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This item is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

News & Notes Compiled by Eleanor Crawforth

Cambridge University Library is hosting a Milton exhibition to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the poet's birth. Living at This Hour: John Milton 1608-2008 opened to the public in January and continues until 12 July. It juxtaposes Milton's own writings with texts and images from later centuries to celebrate his enduring contribution to literature. Visit for details. Milton's former college, Christ's, is marking the anniversary with a series of lectures, readings, concerts and performances, listed on a newly created educational website: http://milton-2008. The Bodleian Library in Oxford is also hosting a tribute exhibition, Citizen Milton: An Exhibition to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of John Milton's Birthday, until 26 April 2008.

A new Milton biography by Oxford University lecturer ANNA BEER was published by Bloomsbury in January. Milton: Poet, Pamphleteer and Patriot. According to fellow Oxford resident Philip Pullman, Beer's volume is 'a beautifully clear account of a richly complex life... the best narrative I've read of the life of our greatest poet'. In the Guardian, however, Andrew Motion wonders whether it 'will do much to win Milton the larger audience he deserves', finding Beer's critical prose 'careful rather than inspiring'.

Robert Southwell: New Perspectives, a one-day conference on the life, work and reputation of the Elizabethan priest, poet and martyr Saint Robert Southwell, will be held at St Edmund Hall, the University of Oxford, on 26 April 2008. Scholarly interest in Southwell has flourished recently, prompted by a new edition of his Collected Poems - the first of its kind in forty years - edited by Peter Davidson and published by Carcanet in March 2007. Enquiries should be directed to Ben Burton, St Edmund Hall, Oxford, OX1 4AR. Email: benjamin.burton

The novelist VIKRAM SETH, returning to poetry after some years, has written three poems inspired by living in the house once occupied by the poet and Anglican priest George Herbert. Written in Delhi but formally modelled on poems by Herbert, the three poems, 'Host', 'Flash' and 'This', were published in the TLS on 10 January. In his accompanying commentary, Seth describes how he first encountered Herbert's poetry as a seventeen-year-old student newly arrived in England from India. In 2003, more than three decades later, Seth found himself bidding on impulse for Herbert's former house in parish of Bemerton near Salisbury, where the poet became rector in 1630. Although it was to be Herbert's only parish - he died of consumption three years later at the age of thirty-nine - he wrote such poems as 'Love' ('Love bade me welcome') and 'Virtue' ('Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright') whilst living there. Seth feels Herbert's presence in the house to be a benign influence upon his own writing, describing his predecessor as '...a tactful spirit. He might influence me but would not wish to wrest me from myself.'

The New Welsh Review is seeking to appoint a new editor from summer 2008, to succeed ROBERT MINHINNICK. The successful candidate will be responsible for the creative direction and content of the magazine and must have a passion for literature and a knowledge of writing in Wales, ideally with a proven track record in publishing. Founded in 1988 by Academi, the national literary agency for Wales, New Welsh Review is the only English-language magazine in Wales to focus on the entire range of Welsh writing in English. Published four times a year, it is a vital outlet for new fiction and poetry as well as critical debate. Visit for further information.

The Poetry Foundation in the United States has announced the launch of the Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute, a new initiative designed to address issues of importance to poetry by bringing together leading poets, scholars, critics, translators, publishers, and arts administrators. It will conduct research and design programmes to develop the presence of poetry in contemporary American culture. 'The Foundation is eager to hear the recommendations and priorities of poets, and those involved in publishing and distributing poetry, for how we as a community can work together to the benefit of poetry,' said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation. 'The results of the query will help frame the Institute's initial program.' The Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute is based at the Poetry Foundation offices in Chicago.

The Times Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation has issued a call for entries. The Prize has three categories (open, 18-and-under and 14-and-under) and eligible poems may be translated from any language, classical or modern, into English. All winning entries will receive cash prizes and be published in a special booklet. The deadline for entries is Friday 23 May 2008. For details and entry forms visit

The poet, translator and essayist VÄINÖ KIRSTINÄ has died in Helsinki, aged 71. As a poet, he occupied a place midway between Finnish nature poetry and the international avant-garde. His early poems were preoccupied with his rural homeland, the Bothnian plain. When he moved to Helsinki as a student his work was influenced by his urban surroundings and by surrealist and Dadaist French poetry. During the radicalism of the 1960s, Kirstinä was something of an idol to his students; his Luonnollinen tanssi ('A natural dance'), with its mocking fables, Chaplinesque comedy, death-shadowed chansons and dadaistic sound poems, became a cult book. When youthful radicalism turned to political militancy he returned to the Finnish countryside, where he lived until the end of his life, although the concrete cityscapes of Helsinki remained a lasting influence upon his work.

Evan Jones remembers Margaret Avison: The Canadian poet MARGARET AVISON has died, aged 89. Avison was born in Galt, Ontario, in 1918, and educated at Victoria College, University of Toronto. She began publishing her poems in 1939 and her early work was championed in the United States by Cid Corman and others of the Black Mountain group. She studied creative writing at the University of Indiana (1955) and then at the University of Chicago (1956), where she was a Guggenheim fellow, but lived most of her adult life in Toronto, working variously as a librarian, educator, lecturer and social worker.
         Her first collection, Winter Sun, appeared in 1960, winning the Governor-General's Award for Poetry that year - then Canada's most prestigious poetry prize. Later collections included The Dumb-founding (1966), Sunblue (1978), No Time (1989), which also won the Governor-General's Award, Not yet but still (1997), Concrete and Wild Carrot (2003), which won the Griffin Prize for Poetry, and Momentary Dark (2006). In early 1963, she converted to Christianity. This was reflected in her poems, introspective, rooted in seventeenth-century metaphysical and meditational traditions, but urbane and cosmopolitan in their outlook and portrayal of religious experience.

Hamish Ironside remembers James Michie: The poet and translator JAMES MICHIE died on 30 October 2007 at the age of 80. He devoted much energy to his translations of Catullus, Horace, Martial, Ovid, La Fontaine and others, while also pursuing a notable career in publishing along with a busy family life. It is not surprising that he was not a prolific poet, though this more reflects his care in condensing and essentialising his poems which were admired among others by Auden and Larkin, with both of whom he shared formal skill and clarity.
             Born in Weybridge, Surrey, Mitchie was educated at Marlborough and Oxford. A lifelong pacifist, he refused National Service, instead undertaking duties that included work for the YMCA in Jamaica. He joined Heinemann as an editor in the mid-1950s, where he took on Sylvia Plath's first collection, The Colossus. Later he was appointed a director at the Bodley Head, which became an imprint of Random House. His Collected Poems (1994) includes most of the poems from two earlier volumes Possible Laughter (1959) and New and Selected Poem s (1983), plus newer work. A final collection, Last Poems, has just been published (see for more information).

This item is taken from PN Review 180, Volume 34 Number 4, March - April 2008.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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