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This item is taken from PN Review 185, Volume 35 Number 3, January - February 2009.News & Notes
MARK DOTY received the 2008 National Book Award in Poetry in November for Fire to Fire, a book containing both new poems and work selected from his seven previous collections. Winners in the other categories were PETER MATTHIESSEN (fiction), ANNETTE GORDON-REED (non-fiction) and JUDY BLUNDELL (young people's literature). Each received $10,000. The awards, founded in 1950, are sponsored by the National Book Foundation, a non-profit organisation which runs a variety of educational and literary programmes.
The Sorley MacLean Trust will present ' Hallaig ' : A Celebration of Sorley MacLean at 7.30pm on Sunday 18 January at Glasgow's City Halls. The performance will comprise new settings of MacLean's poems along with instrumental pieces inspired by his life and work. Also premiered will be Hallaig, a new composition by Stuart MacRae, who is known for his powerfully expressive works inspired by landscape. Performers will include the celebrated Gaelic singers James Graham, Jenna Cumming, Alasdair Whyte and Kirsteen MacDonald, and the Glasgow Gaelic Musical Association Choir. Visit www.celticconnections.com or telephone 0141 353 8000 to book tickets.
The Nobel Prize-winning West Indies poet DEREK WALCOTT marked the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States by publishing a commemorative poem in The Times on Wednesday 5 November. ' Forty Acres: a poem for Barack Obama ' traces the path of African-American history from the cotton fields ('Out of the turmoil emerges one emblem, an engraving - / a young Negro at dawn in straw hat and overalls, / an emblem of impossible prophecy ') to the White House, by way of Obama's message of change ('the young ploughman feels the change in his veins, / heart, muscles, tendons, / till the land lies open like a flag as dawn's sure / light streaks the field and furrows wait for the sower. ' ). Two days later, Obama was spotted carrying a copy of Walcott's 500-page Collected Poems as he and his wife Michelle left their daughters' school in City Chicago. Poetry lovers will be heartened to know that while the President Elect may be busy attempting to rescue the US economy and bring about peace in the Middle East, he still makes time for poetry.
The Greville Press has produced a new series of poetry pamphlets with some resurrected translations. They include Zone by Guillaume Apollinaire translated by Oliver Bernard, Memories of George Barker by Anthony Astbury, Tobacconist's by Fernando Pessoa translated by Jonathan Griffin and Poems by C.P. Cavafy translated by Rae Dalven, as well as selections of work by John Donne, Emily Dickinson, A.E. Housman, Hart Crane, Ezra Pound and W.S. Graham. For more information or to order copies write to Anthony Astbury, The Greville Press, 6 Mellors Court, The Butts, Warwick, CV34 4ST.
RALPH RUSSELL, the leading western scholar of Urdu of his generation, died on 14 September, aged 90. Tributes have been received from across the UK and the US but particularly from India and Pakistan, where news of his death was reported on national radio and TV. Born in 1918, Russell became a communist at the age of 16 and retained his political convictions throughout his life. After studying classics and geography at St John's College, Cambridge (1937 - 40), he was called up and served for six years, of which three and a half were spent in country-region India on attachment to the Indian Army. It was during this posting that Russell learnt Urdu, achieving fluency through everyday communication with his sepoys, and also became acquainted with Urdu literature. After the war he taught in the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London from 1949 to 1981, where he was head of the Urdu department for all but the first year. He also began a forty-year friendship and collaboration with Khurshidul Islam, who joined him at SOAS and produced with him a series of books introducing the best of Urdu literature to the English-speaking world through both translation and interpretative studies. Russell's publications include Three Mughal Poets: Mir, Sauda, and Mir Hasan; Ghalib: Life and Letters (both 1969) and, as editor and translator, An Anthology of Urdu Literature (Carcanet, 1995 and 1999). His life is documented in three volumes of autobiography: Findings, Keepings: Life, Communism and Everything (covering the years 1918 to 1946); Losses, Gains (1946 to 1958) and Some Day, Someone (up to the mid 1980s). Published by Longstone Books, they were also translated into Urdu and Punjabi. More information about Russell and his work can be found at www.ralphrussell.co.uk.
John Lucas remembers Allan Rodway: The literary critic and poet, Allan Rodway, who has recently died at the age of 88, was an important commentator on modern poetry and prose. Among his critical works were studies of Comedy, Science and Poetry and W.H. Auden, and he was an early advocate of the use of consistent terminology in critical discussion. With John Lucas, he ran the Byron Press for some twelve years, publishing both full collections and pamphlets by, among others, Philip Callow, Barry Cole, Ian Fletcher, G.S. Fraser, Madge Hales, B.S. Johnson, Wes Magee and Arnold Rattenbury; and The Common Muse, which he co-edited with his then head of department at Nottingham University, Vivien da Sola Pinto, remains one of the best anthologies of popular poetry and balladry in the language. Some of his own verse is included in the Byron Press's Two Poets, the other poet being his friend, Malcolm Bradbury; the book is now a collector's item.
This item is taken from PN Review 185, Volume 35 Number 3, January - February 2009.