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Poetry News In Review

March 10, 2015
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1544 – Torquato Tasso, Italy, Renaissance poet (Aminta, Apologia), is born.
1549 – Henric/Hendrik Spieghel, Dutch Renaissance writer and poet (Hertspiegel), is born.
1786 – Jacobus Bellamy, [Zelandus], Dutch/Swiss poet, dies at 28.
1846 – Antonio C G Crespo, Brazilian/Portuguese poet, is born.
1857 – Manuel Jose Quintana, Spanish author/poet (A la paz), dies at 84.
1920 – D J Enright, England, poet/novelist (Some Men are Brothers), is born.
1982 – Horace Gregory, American poet (b. 1898), dies.
1984 – Nakagawa Soen, Zen teacher/poet, dies in Rytutakuji monastery at 76.


Each night that same frail midnight tune 
Squeezed from a bogus flute, 
Under the noise of war, after war's noise, 
It mourns the fallen, every night 
It celebrates survival--- 
In real cities, real houses, real time.

—from “The Noodle-vendor’s Flute” by D. J. Enright (1920–2002)

World Poetry

Freedom of Belfast Honour for Top Poet Michael Longley

Belfast poet Michael Longley will receive the freedom of his home city at a special event later this month, councillors have agreed. Last month the Belfast Telegraph revealed that all parties were in support of honouring the literary legend. Last night the proposal by SDLP councillor Claire Hanna was formally approved. Mr Longley will receive the honour at an event at the Ulster Hall on March 23.

Poet Sues Peers for More than $300,000 for Libel and Defamation

A prominent Toronto poet is suing two peers for more than $150,000 each, accusing them both of libel and defamation following unspecified allegations of sexual harassment and assault that saw him banned from spoken-word events across the country. Greg Frankson, who goes by the stage name Ritallin, was the house poet on CBC’s Here and Now radio program between 2012 and 2014. Frankson also appeared as a contestant on CBC’s Canada’s Smartest Person and is the founder of Cytopoetics — a “creative services” business. Frankson regularly hosts spoken-word events in Toronto.

Recent Reviews

Catherine Pond on Cat Town
“The Riverbank of Desolation”: An Evening with Hagiwara’s Translator

Reading Japanese poet Sakutarō Hagiwara’s work makes me want to pour a drink, which, sitting in famed translator Hiroaki Sato’s dining room, is exactly what I do. The bottle of whiskey on the table between us is cat-shaped, which feels oddly fitting, since I am here to discuss Cat Town, Sato’s new translation of selected poems by one of Japan’s most beloved modernist poets, Sakutarō Hagiwara. Imbibing is an appropriate response to the collection, as it turns out: in his mother’s words, “[Hagiwara] spent all his income from his writing on booze. He was good for nothing.”

Dread States: Samuel Beckett’s Poems
by Douglas Messerli

Confronting the new volume of The Collected Poems of Samuel Beckett of nearly 500 pages in length (actually, only about half the book contains poems, the other half being devoted to “Commentary” “Appendix,” “Bibliography,” and “Index”), one might be tempted to proclaim — as many have of Beckett’s mentor, James Joyce — that his best poetry appeared in his fiction and, in Beckett’s case alone, in his dramatic works. A more sophisticated argument might be summarized by arguing that for Beckett — as for Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and others — all of the works represent, in one way or another, a kind of poetry in their attention to language above narrative and dramaturgical concerns. Yet this would hardly explain Beckett’s own “fondness” for his poetry, as the editors of this volume, Seán Lawlor and John Pilling, describe it. Beckett, objectively dramatizing himself, admitted “it was in poetry that he confronted himself most intimately, even if this confrontation was in conflict with his instinct to protect himself by way of ventriloquism, disguise or deviousness.”

This Is Not a Book Review of ‘Model City’ by Donna Stonecipher
by John Yau

I want to begin by stating this is not a review of a Model City (Shearsman, 2015), a book of poems that I recently read. The author is Donna Stonecipher, an American poet and translator who has lived in Berlin for some years. I am unable to review a book by this poet because, in 2008, I selected her manuscript, The Cosmopolitan, to be published by Coffee House Press in the National Poetry Series.

Robin Robertson's Sailing the Forest: Selected Poems
by Paul Batchelor

Robin Robertson was forty-one years old when he published his first collection of poems. Presumably it was his day-job as editor that led him to keep his apprentice work to himself; but whatever the reason, Robertson successfully dodged the indignity of growing up in public (a boast few poets can make) and A Painted Field is unusually accomplished. Its finest achievement is the long closing sequence ‘Camera Obscura’, which concerns the nineteenth-century Scottish photographer David Octavius Hill. Hill’s life was a mixture of disappointment and tragedy, from his failure as a painter to the deaths of his wife, his business partner, and his children. He received little recognition for his pioneering photographic experiments and died believing that they had been a waste of time. Robertson’s sequence combines (invented) extracts from Hill’s letters with modern-day poems set in and around Edinburgh, as well as lyrics that hover inscrutably between the two periods. The partial identification with Hill seems to license a far greater tonal range than Robertson usually allows himself. 

A Woman Without a Country by Eavan Boland 
by David Wheatley

Eavan Boland’s “The Wife’s Lament”, a translation from the Anglo-Saxon, begins: “I sing this poem full of grief. / Full of sorrow about my life / Ready to say the cruel state / I have endured, early of late.” It is a splendid performance, full of chancy verbal energy and rich historical witnessing. It’s also quite uncharacteristic of A Woman Without a Country, not in its subject matter, but in its ready embrace of rhyme and regular metre. Where themes of history and loss are concerned, Boland more usually inclines to the jagged and the elliptical, and this collection is no exception.

Telescoping Our Existence: Thoughts on the Poetry of James Richardson
by Michael Young

For a poet who confesses to having more subscriptions to science magazines than literary ones, it’s not surprising to find something like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle couched in the closing of a poem such as “Your Way,”

you get just one thing or the other—
where the water came from, or the water.

What is surprising and gratifying is that James Richardson’s poetry is not merely clever. It is also tender.

The Albertine Workout by Anne Carson and Loom by Sarah Gridley 
by Martha Ronk

Poetic responses to the world include, of course, responses to other art forms, ekphrastic poetry in response to a painting or sculpture, and responses to works of literature—poems, novels, or essays. Poets have often taken up dialogue with significant writers from the past, as ways of acknowledging or purging influence, of ventriloquism, of a search for origin or the emptiness in its stead—for multiple and I suspect, mysterious reasons that produce a variety of different texts. For me, the strange power and excitement of reading closely while writing occurs as one’s own lines warp or skew in unexpected directions—in part, taking on the other and enlarging vocabulary, tone, perception, access to sounds, sentences, obsessions.


William Blake: Wonderful and Strange
by Jenny Uglow

Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has always been a place of surprises, despite its severe façade. Perhaps this has to do with its history, the coming together of two seventeenth-century institutions, the University Art Collection, stuffed with portraits of bewigged dons, and the sprawling cabinet of curiosities amassed by Elias Ashmole. The latter was based on the collection gathered by the Tradescants, father and son, famed gardeners and plant collectors, who put it on show at their Lambeth home as “Tradescant’s Ark,” allowing the ribs of a whale to share space with the hand of a mermaid, poisoned arrows, and agate goblets. Since the Ashmolean’s stunning extension was completed in 2009, walking up the curving staircases and circling through the galleries and across glass walkways feels like wandering through the whorls of a shell, mother of pearl, glowing with treasures. All of which has made it an absolutely fitting place for “William Blake: Apprentice and Master,” an exhibition that is at once didactic and very strange.

A View from Athens
by A. E. Stallings

The prettiest place to jog in Athens is the horseshoe-shaped cinder track above Kallimarmaro, the ancient marble stadium. Even in February, birdsong trickles through the surrounding pines, and a baroque scrollwork of herbs and weeds and wildflowers unfurls. At either end open spectacular views, framed on the right by Mt Lykabettos, and on the left by the Parthenon, always seeming to bend the light a little. On a Tuesday earlier this month, trotting along, I was the only soul there. It was a cold day, and snowflakes started to tumble down, erratic at first, and then properly snowing in great compound flakes. Confused sparrows kept twittering out of the trees and eyeing the white confetti, perhaps mistaking it for breadcrumbs. The Parthenon itself was suddenly only a ghost behind a veil – a peplos, perhaps – of white.

Against Freedom, Against Censorship, Against Experiment, Against Tradition, Against Witness, Against The Self: Against American Poetry
by Laura  Kasischke

Obviously, I’m not going to argue against any of these things in a blog post. To do so would be pointlessly self-defeating (as opposed to self-defeating with a purpose, which I’ll save for another time); however, I am going to argue that everything we’ve supposed about where we were headed, ought to be headed, ought not to be headed in the American poetry of the last twenty-five years has changed, and that we need to decide, individually and collectively, what this means for the poetry we will read and write in the next quarter century.

Poets Compose New Lyrical Ballads to Highlight Social Relevance of Romantics
by Steven Morris

The poems are full of waterfalls, frosty moors, sunlit summer days, crumbling cottages – and a focus on the real lives of “ordinary” people. Two centuries after William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge pioneered the Romantic poetry movement, 23 of their best-known modern successors, including the former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, have contributed freshly minted pieces for a new version of the pair’s landmark collection, Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems.

Drafts & Framents

Paul Éluard’s Poem “Liberty” Is the Unseen Star of ‘Maps to the Stars’
By Moze Halperin

Maps to the Stars begins in a mode of straightforward, Hollywood-brutalizing satire. We’re introduced, via Cronenberg’s bloodlessly still lens, to the players in the tritest of Hollywood nightmares. Each character reflects a Hollywood type so dominant as to seem, when rendered fictionally, hugely self-evident. 

New Stamp Features Poet, Author Maya Angelou
by Deb Kiner

A new stamp featuring poet and author Maya Angelou will be issued April 7. A first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. April 7 at the Warner Theater in Washington, D.C. The stamp is available for preorder for deliver shortly after April 7.

9 Mobile Apps for Poetry Month

With Poetry Month right around the corner, optimize the mobile tablets that are already in the hands of your students by giving them the chance to interact with poetry. Whether they become content consumers by reading their favorite poems or content creators as they write their own, iPad and Android tablets provide students and teachers with lots of options. This list of mobile apps will help inspire young poets and give them the tools they need to create and publish their very own poems.

Poetry In The News

Tom Brokaw Uses Poetry to Cope with Cancer Diagnosis

When Tom Brokaw was diagnosed with cancer, he found comfort in the prose of an acclaimed poet. “I’ve had an unusual experience,” Brokaw said Wednesday night at Strand Book Store in Manhattan. “I was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago now, and there were a lot of changes to my life as a result of that. I was blindsided by it.” He was conducting an interview with his friend, the writer Thomas McGuane. When an audience member asked him what he’s been reading lately, the former NBC News anchor opened up about his 2013 diagnosis with multiple myeloma. Brokaw recalled reading “Her Garden,” written by the former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall as a tribute to his deceased wife. Brokaw said he was so moved by the poem — particularly the stoic refrain, “let it go, let it go” — that he reached out to Hall.

With a Poetry Map, a New Way to Navigate Denver

Aaron Angello first noticed the powerful relation between poetry and place around five years ago while working on his doctorate in English literature at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We read Charles Olsen’s “Maximus,” poems which take place in Gloucester, and Lorraine Niedecker’s “Paeon to Place” -- all these poems which are specifically tied to location,” Angello says of a class he took which examined the relationship between poetry and place. That lead Angello to create the Denver Poetry Map, a map that enlivens Denver with poems inspired by specific locations around the city.

New Books

Silent Anatomies by Monica Ong 
[Paperback] Kore Press, 96 pp., $17.95

Monica Ong investigates cultural silences that shape the medical-emotional landscape of family diaspora, extending from China to the Philippines and North America. Her collection of image-poems juxtaposes diagram and diary, bearing witness to underrepresented histories of the body. Created as an assemblage of poetry, archive, and medical ephemera, it unpacks silence not only as the absence of language, but also as historical erasure, the loss of cultural memory, reconstructed truths, and ghosted identities. . . . With this experimental debut, Ong invites readers into her complex lineage, much of it fading, with the remains collected here as documentation of nomadic heritage, resilience, and quiet devotion.

The Arranged Marriage: Poems by Jehanne Dubrow
[Paperback] University of New Mexico Press, 72 pp., $18.95

With her characteristic music and precision, Dubrow delves unflinchingly into a mother's story of trauma and captivity. The poet proves that truth telling and vision can give meaning to the gravest situations, allowing women to create a future on their own terms.

Girl-King by Brittany Cavallaro 
[Paperback] University Of Akron Press, 64 pp., $14.95

The poems in Brittany Cavallaro's Girl-King are whispered from behind a series of masks, those of victim and aggressor, nineteenth-century madam and reluctant magician's girl, of truck-stop Persephone and frustrated Tudor scholar. This “expanse of girls, expanding still” chase each other through history, disappearing in an Illinois cornfield only to reemerge on the dissection table of a Scottish artist-anatomist. But these poems are not just interested in historical narrative: they peer, too, at the past’s marginalia, at its “blank pages” as well as its “scrawls and dashes.” Always, they return to “the dark, indelicate question of power and sexuality, of who can rule the city where no one is from.”These girls search for the connection between alive and will stay that way, between each dying star and the emptiness that can collapse everything.

Oracle: Poems by Cate Marvin
[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 96 pp., $25.95

The speakers of Oracle occupy the outer-borough cityscape of New York's Staten Island, where they move through worlds glittering with refuse and peopled by ghosts—of a dead lover, of a friend lost to suicide, of a dog with glistening eyes. Marvin's haunting, passionate poems explore themes of loss, of the vulnerability of womanhood in a world hostile to it, and of the fraught, strangely compelling landscape of adolescence.

The Last Two Seconds: Poems by Mary Jo Bang
[Paperback] Graywolf Press, 88 pp., $16.95

The Last Two Seconds is an astonishing confrontation with time--our experience of it as measured out by our perceptions, our lives, and our machines. In these poems, full of vivid imagery and imaginative logic, Mary Jo Bang captures the difficulties inherent in being human in the twenty-first century, when we set our watches by nuclear disasters, species collapse, pollution, mounting inequalities, warring nations, and our own mortality. This is brilliant and profound work by an essential poet of our time.


Poet Jill Bialosky On Her Poem 'The Mothers,' Writing About Parenthood And The Intimacy Of Reading Poetry
by Claire Fallon

In Jill Bialosky's poem "The Mothers," from her new collection, The Players, the experience of the soccer mom -- or, rather, the baseball mom -- is brought into warm, lyrical focus. The mothers of "The Mothers" are a loving collective, cheering on their sons, doing the laundry and attending to other sundry tasks needed to keep their budding athletic dreams alive. The Players represents an under-appreciated but particularly relatable strain of poetry: The poetry of our daily lives. In its pages, we see our own childhoods, daily domestic experiences, and familial dramas. We spoke with Bialosky about her poem, which appears below, as well as about the joys of poetry as an art form.

From Trauma, Fulton Finds Darkness, Light in Poetry
by Daniel Aloi

As the title of Alice Fulton’s new poetry collection, “Barely Composed,” suggests, the writer has a penchant for wordplay. But there is also gravity in her work, and reviewers have noted a concern with certain themes this time around – time, love and death. Fulton doesn’t deny it: “That’s big stuff. You could probably write about nothing else,” she said. 

Renowned Stanford Poet Eavan Boland Interrogates Identity and Nationhood in New Collection
by Erik Fredner

Though she was born and educated in Dublin, and raised her family there, Eavan Boland also lived in the United States and in London as a child. Her latest volume of poetry, A Woman Without a Country, engages some of the contrasts and contradictions that come from living in a place without feeling that one fully belongs to it. As she puts it in the book, "This sequence is dedicated to those who lost a country, not by history or inheritance, but through a series of questions to which they could find no answer.”

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Robert Creeley

One time in conversation with Allen Ginsberg late at night, when we were both in Vancouver in 1963, he very generously said to me, you don't have to worry so much about writing a "bad" poem. You can afford to now. I don't know that my nature will ever allow me that understanding, which has not finally to do with some pompous self-regard — but rather with the fact that we are human beings and do live in the variability of that order. We don't know all we think we do, nor would it even be very interesting if we did.

—from The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945–1975

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