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Poetry News In Review

September 22, 2016
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1547—Philipp Nikodemus Frischlin, German philologist and poet (d. 1590), is born.
1658—Georg Philipp Harsdorffer, German poet (b. 1607), dies.
1680—Barthold Heinrich Brockes, German poet (d. 1747), is born.
1895—Babette Deutsch, US poet (Animal vegetable mineral), is born.
1923—Dannie Abse, Welsh poet and writer, is born.
1959—Benjamin Peret, French writer/poet (Le grand jeu), dies at 60.
1988—Rais Amrohvi, Pakistani poet and psychoanalyst (b. 1914), dies.


Ballet School

Fawns in the winter wood 
Who feel their horns, and leap, 
Swans whom the bleakening mood 
Of evening stirs from sleep, 
Tall flowers that unfurl 
As a moth, driven, flies, 
Flowers with the breasts of a girl 
And sea-cold eyes. 
The bare bright mirrors glow 
For their enchanted shapes. 
Each is a flame, and so, 
Like flame, escapes.

—Babette Deutsch ( 1895-1982)

World Poetry

I Grieved for My Husband, Not Seamus Heaney the Poet, Says Widow Marie

Three years after the poet's death, Marie Heaney has spoken about her loss and the grieving process she has gone through. "I will never get over it, but I'm now beginning to feel like myself again," she said. Mrs Heaney added she was surprised by all the publicity her husband's death had received around the world.

Denmark's Rebel Poet Hassan Gets Prison for Shooting

Hassan, who rocketed to stardom upon the release of his self-titled collection of poems, was hit with a 40,000 kroner fine and had his car and motorcycle confiscated. Hassan has been in police custody since his March 21st arrest in Aarhus, which capped off a wild period in which the celebrity poet posted a serious of videos on Facebook appearing to show him in open and ongoing conflicts with immigrant gangs.

Search Resumes for Poet Lorca's Burial Place

Archaeologists are back searching for an unmarked grave in southern Spain where the acclaimed poet Federico Garcia Lorca is believed to have been buried following his execution at the start of the Spanish Civil War. The Return with Honor association said Monday they will first clear some forest land outside Alfacar village to bring it back to pre-war levels. Archaeologists will then begin soundings for wells where they believe the body of Lorca and others were dumped.

Recent Reviews

Snap among the Witherlings
by Michael Hofmann

The Soft Machine drummer, Robert Wyatt, his Cockney tenor cracking with fervour, once sang:
I’m nearly five foot seven tall
I like to smoke and drink and ball
I’ve got a yellow suit that’s made by Pam
and every day I like an egg and some tea
but most of all I like to talk about me.
The American poet Wallace Stevens liked his tea – he took to it in connoisseurship and prudence, ‘imported tea’ every afternoon, ‘with some little tea wafers’, partly in order to ease himself off martinis (Elsie, his ‘Pam’, disapproved of his drinking) – but otherwise everything is different. 

Say Something Back by Denise Riley review – exquisite, intimate, direct
by Fiona Sampson

In a world where poets argue endlessly over what makes the ideal poem, Denise Riley’s verse stands out immediately as curiously, and deliciously, non-partisan. Yet at first reading it’s hard to work out why. Gradually you realise this is because her strengths are so varied: notice one quality you admire, and another follows hard behind.

Memories Distilled by 2 Radically Different Poets
by Jeff Gordinier

W. S. Merwin and Adam Fitzgerald are such dramatically different poets that reading their latest books in tandem can induce a feeling of vertigo. Imagine a playlist that squeezed together the music of Nick Drake and Lady Gaga, or think of a loaf of wild-yeast sourdough bread all rainbow-spangled with Pop Rocks. But both books have essential things to say about the movements of memory and loss — about what our minds try to hold on to, and why.


Why (Some) People Hate Poetry
It’s the site and source of disappointed hope.
by Adam Kirsch

The most striking thing about contemporary poetry is that no one seems quite satisfied with it. Non-poets, who generally don’t read poetry, are only a little less enthusiastic than poets, who do. Indeed, hardly a year has gone by over the past quarter century without a poet or critic publishing an essay bemoaning the state of American poetry—from Dana Gioia’s “Can Poetry Matter?,” which appeared in this magazine in 1991, to Mark Edmundson’s 2013 lament, “Poetry Slam: Or, the Decline of American Verse.” And the sentiment dates back further. 

Strophic Prose
by Anthony Madrid

Before we begin, I need you to search your heart and evaluate soberly whether you have ever had the experience of sincerely enjoying metrical effects in poetry. If you find in your bosom any doubts regarding this matter, I'm going to ask you to please rise from your seat and locate your nearest exit, keeping in mind that it may be behind you, or opening right now at your feet. You may ignore the smoke. Best wishes. Thank you so much.

Say “Ah”
by Abraham Adams

Next to the couch in my childhood living room there was a wicker magazine rack. It held the New Yorkers that came in the mail, its capacity about thirty. The overflowing copies gathered in twos and threes on tabletops and counters. Growing up, I took the magazines’ ubiquity for granted. I would read the New Yorkers occasionally, but I actually experienced them as furniture—an unexplained precedent, a kind of hearth god. I think I started reading the poems in each issue because they offered interruptions in what was otherwise a practical eternity of articulation. But somehow I do not remember a single individual poem from that time—only a vague series of lineated islands, all with the same sound.

Drafts & Framents

Poetry In The News

Cate Blanchett Leads Celebrities in UN Video Poem for Refugees
A host of celebrities are seeking to highlight the plight of refugees in a video in which they read a poem listing items people have grabbed as they fled their homes.

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett leads a cast including Keira Knightley, Stanley Tucci,Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jesse Eisenberg and Kit Harington in performing the poem “What They Took With Them” in the film, which UN refugee agency UNHCR said was released on Facebook on Monday to support its WithRefugees petition.

Serena Williams Recites Empowering Spoken Word Poem At New York Fashion Week

Serena Williams recited a powerful spoken word poem about the strength of a woman at her New York Fashion Week show. Williams’ voice could be heard over the loudspeaker as models took to the runway in items from her ‘Serena Williams Signature Statement collection’ for HSN on Monday 12 September.

New Books

The Day's Last Light Reddens the Leaves of the Copper Beech by Stephen Dobyns 
[Paperback] BOA Editions Ltd, 120 pp., $16.00

This new collection from best-selling poet and novelist Stephen Dobyns focuses on the hard, ephemeral truth of mortality, including the section “Sixteen Sonnets for Isabel” about the recent death of his wife; the poem "Laugh," a portrait of the late poet Hayden Carruth; and the poignant parable of a horse in a bar. In true Dobyns fashion, these poems grip and guide readers into a state of empathy, ultimately raising the question of how one lives and endures in the world.

The Sobbing School by Joshua Bennett 
[Paperback] Penguin Books, 96 pp., $18.00 

The Sobbing School, Joshua Bennett’s mesmerizing debut collection of poetry, presents songs for the living and the dead that destabilize and de-familiarize representations of black history and contemporary black experience. What animates these poems is a desire to assert life, and interiority, where there is said to be none. Figures as widely divergent as Bobby Brown, Martin Heidegger, and the 19th-century performance artist Henry Box Brown, as well as Bennett’s own family and childhood best friends, appear and are placed in conversation in order to show that there is always a world beyond what we are socialized to see value in, always alternative ways of thinking about relation that explode easy binaries.

A Map of Signs and Scents: New and Selected Poems, 1979–2014 by Amjad Nasser 
[Paperback] Curbstone Books, 184 pp., $19.95

Featuring poems from earlier collections of Amjad Nasser’s work and many newer uncollected poems never made available in English, A Map of Signs and Scents introduces the work of an important Arabic poet to a broader contemporary Anglophone readership. This special annotation edition helps readers view the multifaceted contexts within which Nasser has created his award-winning poems.

The End of Pink by Kathryn Nuernberger 
[Paperback] BOA Editions Ltd. 96 pp., $16.95

Winner of the 2015 James Laughlin Award, Kathryn Nuernberger's The End of Pink is populated by strange characters—Bat Boy, automatons, taxidermied mermaids, snake oil salesmen, and Benjamin Franklin—all from the annals of science and pseudoscience. Equal parts fact and folklore, these poems look to the marvelous and the weird for a way to understand childbirth, parenthood, sickness, death, and—of course—joy.

Anybody: Poems by Ari Banias 
[Hardcover] W. W. Norton & Company, 112 pp., $25.95

In Anybody, Ari Banias takes up questions of recognition and belonging: how boundaries are drawn and managed, the ways he and she, us and them, here and elsewhere are kept separate, and at what cost identities and selves are forged. Moving through iconic and imagined landscapes, Anybody confronts the strangeness of being alive and of being a restlessly gendered, queer, emotive body. Wherever the poet turns―the cruising spaces of Fire Island, a city lake, a Greek island, a bodega-turned-coffee-shop―he finds the charge of boundedness and signification, the implications of what it means to be a this instead of a that. Witty, tender, and original, these poems pierce the constructs that define our lives.


Roger Sedarat Talks About the First Poem He Ever Translated
by Loren Kleinman

Roger Sedarat is a 2015 recipient of the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize and a nominee for the Pushcart Prize in translation. The author of three poetry collections, his translations of classical and modern Persian literature have appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry, Guernica, Brooklyn Rail, and World Literature Today. His most recent project is Eco-Logic of the Word Lamb (forthcoming, Ghost Bird Press). He teaches poetry and literary translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City University of New York.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

"The difference between Pound and Whitman is not between the democrat who in deep distress could look hopefully toward the future and the fascist madly in love with the past. It is that between the woodsman and the woodcarver. It is that between the mystic harking back to his vision and the artist whose first allegiance is to his craft, and so to the reality it presents." —Babette Deutsch

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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