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This item is taken from PN Review 188, Volume 35 Number 6, July - August 2009.News & Notes
Yoko Ono and Jackie Kay were judges of a recent poetry contest with a difference: it took place live on Twitter. The competition unfolded in real-time over one week in May. Commuters were invited to ‘tweet’ three line haiku-style verses to the microblogging website. Winning entries were displayed on the digital arrivals and departures board at London’s King’s Cross Station. No petals or wet black boughs…
A new documentary about the San Francisco poet, artist, publisher and activist LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI was premiered in April at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Author of A Coney Island of the Mind and Poetry as Insurgent Art, Ferlinghetti is best-known for founding City Lights Bookstore and publishing house in 1953 and for winning the indecency trial which resulted from his publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in 1956. Marking his ninetieth birthday, the film Ferlinghetti explores the experiences at Nagasaki shortly after the Second World War which inspired the writer’s lifelong pacifism, his campaigning for free speech during the 1950s and his place at the heart of the Beat circle. Visit www.ferlinghettifilm.com to watch the trailer and view images of Ferlinghetti with Kenneth Rexroth, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Micheal McClure and others.
The international literature magazine Wasafiri is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary by establishing a New Writing Prize and sponsoring events at the Southbank Centre in London on Saturday 31 October. Beginning with a keynote address by the acclaimed Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Everything to Declare: 25 Years of Wasafiri will feature mother and daughter duo Anita and Kiran Desai, and poets Sujata Bhatt, Fred D’Aguiar, Lizzy Dijeh and Nii Ayikwei Parkes. Visit www.wasafiri.org to book tickets. Since its first issue in 1984, Wasafiri has reflected Britain’s diverse cultures and highlighted diasporic and migrant literature from across the globe. Its transnational ethos is summed up by its title, the Kiswahili word for ‘travellers’.
The distinguished American poet and translator (and regular PNR contributor) MARILYN HACKER has been awarded the 2009 PEN Poetry in Translation Award for her version of King of a Hundred Horsemen by Marie Étienne (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Hacker’s translations from the French introduce to English language readers work by a restlessly inventive poet. Born in 1938 in Menton, Étienne takes bearings from both Verlaine and Mallarmé and integrates Francophone traditions with those of the Vietnam of her childhood. Hacker, who divides her time between Paris and New York, also recently translated poems by the French-Lebanese poet Vénus Khoury-Ghata in Alphabets of Sand (Carcanet, 2009).
A poem from the previous issue of PNR was chosen by Carol Rumens as the Guardian online’s Poem of the Week in May. ‘As I wander in the supermarket aisles of contemporary poetry,’ Rumens writes, ‘I am dazzled and confused - until the equivalent of a pleasant shop assistant with a tray of delicacies approaches, and I pluck out something called “The One Hundred Years of Solitude of Chinese Poetry”. Different, yes, but tasty and fresh: I’ll buy it. In fact, of course, I came across it in PN Review, not Tesco’s.’ The poem, written by Beijing writer and scholar Zang Di and translated by Ao Wang and Eleanor Goodman, was praised for its ‘wisdom’, ‘irony’ and ‘finesse’.
One of PNR’s favourite American publishers, New Directions, has recently launched not one but two blogs. The first, Cantos, focuses on New Directions’ publishing activities, which include collections of work by their founding editor, James Laughlin; the second, New Directions Poetry, discusses both New Directions’ poetry and poetry in a wider context. Visit www.ndpublishing.com/blogs to read them.
The ninth annual International Literature Festival Berlin will take place from 9 to 19 September. During the twelve days and 300 events of the festival, Arabic-language poets will mix with American short story-writers, South Korean poets with their Russian colleagues, and South African novelists with Albanian writers. Authors invited include Robert Gray, Arundhati Roy, Isaac Rosa, Sebastian Barry, Monica Ali, Eliot Weinberger and Pablo Ramos. Visit www.literaturfestival.com for a full programme.
The excellent second issue of the online poetry journal The Bow Wow Shop is now live at www.bowwowshop.org.uk . Edited by Michael Glover, contributions include veteran Oulipian magician Harry Mathews in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Xu Bing and the ‘mandarinisation’ of Dylan Thomas, Mimi Khalvati interviewed by Marius Kociejowski, Paul Binding on Stephen Spender, and an exploration of the curious, under-bed world of Federico Garcia Lorca. Also featured are new poems by Christopher Middleton, Fiona Sinclair and others, and new translations from medieval Arabic by Eric Ormsby.
The American poet ROBERT REHDER died suddenly in March, shortly after the publication of his outstanding new collection First Things When. Rehder, born and raised in Iowa, majored at Princeton in Near Eastern studies. He studied at the École des langues orientales in Paris and at the University of Tehran. He lived for several years in Tehran, travelled to Afghanistan, across Turkey and around Iran. He crossed the Dasht-i Kavir and Dasht-i Lut, the big deserts of eastern Iran, making the first scientific collection of the plants in the area for Kew Gardens. From 1985 to 2005 he was Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Fribourg in French-speaking Switzerland, where he lived in Corminboeuf, a small village with more cows than people which became a source of comedy and mythology in his poems. The poems in his last collection inhabit invented, rootless places: supermarkets, airports and parking garages; the illusory communities of celebrity and the digital universe.
The poet and critic MICHAEL MURPHY died of a brain tumour, aged 43. Murphy was brought up in Liverpool by adoptive parents, but remained proud of his Irish roots. After grammar school he was apprenticed as a clerk to the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive, a job which allowed him time to read (his first encounter with Proust was at a bus depot). In 1990 he graduated with a first in English and Drama from Liverpool Institute of Higher Education (now Liverpool Hope University), where his interest in poetry had been ignited by his tutor Matt Simpson. While studying for a PhD he came upon the work of W.H. Auden, Joseph Brodsky and George Szirtes (published as Poetry in Exile in 2004) at Nottingham Trent University and edited the work of George Garrett, a Liverpool seaman, writer and activist admired by George Orwell. In 2001 he won the Poetry Society’s Geoffrey Dearmer prize for new poet of the year. His first full collection of poems, Elsewhere (2003) was praised by Mimi Khalvati, Lawrence Sail and Bernard O’Donoghue. Murphy returned to Liver pool Hope, where he met and married fellow poet and teacher Deryn Rees-Jones, and in 2003 he became an associate professor at the university. His time there is remembered as a vibrant era of poetry readings, plays, talks, jazz and organ recitals and art events for children.
The poet U.A. FANTHORPE also died in April; a full obituary will appear in the next issue of PN Review.
This item is taken from PN Review 188, Volume 35 Number 6, July - August 2009.