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This item is taken from PN Review 149, Volume 29 Number 3, January - February 2003.

News & Notes
TOM PAULIN, invited to lecture at Harvard, had his invitation revoked when a number of people - academics, students and alumni - took umbrage at comments he made to an Egyptian newspaper in April. Brooklynborn Jews who had settled in the West Bank, he said, 'should be shot dead,' adding, 'I think they are Nazis, racists; I feel nothing but hatred for them.' Such comments by Tom Paulin are already familiar to his British readers. The invitation to lecture at Harvard was restored after a flurry of publicity, in the interests of 'free speech', a value Paulin himself was not been keen to uphold in certain circumstances. Paulin issued a statement, to sooth American academic nerves, so exceptional in its unexceptionability, so bland, as to make his admirers wonder whether he actually issued it all: 'Whatever was said in my lengthy exchange, the views I hold on the situation in the Middle East, and on the need to oppose all forms of anti-Semitism, have been made clear in the statement I issued to The Daily Telegraph. This reflects my lifelong commitment to fighting racism in all its forms. I fully understand that some of what was reported in the original article is deeply offensive to all right-thinking people. My quoted remarks completely misrepresent my real views. For that, I apologise.' Professor Helen Vendler put the record straight: 'On the basic principle of freedom of speech, Harvard University was right to reinstate its invitation to the poet Tom Paulin. It should be noted, however, that Mr Paulin is himself committed to the censorship of political opinions with which he does not agree. Last year Mr Paulin wrote to The Guardian, in London, asking why it permitted "Zionists" like me and the author and critic Ian Buruma to write for and express our views in the paper. He is also a supporter of the boycott of Israeli academics, denying those who (like me) deplore the policies of the current Israeli government the right to speak in international forums, solely on the basis of their nationality.'

The Irish-resident French novelist MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ was acquitted by a Paris court on 20 October of charges of inciting racial hatred when he declared in an interview last year that Islam was 'the most stupid religion'. The case was brought by three Muslim associations and the Human Rights League in Paris. Houellebecq, absent from the court, made his objectionable comment about Islam in an interview last year with Lire. 'When you read the Koran, you give up...At least the Bible is very beautiful because Jews have an extraordinary literary talent.' His third novel, Plateforme ends with an extremist attack on a tourist resort in Thailand, which prompts the narrator to wish for the death of Palestinians. Houellebecq was supported by Salman Rushdie, and Martin Amis told The Times that 'the key to radical Islam' - as though he has insider knowledge - 'is that it is quivering with male insecurity'. Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci is charged with inciting racial hatred for the assertion in her post-11 September book The Rage And The Pride that Muslims 'multiply like rats'. Can she too count on the assistance of Amis and Rushdie? If the word 'Muslim' was replaced with 'Jew' or 'Black', would there be even a moment's doubt about incitement? The French court declared of Houellebecq's comment, 'This remark does not contain any intent to abuse verbally, show contempt for or insult the followers of the religion in question.'

The American NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY for 2002 was presented to Ruth Stone, the 87-year-old poet, for her eighth collection, In the Next Galaxy, published by the excellent Copper Canyon Press. 'I think you gave it to me because I'm old,' she said.

POSIDDIPUS OF PELLA has had 112 poems added to his scarce surviving works, more than 2200 years after his death. A known, if not a well-known, Alexandrian epigrammatist, the papyrus bearing these new poems was deciphered in Milan. It was removed from the breast of a mummy and is surprisingly well preserved. It represents the largest find of significant Greek literary remains in recent decades. Posiddipus wrote in the third century BC. The mummy's breastplate represents what may be the oldest surviving book (or scroll) of poems. The poems are being translated by Dr Frank Nisetich, Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Massachusetts at Boston and visiting scholar at Boston University. The 112 poems consist of more than 600 lines in nine sections.

Wherever you hold Pythermos the good, who died
under the chill of Capricorn, cover him lightly,
black Earth. But if it's you, Father of the Sea, who keep him
hidden, put him out now, intact, on the bare sand
in full view of Kyme [a place], giving, as you should, the dead man,
O Master of the Sea, back to his native land.

The new-formalist poet, critic and anthologist DANA GIOIA, author of the tendentious essay 'Can Poetry Matter?', emerged as front runner to become chairman of the influential National Endowment for the Arts, an institution whose largesse always seems to carry a burden of political responsibility and whose decisions, when they are wholly aesthetic, draw down the opprobrium of the popular press in the United States. Gioia is seen as a safe pair of hands: what more painful stigma could attach to a poet? 'The chairmanship is a sensitive post,' said the New York Times, 'that draws far more attention than other positions with influence over annual budgets far larger than the endowment's $115 million.'

The heiress of the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, RUTH LILLY, has made a bequest of $100 million dollars to Poetry (Chicago) magazine. How did this come about? Thanks to a hand-written rejection slip. She submitted some poems to the magazine and Joseph Parisi courteously sent them back. The gift was announced at Poetry's ninetieth anniversary party. With his usual gift for epigrammatic statement, American laureate Billy Collins declared, 'Its a real mindblower.' He added a further metaphor: 'Poetry has always had the reputation as being the poor little match girl of the arts. Well, the poor little match girl just hit the lottery.' Poetry has turned from a little magazine limping along from grant to grant into one of the world's richest journals. 'There just isn't anything to compare it to,' said the editor. 'We will be the largest foundation in the world devoted to poetry. It's a huge responsibility, as I'm realising every day more and more.' Harriet Monroe, who founded the magazine in 1912, would probably turn in her grave if word reached her. This was not what Poetry was about. The magazine, said Joseph Parisi who has steered it efficiently for some years, was hiring money managers and investment advisers. The magazine's staff would be expanded and it would move to more spacious offices. More ambitious outreach plans were also taking shape.

The T.S. ELIOT PRIZE 2002 short list has been announced. It includes new books by Simon Armitage, John Burnside, Paul Farley, David Harsent, Geoffrey Hill, E.A. Markham, Sinead Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Alice Oswald and Ruth Padel. The winner will be announced on 20 January 2003.

The POETRY BOOK SOCIETY and the VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM are collaborating on a poetry-and-object programme to celebrate the newly opened British Galleries 1500-1900. Valerie Bloom, Colette Bryce, Michael Donaghy, Antony Dunn and Ruth Padel will create new work for (free) performance in the lavish Norfolk House Music Room on 9 February 2003.

The GREVILLE PRESS marks Christmas with four handsome pamphlets, selections of the poems of Stevie Smith and John Masefield, poems by Danny Milne, and Judith Kazantzis's translations of the Cyclops passage from the Odyssey (IX, 105-566). The publications are available from 6 Mellors Court, The Butts, Warwick CV34 2ST.


MATTA (Roberto Sebastián Antonio Matta Echaurren), the Chilean Surrealist artist whose collaborations with poets were among his most powerful works, and who had a decisive impact on the New York School of painters, died in November at the age of 90 or 91. He was the last survivor of the group of artists that surrounded André Breton. In the 1930s he knew Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda. Lorca's murder disturbed him deeply and he wrote a fantastic film script after it, though the film was never produced. In later years, politically and artistically outspoken, he worked with leading French and Latin American writers and affected artists associated with Abstract Expressionism, including Pollock, Rothko, Motherwell and Arshile Gorky.

IVAN ILLICH, the Roman Catholic priest who became one of the genuinely radical rethinkers of social and economic culture, what came to be called 'counterintuitive sociology', in the 1960s and 1970s, died in Bremen in December. He was 76. His bestknown book appeared in 1971, De-Schooling Society. It was followed by other radical volumes and essays. Illich, said one obituary, 'was a priest who thought there were too many priests, a lifelong educator who argued for the end of schools and an intellectual sniper from a perch with a wide view.' He recognised the paradoxes of his stance and, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in the 1970s, wryly referred to them as 'postmodern'. It was in Cuernavaca that he established the Intercultural Center for Documentation to teach priests and laymen who wanted to become Latin American volunteers, an institution which radicalised many priests and added energy to the movement of Liberation Theology for a decade.

SELDEN RODMAN, iconoclast and poetic polymath, one of folk art's greatest advocates (especially the fascinating arts of Haiti), died on 2 November at the age of 93. A vigorous man, he played tennis two days before he died. He edited one of the most influential anthologies of modern poetry, wrote essays and much else. It was he who called Abstract Expressionism 'the cerebral put-ons of the avant-garde'. He was a profound admirer of Pound, with whom he played tennis. His work with Partisan Review (he was Dwight Macdonald's brother in law) included enlisting work by Auden, Spender, Dreiser and Edmund Wilson.

EILEEN SIMPSON, the first wife of John Berryman and author of the memorable memoir of her life with him and her friendship with the writers of his generation, Poets in their Youth (1982), has died. She was 84 years old.

This item is taken from PN Review 149, Volume 29 Number 3, January - February 2003.

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