Category Archives: News

On an Island Named for Ice, the Poets Are Just Getting Warmed Up

By KIMIKO DE FREYTAS-TAMURA

Iceland, it seems, is full of hidden poets.

On an Island Named for IceWhen they’re not at their day jobs, a great many of the island’s 330,000 inhabitants dabble in verse, including politicians, businessmen, horse breeders and scientists who study the genetic isolation of the island in pursuit of medical breakthroughs. Even David Oddsson, who was prime minister in 2002 (when Iceland’s banks were privatized) and central bank governor in 2008 (when they collapsed), is a poet by training.
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Birgitta Jonsdottir, the leader of the anarchist-leaning Pirate Party, which did well in a recent general election, describes herself rather loftily as a “poetician.” Her first published poem, “Black Roses,” written when she was 14, is about a nuclear holocaust.
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Kari Stefansson, one of the world’s leading geneticists and the founder of Decode Genetics, recalled a poem he wrote in 1996, a few months after the birth of Dolly, the cloned sheep.
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“I was a little bit depressed,” Mr. Stefansson said in his office, which, with its slit windows and computer screens, looked a bit like the interior of a spaceship. “One of my ways to deal with that was to write a small poem,” he said, before proceeding to recite it:

Where do I find, lost in the brightness of a sunlit day,

The happiness of an unhappy man

Fortunate only to be just one copy of himself.

Everything else stinks.

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Unseen Sylvia Plath short story to be published in January

Richard Lea

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom was written in 1952, when Plath was still a student in the US
Unseen Sylvia Plath
An “important” short story written by Sylvia Plath when the poet was 20 years old will be published for the first time in January 2019.

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, which describes a fateful train journey, is one of a series of standalone short fiction titles being released by Faber to mark the publisher’s 90th anniversary.

According to the Plath scholar Peter K Steinberg, it is completely unlike anything else she wrote before or after. “It’s an important work and different to what Plath’s readers are used to seeing,” Steinberg said. “So it’s exciting that it will shortly be available for reading and consideration.”

The story follows a young woman as her mother and father hustle her through the glittering halls of a cathedral-like station and on to a steam-filled platform before deserting her in a sinister carriage furnished with wine-coloured, plush seats. There Mary meets a kindly woman who guides her as the train speeds through dark tunnels and a bleak autumnal landscape.

In one of the corn fields a scarecrow caught her eye, crossed staves propped aslant, and the corn husks rotting under it. The dark ragged coat wavered in the wind, empty, without substance. And below the ridiculous figure black crows were strutting to and fro, pecking for grains in the dry ground.

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Another reminder that on October 25 we will read and discuss The poetry of Fernando Pessoa

FernandoAnother reminder that on October 25 we will read and discuss the poetry of Fernando Pessoa. Bill Ellis has furnished us with several relevant links of interest:

  1. Twenty Two New Translations – Brown University

  2. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/fernando-pessoa

  3. “So many gods!” by Álvaro de Campos | Poetry Magazine

  4. “Ah Margarida” by Álvaro de Campos | Poetry Magazine

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IN SYLVIA WHITMAN’S PARIS, EVERYTHING REVOLVES AROUND POETRY

THE DAUGHTER OF SHAKESPEARE AND CO.’S FOUNDER ON RUNNING HER FATHER’S SHOP

By Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide

IN SYLVIA WHITMAN_S PARISSylvia Whitman is radiant, bubbly and approachable when she greets us at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop on the banks of the Seine. It’s an autumn day and Paris is gilded in shades of red and orange. The Seine riverboats ripple the water below Notre-Dame Cathedral as we sit down at a table in the little café adjoining the bookshop and prepare to indulge in apple and pear smoothies and avocado toast. Sylvia seems very British to us with her good manners, use of irony, her floral dress, blue eyes, the way she orders a cup of tea at the bar, and her delicious accent as she tells us stories about her dog, Colette, whom she takes for a walk every evening along the embankment.
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Then again, she could be the most Parisian of all the women we’ve met. Paris has run through her veins since early childhood, and like the heroine in a novel, her life has had a series of unexpected twists and turns, sometimes extraordinary, sometimes romantic, sometimes tragic. And Paris has always provided the backdrop to such unforeseen events. Each and every one of them. Her picture-postcard Paris serves as a setting for the bookshop she inherited and now runs (along with her husband, she manages a team of almost 40 people working at both the bookshop and the adjoining café).

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Leave Crete, Aphrodite

Sappho
Sappho

Leave Crete

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Why Elon Musk Is Reading ‘The Waste Land’

By Max Read

Elon Musk, the billionaire electric-car salesman and sworn enemy of Azealia Banks, recently exhorted his followers on Twitter to “read Eliot’s notes on The Waste Land”:
Why Elon Musk Is Reading ‘The Waste Land_
It would be an exhausting task to limn this tweet for substance, and yet what is the internet for if not exhaustion? And also, for showing off that you have read “The Waste Land”? On Breitbart, John Carney suggests that Musk “may very well see himself with his hand upon the wheel, sails up and headed seaward. Perhaps he will meet the fate of Phlebas but even in that there is beauty and nobility.” Hmm. Indeed.
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At Slate, Felix Salmon proposes an alternate theory:

But there’s a much simpler and more elegant explanation, which is that this is all part of the breakup between Musk and his (ex?) girlfriend, Grimes. Here’s a hypothetical yet credible sequence of events: First, Grimes sends Musk the screenshot in question. As a message from Grimes to Musk, the excerpt makes much more sense: She’s telling him to get over himself, that he too will go the way of Phlebas.
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National Review Online’s Kevin Williamson, for his part, muses that Musk is “seeking solace in poetry,” before listing, one by one, nearly every work referenced in “The Waste Land,” presumably to ensure that the reader is aware that Williamson has read not just “The Waste Land” but also, at the very least, its Wikipedia page. Williamson writes:

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Another reminder that registration for the fall sessions is now open

reminderAnother reminder that registration for the September 27, October 25 and November 22 sessions is now open. Please register online, in person or via telephone: (604) 713-1800. The Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre has expressed concern about the abrupt and striking decline in registration and attendance at the Poetry Circle sessions. This places the existence of our group in jeopardy, making registration for the fall sessions critical. Let’s keep this exceptional troop alive!

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How Poetry Came to Matter Again

A young generation of artists is winning prizes, acclaim, and legions of readers while exploring identity in new ways.

JESSE LICHTENSTEIN

How Poetry Came to Matter AgainThe poetry world would hardly seem a likely place for a “race row,” the phrase The Guardian applied in 2011 to a blunt exchange of literary verdicts. The celebrated (and white) critic Helen Vendler had disparaged the celebrated (and black) poet Rita Dove’s selections for the new Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Dove, Vendler wrote, had favored “multicultural inclusiveness” over quality. She’d tried to “shift the balance” by choosing too many minority poets at the expense of better (and better-known) writers. The poems were “mostly short” and “of rather restricted vocabulary,” the presiding keeper of the 20th-century canon judged. Over at the Boston Review, the (also white) critic Marjorie Perloff, the doyenne of American avant-garde poetics, weighed in too. She lamented what she saw as new poets’ reliance on a formulaic kind of lyric already stale by the 1960s and ’70s—a personal memory dressed up with “poeticity,” building to “a profound thought or small epiphany.” Her example: a poem by the acclaimed (also black) poet Natasha Trethewey about her mother’s painful hair-straightening routine.

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Pebble

Zbigniew Herbert

PebbleThe pebble

is a perfect creature
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equal to itself

mindful of its limits
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filled exactly

with a pebbly meaning
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with a scent that does not remind one of anything

does not frighten anything away does not arouse desire
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its ardour and coldness

are just and full of dignity
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I feel a heavy remorse

when I hold it in my hand

and its noble body

is permeated by false warmth
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–Pebbles cannot be tamed

to the end they will look at us

with a calm and very clear eye
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Please note that registration for the September 27, October 25 and November 22 sessions is now open at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre. Please register online, in person or via telephone: (604) 713-1800.

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Stolen WB Yeats letters identified at Princeton University

Collection taken in 1970s and returned by ‘anonymous’ was spotted by John Kelly

Yeats

WB Yeats

A collection of unpublished letters written by WB Yeats that was stolen in the 1970s and returned “anonymously” has been identified at Princeton University.
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John Kelly, who has spent decades tracking down thousands of Yeats’s letters, discovered the collection as he was concluding research for the latest volume of his work on the Irish poet and dramatist.
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Kelly was browsing the catalogue of Princeton University Library, where he had pored over Yeats’s holdings some years earlier, when he spotted a file of 17 letters to the poet’s publisher he had not seen before.
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He discovered from the librarian it had been stolen in the 1970s, disappearing without trace until it turned up recently, delivered anonymously in a brown package.

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