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Poetry News In Review

May 6, 2014
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1606 – Lorenzo Lippi, [Perlone Zipoli], poet/painter, is born.
1830 – Guido Gezelle, Flemish priest/poet, is born.
1859 – Willem J T Kloos, Dutch poet (Act of Simple Justice), is born.
1861 – Rabindranath Tagore, Hindu poet/mystic/composer (Nobel 1913), is born.
1904 – Harry Martinson, Sweden, novelist/poet (Trade Wind-Nobel 1974), is born.
1940 – Henry Habibe, Arubian poet (Kerensentenchi), is born.

Far from Here

I want to send a dream far from here.
The swallows fly high there.
Perhaps your wheat ripens
and through the yellow oceans of rye
a slow humming sound of bread can be heard.
This is a world of water and stones,
my hand is without bread and I count its lines.

—Harry Martinson (1904–1978)

World Poetry

Million’s Poet’s Nadia Buhannad: ‘Intimidating? I Say Queen of Intimidating

The Kuwaiti poet Bader Bandar poet may have thought his performance ended with his verse. After a confident recitation, he sat before a panel of three judges and a live TV audience, shifting from side to side on an overstuffed sofa, twiddling his thumbs. It was the third round of Million’s Poet, a reality-TV show where poets across the Arab world compete in classical nabati poetry for prizes of Dh15 million. It is a chance to exchange verses on love and politics. Read more at The National.

Recent Reviews

Rumors of the Stars

Why would a poet try to immortalize gossip?
by Austin Allen
Word was, George Green had been working on this book for decades. A poet-professor at Lehman College, in his 60s, from the ’60s—with the stories to prove it—he’d been published in prestigious journals, was friends with an impressive roster of poets, but had never put out a poetry collection himself. Now finally it had arrived, the summary of a writing life: Lord Byron’s Foot. Read more at the Poetry Foundation.

Break the Glass by Jean Valentine 

by Denise Rodriguez 
In a radio interview on the Writer’s Voice, Valentine said, “I write from things I don’t understand.” Jean Valentine’s poems carry a sense of mystery similar to the mystery in our dreams. If you are an avid reader of Valentine’s work, than you should be familiar with the sense of  otherworldliness that infiltrates her poetry. In her latest collection, Break the Glass, she delivers an intriguing world that once again leaves her reader feeling as if they are on the precipice of reality. Read more at Read the Horn.

On the Pleasures of Caustic Glamour and Stylised Paranoia

by David Wheatley 
Recent years have seen a revival of the pamphlet, as published by enterprising presses such as Tall Lighthouse, Oystercatcher, Landfill, Rack and Egg Box, and as celebrated by the Poetry Society's Michael Marks award. With Standard Twin Fantasy, Sam Riviere follows up his state-of-the-nation collection 81 Austeritieswith an elliptical amuse-bouche served up with no blurb, biographical note or anything else by way of authorial explanation. Read more at The Guardian.

Review: On Vijay Seshadri's "3 Sections"

by Bhisham Bherwani
In a lecture he delivered in 2005,[1] Vijay Seshadri, commenting on Elizabeth Bishop’s “In the Waiting Room,” referred to “the radical disassociation of the self” in the poem, “by which consciousness tends to understand itself as consciousness.” “How had I come to be here,” asks Bishop’s not-quite-seven-year-old speaker, “like them[?]” In 3 Sections (Graywolf Press, 2013), Seshadri’s third and most recent collection, his speakers find themselves, like Bishop’s, in situations that compel them—even as they remain inevitably attached to reality—to grapple with the domain of their disassociated selves. Their minds strained—by art, by nature, by substance, by illness, by stress (mental or physical), or by thought, dream, or vision—to the margins of the rational, they straddle worlds tangible and intangible, knowable and unknowable, possible and impossible. Read more at The American Reader.


A Match Made in Poetry: Yvor Winters vs. Hart Crane

by Timothy Donnelly
In his review of Hart Crane‘s first book of poems, White Buildings (1926), Yvor Winters called Crane “one of the small group of contemporary masters," a poet whose progress he had watched over the last eight years “with mingled feelings of admiration, bewilderment, and jealousy.” But even as he found much to praise in Crane’s work, Winters also worried over what he perceived to be its two “faults," namely “an occasional tendency to slip into rather vague rhetoric” and “an attempt to construct poems of a series of perceptions so minute and so thoroughly insulated from each other that little unifying force or outline results.” Read more at Poets.org.

The Book of Twenty Million Pages: Leopardi and the "Zibaldone"

By Brian Patrick Eha  
On the fifteenth of February, 1828, the last Friday of Carnival in Pisa, while others were making merry, the twenty-nine-year-old Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi was thinking about old age. Already his youthful passions and aspirations were at a low ebb. Nevertheless he hoped, as he wrote in his diary, to be able in his dotage to savor their distilled essence in his poetry and thereby derive some comfort from his unfulfilled desires. Old before his time, he desired in maturity “no other satisfaction than that of having made something beautiful in this world, whether or not it is recognized as such by others.” Leopardi would never see old age, though his youth and early middle age were autumnal enough. He died in Naples just shy of his thirty-ninth birthday, still largely unknown. Read more at The American Reader.

Drafts & Framents

Three Charles Bukowski Poems Animated

The poetry of Charles Bukowski deeply inspires many of its readers. Sometimes it just inspires them to lead the dissolute lifestyle they think they see glorified in it, but other times it leads them to create something compelling of their own. Read more at Open Culture.

Poetry In The News

Poet Still in Shackles of Apartheid

A Johannesburg-based poet has spoken of his anger at being denied a visa to visit a US university because he had served five years on Robben Island for his role in opposing apartheid. Morakabe Raks Seakhoa had been invited to participate in a panel discussion at Brown University in Rhode Island. Read more at Independent Online.

Poet Lore Celebrating 125th Anniversary

If, as Shelley claimed, “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” what does that make poetry editors? Those literary saints toil away in back rooms, far more unacknowledged than Shelley’s heroes. And yet editors make poetry possible for the rest of us. Look no farther than Bethesda, Md., where Poet Lore, America’s oldest poetry journal, is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Read more at the Washington Post.

New Books

Spectator by Kara Candito

[Paperback] University of Utah Press, 80 pp., $12.95
Although it ends with a marriage, Kara Candito’s second poetry collection is anything but a comedy. At the book’s center is the struggle of a U.S. citizen and a Mexican citizen to find a common space and language in their relationship while navigating the U.S. immigration system, a process that sometimes requires magical thinking just to endure. By employing a kind of documentary poetics that views the application process through different angles and perspectives, Candito crafts discourses around xenophobia, otherness, and national and ethnic identity.

Split by Cathy Linh Che 

[Paperback] Alice James Books, 80 pp., $15.95
In this stunning debut, we follow one woman's profoundly personal account of sexual violence against the backdrop of cultural conflict deftly illustrated through her parents' experiences of the Vietnam War, immigration, and its aftermath. By looking closely at landscape and psyche, Split explores what happens when deep trauma occurs and seeks to understand what it means to finally become whole.

Vivarium: Poems by Natasha Sajé

[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 75 pp., $16.95
A vivarium is an enclosure for living things -- plants or animals -- which might likewise be said of a poem. With a vivacious sensibility and unruly leaps from elegiac to ironic, Sajé's new book is an abecedarium, fully using the page, and challenging all manner of received wisdom. Employing lyrics, lists, arguments, narratives, and meditations, and including prose poems devoted to particular letters as well as invented visual or conceptual pieces, in Vivarium the alphabet is endowed with power far beyond usefulness. Form breathes life in this book, and the lived emotion of these poems defies death.

The Mayflies by Sara Veglahn 

[Paperback] Dzanc Books,150 pp., $14.95
Obsessed with bodies of water and haunted by a chorus of mysterious ladies, the unnamed protagonist desperately searches for what is real and what is a dream. A deep and vivid exploration of the passageway between life and death, The Mayflies is a lyrical and haunting look at loneliness, isolation, and moving on.

Moonbook and Sunbook: Poems by Willis Barnstone

[Paperback] Tupelo Press, 98 pp., $16.95
Willis Barnstone's new volume of poetry offers two sequences paired, pivoting on lunar and solar consciousness and comprised mostly of multiplying sonnets, two per page and mirrored typographically across the page-spreads. Elegant in erudition but always fluently conversational, this book is an homage to the poet's father and moving proof of an astonishingly productive life in letters.

Drift by Caroline Bergvall

[Paperback] Nightboat, 80 pp., $15.95
Caroline Bergvall’s Drift retraces the language and maritime imagination of early medieval North Atlantic travels from the sagas to quest poems to today’s sea migrancies. Its centerpiece is the song cycle, “Drift,” which takes the anonymous 10th century Anglo-Saxon quest poem The Seafarer as its inspiration. Both ancient and contemporary tales of travel and exile shadow the plight and losses of wanderers across the waters in this haunting new book. Drift is the second of Bergvall’s explorations of historical English language.


Indian Poets Lag Behind Fiction Writers, Says Pulitzer Winner Vijay Seshadri

by Subuhi Parvez
Indian-American poet Vijay Seshadri's poetry looks deeply into human consciousness. It comes across as witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless. And as much as we think, Seshadri says poetry is not always about the first stroke of genius.  "I write many drafts and that is how I end up writing well". Seshadri's compelling series '3 Sections' – an enactment or reflection on the multiversity of our consciousness – won him the Pulitzer Prize for poetry earlier this month. Read more at Hindustan Times.

Mark Wunderlich

by John Ebersole 
In The Earth Avails (Graywolf Press), Mark Wunderlich presents a world unfamiliar to most of us: rural life. While many poets are enamored by the impact of the Internet and the smartphone upon the self and how the digital landscape has changed our understanding of the worlds around us, Wunderlich’s book seems to be arguing that the best way to know who we are is not by excavating the immediate world around us, but the world we’re losing and have nearly lost. In poem and after poem, he investigates the relationship between humans and animals, humans and the environment, and through that inquiry we discover that our divorce from nature has not only had devastating consequences on the environment, but on our imaginative and moral lives. Read more at New Books in Poetry.

Walking through Los Angeles Inspires New Book of Poetry

by Letisia Marquez 
The latest book by award-winning poet and UCLA English professor Harryette Mullen combines two of her most enjoyable activities that she wanted to do more of: walk and write poetry. The result is 366 short tanka poems that Mullen wrote for "Urban Tumbleweed" (Graywolf Press, 2013). The book chronicles her walks throughout Los Angeles and beyond and was written over the course of a year and a day to suggest continuity. Read more at the Newsroom.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Marina Tsvetaeva

"I do not know whether in general we need real-life inter-linear translations for poetry: who lived, when, where, with whom, under what circumstance, etc., as in the high-school game familiar to everyone. The poetry has ground life up and cast it out, and out of the siftings that remain the biographer, who creeps after them practically on his knees, endeavors to recreate what actually happened. To what end? In order to bring us closer to the living poet. But surely he must know that the poet lives in the poem. . . "

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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