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This item is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.News & Notes
LOUISE GLÜCK received the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets in September 2008. The $100,000 prize recognises 'outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry'. Currently a writer-in-residence at Yale University, Glück is a former US poet laureate and won both the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams awards in 1993 for The Wild Iris (Carcanet / Ecco). The Academy of American Poets' 2008 Academy Fellowship was awarded to brig it p eg een kelly for her 'distinguished poetic achievement'. Her poems have featured in PN Review and are also published by Carcanet.
The independent poetry publisher Anvil Press celebrates its fortieth anniversary this autumn. Since it was founded by Peter Jay in 1968, Anvil has produced more than 400 titles. While two-thirds of the list is devoted to English-language poetry (it published the first four collections by Carol Ann Duffy, for example), Anvil is also recognised for its list of poetry in translation, ranging from classical times to the present day and encompassing poets from twenty languages and cultures. It includes five Nobel Prize winners: Odysseus Elytis, Octavio Paz, Salvatore Quasimodo, George Seferis and Rabindranath Tagore.
Two charmingly-named Scandinavian poetry prizes were awarded last month. The Dancing Bear Poetry Prize, presented by the Finnish Broadcasting Company to the best book of poetry published the previous year, was divided between KATHARINA GRIPENBERG and AKI SALMELA. The Translation Bear Prize was awarded to jyrki kiiskinen, a poet, translator and former editor of the English-language journal Books from Finland, for his translation of the renowned Swedish poet Göran Sonnevi's collection Oceanen.
Poetry by OSAMA BIN LADEN has been published by an Oxford-educated academic, who has discovered that the world's most hunted terrorist was once in great demand as an after-dinner speaker. Bin Laden's recitals at wedding banquets and other feasts during the 1990s were recorded on tapes recovered from his compound in Afghanistan in 2001, after the September 11 attacks. They have been studied by Professor Flagg Miller, who teaches Arabic poetry at the University of California. 'Bin Laden,' he says, 'is a skilled poet with clever rhymes and meters' who draws upon 'the traditions of hamasa - a warlike poetic tradition from Oman calculated to capture the interest of young men'. The appearance of extracts from the tapes in the October issue of the journal Language and Communication has caused controversy amongst other Arabic specialists. As Miller prepares to write a book analysing Bin Laden's poetry and its role in jihad, the tapes are going to Yale University, where they will be repaired and made available to scholars in 2010.
Ezra Pound: 100 Years in London, a series of events to commemorate Pound's arrival in London in 1908, is currently taking place: visit www.ucl.ac.uk/pound for details. Forthcoming events include an Ezra Pound Evening at the Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, London SE1 8XX on Monday 17 November from 7- 9pm. Five emerging poets who have yet to publish a full collection will read their work, followed by wine and 'Pound-themed snacks'. Optional dress code: '1910s Pound style'.
The 2008 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection was awarded to mick imlah, the Scottish-born poetry editor of the TLS, for The Lost Leader (Faber) at a London ceremony on 8 October. The award for Best First Collection went to kathryn simmonds for Sunday at the Skin Launderette (Seren). don p aterson won in the Best Single Poem category for his 'Love Poem For Natalie "Tusja" Beridze', a tribute to an unknown eastern European techno musician.
PROFESSOR DUNCAN GLEN, the Scottish poet, editor, essayist, publisher, typographer and MacDiarmid scholar, died on 20 September 2008. Born in Cambuslang, Scotland in 1933, he left school to train as a printer and typesetter in Glasgow and Kirkcaldy before gaining a scholarship to Edinburgh College of Art in 1954. He went on to work for Her Majesty's Stationery Office as a typographic designer and as a freelance designer for various London publishers. Glen lectured in design at the University of Lancashire and later at Nottingham Trent University, where he was granted the title of Emeritus Professor of Visual Communication in 1987. A friend and early champion of Hugh MacDiarmid and Ian Hamilton Finlay, among others, Glen was a significant MacDiarmid scholar, achieving recognition for his first full-length book, Hugh MacDiarmid and the Scottish Renaissance (1964). Glen was also the author of many collections of poetry, from Kythings and other poems (1969) to Collected Poems 1965- 2005 (2006). His Autobiography of a Poet was published by Ramsay Head Press in 1986. In 1965 Glen founded Akros Publications with the aim of publishing Scottish poetry, history and literary criticism; between 1965 and 2006 over 250 publications appeared under the Akros imprint. In his role as editor of Akros magazine (for 51 issues from 1965), Glen did much to promote Scottish poets and artists. In 1974 and 1998 he received awards from the Scottish Arts Council 'for services to Scottish literature' and in 1991 he received The Howard Sergeant Memorial Award 'in recognition of long and devoted services to poetry'.
The American poet and critic HAYDEN CARRUTH has died in New York, aged 87. Born in Connecticut, he developed his writing skills as a student journalist and discovered the poetry of W.B. Yeats, from which he gained the conviction that 'it's possible to be crazy and a poet'. After serving in Italy with the Army Air Forces during World War II, he studied at the University of Chicago, where he spent his first year after graduating editing Poetry magazine. In the early 1950s Carruth suffered a nervous breakdown and spent some years in isolation, developing a strong interest in the existentialism of Camus, an encounter which formed the basis of his book After 'The Stranger': Imaginary Dialogues With Camus (1964). Part of Carruth's recovery programme involved doing filing work for James Laughlin, the founder and director of New Directions Press. He later patched together a living from freelance editing, reviewing, typing and farm chores, all the while writing poems which appeared in publications including The New Yorker and Partisan Review. Known primarily as a critic and editor, Carruth advised the Hudson Review from 1971 until his death. He was poetry editor of Harper's from 1977 to 1983. He published thirty books of poetry during his lifetime, winning the National Book Award for poetry in 1996. The theme of mental illness recurs in his emotionally-charged work. He also wrote the novel Appendix A (1963).
Michael Alexander remembers Michael O'Higgins:
Michael O'Higgins's volume Schizophrenia (1988) has an introduction by C.H. Sisson which begins 'Poetry is a much-abused word.' Michael was a true poet, the author of four volumes of verse. He died in Wells, Somerset, on 4 July 2008, having spent much of the latter part of his life living near 'the Mendip', a mental hospital for a thousand patients designed by the architect George Gilbert Scott, which stands on the slope of Mendip above Wells (now converted into apartments). Michael had earlier attended the Mendip, and a number other, less friendly institutions. Born in Dublin in 1935, he was educated at Ruskin College and then Magdalen College, Oxford, where other poets of the day were John Fuller, Ian Hamilton, Peter Dale, Grey Gowrie and William Cookson.
I have a distinct memory of Michael from my Oxford years (1959- 62). Tall, thin, pale and dark, he had what non-Irish people might be tempted to describe as an elfin appearance. In those days, he worked at the Oxford telephone exchange, and would leave a gathering with the words 'If you want me, just dial "O".' I had not heard Michael's name for decades when, five years ago, I heard it spoken on my first visit to the West Side Bookshop in Wells (now closed). Michael O'Higgins, I gathered, had long suffered from schizophrenia, though it had been, for the last twenty years or so, reasonably well managed. Mental illness of various kinds is the subject of virtually all his poems; they are direct, spare and clear, often with some humour but without self-pity. Those who cannot imagine what it is to be classed as schizophrenic will find these poems extremely informative - starkly so at times. They stick in the mind: a distinguished achievement made out of a difficult life.
Schizophrenia, and Michael O'Higgins's other collections, are available from Sean O'Callahan, 25 Glastonbury Road, Wells, Somerset BA5 2XW or telephone number 01749 679235.
This item is taken from PN Review 184, Volume 35 Number 2, November - December 2008.