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This item is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

News & Notes Compiled by Eleanor Crawforth

Gerry McGrath remembers GRACE PALEY, who died on 22 August: The facts were never lost on Grace Paley. She was born in 1922 in the Bronx into a Ukrainian-Jewish family. Her father had fled to the United States to escape persecution for his revolutionary views and she grew up with a strong sense of humanity that shaped her life and marked her writing in a unique way.

Married at twenty, she published her first collection of stories, The Little Disturbances of Man, in 1959 and earned praise for the very qualities that had brought her numerous rejection slips over the years: an unconventional approach to narrative style, sexual frankness, and inventive and humorous dialogue. What she had discovered after years of writing poetry and short stories was a voice. Her second collection, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute (1974), regarded as her best work, offered further evidence of a deep-rooted compassion for individuals rather than causes. Short stories could be about anything in the world, she said, but that they should retain 'the facts of blood and money', a striking statement that allows Faith Darwin, the challenged and troubled central character of these stories, to say finally that 'everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life'. Paley wrote wonderfully about the lives of her characters; her stories were constructed of warmth, fairness, spontaneity and humour. She was a master of her craft who had a poet's gift for weighing words.

GEORGE STEINER has been awarded the Alfonso Reyes Prize for services to thought and the humanities. Previous recipients of the $60,000US prize, which celebrates the legacy of the Mexican writer, philosopher and diplomat Alfonso Reyes (1889- 1959), include Carlos Fuentes, Jorge Luis Borges and Octavio Paz.

The Scottish Poetry Library announced on National Poetry Day that it had been awarded £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to acquire and develop an EDWIN MORGAN archive. Amassed over thirty years by the poet's friend, publisher and bibliographer, Hamish Whyte, the archive represents the most significant collection of work by Scotland's National Poet, in print and other media, showcasing the range and diversity of his oeuvre. The Archive also contains many rare items including periodicals with contributions by Morgan, many annotated and corrected in his own hand; audio-visual material; books from Morgan's own library, and his desk and chair. Visit www.spl.org.uk for more information.

SEAN O'BRIEN was awarded the 2007 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection in October for The Drowned Book (Picador), the third time he has received the award. The judges' decision reminded readers of the controversy that surrounds the charmed, apparently closed world of the major poetry prizes based on book publication. This, O'Brien's sixth collection, is also on the shortlist for the T.S. Eliot Prize, of which he was a judge last year. The winner is announced in January.

A less predictable and more popular recognition occurred in the United States, where JOHN ASHBERY, shortly after his eightieth birthday, was elected poet laureate of MTV. His poems will appear on the youth music channel, interspersed with music videos, celebrity interviews and a parade of Paris Hiltons look-alikes. Ashbery was pleased with this unsolicited and unexpected honour. As the critic and Parnassus editor Herbert Leibowitz put it, 'why not mix high culture with sleek populist programs aimed at our youth? I'm thinking of shaving my high brows.' And - it wasn't Billy Collins they selected. Things are definitely looking up.

The American poetry world learned quite suddenly that Northern Irish poet, Pulitzer Prize-winner, Princeton Professor and occasional rock guitarist PAUL MULDOON has become Poetry Editor of the New Yorker in the wake of Alice Quinn, who will continue to direct the Poetry Society of America, teach at Columbia University, and pursue her important work in editing the journals of Elizabeth Bishop. The Guardian reminded readers how in 1990 Professor Muldoon published a mischievous poem entitled 'Capercaillies' in which the first letters of each line spelt out 'Is This A New Yorker Poem Or What? (The New Yorker maintains that it rejected the poem.)

Anne Stevenson, Herbert Leibowitz, John Surowiecki and Brian Culhane are the winners of the Poetry Foundation's fourth annual Pegasus Awards. Anne Stevenson receives the Neglected Masters Award, which draws attention to the life's work of a significant but under-recognised American poet; Parnassus editor Herbert Leibowitz in a most timely fashion receives the Randall Jarrell Award in Poetry Criticism; John Surowiecki receives the Verse Drama Prize, which honours a living poet who has written a previously unpublished, outstanding original verse drama in English, and Brian Culhane receives the Emily Dickinson First Book Award, which recognizes a collection by an American poet over the age of 50. For more information, visit www.poetryfoundation.org.

A new Pop Idol- style poetry contest proved an unexpected TV sensation across the Arab world, reports the online Palestinian newspaper Electronic Intifada. Millions of viewers tuned in to watch thirty-five poets recite their poetry in front of Arab poetry's answer to Simon Cowell and Sharon Osbourne (in this case, a panel of poets and professors). The show, Prince of Poets, on which poems about women's rights, Iraq, love, democratisation, and Palestine have been performed, topped the TV ratings, overtaking football and reality TV. Non-Arabs should not be, but are often surprised at the extent of poetry's popularity in the Arab world: well-known British and American poets struggle to fill a Barnes & Noble or Waterstone's for readings; Mahmoud Darwish can fill whole football stadiums.

Eighteen-year-old ALEX PRYCE has launched PoetCasting, a new poetry podcasting venture, with funding from the National Endowments for Science, Technology and the Arts. The website, www.poetcasting. co.uk, features downloadable MP3 recordings of poems by established and emerging writers, including Fiona Sampson, Jacob Sam La Rose, Leontia Flynn and Alison Brackenbury. Pryce comments: 'Podcasting is such a great medium for merging "stage" and "page" poetry. It's easily accessible, and can be listened to anywhere.' E-mail poetcasting@hotmail. co.uk for information.

The Poetry Book Society has announced a much expanded T.S. Eliot Prize Shadowing Scheme, following a successful pilot last year. Running in conjunction with the 2007 T.S. Eliot Prize, it enables students aged 14- 19 to shadow the judging panel, which includes Sujata Bhatt and W.N. Herbert. Students will read poems from the shortlisted collections, announced on 1 November, on the English and Media Centre's website, www.englishandmedia. co.uk, and vote for their own winner. The Shadowing Scheme will encourage teachers and students to read new poetry that falls outside the National Curriculum and set text lists.




This item is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.



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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