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Poetry News In Review

February 7, 2012

Poetry News In Review

Edited By David Sanders

Specimen Days

February 7, 2012

1809 – Frederik Paludan-Muller, Danish Romantic poet (Danserinden), is born.

1823 – Ann Radcliffe (Ward), English poet/author of horror novels, dies at 58.
1833 – Ricardo Palma, Peru, writer/poet (Tradiciones Peruanas), is born.

1839 – Karl August Nicander, Swedish poet (b. 1799), is born.

1881 – Fredrik Cygnaeus, Finnish poet/literature critic, dies at 73.
1914 – David Ignatow, US poet (Tread the Dark, Rescue the Dead), is born.

David Ignatow

I'll be there, held together by another kind
of structure, of thought and imagery,
mind and matter, love and longing, tensions
opposite, such as the skeleton requires
to stand upright, to move with speed,
to sit with confidence, my friend the skeleton
and I its friend, shielding it from harm.

—from "My Skeleton, My Rival" by David Ignatow, 1914–1997

World Poetry

Battle of Words over the Future of Poetry
World Poetry

It may mark a turning point for China's traditional publishing houses that they have no plans to publish the works of last year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer, despite having printed the collections of previous laureates. Some might argue that it is an indication the world is becoming more crude, more cynical and less appreciative of issues, such as nature, that the 80-year-old focuses on. It certainly seems in some quarters that poetry has no hold on many people today. A survey in November showed poets are among the bottom three in a list of relationship partners in a country with about 3,000 years of history of writing poems. Read more at CRIEnglishcom.

Youth Cries for Justice in Kapil Sibal's Poetry Session

A young man, who described himself as one of the millions of unemployed in India, rushed to the podium on Friday evening at the end of Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal's poetry reading session, pleading with the minister that the government "take away the lives of millions of educated unemployed like me, who cannot speak English and hence cannot have access to a decent job in India". "The government should kill young men like us," the youth spluttered as he broke into tears on stage. Sibal, who was reading from his collection of English poetry, was rescued by co-writer and poet Ashok Chakradhar, who said that "certain questions cannot be answered." Read more at Times of India.

Carol Ann Duffy and Geoffrey Hill: Truly Poetic Heavyweights
Geoffrey Hill

In the latest poetic punch-up, Duffy and Hill show why poets find it hard to be team players
No sooner are Judith Palmer, the Poetry Society director, and Fiona Sampson, the Poetry Review editor, out of the news than another poetry punch-up enters the ring. This time it's two grandees of the literary world. Geoffrey Hill, the Oxford professor of poetry, in the blue corner, throws a slug at Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate, in the red corner: at a lecture in Oxford, Hill likened Duffy to a Mills & Boon writer.Hill demeans himself. After 350 years of male dominance. Duffy is the first female poet laureate. Hill's comparison of the language of Duffy to Mills & Boon is like a man in the 1950s comparing the first female managing director to a jumped-up office angel. Read more at the Guardian.

Recent Reviews

Henry Gould on Eliot, Ashbery, Beer, and Mazer

If there is, or could be, a center of American poetry — a suspect, much-derided supposition — then John Ashbery, needless to say, lives at or near it. Ashbery: presiding spirit, native genius! That courtly gent, whose arctic blue eyes, disappointed mouth, and eagle beak, convened for the camera, curiously resemble portraits of T.S. Eliot in old age. Ashbery's parasol-like plumage spreads a kindly shade over more recent laboring; his generous blurbs brighten the back pages of scores of advancing young upstarts. The work of two of the most promising, Ben Mazer and John Beer, reveal a substantial debt to their mentor — combined with the influence of an earlier poet, lurking behind both as he does behind Ashbery: that is, yes, Eliot, old Possum himself. Read more at Critical Flame.

Spare, Enigmatic Lorine Niedecker
Marjorie Perloff

by Marjorie Perloff
Lorine Niedecker has been fortunate in her critics, most of them poets like herself. From Basil Bunting, Donald Davie, and Charles Tomlinson in England to William Carlos Williams, Robert Creeley, and, more recently, Rae Armantrout and Elizabeth Willis (the editor of a fine new volume of essays titled Radical Vernacular) in the United States, Niedecker’s spare and enigmatic lyric poetry has been carefully studied and appreciated. The catalyst for recent work on Niedecker has surely been Jenny Penberthy’s superb edition of the Collected Works (2002). Penberthy is also the author of a study of Niedecker’s correspondence with her lifelong mentor Louis Zukofsky – a study that tactfully and elegantly circumvents what has been a minefield for all Zukofsky (and hence Niedecker) scholars: the refusal of Paul Zukofsky, the poet’s son and executor of his estate, to permit publication of the bulk of his father’s letters (the manuscripts are in the Harry Ransom Center in Texas), as well as to impose severe restrictions on all citation from the poetry itself. Read more at The Times Literary Supplement.

The Cloud Corporation by Timothy Donnelly - Review

by David Wheatley
"Salutations from the all-encompassing / arms of a hammered millionaire!", begins the very funny "Dreams of Arabian Hillbillies" from The Cloud Corporation. Contemporary war poetry, of which this a striking example, is rarely far from the poetry wars, and Timothy Donnelly's book arrives at a moment of high conflict on both fronts. Attacking Rita Dove's Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry recently, Helen Vendler noted with dismay that Dove had allocated more than twice as many pages to the Harlem Renaissance poet Melvin B Tolson as she had done to Wallace Stevens. Much of the debate that followed pitted an exclusive version of the canon against the rougher energies of a more pluralist alternative. Read more at the Guardian.


How to Make a Toilet-Paper-Roll Blowgun: Alternatives to Akhmatova in Mahmoud Darwish, Jean Genet, and Tomas Tranströmer

by Tom Sleigh
Akhmatova’s “Requiem” begins with an anecdote about the poet standing in line before the Kresty Prison. A stone building on the banks of the Neva, I visited it as a tourist several years ago—yes, as a tourist, you can pay several rubles and get a tour of the prison—and the prisoners: for Kresty is still a working prison. After the guide takes your ticket, you walk into a tall, narrow chamber with catwalks above you that lead to cell doors. When I visited, light through the clerestory in the onion dome overhead lit the stone walls, and birds trapped up in the dome whirled and fluttered and rustled their wings. Prisoners lounging against the catwalk railings looked down on us: the reverse of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, it was the prisoners who kept surreptitious watch over the tourists. But when the prison was first built, it consisted of two five-story buildings in the shapes of crosses—to encourage repentance—but which also allowed the corridors to be watched by guards from a single convergent point. Read more at Blackbird.

Everything Indicates

by Tamsin Smith, Photo by Thomas Michael Alleman
"Everything indicates - the smallest does, and the largest does..."
~ excerpts from Walt Whitman's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry
Ahoy! What a week I've had. Whitman provides the refrain for a string of days, rich in parts that furnish themselves toward the soul. That would be my soul, certainly, but also the eternal human soul. At each turn, I've witnessed reminders that a common experience envelops us all. Our personal details may vary at the surface, but beneath it all, we are akin. We are pilgrims driven by the same rough quests and questions, dreams and dread, losses and longings, heroics and humbled awe. Read more at the Huffington Post.

A Passion for Poetry

by Spencer Bailey
Vijay Seshadri, a poet and professor at Sarah Lawrence College, met a physical therapist at a party several years ago. She asked him the standard get-to-know-you questions. What’s your name? What do you do? He told her his name is Vijay and he writes poetry. “Oh,” she said. “You’re Vijay Seshadri.” Seshadri had published a poem called “Aphasia,”about a language disorder, in the April 12, 2004, issue of The New Yorker — at the time, his tenth to appear in the magazine. By coincidence, the physical therapist worked daily with stroke-ridden patients, many of whom had suffered from aphasia, and was a New Yorker subscriber. The poem had hit home. As Seshadri tells it: “Here was someone who had never read poetry, but she subscribed to The New Yorker, and she saw this poem, and it was about her job. She cut it out and taped it onto her refrigerator.” Read more at the New York Review of Magazines.

Drafts & Fragments

Nike Does Neruda

Poetry In The News

Chinese Poet: Shen Yun Evokes Contemplation
Shen Yun

“When I watched it, I was exposed to art that feeds the spiritual side,” said poet Huang Xiang, after watching Shen Yun Performing Arts at Lincoln Center on Sunday. Shen Yun, which received a standing ovation after the show, was established in 2006 with one mission: to revive 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture—including principles such as kindness, wisdom, sincerity, and a reverence for the heavens, says Shen Yun’s website. This culture was nearly destroyed by more than 60 years of communist rule in China. Mr. Xiang is a celebrated Chinese artist who had poems published in 1958 in The Nationwide Selection of Poems, in China. He has written extensively about democracy and human rights, and has been published in a wide range of countries, including the United States, France, and Taiwan. He was severely persecuted and imprisoned six times from 1959 to 1995 by the communist regime in China, while his father was shot to death in jail by a secret order. He lives in the United States under asylum as a writer in residency. Read more at The Epoch Times.

Kingman School Board Praised for Action Taken Regarding Poet

Only one person showed up to the Kingman Unified School District Board meeting Tuesday night to thank the board for taking action on parent's concerns over a recent performance of a Los Angeles poet at White Cliffs Middle School. Matt Sedillo came to Kingman as part of the Kingman Unified School District's guest poet program on Dec. 20. He also recited poetry at Beale Street Brews later that day. The district investigated the event after several parents raised concerns about the political views Sedillo expressed in online interviews and poetry. Read more at the Kingman Daily Miner.

iPhone Poet Dean Atta’s N-Word Poem Goes Viral
Dean Atta

Dean Atta’s life is changing. The 27 year-old performance poet has been performing for over ten years but it’s only last week when posting his poem I Am Nobody’s Nigger that people began to sit up and take notice (although, to be fair, anyone who’s had work commissioned for the Tate Modern and National Portrait Gallery can’t be that unknown). The poem was written after the sentencing of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. In it he deals with the N-word or, more precisely, the misuse of the N-word by irresponsible rappers: “You killed Hip Hop and resurrected headless zombies”. Read more at the Inquistr.

New Books

Pitch: Poems by Todd Boss

[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 112 pp., $24.95
With poems about loss, home, marriage, and the inner music of our lives, Pitch is a series of variations on an overturned piano. By turns bright and dark like the keys on a keyboard, these poems demonstrate the range of one of contemporary poetry’s most musical poets, a master of internal rhyme.

The Rabbits Could Sing: Poems by Amber Flora Thomas

[Paperback] University of Alaska Press, 67 pp., $14.95
The poems included in The Rabbits Could Sing delve farther into territory that Amber Flora Thomas visited in her prize-winning book Eye of Water, showing even more clearly how “the seam has been pulled so far open on the past” that “the dress will never close.” Here, the poem acts not as a body in itself but as a garb drawn around the here and now. Loss, longing, and violation are sustenance to a spirit jarred from its animal flesh and torn apart, unsettling the reader with surprising images that are difficult to forget. The poems in The Rabbits Could Sing invite the reader into a world thick with the lush bounty of summer in the far north, where the present is never far from the shadow of the past.

Paragon Park by Mark Doty
Paragon Park

[Paperback] David R. Godine, 192 pp., $18.95
Back when we were both very young, Godine had the honor of publishing the first two poetry books of Mark Doty, who has since gone on to considerable and deserved fame and fortune, winning the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008, as well as honors from the National Book Critics Circle, the LA Times Book Prize, a Whiting Award, and (as the first American in its history) the T.S.Eliot Prize. Here, reset and containing almost two dozen poems that appeared in small magazines but have never before been collected, are the complete texts of Turtle, Swan and Bethlehem in Broad Daylight to which Doty has contributed a new introduction. Essentially a new book, and important both for its history and its new inclusions.

Poet in Andalucia by Nathalie Handal

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 144 pp., $16.95
"Handal’s newest collection is an ambitious work that looks back at Spanish poet Federico García Lorca’s 1940 classic, Poet in New York. Handal says she recreates “Lorca’s journey in reverse,” by narrating her journey through Spain. Accompanied by comprehensive clarifying notes and a travelogue, Handal’s collection resonates with a scholarly understanding of Spain’s religious and linguistic influences."
—Publishers Weekly


Michael Turner Curates Concrete Poetry

Can we say the more conceptual a poem the closer it gets to art? Can we say there is a precise moment in which conceptual writing became an art form. Or when conceptual art bled into writing, or poetry in particular? What might the differences between east and west coast conceptualists be? Or, is there any way we can trace influences over time and geography? Michael Turner seems to be one who is attempting to do some of this work. From an interview on Here and Elsewhere: H&E: As a writer, does some of your personal interest in working on this exhibition come from the show’s exploration of text and its visual and poetic possibilities? Read more at Lemon Hound.

A Self-Deprecating Poet Laureate? Mark Strand on His New Collection and Poets' Former Pop-Star Status
Mark Strand

by Sofia Sokolove
Less then thirty minutes into his reading on Thursday night in the Avaya Auditorium in the ACE building, sponsored by the Michener Center for Writers, former U.S Poet Laureate Mark Strand confessed, “I don’t know how long I’ve been reading,” pausing before continuing, in a tone of equal parts humor and sincere humility, “I’ll keep reading…I mean, it’s painless for me.” Read more at CultureMap Austin.

Review + Interview /// Skin Horse by Olivia Cronk

by J. A. Tyler
I enjoy it when I don’t exactly know what to expect. I do make certain assumptions about the titles that Action Books produces – they will be thick in language, they will sing of desperation, they will crave and carve, they will confound but then beautifully unwind – but of Olivia Cronk, I knew little more than a few sample poems before having digested her forthcoming Action Books volume Skin Horse, and I was nicely and verily impressed. And now, thanks to the magic of our Monkeybicycle machine, we get to do a little interview + review for these wonderfully woven new words. Read more at Monkeybicycle.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Poet T.S. Eliot Visits His Hometown in 1933

by Tim O'Neil
The famous poet toured his old neighborhoods. He told admirers he relaxed by reading detective stories, not serious novels. He claimed he didn't like to write. "There are so many more pleasant things do to than writing — sun bathing, for instance," Thomas Stearns Eliot told St. Louis reporters on Jan. 16, 1933, during his first visit home in 19 years. T.S. Eliot, 44, was having a dignified blast understating himself. He had established his reputation in 1915 with publication of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Seven years later, he became the pre-eminent poet of the English language with the "The Waste Land," his allusion-filled tale of cultural disillusionment after World War I that has befuddled literature students ever since. (It begins, "April is the cruellest month...") Read more at St. Louis Today.

This is a midly interesting story, but what is most striking about it is this picture. What I didn't include here was the caption, which indicates that the photo was taken in 1953. While St. Louis in 1953 seems like a long way away from 2012 based on the faces in this photograph (why does Grant Wood spring to mind?), it is interesting to note that meanwhile in different parts of the globe 1953 also marked the publications of The Kind of Act of by Robert Creeley, Heart's Needle by W. D. Snodgrass, Poems by Kenneth Koch, Territoires by Jean Follain, and The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz; the founding of the Paris Review as well as City Lights; and the births of Mark Doty, Tony Hoagland, Jane Hirschfield, and Gjertrud Schnackenberg.
And so it goes.

—David Sanders

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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
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Julia Randall
Emily Dickinson
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