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This item is taken from PN Review 168, Volume 32 Number 4, March - April 2006.News & Notes
CHRISTOPHER LOGUE has won the Whitbread Prize for Poetry in his eightieth year for Cold Calls, the fifth and penultimate volume of his version of Homer's Iliad. Also shortlisted for the poetry prize were David Harsent for Legion (Faber), Richard Price for Lucky Day (Carcanet) and Jane Yeh for Marabou (Carcanet).
The actor SIMON CALLOW is leading a campaign to save the North London house where Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine lived briefly during 1873. Its current owners, the Royal Veterinary College, are eager to sell the property to somebody willing to restore it; suggestions include turning it into a museum or study centre. The Grade II listed Georgian terrace on Royal College Street, Camden Town, provided a place of solace for the French poets while they were exiled from Paris when their notorious affair became public. Both were at the height of their poetic powers; Rimbaud was working on his great prose poem A Season in Hell, whilst Verlaine was writing his exquisite Romances Sans Paroles. Their tempestuous relationship came to a dramatic end shortly afterwards in Brussels, where Verlaine was imprisoned for shooting Rimbaud through the wrist.
An American academic has uncovered sequences of acrostics and anagrams in the poetry of the seventeenth-century poet and priest George Herbert. According to Adele Davidson, Professor of English at Kenyon College in Ohio, the patterns have gone unnoticed since Dryden referred to them almost four centuries ago. Reading Herbert's lyric poem 'Divinity' vertically, Professor Davidson noticed the word JWCABAL': JW referring to the divine name, Jahweh, and CABAL suggesting the Jewish secret religious wisdom. Herbert would have been familiar with the alphabetical acrostics in the psalms of the Old Testament. 'The overall effects are so pervasive and so germane to the context of individual poems that they cannot result from coincidence', Davidson argued in the TLS.
The 2005 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry was awarded to CAROL ANN DUFFY in January for her collection of love poems, Rapture (Picador). Judges David Constantine, Kate Clanchy and Jane Draycott called it 'a coherent and passionate collection, very various in all its unity of purpose'.
Robert Burns has been voted the second greatest Scot by Sunday newspaper readers, 210 years after his death. Although pipped at the post by William 'Mel Gibson' Wallace, Burns fans can console themselves with the knowledge that a recent panel of historians put Robbie at the top of their list, despite lacking a blockbuster Hollywood film to his name. And while Burns's womanising reputation - he's rumoured to have fathered twenty children by different women - has traditionally excluded women from Burns suppers, this year Sheena Wellington became the first woman in 204 years to propose the traditional toast to the Immortal Memory of the Bard at the Greenock Burns Club.
Finnish poet and novelist BO CARPELAN was awarded the Finlandia Prize in December for his novel Berg. Carpelan is the first writer to win the Finlandia Prize twice - he also received it in 1993 for his novel Urwind (published in English by Carcanet). Awarded by Paavo Lipponen, the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament, in association with the Finnish Book Publishers Association, the £26,000 award is Finland's most prestigious literary recognition. Bo Carpelan is one of the leading Finnish-Swedish writers of this century. Born in Helsinki in 1926, he has worked as a librarian and literary critic and has published fourteen books of poems and five books of fiction, as well as translations and children's books.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson have recently launched a new anthology, New Poems on the Underground 2006, and an accompanying audiobook. Edited by Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik and Cicely Herbert, it marks the twentieth anniversary of the Poems on the Underground initiative. To order a copy, telephone Judith Chernaik on 020 7485 1930 or visit www.tfl.gov.uk/tube /arts/poems to view Transport for London's poetry archive.
The firebrand Canadian poet IRVING LAYTON died in Montreal on 4 January at the age of ninety-two, having suffered from Alzheimer's disease for the past five years. Renowned for his flamboyant and aggres-sive literary stance, the gifted lyricist helped shape Canadian culture in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Born in Romania in 1912, Layton grew up in the immigrant Jewish neighbourhood of Montreal. He experimented with various occupations including journalism, agriculture and the army, even completing an unhappy stint as a brush salesman, before turning to poetry in his thirties. His first book of poems, Here and Now, was published in 1945; during the 1950s he published an average of two collections a year. His first volume of collected poems, A Red Carpet for the Sun, became a national best-seller and earned him the Governor General's Award, the highest literary award then granted in Canada. He was the first non-Italian to win the Petrarch Prize for Poetry in 1993.
Along with his fellow poets Raymond Souster and Louis Dudek, Layton founded the Contact Press in 1952, which became Canada's pre-eminent literary press, pub-lishing Leonard Cohen and Margaret Atwood, amongst others. A TV career during the late 1950s and 1960s turned Layton into something of a media celebrity; he became notorious for his controversial opinions on Canadian culture and politics.
Married five times, Irving Layton had two sons and two daughters. His great friend Leonard Cohen said of their relationship, 'I taught him how to dress. He taught me how to live forever.'
Liverpool-based literary magazine The Reader is investigating the beneficial relationship between reading and health. Encouraged by the success of its 'Get Into Reading' project for carers, the magazine is collaborating with the Health and Community Care Research Unit at the University of Liverpool in a detailed study of the effectiveness of community reading groups as a means of improving health and well-being. The Reader is also researching the potential of reading-based activities as part of occupational therapy. The Reader is planning a conference on the subject and would like to hear from anyone with an interest in this area: email editor Jane Davis on email@example.com or telephone 0151 794 2830.
The South Bank Centre, in association with the Poetry Society and the London Review of Books, presents Stop the Clock, a three-week literary festival on the theme of writers and the perception of time. Exploring how and why writers employ history, myth, art, architecture and memory to make their mark on the literary landscape, this major new series of events taking place from 7-28 March will feature poets Penelope Shuttle, John Burnside and Esther Jansma alongside novelists Michael Faber and Ismail Kadare, architect Rem Koolhaas and psychologist Douwe Draaisma. Visit www.southbank-centre.org.uk or telephone 08703 800 400 for more information.
'Betwixt and Between': Memory and Cultural Translation: An Interdisciplinary Conference, will take place at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen's University Belfast, from Tuesday 18 April to Friday 21 April. Presented by the School of English in association with the Schools of Languages and Literatures and Performing Arts, the keynote speakers will include Tom Paulin and Terry Eagleton. Visit www.qub.ac.uk/heaneycentre/events for more information.
Novelist and biographer GEOFF AKERS has published Beating for Light: The story of Isaac Rosenberg. Blending fact and fiction, it explores the evolution of one of Europe's finest war poets, from his upbringing in the slums of Whitechapel to his death on the Western Front. To purchase a copy, telephone 01524 68765 or send a cheque for £9.99 to Gazelle Book Services Ltd, Hightown, White Cross Mills, South Road, Lancaster LA1 4XS.
World Book Day, the biggest annual event supporting books and reading in the UK and Ireland, will take place on 2 March. Promotional activities will include 'Quick Reads', a new initiative designed to encourage new readers of all ages, and 'Spread the Word', a series of postcards for offering reading recommendations to friends and family. In addition, fourteen million book vouchers will be issued to schools nation-wide. Visit www.worldbookday.com for more information.
The Poetry Book Society celebrated the relaunch of their Children's Poetry Bookshelf in February with a gala event at London's new Unicorn Theatre for Children. Introduced by Daisy 'Nigella of poetry' Goodwin, it featured performances by Adrian Mitchell, Ian McMillan, Mandy Coe and Francesca Beard. The Children's Poetry Bookshelf offers recommendations for reading and writing poetry for parents, teachers and librarians and selects the best new poetry books for 7-11 year olds every term. To become a member, contact the Poetry Book Society on 0207 833 9247 or at Fourth Floor, 2 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9RA.
This item is taken from PN Review 168, Volume 32 Number 4, March - April 2006.