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Last Week in Poetry #6: 5/11-5/17/2009

Posted in Weekly Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by czarnickolas

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium. Unfortunately, it’s Monday, but at least that means this must be Last Week in Poetry. Today we’ve got more great steps for women in poetry, a Yoko Ono sighting, and John Keats’ love life now appearing at Cannes.

1 – Ruth Padel Brings Some XX to Oxford Faculty

As reported by the AP, Oxford broke down another barrier last week:

Ruth Padel, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, became Oxford University’s first female professor of poetry on Saturday.

She was voted to the prestigious five-year post by graduates and academics, and she is the first woman to hold the job since it was created in 1708.

Her series of poems about the famous naturalist — “Darwin A Life in Poems” — received rave reviews when it was published earlier this year, and Padel said she wanted to use her new post to unite poetry and science.”

Unfortunately, Ms. Padel’s appointment has been marred somewhat by the controversy surrounding one of the post’s other candidates. Not lost among the coverage of this event is Derek Walcott’s withdrawal from consideration after a smear campaign irreparably damaged his chances at the post. Covered here last week, Walcott faced the resurfacing quarter-century-old sexual harassment charges. Supporters see conspiracy:

James Fenton, a former incumbent of the professorship, went further, blaming Ruth Padel, Walcott’s chief rival for the post, and more pertinently the journalist John Walsh, who wrote an inflammatory piece in The Independent…

Fenton raged: “It has been disgusting to watch as this hypocritical duo have kicked a 79-year-old poet in the slats, not because he represented some kind of threat to the weak-willed young women of Oxford (come on!) but because he stood in the way of Padel’s ambitions.”

Padel herself has disclaimed any responsibility: “What we all should have been talking about all this time was – and is – poetry.” There are few, including Walcott, who criticise Padel’s poetry, although fewer who would place it in the same league as his.”


Los Angeles, 2004

2 – Keats Love Story at Cannes

Professor Harper often cited Keats in class as an example of what one can accomplish by the age of 25, but he admonished us not to get too caught up in trying to catch him. “There will never be another Keats,” Harper always said. Lost in Harper’s lectures was Keats’ romantic life. Thankfully, Jane Campion – the Kiwi director behind “The Piano” – decided to shine some light on the subject. Her latest project, “Bright Star,” shows viewers the romantic side of Keats’ last two years alive, featuring his affair with Fanny Brawne:

“My feeling was that Fanny didn’t know much about poetry, ” Ms. Campion said in an interview before the festival. “But she got Keats’s poems.”

“Fanny blooms with health and beauty, while the poet, played by Ben Wishaw, withers away: tuberculosis killed him at 25. His last sonnet, “Bright Star,” was written on the ship that took him to Rome, where he died.

“The story of Keats has so many portals you can enter,” said Ms. Campion. “I chose not to show how he died, because Fanny didn’t know.”

The movie took a while to get off the ground, in part due to marketing considerations:

Ms. Campion was captivated by Keats’s poetry in high school, and for years dreamed of making a film about his life.

“It was an incredibly unpopular subject when I first thought of it — a very aggressive time, people were only interested in making money. Slowly, shyly, I shared the idea with Jan Chapman, my producer, who also loves Keats.”

3 – Yoko Ono + Twitter + Haiku = Can’t Miss Poetry Event

Citizens of London have a unique chance participate in the world’s first interactive Twitter poetry competition. Not only that, but a certain Mrs. John Lennon will be among the celebrity judges:

“Commuters who pass through King’s Cross and St Pancras are being invited to submit haiku-style poems on the subject of “the great British summer” from their phones using the social micro-blogging tool. The poems are displayed, within minutes of submission, on a board in the stations, from today until Friday. The best will then be selected by judges including the poet Jackie Kay and artist Yoko Ono.”

The competition combines the classic icon of London transportation – St Pancras station – with the micro-blogging giant Twitter:

“From The Ladykillers to Harry Potter, the station has been recorded in film and literature but the thousands of people it brings into London each day are rarely acknowledged,” said Peter Millican, the head of Kings Place. “Poetry is a big component of our spoken word series of events on a Monday and we wanted to raise the profile of the night with a different group of people to our usual audience. Twitter and haiku just seemed to click.”

Poet Jackie Kay agrees. “I’m intrigued by Twitter; it’s a whole new form of communication,” she said. “I’ve always been fascinated by the mystery and brevity of haiku, how people can say simple things, profoundly. I’m looking forward to seeing how these two forms will collide and communicate with one another.”


NYC, 2004

4 – Poetry Therapist

We covered poetry as therapy a few weeks ago, but this week we’ve got a profile on a poetry therapist. It may sound like “hoo-ha” to some, but Nessa McCasey stands by her work, “meeting with individuals, couples and groups to heal ‘individual and community wounds so often overlooked or cast aside during our busy daily lives.'” McCasey acknowledges potential shortcomings, “careful not to hold herself out as a licensed clinical therapist”:

She will not counsel someone with an issue that should be treated in a more acute manner by others. “I might need to tone things down or talk to them privately, to make sure they’re getting help,” she said.

Still, McCasey sees value in poems as healing agents, and she grew her English degree from the University of Michigan in a circuitous way that eventually led her into the job she has today.

“You’ve probably heard of music therapy and art therapy,” she said. “Poetry therapy is under that same umbrella, but it’s a younger organization than the other two.”

Be sure to check out Nessa McCasey’s Web site Writers of Wrongs.

5 – Link of the Week- The Jack Kerouac Project of Orlando

Kerouac is a favorite here at The Poetry Project. If he’s a favorite of yours, too, and you would like to live rent-free in the Orlando house he stayed in at one point, give this link a look.


Last Week in Poetry #5: 5/3-5/10/2009

Posted in Weekly Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2009 by czarnickolas

It seems impossible, but I assure you it’s not: it’s Monday again. What that means for most people is burnt coffee, chronic self-loathing, and “Someone’s got a case of the Mondays!” underpants. What that means for you, dear reader, is another list of stories that – just last week – turned the world of poetry on its head. (And what that doesn’t mean is a series of awful Shaquille O’Neal puns.)

Without further delay, let’s go back a week!

1 – Craig Arnold: 1967-2009

Craig Arnold, 1967-2009
(© unknown)

As reported here last week, poet Craig Arnold went missing while on a remote volcano in Japan. News sources confirmed Friday that Arnold suffered a leg injury and then fell to his death off a steep cliff.

“The only relief in this news is that we do know exactly what befell Craig, and we can be fairly certain that it was very quick, and that he did not wait or wonder or suffer,” wrote Rebecca Lindenberg, Arnold’s partner of six years, on a Web site she maintained during the search.

Jacqueline Osherow, professor of English at the U. and Arnold’s adviser in the doctoral program, said is devastated by the loss. Osherow said her letter recommending Arnold for the fellowship in Japan weighed on her at first after news of his disappearance, but has since lifted. She described Arnold as a big-hearted person whose immense talent let him do what he wanted in life.

“I’m more broken-hearted for him than the poems he didn’t live to write,” Osherow said. “This is a loss to American literature and letters. It’s wrong to say he was full of promise, because he delivered on that.”

The Poetry Project sends its condolences to Craig’s family and friends.

2 – Lord of the Verse

Tolkien fans rejoice: after being lost for 70 years, J.R.R.’s poetic adaptation of old Norse legend has found the light of day, thanks to the efforts of Tolkien’s son Christopher. The poems are available as The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun and contain, as do all good sagas, “betrayal, love, and slaughter” as well as “dragons, dwarves, golden hoards, and a lot of drinking.”

The poems – the “New Lay of the Volsungs” and the “New Lay of Gudrun” – aren’t direct translations of the original Old Norse “sources,” which were “various in their nature.” This was J. R. R.’s attempt to “organize the Edda material dealing with Sigurd and Gunnar.”

The “Volsungs” deal with the life and death of the Volsung family. It’s mainly about Sigurd who slays the dragon Fafnir, takes his cursed gold, wins the love of the warrior maiden Brynhild but is told to come back when he has a kingdom. Sigurd, overcome by an enchantment, marries the beautiful Gudrun instead, then deceives Brynhild into marrying his friend, Gunnar. As you might guess, the proud Brynhild doesn’t take this well. Sigurd is assassinated and Brynhild kills herself so she can join him on his funeral pyre.

Although there is no word yet whether Viggo Mortensen will be involved in a staged reading of the poems, I’m pretty sure that Dominic Monaghan is looking for work.


Los Angeles, 2008

3 – White House Hosts Poetry Slam… Or Jam… Or Something Like That

In his continued effort to bring distinguished artists to the White House, President Barack Obama has scheduled the White House’s very first poetry slam. While I support Obama’s intention to “open up the White House and remind people [it] is the people’s house,” I’m not sure that Obama’s PR team has sufficiently investigated the meaning of the phrase “poetry slam.”’s Bob Holman and Margery Snyder agree that the name is a bit misleading:

“Poetry slam” is in quotes in our post’s title because the evening’s program doesn’t sound like an actual poetry slam — the invited artists include Mayda Del Valle, who is known as a slam poet, but also novelist Michael Chabon, bassist Esperanza Spalding, pianist ELEW and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda. But poetry slam has deep roots in Chicago, one of Obama’s home towns, and being a poet himself, I imagine Obama has ideas about slam, so it may well be that an actual poetry slam is staged at the White House this week.

An exhaustive list of articles relating to poetry in last year’s presidential campaigns appears here, courtesy again of Bob and Margery. Thanks for your hard work, guys.

4 – Spotted: Lonely Professor Making Passes at Aspiring Young Poets

When jockeying for a professorship starts to resemble a terrible episode of Gossip Girl, things have gotten out of hand, especially when all-time great Derek Walcott is at the eye of the storm. UK’s Times Online reports:

The race to win poetry’s most prestigious academic post has turned dirty after Oxford academics were anonymously sent a lurid dossier accusing Derek Walcott, the frontrunner and Nobel laureate, of being a sex pest.

The package was circulated last week to staff and graduates eligible to vote in next Saturday’s election for the Oxford professorship of poetry, as well as to the offices of Cherwell, a student newspaper.

The dossier recounts a sexual harassment claim against Walcott, 79, when he taught at Harvard in the 1980s.

The poet was reprimanded following the allegation that he tried to pressure a female student into sleeping with him.

Two things jump out here: first, the claim is over twenty-five-years-old; second, the claim was handled by Harvard already. Yes, the UK has a different legal system than the US does, but surely the concept of double jeopardy isn’t lost on the fine minds of Oxford academics. Walcott has faced these accusations already – judge the man on his merits, not the crimes for which he has already been punished. Professor Hermione Lee agrees:

Lee, president of Wolfson College and a leader of the Walcott campaign, was one recipient of the dirty dossier. Criticising the “campaign of vilification”, Lee said: “The fact that this has been anonymously circulated is rather shocking. It is an unpleasant way of carrying on.

“Should great poets who behave badly be locked away from social interaction? We are acting as purveyors of poetry not of chastity.”

Amen, Hermione.

MasonAtECTLos Angeles, 2008

5 – Cowboy Poets!

From the OMGWTFBBQ sauce files: a new youth Cowboy Poetry Workshop has begun in Mesquite. I would write that sentence again in a much larger font, but I don’t want to come off as amateurish. So many questions spring to mind: What is “Cowboy Poetry”? How do I go about starting my own Cowboy Poetry Workshop? Since when is Mesquite more than just a flavor of BBQ sauce? I’d go on, but it’s all covered here:

The youth are learning the rules of cowboy poetry as provided by well-known cowboy poet [and Lariat Laureate!] Sam Jackson from Kanab, Utah, a sheep herder and guest poet at Mesquite’s 3rd Annual Cowboy Poetry Hootenanny, which was held on April 10-11 this year.

There will be some invited guests who will be speaking to the youth about their experiences in the field of cowboy poetry.

The goal of the group is to learn to read, write and recite cowboy poetry to their own ability and with originality.

Their skills will be honed within the next several weeks so that they can present their “works” at a program to which the public will be invited.

If anyone is interested in forming a Chicago-based Cowboy Poetry Workshop with me this summer, please leave a comment.

…and that’s Last Week in Poetry!

Last Week in Poetry #4: 4/27-5/3/2009

Posted in Weekly Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2009 by czarnickolas

Hello everyone, and welcome, once again, to Last Week in Poetry. I spent the weekend in Chicago – signing leases, watching improv, and eating a lot of oatmeal – so I missed a few posts. Never fear – I will make up for my delinquency with poetry news that will blow the minds of all comers, young and old. Before I begin, however, a special welcome to anyone who stumbled upon this blog via Gaper’s Block, a Chicago-oriented web publication and all-around terrific site.

And now – back to last week!

1 – Craig Versus the Volcano

Prize-winning poet and assistant professor at the University of Wyoming, Craig Arnold, disappeared last week while on a remote volcano in Japan. Japanese officials ended their search yesterday, just in time for Craig’s brother Chris to initiate his own investigation.

“It’s pretty scary, and I wish I could be there sooner,” Chris Arnold, 38, told “I’m just trying to stay focused, and my main goal is to get there faster and to get more boots on the ground.”

[Craig] Arnold’s footprints were found going up the path to the mouth of the inactive volcano, but there was no sign of his return. The island is remotely populated by only a few hundred residents and is densely wooded with deciduous trees and bamboo.

A current fellow with the U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Exchange, Craig Arnold has been described by former poet laureate Robert Pinsky as “one of the most gifted and accomplished poets of his generation.” Our thoughts are with him here at The Poetry Project.


Osaka, 2003

2 – Big Steps for British Poetry

What do William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Carol Ann Duffy have in common? Up until last Friday, nothing but a love for verse and an allegiance to the Union Jack. That all changed when Queen Elizabeth II appointed Duffy Britain’s first ever female poet laureate.

Duffy, a decorated poet already, gave her final decision on whether to accept the 10-year post to her 13-year-old daughter, who was adamant that Duffy take it. “Yes, Mummy,” she said, “there’s never been a woman.” There’s also never been a lesbian poet laureate in the UK, either, but Duffy is downplaying that aspect of her life:

“I think we’ve all grown up a lot over the past 10 years.

“Sexuality is something that is celebrated now we have civil partnerships and it’s fantastic that I’m an openly gay writer, and anyone here or watching the interviews who feels shy or uncomfortable about their sexuality should celebrate and be confident and be happy.

“It’s a lovely, ordinary, normal thing.”

What isn’t ordinary about Duffy, besides her tremendous gift for verse, is her choice of Valentine’s Day gift: an onion.

(See also:A Laureate’s poems are all that matter”)


NYC, 2005

3 – The ABCs of Hip Hop

“Poetry with a beat,” Nikki Giovanni declares. “That’s hip hop in a flash.” Far be it from me to debate just what hip hop is and isn’t, but I wasn’t immediately sold on Giovanni’s latest offering, the for-kids Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry With a Beat, at least not as a quintessential hip-hop-to-poetry missing link.

The collection is broad and well chosen, and counts among its “hip hop” artists A Tribe Called Quest, Common, and the immortal Tupac Shakur. Its “poetry” offerings come from poets such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, and the eternally underrated Sterling Brown (seriously – check this guy out). The accompanying audio CD is an important addition, and I’m sure that this book may introduce poetry to many kids who would miss it otherwise. However, I’m reluctant to fully endorse any product that – despite the youth of its target audience – insists on reducing hip hop to such a simplistic definition.

All that said – it’s hard to fault Giovanni for anything after watching her sing Sugar Hill Gang, hambone Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool,” and discuss her new book:

Nikki Giovanni

4 – The Thinking Man’s Hoodlum

“My life is one foot in the coffin and the other on a banana peel,” said Joey Gallo, “but I don’t care.” Tom Folsom’s new book, The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld, details the Profaci-Gallo gang wars of the 1960s, paying careful attention to the “part thug, part beatnik” mob muscle, Joe Gallo.

Michael Hill, who reviewed the book for The Associated Press, describes Folsom’s writing as being “in a Beat-inspired rat-tat-tat prose that fits the material,” though at times the lingo is “laid on so thick that it sometimes gets confusing who we’re reading about.” I would expect nothing less from a mob book written in a Beat style.

5 – Arlington, Virginia: Represent!

Washington-Lee High School student William Farley won last week’s Poetry Out Loud competition, a national poetry recitation contest jointly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Delivered with the “resonance and charisma of a teenage Denzel Washington,” Farley’s selections included “The Flea” by John Donne and “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes. In addition to the $20,000 prize, Farley won the respect of his peers and a “tearful, leaping hug from his younger brother.” Congratulations, William!

Last Week in Poetry #3: 4/20-4/26, 2009

Posted in Weekly Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by czarnickolas

Welcome to Last Week in Poetry, brought to you in part by The Poetry Project. Before we begin, a word from our other sponsors:

“Y’see, the kids, they listen to the rap music, which gives them the brain damage. With their hippin’ and their hoppin’, and their bippin’, and their boppin’… so they don’t know what [poetry] is all about! You see, [poetry] is like a Jello Pudding pop — no! Actually, it’s more like Kodak film — no! Actually, [poetry] is like the new Coke; it’ll be around forever! Heh heh heh…”

Oh, Bill Cosby parodies: you are the lost art of the universe. Now for Last Week in Poetry!

1 – Joy Harjo Wants Nothing to Do With Sadomasochist Co-Worker

In a surprising move (that took place in November of last year, but is only now finding widespread publicity), University of New Mexico professor Joy Harjo has resigned after the administration failed to fire another professor:

Harjo, the University’s only Joseph Russo Endowed Professor, said her resignation was a result of the administration’s decision to retain associate professor Lisa Chavez.

Pictures of Chavez posing with one of her students on a sadomasochism Web site were discovered in spring 2007.

“The administration’s mishandling of the very serious matter regarding professor Lisa Chavez and apparent ignoring of at least eight formal student letters reporting mistreatment has created a learning and work environment that is untenable for numerous faculty and students,” Thiel said. “Faculty and students have resigned and left UNM over this and will likely continue to. The recent resignation of Joy Harjo, arguably the most well-known Native American poet in the world, highlights the seriousness of the situation, many details of which have yet to be reported to the media.”

Harjo said Chavez was retained as a University employee because administrators were afraid of a lawsuit and wanted to keep the problem quiet.

2 – Poetweet

Another development that predates last week: people are trying to find artistic uses for Twitter. In this case, our featured poet has added a twist:

I have long been a fan of the short-short, poem or story or play, I like it brief. The stanzas are created out of twitter posts available at the time of composition. Rules? Other than the 140 characters that all Twitter posters have, I make myself use the text that my followers provide, and if I click on, I use what’s there and I use it before it changes, which would be cheating. So no refreshing. Quick and dirty.

I have a feeling it won’t be long until an Oulipo member comes out and publicly endorses the art of Twitter Poetry. Raymond Queneau tweets from his grave: D’où qu’ils puent donc tant?

smlovesunsetSanta Monica, 2009

3 – Poetry and the Art of Recovery

Some writer friends of mine complain that their work is flat or uninspired when their lives are running smoothly and want nothing more than a little misfortune. Kathryn Lavelle suffered through a 10-year abusive relationship and felt quite the opposite: she sensed her creativity was dying. Lavelle is one of many poets whose work is on display at Minnesota’s sixth annual Art of Recovery exhibition, which features “visual and literary artwork by Minnesotans who have been victims of crime and have used art as a means to respond, explore, express or heal.”

“Art of Recovery is a great way for people to start or continue their recovery,” said Lavelle, who wrote poetry during her abusive relationship, but did not journal.

“I was always afraid it would get read,” she said. “Poetry is more obscure.”

“The only way for me to have survived being beaten, raped, assaulted and dragged down for so long was to be able to write, to assemble my pain with pen and paper into words that somehow healed my soul from the inside out,” she wrote at the time.

The Art of Recovery exhibit is on the web here.

4 – W.S. Merwin: The Pete Sampras of Poetry?

Merwin, 82, author of over 20 books of poetry and almost 20 books of translation, won his second Pulitzer Prize for poetry the other day, his second in only 38 years. At this rate, he will eclipse Robert Frost and Eugene O’Neill’s shared record of 4 Pulitzers in 2123 at the sprightly age of 196.


Golan Heights, 2009

5 – Poetry Joeys: Using Assonance to Attract Children to the Art

Faced with competition ranging from Spongebob to Zac Efron (Who is Zac Efron, and Why Isn’t He Black?), poetry needs help reaching the young folk. Thankfully, University of Arizona Museum of Art volunteers have been running a monthly poetry fun session for children aged four to ten since fall 2007. Drawing a dozen or so kids per session, the workshop has been a reasonable success. The volunteers offer “a series of activities ranging from discussion to improvisational dance,” helping the children “draw connections between poetry and the visual arts.”

Colleen Burns, a volunteer for the Poetry Center whose granddaughter attended the event, said programs like Poetry Joeys build a positive foundation for children to develop a lifelong love of language.

“People tend to ruin poetry for kids,” Burns said. “Billy Collins has a poem about how people want to tie a poem to a chair and beat it until it tells you what it really means. But I think if you can catch kids at this age, they have no idea that it’s supposed to be a tortuous process. If you can instill in a kid a love of language, then they’ve got it all.”

Saturday was the first time 6-year-old first grader Eli Protas had been to Poetry Joeys, but he said he loved being able get up and move around while learning about poetry.

“I like the way (poetry) sounds ’cause it’s not just words. It’s – I don’t really know how to explain it, it’s pretty cool,” Protas said.

Pretty cool, indeed. Let’s hear it for poetry!

Last Week in Poetry #2: 4/13-4/19, 2009

Posted in Weekly Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2009 by czarnickolas

To my dedicated readers: I apologize for falling a bit behind. I spent twelve hours in a car this weekend, dined at four different fast food establishments, and stayed at a hotel where every piece of furniture is on wheels. My recovery has been slow at best. With that behind us, let’s take a look at Last Week in Poetry.

1 – Passings and the “Transparent” Fiction of Poetry

It was a sad week for the world of poetry. We lost Deborah Digges, Franklin Rosemont, and Henri Meschonnic, all well before their times. Ron Silliman, though clearly bereaved, was struck most by how these deaths seemed socially disconnected:

“Each operated within a social world in which the other three were more or less completely absent. If you read the responses to the notices on the blog, it would appear that the death of Franklin Rosemont was the most significant, but it has been entirely unacknowledged in the daily press in this country, while obits for Deborah Digges have started to pop up there, though not as widely nor as quickly as those for [American theorist] Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. In France, the death of Henri Meschonnic is being treated as a similar big deal… Weeks like the past one will become much more common as time goes on, not only in the numbers, but in the fact that the poets who pass may well appear to operate in entirely different universes with very little overlap. As this becomes more apparent, the fiction that there is such a thing as poetry will become increasingly transparent. Instead there are poetries, a word that perhaps should never be used in the singular without a hyphen in front of it.”

The reality Silliman envisions is one where poetry receives a second-level inquiry usually reserved for media such as music and film. Tell a new acquaintance that you are a musician and the response “what kind of music do you play?” will invariably follow. If someone invites you to a movie that you’re unfamiliar with, a question about “what kind of movie” it is would be appropriate for clarity’s sake. It’s unusual – at least in everyday conversation – for a self-identified poet to be pushed to modify his profession with the kind of poetry he practices. Sure, a question of influences may come up, but to the outside world – people not writing poetry – a poet is a poet is a poet is a poet.


Glendale, 2008

2 – National Poetry Month Questionnaires (Canadian Edition)

Canadian news source National Post is putting the “inter” in (inter)National Poetry Month, and its art affiliate The Afterword is celebrating by introducing its readers to noteworthy Canadian poets. Featured artists include Desi Di Nardo – famous, in part, for her work that appears on Starbucks coffee cups and Toronto Transit vehicles – and American expat Adam Sol – who asks the question I’ve always wondered myself: could Citizen Kane be made into a decent sestina?

3 – Passings, Two

Sportscaster (sports-poet?) Les Keiter died last Tuesday. I mention his passing because his work as a re-creationist could certainly qualify as a kind of poetry. After the Giants left New York for San Francisco, Keiter spent three summers broadcasting re-creations of games with a “booming voice and excitable embellishments, aided by his Western Union tickertape, crowd noise, and a drumstick and wooden block alongside his microphone.” Keiter’s concern wasn’t absolute accuracy so much as it was creating an exciting representation that was also plausible.

“You might not know what kind of pitch struck a man out, but you remember what a certain pitcher’s key weapon is,” he recalled. “You can’t see the condition of a field after a rain delay, but you know from your preparation what conditions the stadium is usually in when wet.”

Once in a while, when the ticker account stopped transmitting or became garbled, Mr. Keiter would fill in the time by inventing a pitcher-catcher conference on the mound or a batter fouling off pitch after pitch.


Santa Monica, 2008

4 – Poetry Pays… Eventually

Fanny Howe was announced as the winner of the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement. The Chicago-based Poetry Foundation justified its selection with a mouthful of praise, saying that Howe’s work “can be elusive and hermetic, and then abruptly and devastatingly candid; it is marked by the pressures of history and culture, yet [is] defiantly, transcendently lyrical.” I prefer Howe’s own assessment from a 2004 Kenyon Review interview:

“If someone is alone reading my poems, I hope it would be like reading someone’s notebook. A record. Of a place, beauty, difficulty. A familiar daily struggle.”

5 – Louvre Online

From the “it’s about time” files: the UN will launch its free-access-to-all online World Digital Library tomorrow. The site will include “manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs.” No word yet from Google as to whether or not they plan to acquire Unesco’s stunning collection.

Last Week in Poetry #1: 4/6-4/12, 2009

Posted in Weekly Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2009 by czarnickolas

So I’ve decided to amend my blogging practice to include a recap of five eye-picked poetry posts from the past week, offer a brief discussion of them, and throw in a few photographs for my lexiphobic readers. Enjoy!

1 – Why The Internet Will Revive Poetry

In his post entitled “Who Will Be This Century’s Shakespeare?Allen Taylor suggests that the Internet has the potential to bring people back to poetry. However, because online publishing is still in its infancy, poets still have a lot to learn before they can optimally utilize digital distribution systems.

“Once poets, and other publishers, learn the full scale of what can be accomplished with Internet publishing, you can expect great things that have not yet been imagined. Blogs will be mere baby toys (they almost are now). The comparison can be likened to the difference between Dolby Surround Digital and silent pictures. That’s how far we have to go, but when we get there the poet who can incorporate visual and audio elements effectively with the printed word will capture hearts and minds. The 21st century will discover its William Shakespeare.”

Taylor is certainly onto something – digital distribution systems are “at the early stage of Gutenberg’s Press.” However, advancements in our understanding of DDSs are quite different from the sort of artistic synergy Taylor describes above. The words of poets and storytellers have long been combined with other media – think Prokofiev, Kerouac, and MC Mr. Napkins – in order to help draw a wider and more committed audience. Even William S. himself had his words brought to life by actors. Yes, poets who find broader means of expressing themselves will be more readily received, but I think the advancements in DDS that will really come in handy are based in niche marketing, social networking, and the production of a superior product.


New Jersey, 2005

2 – From the Mouth of Anne Sexton

For the sake of full disclosure, This Recording is the brainchild of a good friend. That said, the poetry coverage at TR is terrific. This week, the blog features Elaine Showalter’s 1974 interview with Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin. Sexton revolutionized confessional poetry and addressed taboo topics such as abortion, masturbation and adultery. I will cover Sexton in more depth at some point, but in the meantime I recommend this interview.

3 – Synergistic Arts, Take Two

Returning for a moment to the idea of fusing poetry with other media, I’d like to call attention to the Poetry Foundation’s new film series:

“The series, Poetry Everywhere, features videos of poets such as Naomi Shihab Nye and Kevin Young reading their work as well as animated films of poems by Kay Ryan, Nick Flynn, and others. The short films are airing throughout April on public television and can be viewed at, the Poetry Foundation’s Web site, YouTube, and iTunes.”

I’m particularly fond of the animated John Ashbery poem.


Tel Aviv, 2009

4 – The Book of Samuel

Great news for fellow Beckett fans: someone stole a bunch of Samuel’s letters and put them in a book now available for purchase and enjoyment. In his letters, Beckett defends the poetry of Milton and lambastes that of William Cowper:

“I think what you find cold in Milton I find final, for himself at least, conflagrations of conviction cooled down to a finality of literary emission.”

“What a life! It depressed & terrified me. How did [Cowper] ever manage to write such bad poetry?”

5 – I Love Your Writing, But Lose the Face

In case anyone thought that people bought books based on their content and not on how dashing the author looks on the dust jacket, Martha Woodroof’s report on NPR’s Morning Edition will steer you straight.

5a – And One

From the “soft-launched” blog Ebony and Crackers, fellow Mayanot alumnus Jake Appleman describes his own experiences connecting with Black culture as a youth.


Mr. Appleman in Israel, 2009