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Poetry News In Review

October 15, 2013
David Sanders

Specimen Days

70 BC – Virgil, (Publius Vergilius Maro) Andes, Cisalpine Gaul, Roman Republican poet (Aeneid), (d. 19 BC), is born.
1595 – Abu al-Faiz ibn Mubarak Faizi, Persian-Dutch E indies poet, dies at 48.

1674 – Robert Herrick, Mass, British poet (Together), dies.

1686 – Allan Ramsay, Scottish poet (d. 1758), is born.

1837 – Ivan Dmitriev, Russian statesman and poet (b. 1760), dies.
1859 – Jaime de Magalhes Lima, Portuguese author/poet (Salmos do Prisoneiro), is born.

1932 – Riekus Waskowsky, poet, is born.
2008 – Fazıl Hüsnü Dağlarca, Turkish poet (b. 1914), dies.
. . . And yet if the field's unknown and new to us, 
Before our plow breaks open the soil at all, 
It's necessary to study the ways of the winds 
And the changing ways of the skies, and also to know 
The history of the planting in that ground, 
What crops will prosper there and what will not. 
In one place grain grows best, in another, vines; 
Another's good for the cultivation of trees; 
In still another the grain turns green unbidden.
—from “First Georgic” by Virgil (70 B.C.E.–19 B.C.E.)

World Poetry

Young Poet Threatened after TV Appearance

After his appearance in the DR2 news programme Deadline this week in which he criticised Muslim parents, Yahya Hassan, an 18-year old poet of Palestinian descent, has received more death threats than any other guest in the show's history. Read more at the Copenhagen Post.

News: Poet Aron Atabek Writes to PEN from Solitary Confinement in Kazakhstan

Kazakh poet Aron Atabek was sentenced to two years in solitary confinement in 2012 for writing a book that criticises President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Since we launched our campaign in August 2013 to have Atabek released from solitary confinement, PEN centres have been lobbying their governments and respective ambassadors to Kazakhstan, asking them to raise Atabek’s case with the Kazakh government. Some members have written directly to Atabek in prison. Recently, Atabek was able to respond to a letter of support sent by Sascha Feuchert from German PEN. Read more at PEN International.

Bulgarian Poet, Foundation Head Get EU Citizen Prize

Prominent Bulgarian poet, writer, and translator, Valeri Petrov and the chairman of the Foundation Bulgarian Memory, Dr Milen Vrabevski, are receiving Friday the European Citizen'sprize of the European Parliament for 2013. Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevneliev, will attend the ceremony. After a vote, a national jury of three Bulgarian MEPs – Monika Panayotova (EPP), Antoniya Parvanova, (ALDE) and Evgeni Kirilov (S&D) chose Petrov and Vrabevski for the award. Read more at Novitnite.com.

Cuban Poet Wins Manuel Acuna International Award in Mexico

The Manuel Acuna International Prize for Poetry in Spanish Language, issued by the government of the Mexican state of Coahuila, was awarded to Cuban poet Luis Manuel Perez Boitel, the media reported today. His work "Artefactos para Dibujar una Nereida" (Appliances to Draw a Nereid) was selected from more than 700 works written by poets from various countries. Read more at Prensa Latina.

Recent Reviews

Reviews: Go Giants by Nick Laird and The Hotel Oneira by August Kleinzahler

By Michael Robbins
"Memory Foam Day on Price-Drop TV." "El Caminos, Acuras, Cabriolets." "Spellcheck." "Bisquick Jimmy's." Just some examples of the sort of language we're frequently assured poetry eschews in favor of the recondite, taken from two new poetry collections that are often anything but: Nick Laird's Go Giants (the first and third examples) and August Kleinzahler's The Hotel Oneira (the second and fourth). The mere inclusion of such pop consumerism tells us nothing about the value of the poetry, of course, but it would seem at least to indicate the poet's willingness to grapple with the world we live in rather than with some patinaed Arcady. Read more at the Chicago Tribune.

Emily Pettit’s Beautiful Precision within Chaos

by Bianca Stone 
Emily Pettit’s lush lines unfold and unfold and unfold. She’s a master of the short line, gorgeously complex in her use of dark themes (strongest being a version of intense human anxiety) and poignantly reveals these themes in an unselfconscious, direct voice. The distinctive “leaping” I find in so much great poetry of our generation (the feeling of non-sequitur logic and negative space between lines), is conquered by Pettit. But what’s so powerful about her poems is that she never loses the initial thread which allows each poem to remain entirely distinctive and unique, rather than forgoing sense. Each individual poem, like a planet in a solar system, orbits; sometimes harkening back to others nearby. Her poems are introverted planets, with extroverted survival skills, in a chaotic universe. Read more at The The Poetry.

Poets Put their Best Feet Forward on Matters of Life and Death

John McAuliffe
The frenetic autumn awards season has begun with the Irish Times Poetry Now Award, which has made its pick of the best book published in 2012. It will be followed next month by the Forward Prize, which focuses on collections published in 2013 and whose strong shortlist includes Sinéad Morrissey’s Parallax (Carcanet, £9.95), the follow-up to Through the Square Window (which won the 2010 Irish Times Poetry Now Award), alongside books by Glyn Maxwell, Rebecca Goss, Jacob Polley and Michael Symmons Roberts. Read more at the Irish Times.

City of Rivers

by Benjamin Landry
What happens when a yearning for what is lost competes with the impulse to fully experience the present?  The answer, in the form of a collection of poetry, must be something like Zubair Ahmed’s City of Rivers, the first full-length collection from this poet born in Bangladesh in 1988.  The remnants of Ahmed’s family came to the United States less than a decade ago, so it makes sense that City of Rivers is concerned primarily with the scarred and sodden landscapes of Bangladesh, a country beset with monsoons and haunted by a history of strife and famine.  It is a beautiful and visionary collection, one that embraces the energy of contemporary poetry and yet—a rare thing these days—is unafraid to maintain focus throughout a poem and complete an idea. Read more at Coldfront.

Lee Sharkey’s Calendars of Fire

by Heather Dobbins
“Memory remembers matter remembers/ Make make make make” –Lee Sharkey
In The Book of the Dead, Muriel Rukeyser writes, “What three things can never be done?
 Forget. Keep silent. Stand alone.” In Calendars of Fire, Lee Sharkey refuses to be that historian or activist, tamed in middle age, no longer pained by injustice. In the title poem, she explains, “It was what I wanted, the sobering fire.” You may wonder how and why fire sobers, but then ask yourself, what do poets do best? They fight forgetting, silence, and isolation by paying attention—really paying attention, so much so that they make others nervous, including themselves. You may remember Tiresias from Greek mythology—the one who hit two mating snakes with a stick and became a woman for seven years. He was not only a blind prophet with a preference for burnt offerings but also a great listener to birds’ wisdom. “Tiresias at last,” a persona poem in six parts, is where Sharkey’s theme is most pronounced: “the will to keep silent that needs to speak” (“With birds on his shoulders”). In “Possession,” we learn Sharkey’s anti-poem is “A quiet in the face of it.” Read more at The The Poetry.


Poetry is Like Music to the Mind, Scientists Prove

New brain imaging technology is helping researchers to bridge the gap between art and science by mapping the different ways in which the brain responds to poetry and prose. Scientists at the University of Exeter used state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, which allows them to visualise which parts of the brain are activated to process various activities. Read more at the University of Exeter News.

The World and the Open Sea: Poetry and the Aspect of Infinity

by Robert Archambeau
The crowd, as I remember it, consisted of about 200 young women—students of St. Mary's College—along with the poet John Matthias and a clutch of graduate students from the nearby University of Notre Dame, including myself.  It was the early fall, a year in the mid-1990s, and we were in the library at St. Mary's, waiting for Paul Muldoon to arrive.  When he strode in, a little late, with his mop-top flopping, he looked every inch the much-adored young prep school teacher in his blue blazer and grey flannels, and he carried himself, then as now, with a studied self-possession, letting the audience come to him with their attention, and knowing all along that they would. Read more at Samizdat.

Forgotten Poet of the Day: Karl Shapiro

by Joe Weil
There are many reasons why Karl Shapiro is no longer taught or on the lips of MFA students. First, he was part of the post-war formalist/ structuralism/ urban boom in poetry, but he had enjoyed great success (Pulitzers and whatnot), and he was a Jew. A Jew with a Pulitzer in the 1940s/1950s who was neither humble nor particularly unwashed and earnest (Shapiro…was dapper) was treated with some envy and contempt. Second, the Beats had visited him and not thought themselves properly treated (they expected a hipster jazz sort of poet because it was Shapiro–not Ginsberg–who first start writing in long rhapsodic free verse lines in emulation of Whitman). Shapiro became for them the symbol of stuffed shirt bougie poetics (as you will see from this poem, Shapiro was anything but. He was sexually open and using the long free verse line a good ten years before Allen Ginsberg came anywhere near it). Read more at The The Poetry.

Drafts & Framents

John Ashbery: A Pageant

by Andrew Field

Wallace Stevens

Marianne Moore

Elizabeth Bishop

W.H. Auden

James Merril

Robert Lowell

Read more at The The Poetry.

Whitman’s Cardboard Butterfly

See more at the Library of Congress.

Poetry In The News

Tributes for Seamus Heaney Are Planned

The poet Seamus Heaney, who died in August at age 74, will be honored next month at several free public events in New York. On Nov. 4, the Irish Repertory Theater in Manhattan will stage a celebration hosted by the poet Paul Muldoon and featuring the novelist Colum McCann, Jean Kennedy Smith, former Ambassador to Ireland, and other guests. On Nov. 11 at Cooper Union, Mr. Muldoon will take the stage again with poets including Frank Bidart, Eavan Boland, Yusef Komunyakaa and Kevin Young, as well as the novelist Colm Toibin and the singer Paul Simon. Read more at the New York Times.

Rock and Roll Verse

In his poem “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio,” James Wright spoke of high-school football players, sons of blue-collar men and women who “grow suicidally beautiful / At the beginning of October, / And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.” For the past nine years, another kind of competition has taken place around the beginning of October in different cities across the U.S. and Canada. Though not as aggressive as football or as its name would suggest, the Individual World Poetry Slam (aka iWPS) nevertheless pits contender against contender until just one victor remains. Read more at the Inlander.

National Poetry Series "Latino/a Poetry Now" to Conclude at Notre Dame

Letras Latinas, the literary program of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, in partnership with the Poetry Society of America, will be hosting the conclusion of “Latino/a Poetry Now,” a multiyear, multi-author initiative that has traveled to various college campuses around the United States. The series launched at Harvard University in November 2011 and winds down at the University of Notre Dame on October 29–30. “The goal all along has been to provide a sampling of the thematically and aesthetically diverse work being produced by a newer generation of Latino and Latina poets,” says Francisco Aragón, curator of the series and director of Letras Latinas. Read more at Arts and Letters.

New Books

House and Fire by Maria Hummel 

[Paperback] American Poetry Review, 96 pp., $14.00

House and Fire is a mother's love song to her stricken young son, written over the years of his hospitalizations for an acute immune disorder. Maria Hummel is a poet of dazzling formal mastery, whose eerie, radiant lyrics and stories evoke the pediatric ward, California life, and the immortal, endangered world of childhood. This unforgettable debut was selected by Fanny Howe.

The Incredible Sestina Anthology edited by Daniel Nester 

[Paperback] Write Bloody Publishing, 334 pp., $25.00

More than 800 years after its invention in medieval France, the sestina survives and thrives in English. A fixed 39-line poetic form with of six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a three- line stanza known as an envoi, tornada, or tercet, the sestina is the one form of poetry that poets from all camps agree can exist in a free verse world. Formalists and avant-gardes love sestinas for their ornate, maddeningly complicated rules of word repetition. For The Incredible Sestina Anthology, editor Daniel Nester has gathered more than 100 writers-from John Ashbery to David Lehman to Matt Madden and Patricia Smith-to show the sestina in its many incarnations: prose and comic sestinas, collaborative and double sestinas, from masters of the form to brilliant one-off attempts, all to show its evolution and the possibilities of this dynamic form.

Now, Now by Jennifer Maier 

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 80 pp., $15.95
In Now, Now, Jennifer Maier's second poetry collection, time is of the essence. Moving with quantum ease through the porous membranes of the past, present, and future, the speaker wonders: What is each moment but the swirling confluence (or shy first meeting) of past and future—of what happened, and what-has-not-yet-happened but will? Such phenomenological questions are sparked by ordinary events: a friend's passion for jigsaw puzzles; an imagined conversation with a neighbor's dog; a meditation on the uses of modern poetry. Here, in language at once elegant and agile, intimate and universal, the author probes beneath the surface of happenstance, moving with depth, humor, and compassion into the heart of our shared predicament: that of loving what we cannot keep.

Oddly Beautiful by Madelyne Camrud 

[Paperback] New Rivers Press, 90 pp., $14.95
Inspired by her husband's struggle with Alzheimer's, Madelyne Camrud leads readers through a meditation on love, reflection, loss, and grief. She reveals light in unexpected places, from graffiti-splashed walls to a lone bird perched on a winter branch. These images bring hope to dark times, showing us life is oddly beautiful.

Chapel of Inadvertent Joy by Jeffrey McDaniel

[Paperback] University of Pittsburgh Press, 88 pp., $15.95 

“Reading Jeffrey McDaniel’s gorgeously dark and utterly compelling Chapel of Inadvertent Joy reminds me that he is probably the most important poet in America. The book in your hands was written by a master of metaphor and a poet of huge imagination and fierce ingenuity, a fine antidote to realism. Get this voice in your head.”—Major Jackson

Little Blue Man by Clive Watkins with photographs by Susan de Sola

[Paperback] Seabiscuit Press, 30 pp., $12.00 

This jewel-like chapbook has a long poem by English poet Clive Watkins interleaved with 12 full-color photo plates by Susan de Sola. These imaginative photos feature a small action-figure from the 1960s, oddly, sometimes playfully, out of context. The engaging poem reflects the photo-images in ways both humorous and serious...  " Little Blue Man strikes me as a beautifully original idea that appeals to the child in every perceptive adult." —Anne Stevenson


Interview: Ellen Bryant Voigt

by Rachel Allen
Ellen Bryant Voigt’s most recent collection of poems is Headwaters. She is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including Shadow of Heaven, a finalist for the National Book Award, and Messenger, a finalist for the National Book award and for the Pulitzer Prize. Here, she talks about her background in music, the biographical facts pertinent to her new collection, and the New Yorker. Read more at Granta.

A Conversation with Ámbar Past

by Clare Sullivan 
Ámbar Past, poet, translator, and craftswoman, has been living in Mexico for forty years. During that time she founded Taller Leñateros, a non-profit publisher and book making cooperative in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas and published more than nine books of poetry in both Tsotsil and Spanish. For thirty years she worked to compile and translate ritual songs of Tsotsil women that now appear in the bilingual books: Conjuros y ebriedades(1998), Incantations by Mayan Women (2004) and Disco de los conjuros (2004). Her writing has been translated to English, French, Italian, and Japanese. After meeting at a writers retreat for indigenous women in Mexico, Isthmus Zapotec translator Clare Sullivan corresponded with Past by email. Read more at Molassus.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Open Letter to the Poetry Foundation: Share the Wealth

by Daniel Casey
This comes from poet, teacher, and philosopher Sandra Simmonds, who is probably one of the best minds in contemporary poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Mother Was a Tragic Girl, can be gotten via Small Press Distribution. Read more at Gently Read Literature.

Given enough instances of people suggesting what I do with funds entrusted to me, I have refrained from making suggestions regarding how others might usefully distribute their own. Still, it is tempting to think of ways that the Poetry Foundation, which has been given a wonderful responsibility in terms of its holdings, could enhance the world of poetry even more than it has. The idea, proffered here, that the foundation support poets in distress and need, is worth consideration. Actors and athletes have such support, as I understand it. Certainly some poets, who in all likelihood have never accrued much wealth, could benefit from the foundation's largesse in providing a safety net for them when they fall, if for no other reason than to recognize their contribution to the art. I knew one elderly couple, poets both, who lived in the second floor of a rented house, subsidized by the university where he had worked and retired from. They had two small bedrooms, one of which was their combined study and from which they operated a small publishing "house," publishing chapbooks and a quarterly magazine. They had a few old sticks of furniture, covered, as I remember, in old throws to hide the wear. They lived meagerly but with dignity. And they had the retirement income of a university professor. I can't help thinking of those without such support. Such a program is not an easy thing to create or administer, but it's worth serious consideration. What would you do for poetry if you had $150 million to work with?

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