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This item is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

News & Notes Compiled by Eleanor Crawforth

Northern Irish poet DEREK MAHON was awarded the biennial David Cohen Prize to acknowledge a lifetime's achievement in literature. The £40,000 award, regarded by some as 'the British-and-Irish answer to the Nobel', has previously gone to Harold Pinter, Doris Lessing, William Trevor and Muriel Spark. At a ceremony in the British Library, the Belfast-born poet expressed his gratitude: 'There you are, staring at clouds and dreaming up unrealistic projects, when the world comes and tells you you've been noticed,' he said. Part of the David Cohen Prize involves the winner choosing the recipient of the Clarissa Luard Award, worth £12,500, for a literary body that supports young writers or for an individual writer under 35. Mahon gave the money to his publisher, the Gallery Press, based in Co Meath.

The 7th International Literature Festival Berlin will take place from 4 to 15 September at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele. The themes of this year's festival are 'Literatures of the World' and 'Kaleidoscope'. Among others, the following writers will appear: Szilírd Borbíly (Hungary), Asli Erdogan (Turkey), Jorie Graham (USA), Urquhart (Canada), Aharon Appelfeld (Israel), Patrizia Cavalli (Italy), Tishani Doshi (India), Duong Thu Huong (Vietnam/France), Robert Gray (Australia), Suketu Mehta (India), Paul Muldoon (GB), Azar Nafisi (Iran/USA), Wole Soyinka (Nigeria/USA) and Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru). Visit for a full programme.

Poet, critic and cultural administrator JOHN P RESS died on 26 February in Frome, Somerset. Born in Norwich in 1920, Press studied History at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, following war service with the Royal Artillery in Kenya. He spent most of his working life as an officer of the British Council (1946- 79), latterly becoming its Literature Adviser. Press's achievements include updating Palgrave's classic 1861 Golden Treasury anthology in 1964 and again in 1994, and producing critical studies of William Morris, Andrew Marvell, Robert Herrick, Sidney Keyes and John Betjeman, among others. The Chequer'd Shade: Reflections on Obscurity in Poetry, the most durable of his critical works, was praised by T.S. Eliot when it was published in 1958. A Map of Modern English Verse (1969) became required reading for students of English poetry. Himself a traditionalist, Press published several volumes of crafted verse on the themes of love and mortality, including Uncertainties and Other Poems (1956), Guy Fawkes Night and Other Poems (1959), Troika (1977) and A Girl with Beehive Hair (1986). A selection of his poems by Anthony Astbury appeared from Greville Press in 2004. Press became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1959.

In April a new limited-edition literary journal, To Hell, co-edited by Faber editor lee brackstone, rare book dealer LAURENCE JOHNS and KEVIN CONROY SCOTT of the Wylie literary agency, appeared. The To Hell With Publishing project will also include a series of poetry and music events and a list of independently published books, the first of which, Glass People by Tom Darling, will appear later this summer. Although all three founders work within mainstream publishing, their sympathies lie with the new writer negotiating his or her path through an industry increasingly driven by commercial imperatives; the defiant name is a homage to the maverick spirit of the San Francisco bookshop and imprint City Lights. 'This was born out of a love of the idea of a literary community and the desire to make it easier for writers and readers to communicate,' says Johns. 'As a book dealer I've always been interested in introducing writers to people who love reading.' Each issue will feature a guest editor - the next will be Hisham Matar.

A LOUIS MACNEICE Centenary Conference and Celebration will take place at the Seamus Heaney Centre, The School of English, Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland from 12 to 15 September. MacNeice (1907- 63) occupies a central place in the history of modern poetry in Ireland and Britain. The conference marks the centenary of his birth in Belfast on 12 September 1907. Critics and poets gathering to celebrate his achievements include Simon Armitage, Valentine Cunningham, Paul Farley, Michael Longley, Peter McDonald (brilliantly responsible for the centenary edition of the poems), Medbh McGuckian, Derek Mahon, Sinead Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Jon Stallworthy and others. Proposals for papers are welcome; send a 200-word summary and a short biography to Dr Leontia Flynn ( by 31 May. For general enquiries, contact Professor Edna Longley ( at the Seamus Heaney Centre. Visit heaneycentre for more information.

Limerick-born SEÁN LYSAGHT has received the O'Shaughnessy Award for Poetry, one of America's 'most prestigious poetry awards'. Lysaght currently teaches at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and lives in County Mayo, Ireland. Previous recipients of the award include Eavan Boland, Louis de Paor and Thomas McCarthy.

A new exhibition on Romanticism and the visual arts is now on display at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 10 June (visit or telephone 01243 774557 for details). Poets in the Landscape: The Romantic Spirit in British Art contains work by Blake, Turner, Keats, Samuel Palmer, John Minton, Edward Calvert and George Richmond, including a series of woodcuts created by Blake in 1820- 1 to illustrate Thornton's Pastorals of Virgil. Demonstrating the particularly close cultural connection between words and images during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the exhibition also looks forward to the inheritors of the Romantic legacy of pastoral vision and cross-genre artistic experiment, including 1920s painters and printmakers such as Graham Sutherland and David Jones, and the neo-Romantic artists and writers of the 1940s. The Pallant is a fitting venue for a show which marks the 250th anniversary of Blake's birth: William Hayley, a major presence in Romantic circles, was born there in 1745. A translator of Dante and a biographer of Milton and Cowper, Hayley was a fervent supporter of Blake, defending him even when he was arrested for 'seditiously' attacking a private in the First Dragoons in 1803.

Poetic juvenilia written by the US Democrat presidential candidate BARACK OBAMA has recently come to light. Poets and critics have examined the two poems, which appeared in a student magazine when Obama was nineteen, for insights into the mind of a potential world leader. 'Pop' and 'Underground' were published in 1982 while Obama was a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Writing in the Guardian, Ian McMillan identifies the influence of Gary Snyder, Charles Bukowski and the Beat poets in the first poem, a free verse portrait of his grandfather, with whom the young Obama lived in Honolulu. According to McMillan, 'there's a humanity in the poem, a sense of family values and shared cultural concerns that give us a hint of the Democrat to come'. The other poem, 'Underground', is a more typical rite-of-passage teenage poem: 'It's obscure, faux naïf, mock profound, and it's got the words 'musty' and 'pelts' in the same line,' observes McMillan. Are there Hilary Clinton juvenilia to match Obama's?

Poetry publishers take note: Texan supermodel JERRY HALL has discovered a passion for writing poetry. The ex-wife of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger has even established her own creative writing group to explore her talent. 'We get together once a week,' she reports. 'One is a singer/ songwriter, one writes plays, one's writing a novel and I write poetry. It's pretty dark stuff - better out than in.' Quite.

Two new poetry pamphlets, Other Men's Flowers: A Poesy Cut by Ron Paste and I Haven 't Been Anywhere, Man by Linh Dinh, appeared from Landfill Press in April. According to the publicity, Ron Paste has 'been awarded the Picador Cross for Bravery in the Translation of Dante and the Neil Astley Hardship Grant for Best Worst Collection. He is not himself a poet.' His collection is 'a diplomatic incident in contemporary poetry involving N. Duploom, Fogy Hell-Fire, Marcel Proust, Ogden Nashbery and K.M. Bridge'. Philadelphia-based Vietnamese poet Linh Dinh's pamphlet is described as 'a transatlantic Apocalypse from an American original'. Norfolk-based publisher Landfill produces several pocket-sized poem sequences each year. Visit or write to Landfill Press, 17 Waldeck Road, Norwich, NR4 7PG to purchase its pamphlets for £3.50 / $6.

The first ever Migraine and Headache poetry competition is now open for submissions. The 'Putting Our Heads Together' Poetry Contest 2007 was established to provide headache and Migraine sufferers with a creative outlet. All poems on the subject of headache or Migraine, metaphoric or abstract, are eligible. The headache-inducing job of judging entries falls to MAGNUM, the National Migraine Association ( All qualifying entries will be published on and throughout National Poetry Month.

This item is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

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