Specimen Days: December 24
1754 – George Crabbe, Aldeburgh England, poet, is born.â€¨
1761 –Selam III, poet/composer/sultan of Turkey (1789-1808), is born.â€¨
1798 – Adam B. Mickiewicz, Poland, national poet, is born.
â€¨1822 – Matthew Arnold, England, poet/critic, is born.â€¨
1843 – Lydia Koidula, Estonian poet (d. 1886), is born.
â€¨1869 – Henriette G. A. Roland Holst-van der Schalk, Dutch poet, is born.
â€¨1879 –Émile Nelligan, Quebec poet (d. 1941) is born.
â€¨1881 – Juan Ramon Jiménez, Spain, poet (Nobel 1956)â€¨ is born.
1889 – Jan Jakob Lodewijk ten Kate, Dutch poet and clergyman (b. 1819) dies.
1950 – Dana Gioia, American poet, is born.
2006 – Kenneth Sivertsen, Norwegian singer, poet and comedian (b. 1961) dies.
The door is open,
the cricket is singing.
Are you going around naked
in the fields?
Like an immortal water,
going in and out of everything.
Are you going around naked
in the air?
The basil is not asleep,
the ant is busy.
Are you going around naked
in the house?
— Juan Ramon Jiménez
Poetry in the News
The Simple Software That Could -— but Probably Won’t -— Change the Face of Writing
It took T. S. Eliot about a year to compose his masterpiece epic poem, “The Waste Land,” and by the time he was done he had left a substantial paper trail. He wrote his triumph of modernism in a distinctly modern way, as a kind of bricolage, by stitching together some fifty short fragments ten to fifteen lines apiece. These draftlets he would then assemble, type up, and send in carbon copy to a few friends and prospective publishers.
We should be grateful. “The Waste Land” is long and hard to understand, deeply allusive and annoyingly (if brilliantly) fragmented. So any record of its production — in the form of drafts, letters, typescripts, annotations, and the like – could help us unravel its many convolutions. Read more at the Atlantic.
Poetry of a Frozen Morning
It is usually sparkling, not to say enchanting, but here the transforming power of frost has taken on a sinister edge: instead of a sugar coating, we have the cobwebs of nightmares. The face is of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the mid-Victorian Poet Laureate; it is his statue by the late Victorian painter and sculptor G. F. Watts on the green in the precincts of Lincoln Cathedral. Read more at the Independent.
Lottery Boost for Dylan Thomas’ Cwmdonkin Park
Its “jungly regions” were an inspiration for Wales’ greatest poet, where he and his gang of friends played “as innocent as strawberries”. Now Cwmdonkin Park in Swansea, the childhood park of Dylan Thomas, is due to be returned to its Victorian best thanks to an £820,000 investment by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Read More at Wales Online.
Poet Made to Pay for Anti-Modi Remark
Allowing an anti-Narendra Modi remark to appear in an opinion piece carried in his poetry collection two years ago has brought the ire of higher-ups in Gujarat Urdu Sahitya Academy on Aqaal Shatir, a poet here. He has been asked to return the financial assistance that the Academy provided him for publishing the anthology. Read more at Indian Express.
1000 Illuminated Poems
While the world’s Christians have been decking their halls with boughs of holly, the rogue artists of Luzinterruptus have been at work on a much more ambitious tree-adorning project. In honor of a poetry festival in Madrid, the group stuffed 1000 envelopes with tiny lights and poems by 17 writers and hung them in the garden outside the building where the event was being held. On the festival’s final night, 100 of the illuminated envelopes were distributed to attendees to send through the mail. See more images of the poem-lit garden after the jump. Read more at Flavorwire.
Prince of Poets : Fourth Season Launched
Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) rolled out the 4th season of the biggest competition of classical Arabic poetry in the Arab world – “Prince of Poets”. The announcement of the launching of the new season of the poetry competition which has captivated the entire Arab world came at a press conference that was addressed by Director of Communications at ADACH Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Director of the Poetry Academy and Member of the Higher Committee Sultan Al-Amimi and Director of Special Projects at Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage Eissa Al-Mazrouei. Read more at Emirates News Agency.
Protest Poet Pens Social Satire
Mzingaye Dube, a local exponent of protest poetry, has come up with a hard-hitting story that talks about Zimbabwe’s past economic and political turmoil. Entitled Zimbabwean Blues, the story — which Dube narrated in a performance during a recent press conference at Bulawayo Agenda — revolves around the life of a character called Charlie, 18 months after the signing of the Global Political Agreement by Zimbabwe’s three main political parties. Read more at Newsday.
Hurt by Martyn Crucefix
[Paperback] Enitharmon Press, 120 pp., $22.95
The tensions that animate Martyn Crucefix’s fifth collection are those between openness and closure, vulnerability and defiance, liberal and fundamentalist. Bearing the impress of his acclaimed translations of Rilke’s Duino Elegies, this book moves towards an openness to experience that is always threatened by the facts of suffering. Less about what hurts us, more how we respond to it, the reader is carried towards an affirming, comprehensive vision that declares “this, this is mine.”
Men as Trees Walking by Kevin Honold
[Paperback] Ohio State, 64 pp., $13.95
“In Men as Trees Walking Kevin Honold takes a hard look at cityscapes, work, and the lives of soldiers from ancient Greece to the contemporary Persian Gulf. Few poets are as comfortable dealing with history or as clear-eyed about the present. This is work of precision, maturity, and insight. Kevin Honold takes on things that matter, and what he has to say is articulate and compelling.” —Don Bogen
See Me Improving by Travis Nichols
[Paperback] Copper Canyon, 80 pp., $15.00
Travis Nichols is a young poet and novelist who invites readers into a world of relationships gone strange. In his poems, everyday human behaviors become fraught with extraordinary significance. It’s a delicate balance of orchestration and improvisation—both dizzying and oddly comforting. The poems, thick with vibrant language and semantic play, hint at a Rimbaudian derangement of the senses while being hyper-alert and completely alive.
That This by Susan Howe
[Paperback] New Directions, 112 pp., $15.95
Susan Howe’s newest book of poetry is a revelation as well as a mystery. “What treasures of knowledge we cluster around.” That This is a collection in three pieces. “Disappearance Approach,” an essay about the sudden death of the author’s husband (“land of darkness or darkness itself you shadow mouth”), begins the book with paintings by Poussin, an autopsy, Sarah Edwards and her sister-in-law Hannah, phantoms, elusive remnants, and snakes. “Frolic Architecture,” the second section — inspired by visits to the vast 18th-century Jonathan Edwards archives at the Beinecke and accompanied by six black-and-white photograms by James Welling — presents hauntingly lovely, oblique text-collages that Howe (with scissors and “invisible” Scotch Tape and a Canon copier) has twisted, flattened, and snipped into “inscapes of force.”
A Polish Poet You Should Know
by Marit MacArthur
Peregrinary by Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston, Zephyr Press, 2008, $14.95
Translator Bill Johnston observes that Eugeniusz Tkaczszyn-Dycki’s hyphenated last name is a bit much even for Poles, and I follow their (and Johnston’s) custom in referring to the poet henceforth as Dycki—pronounced Dits-kee. However difficult his name may appear to English language readers, his fine poems are important for two reasons: they are vastly different from the great Polish poets that readers may already be familiar with, and the poems speak directly to the contemporary American poetry scene, while seeming not at all of that scene. Read more at Contemporary Poetry Review.
by Adam Kirsch
In the poems of Silver Roses, the late Rachel Wetzsteon—who took her own life last year—is still very much alive
The poet Rachel Wetzsteon took her life on December 24, 2009. I can’t claim to have known Rachel very well: I met her less than a dozen times, usually at the annual West Chester University poetry conference, and we corresponded after I reviewed her third book, the wonderful Sakura Park. Read more at Tablet.
Good-bye to All That
By Roger Ebert
December 4th, 1966 [previously unpublished]
He came garbed In a vast old vicuña coat, eaten by moths and mended by nuns, he explained, and a black Spanish hat with a flat top and round brim. He had been turned away from the English Room of the Hotel Pearson for lack of coat and tie, but here, on a rainy Sunday morning in Old Town, Robert Graves passed unnoticed. Read more at the Sun Times.
On Time and Love: At 89, Poet Richard Wilbur Navigates Life’s Currents in New Collection
By Suzanne Wilson â€¨
“I have an inclination to be positive,” said poet Richard Wilbur, “but I hope that in most of my work I’m not a cheerleader for the universe, but a describer of how it feels to be in it.”Richard Wilbur was talking about a subject he knows well – writing poetry. “I always know whether what I’ve done is good enough to print,” he said. “If it’s not, I set it aside or throw it away.” Read more at the Amherst Bulletin. PHOTO BY GORDON DANIELS
Writing at Night
by Matt Shoard
The shortest day – or longest night – of the year it seems an apt moment to consider the enduring appeal to authors of the hours of darkness
I write this from a swivel chair at 4.17am. Twitter has gone quiet. There is darkness for miles. I can hear a watch tick. It’s the longest night of the year, and if I time things carefully, I could avoid daylight for 48 hours. What’s more, research suggests it won’t just be me. There’s a mislaid family of readers and writers at night, and at this hour there’s nothing else to do but search for them. Read more at the Guardian.
Beginning Again: On Reissuing William Heyen’s Lord Dragonfly
by Nate Pritts
In 1992 I was a seventeen year old college freshman in Brockport, New York, a town where it’s always fall or winter, where the Erie Canal dominates both landscape & mood, all full of bird shadows, & where sunflowers look stark & lovely against the weathered brick of academic buildings.
Seventeen & I walked up the stairs of Lathrop Hall on the SUNY Brockport campus to my first college English class & the hallway chalkboard/message center told me:
â€¨sees me from all sidesâ€¨
William Heyen’s Lord Dragonfly was first published in 1981 by Vanguard Press. It went out of print at some point before the end of that decade, definitely by 1988, when their list was bought & mostly mishandled by Random House. Read more at Coldfront.
Editor’s Notes: For What It’s Worth
Strolling through the Web, I came across three provocative pieces that I had missed earlier or which appeared before this newsletter began. All three are serious pieces dealing with various aspects of poetry and the writing life. They are long but thoughtful and worth the time to read. So if you need a break from the busy-ness of the holidays, give yourself a rest during some halftime extravaganza to enjoy one of these. . .
The first is an interview with Czeslaw Milosz, which comes from the Brazilian site Sibila, Poesia e Cultura—
Daniel Bourne: In The Captive Mind you wrote: “The work of human thought should withstand the test of brutal, naked reality. If it cannot, it is worthless. Probably only those works are worthwhile which can preserve their validity even for a man threatened with instant death.” How did the lyric poetry and love songs you wrote during the Warsaw occupation meet these criteria?
Czeslaw Milosz: My quotation doesn’t mean, I hope, that I would like to see only topical peotry in such situations. I highly value poems that are strong enough to survive even when they are completely detached from the surrounding reality in poetic subject and tone. A very strong poem, a lyrical poem, draws its strength from its perfection and can withstand such a reality. Here I can quote from Simone Weil, who said that the highest test of a work would be to place it in the cell of a man confined to many years of solitary confinement; if the work were indeed of enduring value it would not lose its power of perfection over the years in that lonely cell. I might add, too, that a lyric poem can be a defiance thrown to the world of inhumanity. I wrote a long cycle of poems, entitled “The World,” which was such a defiance.
The second is a piece by poet/critic/editor David Yezzi from the wonderful Contemporary Poetry Review on the larger issues of contemporary poetry criticism—
The Rest Is Criticism
Time was when there was too much criticism around. Randall Jarrell thought so, when, in the early Fifties, he pronounced it “the bane of our age.” Auden, whose fourth doorstop volume of collected prose recently appeared from Princeton, was similarly disenchanted. In The Dyer’s Hand, Auden announced that, when his daydream College for Bards convened, “the library would contain no books of literary criticism, and the only critical exercise required of students would be the writing of parodies”—pretty hard cheese coming from someone who made some decent cheese writing the stuff. To Jarrell’s mind, the works of art—poems, plays, novels—were in danger of being replaced by the works written about them; no need to read Moby-Dick when one could more easily digest a book on Melville’s thorny masterpiece. And not only was there—like dark, casuistic clouds blotting out the rays of literature—too much of the stuff, it was also frequently the wrong kind of stuff.
The last is a piece from the Times Higher Education supplement by George Watson, a curious essay dealing in some ways with issues addressed in the previous two: the moral writer and trying to “get things right” as poets and as readers.
The Virtue of Verse
How seriously are we to take the meaning of poetry? George Watson considers the costs of seeing poetry as largely spontaneous and self-expressive
Is poetry dangerous? The question hardly sounds worth answering, until you recall with a start that there have been times or places when it was. In the China of the Gang of Four, according to Kang Zhengguo in his Confessions, poetry was “the most dangerous career you could possibly choose”– or so his father, a man of letters, told him. It was like working as a circus acrobat without a net.
P.S. I hope that if you enjoy Poetry News in Review you will feel free to share it with anyone in your poetry family who might also enjoy it.