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Poetry News In Review

September 18, 2012

Poetry News In Review

Edited By David Sanders

Specimen Days

September 18, 2012

1574 – Claudio Achillini, Italian lawyer/poet, is born.

1684 – Jan A "Joannes" Antonides van der Goes, poet (Ystroom), dies at 37.

1721 – Matthew Prior, poet/diplomat, dies.
1786 – Justinus AC Kerner, German family doctor/poet/writer, is born.

1827 – Robert Pollok, poet, dies.

1860 – Casimiro de Abreu, Brazilian poet (Primaveras), dies.
1876 – Milan Rakic, Serbian poet (Pesme), is born.

1906 – Semjon I Kirsanov, Ukrainian poet (Semj Dnej Nedeli) [OS=Sept 5], is born.
1995 – Donald Alfred Davie, poet/critic, dies at 73.

. . . while in turn the children, men and women
Cry and scream, miserable, next to me,
And like slaves kneel in front of the hidden creature,
Above the screams, curses and wails,
My spirit shall calmly fly high,
Like a sea swallow over the ocean.

—from “In Shackles” by Milan Rakić, 1876–1938

World Poetry

Russia: Online Poetry's Vehement, Apolitical Politics

Russians proverbially have a soft spot for poetry. After reports appeared that Vladimir Putin planned to lead a flock of endangered Siberian Cranes on an annual migration, while hang-gliding and dressed as a bird, many bloggers responded with classic poems about cranes, along with photoshopped images. Read more at Global Voices Online.

Iran Releases Azerbaijani Poets Accused Of Spying

Iran has released two Azerbaijani poets who were arrested in May for alleged espionage. According to the Iranian Foreign Ministry, the poets were handed over to Azerbaijan’s consulate in the Iranian city of Tabriz on September 4. Read more at Radio Free Europe.

Arkadii Dragomoshchenko (1946-2012)

It is with deep regret that we must report the passing of yet another brilliant poet. Arkadii Dragomoshchenko was born on February 3, 1946 in Potsdam, Germany. He moved to St. Petersburg in the late 60s and was one of Russia’s most influential poets. Read more at Cold Front.

Recent Reviews

Thrall by Natasha Trethewey, the Poet Laureate of the United States

by Elizabeth Lund
Natasha Trethewey’s Thrall is a must-read collection that equals the power and quality of her third book, Native Guard, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize . Thrall also demonstrates why this 46 -year-old writer is worthy of her recent appointment as poet laureate of the United States. Read more at theWashington Post.

Use Your Illusions

by Jonathan Farmer
Plato didn’t ban poets from his ideal city because they were wrong. He banned them because they were persuasively wrong: interested in appearances, trained in enchantment—just the kind of people to convince you that life in a cave was grand. As the Milwaukee poet John Koethe observes in his latest collection, ROTC Kills, TV and movies have taken over the role poetry once had in our cultural imagination. Read more at Slate.

Treading Nimbly: The Poems of Rowan Ricardo Phillips

by Alexander Nazaryan
I don't want to say that The Ground, the debut collection of poetry from Rowan Ricardo Phillips, is about 9/11, but it is hard to say that the book is about anything else. The cover image is of a TriBeCa street, and though it looks irenic in a golden light, ten years ago it was just paces from a smoldering graveyard. The title is suggestive, too — Ground Zero, sacred ground, the ground upon which the Twin Towers fell, the ground where so many are buried. Read more at the New York Daily News.

The Prosaic Declarations of "World Poetry"

by Peter Riley
"Poetry Parnassus" was a six-day poetry festival at London’s Southbank Centre in June. It was a very ambitious project conceived by Simon Armitage and Jude Kelly, to invite one poet from each nation taking part in the Olympic Games, thus an enormous gathering of “poets of the world” of which The World Record, which contains 204 poets, is the accompanying anthology. Read more at Fortnightly Review.


Frank O’Hara’s “To the Harbormaster”

by Olivia Cole
Lately I’ve been thinking about Frank O’Hara and his sometimes terrible taste in men. I can’t help but see the painter Larry Rivers as a thoroughly undeserving recipient for one of my favorite poems, O’Hara’s “To the Harbormaster.” The pair’s messy entanglement started (inevitably) at a party, with a drunken kiss and grope behind a curtain. The two were hidden, but O'Hara was wearing his trademark white tennis shoes, and the two pairs of shoes, his and Rivers’s, were in full view of the heaving room. Read more at The Paris Review.


by Ben Doller
I made a sound when I was born, I am sure of it, some note I found in my mouth that would be found again and again throughout my time, just begun, on earth, a perfectly articulate apostrophe to all the zero I knew then. “O,” I gasped as my throat found its first own air, “O.” Read more at Evening Will Come.

"Brittle Beauty" by Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Had Henry Howard lived past 30, it might have been he rather than Shakespeare who gave his name to the sonnet form in which they both specialised.

by Carol Rumens
Together with Thomas Wyatt, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was the Tudor poet who did most to establish that new Italian immigrant, the sonnet, in remarkably comfortable quarters in the English language. This week's poem, "Brittle Beauty" (also known as "The Frailty and Hurtfulness of Beauty"), is one of those in which Surrey sets himself the challenge of playing the same duo of rhyme-sounds in each of its three quatrains. Read more at the Guardian.

One Land, Many Voices

The extraordinary breadth and variety of British poetry
by Fiona Sampson
The idea for my book Beyond the Lyric came to me while I was editing the magazine Poetry Review. I was dismayed to find that even arts journalists scarcely seemed aware that today’s British poetry is world-class. Perhaps because our culture is in vibrant transition or because it is finally shaking off postwar solemnity, poetry is flowering and expanding, rather as non-fiction did during the 1980s or theory did for the generation of 1968. Read more at the New Statesman.

Drafts & Fragments

Sidewalk Art Sinks into Northfield

by Jim Adams
Poetry, "palpable and mute like a globed fruit," or maybe fresh concrete, is making an impression. Read more at the Star Tribune.

Ebook Case: More Poetry and No Refund for the Judge

by Jeff John Roberts
A lawyer in the high profile case over ebook price fixing is hoping a line of poetry will persuade a judge to stop the proceedings. Meanwhile, the judge said she will not collect a price-fixing refund as new prices go into effect today. Read more at Paid Content.

Poetry In The News

The Poet Laureate’s Inaugural Reading

On Thursday night, Natasha Trethewey addressed a packed crowd in the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson building. She was opening the 2012-13 literary season. So many fans came to celebrate that a group of us had to watch her on TV in an “overflow room.” Read more at Slate.

Edward Weston Photos at MFA Portray the Face of the Nation in 1941

Almost a century apart, Walt Whitman and Edward Weston chronicled a changing America in poetry and photographs of enduring power. Writing "Leaves of Grass’’ before the Civil War, Whitman celebrated the vastness and vitality of the young nation in plainspoken verse that scandalized many with its frank sensuality. Asked to illustrate Whitman’s epic poem, Weston spent 10 months in 1941, driving 25,000 miles and taking more than 700 photos of the United States on the cusp of enormous social and economic changes that culminated in World War II. Read more at MetroWest Daily News.

New Books

Night Radio by Kim Young

[Paperback] University of Utah Press, 76 pp., $12.95
Set against the sprawling backdrop of Los Angeles, Night Radio excavates the kidnapping and sexual assault of a young girl and the resulting layers of trauma exacted upon her and her family. Working within the paradox of the insufficiency of language and the necessity of expression, these poems elevate overwhelming experiences into near-mythic narrative.

William Everson: The Light the Shadow Casts edited by Clifton Ross

[Paperback] Freedom Voices, 122 pp., $15.95
In this collection of interviews with one of the central poets of the San Francisco Literary Renaissance (which preceded the Beat movement) William Everson/Brother Antoninus ponders the mystical dimensions of poetry. The interviews span the final fifteen years of his life and contain his final thoughts on the prophetic, the shamanistic and the aesthetic dimensions of his craft, as well as his own life, characterized by the Portuguese proverb that “God writes straight with crooked lines.”

(Acting) Poems by Bill Knott

[Paperback] CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 50 pp., $3.59
Poems about acting—about performers of whatever sort—or movies, TV, theater, et al. Poems in which an act of public (or private) performance (real or imagined) is central. Performance seems to pervade or control so many aspects of our life— How often we face an audience of all or one or none.

Madame X by William Logan

[Paperback] Penguin Books,112 pp., $18.00
The poems here delve into what William Logan calls the “ill-lit kingdom of the past.” The book is haunted by the dead but equally penitent toward the rich insinuations of the living: the lost floral paradise of the Florida outlands, the steamy Gatsby summers of a Long Island childhood, the frozen stones of a colonial burying ground. This new collection of seventy-two poems will allow readers to delight in the richness of Logan’s language and the boldness of his vision.

Snake by Gary Lemons

[Paperback] Red Hen Press, 152 pp., $19.95
“In Gary Lemons’ Snake, his amazing new book of verse, we encounter the future, present age of the Draco-Mother-Naked-of-Last, complete with the revenge of Milton’s Satan on the collective purity of planet Earth. Not since the white-face ventriloquism of Berryman’s Dream Songs have I seen such challenges made to the questions of what is voice, what is dream—brilliant book!”
—Norman Dubie


Stephen Burt Explains His Favorite Poems

by Mark Oppenheimer
I asked Stephen Burt, the poet and poetry critic, to comment on two favorite poems, which accompany my profile of him. “Why do you like them?” I asked. “Can you help the reader unfamiliar with poetry understand them?” Read more at the New York Times.

Our Campus: Prof Poet Ray Hsu Subverts Verse

By: Arno Rosenfeld
Ray Hsu has written two critically acclaimed books of poetry, published over 125 poems in literary journals and won numerous poetry awards — but he’s moved on. And these days, he even shies away from the word poetry. Read more at Ubyssey.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

100 Thousand Poets for Change

September 29, 2012 marks the second annual global event of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a grassroots organization that brings poets, artists and musicians (new this year) together to call for environmental, social, and political change, within the framework of peace and sustainability. The local focus is key to this global event as communities around the world raise their voices through concerts, readings, workshops, flash mobs and demonstrations that speak to the heart of their specific area of concerns, such as homelessness, ecocide, racism and censorship. Read more at New Pages.

I like the manifestation of poetry in public places—on the side of barns, in gumball machines, written on the fly for a dollar a pop at a farmers' market. But the idea of 100 Thousand Poets for Change raises for me more questions than it does answers. The central one: why are poets more equipped to "call for environmental, social, and political change, within the framework of peace and sustainability" than any other group (and I can be convinced that poets might, at times, be effective in a group, but it's not my default position). And though musicians and artists (and if you read further—mimes!) are also welcome, it's the poets who seem to be expected to lead the charge here. Don't get me wrong: the aspirations are noble. I'm all for being against homelessness, ecocide, racism, and censorship. But I have been known to balk at the idea that poetry should be in the service of anything but itself. There are occasions when the situation at hand insinuates itself into the discourse. I think of John Milton's "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont," or more recently, Carolyn Forché's "The Colonel" and Seamus Heaney's "A Constable Calls." The ability to articulate rage, fear, bravery, in the face of wanton and ingrained injustice as these poems do, so that anyone can recognize that very private response as a human condition is what poetry can offer to the cause. That would seem enough. Perhaps I just like my poems surrounded by silence, and after reading the poems I mentioned, silence is the overwhelming response anyone might have. Poetry, by its nature, raises consciousness, pretty much regardless of the topic. So why does it have to take to the streets?
My next question is—where are the damn novelists?

—David Sanders

View Past Issues

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