Specimen Days: October 2
Chiyo-ni (Japan) died in 1775.
Wallace Stevens (USA) was born in 1879.
Roy Campbell (South Africa) was born in 1901.
Jose Maria de Heredia (Cuba) died in 1905.
the well bucket entangled
I ask for water
â€” Chiyo-ni (1703â€“1775)
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.
â€” Wallace Stevens (1879â€“1955)
Poetry in the News
Dodge Poetry Festival Begins
Next week 24 poets including Kay Ryan, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Mark Strand and the brothers Matthew and Michael Dickman will converge in Newark, N.J., for a poetry sampler of the highest order. Read more at Forbes.
Highlights From the 2010 National Poetry Slam
The five-day 2010 National Poetry Slam was decided last weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota, with the hometown team, Soap Boxing, taking the honors for the second year in a row. Read more at Huffington Post.
Pierrette Requier Commits Random Acts of Poetry for Youth at Risk
Random Acts of Poetry Â is a celebration of poetry and literacy, is a project of Victoria READ Society and is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts. The focus in year 7 is on youth at risk.
Read more at Pitch Engine.
2000 Years Since Anyone’s Heard Babylonian Poetry Read Aloud
We have seen Babylonian language, whether we recognized it as such or not. It’s that stuff on every ancient tablet in every adventure movie you’ve ever seen that doesn’t have a crane or a guy dancing (that, scientifically speaking, is Egyptian). The writing system, quite possibly the first humans devised, consists of lines and wedges. The language itself, however, has lain silent for 2,000 years. Now it speaks again. Read more at readwriteweb.com.
Indian, French poets to translate each otherâ€™s works
For poetry lovers in the city, this weekend will be a rare, multi-lingual treat â€” three poets from Mumbai, coming together with three from France, reading some of each othersâ€™ best contemporary verse in English, French and even Marathi. The French poets Caroline Sagot-Duvaroux, Danielle Memoire, and Franck Andre Jamme, have been in the city for the past five days, having their work translated into English and Marathi by three Mumbai bards in intense workshops at the Alliance Francaise.
Read more at Hindustan Times.
JosÃ© Antonio Labordeta (1935 â€“ 2010)
JosÃ© Antonio Labordeta, the famous Spanish poet and politician, Â died September 19 aged 75, it has been confirmed by Chunta Aragnesista (CHA), the political party to which he was a representative. Read more at Though Cowards Flinch.
Hesham Al-Gakh uses poetry to express frustration
When it comes to criticizing the current political and social conditions in Egypt, Egyptians tend to get creative. From using props in demonstrations against soaring prices such as plates, spoons and pots, to forming the Cairo Complaints Choir, in a bid to sing their sorrows away.Â Recently, Hesham Al-Gakh helped revive a forgotten art form, thatâ€™s been used since ancient Egypt, to express peopleâ€™s frustration and pain: poetry.
Read more at the Daily News Egypt.
The Iron Key: Poems by James Longenbach
[Hardcover] Norton, 89 pp., $24.95
James Longenbach (The Art of the Poetic Line) is an incontestably brilliant critic. This fourth book of poetry shares some of the virtues of Longenbach’s criticism–the poems are unfalteringly wise and knowledgeable about the poetic tradition. At their best moments, these often narrative poems borrow the haunting logic of distant memories (“I wouldn’t say this to everyone, but when I wrote / In heaven, if you say the word death, nobody understands, / I was thinking about paperclips”), but there are also moments when this book reads like a short story. Still, Longenbach is an expert storyteller and never fails to alight upon dazzling and often ominous visions: “The snow is in retrospect an image of/ Plenitude, not of desolation.” His stories also tend to be scholarly: “Though my father painted like Sargent/ He raised me on modernism./ … Space was color, shadow was color.” Throughout the book, Longenbach seeks words for the few fundamental truths: “You’re angry because everyone you love is dying./ You’ve known this since you were a child.”Â –Publishers Weekly
Heavenly Questions: Poems by Gjertrud Schnackenberg
[Hardcover] FSG, 80 pp., $23.00
Heavenly Questions, the first new collection of poems from Gjertrud Schnackenberg since the critically acclaimed The Throne of Labdacus (FSG, 2001), is a love poem that finds her at the height of her talents and showcases her continued growth as an artist. In six long poems, Schnackenbergâ€™s rhyme-rich blank verse, with its densely packed images, shifts effortlessly between the lyric and the epic, setting passion to a verbal music that is recognizably her own.
Master of Disguises by Charles Simic
[Hardcover] Houghton Mifflin, 96pp., $22.00
Starred Review. This 20th collection from the former U.S. poet laureate (My Noiseless Entourage) departs only by degrees from his poems of earlier decades–but it could just be his best book. Like most of Simic’s work, these new poems end up short and sad, setting mysterious, wry, even Kafkaesque, scenes in which nobody gets what anyone wants: “A dark little country store full of gravediggers’ children buying candy./ (That’s how we looked that night.)” Simic served as laureate in the last years of the Bush administration, and some of his new poems may reflect that experience: they attack, with a pessimistic asperity, callous military officers, bloodthirsty states and unnecessary wars, along with a weary or cynical America: “the TV is on in the living room,/ Canned laughter in the empty house/ Like the sound of beer cans tied to a coffin.” Simic alludes quietly to the war-ravaged Serbia he fled as a child. But the “ragged puppets” who populate Simic’s stanzas are not always so foredoomed: in an 11-part sequence called “The Invisible,” Simic modulates into a restrained and deeply moving lyric lament, admiring a dragonfly for his clear wings, a crow who was once “a professor of philosophy,” and a “Bird comforting the afflicted/ With your song.” â€”Publishers Weekly
First Books, First Looks: A Review of Thirteen Debut Books of Poetry
by William Doreski
Reading a great deal of new poetry on hot summer nights induces vertigo. The profusion of first collections, mostly through pay-to-enter competitions, is an odd and challenging cultural phenomenon. Although the audience for these books is usually limited to the poetâ€™s friends and relatives (and sometimes the poetâ€™s hapless students), these contests flourish. And, despite their limited claim on the reading public, these books deserve serious attention; one or more of these poets might turn out to be of lasting value. But faced with a stack of some two dozen of these hopeful volumes, the reviewer needs to select, sort, classify, and find some aesthetic leverage with which to pry them open to a critical gaze. Read more at Harvard Review.
Flare by Cole Swensen
Illustrations by Thomas Nozkowski
[Paper] Yale University Press, 60 pp., $25.00
by Kristen Evans
From the moment the reader takes flare off the shelf, she is asked to think about space and formâ€”two elements Cole Swensen’s poetry and Thomas Nozkowski’s paintings challenge on both visual and linguistic registers. Published on textured, heavy stock, flare is an oversized book (nearly thirteen inches long) that allows Swensen and Nozkowski ample room to maneuver with long, sweeping lines of poetry and full-color illustrations. In part because of the form the book takes, Swensen’s poems are all the more extraordinary for attempting to navigate these registers simultaneously, questioning what it means to write with and about art. Read more at Rain Taxi.
The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry
Edited by Cecilia VicuÃ±a and Ernesto Livon-Grosman
Oxford University Press, 608 pp., Â $49.95
Reviewed by Ken L. Walker
In his poem â€œThe Way it Must Be,â€ Enrique Molina writes: â€œHere is my soul, with its strange/dissatisfactionâ€ â€” quite possibly the bullâ€™s eye poetic layer for what it means to possess the â€œdouble visionâ€ of being Latin American, and of course, of being a Latin American poet. Molina was an avid South American traveler. He was in-journey for years-at-a-time. This lifestyle pushed him to acquire a sense for the erotic fluctuations that exist everywhere in nature, an intuitive and internal facet of a Latin poetâ€™s existence. Molina is one of over 120 poets presented in the Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry, a 561-page thick multi-lingual (though the cover claims â€œbilingualâ€) anthology newly released from Oxford, edited by Cecilia VicuÃ±a and Ernesto Livon-Grossman. Read more at Coldfront Magazine.
Q&A with David Lehman
David Lehman is the author of seven books of poems, most recently Yeshiva Boys (Scribner, 2009) and When a Woman Loves a Man (Scribner, 2005). He is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry (2006), a one-volume comprehensive anthology of poems from Anne Bradstreet to the present. Lehman teaches writing and literature in the graduate writing program of the New School in New York City. He initiated The Best American Poetry series in 1988 and continues as the annual anthology’s general editor. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989 and an Academy Award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1990.
When you were writing a poem a day for a year, I think it was, and then stopped writing that much, did the poetic workout have any recognizable effect on your future writings? Would you recommend this task to other writers?
D. Smith — Philadelphia, PA
I wrote a poem a day not for just one year but for five! The practice grew into a habit that I cherished. I recommend it. Writing a daily poem makes you more inventive, because you have to create something new each day. You’re also inclined to be adventurous and take chances. If you try to do something — a reverse sonnet, say — and fail, well, what’s the difference? You’ve got all these other poems in the bank. The freedom to write something bad is crucial for any poet who refuses simply to repeat himself or herself. Â Read more at Smartish Pace.
Interview with Maxine Kumin
Maxine Kumin is the author of seventeen collections of poetry, most recently Where I Live: New and Selected Poems. In addition, she has written novels, childrenâ€™s books, essays, and a memoir detailing a life-threatening accident. She is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and in 1981-82 served as Poet Laureate of the United States. Often compared to Robert Frost, she has lived for many years on a farm in New Hampshire. Writing in the American Poetry Review, Philip Booth commented, â€œThe distinctive nature of Maxine Kuminâ€™s present poems derives from the primary fact that she lives in, and writes from, a world where constant (if partial) recovery of whatâ€™s â€˜lostâ€™ is as sure as the procession of the equinoxes, or as familiar as mucking-out the horsesâ€™ daily dung.â€ Read more at Pedestal Magazine.
(Photo courtesy of Susannah Colt)
Tourist Trap, NYC is a video web series that follows touring poets to some of New Yorkâ€™s top tourist destinations, as well as lesser known bars, reading venues and unheralded back streets. Each episode will feature one or two poets as they explore the city, discuss their work, how urban landscapes influence their writing, the history or importance of landmark theyâ€™ve chosen to visit, as well as any art/literature related conversations they might deem relevant along the way. Each episode will culminate with a short, 1-2 poem reading at their destination of choice. Read more and watch the video here.
Editorâ€™s Notes: For What Itâ€™s Worth
Last Minute Plans: Get Naked With Walt Whitman
Or, rather, watch other people get naked while reciting Walt Whitman. After a several incarnations at The Cell Theatre in New York, Leaves of Grass, A Nude Choral Reading, is making an appearance at Links Hall tonight. If nudity and poetry isn’t enough to sell you on this one, The New Yorker saw â€œsomething appropriately pureâ€ about director Jeremy Bloomâ€™s production, and Theatre Mania noted â€œ any chance to hear Whitman’s great — and timeless — exploration of the human condition, should not be overlooked, whether the speakers are clothed or otherwise.â€
Leaves of Grass is a one-night-only engagement – tonightâ€™s 7:30 p.m. performance is already sold out, so grab your tickets for the 10 p.m. show. See for yourself.
â€œI celebrate myself.â€ Indeed.
I suppose it could have been Wallace Stevens in his birthday suit.