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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.

News & Notes
Second Collections· Sandeep Parmar’s Eidolon, published by Shearsman Books, has been awarded the inaugural Ledbury Forte Poetry Prize, the UK’s first prize dedicated to second poetry collections, and worth £5,000. The judges were Vahni Capildeo and Tara Bergin. Vahni writes about the judging process in this issue of PNR.

Homer in Sicily · At the end of the nineteenth century Samuel Butler proposed that the Odyssey was written by a woman living in Trapani, Sicily, thus placing himself squarely in the millennium-long debate on the location of the events narrated by the Homeric poems. To find evidence for his theory, Butler visited Sicily many times during the last ten years of his life. His studies took an anthropological direction. He took a significant collection of photographs across the island. The Fardelliana Library, in partnership with the St John’s College Library in Cambridge, has organised a photographic exhibition and an international conference titled ‘Samuel Butler’s Route: Geographies and Anthropologies into the Odyssey’. The conference is taking place on the 27th of September, in Trapani, and features three guest speakers: Dr Edith Hall (King’s College London), Dr Elinor Shaffer (University of London) and Dr Cristiano Turbil (King’s College London). The exhibition will open to the public the following spring at the Specus Corallii, located in the historic centre of Trapani.

First Translation Prize · Translator Daniel Hahn has donated half his winnings from the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award to establish a new prize for debut literary translation – the Translators’ Association’s First Translation Prize, which will be run by the Society of Authors. The award is also backed by the British Council: ‘It aims to recognise excellent debut literary prose translation published in the UK, and will be shared between the first-time translator and her/his editor.’ Further details will be published in due course.

Poet Laureate · The Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has announced the appointment of Princeton University professor Tracy K. Smith as the Library’s 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, for 2017–18. She will take up her duties in the autumn, opening the Library of Congress’s annual literary season with a reading of her work. Hayden said of Smith’s work, ‘it travels the world and takes on its voices; brings history and memory to life; calls on the power of literature as well as science, religion and pop culture’. Smith was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2012. She succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera as poet laureate.

Griffin · Alice Oswald’s Falling Awake has been awarded the 2017 International Griffin Prize. The purse is substantial, in sterling terms £37,725. The same sum was also presented to the Vancouver poet Jordan Abel, who received the Canadian prize with his long poem about cultural appropriation and racism, Injun.

Helen Dunmore · The poet, historical novelist, story and children’s writer Helen Dunmore died in June. She was sixty-four. She was one of Bloodaxe Books’ first writers, publishing her first collection, The Apple Fall, in 1983. Bloodaxe remained her poetry publisher. Her latest (tenth) collection, Inside the Wave, appeared in April. She published twelve novels and three books of short stories with Penguin, including A Spell of Winter (1995), winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, and four novels with Hutchinson. She also wrote sixteen books for children and eight for young adults. Her poetry publisher Neil Astley will contribute a memoir to a later issue of PNR.

Your more secret mind · The Jamaican poet James Berry, who by bringing Patois to British poetry so successfully destabilised and opened it out, has died. He was ninety-two. He arrived in Britain in 1948, after six years in the United States, settling in Brixton. Racism and poverty contributed to his early poetry. He joined the Caribbean Artists Movement early, along with Kamau Brathwaite, Wilson Harris, Andrew Salkey, George Lamming, Samuel Selvon, Stuart Hall and his publisher John La Rose. His first poetry book, Fractured Circles, was published in 1979 by New Beacon Books. In 1981 he was awarded the National Poetry prize for ‘Fantasy of an African Boy’. He declared, ‘Poems come from your more secret mind. A poem will want to ask deeper questions, higher questions, more puzzling questions, and often too, more satisfying questions than the everyday obvious questions…’ He edited two key, questioning anthologies, Bluefoot Traveller (1976) and News for Babylon (1984), and indefatigably championed West Indian/British writing. In 1990 he was appointed to the Order of the British Empire. His Selected Poems, under the title A Story I am In, was published by Bloodaxe in 2011.

Burnt matchsticks · Another leading Bloodaxe poet, the Russian dissident Irina Ratushinskaya, a survivor of four years in the Gulag, died in Moscow in July. She was sixty-three. She composed 250 poems under detention, some committed to memory in the manner of Akhmatova’s poems, some scratched with burnt matchsticks into bars of soap. ‘When I finished, I would memorize it, wash my hands and send it down the drain,’ she said. Transcribed on cigarette papers, they found their way via her husband to the West. Human rights groups took up her cause and worked for her freedom which at last came in 1986, one of the first fruits of glasnost, shortly before Presidents Gorbachev and Reagan were due to meet in Reykjavik. Bloodaxe published No, I’m Not Afraid in that year, to great acclaim. She and her husband had Russian citizenship restored under Yeltsin, moving to Moscow in 1998 so that their children could be educated in Russian schools.

Eunice de Souza · Poet, teacher, novelist and journalist Eunice de Souza has died in Mumbai at the age of seventy-six. The poets she taught and inspired, principally women writers, found her example and approach liberating. Her first book of poems, Fix, was published in 1979, and focused on the Goan Catholics living in Mumbai. Her most recent, Learn from the Almond Leaf, last year. Her two novels, Dangerlok (٢٠٠١) and Dev and Simran (2003), expanded on her poetic work, using colloquial Bandra English, giving it literary legitimacy. She was also a great advocate through her important anthology work, including Nine Indian Women Poets, 101 Folktales From India, Women’s Voices: Selections from Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Indian Writing in English and Early Indian Poetry in English.

Unexpected depths · Chana Bloch, a poet and an acclaimed translator of Hebrew poetry, died in Berkeley, California, in May at the age of seventy-seven. Bloch rooted her own poetry in the work of Dickinson, Bishop and Akhmatova; the seeming simplicity was hard-earned, and her subject matter, the dailiness of family life, growing old, is connected by deft allusion to the larger stories, myths and legends provided by the Bible and other books held in common. ‘I like poetry that appears to be clear on the surface, with unexpected depths.’ She was a key translator of the work of Israeli poets Dahlia Ravikovitch and Yehuda Amichai.

Pakistan · The celebrated Urdu poet and writer Hasan Akbar Kamal died in July in Karachi. He was seventy-one. Like Euncie de Souza, he was a significant teacher as well as a leading figure in the literature of Pakistan in the years after Partition. He started writing young and his songs became well known before he died. He wrote several collections of poetry, a book of essays, and he also wrote for children.

The Blond Beast · Heathcote Williams, who has died at the age of seventy-five, was a poet of aggravated temper, a playwright, humourist, activist and actor. His most durable contributions may be to the cause of environmental issues, addressed in some of his most effectively polemical work. An old Etonian, one of his last gestures was to assault Boris Johnson with The Blond Beast of Brexit: a Study in Depravity (2016). In the late 1980s he wrote Whale Nation, a celebration and a plea for the preservation of the giant mammal, Sacred Elephant, which took the theme further, and Autogeddon, which in ballad form attacks the car and what it does to land and life. Horatio Morpurgo sent PNR a poem in memory of Williams:


The night I heard that Heathcote Williams was gone
I had planned to work and even tried but no use.
Walking through town at dusk on a midsummer Sunday – Streets and bars all but deserted –
Some subconscious trail led me to water.
It stood me at last on a little bridge
Between an old factory still in use, turning out
High-spec cables for half the world’s military –
I always smile –
Even its alarm system is called Real World Services –
The people they flew in from Sri Lanka to install it
Cycled around town for a few weeks then vanished –
On a little road bridge between all of that
And a housing estate, I leant upon a brick parapet
And noted as night fell how severely, year by year,
They cut back the river-side vegetation where I saw an otter once.
Under an escort of its own blue lights, as I meditated on this,
An ambulance passed down West Street in silence and in no hurry
Then turned along the narrow street towards where I stood.
The pulsing of its light grew stronger, started reflecting
In the windows of the houses and parked cars, cast even
A blue flicker among the leaves and shadows of the trees
Right along the dark line of our ill-used river.
The silhouette of a gull floated above as that ambulance
Followed the road round and went out of sight.

This item is taken from PN Review 237, Volume 44 Number 1, September - October 2017.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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