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News Articles, with Rus Bowden

4/27/2004


"Since in the U.S., the worse you write the better your chances of survival, it stands to reason that poets would be the youngest to die," he [Franz Wright] said, reading his statement. "Perhaps they're more delicious and succulent than other writers."

He paused, then, not reading, went on:

"I know lots of poets who've had normal, productive lives. It's a little insulting. Poets do suffer. Writers do suffer. Our culture does not value poetry, and it drives poets crazy. But you take your chances."

from The New York Times: Going Early Into That Good Night



One of the things [William] Cowper gained from his friendship with the ex-seafarer [John] Newton was a propensity for describing the spiritual life using nautical imagery. Though Newton's hymns about sailing through tempests always ended with the certainty that Jesus would pilot him safely home, Cowper's were more tentative and self-accusatory, pleading for mercy and clinging to hope as to an unseen anchor:

Amidst the roaring of the sea,
My soul still hangs her hopes on thee;
Thy constant love, thy faithful care,
Is all that saves me from despair.

from Christianity Today: The Captain & the Castaway



Here is the final (and most celebratory) installment, Emily Dickinson's proposition that the poet is mortal, while the poem is not, if it is vital. She also seems to say that each age widens or disseminates the light of a poem in a different way.

from Slate: "#883" by Emily Dickinson



Take, for example, a potent concatenation of poetic talent assembled over a dinner table, in Kensington, in May 1960. Present were Mr and Mrs TS Eliot, Mr and Mrs Stephen Spender, Mr and Mrs Ted Hughes. The least luminous in that company, Mrs Hughes, would - eventually - outshine them all (something unsuspected by the company - including herself).

from Guardian: When Stephen met Sylvia



If space allowed, we could do this at length. Rather, let's go to the first lines of Part II of the Sonnets [by Rainer Maria Rilke]: Stiller Freund de vielen Fernen, fühle / wie dein Atem noch den Raum vermehrt.

[Stephen] Mitchell:

Silent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.

[C.F.] MacIntyre:

Still friend of many distances, feel yet
how your breath is augmenting space.

[A.] Poulin [Jr.]:

Silent friend of many distances,
feel how your breath is still expanding space.

[Edward] Snow:

Silent friend of the many distances,
feel how your breath enlarges space.

from Houston Chronicle: Rilke brought to light



The poem does not villainize or demonize the South, then, only slavery itself. Indeed, it portrays both North and South as equally "victims" of the evil:

"God lifts to-day the veil, and shows The features of the demon! O North and South, Its victims both, Can ye not cry, 'Let slavery die!' And union find in freedom?" [--John Greenleaf Whittier]

The problem, of course, is that abolishing slavery was not the cause for which the Union soldiers believed they were fighting at the beginning of the war.

from National Review: Whittier?s War: When poetry had power



He [Martin Espada] recalled his father, a Puerto Rican native serving in the U.S. military, was arrested in Mississippi in 1949 for refusing to move to the back of a public bus.

"I grew up in a household where politics were part of the air. When I first became interested in poetry, it made sense to think of justice in poetical terms," said Espada.

Espada said he writes "bilingually," sometimes using Spanish words in his poetry for different reasons.

from Framingham Metro West Daily News: A poet of the people



Poetry competitions (many of them, in fact, insisting that poems be no longer than 40 lines) and magazine representations of poetry, pressed for space, also emphasise the lyric. If you can't get your message across clearly, briefly and swiftly, you can forget it. And so the poem approaches the soundbite, under the logic of capitalism.

It is not that some of these poems aren't good; simply that something is lost. The long poem, or the poem sequence, or the unified collection, in which ideas and associations can play out and against each other, cannot be represented by excerpts.

from Guardian: Concentration, not consolation



"You don't have to absolutely, thoroughly, cognitively grasp a poem to be fascinated by it. When I was a little boy, already madly in love with William Blake and Hart Crane, I couldn't possibly have understood what I was reading. There is certainly some layer of understanding that is nonrational. And for the common reader, allusiveness registers as a riddling, enigmatic element: a richness of impact that troubles us, even as we can't quite locate where that trouble is from." [Harold Bloom]

from Newsday: Harold Bloom Poetic Connoisseur



Yet it is here [in Timbuktu] that some of the most astonishing developments in African intellectual history have been occurring. In recent years, thousands of medieval manuscripts that include poetry by women, legal reflections and innovative scientific treatises have come to light, reshaping ideas about African and Islamic civilizations. Yet even as this cache is being discovered, it is in danger of disappearing, as sand and other grit are abrading many of the aging texts, causing them to disintegrate.

from The New York Times: When Timbuktu Was the Paris of Islamic Intellectuals in Africa



4/20/2004


Fourteen Nobel Literature Laureates are joining Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic and renowned playwright, and Jiri Grusa, acclaimed Czech writer and President of International PEN, to urge Senior General Than Shwe of the Burmese Military Junta to immediately release Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other imprisoned Burmese writers.

from Scoop: Release of Imprisoned Burmese Writers Called For



For the story, the poem, the play, are what the lives, the temperaments, the personal commitments making rightful demands against the rightful, urgent demands of public action for freedom; how these demands were lived by individuals, how their destiny of justice and freedom led to the crisis of confrontation, and how those who survived the terrible events and their consequences, continued to affirm life and live, indomitably.

from Independent.co.uk: Nadine Gordimer: Ten years after apartheid, we are forging a new history



"I want to experiment new ways of writing and all other Iraqi authors should do so too, now that we are free from Saddam Hussein's control," said [Hamid al-]Mukhtar, who has been heading the Union of Iraqi Authors since the fall of the regime last year.

The lack of freedom of speech under Saddam took its toll on many Iraqi writers and poets, who were compelled to resort to vague language to escape the regime's brutal punishment and the censors' strict limitations.

from The Daily Star: Iraqi writers, intellectuals tell of fear, censorship under Saddam



[Osip] Mandelstam's 1933 act of defiance in composing a satirical epigram about Stalin cast a long shadow over the poet's last years and the life of his closest acquaintances. [Emma] Gerstein's irreverent, affectionate portrait of the poet prepares the reader for a significantly different interpretation of that subversive work and its consequences. For what she describes above all in her recollection of the Stalin epigram is not a resolute and solemn opponent of tyranny, but first and foremost a poet exhilarated by a successful composition--with the fateful consequence (for himself and others) that, despite his own warnings, he could not resist sharing his new work with more and more listeners.

from Guardian: Witness to the persecution



Tagore was expected to accept the homage with customary complaisance.

Instead, he began his speech at the public reception by saying:

"It is not in my power, to accept without diffidence, and in its entirety, the honour you have come here to bestow upon me in the name of the country as a whole. The calumnies and insults from the hands of countrymen which have fallen to my lot have not been trifling. Till now I have borne all that in silence. In such circumstances, I am unable myself to understand fully as yet how I have come to obtain this honour from abroad."

from Outlook India: The Poet And The Prize



Breyten Breytenbach survived apartheid, but is palpably uncomfortable with the New South Africa. His mouth moves furiously and his eyes open wide when he speaks of his beloved homeland. "Cowardice should be a human right," he quotes East Germany's Heinrich Mèller. "Expectations are so high of ourselves and other people," Breytenbach explains. His expression is sleepy, soulful and seductive, and he speaks in soft tones. "[Such high expectations] become a form of moral intolerance of ordinary human beings, a form of tyranny."

from Al-Ahrham Weekly: Even the flies are happy



"Poetry of a serious nature like that cannot, I don't think, change a political situation. Either political action or some form of other action, violent it may be, from one side or the other, from the top or the bottom, that's what changes things, or democratic political government decisions."

However, he [Seamus Heaney] insists on the power poetry and other forms of art can have at the personal level.

from This Week News: Heaney: Power of poetry lies in effect on individual



That frank, self-critical tone marks a major shift for Poetry--circulation 11,000--which is trying to attract a wider, more general audience to the magazine and the art form. The famous $100 million gift from heiress Ruth Lilly in 2002 vaulted the magazine into the public imagination briefly. But now [Christian] Wiman and his colleagues at the Poetry Foundation, the magazine's publisher, must turn all that attention--and all that money--into something deeper and more lasting. If he succeeds, he'll have found the genre's holy grail and become the most unexpected of heroes.

from The Christian Science Monitor: Changing the landscape of verse



It makes quite a bit of a difference when you find out what the collected editions of [WH] Auden's works suppress: that the poem "Victor" (about a religious murderer) was originally to be sung to the tune of "Frankie and Johnny", or when you learn that "James Honeyman" (about a scientist inventor of poison gas) was set to the tune of "Stagolee". Singing these poems to those tunes makes a kind of jaunty blasphemy against the awfulness of their subjects.

from Guardian: Musical truth



The love poems were likely set to music and used events from daily life and the natural world—growing grain, capturing birds, fishing along the Nile—as metaphors to talk about love.

The Crossing (Excerpt)

I'll go down to the water with you,
and come out to you carrying a red fish,
which is just right in my fingers.

(Translated by M. Fox)

from National Geographic: Ancient Egyptian Love Poems Reveal a Lust for Life



4/13/2004


Unlike most Australian literary developments, the Ern Malley hoax made international headlines when it was sprung in June 1944—not a slow news period. Two Sydney-based poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, had whiled away a weekend in 1943 by creating the complete life work of a nonexistent poet to whom they gave an identity, replete with birth and death dates and a surviving sister credited with having discovered the poet's manuscript.

from Tin House: Lost & Found: Ern Malley, the Genuine Fake



For the present, however, the appointment of the Scots Makar, the historic literary post bestowed upon Edwin Morgan, one of Scotland's greatest writers, has been derided as a Scottish Executive publicity stunt.

Figures from the arts community yesterday criticised Jack McConnell's treatment of 83-year-old Morgan since naming him Scotland's official national poet earlier this year.

from The Herald: Writers attack ‘publicity stunt’ over national poet



Mark Doty, a poet who lives in New York City and Provincetown, was the English department's top choice for the Rattigan Professorship, but he said that department members told him that his selection "had been undercut" by [Rev. William] Leahy and that the chair would not be filled.

"The final candidates were gay men, and I was told that this was an issue," Doty said. "The process has imploded."

from The Boston Globe: BC seen rejecting 2 gay men for post



"The more we keep students in the dark, the more it makes Fran look guilty," [Mindy] Gutowski said.

She said she could not understand how the student who filed the charge could "misinterpret someone who has meant so much" to her.

Brian Dunn, a senior English major whose name also appeared on the letter, countered the charge of harassment by stating that [Fran] Quinn "creates an energy by using language and making jokes."

from Dawgnet: Sexual harassment charge against Fran Quinn burdens English Department



Every poet interviewed for this piece-all of whom conceded that the notion of a National Poetry Month was at least a little silly-emphasized both time and timelessness when explaining why poetry matters. “Imagine that you lived in a culture where there had never been a re-creation in powerful words of life of the past, of feeling,? says Helen Vendler, a poetry scholar at Harvard University. “You would be living in what [Wallace] Stevens called a landscape of the dead, where no one had ever lived before you . . . What would it be like to live in such a culture??

from MSNBC: The Cruelest (and Coolest) Month



The great American cultural blender once produced whole art forms, such as Broadway musicals and jazz, that might well be described as a blend of the two. But nowadays, that gap is so wide that I'm not even sure the old descriptions of the various forms of "culture"--highbrow, middlebrow, popular--even make sense any more. Does Edward P. Jones, the Washingtonian whose eloquent novel, "The Known World," won a Pulitzer Prize this week, even inhabit the same universe as MTV? Does anybody who reads one watch the other?

from The Washington Post: The Literary Divide



The clerk, Robert W. Service, who would later become famous as "The Bard of the Yukon," went for a long walk that night, and lines began forming in his head:

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights
But the queerest they ever did see
Was the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

When he got back to his room (he lived above the tellers' cages in the bank), he scribbled out 15 verses. "The Cremation of Sam McGee" became one of Mr. Service's most famous poems.

from The Dallas Morning News: Poet known as 'Bard of Yukon' remembered for Gold Rush ditty



Adrian Mariscal, 7, is a runner-up out of thousands of entries for his poem titled "Juanito's Tree." The entry is based on a tree planted in the memory of his late brother.

"Yesterday we visited my brother's tree. They planted it when he died. I was a baby and the tree was a baby too. It reached my belly button. Now it is taller than my head. Now the leaves shine orange and red. The orange leaves, like my hair, are Juanito saying hello," Adrian wrote.

from Tahoe Daily Tribune: National acclaim for young poet



[Franz] Wright said his father gave invaluable personal and poetic support.

"My father helped me a great deal when I was a teenager and a young man, simply by taking me seriously, which he always did. His best advice to me was to give up the notion of writing a masterpiece every day -- and all the guilt the inevitable failure to do so involves -- and to simply try to write a single clear line in a notebook every day," he said.

from Daily News Transcript: In father's footsteps: Waltham's Franz Wright is second in his family to be awarded Pulitzer Prize for poetry



As the American poet and philosopher George Santayana said, “The stuff of language is words, and the sensuous material of words is sound; if language therefore is to be made perfect, its materials must be made beautiful by being themselves subjected to a measure, and endowed with a form . . . The tongue will choose those forms of utterance which have a natural grace as mere sound and sensation; the memory will retain these catches, and they will pass and repass through the mind until they become types of instinctive speech and standards of pleasing expression.?

from The Manilla Times: Aiming for euphony in our prose


4/6/2004


Franz Wright, who was born in 1953 in Vienna, won for "Walking to Martha's Vineyard."

Wright of Waltham was a Pulitzer finalist in 2002 for his collection, "The Before Life." He has captured a host of awards for earlier works, including the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry.

"I wish my father could share this moment with me," said Wright, whose father, the late James Wright, won a Pulitzer in 1972 for "Collected Poems."

from Milford Daily News: Waltham man wins Pulitzer



Here to begin the month is Burton Watson's elegant translation of the 11th-century Chinese poet Su Tung-p'o. Su Tung-p'o has been reading some poetry that is not very good. His crisp poem about mediocre poetry reminds us that a lot of poetry is stupid and tedious and that the art survives that, too.

from Slate: Reading the Poetry of Meng Chao



"The people who are closest to me in religion are those that acknowledge doubt. I've never understood people who accept what they're told. Writing is a kind of questing, and religious belief is also a kind of questing. When I started writing in 1988, I thought it was magic." [Carl Phillips]

from St. Louis Post-Dispatch: 'Rock star' poet



"The poet -- when he is writing -- is a priest," she [Denise Levertov] once said, "the poem is a temple; epiphanies and communion take place within it." She donned the priestly robes often, because in the years after her emigration to the United States until her death in 1997 Levertov published more than 20 books of poetry, in addition to books of essays and translations.

from The Oregonian: Levertov's works stand as lessons in the evolution of American verse



Baudelaire's self-image, and by extension the conception of him held by many of his biographers, centers on the idea that he is an exceptional case, a genius who cannot be held to prosaic standards of behavior and character. ''An addict is an addict,'' thumps Hilton in response. Baudelaire's other biographers are, he implies, posthumous enablers, buying into the poet's personal myths, which are little more than the usual excuses cherished by every junkie: fantasies of persecution and bad luck, self-pity and the perpetual promise of reform, which, of course, never pans out.

from New York Times: High Times



For, in seeking to express his feelings for the woman he called Laura, Francesco Petrarch gave definitive form to the sonnet and established himself as the first modern, western poet.

Now, it seems, he has lost his head for a second time.

from Guardian: Petrarch - the poet who lost his head



Today, in contrast, it's difficult to imagine a poem having such a widespread impact. A song, a movie -- perhaps. But a poem? In the preface, Raskin reminisces about buying his first copy of "Howl" as a teenager, recalling how it "conferred a strange power. Reading it brought initiation into a secret society. It bound us together and gave us a sense of identity as members of a new generation that had come of age in the wake of World War II and the atomic bomb."

from San Francisco Chronicle: The 'Howl' heard round the world



Here is part of [Jennifer Frank's] "Instigate":

"Inside a longing takes hold. As a child,/
I wondered if the seeds I accidentally/
swallowed would start to grow. Roots/
running alongside veins, and a pumpkin/
filling my belly. My spine a sunflower/
stalk that fills my head with its mighty/
bloom and the dry rattle of seeds."

"Instigate" instigated [Becky] Holtzman's mixed-media work "Conversion: Seed Dreams" in which she imagined the human body as a plant.

from Albuquerque Journal: Poet, Artist Exchange Results in 'Cross-Pollination'



"We have a greater obligation to reach our audience in every way possible about the need to care for the world's wildlife," said Dr. Daniel C. Wharton, the zoo's director. "We think poetry has a role in there. The 19th-century poets had a role in igniting the environmental movement in the first place."

Armed with a $90,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency in Washington, Dr. Wharton and the Poets House set out to find a poet with enough love for flora, fauna and verse to help bring the vision to life.

from New York Times: A Poem Lovely as a Tree Frog? A Zoo Hunts for Verse



[Billy] Collins, who called boredom his "muse" and "the mother of creativity" on "60 Minutes" last July, may be the subject's leading contemporary bard. In his choice poem "The Lanyard," he finds himself "ricocheting slowly off the blue walls of this room." Sprung into action by that paradoxically dynamic image of boredom's stasis, he pages through a dictionary and comes upon the word "lanyard."

from San Francisco Chronicle: We try our best to avoid it, but boredom has its benefits. Today, it's a lost art form.


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