Thursday 30 August 2007

Benigni recites Dante, shots fired

Dante: one /
security guard: zero.

Roberto Benigni is touring Italy with a new show. In it, he recites passages from Dante's The Divine Comedy and offers his own political satire in-between recitations. So desperate was one man to hear Benigni 's recital, that he shot a security guard five times in the leg when the guard tried to prevent the man from entering the piazza without a ticket.

And around the world, living poets can only dream of being so popular.

The Guardian Unlimited, UK
CBC Ottawa

Friday 24 August 2007

This guy wants your kids to read more poetry!

That's because this guy is Michael Rosen, Britain's Children's Laureate. (Maybe Canada should have one of these...)

This is from the Scotsman:
SOME people have faces which are just naturally funny. When Michael Rosen starts to perform one of his much-loved poems for children, his eyes bulge with excitement and his mouth spreads into a broad grin with a big ear on either end. It's the kind of face which made him Quentin Blake's model for the BFG. The kind of face you warm to.

It's now the new face of children's literature, since Rosen was appointed Children's Laureate in June. The two-year appointment, previously held by the likes of Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, aims to raise the profile of writing for children. Rosen, 61, is the fifth Laureate, and the first poet to hold the position.

Each Laureate is given the opportunity to advance projects of their own, and Rosen is bursting with ideas. Over coffee in a greasy spoon near his home in Hackney, he enthuses about a YouTube-type interactive website for performance poets, a children's poetry roadshow, literature trails, poetry-friendly classrooms and a prize for the funniest children's book of the year. He's got two years and the clock is ticking. No point hanging about. There is a sense in which the Laureateship has simply given a formal shape to what Rosen has been doing for 30 years.
Read the whole story here.

Monday 20 August 2007

George Bowering tells NPR about the power of jazz, Percy Shelley and the human mind

"I believe that the human intellect is the closest thing we have to the divine. It is the way we can join one another in spirit.
Sometimes when you are listening to a great jazz musician performing a long solo, you are experiencing his mind, moment by moment, as it shifts and decides, as it adds and reminds. This happens whether the player is a saxophone player or a bass player or a pianist. You are in there, where that other mind is. His mind is coming through your ears and inside your mind."
Read the whole story here.

And while you're at it, check out Gregory Orr's thoughts on poetry's ability to heal the psyche.

Sunday 19 August 2007

Where Donald Hall gets his writing done: Eagle Pond Farm

This is from the New York Times.

Donald Hall, the nation’s poet laureate and author of 18 books of poetry in addition to books of essays and prose, provided us with our first subject. It is the New Hampshire house where he spent most of his summers growing up and where he has lived and worked since 1975, when he moved in with his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995.
Built in 1803, Eagle Pond Farm was always “a poetry place,” Mr. Hall said. His grandfather raised sheep, cattle and pigs there, and harvested maple syrup. During the summers the young Donald would help him. He grew up loving the place, he said, “loving the landscape, loving the way people talked.”

I'm sure they meant to say "former" poet laureate. Read the entire feature here.

Friday 17 August 2007

Adam Kirsch reflects on Robert Lowell's last days and final book

"Thirty years ago, on September 12, 1977, Robert Lowell died of a heart attack in the back of a taxicab, on his way home to the Upper West Side from Kennedy Airport. Lowell was just 60 years old when he died, but he had already outlived most of the poets of his brilliant, afflicted generation. Delmore Schwartz, his onetime roommate, died in 1966, a paranoid recluse in a Times Square flophouse; John Berryman, his close friend and rival, committed suicide in 1972 by jumping off a bridge in Minneapolis; Randall Jarrell, his college roommate, was hit by a car in 1965, also probably a suicide; Sylvia Plath, whom he had taught at Boston University, killed herself in London in 1963. As this list shows, Lowell stood at the center of his generation in a personal as well as a literary sense. It was not just that he was the most talented poet of his time, and the most famous. For three decades, he was poetry's epicenter, and the violent tremors that radiated out from his life and work reshaped the whole landscape of American verse.
Read the rest in The New York Sun.

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Walt Whitman reviewed in the Atlantic, 1882

On their website the Atlantic is offering a review of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass that originally ran in the pages of their magazine in January 1882.

Here is how it begins:
"The appearance of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass in a new edition has revived a discussion always imminent when the name of this writer is brought forward, and always more or less acrimonious. Some persons even imagine it obligatory upon them to deny him all merit of poetic endowment, so violent is their revolt against the offensiveness which Mr. Whitman has chosen to make a central and integral point of his literary method."

And here is how it ends:

"Every one imbued with the "primal sanities" must be revolted by this offense, and protest against it. Fortunately, however, the chief damage done will be to the author himself, who thus dishonors his own physical nature; for imperfect though the race is, it still remains so much purer than the stained and distorted reflection of its animalism in Leaves of Grass, that the book cannot attain to any very wide influence."

I leave it to you, if you are imbued with the "primal sanities", to read the rest of the review here.

Monday 13 August 2007

Have you read David W. McFadden's latest book yet?

Canadian poets are weighing in on David W. McFadden's excellent new selected, Why Are You So Sad?: Selected Poems of David W. McFadden. Here's what they're saying:

"This book astounds me with the range of its invention, humour, humanity, compassion, description, self-aware sentimentality, insight, fun, and ability to take the form of the poem to surprising and startlingly creative places. I feel a mixture of joy, wonder, bemusement, sadness, incredulity, delight, exhilaration, recognition, and inspiration when reading McFadden's work." -- Gary Barwin, read his entire entry here.
"The self-proclaimed master of the coincidence, Toronto's David McFadden (originally from Hamilton, Ontario) somehow manages to write poems that exist as part of the world around him, instead of simply being about him. His poems aren’t about the world, his poems are the world." -- rob mclennan, read his entire entry here.
"Well, the book is huge and cheap and everyone should go out and buy a copy or order one online and read the thing from cover to cover. This book is an adventure."
-- Stuart Ross, read his entire entry here.

Truer words were seldom spoken, Stuart!
Buy Why Are You So Sad? in Canada.
Buy Why Are You So Sad? in the United States.
Buy Why Are You So Sad? in the U.K.

You can read some of David McFadden's new poems if you visit THIS Magazine here.

Visit Insomniac Press and read a sample from the book.

Saturday 11 August 2007

RIP Margaret Avison

One of our greatest lyrical voices is no longer with us.

Margaret Avison passed away last week in Toronto at the age of 89, but it appears the story is only now being reported. A private memorial service has already been held. I will spend some time with her poems to remember her life and work in my own way.

Globe and Mail
Edmonton Journal
London Free Press
Vancouver Sun

Friday 10 August 2007

Marvin Bell in conversation on politics, war, poetry, and his new collection

Marvin Bell's latest collection is Mars Being Red from Copper Canyon Press. I will be ordering this immediately.

Margaret Bikman of The Bellingham Herald talks with Bell about his view on politics and war, poetry and teaching, and his new book.

Q: These are not quiet meditations on the philosophy of war; rather, these are visceral, graphic, tossing-in-one’ssleep poems. Would you elaborate on your thought in a recent interview that you’ve “been trying for 30 years to figure out how best to put the news into poems — what other people would call politics”?

A: It doesn’t seem enough to me for poetry to be a graph of the mind, an experiment in language, or an aesthetic expression of emotion. The problem? Overt political content tends to overwhelm the poem so that it lacks insistent form and/or the complexity of the human condition.

Read the whole interview here.

Monday 6 August 2007

Poem of the week

My poem "The Painted Beasts of Lascaux" has been selected to be this week's Poem of the Week by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada John Steffler. Check it out here.

And you can take a virtual tour of the caves here.

Saturday 4 August 2007

Elitism, Accessability, and Billy Collins

Collins takes some lumps from a lot of his peers for being a writer of "accessible" poetry. San Fransisco Chronicle columnist John Carroll, who admits that he is not a big reader of poetry himself, takes the time to ponder the question of accessibility, elitism, and place of Billy Collins in contemporary poetry.
For the record, Collins doesn't much care for the word "accessible" either, because it suggests "ramps for poetically handicapped people." He likes the word "hospitable." But he concedes that "accessible" has won the day, and he's happy with the side he finds himself on. "Some poems talk to us; others want us to witness an act of literary experimentation."

Read the whole column here.

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Bookslut praises Perillo

Melissa A. Barton offers her thoughts on Lucia Perillo's new book of essays I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature on the popular website bookslut.

From the very first line of I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature it is clear that Lucia Perillo is a poet. Her prose is lyrical, sharp and rich with unusual and striking imagery and biting lines, whether she’s writing about seagulls, Emily Dickinson, or her desperate trials of alternative treatments for multiple sclerosis.

Perillo, the author of four award-winning books of poetry, was a backcountry ranger before she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 30s. Since then, the disease has made her “ever more physically compromised,” which requires her to redefine her concept of wilderness so she can still experience wilderness despite being unable to walk.

Thus I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing opens with Perillo’s observations of that most reviled and overlooked bird: the seagull. As Perillo learns to see seagulls, so does the reader. Wilderness can be found in unexpected places, even odd-smelling, trash-ridden, muddy docks. While seagulls aren’t as good for stories as eagles, they have their own appeal.
I've recently finished reading this, and I thought it was marvellous. One thing I found remarkable about these essays was how effortlessly Perillo incorporates discussion of poetry into her memoir of illness and nature. All her themes coexist organically with one another and nothing ever feels like it's been parachuted into the scene. For Perillo, poetry is a natural part of life, as present in the world as seagulls and illness, and often much more pleasant.

For the whole review please click here.