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This item is taken from PN Review 192, Volume 36 Number 4, March - April 2010.News & Notes
Never-before-seen photographs of Marilyn Monroe lounging around a New York apartment with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet CARL SANDBURG, held in a private archive for more than 45 years, have been released. The black-and-white images, taken by fashion photographer Len Steckler only nine months before the actress’s death, show a 35-year-old Monroe in thick-rimmed sunglasses and a short sleeve dress, talking and laughing with an 83-year-old Sandburg. ‘It was serendipitous with these icons in their moment, and me there with my camera,’ said octogenarian Steckler of the day in 1961 when Monroe arrived at his apartment to visit his friend Sandburg. ‘As we know, Marilyn loved older men; she loved intellectuals - and Carl was very parental with her’, Steckler observed. ‘It was a lovely thing to see.’ After the shoot, he added, they all drank Jack Daniels. The individual pictures will go on sale for between $1,999 and $3,999.
The American philanthropist and poetry patron RUTH LILLY has died at the age of 94. The last surviving great-grandchild of pharmaceutical magnate Eli Lilly, whose firm went on to develop the anti-depressant Prozac, she gave away an estimated $800 million to charitable and arts institutions. Lilly was also an aspiring poet who had written since the mid-1930s, with little success. In 2002, however, she finally became renowned in the poetry world when she donated $100 million to what was then the Modern Poetry Association, a small but influential literary organisation founded in 1941. In 2003 the Association evolved into the Poetry Foundation, now one of the largest literary foundations in the world. ‘Poetry has no greater friend than Ruth Lilly,’ said John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation, which also publishes the magazine Poetry. The story has an interesting twist: although Lilly’s own work had been declined for publication by the magazine, her act of generosity was reportedly inspired by the ‘encouraging’ rejection letters she had received from it early in her writing career. There’s more than poetry in some slush piles.
CHRISTOPHER REID has received the Costa Book of the Year Award for The Scattering (Areté), a poetic tribute to his wife, the actress Lucinda Gane, who died in 2005. It is the sixth time a poetry book has won the cross-genre award, with Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney each winning twice. The 2009 T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry was awarded to PHILIP GROSS for The Water Table (Bloodaxe) in a ceremony hosted by the Poetry Book Society at the Wallace Collection in January.
The London-based poet and activist JOHN RETY has died aged 79. Rety was a champion of poetry in Camden, a political maverick with a background in the European anarchist movement who later became interested in squatters’ rights. He was founder of both the Torriano Meeting House, a poetry performance space in Kentish Town, and Hearing Eye, an independent poetry press which has produced over 150 publications since its first, Cats’ Parnassus by John Heath-Stubbs, in 1987. Rety was recently the subject of an extended profile by Marius Kociejowski, ‘The Poet, the Anarchist, the Master of Ceremonies: whose tale contains a desk inlaid with Midnight Blue’, in PNR 187.
Howl, a new film based on the composition, performance and publication of ALLEN GINSBERG’S eponymous poem and the subsequent 1957 indecency trial, generated interest at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered in January. The cast includes James Franco (Milk) as Ginsberg, Andrew Rogers as the poet’s publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Jon Hamm (known for his rendition of Frank O’Hara’s poem ‘Mayakovsky’ as Mad Men’s Don Draper) as the poet’s defence attorney. Directors Josh Friedman and Rob Epstein conceived the project as a documentary but changed approach during the development process because, Friedman claimed, ‘it was not doing justice to the material… We had to do something that broke form the same way Ginsberg’s poem did.’ The film will be on general release later in 2010.
ABRAHAM SUTZKEVER, one of the last great Yiddish poets, has died in Tel Aviv aged 96. Born in 1913 and raised in and around the Lithuanian city of Vilna, Sutzkever attended Polish-Jewish schools and later studied Yiddish literature with Max Weinreich. As a young poet he found an audience as a member of a renowned group of Yiddish artists and writers, Yung Vilne. That cultural and intellectual golden age abruptly ended in June 1941, when the Nazis invaded the city and interned its 60,000 Jews - including Sutzkever and his family. During his imprisonment Sutzkever helped to conceal from the Nazis Yiddish manuscripts and art works which are now housed in the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York. Poems evoking the horrors of the Holocaust such as ‘My Mother’ and ‘A Wagon of Shoes’ (both 1942) were composed, he claimed, while crawling through sewers and even while hiding in a coffin. ‘If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t live,’ he said of the experience in a 1985 interview. In 1943 he and his wife escaped to Moscow, finding their way to British Mandate Palestine, where they remained after Israel’s independence in 1948. He devoted himself to keeping Yiddish alive, founding and editing Israel’s Yiddish literary journal Di Goldene Keyt (The Golden Chain) until 1995 and continuing to publish Yiddish poetry, most notably Lider fun Togbukh (Poems from a Diary 1974-1981). His works are translated into English by Seymour Mayne.
This item is taken from PN Review 192, Volume 36 Number 4, March - April 2010.