Category Archives: News

9 Books of Poems That Prove 2018 Was a Fantastic Year — at Least for Poetry

By Meghan O’Rourke

9 books of poemsAmerican poetry is having a renaissance — or something like it: Whatever you call the moment we’re in, poetry feels newly invigorated by a potent diversity of voices, rendered with extreme stylistic range on the page. The following, in order of their release, are some of the books I was thankful to have as company — some of the books I needed to read — in 2018. There are others, of course, but each of these remarkable books offers a respite as this long, strange year comes to a close. Each invites us to slow down, to linger on thoughts that unfurl against an expressive white space, and each is a quiet protest against easy truths and alternative facts. These are poets, in other words, who have made silence speak. They have written beautiful books, yes; but also powerful books — of resistance, of voices finally unleashed, of loss, of possibility.

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Poets We Lost in 2018

Poets We Lost in 2018Listen to the podcast from The Poetry Foundation:

Remembering and listening to those who died this year.

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Remembering W. H. Auden

From 1975: “There was nothing more admirable in Auden than his complete sanity and his firm belief in sanity; in his eyes all kinds of madness were lack of discipline.”

By Hannah Arendt

Auden-4I met Auden late in his life and mine—at an age when the easy, knowledgeable intimacy of friendships formed in one’s youth can no longer be attained, because not enough life is left, or expected to be left, to share with another. Thus, we were very good friends but not intimate friends. Moreover, there was a reserve in him that discouraged familiarity—not that I tested it, ever. I rather gladly respected it as the necessary secretiveness of the great poet, one who must have taught himself early not to talk in prose, loosely and at random, of things that he knew how to say much more satisfactorily in the condensed concentration of poetry. Reticence may be the déformation professionnelle of the poet. In Auden’s case, this seemed all the more likely because much of his work, in utter simplicity, arose out of the spoken word, out of idioms of everyday language—like “Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm.” This kind of perfection is very rare; we find it in some of the greatest of Goethe’s poems, and it must exist in most of Pushkin’s works, because their hallmark is that they are untranslatable. The moment poems of this kind are wrenched from their original abode, they disappear in a cloud of banality. Here all depends on the “fluent gestures” in “elevating facts from the prosaic to the poetic”—a point that the critic Clive James stressed in his essay on Auden in Commentary in December, 1973. Where such fluency is achieved, we are magically convinced that everyday speech is latently poetic, and, taught by the poets, our ears open up to the true mysteries of language. The very untranslatability of one of Auden’s poems is what, many years ago, convinced me of his greatness. Three German translators had tried their luck and killed mercilessly one of my favorite poems, “If I Could Tell You” (“Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957”), which arises naturally from two colloquial idioms—“Time will tell” and “I told you so”:
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Time will say nothing but I told you so.

Time only knows the price we have to pay;

If I could tell you I would let you know.

If we should weep when clowns put on their show,

If we should stumble when musicians play,

Time will say nothing but I told you so. . . .

The winds must come from somewhere when they blow,

There must be reasons why the leaves decay;

Time will say nothing but I told you so. . . .

Suppose the lions all get up and go,

And all the brooks and soldiers run away;

Will Time say nothing but I told you so?

If I could tell you I would let you know.

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THE MOST ANTHOLOGIZED POEMS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS A LIST OF LISTS FEATURING A LOT OF POETS

By Emily Temple

THE MOST ANTHOLOGIZED POEMSRecently, I spent a few days searching through the contents of short fiction anthologies to figure out the most frequently anthologized short stories of the recent past. The results were useful, and one commenter on that post suggested that it would be interesting to do the same thing with poetry—I agreed, and set myself the task.
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To figure it out, I used the same essential methodology as I did for the short stories: I looked at the tables of contents for 20 anthologies of poetry published between 1992 and 2016 (you can see the full list of anthologies I surveyed at the bottom of the page) and added them all up. My aim was to see what has been included in “general” poetry anthologies for English-speaking readers, so I looked at anthologies that collected international, American, and English-language poems, and I accepted all time periods, but did not allow for any segmentation or specialization otherwise.
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I make no claim to having gotten to every anthology that fits those parameters, of course—consider this a representative sample. Even so, the amount of data I wound up processing was enormous. Poetry anthologies have way more entries in them than short story anthologies, and are sometimes thousands of pages long. I knew this already, of course, but now I know it with my whole body, from shriveled eyes to laptop-burned thighs to cramped feet. But in the end, I got there. I counted all the poems.

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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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