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Poetry News In Review

March 26, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1830 – Eliza Laurillard, Dutch vicar/poet/writer, is born.

1859 – A[lfred] E[dward] Housman, England, poet (Shropshire Lad), is born.

1874 – Robert Frost, SF, poet (Mending Wall, Road Not Taken), is born,

1892 – Walt Whitman, poet, dies in Camden, NJ at 72.

1929 – Katharine Lee Bates, American poet (b. 1859), dies.

1930 – Gregory Corso, beat poet (Happy Birthday of Death, Long Live Man), is born.


Should I get married? Should I be good?

Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustus hood?

Don’t take her to movies but to cemeteries

tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets

then desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries

and she going just so far and I understanding why

not getting angry saying You must feel! It’s beautiful to feel!

—from “Marriage” by Gregory Corso (1930–2001)

World Poetry

Mystery Over Tribute to Nobel Prize Poet

A poem by a Nobel Prize-winning poet at the centre of an investigation into his death has been found carved into rocks at a remote Scottish beach. Pablo Neruda was Chile's greatest poet and died less than two weeks after a military coup in his country in 1973. His family maintains that he died of advanced prostate cancer, but his body is to be exhumed as part of an inquest into allegations that he was poisoned. Words from one of his poems have been found at Bay of Sannick in Caithness. Edgar White came across the carvings close to his home. He hopes to find out who carved the words and why. Read more at the BBC.

Raghda Poem Irks Audience

Syrian actress Raghda faced the heat when she decided to recite a poem against the Free Syrian Army, describing them as killers, at the third Arabic Poems Forum held here. Her style of reading the poem and praising the Syrian regime ikred the audience, after which some Egyptian and Syrian anti-Assad men beat her up. Raghda was not a participant at the poetry forum. Read more at the Saudi Gazette.

Yemeni Poet Al-Maqaleh Wins Cairo International Poetry Prize

Despite what some saw as a hard push to grant an Egyptian the prize, judges awarded Yemeni, Al-Maqaleh for his 5 decades of influence on modern Arab poetry. Yemeni poet, Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh, was named the winner of the Cairo International Poetry Encounter on Thursday night. The announcement was made at the Encounter's closing ceremony in the Cairo Opera House small hall. The news was leaked to the press one day before the official declaration, however. Official sources at the Supreme Council for Culture, the organiser of the encounter and its founder Poet Ahmed Abdel Moa’ti Hegazy refused then to comment. Read more at Ahram Online.

Recent Reviews

The Unknown Prose of a Great Poet

by Benjamin Schwarz

A writer’s posthumous renown is often untethered to his life’s toil, even when that toil is writing. Edward Thomas is now regarded as maybe the finest poet of the First World War, and one of the greatest of the 20th century. His marriage of precise pastoral observation to a severe clarity of vision, and his easy technical virtuosity as displayed in his natural use of diction and of the rhythms of everyday speech, has made him something of a poet’s poet: Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis said they had “little or no hope of ever equaling” Thomas, and at Westminster Abbey in 1985, Ted Hughes declared him “the father of us all.” Read more at The Atlantic.

Ian Hamilton's Collected Poems Are a Source of Wonder

by Christopher Tayler

Ian Hamilton’s Collected Poems, published in paperback this month, is what the poet, who died at the age of 63 in 2001, sometimes called a “slim vol”. The meat of it – the poems he put between hard covers in his lifetime – takes up 62 pages; only one poem, a part-pastiche called “Larkinesque”, runs to more than a page. For Hamilton as a “creative” writer, narrowly defined, that was it. “Not much to show for half a lifetime, you might think,” he wrote in 1988. “And, in certain moods, I would agree.”Yet these sorrowing, hard-bitten poems about dying fathers, mad wives and the rigours of the writing life, darkly impressive and moving as they are, get added force from a wider myth around Hamilton, a myth in which their scarcity is the point. Read more at the Telegraph.

Okay, Okay

by Jordan Davis

Google as a tool for the making of art has had a separate life from Google as a prosthesis for navigating the world and its culture, the way the pencil has had separate lives in the studio and at the office. Taking up the disinterested Kantian aesthetics of the language poets, Flarf and Conceptualists have made a point of providing results for useless searches—unless you have a rabbit with mange, “rogaine bunny” is not something you’d look up to plan a course of action. Diana Hamilton’s first book, Okay, Okay (available both for purchase in hard-copy and for free as a pdf from Truck Books), however, asks a serious and painful question: “how to stop crying at work.” Read more at Constant Critic.


Bob Holman: My Poetic New York

by Tim Donnelly

Considered one of the most influential poets in New York City, Bob Holman has been around since the days when beats like William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg roamed the streets. He coordinated readings at The Poetry Project in the East Village in the late 1970s, brought slam poetry to Manhattan when he co-directed the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Alphabet City in the ’80s and ’90s, and in 2002 founded the Bowery Poetry Club. After closing last summer, it reopens today with the addition of Duane Park, a restaurant formerly on Duane Street, which will share space with the club. Now 64, Holman lives above the club and is a visiting professor of writing at Columbia University. This is his poetic New York. Read more at the New York Post.

Drafts & Framents

Exhibit Connects Visitors with Archive of Answering Machine Readings

by Colin Manning

Visitors to Lamont Library’s Woodberry Poetry Room can pick up a retro-looking handset and listen to renowned poets — some of the greatest of the past 50 years — recite their works. There was a time when you could pick up the telephone, dial a number, and hear Allen Ginsberg reading one of his poems. Another day it might have been Denise Levertov, or Donald Hall, or James Tate. Read more at the Harvard Gazette.

Magnetic Poetry Kit for the Internet: Storytelling Site Storybird Adds Poetry App

by Laura Hazard Owen

Storybird, the Toronto-based website that lets users add text to professionally created art to tell a story, launched a poetry HTML5 app this week. The idea is somewhat similar to those Magnetic Poetry Kits: Users slide preselected words on top of artwork to create a poem. “The whole process takes less than a minute on your phone or tablet,” Storybird posted on its blog Thursday. Read more at Paid Content.

Poetry In The News

Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, for $100,000, to Go to Marie Ponsot

Poet Marie Ponsot will be awarded the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize in June, it was announced Monday. The Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, which comes with an award of $100,000, is given to a poet for lifetime achievement. Read more at the LA Times.

A New Exhibit Looks at Legendary Poet Federico Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca, one of the most famous and beloved writers and playwrights of the past century is coming back to New York. Starting next month, the largest-ever North-American festival celebrating his book “Poeta en Nueva York” (Poet in New York) will take place in the city that inspired almost a century ago. The centerpiece of this celebration is “Back Tomorrow” – an exhibition of Lorca’s manuscripts and drawings curated by AndrĂ©s Soria Olmedo and Christopher Maurer and presented at the New York Public Library. Read more at NBC Latino.

Warhol's Poet Pal Battling Landlord on LES

He’s been defying the man for half a century. Now a beloved 88-year-old poet and pal of Andy Warhol is battling his millionaire landlord on the Lower East Side. Taylor Mead is in a game of chicken with real-estate mogul Ben Shaoul, who bought his Ludlow Street building with other tenements last summer for $16.5 million and has begun converting them to market-rate apartments. Read more at the New York Post.

New Books

Paul Celan: 70 Poems translated by Michael Hamburger

[Paperback] Persea, 96 pp., $12.00

Paul Celan is the preeminent poet of the Holocaust. His chilling, haunted verse, evocative and agonizingly spare, is among the essential writing of the modern age. Paul Celan: 70 Poems is a portable selection of some of his most essential work, translated by Michael Hamburger (1924–2007), who for more than thirty years has provided the English-speaking world with the truest access to Celan’s oeuvre.

Straits & Narrows: Poems by Sidney Wade 

[Paperback] Persea, 96 pp., $15.95

Sidney Wade continues to showcase her talents as a poet of potent play in this buoyant sixth collection. Oftentimes reminiscent of the work of Marianne Moore, these striking new poems—rustic, reflective, and typically set lakeside—are limber and unbelievably lean, quick as bubbling brooks, and packed with whimsy and wisdom in equal measure.

Book Beginning What and Ending Away by Clark Coolidge 

[Paperback] Fence Books, 560 pp., $24.95

"A modern-day Rosetta Stone, Book Beginning What and Ending Away bridges the wild conceptual experimentalism of the 1960s and the rigid, doctrine-driven personal politics of the 1970s and early 1980s Language poets, while illuminating the path toward a freeform, devastating 'point perspective lyric' that is Coolidge's operative method today."—Tom Orange

Supplying Salt and Light by Lorna Goodison

[Paperback] McClelland & Stewart, 128 pp., $18.99

This stunning new book of poems from internationally renowned poet Lorna Goodison opens in Spain and Portugal, conjuring up a new history of the Caribbean and a new way of setting up its heritage.

New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012 by Charles Simic 

[Hardcover] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 384 pp., $30.00

For over fifty years, Charles Simic has been widely celebrated for his brilliant and innovative poetic imagery, his sardonic wit, and a voice all his own. He has been awarded nearly every major literary prize for his poetry, including a Pulitzer and a MacArthur grant, in addition to serving as the poet laureate of the United States in 2007 and 2008. Consistently exciting and unexpected, the nearly four hundred poems in this volume represent the best of one of America’s most distinguished and original poets.


Revisiting Iraq through The Eyes of an Exiled Poet

Poet Dunya Mikhail fled her homeland, Iraq, a few years after the first Gulf War. She had been questioned by Saddam Hussein's government, and state media had labeled her writing and poetry subversive. Mikhail escaped to Jordan and eventually reached the United States, where she made a home for herself — marrying, raising a daughter and becoming a U.S. citizen. Read more at NPR.

Snowflakes in General

by Louis Bourgeois

Matthea Harvey is the author of the author of Sad Little Breathing Machine (Graywolf, 2004) and Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Alice James Books, 2000). Her third book of poems, Modern Life (Graywolf, 2007) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and a New York Times Notable Book. Her first children’s book, The Little General and the Giant Snowflake, illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel, was published by Tin House Books in 2009. An illustrated erasure, titled Of Lamb, with images by Amy Jean Porter, was published by McSweeney’s in 2011. Matthea is a contributing editor to jubilat, Meatpaper, and BOMB. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence and lives in Brooklyn. Read more at Rain Taxi.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Seamus Heaney: School Pupils Should Memorize Poetry by Rote

Heaney, acclaimed poet and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, said he "definitely" believed in people memorising poems. If it was not done at an early age, he said, it was "difficult" for the ear to pick up and appreciate works in later life. Speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival yesterday, where he delivered the Chancellor's Lecture introduced by Lord Patten, he said his only problem with overseas systems of learning by rote was that it did not start early enough. Read more at the Telegraph. 

Like any other skill—hand/eye coordination, musicality, design, mechanical aptitude—developing an "ear" for language, for the cadence and modulation of speech, is either come at early when it results in something of a second nature, as Seamus Heaney suggests, or hard won later on. The number of poems I memorized as a child pales in comparison to the number of song lyrics I acquired and still have rattling around. The result of rote learning? If that means exposure to the steady barrage of radio play, the automatic replay of the stack of records, the miming and practicing of song after song in the bedrooms and basements of my schoolmates day after day, then yes, by rote, it was. The meaning of the words was secondary (who knew what "Sloop John B." or "Ticket to Ride" was about?) but the words and the music together seemed at the time nearly transcendent and compelled us to learn them by heart. Even now those same rhythms, unattached to the original chain of words, roll out  and find themselves on the page. As much as as it might have been edifying to balance out my poem/song committed to memory ratio, for better or for worse, I can't imagine it otherwise.

—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
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