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News Articles, with Rus Bowden

5/25/2004


There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living. All great enterprises are self-supporting. The poet, for instance, must sustain his body by his poetry, as a steam planing-mill feeds its boilers with the shavings it makes. [Henry David Thoreau]

from Daily Times: Purple Patch: Life Without Principle --Henry David Thoreau



Soon, however, [Rana al-]Khatib found her self unsatisfied with working in academia. After the second intifada began in 2000, the Palestinian woman said she "literally felt like my wheels were coming off. I wasn't going to accomplish anything in business, and I couldn't bear to see how the US was being eaten by ignorance."

So, taking what would prove to be a life-altering decision, Khatib quit her job in August 2001, sat in her backyard and poured out poem after poem. "I think poetry chose me. When I first started, I wrote 'Behind the Crosshairs,' for the Israeli soldier, and I felt like I still hadn't said enough so I kept going. I didn't even realize I was writing poetry; I just needed to release my feelings of angst."

from The Daily Star: Palestinian-American poet pushes back against the views of her adopted country



[Charles Bukowski] worked at the post office--first as a carrier and later as a clerk--for 14 years. Out of this experience he wrote the novel "Post Office," the quintessential description of life in a soul-strangling bureaucracy. (Coincidentally, it was here that Bukowski worked next to Grace Washington, the sister of another famous outsider, Charles Mingus.)

In 1970, Bukowski resigned to pursue a full-time writing career. While this transition terrified him at the time, he worked tirelessly, and within five years was able to make a solid living from his writing.

from Los Angeles Times: The Bukowski tour



I reread The Country Without a Post Office recently and it reminded me what a strong and vibrant poet [Agha Shahid ] Ali was. These poems are a poignant and nostalgic evocation of his lost homeland particularly in the tragic era of events when the troubles began in Kashmir. A haunting volume it establishes this Kashmiri-American poet as a very important poetic contributor to the body of work in English by South Asians.

In this book he focuses on the tragedy of his homeland which has been devastated by the internal strife wrought on the land with "mass rapes in the villages/towns left in cinders". Ali finds that contemporary history has forced him to return not as a tourist as he would have liked, but as a witness to the savagery visited upon Kashmir since the 1990 uprising against Indian rule. Amid rain and fire and ruin, in a land of "doomed addresses", Ali evokes the tragedy of his birthplace.

from The Daily Star: Agha Shahid Ali



"Five minutes after the air raid" [by Miroslav Holub] is a good example. It begins with the plainest of physical descriptions:

"In Pilsen,
twenty-six Station Road,
she climbed to the third floor
up stairs which were all that was left
of the whole house,

she opened the door
full on to the sky,
stood gaping over the edge."

from The Guardian: Climbing to the edge of the abyss



On May 27, that court will consider whether a 14-year-old high school student, George T., in San Jose, was properly convicted of making criminal threats by distributing a poem to classmates. (The student lost on appeal.)

"This case is really important," says David Greene, executive director of the First Amendment Project, which is based in Oakland. "We want to call attention to the frequency with which these instances are arising, not just in California and not just locally."

from San Francisco Chronicle: 'Fighting Words' to honor the First Amendment



Right now, [Dan] O'Neill is at work on another book of literary nonfiction about the entwined natural and human history of the upper Yukon River. O'Neill takes a canoe trip from Dawson to Circle, with frequent stops at camps, ruins and natural landmarks to discover the people who used to live there. He chronicles how they came into the country, why they stayed and why they left.

from Anchorage Daily News: Poetry is preferred by author Dan O'Neill



The poem [by Michael Longley] has enough courage to expose itself to the irony, though it ends by translating this into its own terms:

"Good poems are as comfortlessly constructed,
Each sod handled how many times. Michael, your
Poems endure the downpour like the skylark's
Chilly hallelujah, the robin's autumn song".

"Comfortlessly" is important: its opposite may be the comforted (like the ideal audience for an elegy), or it may be the merely comfortable (like the writer at home in his environment and medium). Somehow, the idea of the comfortless sits awkwardly beside a compliment, even one paid with this degree of memorable elegance.

from The Guardian: Cold comfort



"Koo Sang was never a dissident, but he never let himself be compromised, either," Brother Anthony commented in an interview with The Korea Times. "He was a major religious poet of great originality and utter personal integrity."

Early on in his literary career, Koo's poems were influenced by the rhetorical style of Western romantic poets. However, he later realized a clearer, metaphysical vision of reality is necessary for good poetry.

from The Korea Times: Even the Knots on Quince Trees: Poems by Koo Sang



In the early 1930s, [George David] Birkhoff spent a year traveling around the world studying art, music, and poetry in various countries. He came up with a formula that encapsulated his insights into aesthetic value and described his theory in a 1933 book, Aesthetic Measure, published by Harvard University Press.

At the core of his theory was a formula: M = O/C, where M is aesthetic measure or value, O is aesthetic order, and C is complexity. In other words, Birkhoff put a high aesthetic value on orderliness and a low one on complexity. In his view, beauty increases as complexity decreases.

from The Mathematical Association of America: A Measure of Beauty



5/18/2004


To Herodotus, whose apocryphal life of the poet underpins every subsequent version, his real name was Melesigenes. He came from Aeolia. And he was blind.

It is with the identification of this seer-like attribute, that the 'myth' of Homer takes wing. As a young man, apparently, Melesigenes was a prodigy who dazzled his audiences with his fabled recitations. In due course, he was taken up by rich patrons from the island of Chios and set up a poetry school there, establishing a bardic tradition known as the 'Homeridae'.

from The Observer: Best teller



"Even if the land of Wilussa has seceded from the land of the Hattusa [as the Hittites called themselves], close ties of friendship were maintained . . . with the kings of the land," wrote a Hittite king to the ruler of Wilussa in a treaty. So here is a bone of contention between the Mycenaeans and their rivals, sitting approximately where Troy sits today. This history sounds more specifically Homeric, says Joachim Latacz, a classics scholar from the University of Basel, when one considers Homer's name for Troy in The Iliad was "Ilios." Bronze Age Greeks would have pronounced it "Wilios." And that's just too close to Wilussa for coincidence. Add to that a Bronze Age seal, inscribed in a Hittite language, found in Troy, and "it's likely, though not completely certain," says Rose, "that Troy was Wilussa."

from U.S. News & World Report: The Real Trojan War: Digging up clues to the truth behind the myth



[Professor Zachary Leader] said the verse, provisionally entitled Things Tell Less and Less, had "a more powerful directness and despair, unmediated by humour" than his [Kingsley Amis'] other poems.

Evidence suggests it was written in the late 1970s when Amis was nearing 60. As a view of late middle age, it emerges as a startling companion poem to his friend Philip Larkin's desolate poem Aubade, written in the same period.

from The Guardian: Newly discovered poem reveals unguarded Amis



The Nigerian Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka has vowed to launch new anti-government protests after being tear-gassed and arrested by police in Lagos at the weekend.

"I was out with others to protest against the increasing dictatorship in this country," Mr Soyinka said after his release on Saturday.

from The Guardian: Soyinka promises more protests after his arrest



I hadn't come across anything like it before, except perhaps in Rilke, and, in a curious way, Emily Dickinson, who too was capable of compressing explosive forces into apparently miniature works. One complete section from Nemes Nagy's sequence Journal , "Before the Mirror", might illustrate this: "You take your face and slowly remove the paint, / But would remove the face that fate assigned you, / You wait for the armchair to rise and with a faint / Gesture of boredom to appear behind you."

from The Guardian: The crystal maze



After more than 30 years, memories of this time would provoke a breakdown. He [Les Murray] wrote explicitly about the experience only much later, especially in Subhuman Redneck Poems (1996), linking the schoolyard bullying with all forms of mob mentality and persecution, right up to fascism:

"Sex is a Nazi. The students all knew
this at your school. To it, everyone's subhuman
for parts of their lives. Some are all their lives.
You'll be one of those if these things worry you."

"Essentially my politics come from that--I will not be bullied . . . chased around and managed by applied fashion," he says.

from The Guardian: Voice of the outback



This crowd-pleasing approach puts [Carl] Dennis squarely in the middle of the Great Audience Debate, in which the defenders of art for art's sake face off against the marketers of books with titles like ''101 Poems From the Heart.'' Some poets would say that Dennis's method is a good compromise, that his subtle, unpretentious work represents a necessary stage in the art form's quest for new readers.

from The New York Times: 'New and Selected Poems, 1974-2004': Poet on Main Street



Poetry is a formal art, in [Franz] Wright's view, and he approaches it formally. "There is no such thing as free verse," he said, and added, "I don't believe there are poets. There are instruments of poetry. You can make yourself a good instrument, or a crack-demented instrument, and I've been trying to make myself a better instrument of poetry."

from The Boston Globe: Out of the darkness: After battling alcoholism and mental illness, poet Franz Wright has stepped into the light



One of the pleasures of the tanka (as with the haiku) is the surprise that unexpected conjunction offers. And one of the qualities of this verse form is, as the translators inform us, the marking within the poem of a definite change. It may be in time, place, or voice, but it must be there. In this poem of [Fumiko] Nakajo's it occurs on all three levels--time, space, and the voice changing from the one telling her own story to the one expressing her own thoughts.

from The Japan Times: Whispers as loud as shouts



It was around that time that the art of "fiving" came into existence. Instead of having a unit made of two halves, poets started writing poems made of five "halves" with identical metric structures. The first four "halves" rhymed together, and the fifth rhymed with all the other fifth "halves" in the rest of the poem. In other words, while the rhyming scheme of the classical poem was: a, b, c, b, d, b, f, b . . . etc., the rhyming scheme of the "fived" poem became: a, a, a, a, b, c, c, c, c, b, d, d, d, d, b . . . etc.

At first glance this might seem to be an insignificant change in form. Yet, like everything in this tradition, there is more to the desert than sand and more to the sea than water. Poets were now able to quote an entire poem, written 200 years before their time, in their own poems.

from The Daily Star: Splitting halves into 'fives' with poetic license



5/11/2004


[Thom] Gunn began to muse on the natural instinct of the birds and the crowd-compulsion of the bikers, both flocking noisily, and wrote what was to become his best-known poem, “On the Move?:

Much that is natural, to the will must yield.
Men manufacture both machine and soul
And use what they imperfectly control
To dare a future from the taken routes.

For some readers, however, these verses were less about instinct and will than about the thrill of leather, steel and muscle.

from The Economist: Thom Gunn



Stopped upright where I am
Hugging my body to me
As if to shield it from
The pains that will go through me,

As if hands were enough
To hold an avalanche off.

Nothing could hold the avalanche off; but a new understanding of death, a new perception – not so unremittingly hopeless, as before – creeps through.

from openDemocracy: Thom Gunn: holding back the avalanche



In [Emily] Warn's imagination, Elijah's latest appearance carries an aura of showbiz glamour — at least he has earned a Hollywood star. He may be a bit of a cat licking milk, and a bit of a hepcat too; certainly he's a jazz musician, whose words have turned into music, in that heaven known as "jazz's galaxy."

from Forward: Psalm 151



[Helen] Vendler didn't use the usual weasel words of people who make a living celebrating the loveliness of art. She wants to put art first, which is not an argument for art as an adjunct to life, or merely something the well-bred individual has attended to on his résumé, or something with which to end the weary day after toiling at the biotechnology plant. This is an argument for art as the basic, most fundamental, first access to the world.

from The Washington Post: A World That Starts With Art



A few late customers gawk in at us.
We say nothing. Our silence will not be breached.
The lights go off, one by one — the dressing room lights, the mirror lights.
Then it is very late. How late? Eleven?
We move to the gate. It goes up.
The gate's grating checkers our cheeks.
This is the Mall of America.
[--from "The Clerk's Tale" by Spencer Reese]

Ms. [Louise] Glück, writing in the foreword of Mr. Reece's book, describes his poetry as "half cocktail party, half passion play."

"We do not expect virtuosity as the outward form of soul-making," she continues, "nor do we associate generosity and humanity with such sophistication of means, such polished intelligence."

from The New York Times: O, Khaki Pants! O, Navy Blazer!



[Stephen Spender] emerged as a precocious poet in his early twenties: T. S. Eliot, who worked as an editor at Faber and who published his Poems (1933), said in his blurb, "If Auden is the satirist of this poetical renascence Spender is its lyric poet."

Soon his writings were everywhere - reviews, think-pieces, plays, fiction. He was a founding editor of important journals (Horizon, Encounter), UNESCO grandee ("Literary Councillor to the Section of Letters"), he lectured all over the world, attended innumerable international conferences. He was showered with honours - the only foreigner to be appointed Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress (in effect, US poet laureate), and eventually a knighthood.

from Telegraph: Six feet six inches of words



[Mila Haugová] is closer to forms of surrealism, familiar from graphic art, with which central Europe played with its censors. That tradition, of illogical juxtapositions, fantastic creatures and fragmentary fairy-tales, is both deadly serious and playful, a representation of the chaos of the world and a conduit for inventive energy: "Herbs in invisible / growth. The extending / of bodies. Cracking of lamenting / filaments."

It is also, in its use of the third person and turning away from the concrete detail of daily life, resolutely anti-confessional.

All the same, the poems of Haugová's maturity do use the first person: Alpha, the originary woman; Sebastiana - everywoman as martyr; Orfea, in a revisiting of the Orpheus myth which reverses gender roles.

from Guardian: Words in the glass of dusk



Tagore had completed Jiban Sriti, in which he had made... cutting and jocular remarks about English and the English lessons of his childhood, in 1911; the following year he translated the Gitanjali into the language he had once found tedious and ridiculous; in 1913, amazed by the success of the poems, he wrote a letter to his niece Indira Devi, in which we hear a new note of hesitancy regarding the language. Somewhat misleadingly, and with excessive modesty, he declared the tentativeness he had always felt in relation to the English language:

‘You have alluded to the English translation of the Gitanjali. I cannot imagine to this day how people came to like it so much. That I cannot write English is such a patent fact that I never had even the vanity to feel ashamed of it. If anybody wrote an English note asking me for tea, I did not feel equal to answering it. Perhaps you think that by now I have got over that delusion. By no means. That I have written in English seems to be the delusion.’

from The Daily Star: Rabindranath Tagore: The English Gitanjali



[Norman] MacCaig wrote that he hated any man who would call his country "his" and in "Patriot" he reflected that his only country was "six feet high" and that he would die for its independence. (His distaste for ideologies and the discourse of nationalism was the one gulf between him and his great friend Hugh MacDiarmid, and it was one he would never cross.) This could be a terrifyingly solipsistic position going back to "Summer farm", one of his earliest poems, ending with the lines "Self under self in a pile of selves I stand … Lift the farm like a lid and see / farm within farm and in the centre, me." And indeed, you might even expect this self-centred focus since lyric poets, after all, tend to be particularly close to their own inner being.

from Scotsman: Norman rules apply



[Jonathan] Shay recalled a haunting passage in the Iliad, when Achilles mourns the combat death of his best friend, Patroklos:

I could not help my friend in his extremity.
Far from his home he died; he needed me
To shield him or to parry the death stroke.
For me there's no return to my own country.

"War has not changed in 3,000 years," Shay concludes. "There have been technological changes, but there have been no changes to the human mind and heart and soul."

from The Palm Beach Post: The face that launched a thousand ships



5/4/2004


And, in that case, setting became an integral factor, such as Hawthorne and Thoreau's fishing trips up the Concord River that ran under Old North Bridge at the rear of the Emerson-owned property called The Old Manse in Concord, Mass. This is where Emerson wrote his first published essay, "Nature," and where Hawthorne wrote "Mosses from the Old Manse." It was during Thoreau's two year, two month, and two day sojourn on the banks of Walden Pond that he wrote "Walden." And it was in Melville's red barn where he and Hawthorne - as noted in both their diaries - smoked cigars and pondered universal mysteries.

from Ocala Star-Banner: Places of inspiration



Many of these women did not even dare to admit publicly their authorship of these texts. They lived confined in their domestic environment and produced in secret. It is significant that the anthology begins with an "anonymous" woman from Bahia who wrote and published in 1887 a feminist booklet, As Mulheres (Women)--her identity has still not been discovered, but through the text we can see that she was from high society, had married well, had been very well educated, and knew various languages, including Latin.

from Brazzil: Unearthing Brazil's Women Writers



The first book she [Sandra Cisneros] owned was Alice In Wonderland. Its highly stylized storytelling, along with that of other fairy tales, made lasting impressions. "I thought that strange syntax was the language of story books," she says. "I didn't realize those were poor translations... English from Edwardian times... I just knew that they were different [from] the English I heard every day."

from National Public Radio: Intersections: When Languages Collide



Sharon Olds, New York State Poet Laureate from 1998 to 2000, says she started writing early, but it took her years to find her own voice: "I wrote love poems as a child, and a teenager, and in my twenties. All along, I was trying to write like what I thought real writers wrote like -- practicing, imitating -- like a child learning to talk." When she reached 30, she says, she finally started "playing with the rhythms, lines, and subjects that I was actually interested in."

from Newsday: Find your reason to rhyme



[Sam] Hamill believes that it's the poet's responsibility to risk getting his hands dirty. In his view, many modern poets, even famous poets, play it too safe.

He spiced things up early last year after being invited by first lady Laura Bush to a White House poetry symposium. Outraged about the president's call for bombing in Iraq, Hamill organized a Poets Against the War movement. The first lady immediately canceled the symposium. However, that was only the beginning. Within days, anti-war poems were coming into Hamill's Web site at the rate of one per minute.

"It was amazing," he said. "I never imagined that there were that many people out there writing poems."

from Anchorage Daily News: Visiting power poets plan reading



That's what I miss about Jeff [Nuttall]; the shared celebration of the accidentally inappropriate, the patently absurd.

One of my most graphic memories of Jeff was a reading at Rhymney library here in the South Wales valleys. Jeff performed a monologue about a worm called God and I read a factual piece about castrating pigs. Neither was well received. Afterwards we went to find a pub, stomping along, one foot in the gutter, reciting The Hound of Heaven, each amazed that the other knew it by heart.

from openDemocracy: Jeff Nuttall lives!



"The Man With Night Sweats" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 1992) was his [Thom Gunn's] characteristically unsentimental vision of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, and a stark tribute to the friends he lost to it. The poem began:

I wake up cold, I who
Prospered through dreams of heat
Wake to their residue,
Sweat, and a clinging sheet.
My flesh was its own shield:
Where it was gashed, it healed.
I grew as I explored
The body I could trust
Even while I adored
The risk that made robust,
A world of wonders in
Each challenge to the skin.

For that work he was given the Forward Prize for Best Poet of the Year and the Lenore Marshall/Nation Poetry Prize.

from The New York Times: Thom Gunn, 74, Poet Who Left Tradition for the Counterculture, Dies



Animals contained the "deepest earliest language that my imagination learned," [Ted] Hughes once said. Crows, hawks, pikes, owls and snakes populate Hughes' poems from his first book, "Hawk in the Rain" (1957) until his final book, "Birthday Letters (1998). Of British poets, only D.H. Lawrence seems as drawn to animals as Hughes is and for the same reason, for the way that they correspond to human awareness. "Every poem that works," he once said, "is like a metaphor of the whole mind writing, the solution of all the oppositions and imbalances going on at that time. When the mind finds the balance of all those things and projects it, that's a poem."

from The Oregonian: Ted Hughes: portrait of the poet as hawk laureate



Remember him? Born 1910 in Edinburgh; then school, university and back to school again, an OBE and the Queen's Medal for Poetry. MacCaig was imprisoned during the war for being a conscientious objector. Tall, slim, white-haired, charming and cheeky by turns, a talker, an arguer, his body pickled in The Famous Grouse, his head wreathed in clouds of Senior Service. He kept late hours. He was a primary schoolteacher who wrote poems.

from The Sunday Herald: The authentic voice of a thoughtful tradition



[Seamus Heaney] took his inspiration for the poem from the name of Phoenix Park, where all 25 heads of state gathered for a flag raising ceremony.

"It is auspicious that we are celebrating in a park named after the mythic bird that represents the possibility of ongoing renewal," he said.

"But there are those who say that the name Phoenix Park is derived from the Irish word, Fionn Uisce, meaning clear water and that's a coincidence of language gave me the idea for this poem."

"It's a poem to salute and celebrate a historic term in the age."

from The Scotsman: Poem Written to Mark Historic Date



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