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This item is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.News & Notes
John Heath-Stubbs died in a West London nursing home on Christmas night at the age of 88. A prolific and eclectic poet, as well as an erudite critic, translator and anthologist, Heath-Stubbs was born in London in 1918 and educated at Queen's College, Oxford, where he published his first poems with the help of fellow young poet Sidney Keyes, who died in action in North Africa during the Second World War. He later became an influential presence on the British poetry scene of the 1950s. During the 1950s and 1960s he taught poetry at the Universities of Leeds and Michigan, and later at the College of St Mark and St John in London, where he became a visible literary figure due to his frequently dishevelled appearance and bohemian ways. Heath-Stubbs published numerous collections of poems, including Swarming of the Bees, A Charm Against the Toothache, The Divided Ways and, in 2005, Pigs Might Fly. Carcanet published a dozen of his books, including his Selected and Collected Poems. Heath-Stubbs was deeply influenced by classical myth and in 2000 wrote an English translation of the only literary work by a woman to survive from ancient Rome, Sulpicia. He suffered from poor eyesight from birth and lost his sight completely in 1978, acquiring what C.H. Sisson called 'a Miltonic disability'. This did not deter him from writing, however, or from seeing in language; his credo was always to counter 'despair with elegance, / Emptiness with a grace'. He was appointed OBE in 1988 and won the Queens Gold Medal for Poetry in 1973.
The 2006 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry was awarded to Seamus Heaney for his Faber collection, District and Circle, at a London ceremony in January. Described by Andrew Motion as 'the prize most poets want to win', the award was launched in 1993 to celebrate the Poetry Book Society's fortieth birthday and to honour its founding poet. The £10,000 prize money is donated by Eliot's widow, Valerie Eliot.
A neglected avant-garde poet has been rediscovered for an English audience with the 2007 publication of The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo in Spanish and English. Published by the University of California Press, the project has been a lifetime's work for translator Clayton Eshleman, a poet, editor, and a retired Eastern Michigan University English professor. César Vallejo was born in 1892 in Peru and died 46 years later in Paris. As well as his four poetry collections, he also produced a novel, four plays, several collections of short stories and travel books and a substantial body of journalism. Vallejo's work has often been considered difficult because of its use of archaic words, deliberate misspellings and neologisms. However, the experimental Peruvian poet was nonetheless one of the great poetic innovators of the twentieth century. 'Vallejo's is a poetry that makes us feel the very fibres of existence,' writes the Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa in the book's foreword. Separate volumes of his work have been published, but no translator has previously risked the Alp of his Complete Poetry.
John Haynes won the 2006 Costa Poetry Book of the Year (formerly the Whitbread Poetry Prize) for his collection Letter to Patience. Judges described the Seren poet's collection as 'a vivid, thoughtful and multi-faceted verse-letter, which moves skilfully between life in post-colonial Nigeria and England'.
More than 400 Bengali poets from around the world gathered in Kolkata for the inaugural International Bengali Poetry Festival in January. Organised by the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, the three-day event was opened by Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Rajan Dasmunshi in the presence of eminent poets Nirendranath Chakraborty and Sunil Gangopadhyay. The largest of its kind in the world, the festival featured participants from almost all of the Indian states, as well as from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Norway, Russia, Thailand, the UK and the USA.
Irish poet Thomas Kinsella has been awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin, it was announced in February. The honour will be conferred upon him in a ceremony at Dublin City Hall on 23 May. Kinsella was born in Inchicore, a village west of Dublin, and was educated at University College Dublin. Previous recipients of the city's highest accolade include President John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II and Nelson Mandela. Kinsella's new Selected Poems (Carcanet) will be published to mark the occasion.
The British Library is threatened with government-imposed spending cuts which may necessitate charges on those using its world-renowned reading rooms, or limits on its opening hours. Cuts of between 5 and 7 per cent are anticipated in the Treasury's 2007 spending review. Library officials estimate that in a worst-case scenario, this may result in two galleries having to close. It has been widely speculated that funds are being diverted towards the city's preparations for the 2012 Olympics. Protestors against the cuts have created a petition on the 10 Downing Street website: visit http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/library/ to pledge your support.
A collection of poets was added to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in January, including Charles Causley, William Cookson, Kathleen Raine, C.H. Sisson, Peter Russell, Peter Redgrove and F.T. Prince. They join politicians, historians, sportsmen, pop stars, journalists, businessmen and women, lawyers, explorers, restaurateurs and the simply remarkable, including Forrest Mars, inventor of the chocolate bar, and Charles Isham, who introduced garden gnomes to England. The Oxford DNB is updated online three times a year, in January, May and October (www.oxforddnb.com).
Newstead Abbey Byron Society celebrated a successful year at their annual dinner in January. The society's president, the Earl of Lytton, a direct descendant of Byron, expressed particular delight that the 2006 International Byron Festival had opened with a live music and poetry event at Holgate Comprehensive School in Nottingham. Arguing that young people should be encouraged to take a greater interest in Byron's poetry, Lord Lytton observed: 'It is an extraordinary situation that Byron is understood in Greece from the tiniest tot to the oldest senior citizen, yet in this country people say Byron is too darned difficult to teach in schools. That is total rubbish.' The guest speaker at the dinner was Professor Drummond Bone, vice-chancellor of Liverpool University and editor of The Cambridge Companion to Byron. This year's festival will take place in Hucknall in Nottinghamshire from 26 June to 8 July. Visit www.internationalbyronsociety.org for more information.
U Tin Moe, considered the greatest Burmese poet of his generation, died in Los Angeles on 23 January at the age of 74. A long-standing supporter of Burma's pro-democracy movement, U Tin Moe was known for his sharply satirical political poems. Branded 'the revolutionary poet', he was jailed by the Burmese military in 1991 before fleeing the country in 1999 for Belgium, Norway and later the United States. Both Tin Moe's name and his poems are still banned in Burma: the regime's newspapers refused to publish an obituary, and the news of his death only reached Burma through Burmese media channels based in the West.
American feminist writer Tillie Olsen died at the age of 94. Born in Nebraska in 1912 to Russian immigrant parents, she grew up in a working class, socialist environment. Prevented from going to college by the economic depression of the 1930s, she found employment as a tie presser, hack writer, model, housemaid, ice cream packer, book clerk, etc. Although she began her first novel at the age of nineteen, Olsen's first book, the short story collection Tell Me A Riddle, was not published until she was fifty (in 1962). The title story won the prestigious O'Henry Award and has been widely anthologised. Other stories have been adapted into stage productions, films and even an opera. Despite a twenty-year silence whilst she raised four daughters, Olsen published many notable works, a book of essays, Silences (1978) and the feminist volume Mothers and Daughter: That Special Quality. The citation when she was awarded the Rea Award for significant contribution to the short story as an art form in 1994 said her work 'radically widened the possibilities for American writers of fiction. These stories have the lyric intensity of an Emily Dickinson poem and scope of a Balzac novel. Her voice has both challenged and cleared the way for all those who come after her.'
The Poetry Foundation has announced its Spring Literary Series in Chicago, including the first-ever joint reading by US and British Poet Laureates Donald Hall and Andrew Motion. This event will take place at 6pm on Monday 7 May in Fullerton Hall at the Art Institute of Chicago, Michigan Avenue at Adams Street. Admission is free but reservation is necessary (telephone USA 312 787 7070 to book a place).
The 2007 Ledbury Poetry Festival Competition is now open for entries. The first prize is a writing course at Ty Newydd Creative Writing Centre, North Wales. The competition's 2001 winner, Jacob Polley, went on to have his first collection, The Brink, published by Picador; it was a Poetry Book Society Choice. The closing date for entries is Thursday 21 June 2007. Visit www.poetry-festival.com or telephone 0845 4581743 for more information and an entry form. Ledbury Poetry Festival will take place from 29 June to 8 July this year, and has an Irish theme.
This item is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.