Category Archives: News

The Telegraph’s best poetry books of 2017

Tristram Fane Saunders

The Telegraph's best poetry books of 2017Who reads poetry? It’s often accused of being a closed shop; writers speaking to other writers, ignored by the outside world. But with book sales booming, it’s time to set the record straight. In Who Reads Poetry (University of Chicago, £18) you’ll find essays by punks and politicians, a midwife and a general, all avid readers of verse. For ironworker Josh Warn, a well-crafted poem a well-crafted poem has the same tactile appeal as a box of ¾in drive sockets.
Then there’s cartoonist Aders Nilsen, whose doodled contribution “Poetry Is Useless” tests the other great lie about poetry: that it has to be good for something. Bookshops heave with anthologies for weddings, for funerals and, inevitably, for Christmas, all plugging the idea of the useful poem, applied to a situation like a patch to a flat tyre. It’s possible to do this sort of thing extremely well – Telegraph columnist William Sieghart’s The Poetry Pharmacy (Particular, £12.99) makes a strong case for poetry as the soul’s salve. But there’s still an unfair double-standard at work: no-one asks what a novel is for.
What would Useful Verses (Picador, £9.99) even look like? Richard Osmond has an idea. A forager by trade, he begins his playful, self-critiquing debut with “Useful Verses for Distinguishing Cow Parsley from Poison Hemlock” – a poem that might save your life – nestled among medieval charms, internet clickbait and a note for the council about Japanese knotweed.

Read the complete article: The Telegraph’s best poetry books of 2017


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Be sure to see “Duty Calls” this Friday – a staged reading of a play by Anne Fletcher, directed by John Wright

Duty Calls 2017.indd

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November 8, 2017 · 7:29 am


October-NovemberHart Crane

With crimson feathers whips away the mists,—
Dives through the filter of trellises
And gilds the silver on the blotched arbor-seats.
Now gold and purple scintillate
On trees that seem dancing
In delirium;
Then the moon
In a mad orange flare
Floods the grape-hung night.
Please check the SCHEDULE PAGE for our revised
program for 2018. As always, this schedule remains
flexible, and may be modified according to consensus.

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Expanded Topic for October 26th

Because we’ve had a very lean response to repeated requests for submissions for October 26th, we’ve decided to expand the topic to include poems that have inspired music, or vice-versa. Below is an example: “The Lark Ascending” by George Meredith, which encouraged Ralph Vaughan Williams to write a beautiful piece of music with the same name.
Graeme Hughes has selected this poem as his choice to read on October 26th.
Lark_Ascending“The Lark Ascending”
by George Meredith

He rises and begins to round,

He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;
A press of hurried notes that run
So fleet they scarce are more than one,
Yet changingly the trills repeat
And linger ringing while they fleet,
Sweet to the quick o’ the ear, and dear
To her beyond the handmaid ear,
Who sits beside our inner springs,
Too often dry for this he brings,

Read the complete poem
Listen to “The Lark Ascending” by George Meredith read by Winston Tharp
Listen to Hilary Hahn perform “The Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughan Williams
On October 26th please bring your own favourite examples – whether on the original or expanded topic – and, preferably, post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.
See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.


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Today’s Birthday: Robert Bringhurst

Robert BringhurstRobert Bringhurst was born October 16, 1946, in the ghetto of South Central Los Angeles. He was the only child of a migratory family, raised in the mountain and desert country of Alberta, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and British Columbia. He spent ten years as an itinerant undergraduate, studying physics, architecture and linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, philosophy and oriental languages at the University of Utah, and comparative literature at Indiana University, which gave him a BA in 1973. He had published two books of poems before entering the writing program at the University of British Columbia, which awarded him an MFA in 1975.
From 1977 to 1980 he taught writing and English literature at UBC, and for some years after that made his living as a typographer. He has also been poet-in-residence and writer-in-residence at several universities in North America and Europe.
He has lived in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, France, Peru, Panama and Japan, as well as the UK, the USA and Canada, and has published translations from Arabic, Greek, French, Italian, Spanish, Navajo and Haida. Since 1985, his linguistic work has concentrated increasingly on Native American languages, especially those of the British Columbia coast.
Bringhurst is first and foremost a poet, but he has published a substantial quantity of prose, invading the domains of art history, typography, linguistics, classical studies and literary criticism, without the least sign of respect for disciplinary boundaries. His book The Elements of Typographic Style (2nd ed., 1996) is now a standard text in its field. His Black Canoe (2nd ed., 1992) is one of the classics in the field of Native American art history, and The Raven Steals the Light, which he cowrote with Haida artist Bill Reid (reissued in 1996 with a new preface by Claude Lévi-Strauss) is among the most popular books in Canada in the field of Native Studies.

(Source: The Canadian Literature Archive)

See also: Selected Poems by Robert Bringhurst.
On October 26th, 2017 from 5:00 PM  – 6:30 PM, at the Coach House, Green College, UBC, 6201 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, Robert Bringhurst and his wife, Canadian poet Jan Zwicky, will present THE SHAPE OF THE WORLD: POETRY AND ECOLOGY.  See the EVENTS PAGE for details.

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Bill Evans: “Alone”

By Jan Zwicky

Bill Evans AloneSound that makes night fall around it

Like the glow from a reading lamp.
Rain on the roof, straight down.

The name of your name

Spoken without another’s.
Rubato is a hand

You thought indifferent

Laid, briefest of moments,

On your sleeve.
It walks away, then,

That sound, without looking back.

Lights up a Lucky. Says
We hadn’t the ghost of a chance, says never

Let me go.
Listen to the complete Bill Evans album, “Alone”
Please note that we have tentatively scheduled musically inspired “Ekphrastic” poetry for June 28, 2018.
On October 26th, 2017 from 5:00 PM  – 6:30 PM, at the Coach House, Green College, UBC, 6201 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, Jan Zwicky and her husband, Canadian poet Robert Bringhurst, will present THE SHAPE OF THE WORLD: POETRY AND ECOLOGY.  See the EVENTS PAGE for details.

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Can Poetry Change Your Life?

Why we are so defensive about the art form’s value.

By Louis Menand

Can Poetry Change Your LifeThe first eight pages of Michael Robbins’s new book, Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music (Simon & Schuster), make reference to Annie Dillard, Harold Bloom, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Kenneth Burke, Geoffrey Hill, Kenneth Koch, Adam Phillips, Frank O’Hara, Emerson, Boethius, Nietzsche, Freud, and Miley Cyrus. The book is a collection of mostly previously published pieces, some on poetry, some on pop music, some on both, written, as the names suggest, in a critical style that could be called advanced pop.
Advanced-pop criticism would be criticism premised on the belief that you can talk about cultural goods loved uncritically by millions in terms originally developed to talk about cultural goods known mainly to an overeducated few. Advanced pop is Boethius and Springsteen, Artaud and the Ramones, and it yields sentences like “I assume that what Burke”—the literary theorist Kenneth Burke—“says about poetry applies, mutatis mutandis, to the songs of Def Leppard.” It’s erudite but caj, geeky and hip, alienated and savvy—on the inside of the outside. Another word for the attitude might be “Brooklyn,” which is indeed where, as an author’s bio unnecessarily informs us, Michael Robbins lives.

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We will be reading and discussing “The Poetry in Popular Music” on October 26. Please bring your own favourite examples and post them first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly.

See the SCHEDULE PAGE for submissions to-date.

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Announcing the 2017 American Poets Prizes Winners

Announcing the 2017 AmericanLaunched in 1936, the annual American Poets Prizes are among the most generous prizes for poets in the United States. This year, the Academy of American Poets has given over $200,000 to poets at various stages of their careers. 

See the complete list of winners

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The Glove Compartment

By Douglas Dunn

Douglas DunnAfter her stroke, hers was the first to go.
It sat for two years in their garage, though,
All through the months of her recovery,
Though that was far from full.  Vocabulary
Re-emerged, but slowly.  So he retired
A few years earlier than anticipated.
He couldn’t leave it all to the nurse he’d hired;
She said he shouldn’t, but that’s what he did.
‘Please, sell my car.  I’ll never drive again.’
It seemed as final as a sung Amen.
He knew it must happen, but didn’t know when.
When he opened her glove compartment
He found small change, lip salve, tissues, receipts
From shops and filling stations, peppermint,
An ice-scraper, lipstick, and boiled sweets,
Two tickets for a play at Dundee Rep
(Unused), all sorts of trivial stuff.
He shoved them in bag.  Sat back and wept.
There’s love in the world. But never enough.

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The Invisible Poems Hidden in One of the World’s Oldest Libraries

A new technique is revealing traces of lost languages that have been erased from ancient parchments.
The Invisible Poems HiddenFor centuries they have gathered dust on the shelves of a library marooned in a rocky patch of Egyptian desert, their secrets lost in time. But now a collection of enigmatic manuscripts, carefully stored behind the walls of a 1,500-year-old monastery on the Sinai Peninsula, are giving up their treasures.

The library at Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest continually operating library in the world. Among its thousands of ancient parchments are at least 160 palimpsests—manuscripts that bear faint scratches and flecks of ink beneath more recent writing. These illegible marks are the only clues to words that were scraped away by the monastery’s monks between the 8th and 12th centuries to reuse the parchments. Some were written in long-lost languages that have almost entirely vanished from the historical record.
But now these erased passages are reemerging from the past. In an unlikely collaboration between an Orthodox wing of the Christian faith and cutting-edge science, a small group of international researchers are using specialized imaging techniques that photograph the parchments with different colors of light from multiple angles. This technology allows the researchers to read the original texts for the first time since they were wiped away, revealing lost ancient poems and early religious texts and doubling the known vocabulary of languages that have not been used for more than 1,000 years.
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