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This item is taken from PN Review 181, Volume 34 Number 5, May - June 2008.

News & Notes Compiled by Eleanor Crawforth

Gillian Clarke has been named the new National Poet of Wales. Events will take place in Cardiff and around Wales to mark her appointment. Established in 2005 by Academi, the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency and Society for Writers, the post has previously been held by Gwyneth Lewis and Professor Gwyn Thomas. Visit www.academi.org.uk for more information. Poet, playwright, translator and editor, Clarke was born in Cardiff and now lives in Ceredigion. Her work is studied by GCSE and A Level students throughout the UK. She has published seven poetry collections with Carcanet; her forthcoming prose book, At the Source: A Writer's Year, will be published in May and launched at the Guardian Hay Festival.

Northern Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey has won the 2007 National Poetry Competition with her poem 'Through the Square Window'. Visit www.poetrysociety.org.uk to listen to her reading the winning poem. Born in County Armagh in 1972, Morrissey has published three collections of poems: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996), Between Here and There (2002) and The State of the Prisons (2005). She was awarded a Lannan Literary Fellowship in 2007.

The 65-year-old daughter of Dylan Thomas is to embark on a poetry reading tour of America, following in her late father's footsteps. Aeronwy Thomas will visit New York, New Jersey, Boston, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, Massachusetts and California, taking in places frequented by her father on his US literary tours, including New York's Chelsea Hotel, where the author of Under Milk Wood was staying at the time of his death in 1953, and the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, one of his regular drinking haunts. Thomas will read from her new poetry collection, Burning Bridges, alongside extracts of her father's work. 'Going to the places where my father once drank and slept will produce something but I don't know what - that's the excitement of writing,' she commented, admitting that she hoped the trip would 'lay some ghosts to rest'.

There may be some truth in the cliché that poets, like rock stars, die young, according to scientific research published recently in the Guardian's education supplement. The Cost of the Muse: Poets Die Young by Associate Professor James C Kaufman of California State University paints a mathematically chilling picture of bardic actuarial tables. Having surveyed the lives and deaths of 1,987 deceased novelists, poets, playwrights and non-fiction writers from American, Chinese, Turkish and eastern European cultures, Kaufman concludes that while authors in general are not a long-lived bunch, poets drop off earliest. A poet's life, on average, is about a year shorter than that of a playwright, four years shorter than a novelist's, and five-and-six-tenths years less than that of a non-fiction specialist. Kaufman's study ends, as do the lives of many poets, on a sad note. He writes: 'The fact that a Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton may die young does not necessarily mean an introduction to poetry class should carry a warning that poems may be hazardous to one's health. Yet this study may reinforce the idea of poets being surrounded by an aura of doom, even compared with others who may pick up a pen and paper for other purposes. It is hoped that the data presented here will help poets and mental-health professionals find ways to lessen what appears to be a sometimes negative impact of writing poetry on mortality and mental health.' It was not so in the times of the Ancient Greeks: apart from Sappho, their poets died overripe.

Debut New Zealand poet David Beach was awarded the biennial Prize in Modern Letters in Wellington in March. New Zealand's largest literary award, the cross-genre prize is sponsored by US businessman and arts philanthropist Glenn Schaeffer and administered by Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). Poet and IIML director Bill Manhire noted the strength of this year's entries: 'It's great to see poetry come through in a field of such remarkable books.' The ironically titled Abandoned Novel is Beach's first book of poems; he previously worked as a mail sorter for the New Zealand Post. 'That a book of poems can win a $65,000 prize makes me feel as if I've stumbled into a parallel universe where poetry is considered important,' said the winning poet.

New Zealand poet Gregory O'Brien remembers Ruth Dallas (1919-2008):
A major poet of New Zealand's southern-most regions, Ruth Dallas has died, aged 88, in Dunedin. Raised in Invercargill, where her father operated a petrol station, she published her first poems as a schoolgirl in the Southland Daily News's 'Little Pakehas' Page'. She moved to Dunedin in 1954 - the year after her first collection, Country Road and Other Poems, 1947-52 appeared. During the 1960s, she worked in the office of Charles Brasch's Landfall. Dallas went on to publish over ten collections of poetry, as well as a lively autobiography, Curved Horizon, and a great many children's stories.
            Composed while working as a milk tester during the Second World War, her best known poem is 'Milking before Dawn' - a rare instance of gritty New Zealand realism melding with Pound's Imagism: 'In the drifting rain the cows in the yard are as black / And wet and shiny as rocks in an ebbing tide...' The visual intensity of Dallas's verse belied the fact that she was born blind in one eye and would eventually lose the use of her other eye. As well as receiving a doctorate from the University of Otago and a CBE in 1989, she was given a Blind Achiever's Award. Her Collected Poems (2000) is a worthy testament to an important, if largely underrated, writer.

Idris Parry, the Welsh writer, broadcaster and noted scholar of German literature, and a valued contributor to PN Review, died on 25 January. Born in Bangor in 1916, Parry was a lecturer in German at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, and in 1963 he was appointed to a Chair in German at Manchester University, a post he held until his retirement in 1977. His literary interests included Goethe, Kafka, Mann, Rilke and Hofmannsthal. Many of his essays and radio talks were collected in the volume Speak Silence (1988).
               During the Second World War, Parry's language skills saw him seconded to a senior position in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office. Returning to his academic career in 1947, Parry became a leading interpreter of German literature and a gifted teacher of, among others, W.G. Sebald, who studied German expressionist drama under Parry at Manchester, and Philip Pullman, who acknowledges his intellectual debt to Parry's translations of Kleist at the end of His Dark Materials. His translation of Kafka's The Trial was published by Penguin in 1994.

The poet and critic Andrew Crozier died on 3 April. Associated with the British Poetry Revival, Crozier was co-editor of the magazine The English Intelligencer and a remarkable critic of modern poetry. A full appreciation by Peter Riley will appear in a subsequent issue of PN Review.

As PNR 181 was going to press, we received the sad news that the poet, prose writer and Emeritus Professor of Caribbean Literature e.a. markham died in Paris on 23 March. A full obituary will appear in the next issue of the magazine.

Correction: News & Notes in PNR 180 mistakenly stated that New Welsh Review was seeking a new editor, rather than Poetry Wales. Zoë Skoulding has now been appointed as PW editor, succeeding Robert Minhinnick. Francesca Rhydderch became editor of New Welsh Review in March.


This item is taken from PN Review 181, Volume 34 Number 5, May - June 2008.



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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