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Poetry News In Review

August 6, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1637 – Ben Jonson, English playwright and poet, dies at 65.

1809 – Alfred Lord Tennyson, Somersby, England, Poet Laureate of Great Britain, is born.

1850 – Edward Walsh, Irish poet (b. 1805), dies.

1868 – Paul Claudel, France, diplomat/poet, is born. 

1889 – John Middleton Murry, English poet (d. 1957), is born. 

1996 – Buland Al Haidary, poet, dies at 69.


The snail, low spiral of the soil 

when confronted by a carping critic 

retreats into its stairway coil 

of convoluted system theoretic.


—from “The Snail” by Paul Claudel, 1868–1955

World Poetry

Lord Mayor Makes Sinead Morrissey Belfast's First Poet Laureate

Belfast is to get its first poet laureate as part of the Lord Mayor's plan for the city. The appointment of award-winning poet Sinead Morrissey was announced on Wednesday by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mairtin Ó'Muilleoir. Dr Morrissey said although she was interested in politics she does not regard herself as either a nationalist or a unionist. She said loves Belfast and wants her ashes scattered on Belfast Lough. As Poet Laureate, Dr Morrissey will engage the public in poetry, through a series of events, community outreach to art groups, language organisations and minority groups. She has also been commissioned to produce a series of poems about Belfast. Read more at the BBC.

Nuno Júdice Recipient of the Queen Sofia Ibero-American Poetry Prize 

Portuguese poet Nuno Júdice, 64, was awarded the 2013 Queen Sofia Ibero-American Poetry Prize, announced Thursday Jose Rodriguez-Spiter, the president of Spain’s National Heritage agency. Considered the most prestigious literary prize in the Ibero-American world, the 42,100-euro ($55,700) cash award recognizes Judice’s complete body of work. Read more at the Portuguese-American Journal.


Recent Reviews

The Suffering of Others: On Adrienne Rich

Cynthia Haven

Sometime in the 1970s, Adrienne Rich came home with a bagful of groceries, brewed coffee, and daydreamed about her lover. Her stack of mail, however, brought news of a tortured and imprisoned twenty- seven- year- old man. Rich recalled at that moment “my incurable anger, my unmendable wounds . . . I am crying helplessly.” The passage comes from “Twenty- one Love Poems,” and it tells us a great deal about its maker: She bears an almost disabling pity for the wounded, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the abused. Read more at Virginia Quarterly Online.

Elegy Owed

by Jason Bredle

Almost fifteen years ago, as an MFA student at the University of Michigan, I shuffled into a now defunct Ann Arbor bookstore to see Bob Hicok read for the first time. I can still recall a few details of that experience: there were about a dozen in attendance, none of whom were from the MFA program; I was seated behind two girls in Big Johnson t-shirts, which seemed dated even at the time; and Hicok totally killed it, but the audience didn’t appear to get it, otherwise he would have been inundated with screaming fans wanting a piece of him to take home afterwards, rather than quietly sitting alone as if waiting for someone to tell him it was okay to go home now. Read more at Coldfront.

Translation of Giacomo Leopardi's Zibaldone Published

by Lizzy Davies

Schopenhauer referred to him as his "spiritual brother"; Italians consider him one of their greatest ever intellects, and his thoughts have been said to "go beyond those of every other European man of letters, from Goethe to Paul Valéry". Yet, despite these many accolades, the 19th-century poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi remains unknown in the mainstream anglophone world. Read more at The Guardian.

Home, Where the Art Is

by Kirsten Kaschock

What is home but heart(h)? Stephen Burt’s Belmont has many arterial paths one might follow from first poem (“Poem of Nine A.M.”) to last (“Butterfly with Parachute”), thoroughfares though fatherhood and the Boston outskirts, through persistent longing and the rejection of regret. Burt has a talent for sonic cataloguing: a musical, list-based analysis of both a specific sort of life and of the accessories of that life “whose troubles//are troubles we’re lucky to have.” But I will not start with these—Belmont’s strongest currents. Instead, I’ll open the book at its center, its fitful heart. It is its arrhythmia that most surely locates me inside this collection, the moments when the steady beat of suburban autobiography slips away and some other music begins to pulse, irregular and thready. Read more at Open Letters Monthly.


“As we get older, and stop making sense. . . . ”

by Jeff Sypeck

English teachers make great idols. Rich kids who can’t pursue their dreams should kill themselves. Such are the awful lessons of Dead Poets Society, a movie I love to hate—not only because real-life English teachers are dubious exemplars, but also because the movie takes too much glee in damning “Dr. J. Evans Pritchard, Ph.D,” the textbook author who supposedly reduces the evaluation of poems to a simple trick of geometry. Not even my worst English teachers would have endorsed the idea, so I assumed such a book didn’t and couldn’t exist—until I discovered the real Dr. Pritchard, but found that he’s hardly as bad as he seems. Read more at Quid Plura.

Call to Action – Kazakh Poet Aron Atabek: A Prison Within a Prison

The Kazakh poet Aron Atabek has been in prison since 2007. He has been placed in solitary confinement for two years as punishment for writing a book that criticizes President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and is due for return to the general prison population at the end of 2014. He has previously spent two years in solitary confinement for refusing to wear a prison uniform: one third of his incarceration so far has been spent in isolation. Both the UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Committee against Torture have concluded that prolonged solitary confinement may amount to torture. Read more at PEN International.

Drafts & Framents

Poet Available (Hillsborough)

Poet available to begin work immediately. Capable in rhyme and meter, fluent in traditional and contemporary forms. Quotidian observations available at standard rate of $15/hour; occasional verse at slightly higher rate of $17/hour. Incomprehensible garbage $25/hour. Angst extra. Read more at Craigslist. 

Ten Years of Flarf Poetry

By Bruce Sterling

“1. The Big Ugly Thing That Totally Ruined Poetry

“Squid, nuthatch urethras, pizza kitties, unicorn boners and unicorn believers, 9/11 and the Iraq War: some basic ingredients of flarf, in case you hadn’t already noticed. Oh, and rage. Rage was definitely a factor. And Google — I almost forgot about Google! But Google seems, oddly, to have not been the most important thing about flarf from my perspective, and my perspective, twelve years on, is: flarf is dead, long live flarf. Read more at Wired.


Poetry In The News

23 People Who Will Make You Care About Poetry in 2013

It isn’t far-fetched to say that Patricia Lockwood’s poem “Rape Joke,”which was published at The Awl this week, was the best thing most people read on the Internet, and quite possibly the brightest moment for poetry, this entire year. Very rarely in this day and age do you see people discussing and sharing a poem the way the Internet has with “Rape Joke,” and the sheer number of times this harrowing work has been shared (23,710 times as of this writing, on Facebook alone) lays to waste the ignorant claim that poetry is dead. While Lockwood, who is the author of the poetry collection Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, might be the most talked about poet right now, she certainly isn’t the only person keeping poetry relevant in 2013. Here are some more names to know. Read more at Flavorwire.

Rare Poe-m Sells for $300,000 at Marion Auction

 A handwritten poem by Edgar Allan Poe — expected to fetch between $10,000 and $20,000 — surprised auctioneers at Marion Antique Auctions Saturday when it went for $300,000. Handwritten in ink and signed by the poet, the yellowed document of "The Conqueror Worm" is estimated to have been written in the 1830s. Read more at South Coast Today.

New Books

Halting Steps: Collected and New Poems by Claribel Alegria 

[Paperback] Curbstone Books, 264 pp., $19.95

Halting Steps represents the most complete single-volume retrospective in English of Claribel Alegría’s seven-decade career. The volume collects all of Alegría’s poems from her fourteen previously published books and debuts several new poems under the title “Otherness.”

Vestigial by Page Hill Starzinger 

[Paperback] Barrow Street Press, 72 pp., $16.95

The velocity of the author's insights stuns the reader: we follow, bewitched, into synaptical leaps that seem impossible to sustain, yet are sustained and unstoppable. Vestigial is a virtuoso performance, learned in the extreme, yet also eloquently empathetic. Unfold your hands,/fall a/part; she writes. And we open the page and fall a/part then are re-made, wholly. --Carol Muske-Dukes

Part of the Darkness by David J. Rothman 

[Hardcover] Entasis Press, 140 pp., $26.00
Poetry. "What impresses one first about David J. Rothman is his immense imaginative and intellectual range, but the more one reads his striking and exuberant poetry the more deeply one feels its emotional force and quiet but genuine ferocity. He is an Apollonian touched by the divine madness of Dionysus. Diverse, demanding, and delightful, his poems abundantly reward the reader's attention."—Dana Gioia

The Boss by Victoria Chang

[Hardcover] McSweeney's, 64 pp., $20.00
Written in “a breathless kind of fury,” the poems in award-winning poet Victoria Chang’s virtuosic third collection The Boss dance across the page with the brutal power and incandescent beauty of spring lightning. Obsessive, brilliant, linguistically playful—the mesmerizing world of The Boss is as personal as it is distinctly post-9/11. The result is a breathtaking, one-of-a-kind exploration of contemporary American culture, power structures, family life, and ethnic and personal identity.

Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters by Robert Pinsky

[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 240 pp., $25.95
Quick, joyful, and playfully astringent, with surprising comparisons and examples, this collection takes an unconventional approach to the art of poetry. Instead of rules, theories, or recipes, Singing School emphasizes ways to learn from great work: studying magnificent, monumentally enduring poems and how they are made— in terms borrowed from the “singing school” of William Butler Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium.”

Everything Begins Elsewhere by Tishani Doshi 

[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 64 pp., $16.00
In her second book of poetry—and her American debut—Tishani Doshi returns to the body as a central theme, while extending beyond the corporeal to challenge the more metaphysical borders of space and time. These new poems are powerful meditations born on the joineries of life and death, union and separation, memory and dream, where lovers speak to each other across the centuries and daughters wander into their mothers' childhoods.



Gifts and Questions – An Interview with Anne Carson

by Kevin McNeilly

KM The first thing I want to ask you is about interviews. We’ve been seeing your picture on magazine covers, and you’ve been interviewed quite a bit recently; some of your recent books from Autobiography of Red to Men In the Off Hours have interviews in them. Read more at Unsaid Magazine.

The Quest of a Lifetime

by Harry Eyres

A few weeks ago the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson eulogised the newly retired Sir Alex Ferguson as “the greatest living Briton”. “Most successful football manager of modern times” might seem a more accurate and less hyperbolic description. The truth is that most claims involving the double epithet “greatest living” are dubious. But I think that few would deny the title of France’s greatest living poet to Yves Bonnefoy, who celebrates his 90th birthday later this month, and who says that “to call oneself a poet ... would be pretentious. Poet is a word one can use when speaking of others, if one admires them sufficiently.” Read more at the Financial Times.


Envoi: Editor's Notes

Just a note to let you know that Poetry News in Review will not be issued next week. The editor will be on vacation: reading, talking, eating, doing yardwork, and sleeping (not necessarily in that order). Unless lethargy sets in, we ought to be back up and running the following week.

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Ezra Pound
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Nicanor Parra
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Mary Jo Salter
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Anne Hebert
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Donald Davie
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