Specimen Days: November 14
1511 –Janus Secundus, neo-latin poet, was born.
1556 – Giovanni della Casa, Italian poet (b. 1504) dies.
1779 – Adam Gottlob Oehlenschläger, Danish poet (d. 1850)â€¨ was born.
1877 – René de Clerq, Flemish poet/author, was born.
1878 – Leopold Staff, Polish poet (d. 1957)â€¨, was born.
1910 – Norman MacCaig, poet (d. 1996), was born.
1962 – Manuel Galvez, Argentina writer/poet, dies at 80.
A bird’s voice chinks and tinkles
Alone in the gaunt reedbed —
Working late in the evening.
—Norman MacCaig (from “July Evening”)
Poetry in the News
Billy Connolly and Aly Bain — Fishing for Poetry, BBC Two, Monday
The comedian and fiddler follow in the footsteps of poet Norman MacCaig.
Over the years, the average television viewer in Scotland will have heard a fair bit of Aly Bain’s fiddle playing, but perhaps relatively little of his voice. One of the side-line delights of Billy Connolly And Aly Bain: Fishing For Poetry (Monday, 9pm, BBC Two), a film that’s rarely less than delightful, is the chance to hear the man talking at length. He would probably concede he’s more eloquent with bow in hand, but Bain, narrating, speaks in a way that shares with his music the quality of directness. It’s a voice with its own lilt, its own roots; one that hasn’t had the edges knocked off or the tone adjusted for broadcast. The effect is refreshingly less like watching a TV presenter presenting than just having a guy talking to you. (Billy Connolly talks a lot in the programme, too, but chances are you’ll know what that sounds like already.) Fishing For Poetry has a slightly more mellifluous flow to it, but a more accurate title would be Fishing For A Poet. To be precise, Bain and Connolly’s friend, the great Norman MacCaig, who died in 1996, and whose birth 100 years ago they are setting out to mark, ideally by catching some trout. Read more at the Herald Scotland.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that there are champions of the arts in Fergus Falls. In fact you don’t even have to get out of your car to get a sense for it. Roadside Poetry is the brain child of Paul Carney, English teacher at the Minnesota State Community and Technical College. â€¨â€¨Inspired in part by the old Burma-Shave signs posted along highways during the 1950’s, roadside poetry’s mission is to “celebrate the personal pulse of poetry in the public landscape.” Read more at Minnesota Public Radio.
UA Program Merges Poetry and the Outdoors
Wendy Burk and Eric Magrane share an affinity for poetry and hiking and worked together to introduce a program at the UA Poetry Center to involve others in writing about the outdoors. The result is Poetry Goes for a Hike, a program that allows writers to take a new lead in poetry with the fresh air around them. The UA Poetry Center invites the Tucson community for a hike focused on poetry and ecology to be held Saturday, Nov. 13. Read more at UA News.
Media, Letters Mourn Death of Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, Well-loved Poet
The death of Ophelia Alcantara-Dimalanta, poetess extraordinaire, writer-in-residence and former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the University of Santo Tomas, and supreme doyenne of at least two generations of poets, writers and literature educators in the country, has touched off a wave of grief in the media and literary world. Read more at the Inquirer.
Young Setswana Poet to Drop a Poetry Album
Onkgolotse Manuel would practically prove wrong all who regard excellent use of Setswana language as Botswana elders’ preserve because everyone gets a thrill out of his poetry. The melodious sound of words coming from Manuel’s mouth flows like a symphony into one’s ears. Listening to him utter the professionally fabricating Setswana words calmly that flow like stream water would make one appreciate the beauty of Setswana poetry. Read more at Mmegionline.
Japanese Poet Cries Out for Rules for “French Haiku”
Haiku poet Madoka Mayuzumi, who has been living in Paris since April this year as a Japanese government-designated “cultural envoy,” frowns on “French haiku” despite a haiku boom here.“French people’s haiku poems often fail to follow the basics,” says Mayuzumi, whose mission in France is to “foster better understanding of Japanese culture through haiku.” Read more at Mainichi Daily News.
A Poet’s Death Turns into an Annual Cause for Celebration
Nearly 2,000 years after his death, Qu Yuan remains a household name in China. He is widely regarded as the father of Chinese poetry and a symbol of patriotism. Qu is also at the center of legends surrounding the Dragon Boat Festival. Read more at Shanghai Daily.
On Location at Poetry Hearings, Berlin
This year’s Poetry Hearings, an annual English language poetry festival in Berlin, had a strong Prague contingent, with one performing poet and several audience members making the trek to Germany. The two night festival began Friday night with readings from British poets Kelvin Corcoran and Naomi Foyle, Prague resident Louis Armand, and Mark Terrill, an American poet living in Berg, Germany. The lineup was diverse, with poets presenting a rich variety of poetics and reading styles. Read more at Prague Post.
Oranges and Snow: Selected Poems of Milan Djordjevic
translated by Charles Simic
[Hardcover] Princeton, 128 pp., $19.95
“Charles Simic has translated the work of the major Serbian poet Milan Djordjevic into wonderful poems in English. From the opening poem we know we are in the hands of a master: Djordjevic keeps the stakes high as the poems fan out from the daily to the political and metaphysical. Image, tone, and metaphor combine to create an imaginatively striking voice. This is a distinguished translation by a distinguished poet.”–Ira Sadoff, author of Barter: Poems
Outtakes by Charles Wright, illustrations by Eric Appleby
[Paperback] Sarabande, 64 pp., $16.95
Graphic art and poems that are rueful, but never grim, offer a graceful meditation on the approach of death.
J. H. Prynne, A Poet for Our Times
by Robert Potts
The poetry of J. H. Prynne is both obscure and difficult; qualities tolerated in canonical and foreign writers (Blake, Mallarmé, Celan, late Beckett), but treated with enormous resentment and suspicion in contemporary English poets. Prynne’s detractors see little else in the work, perhaps being so distracted by the first few words of his Collected Poems (“the whole thing it is, the difficult / matter”) that they seem not to have read any further. Craig Raine, for example, recently wrote dismissively of “a postmodern poetic school led by J. H. Prynne whose purpose is to be difficult – emulatively difficult. (Not difficult to be difficult, actually)”. Nonetheless, it is notable that none of Prynne’s critics feels able to wholly ignore him, or the so-called Cambridge School with which he has come to be associated. Read more at the London Times.
Look Back, Look Ahead
The Selected Poems of SreÄko Kosovel translated by Ana Jelnikar and Barbara Siegel Carlson
by Amy Groshek
Teens, critics, and undergraduate professors seem preternaturally drawn to the work of those who die young. But brilliance is not the de facto inheritance of the unlucky and the self-destructive. One need not consult a psychologist to conjecture that suicidal youths produce tomes of narcissistic, imitative poetry every month, and that the histrionic mewling of “alienated” suburban youth is far more common than the talented writer who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And while some shine and die before age twenty-two, others take fifty years to carve out the quiet required by genius. Most importantly, this fetishization of untimely death, whatever the motive, can lead a reader to miss the very best parts of a poet. Read more at Rain Taxi.
An Interview with Alice Fulton
Alice Fulton is the author of six books of poetry, including Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems, Felt, Sensual Math, and Powers of Congress. She is also the author of a collection of essays, Feeling as a Foreign Language: The Good Strangeness of Poetry. Over the course of her career, she has received extensive recognition for her poetry, including fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Her most recent book, The Nightingales of Troy, was a remarkable departure for a poet at the height of her career. Rather than following her 2004 book, Cascade Experiment: Selected Poems with the expected—a seventh book of poetry—the current Anne S. Bowers Professor of English at Cornell University published her first collection of linked stories.
The following interview is taken from a sprawling conversation that took place in May of 2010 at a small café a block from the University of Cincinnati, where she was the 2010 Elliston Poet-in-Residence. As we spoke, the conversation was interrupted by a sudden, fleeting Midwest thunderstorm with heavy rain and jagged lightning strikes. Read more at Memorious.
On Libraries and the Poetry Library
By Alex Rowse
Yesterday it was a pleasure for me to meet Miriam Valencia, who is joint librarian at Southbank Centre’s wonderful Poetry Library, before I attended a poetry reading there to launch the latest issue of Brittle Star Magazine. She’s been here for about six years and seemed the ideal authority to ask a few questions about libraries, her library in particular and the possible death of the book. Read more at the Southbank Centre.
Shine a Light
by Tamsin Smith
My intended topic was a New York Times op-ed Mr. Kristof wrote on November 3rd, entitled “Mr. Obama, It’s Time for Some Poetry.” In it, he invokes Mario Cuomo’s maxim: “We campaign in poetry, and we govern in prose.” This got me to musing on an analog for the rest of us, who may have moments of poetic transcendence, but live the majority of our lives in prosaic plotting of beginnings, middles, and ends. So, what would it mean to govern our lives in poetry? Read more at the Huffington Post.
Who (or What) Makes the Best Poetry Translations?
I recently saw Khaled Mattawa described, in Yale University press materials, as Adonis’s “hand-picked translator.” It struck me as a somewhat odd designator (particularly when applied to an accomplished poet like Mattawa), as though the translator had no agency in the affair, but had merely been kneeling down, head bowed, awaiting Adonis’s blessing. Read more at Arabian Literature (In English).
Editor’s Notes: For What It’s Worth
The American Poets’ Corner Inducts Sylvia Plath
Posted by Jessica Ferri
Just before she died, Sylvia Plath wrote to her mother, “I am writing the best poems of my life. They will make my name.” They were the “Ariel” poems—and she was right. Just yesterday she was inducted into the American Poets’ Corner, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Her plaque was unveiled Sunday at Evensong, with lines from the poem “The Moon and the Yew Tree”: “This is the light of the mind / cold and planetary.” Read more at the New Yorker.
I want to be kind here. I applaud the celebration of a poet’s life, her art, and achievement. So why does it feel that with Sylvia Plath, I/we applaud her death? Can we get past her death when we read her poems, her journals, look at her photograph? With the poems, we can— regardless of the themes she assigned herself. And there are so many good poems beyond the anthology pieces. The poems have attitude rarely found so pronounced in the poetry of her time (or any other time when it wasn’t facile or glib). Her images—her visions— are full of texture and smells and humidities. Her language is infused with heady sounds. Maybe this is what Annie Finch meant by the “rough magic” of her language. I hear the muscular giddiness of Dylan Thomas in Plath’s “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” :
Trumpet-throats open to the beaks of birds.
The Golden Rain Tree drips its powders down.
In these little boudoirs streaked with orange and red
The Anthers nod there heads, potent as kings
to father dynasties. The air is rich.
Here is a queenship no mother can contest—
All this is to say that the focus on her death diminishes the richness of her poetry. There is no need to ignore her obsessions; those are an important element in her poems. But they are not all there is to her poems. Revisit the poems from time to time, just to see how good and strange they really are. If her poetry is consigned to the evidence room or the forensics lab, then it too will have met an untimely death.