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Poetry News In Review

August 6, 2015
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.
1868 – Paul Claudel, France, diplomat/poet (L’Otage-1909), is born.
1889 – John Middleton Murry, English poet (d. 1957), is born.
1996 – Buland Al-Haidari, poet, dies at 69.

Erect for us
from the feet of locusts in our desert
from the dry cactus
from the limbs of our dead sons
scaffolds that charge us
with anger that can carry us
on a great song
We're bored with your face plunged in rubber
in the earth
in crime. 

—from “Age of the Rubber Seals” by Buland Al-Haidari (1926–1996)

World Poetry

Scriptwriter Wins Top Poetry Prize at the National Eisteddfod

A former Pobol y Cwm scriptwriter was awarded the Crown of the Montgomeryshire and the Marches National Eisteddfod during a special ceremony on the Pavilion stage. Manon Rhys from Cardiff was declared the best poet from 22 entries received by Eisteddfod officials. She is the wife of T James Jones, a former Archdruid himself, and he was seated on the stage as her name was announced by Archdruid Christine.

The World’s Largest African Poetry Archive Is Coming to an Internet Near You

The first-ever African poetry archive is rewriting history and doing something that’s never been done before: collecting all of the continent’s vast and diverse writings into one corner of the Internet. The Badilisha Poetry X-Change, a website launched in 2012 by the Africa Centre, an arts and culture organization in Cape Town, South Africa, has now archived the work of more than 350 poets in 24 countries across the continent. The collection is only growing, with two new poets featured on the website and via podcast each week. Last year, the site also launched a mobile app that lets users easily discover poets and listen to them on their smartphones.

Recent Reviews

Best in Show
by Abigail Deutsch

“The poem isn’t complete on the page,” David Yezzi has remarked. “It needs to be spoken out loud. The performance is just as important as the poem itself.” Yezzi’s third book of poems, Birds of the Air, offers a suite of diverse and distinguished performances: His speakers toggle between warm and wicked, appealing and repulsive. Meanwhile, the poet tries on different stylistic personalities. While his first two books showed off his exquisite formalism, his third presents a balance of formal marvels and looser-lined, looser-lipped dramatic monologues—works different in sound from his lyric poems but similar in sensibility. No matter his mode, Yezzi’s sad, often funny poems pick at complex knots of emotion, focusing on the entanglement of love and ugliness, sweetness and bitterness, promise and loss.

The Importance of Rhyme and Reason
The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry review 
by Carol Rumens

This anthology is ambitious – in scope, biographical apparatus and in what it expects of its translators. Although the chronological arc is shorter than that of the granddaddy anthology, Dimitri Obolensky’s The Penguin Book of Russian Verse (1965), which included medieval oral poetry and a pair of important 18th-century literary writers, Lomonosov and Sumarokov, the present editors generously represent and expand – in both directions – the Pushkin era and the 20th century. There are names in the 200-year constellation sprawling between Gavrila Derzhavin (1743-1818) and Marina Boroditskaya (1954-) that will be unfamiliar even to educated Russian readers.

Happiness by Jack Underwood review 
by Sean O'Brien

To have a tattoo done, Michael Donaghy wrote, requires “a whim of iron”. With Happiness, Jack Underwood’s first collection, we seem at times to be in the presence of that whim as it applies its brightly coloured inks to matters of life and death. When his initial Faber pamphlet came out in 2009, Underwood appeared to show Donaghy’s influence, but now he recalls a poet of an older generation, Hugo Williams, for whom, as now for Underwood, the world is largely a personal matter composed of the problems of love and selfhood, as well as that of Frank O’Hara, whose presence is now as ubiquitous as weather, with his “Personism” manifesto seeming to promise access to all areas.

Heather Christle’s ‘Heliopause’ Disintegrates Reality 
by Blake Butler

The first time I heard Heather Christle read, I'd had more than my fair share of tequila. I'd taken up one of those states where both shouting and mumbling feel like normal forms of speech delivery, and nothing actually had walls. This is, of course, not the best state of mind to be in while attending a poetry reading, and yet I remember this one distinctly. As soon as Christle opened her mouth her voice controlled the room—not due to volume, or some kind of rigged-up performative maneuver certain readers might channel in an attempt to captivate, but because hers was so obviously the voice of someone in control of her own wavelength. It became immediately clear, even in tequila-hell, that it was time to listen.


Redressing the Emperor: Why Poets Matter
by Amy King

They say you can be a bad person and still make a great thing. They say you can use poetry cynically for your own selfish gain in the name of free speech. But what they don’t say so often, because there are shaming mechanisms in place, is that this Western inclination towards abstracting one’s speech actions into a removed cause and thereby exempting the speaker from accountability is a privileged thing. Such positioning pretends history doesn’t count, the person’s choices don’t count, the pain inflicted through harmful speech acts doesn’t count, only the work and its right to exist counts. Colonialism has been pulling variations of these white supremacist tricks for heaps of decades “for the good of the people,” “for the sake of freedom,” etc. Such maneuvers are ultimately the building blocks of how we value human lives on a hierarchy. And this is precisely why poets matter.

Drafts & Framents

Tacoma Puts Poetry Inside the Box – a Poetry Box
by Rosemary Ponnekanti

If you haven’t seen Tacoma’s newest Poetry Box yet, you’d be forgiven. Tucked away in the east end of Freighthouse Square near the art gallery, it’s not the biggest public art piece around — but it’s part of a new movement from Seattle to Portland that has folks stashing poems inside display boxes to add some reflection to our busy passing lives. There are at least three Poetry Boxes in Tacoma so far, including the Freighthouse Square one, which was installed last month by the Puget Sound Poetry Connection.

by Hurricane Films

We're here on Kickstarter now to invite you to join us in this long-overdue celebration.
The documentary will be an essential companion piece to the narrative. Narrated by Cynthia Nixon (who plays Emily in the feature film) PHOSPHORESCENCE will take us on a journey through the seasons of Emily's life in mid 1800’s New England as we engage with her passionate relationships via her letters and poems. Emily’s deep love of horticulture and music as well as her closeness to her family and friends will form a rich tapestry - combining elements of a natural history film and a Koyaanisqatsi-esque travelogue. Together with an ensemble cast of highly recognized actors lending their voices to her many correspondences not dissimilar in tone and feel to Ken Burns' American Civil War. And with the differing views and interpretations of her poetry by contemporary experts we aim to weave a story that will both surprise, delight and throw light on some controversial opinion from unexpected quarters.

Poetry In The News

Poetry On Civil Rights And Racism Gets A Colorado Book Award

The late poet Jake Adam York of Denver reads his work at an American Book Review - University of Houston reading shortly before he died. This year’s Colorado Book Award for poetry goes to the late Jake Adam York, of Denver for his book “Abide.” York, who died in 2012 of a stroke, often wrote about the South, including forgotten victims of racial violence. “I want to recover their  names but I also want to recover their lives to the extent that that’s possible,” said York during a reading hosted by the American Book Review/University of Houston shortly before his death.

Elizabeth Bishop Home Up for Sale Again

The childhood home of Elizabeth Bishop — winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, as well as the one-time poet laureate of the United States — is up for sale again. It’s been more than a decade since an eclectic group from across the continent bought the 19th-century house and turned it into a writers retreat.

New Books

Roll Deep: Poems by Major Jackson
[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 96 pp., $26.95

In his fourth collection, a breakthrough volume, Major Jackson appropriates the vernacular notion of “rolling deep” to capture the spirit of aesthetic travel that defines these forceful new poems and brazenly announces his steady accretion of literary and artistic influences, both formal and experimental―his “crew.” The confident and radiant poems in Roll Deep address a range of topics, most prominently human intimacy and war. And like his best work to date, these poems create new experiences with language owed to Jackson’s willingness to once again seek a rhythmic sound that expresses the unique realities of the twenty-first century with humor and understanding. Whether set in Nairobi, Madrid, or Greece, the poems are sensuously evocative and unapologetically with-it, in their effort to build community across borders of language and style.

Dome of the Hidden Pavilion: New Poems by James Tate
[Hardcover] Ecco, 160 pp., $25.99

The seventeenth book of verse from one of America’s finest and most acclaimed contemporary poets—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Capturing his inimitable voice—provocative, amusing, understated, and riotous all at once—the poems in Dome of the Hidden Pavilion demonstrate James Tate at his finest. Innovative and fresh, they range in subject from a talking blob to a sobering reminiscence of a war and its aftereffects.

The Academy of Hay by Julia Shipley
[Paperback] Bona Fide Books, 88 pp., $15.00

Julia Shipley's luminous debut collection lingers in the liminal spaces where transition and connection occur. With intelligence and compassion, The Academy of Hay delivers a feminist response to our world straight from the earth.

Borrowed Wave by Rachel Moritz        
[Paperback] Kore Press, 72 pp., $16.95         

In three sections linked by the metaphor of water and the wave, these poems explore how places of the past are mapped spatially in our minds, how experience creates an emotive imprint on the self, and how awakening to desire embarks us on a journey of bewilderment. These haunting, luminous poems consider the spirit’s place in the body of childhood and the queer experience and call on the traditions of lyric experiment in American poetry stretching back to Emily Dickinson.

A Small Story about the Sky by Alberto Ríos
[Paperback] Copper Canyon Press, 110 pp., $16.00

In his thirteenth book, Alberto Rios casts an intense desert light on the rich stories unfolding along the Mexico-US border. Peppered with Spanish and touches of magical realism, ordinary life and its simple props—morning showers, spilled birdseed, winter lemons—becomes an exploration of mortality and humanity, and the many possibilities of how lives might yet be lived.


Q-and-A with Purdue Prof whose Poetry was Awarded $10,000
with Eliana Yu

Marianne Boruch, a Purdue professor of English, was recently named the Indiana Author of the Year. She is the first poet to ever win the $10,000 prize, which seeks a nationally read author based in Indiana. Below, The Exponent conducted a Q-and-A with Boruch on the role of poetry in society today as well as what poetry can offer us.

Poet Sonia Sanchez's Life Gets Film Treatment
by Sofiya Ballin

Sonia Sanchez wonders how she became "this woman with razor blades between her teeth.” "That's a great line, I think," she says of the imagery from her poem “Woman." "I love how stuff comes through the body - starts at the toe jam and goes all the way up!" She makes jazzy hand motions from her feet all the way through her body.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Broadsided Press could be described in a couple of ways: a small press specializing in direct-to-reader distribution; a monthly literary journal dedicated to single-serving works of art and literature; a literary-minded street art project; all of the above.
Founded in 2005 by Elizabeth Bradfield, Broadsided curates a monthly broadside, featuring original poetry and artwork, and posts it as a free online download. These broadsides are then (in theory) printed and pasted wherever the world is in need of a little poetry (everywhere). What follows are a few examples of Broadsided broadsides, as originals and in the wild.

This sounds like a good guerilla home project: Make broadsides of your favorite poems and hang them on light poles and bulletin boards across town. I'm on it!

View Past Issues

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