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Poetry News In Review

July 16, 2014
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1730 – Elijiah Fenton, poet, dies.
1736 – Thomas Yalden, poet/fable writer, dies.
1857 – Pierre-Jean de Baranger, poet, dies.
1890 – Gottfried Keller, novelist/poet, dies.
1923 – Louis M A Couperus, poet/writer (Books of Small Soles), dies at 60.
1943 – Reinaldo Arenas, Cuban poet (d. 1990), is born.
1949 – Vyacheslav Ivanov, Russian poet (b. 1866), dies.

The Vineyard Of Dionysus

Dionysus walks his vineyard, his beloved;
Two women in dark clothing—  two vintagers —  follow him.
Dionysus tells the two mournful guards —  The vintagers:
"Take your sharp knife, my vintners, Grief and Torment;
Gather the blood of scarlet bunches, the tears of my golden clusters—  
Take the victim of bliss to the whetstone of grief,
The purple of suffering to the whetstone of bliss;
Pour the fervent liquid of scarlet delights into my ardent Grail!"

World Poetry

Cameroon: Concern for Health of Imprisoned Poet Enoh Meyomesse 

PEN International joins English PEN in expressing its concern for imprisoned poet and activist Enoh Meyomesse following his recent admission to the prison hospital in the overcrowded Kondengui Central Prison, Youandé. We are currently awaiting further details of his condition. However, in May 2014 Meyomesse was moved to the prison infirmary to be treated for malaria and amoebiasis, and we are seriously concerned that his condition may have deteriorated. We are calling on the Cameroonian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally on humanitarian grounds. More.

Poet Akiko Yosano’s Unpublished 1937 Anti-war Poem Found in Tokyo

A short anti-war poem written in 1937 on a fan has been authenticated to be the work of famed poet Akiko Yosano, who may have kept it unpublished because of fears of government censorship in pre-World War II Japan. Yosano (1878-1942) wrote numerous passionate poems, including the controversial "Brother, don't give your life," addressed to her younger brother, who fought in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. The newly discovered 31-syllable "tanka" poem was written in August 1937, a month after the Marco Polo Bridge incident, in which Japanese and Chinese troops exchanged gunfire. In the work, Yosano showed concerns over the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). More.

Leader Asks Poets to Preserve Cultural Identity

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has asked poets to preserve cultural identity. “Of course, the main function of a poem is to influence the minds and hearts of people, feeding them with food for thought,” the Leader said on Saturday night during a meeting with poets and literati, which is held on the eve of the birthday of Imam Hassan (AS) every year. “Like the great poets in the history of Persian literature, each poet has a duty to artistically influence the minds of their fans to enrich their solitude with the spirit of hope, joy, vibrancy and progress, and to strengthen these elements, which are the real identity of the people,” he added. More.

Recent Reviews

Fire Break by George Albon

by Benjamin Landry
An ancient and fundamental cord began to vibrate in me when I read the first poem of Fire Break, the sure-footed latest from George Albon. Well, not exactly ancient in terms of human civilization, but certainly ancient in terms of my poetic education. See if you can spot the reference:

When they told the myth in the present tense
I looked around

I had things behind me all scattered walls
I fronted them

I started out, then I was fore,
a vertical applying

watching broad shapes to find the inaugural
moment (9)

If, like me, reading this passage put you in the way “of three minds,” then you, too, recognize Albon’s opening as an homage to Wallace Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” with their shared senses of the recursive, improvisatory and oracular. More.

Poets Society

Digging into New Work from Patricia Lockwood and Emily Kendal Frey
by Thomas Ross
A few years back, two debut poetry collections made Portland noteworthy to the minds of the nation's literati, though for different reasons. Portland poet Emily Kendal Frey's The Grief Performance won the Norma Farber First Book Award. Then, in 2012, Octopus Books released Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, the first book of poetry by Patricia Lockwood, who has since been named the "Poet Laureate of Twitter" by HTML Giant and become one of the most widely read poets of her generation. More.


Ivana Gadjanski, the Scientist-Poet

by Melissa Pandika
Science on its own isn’t enough. … You need some leap of the imagination. The daughter of a poet, Gadjanski is a researcher and project leader at Serbia’s R&D Center for Bioengineering, where she’s developing an easier method for growing cartilage that could one day be used to treat sports injuries and arthritis. She’s also building a research infrastructure in a country suffering from severe brain drain, opening Serbia’s first-ever facility 3-D tissue printing facility, plus a low-cost workshop for artists and entrepreneurs. But whenever she finds herself stumped on a research question, her career trajectory — anything, really — Gadjanski writes a poem. She’s not just a casual scribbler but rather an award-winning poet who’s already begun penning her third volume of poetry. More.

Translating Poetry: An Act and Art of Preserving the Essential

by Rachel Tzvia Back
The modern Hebrew word for “translation” — tirgum (root letters t-r-g-m) — can be traced back to Aramaic, with cognates in the ancient Semitic languages of Akkadian and Ugaritic. In its earliest incarnations, the word carried with it the meaning of “interpretation,” and the simpler notions of reading and speaking — lexical evidence, it seems, that in ancient cultures the one who could read, and then speak about what he had read, occupied by definition an interpreting role. The single biblical usage of the word in the Book of Ezra references a letter written and translated into Aramaic: “ … the writing of the letter was written in the Aramaic character, and set forth [meturgam] in the Aramaic tongue” (4:7). More.

Five Ancient Chinese Idioms That Explain the Modern Tongue

by Michelle Tang
What do you think when you think of China? A repressive government, human rights abuse, corruption scandals, terrible pollution? Admit it, I’m right. Here’s what you probably don’t know: China is as rich in language as it is in engineers. Many modern, everyday Chinese idioms have their roots in ancient poetry. These idioms, which are each composed of four Chinese characters, are totally unique to the language. Chinese has 20,000 such idioms in total; only one or two thousand are commonly used. But Chinese schoolkids often spend their days reciting them in class. More.

Drafts & Framents

Vermont Hosts Battle Between Prose And Poetry

by Karen Given
Michigan vs. Ohio State. Montagues vs. Capulets. Dodgers vs. Giants. Cats vs. Dogs. Carolina vs. Duke. Darkness vs. light. The list of perennial archrivals goes on and on. But in the summer of 2013, Karen Given ventured to Montpelier, Vt. to witness a rivalry so bitter and all-consuming that it’s a wonder she returned to tell the tale. Just 15 minutes before game time, the vast and serene campus green at Vermont College of Fine Arts showed no signs of the annual Writers vs. Poets softball game. There were no bats, no balls, no bases, and no players. Suddenly, Victorio Reyes stormed onto the scene. More.

No Rhyme And Even Less Reason: The 7 Worst Celebrity Poets

by Michael Hollan
Celebrities can usually write words, so many times they'll dabble in a little bit of poetry. Famous people like to do things like write poetry so that they get to feel important while not being judged on the quality of their work. They put some words together, so they get to consider themselves poets. Here are seven of the worst examples of celebrity poetry, starting with the most recent celebrity poet: Pamela Anderson. More.

Awkward Moments, and One Important One Recitation by Sean Connery Calms a Frequent Flier

by Cristina Mariani-May
I joined my family’s company, Banfi Vintners, in 1993 after I graduated from Georgetown. We’re wine importers based in Old Brookville, Long Island. My first job with the company was in marketing and events so I traveled around the country to meet with sales teams. Now one of my main responsibilities as a co-C.E.O. is managing our operations in Italy. I still do a lot of events since I’m responsible for getting our message out to the public. Wine is very personal, rooted in history, culture and romance. When people choose a wine, it’s based on more than price and packaging. There has to be a connection, and that’s my job. More.

Poetry In The News

Poet's Former Hartford Home Could Become Museum

Their love for the poetry of Wallace Stevens means so much to a small group of investors that they have signed a purchase agreement for Stevens' Hartford home with the idea of turning the West End property into a modest museum. Alison Johnson, author of a book on Stevens' life and leader of the group, confirmed the plans Wednesday. She noted that the investors include Stevens' grandson, who still owns some of the original furniture from the Westerly Terrace home. "There are those among us that are just devoted to Wallace Stevens," Johnson, who lives in Topsham, Maine, said. "We think his poetry is just magnificent." Johnson said she believes visitors to Stevens' home — where he lived from 1932 until his death in 1955 — would get a glimpse at where the poet, sometimes considered solitary, even prickly, spent his day-to-day life. More.

Former Poets Laureate Take High Road on McCrory's Appointment

Many poets in the state are incensed that Gov. Pat McCrory bypassed standard procedure in selecting Valerie Macon of Fuquay-Varina as the new N.C. poet laureate, to follow the current poet laureate Joseph Bathanti and serve the state for two years. Macon, who's 64, and a graduate of Meredith College, has two poetry chapbooks that are self-published. Other poets laureate, in this state and throughout the nation, typically have a stellar list of publications, awards and honors. But two former poets laureate, Kathryn Stripling Byer of Cullowhee and Fred Chappell of Greensboro, want to help support Macon. More.

Particle Physics Inspires Poet Jeffrey Skinner

In June, Louisville poet Jeffrey Skinner made his way to the Franco-Swiss border area just outside Geneva, to the once agricultural Swiss village of Meyrin. Some of its rural setting could be compared to the cliched bucolic characteristics found in various poetry — but that's not what beckoned Skinner there. Skinner went to see the world's largest particle physics center, called CERN or the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The trip is part of his current work on a collection of poems he hopes will help "fuse, question, haunt and embody recent developments in science and philosophy" and "point to realities beyond science." More.

New Books

Put This On, Please: New & Selected Poems by William Trowbridge

[Paperback] Red Hen Press, 208 pp., $19.95
William Trowbridge’s Put This On, Please: New and Selected Poems contains work from all five of his full collections, as well as a group of new poems. In lines that capture the rhythms of everyday speech (with the ghost of meter haunting closely along), Trowbridge follows misfits and outcasts whose ramblings and shamblings reflect our own well-meaning gropes for fulfillment. These reader-friendly poems draw often from classic films and other elements of popular culture—from Buster Keaton to Chuck Berry, from King Kong to Wile E. Coyote. Trowbridge is not squeamish about exploring the darker side of humanity, as in poems about the Kiss of Death, delivered by Michael Corleone in The Godfather II, or Nebraskan mass murderer Charles Starkweather. Capping off the book, a group of new poems takes a fresh look at old themes, sounding deepened notes of both melancholy and celebration. 

Two Faint Lines In The Violet by Lissa Kiernan 

[Paperback] Negative Capability Press, 112 pp. $15.95 Sometimes life forces us to bear witness on behalf of humanity. For a poet to rise to that challenge fully—mind keen, heart open, words ready to serve—is a gift to us all. Lissa Kiernan’s book is ahead of its time, a tragic and lucid banner leading us into the 21st century when poets will increasingly be called on to remind us that we are human animals whose fate is held in the earth. —Annie Finch

Evening Train by Tom Clark

[Paperback] BlazeVOX, 102 pp., $16.00
In Evening Train we witness people on a bus, a window in the night, greenery, a bird on its perch—and then at the center of this world, something nameless seems to open. It’s hard to say just what happens, other than the words of each poem itself. But that isn’t quite right. It’s as if the words are a way for the poet to inscribe silence. You turn the page, wondering, and it arrives again—something quite beyond what is told. Tom Clark is a master. —Aram Saroyan 

Sisters and Courtesans by Anna M. Evans 

[Paperback] White Violet Press, 52 pp., $14.00
"If sonnet means "little song," what Anna Evans has crafted here is a sassy selection of female singers, a spirited chorus that takes the figures of different women throughout history, giving life to their stories with frank audacity and lively craft. This book is full of surprise after delightful surprise, deft rhymes and scandalous turns. This is a book to pass from sister to sister, from woman to woman, from friend to friend. But don't worry, fellows, you too will be equally charmed and delighted by this poet who has all the necessary lines and lives to make the sonnet sing with voices you never will think of again in quite the same way." —Allison Joseph

Bewilderness by Marc McKee

[Paperback] Black Lawrence Press,70 pp., $13.95
"In Marc McKee's compelling new collection, Bewilderness, it's not the past that's a foreign country but the present—a world rendered strange to us because of the compounding forces of loss and tragedy, but also in the strangeness of ordinary events as seen through 'special goggles' offering always a new vision into the heart of things. This is how the poet's dazzling use of language transforms the world we have experienced into something extraordinary, where understudies rush to the fore/playing characters you recognize/but no longer know." —Natasha Trethewey


To Be Moved by a Poem: stephen e. leckie in Conversation with Anne Compton

Malahat volunteer stephen e. leckie talks with poet Anne Compton about her contribution of three poems to Issue 187, our upcoming Summer 2014 issue. Compton is the winner of numerous literary awards, including the Atlantic Poetry Prize, the Governor General's Award for Poetry, and a National Magazine Award in Poetry. Read on to learn about Compton's take on language, process, and inspiration. More.

A Conversation with Mary Ruefle 

by Bradley Harrison
The following conversation appears in Music & Literature No. 4, which devotes some 90 pages to coverage of Mary Ruefle's entire published catalog to date and includes portfolios of new poems and erasures. The banner image is excerpted from one of these erasures and appears courtesy of the artist. More.

On “Translating the Untranslatable”: Conversations with French Poets Anne Portugal and Pierre Alferi

by Sophie L. Thunberg
Within the rather polemically suggestive title “Translating the Untranslatable” hides a wide array of opinion and diverging thoughts. In the world of poetry, an effective translation is regarded as an infamously difficult task to achieve, and the translatability of poetry itself into multiple languages is often brought into question. On April 25 at NYU’s Maison Française, renowned francophone and anglophone poets and translators were invited in conjunction with the French Embassy book department’s “Poets’ Spring” series to explore the various cultural and linguistic nuances in translation work. More.

Those Who Hope Not to Be Erased: An Interview with Carol Muske-Dukes

by Alex Dueben
A writer and poet whose verse recently appeared in the Spring issue of The Paris Review–Carol Muske-Dukes has long been interested and active in presenting a public face of poetry. A former poet laureate of California and a teacher for many years, she founded the Ph.D. program in Creative Writing at the University of Southern California and began a writing program, in 1972, at the Women’s House of Detention on Rikers Island in New York. On the heels of National Poetry Month, I spoke with Muske-Dukes at her home in Southern California about the many contemporary approaches to reading, writing, and thinking about the art of poetry, from hip-hop to “unoriginal genius” and how language matters. More.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

"Simic's poetic landscape is intensely cared for, as a peasant cares for meadows which have been coaxed and humanized by centuries of labor. It is not only a pun to say that Simic's poems are profoundly cultivated, if we define culture as an act of conciliation which turns the Furies into goddesses of harvest. Culture in this sense becomes a form of magic."
—Paul Zweig, review in The Village Voice, April 4, 1974 of Simic's Return to a Place Lit by a Glass of Milk.

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