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Poetry News In Review

October 9, 2014
David Sanders

Specimen Days


1586 – Jan III van Foreest, lawyer/poet/mayor of Hoorn, is born.
1892 – Marina Tsvetaeva, Russian poet (d. 1941), is born.
1906 – Léopold Sédar Senghor, Senegalese poet and politician (d. 2001), is born.
1908 – Harry Hooton, Australian poet (d. 1961), is born.
1920 – Jens Bjorneboe, Norway, poet/writer (Dikt, Jonas), is born.

Thinking of something, carelessly,
Something invisible, buried treasure,
Step by step, poppy by poppy,
I beheaded the flowers, at leisure.
So someday, in the dry breath
Of summer, at the edge of the sown,
Absent-mindedly, Death
Will gather a flower – my own!

 — Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941)


World Poetry


Seamus Heaney’s Last Poem Published in Irish Gallery’s Anthology

A poem Seamus Heaney finished 10 days before he died sees the Nobel laureate exploring the quiet beauty of a canal painted by the French artist Gustave Caillebotte, where time is slowed “to a walking pace”, and “world stands still”. More.

Message for Beijing Hidden in a Hong Kong Street Poem

On a busy Hong Kong street on Wednesday, a poem dashed out on a bare wooden crate contained a hidden message for China. Titled “One Who Dies for His Country,” or alternatively “National Mourning,” the poem was part of a barrier for democracy demonstrators in Haiphong Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, across Victoria Harbor from the core of protests on Hong Kong Island. And the poem — unsigned — drew a steady stream of readers from both Hong Kong and mainland China. It was displayed on China’s National Day, marking the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, as huge protests brought parts of the Hong Kong to a standstill. More.

British Poets, From Anne Bronte To Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Britons are celebrating the art of poetry Thursday with National Poetry Day. The day is known for Britons flooding the streets with poetry by disseminating poems everywhere from supermarkets and parks to train stations and public squares. Poems are also being spread on social media through the hashtag #thinkofapoem in honor of this year’s theme, “Remember.” More.

Kei Miller Wins Forward Poetry Prize

The Jamaican poet Kei Miller has won the prestigious Forward prize for the best poetry collection of 2014 for his “standout” book based on dialogue between a mapmaker striving to impose order on an unfamiliar land and a “Rasta-man” who queries his project. More


Recent Reviews


Four Englands

Four Debut British Poets Being Variously English
by Todd Swift
This omnibus review is very much about English poetry, and Englishness in contemporary poetry from England, and, perhaps even better, young English poets. By something like a happy coincidence, these four collections are each by a poet who has won an Eric Gregory Award (more on this in a moment) — and, even more pleasingly, they won their awards more or less consecutively, in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 (Martinez de las Rivas, Mort, Berry, Brookes). So, here are four poets who have been noticed, and even encouraged, as some of the main rising stars of new poetry in “these isles.” Well, these isles are crowded with poets, many Welsh, Irish, or Scottish, but any list of the most appreciated of the YBPs (Young British Poets) would include these poets — along with, say, Ahren Warner, Sam Riviere, Luke Kennard, Heather Phillipson, Sandeep Parmar, Caleb Klaces, Jen Hadfield, Jack Underwood, Liz Berry, James Byrne, Jon Stone, and Clare Pollard. More.

God and Gab: The Second Sex by Michael Robbins

by Nick Ripatrazone
Michael Robbins is our contemporary poet laureate for beautiful sins of language. The New Republiccalls Robbins a prankster. He rather reminds me of that whiskey priest, his lines by turns abrasive and aphoristic, but never apathetic. More.

The 'Best American' Series Is the Ditzy Cheerleader for American Writing

by Jason Guriel
. . . . Best American Poetry is another off-brand item, with a publisher all its own. Canada has an edition, too, which occasionally includes one of my poems. The anxiety coursing through the opening matter of some of these paperbacks concerns the zeitgeist. David Lehman, series editor for Best American Poetry, doesn’t quote a single line of verse in his 13-page foreword to the latest edition—the longest of all the forewords in this year’s Best American series. Instead, he dilates on Twitter, “the tyranny of technology,” and the downtrodden humanities. More.

Book Review: Faber New Poets Volumes 9 to 12

by Christopher James Underwood
Poetry is a tricky business, especially when compared to other forms of writing. Get it right and, with an inordinate amount of luck, your work will last for generations at least. Get it wrong and you end up stuck with the literary equivalent of Alfie Deyes' The Pointless Book; which believe me would be a catastrophe the likes of which you have never seen let alone imagined. Perhaps with an eye to helping avoid the latter, Faber & Faber established the New Poets scheme with the explicit aim of allowing fresh faces to make their presence felt in a scene where unknown voices have difficulty convincing anyone to pay attention. It is fortunate for us and them, that Lottery and Arts Council funding helped make this project possible otherwise these most recent emissaries of poetry might have gone unheeded. More.




Billy Collins on Life, Death and Poetry

by Lillian Cunningham 
Despite his stature as former U.S. poet laureate and his achievement of the nearly impossible — great commercial success as a living poet — Billy Collins cringes at the idea of being a leader. "Leadership to me suggests that there’s a place to lead the person to," he says. "Whereas poetry is actually the home of ambiguity, ambivalence and uncertainty." More.

The Poet Cannot Stand Aside: Arabic Literature and Exile

by M. Lynx Qualey
Fourteen hundred years ago and more, the poet-prince Imru’ al-Qais was banished by his father. The king exiled his son, or so the legend goes, in part because of the prince’s poetry. Thus it was that, when the king was killed by a group of his subjects, al-Qais was traveling with friends. Al-Qais returned to avenge his father’s death, but afterward spent the rest of his life in exile, fleeing from place to place, writing poetry and seeking support to regain his father’s throne. Scholars debate whether any of the stories about al-Qais’s life are true, but he nonetheless stands as one of the language’s most celebrated ancient poets, the best-known of the pre-Islamic bards. More.



Drafts & Framents


Poet Lemn Sissay Unveils Giant Public Poem at the University of Huddersfield as a Plea for Peace

by Chloe Glover
A giant public poem for peace installation will bring a sense of harmony to the town after it joined the Huddersfield skyline. The giant 40 feet high, 30 feet wide and 100 feet in the sky masterpiece was created by esteemed poet and playwright, Lemn Sissay MBE, and now has pride of place at the University of Huddersfield’s creative arts building, where thousands of people pass each day. More.



Poetry In The News


Marathon Reading of Walt Whitman Poetry Takes Place at CMU

Robert Fanning, assistant professor of English language and literature at Central Michigan University, reads a portion of Song of Myself from Walt Whitman's tome of poetry Leaves of Grass while holding his son Friday, September 26, 2014. Every year in late September, Fanning organizes a marathon reading of the book, lasting from sunrise until sunset. The verse was that of Whitman, Walt Whitman, and his classic tome of poetry Leaves of Grass, and the fluid crowd was determined to keep it alive until they were entirely finished with it at sunset or, in the words posted on the event’s Facebook page, “or we decide we’re done, usually sometime in mid-late afternoon.” More.


Cardiff-born Poet Dannie Abse Dies Aged 91

The Welsh poet and author Dannie Abse has died aged 91, his literary agent has confirmed. During an award-winning career as a writer he published poems, novels and autobiographies, while also practising as a doctor. Mr Abse was born in Cardiff in the 1920s and was the brother of Labour MP Leo Abse, and psychoanalyst Wilfred Abse. He died surrounded by his family after a short illness. More.


New Books

Blue Horses: Poems by Mary Oliver 

[Hardcover] Penguin Press, 96 pp., $24.95
In this stunning collection of new poems, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has defined her life’s work, describing with wonder both the everyday and the unaffected beauty of nature. Herons, sparrows, owls, and kingfishers flit across the page in meditations on love, artistry, and impermanence. Whether considering a bird’s nest, the seeming patience of oak trees, or the artworks of Franz Marc, Oliver reminds us of the transformative power of attention and how much can be contained within the smallest moments. At its heart, Blue Horsesasks what it means to truly belong to this world, to live in it attuned to all its changes. Humorous, gentle, and always honest, Oliver is a visionary of the natural world.

A Bird is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry edited by Henry Bell and Sarah Irving 

[Paperback] Freight Books, 256 pp., $15.95
A major collection of contemporary Palestinian poetry translated by 24 of Scotland's very best writers including Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, James Robertson, Jackie Kay, William Letford, Aonghas MacNeacail, DM Black, Tom Pow, Ron Butlin and John Glenday. A Bird is not a Stone is a unique cultural exchange, giving both English and Arabic readers a unique insight into the political, social and emotional landscape of today's Palestine. Includes both established and emerging Palestinian poets. 

Spontaneous Particulars: The Telepathy of Archives by Susan Howe

[Hardcover] New Directions, 64 pp., $29.95
A rapturous paean to discoveries and archives, gorgeously illustrated. Great American writers—William Carlos Williams, Jonathan Edwards, Emily Dickinson, Noah Webster, Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, Henry James — all in the physicality of their archival manuscripts (reproduced in beautiful facsimiles here) — are the presiding spirits of Spontaneous Particulars: Telepathy of Archives.  Also woven into Susan Howe’s newest book are beautiful photographs of embroideries and textiles from anonymous craftspeople. All the archived materials are links, discoveries, chance encounters, the visual and acoustic shocks of rooting around amid physical archives.  These are the telepathies the bibliomaniacal poet relishes. 

Zero to Three by F. Douglas Brown

[Paperback] University of Georgia Press, 88 pp., $17.95
What started out as a way to address dealing with parenting and, in particular, fatherhood, became a series of poems focused on familial roles and situations that are difficult to articulate, even among family members. The poems in Zero to Three mark both the change in the child and in the father, who is also a son himself. The term “zero to three” derives from the developmental period that many clinicians and pediatricians believe is the most fundamental phase for children whose delicate brains are undergoing drastic and formative change. Research also shows that parents undergo formative change alongside their children during this period from conception to toddler age. These poems do not intend to offer a definitive stance on parenting or fatherhood but, rather, to capture an emotional gestational period that extends beyond the womb and exceeds beyond the grave.

Sailing the Forest: Selected Poems by Robin Robertson

[Hardcover] Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 208 pp., $25.00
Filled with haunting and visionary poems, Sailing the Forest is a selection of the finest work from an essential voice in contemporary poetry. Robin Robertson’s deceptively spare and mythically charged work is beautifully brutal, ancient and immediate, and capable of instilling menace and awe into our everyday landscape. These are poems drawn in shadow, tinged with salt and blood, that disarm the reader with their precise language and dreamlike illuminations. Robertson’s unique world is a place of forked storms where “Rain . . . is silence turned up high” and we can see “the hay marry the fire / and the fire walk.”




Remembering John Berryman, a Giant of American Poetry

by Alexander Nazaryan
Nobody should have been surprised when, on January 7, 1972, the poet John Berryman killed himself by jumping off the Washington Avenue Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River where it winds between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Self-slaughter is known to lurk in the genes; those with parents who killed themselves are more likely to attempt the same act. Like that other moody and bearded Midwesterner, Ernest Hemingway, Berryman had a father who took his own life. Hemingway père used a .32-caliber pistol from the Civil War; in the case of Berryman’s father, the instrument of death was a shotgun, outside the 12-year-old’s bedroom window. More.

Interviews With Poets-- Matthew Zapruder

by Erin Belieu
Hello again.
Another quick and impertinent Interviews With Poets before scrambling off to more reading gigs. I’ll be schlepping around for my about-to-be-released book Slant Sixfrom now till December (Columbus, St. Louis, San Antonio, Austin, Miami, etc.). I just read the first review--which was very kind--but the reviewer also seems to think I'm a recovering alcoholic based on a satirical poem called "12 Step." (The poem is written from the point of view of a writer vowing never to write another "personal" poem again). I'm always gobsmacked by what people get out of my poems. A total mystery. But mostly not an unpleasant one. I mean, nice of them to care at all, right? Speaking of poets we care about, today’s is Matthew Zapruder. Matthew is another poet I’ve known for as far back as my adult memory goes. More.

Ted Kooser On When Poetry Became So Inaccessible

by Marcie Sillman 
Most of us heard poetry as babies — nursery rhymes, lullabies, that sort of thing. By the time we reach adulthood, though, poetry is no longer part of our every day lives. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser says poetry has become something scary. Kooser traces that fear  back to the early 20th century, when modernist poets like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound were popular. “My former mentor once said that Eliot and Pound were the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs that fell on American poetry,” Kooser says, only half-joking. More.

Saeed Jones: “No One Is Safe” In These Poems

by Nolan Feeney 
When he’s not editing BuzzFeed’s LGBT vertical by day, Saeed Jones is also a poet. His debut collection, Prelude to Bruise, hit shelves earlier this month, and though listing its topics hardly does the critically acclaimed book justice — you’ll have to see the words arranged on the page yourself — the way these poems address violence, life in the south, race, sexuality and relationships makes for an engrossing read best consumed in as few sittings as possible. More.



Envoi: Editor's Notes


Lessons from the Past: Louise Glück

"The world is complete without us. Intolerable fact. To which the poet responds by rebelling, wanting to prove otherwise."


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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