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Poetry News In Review

November 6, 2012

Poetry News In Review

Edited By David Sanders

Specimen Days

November 6, 2012

1671 – Colley Cibber, England, dramatist/poet laureate (Love's Last Shift).
1692 – Louis Racine, French poet (d. 1763).
1846 – Alexander Chavchavadze, Georgian poet and general, dies.
1970 – Agustín Lara, Mexican composer and poet (b. 1900).

"Happier thy fortunes! like a rolling stone,
Thy giddy dulness still shall lumber on,
Safe in its heaviness, shall never stray,
But lick up ev'ry blockhead in the way."

—Alexander Pope, The Dunciad
(in which Colley Cibber is portrayed as the King of Dunces)

World Poetry

Poet and Media Worker Killed in Mogadishu

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) was appalled to learn of the murder of poet and media worker in Mogadishu. According to our information, Warsame Shire Awale, a renowned poet, who is one of the workers of Radio Kulmiye was attacked on Monday evening, 29 October 2012, near his house in Waberi district by unidentified armed men who shot him several times. He was immediately rushed to Daru Shifahospital where he was declared dead. Read more at Star Africa.

Qatar Urged to Free Poet Mohammed Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami

Human rights groups have urged Qatar to free a poet detained last year for what they say was peaceful criticism. Mohammed al-Ajami is reported to be facing a secret trial on charges of "inciting to overthrow the ruling system" and "insulting the emir". The case against him is said to be based on a poem he wrote in 2010 which criticises Sheikh Hamad Al Thani. Read more at the BBC.


Recent Reviews

Geoffrey Hill’s Measured Words

by Paul Batchelor

Geoffrey Hill’s essays and Oxford lectures frequently return to the two brief appearances Sidney Godolphin makes in Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. Godolphin was a Royalist poet, politician and soldier, and he was killed in the early stages of the Civil War. According to Hobbes, he was a man of “inhaerent” virtue: “I have known cleernesse of Judgment, and largenesse of Fancy; strength of Reason, and gracefull Elocution; a Courage for the Warre, and a Feare for the Laws, and all eminently in one man . . . ”. Hill attributes enormous importance to these remarks, made in the closing paragraphs of Leviathan, and reads Hobbes’s entire treatise on moral and civic obligation as “a tragic elegy on the extinction of intrinsic value”. Read more at The TLS.

Roy Fisher, Selected Poems

by Patrick Morrissey

August Kleinzahler’s compact selection from Roy Fisher’s fifty years of poems presents a poet of consistent preoccupations: his native city of Birmingham, landscapes of the British Midlands, his own domestic interiors, and American jazz music. But despite this steadiness of attention, Fisher is also a poet of great formal variety, and his restlessness, in addition to his avoidance of the literary centers that have defined postwar British poetry, has made him hard to place. Read more at the Chicago Review.

Emotion Recollected in Intensity

by Allan Massie

For most of his adult life Edward Thomas (1878-1917) was a hack. Married while still an Oxford undergraduate—he had got Helen, his future wife, pregnant—he spent years trailing round the offices of publishers, newspapers and magazines, suggesting books or articles and asking for work as a reviewer. The strain on his nerves was extreme. He was often unhappy, harsh and even brutal to Helen, who continued nevertheless to love him and believe in him. He suffered at least one nervous breakdown and contemplated suicide—he may even have attempted it once. Read more at the Wall Street Journal.


“The Advisor” by Czesław Miłosz

by Andrew McCulloch

The Nobel Prize-winning poet Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004) decided to call his 1981–82 Charles Eliot Norton lectures “The Witness of Poetry” not, he said, “because we witness it, but because it witnesses us”. In words from his poem “You Who Wronged”, inscribed on a plaque put up in 1980 to commemorate those killed at the Lenin shipyard in Gdańsk a decade earlier, “the poet remembers. You can kill one, but another is born. The words are written down, the deed, the date”. Read more at The TLS.

The Trials and Tribulations of the Translator

by Margarida Madaleno 

In an article in this week's New Statesman, the translator Ollie Brock likens translation to the feat of “cooking the same meal twice with different ingredients”. This is especially true in poetry, where the nuances of language matter all the more – idiosyncratic turns of phrase, witty wordplay and rhyme are so easily lost in translation. In this sense, it is less about cooking the same meal than about reproducing the exact same flavours; in poetry, unlike prose, form often precedes content. Read more at the New Statesman.

Why I’m Quitting Ezra Pound

by David Biespiel

Ever heard that gobsmacking troubadourist Ezra Pound read his elaborate, funkified sestina, “Sestina: Altafore,” in a voice that is one part American-as-European, swilling-with-the-rolling-R’s accent and cantorian swoons and another part a sort of goofy Hailey, Idaho carnival barker? The nifty Open Culture website is featuring a recording on its blog right now. Check it out. It’ll put a smile on your face for a day. Read more at The Rumpus.

Drafts & Fragments

Horrors: ‘Art’ in Artificial (Intelligence) Poetry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers from the Faculty of Computer Science, Universitas Indonesia, the Department of Computing Science, University of Aberdeen, and the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, have constructed an AI system called ‘McGONAGALL’ which “ … uses a sophisticated linguistic formalism to represent its genomic information, from which can be computed the phenotypic information of both semantic representations and patterns of stress.” Read more at Improbable.

William Shatner Has a New. . . Poetry App?

 by Alexander Nazaryan

This is probably less news of the literary kind than of the kind that announces a major civilization in decline: William Shatner, he of Star Trek and, more recently, Priceline, has a poetry app for the iPhone. Read more at the New York Daily News.

Poetry In The News

Amid a Hurricane, Stirred Passions

From the Department of Silver Linings comes this thought: while Hurricane Sandy flooded streets, caused power failures and disrupted daily life in the New York area, it also led to moments of romantic passion. The following poems about the amorous — and hopefully redemptive — effects of the storms were “found” last week in the Missed Connections section of newyork.craigslist.org. Read more at the New York Times.

Cecil Day-Lewis Letters Donated to Oxford Library by His Children

W. H. Auden did not want to appear condescending but his criticism of Cecil Day-Lewis's poem would certainly appear to be crushing: "You are not taking enough trouble about your medium, your technique of expression," he wrote, adding that one line sounded as if Day-Lewis was waiting for his tea. Read more at the Guardian.

Deconstructing Poetry on the Radio

Two years ago, the controller of Radio 4 invited me to begin a new poetry programe, a workshop that would reflect Britain's vast grassroots poetry activity. Across the UK, thousands of people of all ages take part in regular poetry workshops. Read more at the Guardian.

New Books

The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems by Kiki Dimoula

[Hardcover] Yale University Press, 392 pp., $30.00

Kiki Dimoula’s poetry—the most praised and prized in contemporary Greek literature—is a paradox, both mysteriously intricate and widely popular. . . . This first English translation of a wide selection of poems from across Dimoula’s oeuvre brings together some of her most beguiling, arresting, and moving work. The demands on her translators are considerable. Dimoula plays with the Greek language, melds its levels of diction, challenges its grammar and syntax, and bends its words, by twisting their very shape and meaning. Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, Dimoula’s award-winning translators, have re-created her style’s uncanny effect of refraction: when plunged into the water of her poetry, all these bent words suddenly and astonishingly appear perfectly straight.

Disposable Camera by Janet Foxman

[Paperback] University of Chicago Press, 88 pp., $18.00

Although Disposable Camera is Janet Foxman’s first book-length collection, one would not know it given the wry sophistication of the poems found within. The notion of the disposable camera permeates the entire book, where Foxman considers the instabilities in even our deepest attachments. . . . A formally inventive and daring book, and one that displays a sophistication well beyond the poet’s years, Disposable Camera will be a valuable addition to American poetry.

The Fact of the Matter: Poems by Sally Keith

[Paperback] Milkweed Editions, 88 pp., $16.00

Moving from the mundane to the profound, first through observation of fact and matter, then shifting perspective, engaging a deeper sense of self, these poems re-imagine things great and small, making us care deeply about the world around us. In this cultivated and intricately crafted collection, Sally Keith shows the self as a crucible of force—that which compels us to exert ourselves upon the world, and meanwhile renders us vulnerable to it. 

Later Poems Selected and New: 1971-2012 by Adrienne Rich

[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 544 pp., $39.95

Adrienne Rich’s Later Poems Selected and New: 1971–2012 displays the strong trajectory of the work of one of the most distinguished artists of American letters. After her death in March 2012, Rich left behind a manuscript of mature work that speaks for her concern with a poetics of relation along with a passionate attention to craft. In addition to her selections from twelve volumes of published work, Later Poems Selected and New contains ten powerful new poems. 


Gillian Clarke on Keeping Poetry in Wales Alive

by Kirstie McCrum 

Conducting conversation in measured tones, with each word carefully plucked from her expansive lexicon, Gillian Clarke’s literary success is easily understood on meeting her. The writer who was elevated to the post of National Poet of Wales 2008 is a woman possessed of a sort of preternatural calm as she speaks at length about the melody of words and the shape of poems and creates a treasure trove of exploration through her life’s work and experiences, from childhood until now. But while her lifelong love for literature and language should never be doubted, Gillian is the first to admit that it is the Welsh language which holds her heart. Read more at Wales Online.

Interview: Ciaran Carson on Translating Rimbaud

by J.P. O'Malley 

Ciaran Carson was born in Belfast in 1948, and published his first book of poetry, The New Estate, in 1976. Fans of Carson had to wait eleven years for his second book, The Irish for No (1987), which earned him the Alice Hunt Barlett Award. . . . Carson’s latest collection, In The Light Of, displays twenty-two verse interpretations, as well as three prose versions, of the prose poems from Rimbaud’s Illuminations. . . . Carson spoke to The Spectator about the art of translation in poetry, the value of storytelling for a poet, and why defining a poem can limit its very purpose. Read more at the Spectator.

Envoi: Editor's Notes


Maybe it's the weariness brought on by the election, or the devastation of the hurricane; or perhaps it's just that autumnal reflection that passes overhead this time of year, but it seems like a good time for this reminder from my favorite contrarian:

The Mower

by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

—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