still in it. (Cusp Books); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works); B Jenkins (Duke University Press); and The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions), which is a finalist for the National Book Award. His current projects include two critical texts, consent not to be a single being (forthcoming from Duke University Press) and Animechanical Flesh, which extend his study of black art and social life, and a new collection of poems, The Little Edges.

The Rumpus Interview with Tony Hoagland
by Eric Farwell

Tony Hoagland is a poet of deep humanity and true empathy. His work eschews the obvious so that he might delve deeper into the uncomfortable unknown, yet he construes his meditations in such a way that they maintain accessibility. Tony’s preoccupation with humanity and the way we navigate the strange cult of nationalism marks him to some as an American poet, but he reverberates beyond that. We were able to chat on an early June morning in anticipation of his new collection, Application for Release from the Dream, which is a collection that never rests on its laurels, but rather raises up on its hind legs to further roar on about the stark truth of life. Many poets would be phoning it in after twenty plus years of releasing collections, but Hoagland is different and that’s what makes him a vibrant poetic voice, even after all of his success.

Robert Pinsky: ‘I don’t like the idea that poetry is marketed’ 
by Arminta Wallace

The term “poet-in-residence” suggests a leisurely period of domicile: a year at a university, perhaps, or a season in some crumbling mansion by the sea. But when the residency takes place within the lifespan of a 10-day arts festival, the poet in question doesn’t have much time to let the grass grow beneath his or her residential feet. At this year’s Kilkenny Arts Festival, the American poet Robert Pinsky will be giving a reading from his own work, conducting a workshop with Irish poets, launching a poetry broadsheet and orchestrating a reading of favourite poems by artists appearing at the festival.

In Conversation with Lee Harwood
by Oli Hazzard

Oli hazzard: In your book-length interview with Kelvin Corcoran you talk about how John Ashbery gave you a new approach to writing, but also how in a way you’d already found that approach in Borges and Tzara, and that Ashbery’s work represented a kind of culmination of what you’d already learned from them…

Running on Poetry: Misty Poets and Other Past Mysteries
by Srividya Sivakumar

This column teaches me new things; a point I make again and again. For example, I learnt about the ‘Misty Poets’ when I worked on today’s piece. The term describes a progressive literary movement in China in the 1970s and 1980s. The term sounds even more evocative in Chinese: Ménglóng Shi Rén. It seems to imply something mystical, unclear; like the Mysterious Orient. To some extent that’s true. The language in the poems is more thought than thing and the meaning is often uncertain. At the forefront of the movement was Zhao Zhenkai, better known as the renowned poet Bei Dao (born on August 2, 1949).

Envoi: Editor's Notes

The Best Philip Larkin Poems Everyone Should Read
Our pick of the 10 best Philip Larkin poems and why you should read them

Trying to create a ‘top ten’ definitive list of Philip Larkin’s best poems is impossible, not least because each Larkin fan will come up with a slightly different list. However, we’ve tried our best to bring together some of Larkin’s most classic poems here. Whether you’re a devoted fan of the great man’s work, or seeking an introduction to a handful of his best poems, you should find something of interest here. We’ve provided the year of composition for each poem rather than the date of publication; given that all but one of the poems in the list appeared in one of just three volumes of poetry (published in 1955, 1964, and 1974), and Larkin sometimes kept a poem for several years before publishing it, we figured that knowing when he wrote it (or, more accurately, finished it) is more useful than knowing when it first appeared in print. Links to online copies of the poems are given for each poem in the list.
Not too much argument with this list. I'm not sure which three from this list I would leave out, but I would include in my top ten "Born Yesterday," "Coming," and "The Mower." But that's today. Tomorrow my list would likely be different.

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