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Poetry News In Review

May 29, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1892 – Alfonsina Storni, Argentine poet (La inquietud del rosal), is born.

1912 – John B M R "John" Hanlo, Dutch poet (Go to the Mosque), is born.

1957 – George Bacovia [Vasiliu], Romanian poet/composer (Plumb), dies at 75.

1958 – Juan Ramon Jiménez, Spanish poet (Nobel 1956), dies at 76.

Sweet Torture


My melancholy was gold dust in your hands;

On your long hands I scattered my life;

My sweetnesses remained clutched in your hands;

Now I am a vial of perfume, emptied


How much sweet torture quietly suffered,

When, my soul wrested with shadowy sadness,

She who knows the tricks, I passed the days

kissing the two hands that stifled my life 



—Alfonsina Storni (1892–1938)


World Poetry

Leader Offers Condolences over Death of Poet Mohammad Qahraman

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei offered his condolences over the death of poet and scholar Mohammad Qahraman. “With sorrow and a sigh, I was informed about the death of the great poet of Khorasan, Mr. Mohammad Qahraman,” the Leader said in his condolence message, which was published on Persian news agencies’ websites on Monday. Read more at Tehran Times.

Durgapur Airport to be Named after Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam

West Bengal government has proposed to name the airport coming up near steel city Durgapur in Burdwan district after rebel Bengali poet KaziNazrul Islam.  "We have already proposed to name the upcoming airport near Durgapur as Kazi Nazrul Islam International Airport," Banerjee said in a Facebook post on the occasion of the poet's 114th birth anniversary today. Read more at India Times.

Recent Reviews

When an Issue of a Newspaper Is a Poem

By Peter Monaghan

Literary anthologizing is always a fraught undertaking. No two editors will find the same set of works worthy, and every anthology will—if publishers are half-smart—have plenty of potential readers, many of whom will cavil about particular selections and omissions. Read more at the Chronicle.

We Need to Talk About Canada

by Evan Jones

In the 90s in Toronto, there were only two poets any young buck with his tail in the air talked about: Al Purdy and bpNichol. I remember because I was reading George Seferis at the time. Purdy and Nichol were opposites, sort of, in a way, signs of kids hanging out in different kinds of crowds. The one a poet of the nation and the land, of horse-piss beer and backbreaking days, the other zany, inventive, in cahoots with St. Ein and St. Anza. Purdy had shit on his boots, Nichol was barefoot. Both had lived in Toronto, at least for a spell. Neither was very good.  Read more at PN Review.


Learning to Love the Poems of Edward Thomas

by David Rivard

I came to “There’s Nothing Like the Sun,” and Edward Thomas’ work in general, quite late, thanks to some of my more inane prejudices. The image I’d developed of Thomas’ poems (without having read many of them) didn’t hold much appeal, not for somebody like me, who has lived in cities all his life. I’ve always loved best the American poets who have been most tuned in to life in those places: Williams and O’Hara in particular. Thomas’ sensibility initially seemed to me the product of “cottage England.” His interest in the natural world seemed … well, sort of unrelenting. Read more at Slate.

Sonnet 30 by Robert Sidney

by Carol Rumens

Sidney's poems, handwritten in a notebook, with a leather binding added in the 19th century, came to notice in the 1960s, when the contents of the library of Warwick Castle were dispersed. The collection had been misattributed, but Sidney's spiky italic handwriting was identified by the Cambridge scholar Peter Croft, who went on to become the poet's first editor. Croft's magnificent edition of The Poems of Robert Sidney is essential reading, not only for students of Elizabethan literature but for anyone generally interested in poetry and poetics. Read more at the Guardian.

Drafts & Framents

Wendy Cope, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis

Scroll down to see how Wendy Cope has annotated this copy of her collection. The annotations are in text format at the bottom of the page. Read more at the Guardian.

Poetry In The News

Salt Abandons Single-author Collections amid Poetry Market Slump

As figures show tumbling sales for poetry, authors including poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy are mourning news that one of the UK's most energetic independent publishers can no longer afford to publish individual collections. After releasing more than 400 poetry collections, many by debut authors, and launching scores of careers, Salt said earlier this week that it will be focusing on poetry anthologies in the future. Read more at the Guardian.

Poetry under the Freeway

On the parking lot next to the Cypress Park Home Depot,  in the shadow of an elevated section of the 5 Freeway, the Cypress Park Community Job Center usually draws a crowd of day laborers seeking work.  This morning, however, the center attracted a group of poets and musicians to take part in an outdoor poetry reading as part of Poesia Para La Gente, a program that brings poetry readings to non-traditional places, such as a laundromat, taco shop and now a day laborer hiring site. Read more at The East Sider LA.

Kim Merker, Hand-Press Printer of Poets, Is Dead at 81

Kim Merker was a chain-smoking New Yorker with literary ambitions when he went to Iowa in the mid-1950s to study poetry. He became a wordsmith of another kind. For four decades, using presses he operated with his own inky hands, Mr. Merker was a designer, typesetter and printer of some of the most beautiful books made in America in the late 20th century. Almost all were vessels for poems that he found promising, interesting or indisputably excellent — and about which he was usually right: some of the young poets he published went on to achieve renown. Read more at the New York Times.

New Books

The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka 

[Paperback] Penguin Books, 128 pp., $18.00

The legendary Jack Johnson (1878–1946) was a true American creation. The child of emancipated slaves, he overcame the violent segregationism of Jim Crow, challenging white boxers—and white America—to become the first African-American heavyweight world champion. The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka’s third work of poetry, follows the fighter’s journey from poverty to the most coveted title in sports through the multi-layered voices of Johnson and the white women he brazenly loved.

Tour of the Breath Gallery: Poems by Sarah Pemberton Strong 

[Hardcover] Texas Tech University Press, 88 pp., $21.95

In her first volume of poetry, novelist Sarah Strong celebrates silence and what can be learned when we wait and listen. In this stillness, she shows us, we may hear answers to questions we have learned not to ask. Exploring how our subtlest gestures speak our most passionate concerns, she maps the intricacies of body—the fingers of a hand, the work of breathing—with the same dexterity she investigates what inspires a mother to demolish a kitchen wall or a lover to change genders. 

Black Aperture: Poems by Matt Rasmussen 

[Paperback] Louisiana State University Press, 72 pp., $17.95

In his moving debut collection, Matt Rasmussen faces the tragedy of his brother's suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor. In "Outgoing," the speaker erases his brother's answering machine message to save his family from "the shame of dead you / answering calls." In other poems, once-ordinary objects become dreamlike. 

The Exchange: Poems by Sophie Cabot Black


[Paperback] Graywolf Press 88 pp., $15.00

In The Exchange, Sophie Cabot Black explores the surprising interplay between mortality and money, between the next world and this one, between the language of disease and the language of finance. Following a beloved friend through a long illness and eventual loss, these poems confront in stark emotion the aftermath, even as the outside world—the world of debts paid and collected, of power and dominion—intrudes. 

Joie de Vivre: Selected Poems 1992-2012 by Lisa Jarnot

[Paperback] City Lights Publishers, 110 pp., $14.95

Inspired by the Beats, Black Mountain, and the New York School, Lisa Jarnot emerged in the 1990s as one of the foremost poets of the post-Language avant-garde. Joie de Vivre draws on twenty years of work, from the bold fragmentation of her mixed media debut Some Other Kind of Mission to the experimental lyricism of her recent Night Scenes. Following the poet's evolution through her engagements with form and music, Joie de Vivre showcases Jarnot's restless virtuosity and relentless curiosity. 


Poetic Justice: The Writer Najwan Darwish on PalFest and His First Volume of Poetry

by Jessica Holland

The writer Najwan Darwish’s first volume of poetry will be published by The New York Review of Books next year. He talks to Jessica Holland about the Palestinian literary event, PalFest, and his job there as an adviser – which he says can involve work that even interns refuse to do. Writers from across the world, including the British sci-fi writer China Miéville and the South African novelist Gillian Slovo, travelled to the Palestine Territories last week to take part in the sixth annual PalFest, a nine-day literary event across five cities in the Occupied West Bank, within the Green Line and in Gaza, that ends on Friday. Read more at The National.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Anthony Hecht

"One of the great satisfactions of writing poetry consists of the absolute and indispensable conviction, while one is writing, that one is working at one's very best. To think otherwise is deeply discouraging, and virtually intolerable. But to feel one is working at one's best is to call into question the fact that one felt this way about each and every poem one has written in the past, not all of them still regarded with pride or satisfaction, and some of them, alas, now disappointing if not humiliating. This does not bear much dwelling upon."

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