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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 265, Volume 48 Number 5, May - June 2022.

News & Notes
Paz · To mark the 108th anniversary of Octavio Paz’s birth, the legendary Colegio San Ildefonso in Mexico City (where the great muralists, Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco in particular, painted some of their most ambitious works) has dedicated a handsome memorial fountain designed by the Mexican artist Vicente Rojo (who died last year). The work celebrates Paz and his wife Marie-José, who died in 2018.

Paz and Rojo admired one another’s work, and the sharp, emphatic red (Rojo) sculptural swirl evokes the ground-breaking Poetry in Movement anthology which Paz edited with Ali Chumacero, José Emilio Pacheco and Homero Aridjis in 1966, a book that revealed the wealth of Mexican poetry in the previous half century. The ashes of the poet and his wife are preserved within the memorial. On a granite surface the opening words of Paz’s most famous poem Piedra de Sol (Sun Stone) appear:
Un alto surtidor que el viento arquea,
un árbol bien plantado mas danzante,
un caminar de río que se curva,
avanza, retrocede, da un rodeo
y llega siempre.
Vicente Rojo worked with Paz from 1968. It was a period of political definition, when after the student massacre at Tlatelolco Paz renounced his ambassadorship to India and cut himself free of the corrupted and repressive establishment of the time.

Among other memorable collaborations were the Discos Visuales where the reader can reconfigure the words by turning visual discs. Paz provided the words, Rojo the movement and the reader’s engagement that goes beyond reading static text, becoming part of the creative process. They also collaborated on the handsome unfolding codex-text of Blanco, the Topoemas and the Marcel Duchamp box of tricks which was at once a serious and entertaining act of play, in and between forms, objects and languages.

San Ildefonso is an ideal place for the celebratory memorial – an historic building with a long history, open to the public, where the poet can be celebrated every day and by new generations. Paz wrote his famous Nocturno a San Ildefonso remembering his student days in the heart of the city.

An uncomfortable irony: the poet’s and his wife’s ashes were deposited in the memorial by the wife of Mexico’s controversial populist president, as though Paz was being re-absorbed into the establishment from which he broke free in 1968.


Minhinnick · On April 22 the Hay Festival – marking its thirty-fifth birthday – announced that this year’s poetry medal was being awarded to Robert Minhinnick during the festival proceedings between 26 May and 5 June. The medal has been awarded since the 2012 Olympics which inspired them. ‘With Athena as muse, silversmith Christopher Hamilton crafts them locally,’ the organisers said. ‘Robert Minhinnick is the prize-winning author of four volumes of essays, more than a dozen volumes of poetry, and four works of fiction. He has also edited a book on the environment in Wales, has written for television, and provided columns for The Western Mail and Planet. He is the co-founder of the environmental organisation Sustainable Wales, and was formerly the editor of Poetry Wales.’


Wong May · The poet Wong May received a tenth anniversary Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry this year. The award coincided with the publication by Carcanet of In the Same Light: 200 Tang Poems for Our Century, translations of classic poems with a ninety-eight-page Afterword, described by her editor John McAuliffe as ‘a classic meditation on the translator’s art, and the art of poetry.’ He adds, ‘Her translations’ syntax and use of the page seem to establish the poem as a single moment, suspending resolution or forward momentum, simply hanging images and lines alongside one another, so that their different notes make up one chord. Or as if the poem’s cause, what brings its lines about, is there, coming into view (almost), as each line of the poem follows on and responds to it (and its preceding line – another distinguishing aspect of these poems is how easily we hear the poem’s speech and voices as responsive).’  Other recipients of the anniversary prizes included Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zaffar Kunial and Winsome Pinnock.


PW · In 2022 Publishers Weekly is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The editor, writing the editorial for the 276-page anniversary issue, with interviews, reports, an ‘anatomy’ of the magazine in twenty-five-year retrospects and suggestive prospects, speaks of the ways in which the journal has served ‘all aspects of the publishing community’, changing as it changes. Its original title, The Publishers’ and Stationers’ Weekly Trade Circular, underlines the kinds of change that have occurred, not least to the apostrophe. A trade which equally served writers and readers – writers could buy their ink and paper from the same store in which they bought their newspaper, magazine and the latest Mrs Humphry Ward novel – has become differentiated and specialised; the variety and quantity of product has multiplied out of all proportion. The issue also includes interviews and profiles, foregrounding twenty-five individuals from the last twenty­five years ‘whose mark on the industry is indelible’, among them figures crucial to poetry publishing, including poet and novelist Jonathan Galassi (a contributor to PN Review, most recently in 2020 remembering the biographer James Atlas; a celebrated translator of Eugenio Montale, and at Farrar Straus and Giroux one of the great publishers of poetry in the United States); Barbara Epler of New Directions, who continued in the ambitious and eccentric poetry and prose directions originally mapped by James Laughlin; the agent Andrew Wylie, who was not wary of poets as authors; and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (originally Jeff Bezos’s Amazon), ‘who has brought more change to the book industry than anyone since Johannes Gutenberg’. The issue concludes with a survey of the development of diversity in American publishing, highlighting trends and the individuals who are bringing them about.


Nil desperandum!  · Some changes in British poetry publishing. The future of Eyewear seems to be threatened by the serious illness of its founder Todd Swift. His collection Last Poems Before Heart Failure is described on Amazon in apocalyptic terms: ‘Christmas 2021, Todd Swift was in ICU, close to death. His heart had failed. Now, in early 2022, he continues to be tested and treated at the Royal Free Hampstead for this serious health challenge, as he comes to terms with heart failure. He also has a very large blood clot on his heart. With a cover design by artist Edwin Smet, here are a selection of new and older poems, published as a fundraiser for Todd.’ We hope that his situation is improving: his authors – wishing him well – also wonder what the future of their books might be. Nil desperandum! It has been announced that the poet Don Paterson is standing down as Picador poetry editor after a quarter of a century. It is a list he founded and made profitable with some brilliant and some surprising choices. His successor, the Derry-born and Newcastle-based poet Colette Bryce, will be tasked with continuing his work, maintaining the stable of poets he ably assembled and adding to it. And Bloomsbury has launched its first poetry list under the editorial baton of Kayo Chingonyi. The Bookseller says, ‘In its first year, Bloomsbury Poetry will release the “heartrending reckonings” of Valzhyna Mort, the “lyrical genius” of Polarbear, the jazz-inflected grief sonnets of Anthony Joseph and the “transformative reflections” of Selina Nwulu in print, e-book and audio editions.’


AGNI · The American magazine AGNI is turning fifty this year, an anniversary that is being celebrated with events and publications. The editors declare, ‘Our mission remains as it has always been, to bring our readers into the living moment, not as tourists but as engaged participants. And – as means and method – to champion writers who engage the world in and around them.’ The event programme is carefully mapped. ‘Throughout the year, AGNI and Brookline Booksmith are celebrating AGNI’s fiftieth with a series of six intimate virtual conversations, all on Mondays at 8 PM Eastern. Each will pair one of the journal’s editors with a contributor whose work defines, for them, the ever-evolving AGNI aesthetic.’ (AGNI, 236 Bay State Road, Boston, MA 02215)


Huws Morys · One of Wales’s most distinguished poets, if least-known to non-speakers of Welsh, Huws Morys, celebrated his 400th birthday in April. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, he was well known to his compatriots. He lived at Pont-y-meibion in the Ceirog Valley, a roadside farmhouse between Pandy and Tregeiriog. He lived a long life, up to 1709, and his mortal remains lie at St Silin Church, Llansilin. He had been church warden there. He wrote poetry for over sixty years and over 500 of his poems survive, though not many are easy to find. Huw was a peerless master of cynghanedd, a challenging discipline with strict prosodic, vocalic and consonantal rules and patterns peculiar to Welsh literature. He also practiced in a variety of forms, and whatever he wrote is marked by a joy in his language and its enabling constraints. His anniversary was celebrated with a series of events that foregrounded his places, his life, and his poetry.


Bunyah · The Australian poet Les Murray died in 2019. In May his posthumous collection Continuous Creation was published by FSG in the United States and by Carcanet in the UK. The cover image shows Les sitting in the living room of his home, a little farmhouse in Bunyah where the poet farmed, wrote and celebrated God. In a memorial blog, the Scottish poet Iain Bamforth recalled visiting the farm in 1990, a one-thousand-kilometre drive across New South Wales: ‘when we entered the bird-shriek of the Bulahdelah forest and Wang Wauk valley in north-western NSW […] we began to appreciate the significance of “Up Home” and the little homestead of Bunyah. It was where Les’s father “was disinherited / for a brother’s death” (see “The Mystery” in the present volume, and “The Blame” in On Bunyah), a family house that Les had bought back in the mid-1970s in an act of family atonement.’

'What initially drew me to his poems,’ Bamforth writes, ‘was the uncanny fusion of the deeply archaic and the modern (although many would argue that this discovery of the archaic is the very engine of modernity) as celebrated in the titles of some of the great poems he wrote in the 1970s and 80s: “The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle”, “Machine Portraits with Pendant Spaceman” and “Walking to the Cattle Place”.’
One poem concludes:

We bring nothing into this world
except our gradual ability
to create it, out of all that vanishes
and all that will outlast us.

Steve Heighton · Evan Jones writes: Steven Heighton, poet, novelist, translator, and more recently singer-songwriter, died in Kingston, Ontario, on 19 April 2022, after a short illness. He was born in Toronto in 1961, and grew up there and in Red Lake, a small town in Northern Ontario. He completed his BA and MA at Queen’s University, Kingston, and travelled and worked abroad before returning and settling into a writing life. He began publishing in the 1980s, short stories, poems, and eventually novels. From 1988 to 1994, he edited the influential literary magazine Quarry. His second novel, Afterlands (2005), was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice. He published seven collections of poetry, and in 2016 received the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Poetry for The Waking Comes Late. His Selected Poems 1983–2020 appeared in 2021. From the outset, Heighton was the progenitor of a new movement in Canadian poetry: formal, intellectual, transnational, yet never fussy or fusty. His literary ancestors extended back through the canon – and into other languages and traditions, most notably Greek, to which he held a familial connection. His more recent, now final work suggests a building on and development of his early moral energies into broader, more social and political thinking. His 2020 memoir, Reaching Mithymna, details his decision to travel to the Greek island of Lesvos to help with the Syrian refugee crisis – and all the chaos of that situation. Not one to be pigeonholed, he released an album, The Devil’s Share, in April 2021, recorded at Post Office Studio, Wolfe Island, Canada and released by Wolfe Island Records. It is available to stream and download via Bandcamp.


The New Order · The New York Times reported on 13 April an event at St Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery so seemingly out of keeping with the poetic traditions and legends of the place that it seems worth noting. This is the church in which the 1997 recital of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Allen Ginsberg’s 1994 live recording of Wichita Vortex Sutra occurred. The poets were back, but their world and the world itself have changed. The numerous photographs of the dresses worn, the sheer glitter and display, revealed the new order. The Times report appears innocent of its own irony. ‘Phantoms from a vanishing downtown were summoned to St Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery last Friday for the Poetry Project’s 55th anniversary gala,’ it began. ‘The organization is an enduring harborage for New York City poets, and the event brought several generations of the creative community under one steeple to celebrate the spoken word.

‘Attendees in suits, gowns, indoor beanies and sleeveless turtlenecks chatted in the side aisles during the cocktail hour. Some wondered if this quasi-formal affair, with $500 seats and a step-and-repeat, squared with the Poetry Project’s bohemian past and its association with penniless bards. “There’s a little grumbling about, ‘How can poets charge money for this kind of thing?’” said Anne Waldman, who was the group’s director from 1968 to 1978. “I say we need to keep this place going, and we have to grow up and join the culture.” The eclectic list of writers, musicians, actors and designers reflected that outreach. Daniel Lopatin, the experimental electronic music producer who performs as Oneohtrix Point Never, said his favourite poet was Clark Coolidge. “The words are almost nonsense,” Mr. Lopatin said. “It’s very much rooted in his jazz practice, and I worship him.” Next to him was Cory Kennedy, an embodiment of the “indie sleaze” era of the mid-late-aughts, who wore a gauzy tee and pencil skirt, both Calvin Klein. She joked that she was a fan of a contemporary warrior-poet. “Zelensky’s not bad,” she said. Dinner was served in the nave. A long table near the stage included Chloë Sevigny, Zac Posen, Nate Lowman, Andrew VanWyngarden and Arden Wohl. Leek vinaigrette arrived with mozzarella di bufala and speakers toasted the poetic contributions of Rene Ricard and Patricia Spears Jones. “I think honoring the upsetters”’ – by which she seems to have meant the poets who brought the Project into being – ‘“is important,” said Ms. Sevigny, who wore a pink, black and gray ball gown by All-In, which had the confectionary sheen of a raspberry-glazed doughnut. “There’s a very cool generation that are now our elders,” she said. Dasha Nekrasova, an actress and podcaster, sat a few tables away. She wore a black dress from Brock Collection and darted outside to smoke with a cadre of seatmates. Elsewhere, Paul Slovak, an editor at Penguin Books, sprinkled lore over roast chicken with fava beans. […] “I think it’s a very golden moment for poetry,” he said. “There are many, many supremely talented young poets.”’ It would seem there is also a lot of money in poetry, and that fashion and poetry now walk hand in glove.

‘The after-party was held in the back of the church and guests spilled out into a garden patio. Telfar Clemens, the designer, and Juliana Huxtable, the artist, were on hand for theatrical poetry performances and a DJ spinning dance music. Mr Posen, the fashion designer, was asked if poetry might be having a fashion moment. After all, Demna Gvasalia read a poem by Oleksandr Oles at the Balenciaga show in Paris, Loewe cited the poetry of Sylvia Plath as an inspiration for its latest show, and brands like Valentino and Tory Burch recently collaborated with writers. “Clothing can be poetry if worn by the right person,” Mr Posen said, “or the wrong one.”’


Crufts · The New York Times itself had a poetry moment in April, National Poetry Month. The book pages dedicated a whole issue to poetry.

‘But first we ask a very basic question: What is poetry, anyway?’ There is a simple, straightforward answer, not like ‘what is a woman’. The NYT columnist  Elisa Gabbert explained, ‘The poem is a vessel […] poetry is liquid.’ The editor chimed in with a canine metaphor, the dog show where ‘we might strain to see any similarity between a whippet and a Pekingese and a wire fox terrier, but we recognize them all as dogs’. The variety of dogs in the pages that follow is remarkable. A lot of modish clothing, certainly. As Urban Pup says in its advertisement, ‘Dressing your pup for any occasion has never been easier with our on trend, dog clothes. You and your beloved pet pooch can now step out in style with our wide range of in season dog clothes.’ For pup and pooch substitute ‘poet’ at will.

To be fair, there are strong reviews, essays and a few poems, including ‘a resonant sonnet about love and war by the Ukrainian poet Yuri Burjak.’

This item is taken from PN Review 265, Volume 48 Number 5, May - June 2022.



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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