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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.”

405Traffic

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.”

BlownOutTire

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 #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.

golanbrickroad

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!