Specimen Days: October 24
1789 – Lucretia W. van Winter-van Merken, Dutch poet, dies at 68.
1878–Hermann Claudius, German folk poet, was born.
1886–Delmira Augustini, Uruguayan poet, was born.
1897–Francis Turner Palgrave, poet/editor (Golden Treasury), dies at 73.
1923–Denise Levertov, American poet/essayist, was born.
1943–Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau, French Canadian poet (b. 1912), dies.
Since I stroll in the woods more oftenthan on this frequented path, its usuallytrees I observe; but among fellow humanswhat I like best is to see an old womanfishing alone at the end of a jetty,hours on end, plainly content.
(from “The Great Black Heron” by Denise Levertov)
photo David Grier Photography
Poetry in the News
Poets Paradise in Sierra Madre
Small World Sound makes recording affordable to struggling scribes from home studio in Sierra Madre.
Born with a poets soul and a gift for songwriting, Barry Schwam has embarked on a new venture he calls Small World Sound, a home studio project that aims to help poets record CDs of their work for an affordable price. “Helping peoples dreams come true is my mission,” said Schwam who has thus far worked with 17 scribes to record their original work. Schwam said that when he was a struggling poet, he remembers wrestling with how to have his words and feelings heard by a larger audience. Read more at Sierra Madre Patch.
Barn poetry Meant to be Food for Thought
“What Grows Here,” a poem written by DePauw University English and creative writing professor Joe Heithaus, was painted on the barn by Ken Torr for a World Hunger event at the Food for Thought festival in Indianapolis in November. The barn is located on West County Road 125 South. Driving west from Greencastle on West County Road 125 South, one barn currently stands out from the crowd — it has a poem painted in giant white letters on the side of it. The poem was written by Joe Heithaus.“ It was a fun assignment, but it was kind of weird working with the knowledge it was going to be on a barn,” said Heithaus, an English and creative writing professor at DePauw University. Heithaus said he was happy not to have to be at the top of the barn. “It’s not for the faint of heart, being at the top part of the barn, by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. Read more at the Banner Graphic.
Best of What’s Next: Poetry Revival Comes Alive
Spoken-word poets Anis Mojgani, Buddy Wakefield and Derrick Brown don’t consider themselves entertainers. But since 2007, the trio has traveled across the U.S. with a rotating cast of performers and musicians in tow for what they call “poetry revivals,” each time under a new moniker–Junkyard Ghost Revival, Elephant Engine High Dive Revival and the current Night Kite Revival. Read more at Paste.
Blazing a Trail for Poetry in Princeton
This was “shop talk” on an elevated plane. It encompassed poetry through the ages and personal references to poets laureate and Nobel and Pulitzer winners. All with ebullience. Settled in at home during the week before its dedication, Scott and Hella McVay were telling the tale of the poetry trail they have created at the nearby headquarters of the D&R Greenway Land Trust. Agreeing with each other, appreciating each other’s bon mots along the way and sometimes over-talking each other in sheer enthusiasm, they virtually re-enacted their search for the right poems to post along the Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail. Savoring the artful uniqueness of each one, Mr. McVay read aloud from various poets’ letters to them, sometimes reciting from their poems. His wife dug out the copy of the trail sign with that poet’s work, and then they both exclaimed over it, recalling how and how long they’ve known this or that poet. Read more at The Princeton Packet.
Paul Muldoon Photo by Loretta Jankowski
Performance Review: Vox Brings its Choral Poetry Magic to “Achilles Alibi”
“Achilles’ Alibi,” in the little white room hard north of the Broadway Bridge that is Waterbrook Studio, is a swift and beguiling hour of chorally arranged poems, almost 40 of them, heavy on the William Stafford this time around but also ranging as far afield as Wallace Stevens, Howard Nemerov, W.S. Merwin, Ogden Nash, Muriel Stewart, the Greek modernist and Nobel winner Odysseus Elytis, William Butler Yeats, and Oregon notables including Michele Glazer, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sandra de Helen and the state’s poet laureate, Paulann Petersen. Elocution is sharp, and the enterprise has a precise baroque quality, like the Swingle Singers riffing on Bach, or Lambert, Hendricks and Ross skittering nimbly through jazz standards. If it can sometimes soften the raw roar of a savage piece of writing, more often it illuminates subterranean possibilities, the whispers and folds of a good poem. Read more at Oregon Live.
A Poet’s Return Home to Thailand’s Violent South
The death toll in this strife-torn corner of southern Thailand moves relentlessly upward. Six years of insurgent attacks and battles with the Thai military have left 4,400 people dead and counting, cloaking this region of paddy fields and rubber plantations in near constant fear. Zakariya Amataya, a 35-year-old poet who grew up in one of the Thai districts now violently torn apart by long-held resentment over language, religion and nationalism. Read more at The New York Times.
A Revolutionary of Arabic Verse
The Syrian-born poet Adonis; “poetry cannot be made to fit either religion or ideology,” he says.
Every year around this time the name of the Syrian poet Adonis pops up in newspapers and in betting shops. Adonis (pronounced ah-doh-NEES), a pseudonym adopted by Ali Ahmad Said Esber in his teens as an attention getter, is a perennial favorite to win the Nobel Prizein Literature. This year Ladbrokes, the British bookmaking firm, had his chances at 8-1, which made him seem a surer bet than the eventual winner, Mario Vargas Llosa, a 25-1 long shot. Why Adonis appeals to the oddsmakers, presumably, is that he’s a poet, and poets have been under-represented among Nobelists lately; that he writes in Arabic, the language of only one Nobel winner, Naguib Mahfouz; and that as is the case with so many recent winners, most Americans have never heard of him. Read more at The New York Times.
Photo Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times
A Poet and his Battle for Rights
Poems have been written about everything, from angels to the world and everything in between. Therefore, its impossible to ascribe any single set of qualities to the poet. Ralph Waldo Emerson argued: “The poet is a seer who penetrates the mysteries of the universe and articulates the universal truths that bind humanity together. Hence, the true poet, who puts into words what others feel but cannot express, speaks for all men and women.” One might speculate that these qualities can be found in some political activists. A number of famous poets have been in serious trouble because of their activism. On October 8, Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize. A poet and literary critic, Liu served as a professor at Beijing Normal University and was a leading voice and an influential presence during the student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Read more at The Gulf Daily News. [This story no longer seems to be available., ed.]
Poet A Ayyappan is Dead
A Ayyappan, noted Malayalam modernist poet whose poems were celebrated for their intensity, meditative beauty and pungent romance, died at the general hospital here last night, hospital sources said. Ayyappan, 61, a bachelor whose Bohemian life and anarchic poetry won him numerous admirers, was found in an unconscious state last evening in front of a theatre in the city by local people who informed police. Without recognising the poet, the police took him to the hospital where he died, police sources said, adding, the body was recognised as that of Ayyappan only today. Read more at The Times of India.
“Departure from the Norm that Celebrates the Norm”
You can read the story about the T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetryat the Guardian, the shortlist having recently ben announced. So instead of providing a usual list of new releases this week, I am providing the Amazon listing to a sampling of the shortlisted titles available in this country (aside from the Heaney and Walcott, which have already captured their fair share of keystrokes).
Rough Music by Fiona Simpson
[Paperback] Carcanet, 66 pp., $16.95
Sourcing folk songs, ballads, and medieval carols, the poems in this collection explore the points where poetry and music meet and result in a crude dissonance derived from Anglo-Saxon and Romanian traditions. Exploring a range of personal material informed by the deep, medieval iconography of common prayer, by the diction of medieval carol as well as metaphysics, poetry, and madrigal sounds, this innovative volume touches on themes of women’s identities, grief, loss, shame, loneliness, ill health, and surviving in the aftermath of violence.
The Mirabelles by Annie Freud
[Paperback] Picador, 64 pp., $13.95
Annie Freuds award-winning first collection, “The Best Man That Ever Was”, introduced readers to a remarkably versatile new voice. The Mirabelles delivers a similarly exhilarating cornucopia — the “Mask of Temporary Madness,” “Marc Almond,” mini-novels, a sonnet long, “Carottes Vichy,” and the most gripping account of a billiard game youll ever read. However, in a new sequence derived from family letters, Freud has invented almost a new kind of writing: neither “found” nor “made” in the conventional sense, these poems are profoundly moving, and startling in their boldly unfashionable lack of irony. Elsewhere The Mirabelles is full of the world-stuff — the clothes and food, the art and social intrigues — with which we dress and conceal our deeper emotions and appetites. In the end, this is a book about reality and its representations, and the truth and lies we tell about ourselves.
Seeing Stars by Simon Armitage
[Hardcover] Faber, 88 pp., $14.20
Simon Armitages new collection is by turns a voice and a chorus: a hyper-vivid array of dramatic monologues, allegories, parables and tall tales. Here comes everybody: Snoobie and Carla, Lippincott, Wittmann, Yoshioka, Bambuck, Dr. Amsterdam, Preminger; the man whose wife drapes a border-curtain across the middle of the marital home; the English astronaut with a terrestrial outlook on life; an orgiastic cast of unreconstructed pie-worshipers at a Northern sculpture farm; the soap-opera supremacists at their zoo-wedding; the driver who picks up hitchhikers as he hurtles towards a head-on collision with Thatcherism; a Christian cheese-shop proprietor in the wrong part of town; the black bear with a dark secret, the woman who curates giant snowballs in the chest freezer.
Youby John Haynes
[Paperback] Seren, 84 pp., $17.95
Much love poetry is based in the threat to that love, and in this long poem it is a threat that arises from the potential for misunderstanding posed by two kinds of love, one derived from “romantic” courtly love, the other from communal values in the homestead, the hoe and the cooking fire. Written in an adaptation of a traditional “Rhyme Royal” stanza used by Chaucer, Shakespeare, Auden and Yeats, Haynes nevertheless writes in beautifully clear English vernacular and this poem, set out in sections of three stanzas, flows unbroken from beginning to end.
The rest of the shortlist:
Human Chain by Seamus Heaney (Faber)
What the Water Gave Me by Pascale Petit (Seren)
The Wrecking Light by Robin Robertson (Picador)
Phantom Noise by Brian Turner (Bloodaxe)
White Egrets by Derek Walcott (Faber)
New Light for the Old Dark by Sam Willetts (Jonathan Cape)
The winner will be announced at a ceremony on 24 January 2011, and will be presented with their check by Mrs. Valerie Eliot, the widow of Poetry Book Society founder T.S. Eliot, whose estate supports the prize.
Collected Poems by Ciaran Carson
Reviewed by Heather Clark
The publication of Ciaran Carson’s much anticipated Collected Poems establishes him—for those who still need convincing—as a major poet both within and outside the borders of his native Northern Ireland. The book, which includes eight collections written over the past thirty years, is unlike many volumes of collected poems, which pay homage to the poet’s best years. Carson’s Collected is, by contrast, more overture than coda. Not content to rest on past successes and revisit old forms, Carson offers risky innovations with each new collection, allowing for new readings not only of Northern Ireland but of the poetic line itself. Read more at the Harvard Review.
The Madeleine Poems by Paul Legault
Reviewed by Kate Angus
“the little bones in their faces”
The first question a reader might ask when opening Paul Legault’s lovely debut collection, The Madeleine Poems, is perhaps the most obvious: who is Madeleine, our title character, our heroine? The question might be better phrased as who is she not, however, as even the table of contents reveals Madeleine’s mutability. Read more at Coldfront Magazine.
A.E. Stallings Interviewed by Edward Byrne
The following questions and answers were compiled from parts of an ongoing conversation I conducted with featured-poet A.E. Stallings in a series of e-mail messages to her in Greece during this past summer. I thank Alicia for generously giving her time and effort in responding to my correspondence.
Would you please begin by sharing biographical information with readers?
I grew up in Atlanta—well, the area around Emory was a suburb of Atlanta when I was growing up, but now is practically intown—which was a much smaller place in the 70s, and our house backed onto what was essentially a forest. My father taught at Georgia State University and my mother was a school librarian. I got a surprisingly solid education in the public schools—my high school English teacher, Mary Mecom, was rigorous and influential. Then I took a scholarship to the University of Georgia in Athens GA, where I eventually found a home in the warm and welcoming Classics Department, then chaired by Richard LaFleur. I later did a Masters in Classics at Oxford with Richard Jenkyns. Since 1999, I have lived in Athens, Greece with my husband, the journalist John Psaropoulos. We have two children, Jason, just six, and Atalanta, who is now a year old. Read more at The Valparaiso Poetry Review.
Wonders of the Field: An Interview with the Editors of Field Guide to the Prose Poem
OL: Rather than focus on defining or further delineating the genre, in Field Guide to the Prose Poem you’ve gathered together a whole variety of different takes, divergences, and asides. Considering how inclusive both your original vision and the finished book turned out to be, I wonder if there were any surprises about what didn’t appear, what concerns weren’t raised, or poems or progenitors surprisingly left out. I, for one, certainly expected to see Russel Edson’s name everywhere (though maybe not quite so much as I did) but I was surprised to find that nobody mentioned Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell — as exemplary a prose-poem hybrid as there ever was.
Dan: One surprise for me was the absence of some of the more crucial French prose poets. Baudelaire is in there, and we cover Bertrand in our introduction, but Rimbaud never gets serious attention, and the same goes for Max Jacob. I guess you can never cover it all but that was part of our point: this book is a door opening on a larger discussion of the form. If a reader out there doesn’t find an essay about their favorite poet or poem, then we urge them to write it, fill that gap, publish it somewhere. Read more at Open Letters Monthly.
Shakespeares Sonnets by Don Paterson
Shakespeares sonnets are synonymous with courtly romance, but in fact many are about something quite different. Some are intense expressions of gay desire, others testaments to misogyny. Wary of academic criticism, Don Paterson tries to get back to what the poet was actually saying. Read more at The Guardian.
The Debilitated Muse by Danielle Ofri
“What happens when the poet faces illness? How is the poetry affected by alterations of the body and mind?”
“When I think about the definition of poetry, I have an image of the vast chaotic world being funneled through a narrow filter that is the poet. What comes out on the other side is an economy of observation about that chaos. Whether the critical essence of that filter is the mind of the poet, or the soul of the poet or the spleen of the poet is to some degree irrelevant, since none of these parts can function alone, and the sum total is that living, breathing body. It takes no great leap of logic to expect that assaults of any sort to that body would alter its output. It is in the details of this truism, however, that one might begin to mine the fascinating and perhaps intrinsic connections between “physicality” and creativity.” Read more at the Huffington Post.
For a related story, read Lucia Perillos interesting piece, No Exit: In the Studio, in the American Poetry Review.
Editor’s Notes: For What It’s Worth
Frank O’Hara on Billie Holiday
If youre unfamiliar with Frank O’Hara, youre in for a treat. O’Hara was part of the New York School of poetry that emerged in the 1950s. What made this school singular is how its poets used words. Rather than stick rigidly to traditional form and meter, they expressed themselves freely and often journalistically. They also prized how words sounded smashed together and adored the feeling of abstraction. Whats more, the schools poets came together informally with painters, dancers, jazz musicians and photographers of the day to share ideas and new creative concepts. One big emotional stew. Talk about birth of the cool.
Read more at Jazz Wax.
Frank O’Hara’s lunch poems are not news. But what is news about this article is that it appears in a jazz magazine. I’m a fan of the cross-over in the arts, and though its fifty years on, the same drive that motivated the poets of the New York School was shared by the jazz musicians and Expressionists amidst a community of their own making. That sharing also defined them. I think it’s coming ‘round again.