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Poetry News In Review

October 1, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1842 – Charles Cros, French mathematician/chemist/poet (Le Hareng Saur), is born.
1885 – Louis Untermeyer, NYC, poet/critic (Immortal Poems, Story Poems), is born.
1917 – René A de Rooy, Suriname/Antillian poet (Juancho Picaflor), is born.
1953 – John Hegley, British poet, is born.
1966 – Albert  Besnard, poet/journalist (Doom & Thirst), dies.
Was it your image in my inner depths
whether in the midst of tears or gladness,
Black Madonna of profound sadness,
whose heart cried out in so much passion?
Sweet secret to meditate upon:
why my efforts, from where my dreams,
perhaps some day I will comprehend
all the mysteries created by my own hand.
Black Madonna with eyes of sadness?
—from “Rondel” by Rene Andred de Rooy (1917–1974)

World Poetry

BBC World Celebrates Pablo Neruda’s 'Poem 15' in 21 Languages

 On the 40th anniversary of the death of Pablo Neruda, BBC World pays tribute to the famous poet through a video of Poem 15, one of Neruda’s most famous works, recited in 21 of the 28 languages operated by the BBC World Service. The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died on September 23, 1973, a few days after the military coup that toppled President Salvador Allende. Read more at Digital Journal.

Afghan Women Risk Lives to Write Poems

Although some female poets in Afghanistan have been killed by their male family members for penning poetry, many see it as an outlet to express their inner and outer worlds during a time of great national turmoil. Several organizations have formed to collect their work anonymously to keep them from danger, as well as teach several to read since 88 percent of Afghan women are illiterate. The literary society Mirman Baheer operates covertly, allowing poets to meet in person and recite their work on a radio program created in conjunction with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. AWWP was founded four years ago to promote poetry written by women, taking care to omit any information that could lead to their identification, as well as run creative writing workshops in various parts of the war-torn country. Read more at Truthdig.

Palestinian Poetry Resists Israeli Occupation

Remi Kanazi, a New York-based Palestinian national, is resisting Israel's longstanding occupation of his homeland in his own unique way. "We can use art in creative resistance that… is integral to any liberation movement," Kanazi told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview in Johannesburg. "I'm happy to work in that capacity." The performance poet is currently touring South Africa as a guest of the Tri Continental Film Festival. He is slated to perform and speak at a number of community venues in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria, Khayelitsha and Soweto. Read more at World Bulletin.

When Poetry Met the Poet

Gulzar and Prasoon had the audience enthralled. A mellow morning sun, beautiful words conjuring up a tapestry of images, nazm or poetry recited in the silken language or bolee where Urdu meets Hindi - something we rarely get to hear these days. And if the poetry is being recited by none other than Gulzar, the poet-lyricist-filmmaker we’ve all come to love through our Hindi films, what more can one ask for? There was, apparently, more to be savoured as the vitality of songwriter-adman Prasoon Joshi’s poetry, and his friendly exchanges with Gulzar took the morning to new heights on the second day of the Bangalore Literature Festival. Read more at The Hindu.

Recent Reviews

Young Tambling, by Kate Greenstreet

by Ray McDaniel
In lieu of blurbs, the back cover of Young Tambling simply reads Based on a true story. Thanks to the quality of the design, this humble claim is both comic and sort of sublime. It’s comic, of course, because being based on a true story isn’t the sort of criterion by which one represents poetry. One can scarcely imagine a browser picking up a book of poetry and choosing it for purchase because it was based on a true story. But why not? Because poetry isn’t as much of a story as a story is? If so, we could describe poetry as based on truth. And this would be accurate, but also weird, and in that weirdness we can find something essential about folk art, of which the ballad is a prime example, as is the ballad that gives Young Tambling its title. Read more at Constant Critic.

On Poetry: Stalin’s Carnival, by Steven Heighton 

by Michael Lista
At a wedding last summer in the Finger Lakes, where with some other guests I’d earlier delighted in local conspiracy theories about clandestine U.S. Naval experiments being conducted at the lake bottom, I found myself sidled up at the bar with another Canadian writer doing what our kind does best: dredging. At one point my companion asked: “So what ever happened to Steven Heighton?” “What do you mean?” “He was supposed to have been the next Ondaatje,” the writer said, referencing an early Globe and Mail review of Heighton’s work. “What happened?” Read more at the National Post.


Sharp Biscuit — Some Thoughts on Translating*

by Michael Hoffmann
A handful of lucky or gifted poets fill their lives with poetry. I’m thinking of the likes of Ashbery, Brodsky, Ted Hughes, Les Murray. They write, respectively wrote poems, it seems to me, practically every day, the way prose writers write their novels. The date at the bottom of Mandelstam poems. Plath poems. It’s a question of the force of the gift, the pounds-per-square-inch of the Muse. Heaney, too, comes close. The rest of us strike compromises, do something else “as well,” mostly teach, in a handful of cases, do other, unrelated work, have “a job” in the “real world.” The job is the enemy of the poetry, its successful, favored rival (the job is everything, the poem nothing; who wants the poem, and who doesn’t want the job?), but may also be the dirt from which the poetry grows. Such, anyway, is my hope, translating. Read more at the Poetry Foundation.

The Gardens of Kolymbetra

by Marius Kociejowski
A woman with a Medusa's head of hair sells tickets at the entrance to the Giardino della Kolymbetra, the sunken gardens adjacent to, and a hundred steps or so further down from, the Valley of the Temples outside Agrigento. She strikes me as the tutelary spirit of the place, she with her solid grasp of five languages of which, yes, Walloon's the surprise. She was born in Belgium but returned to what her blood had always dictated was home. It is easy to imagine that the small lake constructed here in 480 BC to commemorate victory over the Carthaginians at the battle of Himera was actually for her. It is only one's wilful ignorance of another person's life that allows for such fancies, of course - the poetical mind prefers ten facts rather than a thousand upon which to build a theme - but she really does seem to have stepped from a black-figure Greek vase. She squeezes fresh orange juice. She does so not as some comforting angel or to drive one to yet deeper romantic reverie but, at a euro a pop, to increase the garden's revenue. Read more at PN Review.

Julia Bird Considers the Joys of the Poetry Reading

I went to see a contemporary dance show once. I don’t know much about dance, but a friend had a ticket going spare and invited me along. The venue was cramped, and I had to clamber over a lot of tables and chairs to get to my seat. There was no programme so I didn’t know what to expect from the performance, but I had plenty of time to speculate as the show started half an hour after Time Out said it would. A dancer entered. She danced slightly to the left of the spotlight so we couldn’t ever really see her moves, although the bits I could make out I did quite like. After about twenty minutes (my friend said she was only supposed to dance for twelve) she shouted at into the wings ‘Have I got time for a bit more dancing?’. In the bar afterwards, she was selling DVDs of her performance. I haven’t been to another contemporary dance show since. Read more at Salt.

Between The Words I Couldn’t Understand and The First Music I Can’t Remember

by Dorianne Laux
I’m in bed in a strange place and I can hear voices in another room, my mother’s unmistakable voice among them, and in the background there is a song on the radio or record player, something about blue eyes, and I try to push the voices from my ears so I can hear the song. Later I remember singing to myself, a song from a TV series called Tippy Top. Read more at Coldfront.

Drafts & Framents

Poetry In The News

Jose Montoya, Sacramento Poet and Artist, Has Died

Jose Montoya, one of the most influential and inspirational figures in California Latino history, died Wednesday surrounded by family in his midtown Sacramento home. He was 81. As a boy, Montoya picked grapes with his family in Delano and Fowler in the blistering Central Valley heat. He vowed that farm work would not be his destiny, and instead became an artist and poet whose work galvanized the Chicano movement in the 1960s and ’70s. Read more at the Modesto Bee.

National Book Award in Poetry “Longlist” Finalists Announced

The National Book Foundation has released its “longlist” of ten finalists for the National Book Award in poetry. This year’s judges include Nikky Finney, who is serving as the panel’s chair, Ada Limón, D.A. Powell, Jahan Ramazani and Craig Morgan Teicher. The list includes Frank Bidart, who has been a finalist three times prior to this year and is the only poet on the list who is a former finalist. His collection Metaphysical Dog, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, earned him the nomination. Read more at Coldfront.

Saginaw Poet Theodore Roethke's Home Gets Special Treatment from Dow Chemical Co. and Community Volunteers

Armed with paintbrushes and garden tools, more than 100 volunteers are taking to 1805 Gratiot in Saginaw, working to update the childhood home of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Saginaw native Theodore Roethke. The Friends of Theodore Roethke, the group managing the Theodore Roethke Home Museum and the house next door, hopes the work will bring them closer to making the properties into a museum and literary center for Saginaw. The restoration is organized in large part by DowGives, a charitable arm of the Dow Chemical Co. Read more at M Live.

Robert Frost's Snowy Walk Tops Radio 4 Count of Nation's Favourite Poems

Polls to discover the nation's favourite poem have traditionally crowned Rudyard Kipling's “If” as No 1, while T.S. Eliot has been hailed as the greatest poet, but now an audit of the poems most-requested on BBC Radio 4's Poetry Please has found that US poet Robert Frost's “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is the piece that listeners most want to hear. Read more at The Guardian.


New Books

Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter: Poems by Maryann Corbett

[Paperback] Able Muse Press, 102 pp., $18.95
Maryann Corbett’s second full-length collection, Credo for the Checkout Line in Winter, draws on profound experience of deep winter in the lived environment, while keeping alive faith that the thaw will come and bring with it the bloom of “uncountable rows of petals.” The themes of this finalist for the 2011 Able Muse Book Award range from the quotidian to the metaphysical. Corbett’s keen eye brings to focus uncommon detail. Her masterful technical repertoire spans received forms, metrical inventiveness, and free verse. This is poetry that amply rewards the reader with its boundless imagination, insight and visionary delight.

Birthplace with Buried Stones: Poems by Meena Alexander 

[Paperback] Triquarterly, 140 pp., $16.95 
With their intense lyricism, Meena Alexander’s poems convey the fragmented experience of the traveler, for whom home is both nowhere and everywhere. The landscapes she evokes, whether reading Bash? in the Himalayas, or walking a city street, hold echoes of otherness. Place becomes a palimpsest, composed of layer upon layer of memory, dream, and desire. There are poems of love and poems of war—we see the rippling effects of violence and dislocation, of love and its aftermath. The poems in Birthplace with Buried Stones range widely over time and place, from Alexander’s native India to New York City. We see traces of mythology, ritual, and other languages. Uniquely attuned to life in a globalized world, Alexander’s poetry is an apt guide, bringing us face to face with the power of a single moment and its capacity to evoke the unseen and unheard.

Falling in Love with Fellow Prisoners: Poems by Gwendolyn Zepeda 

[Paperback] Arte Publico Press, 64 pp., $14.95
Gwendolyn Zepeda is an astute observer of people: her elders, full of bitterness; the stranger on the elevator, who exudes the smell of hate; the needy girl who's broken and screams like a bird in her ear so that "I turn and slip away. I've/Had my fill. I'm in the water/Where it's warm and deep and/She can't follow./Goodbye. Good luck." She's compassionate and considerate, but Zepeda always chooses survival.  Whether musing on dysfunctional relationships or parenthood, Gwendolyn Zepeda, the first Poet Laureate of Houston, captures the aching loneliness and vulnerability of contemporary urban life.

The Laughter of Adam and Eve by Jason Sommer 

[Paperback] Southern Illinois University Press, 88 pp., $15.95
In The Laughter of Adam and Eve, Jason Sommer speaks from a multitude of voices and perspectives, in short, formal lyrics as well as longer free-verse narratives. From the archetypal parents of us all, down through anonymous voices, throughout these pages, women and men speak to—and of—each other, in many roles and relations—as lover and beloved, as child and parent, as dreamer and dreamt of. The poems attempt to travel beyond the traditional binary in search of the common thread that binds us to one another. Perhaps chief among them is story: whether recasting myth so that Pygmalion and Narcissus become a single figure or using an Appalachian tale retold as a message, lover to lover, these poems narrate, while engaging deeply with those special properties that poetry can bring to story.

Coconut Milk by Dan Taulapapa McMullin

[Paperback] University of Arizona Press, 80 pp., $15.95
Coconut Milk is a fresh, new poetry collection that is a sensual homage to place, people, love, and lust. The first collection by Samoan writer and painter Dan Taulapapa McMullin, the poems evoke both intimate conversations and provocative monologues that allow him to explore the complexities of being a queer Samoan in the United States. Throughout the collection, McMullin illustrates various manifestations of geopolitical, cultural, linguistic, and sexual colonialism. His work illuminates the ongoing resistance to colonialism and the remarkable resilience of Pacific Islanders and queer-identified peoples.


Struggling with Words

Tara Bergin talks to Attila Balázs
AB: You live in the North of England, one of the most picturesque parts of the country. I’ve heard that you hate fox-hunting but you like crows. More seriously: your favourite English poet is the famous poeta laureatusTed Hughes, and your favourite Hungarian poet is János Pilinszky. At the same time,you admit that you donot speak  Hungarian. Would you be so kind as to explain how this works?
TB: Firstly, I should say that I’m not sure if Ted Hughes is my favourite poet, but I certainly admire him a great deal, and he has certainly been taking up most of my time recently, due to the fact that I am writing my PhD on him. Actually, my PhD is specifically about Hughes’s translations of János Pilinszky. When I was an undergraduate at Newcastle University, I read a lot of poetry in translation – particularly poetry written during or just after the Second World War. A lot of this poetry made a deep impression on me. My teacher at the time was Desmond Graham, and he introduced me to Pilinszky. He also introduced me to the whole idea of co-translation – a practice which involves translating from a language you cannot speak. The way it works is that two people make the translation, one who is fluent in the source language, and one who is fluent in the target language. Read more at Hungarian Review.

Interview with David Wheatley

by Peter Sirr
David Wheatley is the author of four collections of poetry, published by The Gallery Press, the most recent of which is A Nest on the Waves (2010). He recently took up the post of Senior Lecturer in creative writing and modern literature at the University of Aberdeen. The following interview was conducted by Bill Tinley in May 2013. The title poem of your first collection, Thirst, takes its cue from Wallace Stevens’s ‘Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction’ which says not just ‘that we live in a place / That is not our own’ but that ‘From this the poem springs’. This suggests that place means, for you, not belonging, and that your feeling of displacement is a source, if not the source, of your poetry. Read More at Graph Magazine.

Kevin Young Talks about Poetry, Food, Music and Family 

by Charlotte Pence 
Ambitious yet grounded, scholarly yet impassioned, cerebral yet also playful, Kevin Young is one of those rare writers who does it all, and does it all well, including tweets about The Bachelorette. Author of seven books of poetry and an essay collection, and editor of eight more books, Young does work that embodies an inclusive sense of literary history and illustrates the interconnectedness of art and life. Whether he is talking about modernism, blues singers, the slave ship Amistad, film noir or one of many other subjects he has studied, he writes poems and essays that serve as simultaneous portals to the past and future. Read more at the Nashville Scene.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Marianne Moore

"Humility is an indispensable ally, enabling concentration to heighten gusto. There are always objectors, but we must not be sensitive about not being liked or not being printed. David Low, the cartoonist, when carped at, said, 'Ah, well--" But he has never compromised; he goes right on doing what idiosyncrasy tells him to do. The thing is to see the vision and not deny it; to care and admit that we do."
—from "Humility, Concentration, and Gusto" in Predelictions

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