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Poetry News In Review

July 9, 2015
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1677 — Angelus Silesius [Johann Scheffer], German medical/mystic poet, dies.
1696 — Waclaw Potocki, Polish poet (Wojna Chocimska), dies.
1721 — Johann Nikolaus Götz, German poet (d. 1781), is born.
1936 — June Jordan, US playwright/poet (His Own Where), is born.
1980 — Vinicius de Moraes, Brazilian poet and lyricist (b. 1913), dies.

Poem For My Love

How do we come to be here next to each other 
in the night 
Where are the stars that show us to our love 
Outside the leaves flame usual in darkness 
and the rain 
falls cool and blessed on the holy flesh 
the black men waiting on the corner for 
a womanly mirage 
I am amazed by peace 
It is this possibility of you 
and breathing in the quiet air 

—June Jordan (1936–2002)

World Poetry

Dima Khatib: The Reluctant Poet Who Has Become Well Versed

When Dima Khatib decided to take a break from her long-time job as Latin American bureau chief at the news channel Al Jazeera, she never thought she would end up conjuring poetry from young people, housewives and just about anyone with a knack for self-expression. The 43-year-old Palestinian is becoming known for her roving Arabic poetry recitals and was invited to have a stand at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair in May. She moved to Abu Dhabi from Caracas in Venezuela two and a half years ago, and also lectures at the American University in Dubai.

Mexican Poets Give Voice to the Country’s Disappeared Students

On September 26, 2014, more than 100 students, often referred to as normalistas, of the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa in the rural hills of Guerrero, attempted to travel to the city of Iguala. To this day, the facts of the case are still debated. The only certainty is that three students and three civilians were dead by the morning, and 43 students were never seen again.

Recent Reviews

Review: ‘Multitudinous Heart,’ Newly Translated Poetry by Carlos Drummond de Andrade
by Dwight Garner

Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987) is widely considered the greatest poet in the history of Brazil, a country where poets are taken seriously. One of his poems, “Canção Amiga” (“Friendly Song”), was once printed on the 50 cruzados bill. Mr. Drummond’s bald, equine, bespectacled visage appears on T-shirts and book bags in Brazil. Since 2002 there has been a statue of him on the Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro, his adopted hometown. This statue faces away from, not toward, the ocean. This was a witty decision (he was an inward poet) that annoys the unintelligentsia, who want him spun around.


Wisława Szymborska —The Extraordinary in the Ordinary
by Srividya Sivakumar

Deceptive simplicity. If there is a space where this often misused term can feel right at home and be proud, it is poetry. Personally, I am drawn to verse that’s easy to follow and allows multiple interpretations. I don’t want to be crowded by polysyllabic words, often used gratuitously. Give me a poet who speaks from the heart and says the profoundest of things in the simplest of ways, and I am happy. To quote Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” It takes a great deal to write simple and write well. And when you encounter a poet who does this, you’re enchanted.

The Severity and Sympathy of Ezra Pound
A newly translated 1928 letter to René Taupin
by Jared Spears

Blustering, condescending shorthand. Unflinching, self-righteous conviction. These hallmarks of poet Ezra Pound’s prose can be found throughout the seemingly impossible volume of his private correspondence. His jumbled and effusive style can be daunting to would-be readers. One such letter, written in 1928 to academic and critic René Taupin, had until now been even more elusive to English-speaking readers, as Pound wrote it in Taupin’s native French. The letter has been previously published, in its original French, in Letters of Ezra Pound: 1907–1941. This author’s new translation, which follows this essay, illuminates the poet’s views on modernism, the general concept of intellectual influence, and other curiosities from his early twentieth-century vie litteraire. The letter was prompted by Taupin’s analysis of Imagism, the avant-garde movement Pound, an American expatriate, had helped found in London after the dawn of the new century. Taupin, then chairman of romance languages at Hunter College, asserted that Imagism was almost inseparable from earlier French Symbolists (an argument which would culminate in his 1929 book, The Influence of French Symbolism on Modern American Poetry). For Pound, Taupin’s assertions belittled what he believed to be the unique accomplishments of his own literary movement.

Political Poeticizing
‘The Gift Outright’ and how poetry is built on problems.
by Siobhan Phillips

Good politics is a game of clear, unambiguous messages; good poetry, less so. How to make poetry political, then? Take “The Gift Outright,” by Robert Frost, a poem about American history and politics that occupies its own space within them. First published in 1942, the poem is most famous for its appearance at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Frost was the first American poet to read at a presidential swearing-in ceremony, and his inclusion seemed to signal new prestige for poetry itself. Kennedy later called Frost’s work “the deepest source of our national strength.” But Frost didn’t trust “The Gift Outright” to demonstrate that strength.

Drafts & Framents

Sure, Robots Can Perform Surgery and Build Cars, But Can They Write a Sonnet?
by Barb Darrow

Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science is launching AI contests to see if a robot can write a novel, a poem, or dance music.

Turning Tweets into Poetry—Automatically

Ranjit Bhatnagar couldn’t have realised his most popular creation, Pentametron, without some help--more than 50,000 unwitting collaborators to date. The Brooklyn-based artist’s Twitter bot, activated in 2012, trawls a never-ending stream of mundanities, seeking and returning with neatly rhyming pairs of tweets that happen to take Shakespeare’s favored poetic form: iambic pentameter.

Poetry In The News

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins' Contract Not Renewed by Rollins

In a sad yet not really surprising move, Rollins College has quietly ended its prestigious association with poet Billy Collins. Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003, and composed a memorable 9/11 poem, "The Names," at the request of Congress. He came to the area in 2008 at the request of Rollins' Winter Park Institute, which offered him a post as its Senior Distinguished Fellow. Budget concerns are said to be the reason for the severance, though the Winter Park Institute will continue its programming.

Daniel Day-Lewis to be President of The Poetry Archive

The actor Sir Daniel Day-Lewis is to be the new Honorary President of the Poetry Archive (www.poetryarchive.org). The only actor ever to win three Best Actor Oscars, including the Oscar for his performance as another President, Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis succeeds the Archive’s first President, the poet Seamus Heaney, who died in August 2013. A registered charity, the Poetry Archive is a free website containing a growing collection of recordings of English-language poets reading their work.

New Books

Chord by Rick Barot
[Paperback] Sarabande Books, 72 pp., $14.95

"Chord is the capstone of a provocative trilogy. We can only hope it becomes the tenor in a forthcoming quartet. Where might we travel next, stylistically and thematically, with Barot’s speaker? The last poem is awash in beginnings, a glissando of “the beginning of,” “the beginning of,” “the beginning of.” A book called Origin perhaps? A book called New Rain? Whatever the title, know that I want it already."

Selected Poems by Jack Clemo
[Paperback] Enitharmon Press, 80 pp., $14.95

This new selection of the poetry of the acclaimed Cornish poet Jack Clemo includes work from all of his major volumes, from The Clay Verge in 1951 to 1995’s The Cured Arno. Awkward, radical, nature-baiting landscape poems full of pain and anguish give way to monologues, biographical sketches, broader themes and looser forms. The settings of white tips, flooded pits, and the grinding works of the industrial-rural clayscape are replaced by the rivers and bridges of Florence and Venice and the coastal ease of Dorset.

Turning into Dwelling: Poems by Christopher Gilbert 
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 176 pp., $16.00

Christopher Gilbert's award-winning Across the Mutual Landscape has become an underground classic of contemporary American poetry. Now reissued and presented with Gilbert's never-before-published last manuscript written before his death in 2007, Turning into Dwelling offers new readers the original music and vision of one of our most inventive poets.


Gary Snyder, 'Poet Laureate of Our Continent,' Lives in the Present
by Sean Elder

An odd blend of old and new San Francisco turned out to see Gary Snyder at the Nourse Theater one evening in May. Former counterculture standard-bearers such as Michael McClure and Peter Coyote mixed with young tattooed hipsters, curious techies and California Governor Jerry Brown. When I pulled out my reporter’s notebook, the young Indian man sitting next to me said, “Are we supposed to take notes?”

Newly Appointed U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera Wrote us a Brand New Poem.
by Walter Ryce

From being the son of Mexican migrant workers of the San Joaquin Valley and Salinas Valley, to a graduate of UCLA and Stanford; from speaking Spanish and struggling to comprehend English, to mastering both languages as an award-winning poet; from working with neglected people in poor communities to…well, he's still doing that.Juan Felipe Herrera has just earned one of the country's highest titles in arts and letters—that of U.S. poet laureate, appointed by the Library of Congress. It's a distinction he shares with people like Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Pinsky, Stanley Kunitz. He's the first Latino poet, however, named to the post. And he's not about to neglect his roots.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: ‘Most of the poets were on something, but somebody had to mind the shop’
by Colin Robinson

Breast the brow of Stockton Street in North Beach, San Francisco, and the bay opens up before you, framed by the cream-white clapboard buildings that predominate in this old Italian neighbourhood. The island of Alcatraz prison is visible just across the water. Turn right and in a few hundred yards, on a corner, is an unprepossessing three-storey house. Press the middle bell and be prepared to wait. The occupant is old: 96. A slow footfall, and there he stands, still erect and tall: Lawrence Ferlinghetti, publisher to the Beats, poet laureate to his home town.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Andrew Hudgins

I don’t really believe in inspiration. Some ideas are better than others, obviously, and maybe we can call the better ones inspired. What I do believe in is that sitting down to work every day provides the opportunity for the many small and medium-sized inspirations that make a work of art work. 
    Now, as I think about it, I need to qualify what I said about inspiration. I do believe that immersing ourselves in a project allows our brains to work on them without our conscious effort. So I have made a rule for myself that if an idea flashes through my head in those moments before sleep, I will get up and write it down. A lot of incoherent notes—or notes that are merely obvious or dumb—get pitched in the morning, but that twilight of consciousness often enough permits good ideas to flit around in the shadows. My deal with my subconscious is that if it permits me to glimpse those shadows I will take them seriously by getting up and recording what I see, even if it costs me a good night’s sleep. 
—from "How a Poem Happens"

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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
Langston Hughes
Carriera Duke
Jon Stallworthy