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Poetry News In Review

September 8, 2016
David Sanders

Specimen Days

1474—Ludovico Ariosto, Italy, poet (Orlando Furioso), is born.
1644—Francis Quarles, English poet (Enchiridion), dies.
1774—Anna K Emmerick/Emmerich, German poet, is born.
1778—Clemens Brentano, German poet (d. 1842), is born.
1804—Eduard Mörike, German poet (d. 1875), is born.
1830—Frederic Mistral, French Provencal poet (Nobel 1904), born in Maillane, France, is born.
1886—Siegfried L Sassoon, English poet/writer (Counterattack), is born.
1999—Moondog, American composer, musician and poet (b. 1916), dies.


October's bellowing anger breaks and cleaves 
The bronzed battalions of the stricken wood 
In whose lament I hear a voice that grieves 
For battle’s fruitless harvest, and the feud 
Of outraged men. Their lives are like the leaves
Scattered in flocks of ruin, tossed and blown 
Along the westering furnace flaring red. 
O martyred youth and manhood overthrown, 
The burden of your wrongs is on my head. 

—Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967)

World Poetry

Algeria: 2-Year Sentence for Facebook Poem
Free Journalist Convicted of Insulting President

An Algiers appeals court on August 9, 2016, upheld a two-year prison sentence for a journalist who posted a video on Facebook featuring a poem deemed offensive toAlgeria’s president, Human Rights Watch said today. Mohamed Tamalt has been in prison since his arrest on June 27, and is reportedly in critical condition from a hunger strike he began after his arrest.

Israel: All Charges against Poet Dareen Tatour Must Be Dropped

Poet Dareen Tatour should be released from house arrest immediately and unconditionally, and all charges against her dropped, said PEN International today. The trial of the Palestinian citizen of Israel on charges of “support for a terrorist organisation” and several counts of incitement to violence in connection with her poetry and social media activity is due to resume tomorrow, 6 September.

Doctors in London Find No Hope for cancer-stricken Bengali Poet Syed Shamsul Haque

Pre-eminent Bangladeshi writer Syed Shamsul Haque has returned home from London after consulting doctors about his lung cancer. The octogenarian poet, author and playwright did not get any assurance of recovery, said Nasir Uddin Yusuf Bachchu, a cultural activist. In a Facebook post, Bachchu wrote that Syed Haque has returned to spend the last days of his life in Bangladesh.

Recent Reviews

Poetic Artifice: A Theory of 20th-Century Poetry by Veronica Forrest-Thomson
This classic study, reprinted after more than 30 years, prefers bad new things to good old ones
by David Wheatley

The death of Veronica Forrest-Thomson in 1975, aged just 27, is among the most galling and tragic losses to modern British poetry. Born in Malaya and raised in Glasgow, she published a first poetry collection at 20 and gravitated to Cambridge, where she was taught by JH Prynne. Heavily influenced by the close reading tradition of IA Richards and William Empson, her criticism also drew on French structuralist and poststructuralist theory, then much in the air.

Alice Oswald's Natural Terrors
“Falling Awake” is the poet’s odd, brilliant ode to the English countryside.
By Dan Chiasson

The English poet Alice Oswald’s scavenged version of the Iliad, “Memorial,” appeared in the U.S. in 2012. Its method was radical: Oswald did away with Homer’s famous heroes and battles and speeches, providing instead an “oral cemetery” for the war’s minor players, those with tongue-twister names like Iphidamas and Periphetos. These noble souls were often glimpsed in strobe-lit flashes of gore at the moment of their deaths, their faces “pierced like a piece of fruit” or turned into carrion, “bird’s feathers on your face / . . . eating your eyes your open eyes.”


How to Look in the Morror without Saying “I”
Bernadette Mayer is not a confessional poet, but she has always studied her own mind.
by Daniel Wenger 

Here is Bernadette Mayer’s “Beware of the Killer Dog”:

Today I’m just like
A person with a device
My mind jumps from place
To place, I’m doing karaoke
I make the screen go up
To another thought, oops
I don’t like this one oh
My! Let’s scroll down to
A more Hallmark moment I
Have an app for waterfalls
No I’ll go to my sex app

Seamus Heaney on William Wordsworth’s One Big Truth and Indispensable Figure in the Evolution of Modern Writing
by Seamus Heaney

As a child, William Wordsworth imagined he heard the moorlands breathing down his neck; he rowed in panic when he thought a cliff was pursuing him across moonlit water; and once, when he found himself on the hills east of Penrith Beacon, beside a gibbet where a murderer had been executed, the place and its associations were enough to send him fleeing in terror to the beacon summit.

Drafts & Framents

15 Times NASA's Tweets Could Have Been Poetry
by Nina Zipkin

You would expect that the folks at NASA to be experts in all things STEM, but it turns out that the agency's social media team have the souls of poets.

Poetry In The News

World's Largest William Blake Gallery to Open in San Francisco

John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller announces the grand opening of The William Blake Gallery, a new exhibition space in San Francisco dedicated to works created by the massively influential 19th century poet, artist, and engraver. The gallery is the largest of its kind devoted solely to the artist, as well as the largest collection in the world of pieces by Blake available for purchase.

Costa Rican Prisoners Use Poetry to Change Perceptions at International Book Fair

The U.S. poet Richard Wilbur once told an interviewer, “One of the jobs of poetry is to make the unbearable bearable by clear, precise confrontation.” There is, perhaps, no place or situation in Costa Rica more unbearable than inside one of the country’s overcrowded and underfunded prisons. Though it’s not unusual for inmates to turn to drugs or violence to find some semblance of distraction, others reach this escapism through the more innocent medium of poetry. The 17th annual International Book Fair began Friday with a special performance titled “Free words, liberated poems,” where a half-dozen male and female inmates from La Reforma and Buen Pastor prisons recited poems they wrote while behind bars.

New Books

Best American Poetry 2016 edited by Edward Hirsch and David Lehman
[Paperback] Scribner, 240 pp., $18.95

The premier anthology of contemporary American poetry continues—guest edited this year by award-winning poet Edward Hirsch, a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the president of The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The Best American Poetry series is “a vivid snapshot of what a distinguished poet finds exciting, fresh and memorable” (Robert Pinsky); a guiding light for the mood and shape of modern American poetry. Each year, this series presents essential American verse and the poets who create it. Truly the “best” American poetry has appeared in this venerable collection for over twenty-five years.

Life Pig by Alan Shapiro 
[Paperback] University Of Chicago Press, 96 pp., $18.00

Alan Shapiro’s newest book of poetry is situated at the intersection between private and public history, as well as individual life and the collective life of middle-class America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Whether writing about an aged and dying parent or remembering incidents from childhood and adolescence, Shapiro attends to the world in ways that are as deeply personal as they are recognizable and freshly social—both timeless and utterly of this particular moment.

Archeophonics by Peter Gizzi 
[Hardcover] Wesleyan, 96 pp., $24.95

Archeophonics is the first collection of new work from the poet Peter Gizzi in five years. Archeophonics, defined as the archeology of lost sound, is one way of understanding the role and the task of poetry: to recover the buried sounds and shapes of languages in the tradition of the art, and the multitude of private connections that lie undisclosed in one’s emotional memory. The book takes seriously the opening epigraph by the late great James Schuyler: “poetry, like music, is not just song.” It recognizes that the poem is not a decorative art object but a means of organizing the world, in the words of anthropologist Clifford Geertz, “into transient examples of shaped behavior.”

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.

Violet Energy Ingots by Hoa Nguyen 
[Hardcover] Wave Books, 104 pp., $25.00

The poems in Violet Energy Ingots contain a sense of dis-ease, rupture, things frayed, and grief—as love shimmers the edges. Ryo Yamaguchi describes Nguyen’s writing as “a kind of stuttering with intelligences, impressions, and emotions flaring up as the words find their pathways.” As grounded in the earth as in the stars, her poems are reminders of the possibilities of contemplation in every space and moment.


Unshrinking the Lyric: An Interview with Carmen Giménez Smith
Julian Gewirtz interviews Carmen Giménez Smith

Funny and ferocious, aflame with cross-cultural and multilingual inspiration, Carmen Giménez Smith is a poet and editor whose practices are linked by formal innovations and political commitments. Her most recent book, Milk and Filth (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry), rubs against the rough surfaces of history, shedding identities and mythologies like snakeskins. As an editor, Giménez Smith oversees Noemi Press, based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which has published books by Shane McCrae, Rusty Morrison, Chloe Garcia Roberts, and Douglas Kearney.

How Poet Elizabeth Alexander Turned Sorrow into Celebration of Love
In her acclaimed memoir, author Elizabeth Alexander writes about the excruciating loss of her husband – but also of their joyous life together. 
by Laurie Hertzel 

To read Elizabeth Alexander’s account of her 50-year-old husband’s death is to understand anguish. “The medics rush him into the emergency room, and the doctors usher me into a roomette where they work,” Alexander writes in her memoir, “The Light of the World.” “I keep my hand on his calf the whole time. He is still warm. They cut off his clothes. As his body is exposed, a doctor in a turban closes the curtains.”

“How beautiful does the world have to be before I don’t want to leave it?”
by Kaveh Akbar

Gretchen Marquette's work has appeared in Poetry Magazine, Harper's, Tin House, The Paris Review, and other places. Her first book, May Day, was released from Graywolf Press in 2016. She lives and works in Minneapolis.

Envoi: Editor's Notes

Lessons from the Past: Siegfried Sassoon

“For it is humanly certain that most of us remember very little of what we have read. To open almost any book a second time is to be reminded that we had forgotten well-nigh everything that the writer told us. Parting from the narrator and his narrative, we retain only a fading impression; and he, as it were, takes the book away from us and tucks it under his arm.” 
― Siegfried Sassoon

Good to know. I thought it was just me.—ed.

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