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Poetry News In Review

August 31, 2018
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1645—Francesco Bracciolini, Italian poet (b. 1566), dies.

1667—Johann von Rist, German composer and poet known for his hymns, dies at 60.
1811—Théophile Gautier, French writer, historian and poet (Albertus, La Chanson de Roland, Émaux et camées), born in Tarbes, France (d. 1872), is born.
1867—Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, French poet and translator (Les Fleurs du mal), dies at 46.
1919—Amrita Preetam, Indian poet and author, born in Gujranwala, Pakistan (d. 2005), is born.
1941—Marina Tsvetaeva, Russian poet (The Train of Life), committed suicide at 48.


I’ve loved living with little.
There are dishes I’ve never tried.
But you, you people eat slowly, and often;
you eat and eat….
You—with belches, I—with books,
with truffles, you. With pencil, I,
you and your olives, me and my rhyme,
with pickles, you. I, with poems.

—from “The Desk” by Marina Tsvetaeva, translated by Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine

World Poetry

South Korean Poet Vows to Fight in #MeToo Battle

South Korean poet Choi Young-mi vowed to prove alleged sexual misconducts by a prominent literary figure in her #MeToo battle. Choi said she appointed a lawyer with help of the Gender Ministry and the Women's Human Rights Institute of Korea to respond to a $1 million compensation suit, filed against her by poet Ko Un.

Intimidation of Muslim Poet an Effort to Silence Writer’s Engagement of Xinjiang

Police action against Muslim poet Cui Haoxin—better known by his pen name An Ran—is a clear attempt to silence the writer from being vocal on the issue of mass incarceration of Muslims and others in political “re-education camps,” PEN America said today. An Ran is a poet and writer from the majority-Muslim Hui ethnic group whose work includes the 2017 collection Black Gobi. On August 16, An Ran revealed in a blog post that police had raided his home that day and had warned him not to use his Twitter or Facebook accounts.

Recent Reviews

Poet Stanley Plumly Takes a Lyrical Look at John Constable and J.M.W. Turner
By Paul Alexander


Stanley Plumly was already a giant among poets by the time he decided, several years ago, to turn his attention to narrative nonfiction. He began, understandably, with a poet: “Posthumous Keats” was a “personal” biography that grew out of Plumly’s decades-long obsession with John Keats. That same passion compelled his follow-up, “The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner With Keats, Wordsworth, and Lamb.” Recounting in gripping detail the night Keats met William Wordsworth, the book won the Truman Capote Award. Now, remaining in the Romantic era but branching out into the world of art, Plumly has written “Elegy Landscapes: Constable and Turner and the Intimate Sublime,” a dual portrait of British landscape painters John Constable and J.M.W. Turner.


Poet Ada Limón Makes the Personal Feel Political
By Brandon Yu


However it feels to live in 2018, or perhaps any year for that matter, Ada Limón feels it all with an achingly human acuteness. In “The Leash,” an early poem in her tender, illuminating fifth book of poetry, “The Carrying,” the National Book Award nominee writes, “How can/ you not fear humanity, want to lick the creek/ bottom dry, to suck the deadly water up into/ your own lungs, like venom? Reader, I want to/ say: Don’t Die. Even when silvery fish after fish/ comes back belly up, and the country plummets/ into a crepitating crater of hatred, isn’t there still/ something singing? The truth is: I don’t know.”


The Complex Poetry of Diane Seuss Refracts the Speaker's Life through What she Observes
by Victoria Chang


Diane Seuss’s fourth book of poems, “Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl,” is anything but still. This collection showcases a poet who is writing some of the most animated and complex poetry today. The book, which takes its title from Rembrandt’s 17th century painting, explores seeing and the speaker’s gaze on that particular painting (and other paintings). However, ultimately, the paintings become ways to refract the speaker’s life and experiences and an exploration of the dynamism of stillness. What’s most magical, though, is watching Seuss take things and experiences apart and attempt to re-tie the fragments together into new wholes.


When a Love Poet Writes an Epic: Catullus’s “Poem 64”
By Daisy Dunn

Catullus was the most erotic poet of ancient Rome. He wrote thrillingly of his desire to play with a lover’s “sparrow” and of his hunger for “a thousand kisses, then a hundred, then another thousand” from the mistress he called Lesbia. When their relationship soured, he pictured Lesbia soliciting “on crossroads and in alleys” and complained of being “crucified” by his feelings: odi et amo (“I hate and I love”). But Catullus was also the author of a short epic that rivaled Homer in its profundity. Surprisingly little known these days, “Poem 64” was Catullus’s greatest masterpiece, a poem that questions what it means to live and love in the shadow of the past.

Map of a Thousand Lives – A Brief Introduction to Poetry in Malaysia
by Pauline Fan

An attempt to chart the origins and evolution of modern poetry in Malaysia unearths complex historical processes and cultural interactions that have shaped contemporary Malaysian society. To speak of the writing of poetry in Malaysia, one must grapple with – or at least try to imagine – the essentially pluralist and polyglot nature of its people as well as the changing socio-cultural landscape, where “the map of a thousand lives will be seen* ”. Malaysia is a country where at least four main languages predominate – Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil, further punctuated by a multitude of dialects and colloquialisms according to clan or region. 

Muscularity and Eros: On Syntax
by Carl Phillips

As far as I can tell, anymore, all that poetry at the end of the day is, is patterned language. The relationship between pattern and the meaningful disruption of that pattern gives poetry the muscularity required to become memorable. The careful calibration and manipulation of this relationship is, if not entirely the definition of what seems to be meant by “the art of poetry,” then a very large part of that definition–all the rest being vision which, of course, isn’t parsable: when I encounter vision, I recognize it. Recognition is a form of respect. Respect is not analysis. Neither is homage.

Can You Call Her Sister? Amelia Rosselli on Sylvia Plath
by Lisa Mullenneaux


When the Italian poet Amelia Rosselli took her life 33 years to the day that Sylvia Plath did the same, it was not her only tribute to the American writer, just her final one. Plath is often ranked second only to Emily Dickinson among American poets important to Italians—each was chosen by Mondadori for its prestigious Meridian series, Dickinson in 1997, Plath in 2002—and Rosselli translated many of Plath’s best poems. Perhaps her greatest contribution to Plath’s Italian appreciation was Rosselli’s fierce opposition to the “confessional” label, an argument she presented the 1980 article that is translated here for the first time.

Drafts & Framents

Unpublished Haiku Poem Written by Renowned Masaoka Shiki Found

An unpublished poem by haiku master Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) has been found in one of his notebooks, the Shikian Preservation Society that preserves the poet's old home Shikian announced on Aug. 22. Shiki and his pupils wrote haiku pieces in two notebooks, "Teiyuishu" and "Fukubiki," on New Year's period in 1897 while drawing raffles, as the pupils had visited Shiki who had been ill in bed since the previous year. The new piece Shiki wrote in Fukubiki reads: "Shinnenya/ mukashiyori kyusu / nao kyusu," which can be roughly translated as "New Year comes, and I become poorer than before."

Poetry In The News

Five Young Poets Each Receive Fellowships Worth $25,800


Five young poets have received fellowships worth more than $25,000 apiece. On Tuesday, the Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine announced this year’s winners of the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship. The poets are Safia Elhillo, Hieu Minh Nguyen, sam sax, Natalie Scenters-Zapico, and Paul Tran. With prize money totaling $129,000, each will be given $25,800.

Poet Sonia Sanchez Wins $100,000 Prize

Poet and author Sonia Sanchez has won a $100,000 lifetime achievement prize. The Academy of American Poets announced Tuesday that Sanchez is this year's winner of the Wallace Stevens Award. Sanchez, 83, is known for such collections as "Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems.” Also Tuesday, the academy awarded a $25,000 fellowship to the poet-translator Martin Espada.


New Books

The Northway by Lisa Bellamy
[Paperback] Terrapin Book, 96 pp., $16.00 


This hilarious, imaginative book packs cigarette butts, Buddhist prayer flags, a spastic colon, Leviathan jaws, and gnats reincarnating as neonatal nurses into just one poem. Others say "Yes, to grunts and drooling"; find a Zen master in a bobcat spotted while driving; and experience an epiphany while driving with closed eyes. Bellamy's humor is a lens exposing our foibles, fears, and loveliness. Her unstinting, self-implicating humor skewers culture, "I eat only fresh, locally sourced sadness," and politics, religion, gender roles, and relationships, "swinging [her] axe at the root of delusion."--April Ossmann

Green Hill by Lorna Knowles Blake
[Paperback]Able Muse Press, 80 pp., $17.95


The recurrent theme of “home” connects the wide-ranging subjects of Lorna Knowles Blake’s Green Hill. These exquisitely crafted poems in free verse and metrical forms include conversations with such masters as Homer, Blake, Lorca, Saint John of the Cross, Giacomo Puccini, and Duke Ellington, in addition to reflections upon marvels of the natural world—oceans, flowering trees, birds’ nests. Green Hill is delightful, enlightening and inspirational, and an exceptional winner of the 2017 Able Muse Book Award.

How to Avoid Huge Ships by Julie Bruck 
[Paperback] Brick Books, 104 pp., $20.00



How to Avoid Huge Ships, Julie Bruck's fourth collection of poetry, is a book of arguments and spells against the ambushes of time. Parents grow down, children up, and it's from the uncomfortable in-between that these poems peer into what Philip Larkin describes as "the long slide." But what if we haven't reached the end of the infinite adolescence we thought we'd been promised? We're still here in this world of flying ottomans, alongside a middle-schooler named Dow Jones, and the prehistoric miracle of a blue heron's foot. We may be afraid, but we're still amused--sometimes, even awed. Looking squarely at the way things are, glossing over none of the absurdities and injustices of contemporary life, Julie Bruck pays ardent attention to it all. The touch is light, even when the subject is heavy. One has a steady sense of being trusted to catch and feel the intangible muchness housed in these deceptively direct poems.



Qwerty & Chicken Windows by Jack Mueller
[Paperback] Lithic Press, 72 pp., $17.00

Like so much of Jack Mueller's work, this book is more about climate than weather. Both Qwerty and Chicken Windows take mundane moments, thoughts, occurrences, and relocate them into new places, bright and active at all points. The disparate nature of these two works is a microcosm of the author's larger life, lived according to one of his major maxims: obey emerging form. He continually discovered new ways of saying what he had to say, new ways to write it down. All of Jack's work is imbued with humor-wisdom that, among other things, rises from his acquaintance with paradox, his coyote eye splays on every page. In Qwerty, Jack pokes fun at the keyboard, the object that has become so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible. On the surface, Chicken Windows is a light-hearted collection of flash-prose pieces; a galloping autobiography that begins at age 45 minutes. Jack Mueller died in April 2017, this is his first work to be published posthumously.

The Slow Art by Sierra Golden
[Paperback] Lithic Press, 80 pp., $16.00


"The poems in The Slow Art are boiled down to unflinching essentials. Golden refuses to hide behind the easy fires and maximal adornment of so much contemporary poetry, giving us a rough-edged vision that drifts out into a world of machinery, work, and family. The art here is that the poems drift inward, too—to the landscape of the self where time, language, and experience become a tangle of the brutal, the mysterious, the essential, and the celebrated. And I celebrate this book whose heart contains the world and those who work it 'for her, for him, for them, for me, for you.’"—Michael McGriff


Q&A with Poet Tracy K Smith
by Hester Lacey


Tracy K Smith, 46, professor of creative writing at Princeton University, was named United States Poet Laureate in June 2017. Her most recent book, Wade in the Water, was published this year.

A Revolutionary Act: Samantha Zighelboim 
by Zachary Pace

The poet on confronting societal limitations about the body, navigating the language of fatness, and celebrating friendships that embrace the joy of food.
Before reading The Fat Sonnets (Argos Books)—Samantha Zighelboim’s debut poetry collection—I was oblivious of my own body-image biases. These lines shocked me awake:
    ”Let’s pretend to tell this story. Once, body began.
     Then body fattened, deformed. Now body is expiring.

     No space for body on the barstool. No space for body
     in the plus-size store. No space for body in the poetry.”
Now—daily—I see the numerous (public and private) spaces where the thin body is accommodated while the fat body is excluded, where the thin body is glorified while the fat body is stigmatized.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Mary Jo Salter Reads Richard Wilbur's “A Plain Song for Comadre”

It’s refreshing and reaffirming not only to hear a fully-conceived, deep-welled poem read competently but also to listen to an open and objective appreciation of it by an astute reader. Mary Jo Salter’s explication of this Richard Wilbur poem provides ample illumination of the poem, which may not be fully grasped on first reading (or hearing). It’s good to know there are such poets and readers among us. I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm glad to have come across it.

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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