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News Articles, with Rus Bowden


The UK's most valuable annual poetry prizes are in their 13th year and going strong. Founded by William Sieghart, chairman of the Forward Arts Foundation, they are designed to raise the profile of contemporary poetry and reward both established and up-and-coming poets, with prizes for the best collection, best first collection and best single poem. Previous winners include Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Thom Gunn.

from The Guardian: Forward Prizes for Poetry 2004

[Lalo Delgado] wrote of social justice, death, of fathers unrecognized, women denied, hearts betrayed. He wrote on napkins and toilet paper and the margins of newspapers. He wrote in English and Spanish. He gathered pages of his work and slid them between plastic sheets, snapping them into binders along with lottery tickets he played and stamps from letters he received and job applications he filled out. Then he gave them to each of his 19 grandchildren, every book as unique as each of them. "34 Guadalupes of Abelardo" he wrote to his grandson, Raymond, "so that when you grow up, you will get to know me . . . even if I am not around."

from Rocky Mountain News: Griego: Lalo Delgado: beloved icon, poet

Radoi Ralin, a dissident poet whose satires inspired generations of Bulgarians during the country's totalitarian times, has died of cancer, his family said Thursday. He was 81.

from Tuscaloosa News: Bulgarian Poet Ralin Dies at 81

"I am the young man, full of strength and hope," [Langston] Hughes writes in the poem:

Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold!
Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

Toil good, private ownership bad, etc. Hughes ends his poem on a more hopeful note ("America never was America to me/ And yet I swear this oath?/ America will be!"), but the future Hughes imagined for America when he wrote those words probably looked a lot like Stalinist Russia.

from Slate: Kerry's Lit Crit

It is hard, after the end of the Cold War, to forgive [Pablo] Neruda for his Stalinist convictions, especially in the light of [Adam] Feinstein's revelation that he declined to speak out against the persecution of dissident Soviet poets. His refusal to accept the truth about Stalin's reign of terror looks like a case of wilful myopia and denial. That said, there is no falling off in the quality of Neruda's later poems. He always wrote like an angel, even though cogent political thinking did not figure among his talents.

from Scotland on Sunday: Red menace behind the scarlet poet

When [Michael] Mazur urged [Robert] Pinksy to translate the entire book for his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Mazur agreed to work with him on the project by illustrating the book.

Countless hours of translating and dozens of etchings later, arguably the most refined translation of Dante's "Inferno" to date was published in 1994.

from Arizona Summer Wildcat: Lost in translation

[Fernando] Pessoa designated some of his poetry as his own, but most of his writings are attributed to one or another "heteronyms." What's a heteronym? In Pessoa's view, a pseudonym is simply a name an author uses in place of his own. A heteronym is a full-fledged character, complete with biographical details.

from Philadelphia Inquirer: Editor's choice: The poems of a Portuguese and his various personas

In a new study, European researchers suggest that the rhythms of ancient poetry can synchronize the body's heart and respiration rates. Similar positive effects have been linked to the Catholic rosary prayer and the yoga mantra.

from Health Central: How Homer Helps Your Heart

The speaker in the poem--who may be George T. or a fictional character--says only that he "can be'' the next person to bring guns to school, not that he will be that person, [Justice Carlos] Moreno noted.

Given that George T. had no history of antagonism toward his classmates and lacking other evidence of danger, the verse "does not constitute an actual threat to kill or inflict harm,'' the justice said.

from San Francisco Chronicle: Teen poet spared by high court: Unanimous ruling says verse wasn't clear-cut threat

It's a familiar story, especially when writers are starting out: journalist and novelist Kristin Williamson recalls when she and her husband, David, lived in a one-room, mud-brick house in Melbourne.

They sat at opposite ends of the same refectory table, typing away, "which was a disaster because he's so fast, while I felt like a slug on tranquilisers". Their relationship and careers survived; 33 years later, both have a room of their own in Noosa, although Kristin notes: "David's is larger. His rooms always have been."

from The Age: He says, she says:


Despite her Goth wardrobe (which also confounds her relatives), her favorite music still is her mother's vinyl collection of golden oldies. She studies graphic arts and advertising design at school, and she loves Japanese anime and "Manga" comics. Gina [Rodriguez] likes movies and reads a lot of suspense, horror, fantasy and mystery fiction. She writes angst-filled poetry about loss and loneliness and posts it online.

from The Dallas Morning News: One teen who fell through the cracks

My own teacher, A. R. Ammons, said something about that the day I met him. I was visiting Cornell as a prospective graduate student, and Archie said, in a very gentle, courteous, southern way, "Well, you can come here and hang around if you want, but I have to warn you we have nothing to teach you. Your poems are there already.["] At the time I thought that was just a polite way of telling me that he didn't want to be pestered. But over the years another meaning occurred to me, that my poems were there already, all curled up inside in a scroll or a spiral. All I needed was time and experience and they would unfurl. He would not be able to control that process, and neither would I.

from Atlantic Unbound: Justice + Beauty = Sublime

The trick to getting the right kind of profile in the mid-18th century was, as ever, to position yourself carefully. Not needing to write for money was a good way to start; it worked for Lady Mary Montagu Wortley, who managed to produce a stream of essays, translations and poems while cultivating the impression that she didn't really care whether anyone actually read them.

from The Guardian: Print trollops fight back

Mr. [Fred] Cogswell, who died June 20, suffered a number of strokes later in life, but his sight was restored after he underwent a cataract operation in 2002. He spent the next four months reading the encyclopedia to improve his memory.

In another recent letter to a friend, Mr. Cogswell wrote: "My position is that I'm lucky to be able to concentrate in poetry and I'm trying to make it an example by trying to do with words what my farm ancestors used to by persistence, quality and endurance of their work. Human appreciation is a bonus, but in craftsmanship it is not necessary because the real challenge is the potential work, not its appreciation. And as in agriculture, the response to creation takes time to evaluate."

from The Globe and Mail: 'A lover of poets more than of their poems'

The poem is titled Chaucer's Wordes Unto Adam His Own Scriveyne. It chides Adam for all his errors in the two earlier manuscript books:

Adam scrivener, if ever thee befall
Boece or Troilus [the earlier books] for to write new [again],
Under thy longe locks thow maist have the scall [scabs],
But [unless] after my makinge thou write mor trew,
So oft a day I mot [must] thy werke renewe
It to correct, and eke [also] to rubbe and scrape,
And all is thorowe thy necligence and rape [haste].

The poem has the primal rage of writers through the ages whose work is sloppily reworded during the editing process.

from The Guardian: The scrivener's tale: how Chaucer's sloppy copyist was unmasked after 600 years

It was a simple Keats line: "If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all." With that came to an end all my pretensions of ever writing poetry. As I look back, there is much I regret, much that, given another chance, I would do differently, but not this. Even with another chance, I won't write poetry simply because I am not cut out to be a poet.

from Daily Times: The Other Column: The clang-tint of poetry

[Jacob] Tonson was quick to see the sales potential of illustrated books. On December 5 1687, a year before the Whigs seized power, he placed this advertisement in the London Gazette:

Milton, John. PARADICE [sic] LOST. A poem in Twelve Books. The Fourth Edition, Adorn'd with Sculptures. Printed by M. Flesher for R. Bentley and J. Tonson. 1688. Published by subscription (500 subscribers).

from The Guardian: This way to paradise

And yet, here is Carolyn Curiel in the New York Times this July 6: "That Pablo Neruda was the greatest poet of the last century is beyond argument in much of South America." In fact, the more honest of his fellow Chileans express great resentment that Neruda's Nobel overshadows that awarded in 1945 to another Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, unknown north of the Rio Grande today, and many of them argue that yet another Chilean modernist, Vicente Huidobro, was a thousand times better and more important to world literature than Neruda. Huidobro compared Neruda, unfavorably, to a tango dancer.

from The Weekly Standard: Bad Poet, Bad Man

The contradictions are numerous. Voltaire thought torture and execution to be permissible in some cases, and was outraged only when limbs were smashed for the wrong reason. He could be distastefully off-hand when actually presented with the people he campaigned for, evidently happier to treat them as causes. But his achievements outweigh any reservations. When the revolutionaries reburied Voltaire in the Pantheon, they gave as his epitaph: "He inspired tolerance. He reclaimed the rights of man."

from Scotland on Sunday: Justice for the people's hero

Still, Foetry's opponents make credible points. "Publication has never been fair," says [Joan] Houlihan, and it cannot be, being "taste-driven." One of the Foetry forums even asks: "Ethics, Fraud or Just the Way It's Always Been?"

Some poets find the contest system not worth fixing. Michael Scharf, poetry editor for Publishers Weekly and himself a published poet, suggests that smaller presses without competitions can, do, and should state "that they want to publish their friends," since "that kind of support seems to make for better work."

from The Boston Globe: Poetry world shocker!


"What this study does is give us accurate numbers that support our worst fears about American reading," said Dana Gioia, the chairman of the endowment, who will preside over a discussion of the survey results at the New York Public Library this morning. "It quantifies what people have been observing anecdotally, but the news is that it has been happening more rapidly and more pervasively than anyone thought possible. Reading is in decline among all groups, in every region, at every educational level and within every ethnic group," he said, calling the survey results "deeply alarming."

from The New York Times: Fewer Noses Stuck in Books in America, Survey Finds

Who are the readers and who are the nonreaders? It's not as simple as you might think. It's not a distinction that goes by social class, and it doesn't go by income group. It isn't a male thing or a female thing or a matter of sexual orientation or so-called white or so-called black. It's a broad generic distinction between the people who have a fundamental passion for books and those who don't. We haven't yet found an adequate way to explain it and, frankly, I'm not sure that even education can affect it.

from Los Angeles Times: How Can We Teach Them Shakespeare When They've Never Read Chaucer?

[Anne Coray] and her husband, Steve Kahn, live in a cabin they built on the north shore of Lake Clark within Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, 100 air miles southwest of Kenai. The one-room cabin is accessible only by bush plane, and the nearest neighbors live four miles away. The couple doesn't own a television and would be hard-pressed to power one if they did, since the limited electricity they have access to is supplied by a few solar panels and a back-up, gasoline-powered generator.

"I don't like being among crowds of people," Coray said. "The first thing I notice when I'm in town is the noise level."

from Kenai Peninsula Online: Poet relishes bush country for inspiration

Sa'ad Sahib, 45, was captured by Iranian soldiers in 1982 as he fought for the Iraqi army. In prison, he was forbidden to write, but that did not stop him. Inmates were given syringes and capsules of Rifadin, used to ward off tuberculosis. The capsules, when emptied, made for ink, the needles for pens. Sahib emptied the tobacco from cigarettes, used the wrapping for paper to write on.

"Small messages, one verse, we would use to give to friends as gifts," he said. "We wrote of nostalgia, of longing for Iraq. War is what made me a poet."

from The Baltimore Sun: Art suppressed yet honed by war

[Yusef Komunyakaa] fights against this forgetting, for only in remembering is there healing. "I excavate history," he said. "I look at lives buried under too much silence. Periods of time, like slavery, have to be revisited, reimagined, so we can move through them."

In his poem "Tu Do Street," after being expelled from a Vietnamese bar for white soldiers, he walks into a bar for black soldiers and sees the Vietnamese bar girls, "wounded by their beauty & war," noting that "back in the bush at Dak To & Khe Sanh, we fought the brothers of these women we now run to hold in our arms."

from The New York Times: A Poet of Suffering, Endurance and Healing

Since Eros was the god of love, in the sense of sexual desire, so "erotic," the dictionary explains, means "arousing or concerned with this." The cover of this little book is pink, and the front features the arched thighs and bottom of a naked woman. Between the covers are just over a hundred short poems, mostly by American poets, together with translations into Japanese.

from The Japan Times: Bedroom poetry beckons

Despite the reservations Tema has about what the ravages of time have done to her appearance during her extended separation from Simkhe, she tries with her words to establish a kind of surrogate physical presence in her lover's life. In "Blemished" she describes her aged self ("Not all my teeth are mine alone") and the vanities she indulges in order to feel beautiful: "I love clothes, jewelry/and lipstick/also long nails/with glossy hue... /I shave my armpits/at least once a week/At night I sleep/with pins in my hair."

from The Forward: Sealed Mit a Kiss: Yiddish Love Poems

This passage brings out Shcherbina's preoccupation with ambiguous states. At times the absorption in non-belonging is more painful: "The helplessness of a bee left without / A hive, the dark magicking itself out of deep blue, / And how I was deceived: these things kill me," she writes in a poem from 1994. As the third part of the formulation suggests, the occasion for a sense of "helplessness" is often "deception", or more accurately disappointment, in an erotic sense.

from The Guardian: Vlad with the spreadable cheese

She sipped coffee, smiled and waved to hundreds of onlookers as the jeep inched along, right between the men on antique bicycles with huge wheels and the guys in kilts playing bagpipes.

The vehicle bearing her official title - Lansdowne poet laureate - spurred conversation in this borough of 11,000, located near the West Philadelphia border in Delaware County.

"We have a poet laureate?" some folks wondered aloud.

from Philadelphia Inquirer: Bringing verse to the neighborhood

[On J. Patricia Holohan] "She's a real asset to the town," said Town Clerk Lois Abare. "Both her poetry and her doughnuts."

Many states and some cities have poet laureates. And Massachusetts has produced a number of national poet laureates, including Louise Gluck, who currently holds the title.

Still, few towns as small as this community of 9,600 people in the hills on the New Hampshire border have so embraced a poet.

from The Daytona Beach News: Town's poet laureate still gets up to make doughnuts

Special Section: Happy Birthday to Pablo

A carpenter who built Neruda's home at Isla Negra (a fishing cove west of Chile's capital, Santiago) tells Eisner that Neruda considered him a welcome guest anytime. "He would say to me, 'This is your house,' " says the carpenter. "But how was I to just walk into his bedroom? He would tell me, 'No, this is your house, too. Come on in. You don't need anyone's permission.' That's a beautiful memory."

from PRAVDA.Ru: A tribute to Pablo Neruda

Give me silence, water, hope.
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes.
Fasten your bodies to me like magnets.
Hasten to my veins to my mouth.
Speak through my words and my blood.
(Tr. John Felstiner)

What had begun as a poem about Chile turned into one that delineated the full geological, biological and political history of South America. It became a comprehensive song, a general chant, a Whitmanian epic of the New World, a mythification of America.

from The Washington Post: Pablo Neruda at 100

As a result, he added, a more intimate collection of poems like "Residencia en la Tierra" may now be valued over the vast "Canto General," with its call for Latin American unity. At the same time, erotic poems that once scandalized the conservative Chilean elite are now more appreciated in a society whose mores are becoming more liberal.

"One reason why Neruda has always been very popular among young people is that he liked sex so much," Mr. Dorfman said. "In every generation, men, including me, have cited Neruda to try to get the girl."

from The New York Times: With More Pomp Than Literary Acclaim, Chileans Embrace Pablo Neruda at 100

In 1971 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda's acceptance speech included an account of a journey he had been obliged to undertake on horseback over a frozen mountain pass in the Andes, fleeing persecution in his native land. The four Chileans who accompanied him knew the risks they were running. If caught, Neruda would have been tried, sentenced and jailed, but they would have been shot - yet they were prepared to risk their lives for him all the same. When his horse lost its footing in an icy river, they were right behind him with their ropes: he was their "precious cargo" and they brought him to Argentina where he would be safe.

from The Scotsman: Through the lines of fear

Celebrations begin Monday in honor of the centennial of the birth of Pablo Neruda. The child of a railway worker, Neruda began writing poetry when he was 14, became a Communist in his 20s and won a Nobel Prize in 1971. NPR's Renee Montagne talks with Mark Eisner, editor of a new collection called The Essential Neruda.

from National Public Radio: Celebrating the Pablo Neruda Centennial

The Chilean poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda would have turned 100 years old today. Fellow Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez called him the "greatest poet of the 20th century -- in any language."

from National Public Radio: A Reading in Honor of Pablo Neruda's Centennial


They went up cautiously and, as they entered the living-room, as [Francisco] Velasco recalled later, "We saw a huge eagle, with a fierce look and talons ready to attack." How could the eagle have entered the house, when everything had been locked up for months? Velasco suddenly remembered the time Pablo [Neruda] had confided to him that, "if there was another life, he would like to be an eagle". Velasco telephoned Matilde [Urrutia] at La Chascona. "That was Pablo," said Matilde, without hesitation.

from The Guardian: More blood than ink

In the poem "I Wish the Woodcutter Would Wake Up" (1948), he [Pablo Neruda] wrote: "What we love is your peace, not your mask." Listen to the translation by Robert Bly:

You come, like a washerwoman, from
a simple cradle, near your rivers, pale.
Built up from the unknown,
what is sweet in you is your hivelike peace.

from The Chronicle Review: Pablo Neruda: a Life Consumed by Poetry and Politics

Given its heavy repetition, the usual knock against the sestina is that the recurring end words create a static, melancholy mood -- and many sestinas are artificially obsessive, monotonous and predictable. Which is one reason that James Merrill's "Tomorrows" is such a delightful anomaly. By repeating the first six ordinals and jazzing them up with a variety of word play -- homophones, homonyms, fragments and hyphenations -- Merrill has transformed the melancholy and monotonous into a tour de force of light verse.

from The Oregonian: Straight talk about circular sestinas

The narrative in "1962" is autobiographical; the poet, Linda Stern Zisquit, was born in Buffalo, N.Y., "in a really close family," she told the Forward. "As I see it, my father's decline began in the early 1960s when he started gambling, lost his job, and Mom had to go out to work, martyred, angry. Before that, mine had seemed like a happy childhood. The poem '1962' goes back to that pivotal time when I was a young girl worrying about what would happen."

from Forward: Psalm 151: 1962

In a world yearning for ethnic and social simplicity, to make a plea for difficulty sounds perverse. To set out to be difficult as an end in itself would indeed be wilful. Yet today's difficulty is tomorrow's common sense. The state cannot prescribe or dictate aesthetics; what they can and must do is secure zones of play and freedom from the homogenising tendencies of the market. [Tessa] Jowell's rallying cry for complexity needs beefing up, but it should be fought for and urgently.

from The Guardian: The case for complexity

There is the haunting "Provincia Deserta", inspired by his walking tour in troubadour Provence, and perhaps best of all "Near Perigord". The opening of part III reminds us that, whatever else, [Ezra] Pound had the best ear of any poet of the time:

"Bewildering spring, and by the Auvezere
Poppies and day's-eyes in the green émail
Rose over us; and we knew all that stream,
And our two horses had traced out all the valleys;
Knew the low flooded lands squared out with poplars,
In the young days when the deep sky befriended."

from The Guardian: The great imitator

In English, the poem reads:

"The hills of Georgia are covered by the night;
Ahead Aragva runs through stone,
My feeling's sad and light; my sorrow is bright;
My sorrow is full of you alone,
Of you, of only you ... My everlasting gloom
Meets neither troubles nor resistance.
Again inflames and loves my poor heart, for whom
Without love, 'tis no existence."

Pushkin penned it for Sobanskaya, a Polish countess, a few years after they met in Kiev in 1829. It was the start of a highly charged affair with the educated beauty who was known for her sardonic wit, mocking irony, and liking of literary men.

from The St. Petersburg Times: Pushkin Manuscript Was Diary Dedication

But [John] Dullaghan shines light on myth. "Bukowski wasn't just a drinking machine," the filmmaker says. He was also a writing machine. He produced more than 45 books of poetry and prose. "He'd sit at his table, drink a bottle or two of red wine, and write 10 poems. This is day after day," Dullaghan says. "Amazing output."

In the film footage of Bukowski, even as he lived in crummy little apartments, with beer cans overwhelming the garbage pail, you can glimpse the neat, orderly desk, the port in the storm -- the typewriter, stacked paper, a pencil or two, an ashtray.

from The Washington Post: Charles Bukowski, Bard of Booze

Both the praise and the promotion were bad for the young poet who had filled schoolboy notebooks with his verses. Now he had the burden of promise. Most accounts of Dylan Thomas's life emphasize his early death, but what strikes one today is that he had nearly 20 years of trying to repeat the trick of originality.

Andrew Lycett's biography is a chronicle of an unproductive poet's life -- a saga of hardship, penny-pinching and recycled material.

from The New York Times: 'Dylan Thomas': Famous Too Soon

It is perhaps not surprising that Shelley and other Romantic poets drew sharp images of woodland waterfalls. They were attracted to settings that were considered tumultuous and tempestuous according to aesthetic theories of the sublime in nature that emphasized dark, even terror-filled, interpretations. Several were also familiar with 19th-century geological theories. Shelley's description of the Arve ravine ? "where woods and winds contend" ? rings true at Ricketts Glen, and a latter-day romantic could be forgiven if a book of poems protruded from a backpack here.

from The New York Times: A Watery Wonderland Carved by Nature


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