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This item is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

News & Notes
Poetry International, the festival which did so much to focus attention on poetry in translation and English poetry from outside these Islands twenty and more years ago, returns to the South Bank Centre this October when - the press release declares - 'some of the world's finest poets join together in a major celebration of poetry and its power'. Whatever one makes of the word 'power' in this context, the festival of talks, readings, children's events and workshops in the Purcell Room, the Voice Box and the Chelsfield Room, while it can hardly hope to be on the scale of the legendary events in the Royal Festival Hall all those years ago, promises to be lavish. Participants will include James Fenton, Simon Armitage, Wendy Cope, Fleur Adcock and, from further afield, Nina Cassian, Jayanta Mahapatra, Peter Kantor and Jack Mapanje. Slovenia will be much in evidence. The festival will end on what should prove a controversial note: a performance by Ernesto Cardenal. It is to be hoped that his reading may be made the occasion for a debate on the relationship between poetry, religion and politics, and that the politics of his own poetry, and his religious ideology, will be subjected to closer scrutiny than they have hitherto received.

In May the first David Cohen British Literature Prize was launched. Lord Palumbo, Chairman of the Arts Council, described the prize as 'a British Nobel Prize for Literature', to honour not a single book but 'the recipient author's whole contribution to our literature'. The sponsors are the David Cohen Family Charitable Trust and Coutts & Co. The value of the prize 'will be the largest of any literary prize in this country'.

Finland's biggest literary prize, the Finlandia, this year went to Arto Melleri for his collection of poems or 'wandering prose' Eliivien Kirjoissa (In the Book of the Living) published by Otava. Another poet, Anne Hänninen, was awared the Kalevi Jäntti Prize 'in support of the work of young writers'.

In July 1993 the 15th Ezra Pound International Conference will take place in Rapallo, Italy. The governing theme is cetainly capacious: 'Nature and Myth in Ezra Pound'. Details are available, before 15 October 1992, from Professor William Pratt, Department of English, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056 U.S.A.

Sinclair-Stevenson Ltd, the publishers, have announced the founding of a new poetry list. Indeed the first title in this list, a vast Complete Poems of C. Day Lewis, has already reached P·N·R. The list will include other rediscoveries, alive and dead (Herbert Read's Collected Poems are sheduled, along with a book by Jon Silkin called The Lens Breakers) and new collections in the autumn by Judith Kazantzis, Anne McManus, Herbert Lomas and Gabriel Levin. The programme is an ambitious one, coming as it does at a time when the larger publishing houses appear to be going rather more slowly up Parnassus than they were.

East Midlands Arts has launched its fourth programme of Write Away weekend courses at Leicester Polytechnic's Eastfield Hall of Residence with five programmes: Writing for Children, Writing Short Stories, Writing Poetry (with Amryl Johnson and Martin Stannard), Writing a Novel and Writing Verse for the Theatre (with Kevin Fegan and Liz Lochhead). No special qualifications are required. Residents in the East Midlands Arts catchment area are entitled to a 50 per cent training subsidy on the course fees. Further information from Debbie Hicks, Head of Media, Publishing and Visual Arts, Mountfields House, Forest Road, Loughborough, Leicestershire LEI1 3HU.

The resilient poet and polymath Peter Russell is producing on a more or less regular basis his journal Marginalia from La Turbina, 52026 Pian di Scá, Prov. Arezzo, Italy. The journal is supported by gifts. It is written almost entirely by Russell himself and includes a daunting bibliography of his works in print and available. It also includes some remarkable verse, though few of Russell's poems seem to work in their entirety. Prosodically arresting lines and stanzas run aground on archetypal, pre-Raphaelite female figures with golden breasts, waxen ivory shoulders and jet for hair, or on other weary tropes. But there is much to reward - and in the prose to irritate - the reader in this eloquent curate's egg of a writer. The exile's perspectives as he gazes into the dark north can clarify; they can also distort. In the following there is an echo of an earlier exiled poet at his most manically provocative, an echo as politically naive as it is disturbing: 'Peter Russell would ask you to consider why it is that we "naked apes" (?) are prepared to go to war for the sake of oil (and Israel) and slaughter thousands of ordinary people, but not to fight for poetry. No doubt an academic question, but one for which the Academics seem for once unusually reluctant to apply for Research Grants.'

Shulamith Haraven asks us to publish the closing paragraphs of her essay 'On Being a Levantine' (P·N·R 84) in the form she originally intended, and to note that alterations introduced into her text were implemented without her concurrence.

'I am a Levantine because I see war as the total failure of common sense, an execrable last resort. And because I am a Levantine, all the fundamentalists on all sides, from Khomeini to Kahane, will always want to destroy me and all Levantines like me, here and in the neighbouring countries.

'A Levantine Nobel Prize laureate, Georgis Seferis, a Greek who lived for many years in Egypt, wrote:
And things that came later had
    the self-same
calmness which you see here,
they had this calmness because no
    soul was left to us to think
none except the strength to carve
    some signs in stones
that touched now more deeply,
    beneath remembrance

'Thus wrote Georgis Seferis, a true Levantine. And the strength to carve signs in stones is for me the Levant, and is what makes it all worthwhile.'

Stefano D'Arrigo, the Sicilian writer known for the vast novel Horcynus Orca (1975), died in Rome in May at the age of 73.

In March the Trinidadian poet and critic professor Wilfred Cartey died in New York. He was 61. An heir to C.L.R. James and Eric Williams, Cartey helped to identify and promote elements in the language and culture of the Caribbean that gave it a distinctive and separate identity. Whispers of a Continent (1969) was perhaps the first major critical account of African literature to be published in the United States, where it had a considerable impact on the development of literary and cultural studies. In 1981 he published a similarly definitive volume about the literatures of the Caribbean. Though Cartey went blind in 1962, he pursued his career courageously, producing a remarkable body of critical and creative work - eleven volumes of poetry, five of criticism, and two magazines. He was a powerful and influential teacher in New York, where he made his home.

'Myths are true at any time', writes Villy Sørenson in his afterword to The Downfall of the Gods (University of Nebraska Press): 'but in every age their truth has to be reinterpreted and reassimilated'. Sørenson's reinterpretations run the gauntlet of a situation in which, as he admits, 'the Norse myths are not so well known or loved as the Greek myths'. This being so, there may be more immediate rewards in Four Biblical Tales (Mermaid Press, Seattle), where Sørenson's personality figures against a background transcending his Danish origins, and at the same time epxresses itself in a Kierkegaardian spirit. Paula Hostrup-Jessen, to whom we are indebted for translations of both the above, emphasizes the importance in Sørenson's work of the Christian concept of the Fall, which in his retellings of Bible stories acquires 'a psychological and a sociological as well as an ontological dimension'. The afterword furnished by Sven H. Rossel for Hostrup-Jessen's translation of Tutelary Tales (also published by University of Nebraska Press) offers a more specifically literary lineage, with Kafka and other writers of MittelEuropa (Broch, for examole) identified as Drime sources of inspiration. Sørenson's The World of Franz Kafka, as yet untranslated, would presumably help to establish the similarities and differentials, buttressed perhaps by a selection from half a dozen books of essays. As things stand at present, Tutelary Tales makes the best case for Sørenson, with his Harmless Tales (Norivk Press; same translator) a supplementary force more narrowly concentrated upon surreal fantastications. The latter date from 1955; their 'tutelary' successors from 1964. It is disconcerting that Sørenson's first book, Strange Stories (1953), only had to wait four years before an English version appeared; Hostrup-Jessen's efforts in recent years have been with books that should no doubt have followed suit without an undue time-lag. Sørenson's omnicompetence - though there seem to be no poems or paintings which would align him with another gifted Kafka acolyte like Dino Buzzati - has made him one of the strongest Scandinavian candidates for the Nobel Prize. A socio-political study Revolt from the Centre of which he was co-author, and a critical biography Seneca: the humanist at the court of Nero have also been translated: in 1981 and 1984 respectively.


This item is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

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