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Poetry News In Review

June 12, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1540 – Barnabe Googe, English poet (d. 1594), is born.

1572 – Ben Jonson, England, playwright/poet (Volpone, Alchemist), is born.

1865 – Jan H Leopold, Dutch poet (translated Omar Khayyam), is born.

1877 – Renee Vivien, English-born poet (d. 1909), is born.

1886 – Antonio C G Crespo, Brazilian/Portuguese poet, dies at 40.

1892 – Edward B B Shanks, British poet/critic, i born.

1912 – Leon Dierx, French poet (Amants), dies at 74.

1949 – Oton Zupanic, Slavs poet (Zimzelen pod snegom), dies at 71.



The Hourglass



Do but consider this small dust

Here running in the glass,
By atoms moved;

Could you believe that this

The body was
Of one that loved?
And in his mistress' flame, playing like a fly,

Turned to cinders by her eye?
Yes; and in death, as life, unblessed,
To have't expressed,

Even ashes of lovers find no rest. 


—Ben Jonson (1572–1637)

World Poetry

Secrets Revealed in the Death of Salvadoran Poet Roque Dalton

The death of Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton in 1975 is one of the great tragedies of Latin American literature and of the Latin American left. And it was a tragedy the left inflicted on itself. Dalton had joined one of the armed rebel groups fighting against El Salvador’s dictatorship. He had, by then, already established an international reputation as a writer. Read more at the LA Times.

Outdoing Diplomacy, a Week of Argentine Art and Poetry

An Argentine week of sorts that brought galleries and artists together at London’s Earls Court exhibition centre and a day of serious scrutiny of Argentine poetry came to an end on Friday last. The Argentine Embassy in London was prominently associated as sponsor in part of both events, which won academic and artistic praise: for once, the Malvinas issue was not the overriding concern of official battleaxes. Read more at the Buenos Aires Herald.

Thai Artist's Poem to Grace Berlin Street

Part of a poem by national artist Naowarat Pongpaiboon has been selected for the Path of Visionaries of the World, a city art project in Berlin, Germany, the Culture Ministry said. Naowarat's poet will appear among quotations from world's famous individuals. The last four lines of Mr. Naowarat's work The Path of Thai will be inscribed on a plaque to be embedded in the ground of the pedestrian zone of the Berliner Friedrichstrasse. Read more at the Bangkok Post.

Recent Reviews

Birds of the Air by David Yezzi

by Patrick Kurp 

The title poem of David Yezzi’s new collection, Birds of the Air, wears its scriptural allusions like the lightest of garments, like a coat of feathers. A woman at water’s edge tosses bread crusts in the air to feed the circling gulls—a sort of sowing and reaping that brings to mind Matthew 6:26. Read more at Quarterly Conversation.

The Love of Two People Staring in the Same Direction

By Jonathan Farmer

The title of Frank Bidart’s latest book, Metaphysical Dog, sums up his preoccupations pretty neatly. “Animal mind,” he calls it in one poem, the infuriating, animating mismatch between our appetites and our understanding—the very things that sustain us. Here, in a collection that races forward but stammers in the face of love’s insufficiency, Bidart begins with a literal dog, though one that seemed eager to be anything but. Read more at Slate.

Aphoria by Jackie Clark

by Ray McDaniel

I am no proselyte for poetry as a category of human effort. I would no more advocate for poetry than I would love or dinner or shimmying. People will pursue or enact these things, and it makes little sense to agitate on behalf of that which you cannot stop from occurring, especially since poetry and love and dinner and shimmying gain meaning in the particular. This does not prevent us from claiming we love poetry when what we mean is that we love either certain poems, which do not altogether constitute poetry, or we love the idea of poetry, which perforce excludes actual poems. Read more at Constant Critic.

Right Now More than Ever

by Lucy Biederman

Nate Pritts has said that he is interested in poetry as opposed to individual poems. One can locate this focus in the attention and emphasis Pritts places on creating and forming a speaker/self across the space of a book. In his sixth book, Right Now More Than Ever (H_NGM_N BKS 2013), Pritts not only allows but cultivates a sense of the tossed-off, the experiment, even the mistaken—there aretries within these poems that other poets might have edited out or not have thought to include in a poem in the first place. Read more at Coldfront.

Sylvia Plath: Rage and Laughter

by April Bernard

In his idiosyncratic variation on the vampire story, The Sacred Fount, Henry James proposed that every married couple engages in a continuous power-struggle, whereby one partner is able to drink from the common fount of energy while the other dwindles. Stories of vampires and the uncanny seem appropriate for the always-undead Sylvia Plath. But rather than make the obvious comparison with the James story—did Plath while she lived drain her husband Ted Hughes of poetic blood, and could he revive only after her death?—instead I would propose that it is we who are the partner for Plath, we who seek energy from her; and that instead of diminishing from our repeated quaffs, she is only growing fatter and fatter, like some splendid engorged literary tick. Read more at the New York Review of Books.


Henry Doesn’t Have Any Bats

by Catherine Lacey

My poetry shelf is slim but holds the most thumbed book I own: John Berryman’s The Dream Songs, and, until recently, I would read several songs a week, rereading my favorites as if they held some kind of clue. I read them to cheer myself or wallow. I read them aloud, alone and to other people. Some nights after having wine, I’d read the meanest, strangest ones aloud. When I found a copy in a bookstore, I’d open to a favorite and hand it to someone. Even his darkest, most dire, most hopeless songs soothe me. Lines worm in me for weeks. Read more at The Paris Review.

Borges on the English Tradition of Versifying in One’s Sleep

In Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum [Church History] of the English People, Bede talks about the first Christian poet of England, of whom only a few lines have been preserved. His name was Caedmon and his story is quite strange; we will return to it later when we talk about Coleridge and Stevenson. Here’s the story: Caedmon was well along in years, a shepherd in a monastery, and a shy old man. The custom then was for the harp to be passed around from hand to hand after meals and for each of the diners to play it and sing. Caedmon knew he was equally unskilled at music and lyrics. Read more at Little Star Journal.

Drafts & Framents

Recording of Walt Whitman Himself Reading a Poem in 1890

In 1992, tape recordings of various poetry from a 1950′s NBC radio program was rediscovered by two Walt Whitman scholars. In that collection of readings was a copy of a wax cylinder recording purported to be Whitman himself reading one of his poems in 1890. Read more at 22 Words.

'Joker' Asks: Have You Heard The One About The Joke-Telling Poet?

by NPR Staff

Andrew Hudgins is a prominent poet, but what he'd really rather be doing is telling jokes -- the more daring, the better. His new memoir, The Joker,explores the way uncomfortable and taboo jokes create learning and communication, and the important role they've played in his life. Read more at NPR.


Poetry In The News

Poet Laureate for a Second Time

The Library of Congress will announce on Monday that Natasha Trethewey is to be appointed to a second one-year term as the United States poet laureate. Read more at the New York Times.

One New York Poet Honors the New York Poems of Another

“You’re being very good,” Patti Smith told a sold-out audience at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night. “I’m very proud of you.” The source of her pride was the crowd’s quiet and attention while Smith and others read the poems of Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca. The reading and concert was part of a months-long celebration of the Spanish poet, and more specifically of the brief time he spent in New York in 1929 and 1930, which inspired his collection “Poet in New York.” Read more at the New York Times.

New Books

Belmont: Poems by Stephen Burt 

[Paperback] Graywolf, Press 88 pp., $15.00

In Belmont, Stephen Burt maps out the joys and the limits of the life he has chosen, the life that chose him, examining and reimagining parenthood, marriage, adulthood, and suburbia alongside a brace of wild or pretty alternatives: the impossible life of a girl raised by cats, the disappointed lives of would-be rock stars, and the real life to which he returns, with his family, in the town that gives the book its name, driving home in an ode-worthy silver Subaru. 

Light and Heavy Things: Selected Poems of Zeeshan Sahil translated by  Christopher Kennedy, Mi Ditmar, and Faisal Siddiqui 

[Paperback] BOA Editions Ltd., 104 pp., $16.00

Light and Heavy Things provides US readers an opportunity to discover the late Pakistani poet Zeeshan Sahil. Sahil's work conveys his post-modern sensibility with plain language, presenting political realities of Pakistan in personal terms.

A Clown at Midnight: Poems by Andrew Hudgins 

[Paperback] Mariner Books, 112 pp., $14.95

In A Clown at Midnight Andrew Hudgins offers a meditation on humor with a refreshing poignancy and cutting wit. He touches on love and nature, but at its core this collection is about the consolations and terrors, the delights and discomforts, of laughter, taking its title from a quote by Lon Chaney Sr.: “The essence of true horror is a clown at midnight.” 

The Rose of January by Geoffrey Nutter 

[Paperback] Wave Books, 144 pp., $16.00

In his fourth collection, Geoffrey Nutter beckons us into his lush imagination—where bygone monoliths cast shadows over new landscapes—a world of dreams, rife with unexpected encounters.


The Rose of Toulouse by Fred D'Aguiar 

[Paperback] Carcanet Press Ltd., 80 pp., $15.95

A book of geographies, this collection chronicles the poet’s history as it traces the places where he has lived and taught. Written by an immigrant, this book also masterfully tackles political topics, including the war on terror and terror itself: its causes and effects. Through sonnets, ballads, free verse, and a sinuous long line, this honest, thoughtful, and exciting compilation presents poetry that spans the English languages of Guyana, the Caribbean, the United States, and Europe.


A Lifelong Conversation in Letters and Verse

by David Ward 

One of the great modern American literary friendships was between the poets Robert Lowell (1917-1977) and Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979). They met in the late 1940s and remained friends, despite some turmoil, until Lowell’s death in 1977. Bishop only survived him by two years, passing away suddenly on the day she was to give a rare public reading at Harvard University. Rare, because Bishop was very shy, especially when it came to crowds, unlike Lowell who was voluble, more than a little manic, and quite the great man of American letters. Read more at the Smithsonian Magazine.

This Doctor’s an Award-winning Poet

by Karen Weintraub 

Dr. Rafael Campo is both an internist and a poet. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he directs the Office of Multicultural Affairs; at Lesley University, he’s on the faculty of the Masters in Fine Arts program. The Harvard Medical School associate professor recently won the international Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, and his sixth book of poetry, Alternative Medicine, is due out in the fall. Red more at the Boston Globe.

Spotlight: Amanda Nadelberg

by Nick Sturm

Amanda Nadelberg is the author of Bright Brave Phenomena (Coffee House Press, 2012), Isa the Truck Named Isadore (Slope Editions, 2006), and a chapbook, Building Castles in Spain, Getting Married, (The Song Cave, 2009). She lives in Oakland. Bright Brave Phenomena was included in Coldfront’s Top 40 Poetry Books of 2012. I first encountered Amanda’s poems on Wendy Xu’s couch in Northampton, MA. Their staggering belief was immediately absorbed into my experience of that trip. It was a pleasure to review Bright Brave Phenomena here and it is a pleasure now to present this interview, which came together over email from late 2012 through early 2013. A new poem, “Symphony of Leaves,” appears at the end of the interview. Read more at Coldfront.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Magnetic Poetry Guy's Business Is Getting Crushed By Stainless Steel Fridge Boom

Sam Ro Dave Kapell, a singer and songwriter, accidentally invented Magnetic Poetry in the 1990's after sneezing on a pile of word clippings he used while constructing a song. Read more at Business Insider. 

If he had only listened to Ezra Pound's dictum to "make it new," perhaps his business might have survived. But it had a good run, this business of rearranging words on the fridge. But as I lay in bed this morning thinking about magnetic poetry, I realized that in a more serious way (if in a way that circumvents the real meaning of this story) magnetic poetry is a force that won't disappear with the advent of different materials to which they won't stick. It is too highly personalized. For me, magnetic poetry is much of Neruda's poetry especially the love poems. It is the slow gathering of the poems of Philip Larkin and Elizabeth Bishop, and the sheer intelligence and steely vision of Anthony Hecht's longer poems. The almost otherworldly strains of reality from Donald Justice. And the casual shocks that reverberate in the landscapes of Lucia Perillo and Joshua Mehigan. That is the poetry that sticks to me, that won't wash off, that I carry around as if permanently imbued with a static charge. For some, it might be others—Whitman, Ashbery, Walcott, Oliver, Collins, on and on. So be it.  Magnetic poetry? That's the best kind, as it seems to me.

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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