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Poetry News In Review

December 9, 2015
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1292 – Sa'di, great Persian poet (Orchard, Rose Garden), dies.
1544 – Teofilo Folengo, Italian poet (b. 1491), dies.
1608 – John Milton, poet/puritan (Paradise Lost), born in London, England (d. 1674).
1891 – Maksim Bahdanovič, Belarusian poet (d. 1917), is born.
1964 – Edith L Sitwell, English poet/author (Wheels), dies at 77.
2002 – Stan Rice, American painter, educator, and poet (b. 1942).

By the Lake

Across the flat and the pastel snow 
Two people go . . . . 'And do you remember 
When last we wandered this shore?' . . . 'Ah no! 
For it is cold-hearted December.' 
'Dead, the leaves that like asses's ears hung on the trees 
When last we wandered and squandered joy here; 
Now Midas your husband will listen for these 
Whispers--these tears for joy's bier.' 
And as they walk, they seem tall pagodas; 
And all the ropes let down from the cloud 
Ring the hard cold bell-buds upon the trees--codas 
Of overtones, ecstasies, grown for love's shroud 

–Edith Sitwell (1887-1964)

World Poetry

Uday Prakash, Poet who Touched Off Award-wapsi Tsunami, Slammed for Praising PM Modi’s Speech

“The speech given by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi today in Parliament on Constitution has importance of a historical inscription, an important stately document. I have not heard in my life such a democratic, inclusive, liberal and polite speech in my life, at least in such an effective manner. He spoke without any bias, so transparently accepted contributions of public leaders who preceded him and the way he praised nation’s first Prime Minister’s democratic tolerance, honesty and argumentative maturity. Besides the way he gave his acceptance and support to the original preamble as also to later amendment, which included secular, socialist and talked about need for reservations, he transcended boundaries of ruling and opposition benches, will go a long way in establishing him as a unanimously accepted statesman with all its emotive connotations.”

Popular Iranian Poet, Songwriter Arrested

A well-known Iranian poet and songwriter has been arrested in Tehran for reasons that remain unclear. Forty-year-old Yaghma Golruyi was detained at his home in the Iranian capital on November 30, his wife, Athena Habibi, said via social media. Habibi said security agents took her husband to an "unknown location."

Recent Reviews

Turtles All the Way Down
by Vivek Narayanan

With Utter, her fourth full-length collection, Trinidadian Vahni Capildeo firmly establishes herself among the most important poets of her generation writing in English, anywhere. This shouldn’t come as a shock to those readers who have followed her and found in all her books a remarkable and thoroughly independent authority, an acuity of vision and prosody; however, Utter now speaks — to me — with a new — gathered — clarity and force. The collection both extends Capildeo’s range and vindicates her continuing strategies and obsessions.

The Poems of TS Eliot, vols 1 & 2, Review: 'teases out every allusion'
by Duncan White

Reading this two-volume edition is like falling down a rabbit hole that drops you not into a world of hookah-smoking caterpillars and smug cats but into something much more curious: a textual reconstruction of TS Eliot’s brain. The editors, Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue, have built a vast and fascinating world out of their annotations, a world in which you can become lost, only to emerge much later dazzled and disoriented by your Adventures in the Waste Land.

Lucy Ives on The Pink Trance Notebooks

I think of the aphorism as a sympathetic form. The aphorism is succinct, correct. It slinks shut, sometimes with a little snap or tone. Its brevity is a performance and thus requires skill, also a source of its sympathy. Something (even a great deal of something) has been left out, but the aphorism is not merely or only a fragment or piece, something bit haphazardly off from something else. The aphorism is careful, rather than abrupt, and frequently warm. It is, as they say, lively. “I am dynamite,” says Nietzsche. “I’m like the animals in the forest. They don’t touch what they cannot eat,” says Karl Lagerfeld. “In love, he who heals first, heals best,” says La Rochefoucauld. “My vagina hurts when I watch gymnastics,” says Chrissie Teigen.

Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer
by Ray McDaniel

It’s hard to figure out exactly how to praise Anne Boyer, not because she doesn’t leave copious evidence of brilliance, diligence, wit, and ethical rigor, but because I can think of no poet who has less interest in or greater distrust of the ideas of praise, brilliance, and all those wee glittering bourgeois items to be found in the gift bag of literary acclaim. Boyer’s writing is rewarding in the ways it smites the reader for wanting to be rewarded, but the exchange is never a hierarchical one; she’s right there with the reader, thoughtfully guilty even as she makes her charges, assessments, and accusations, most of which manifest as the best questions anyone could possibly ask of the bad situation that is the present moment. Garments Against Women is a rich thicket, one bent of making the cost of its making apparent, but also making those costs worth more than just that report. Indeed, it questions the very idea of cost—whether of money, time, effort or sanity—as measure of experience.

Entwined: Three Lyric Sequences by Carol Frost
by Philip Belcher


Two readily discernible emotions accompany the experience of reading for the first time a well-published poet of significant talent. First is embarrassment at not having read the poet long before this late discovery. The second is a sense of gratitude, combined with excitement at the prospect of spending more time, now that she is known to you, reading her ambitious and exquisite poems. The embarrassment passes, but the gratitude and excitement fold over time into lasting appreciation. Such is the experience of discovering Carol Frost through her latest volume of poetry, Entwined: Three Lyric Sequences.


Blue Poles
by Caitríona O’Reilly

It would be nice if poetry wrote itself. Occasionally, when I was younger, I had the feeling that it did: poems were likely to be written quickly, in a flush of enthusiasm it pleased (flattered) me to call inspiration. Sometimes so quickly that in some kind of weird hippocampal storm I had the feeling I was remembering something and copying it down rather than making it up as I went along. Those were the best times. As one gets older the realisation dawns that the hotline to Parnassus was little more than the excited firing of youthful synapses and that the process happened quickly because one’s brain was younger. Idleness was also a factor. Now it feels more like hanging onto a rising balloon, or chasing after a snatch of melody just on the edge of earshot. I’m referring to the initial draft only here: the spit-and-polish stage can take anything from days to months to years.

How W.H. Auden Wrote Prose to Earn a Living, and Poetry to Live his Life
by Robert Fulford

Edward Mendelson, biographer of the great poet W. H. Auden, recently told the readers of the New York Review of Books a striking story. Mendelson received a phone call from someone identified only as “a Canadian burglar.” The burglar said he had written to Auden after reading a poem of his in the prison library. That began a surprisingly long correspondence between burglar and poet. Auden gave him a personal course in literature and was especially pleased (the burglar recalled) to get him started on Kafka.

The Best Book on American Poetry Ever
Kenneth Rexroth's American Poetry in the Twentieth Century
by Michael Lind

The best book ever written about American poetry is American Poetry in the Twentieth Century, published in 1971 by the poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982). Rexroth is remembered today chiefly as a member of the post-World War II San Francisco counterculture, a mentor to the Beats and the author of numerous translations or recreations of Chinese and Japanese poetry. Born in South Bend, Indiana, he was a genuine bohemian, who in the course of a long life and global travels met and befriended many of the leading figures of European and American literary circles. This makes his book a sort of Secret History of American poetry, told by an insider who knew many of his subjects.

Drafts & Framents

Can You Tell Mathematics from Poetry? Take the Quiz to Find Out

"_______ is the ______ of logical ideas"—Albert Einstein. Do the words "mathematics" or "poetry" fill those blanks?

Syracuse Author Turns Donald Trump's Rhetoric into Poetry in 'Bard of the Deal'

A new book from Syracuse author Hart Seely finds that poetry in the sometimes rambling, often rabble-rousing campaign rhetoric of Republican front-runner Donald Trump. "Bard of the Deal: The Poetry of Donald Trump" features nearly 200 poems concocted directly from quotes by Trump.

Poetry In The News

Christopher Middleton Obituary

In 1966 the poet, translator and essayist Christopher Middleton, who has died aged 89, left Britain for the University of Texas at Austin, where he was professor of Germanic languages and literature for the next 32 years. The range of his work ensured that his name was known to many, but with the effect that his poetry was left hidden in plain sight, even though the poet Geoffrey Hill declared him “a major poet of our times”, and in 1964 he had received – from TS Eliot – the Geoffrey Faber memorial prize. 

Kobe Bryant the Bard Earns Mostly Positive Reviews

The students in Nick Twemlow’s college poetry workshop could be surprised this week to be reading the debut work of an enigmatic new voice: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. On Sunday, Bryant announced he would be retiring from professional basketball after this season, his 20th. But rather than releasing a statement through a publicist or holding a news conference, Bryant revealed his decision in 52 lines of free verse, published on The Players’ Tribune. Slam poetry suddenly had new meaning.

Former NEA Chair Dana Gioia Named California Poet Laureate

Dana Gioia, the poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, is returning to public life. This time as California Poet Laureate. Gov. Jerry Brown announced Friday that Gioia has been appointed to a 2-year term, succeeding Juan Felipe Herrera, who is now U.S. Poet Laureate. Gioia, a California native who turns 65 later this month, headed the NEA from 2003 to 2009 and has long advocated making poetry more accessible to the general public and teaching it in schools. His initiatives at the NEA included the national student contest Poetry Out Loud.

New Books

Time Down to Mind by Graham Foust 
[Paperback] Flood Editions, 96 pp., $15.95       

"No one gets dark (or gets darkness) like Graham Foust. He's the one who'll say: 'A touch horrific is the green with which / the ground will tear the winter' while everyone else is writing their paean to spring. His (and ours) is a world of violence and ennui set to catchy numbers. 'I heard a fly buzz. / I don't know when I died.' In TIME DOWN TO MIND, Foust, now in early middle age, feels time's pressure as never before. He faces backwards tweaking lines from old songs and poems while being pulled or blown into the future. 'The heart of being is that I'm being forced out.' This is something we all know, of course, but who else will put it so baldly, so memorably. This work feels necessary."—Rae Armantrout

Bitter Green by Martin Corless-Smith
[Paperback] Fence Books, 96 pp., $15.95

Martin Corless-Smith limns the lyric soul within limits of body, time, and interrelation. In this new work we find him losing and lost yet buoyant in visions of classicism and location. 

Beautiful Zero: Poems by Jennifer Willoughby
[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 96 pp., $16.00

Incantatory, intimate, and incendiary, the poems of this award-winning debut are filled with explosive wit and humor like “a knife you don’t see coming.” A kaleidoscopic intelligence flows through Beautiful Zero, embracing forms of culture high and low in effort to finding meaning in the chaos. Poems about Shark Week and college football sit beside Roman Polanski and biting critiques of modern war. A series of poems set in a Kaiser Permanente hospital tear into the world of privatized health care while simultaneously charting a story of love in the face of catastrophe. Yet even at her most surreal, Willoughby always finds the pulsing heart at the core of the poem. 

You Come Too: My Journey with Robert Frost by Lesley Lee Francis 
[Hardcover] University of Virginia Press, 288 pp., $34.95 

Robert Frost observed in his wife, Elinor, a desire to live "a life that goes rather poetically." The same could be said of many members of the Frost family, over several generations. In You Come Too, Frost’s granddaughter, Lesley Lee Francis, combines priceless personal memories and rigorous research to create a portrait of Frost and the women, including herself, whose lives he touched.

In the Flesh: Poems by Adam O’Riordan
[Paperback] W. W. Norton & Company, 64 pp., $15.95

This startling debut from a young British poet traces the paths from past to present, the lost to the living, seeking familiarity in a world of “false trails and disappearing acts.” Here, relatives, friends, and other absences are coaxed into life and urgently pressed on the reader as they surface, in the flesh. At the heart of the collection lies the sonnet sequence “Home,” a slant look at the lives of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, intersected by more recent, sometimes unsettling, personal portraits. Clear-eyed and sensuous, these are poems linked by a strong sense of place and presence, of history captured in an irrevocable moment.


Why Poetry Must Be Lost (Twice) Before Being Found in Translation
The Polish translator of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s poems reflects on the process and the philosophy.
by Adam Zdrodowski

Robert Frost provided the notorious definition of poetry as “that which is lost […] in translation.” Then would translating Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s translations of Prakrit love poetry into Polish mean that poetry was lost twice in the process, and there is nothing more of it left? Before I try answering the question, let me provide some background information. I have published Mehrotra translations in two journals in Poland: the online Helikopter (a selection from his renderings of Prakrit poetry) and the literary quarterly Elewator (a short presentation of the poet’s own work). What is the context to read Mehrotra in Polish? While a significant number of Indian novels written in English is available in Polish (Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Anuradha Roy, Jeet Thayil, Tishani Doshi, Kiran Desai, and more), there is hardly any contemporary Indian poetry to be found in translation.

How the 'Ungrateful Black Writer' Saeed Jones Is Rewriting Culture
The executive editor of culture at BuzzFeed has ignited a passionate conversation in the literary world about minority representation.
by Daniel Reynolds

It took Saeed Jones, the executive editor of culture at BuzzFeed, over a month to write “Self-Portrait Of The Artist As Ungrateful Black Writer.” This wasn’t due to writer's block or a lengthy word count. The game-changing article, published in April of this year, highlighted how racial disparities in the publishing industry, which according to a Publisher’s Weekly report is 89 percent white, limit opportunities for writers of color. Jones, a black gay writer and Pushcart Prize-winning poet, feared his livelihood could be at stake.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

In thinking of the coming of the closing of the year, these two poems by Ezra Pound spring to mind:

Ancient Music

Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!
Sing goddamn, damn. Sing goddamn!

Winter is i-cumin in,
Lhude sing goddamn!
Raineth drop and staineth slop
And how the wind doth ram
Sing goddamn!

Skiddth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing goddamn.
Goddamn, goddamn, tis why I am goddamn,
So gainst the winter’s balm.

Sing goddamn, sing goddamn, DAMN!


'And the days are not full enough'

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
                Not shaking the grass.

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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
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Carriera Duke
Jon Stallworthy