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This item is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.

News & Notes Compiled by Eleanor Crawforth

EMILY DICKINSON’s garden has been recreated in an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden. Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers presents many of Dickinson’s favourite plants, including crab apple, hemlock, daylily, foxglove and columbine. Storyboards and audio recordings featuring excerpts from Dickinson’s poems and letters form a ‘Poetry Walk’ through the gardens. ‘During her lifetime, Dickinson was better known as a gardener than a poet,’ said Jane Dorfman, librarian and exhibitions coordinator for the Botanical Garden. ‘She enjoyed giving flowers with letters she wrote, and each flower had its own meaning in Victorian times.’ Although no photographs or drawings of her gardens exist, more than a third of her poems and almost half of her letters mention plants. Visitors can also visit a representation of the poet’s bedroom, including the view from her writing table, and see several original Dickinson manuscripts, co-presented with the Poetry Society of America. Located between 200th Street and Kazimiroff Boulevard in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Garden is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm.

For time-poor, technology-rich poetry fans, the Poetry Foundation of America has launched a free poetry iPhone application. The new ‘app’ makes available for the first time on a mobile device a virtual poetry library of more than 1,400 complete poems by classic and contemporary poets, including translations: from Shakespeare to César Vallejo. It also offers a database of poems searchable by poet, title, keyword, subject or occasion; the capacity to share poems with friends through Facebook, Twitter or by email; and access to new poems from the pages of Poetry magazine, published by The Poetry Foundation. ‘We think this is an exciting, fun and practical way to get more people reading poetry,’ Catherine Halley, editor of www.poetryfoundation.org,, says. ‘With the poetry app, great poetry is always accessible - during commutes, for instance, or between appointments.’ The application is available to download from www.poetryfoundation.org/iphone or the Apple iTunes Store.

A set of limited edition postcards celebrating some of the most important Welsh writers in English has been launched by the Rhys Davies Trust and Academi, the national literature promotion agency in Wales, with support from the Library of Wales. The collection includes Brenda Chamberlain, Roland Mathias, Leslie Norris, R.S. Thomas, Raymond Williams, Alun Richards and Gwyn Thomas. In addition to a portrait, each card carries details of the writer’s Library of Wales publication and, where relevant, the location of a memorial plaque. To receive a set of the sixteen cards free of charge, send a self-addressed stamped envelope (51p) to Academi, Writers Postcards, Mount Stuart House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff CF10 5FQ.

Canadian KAREN SOLIE and Irish EILÉAN NÍ CHUILLEANÁIN were awarded the 2010 Griffin Poetry Prizes in June. Established in 2000 by Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje and others, the awards are the most lucrative poetry prizes for a single volume of poetry in the world. Saskatchewan native Solie was honoured for her collection Pigeon, published by House of Anansi Press. Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, an associate professor of English Literature at Trinity College Dublin, won the international prize for The Sun-fish (Gallery Press).

A major new exhibition of manuscript paintings at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge this autumn will explore the artistic legacy of one of the world’s greatest literary epics, the 1,000-year-old Persian ‘Book of Kings’, or Shahnameh. Completed by the poet Ferdowsi in ad 1010, this vast narrative poem telling the ‘Iranian version’ of the history of the world is an icon of Persian culture and has inspired exquisite illuminated manuscripts. To mark the millennium since its completion, Epic of the Persian Kings: The Art of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh will bring together over one hundred paintings from manuscripts spanning 800 years, in the most comprehensive exhibition of Shahnameh art yet mounted in the UK. The exhibition runs from 11 Sept ember 2010 until 9January 2011. Visit www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk for more information.

PAUL VANGELISTI is the winner of the 2010 Raiziss/de Palchi Prize for the Translation of Modern Italian Poetry, the Academy of American Poets announced in June. He is recognised for his translations of Adriano Spatola in The Position of Things: Collected Poems 1961 - 1992 (Green Integer). Judges Jennifer Scappettone, Paolo Valesio and Lawrence Venuti called the translation ‘a momentous work of cultural restoration which makes manifest the evolution of a decades-long conversation between the Italian poet and his American poet-translator’. Vangelisti will accept the $5,000 award and read from his translations at the Academy’s Awards Ceremony on 29 October 2010, as part of the fourth annual Poets Forum in New York City. Visit www.poets.org, for details.

The second Manchester Poetry Prize is open for entries. Established in 2008 under the direction of Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the Prize offers a first prize of £10,000 and is open internationally to entrants aged 16 or over. This year’s judges are Simon Armitage, Lavinia Greenlaw and Daljit Nagra. In addition to the main prize, a bursary for study at Manchester Metropolitan University will be awarded to one entrant aged 18 - 25 as part of the Manchester Young Writer of the Year Award. The prizes will be awarded at the 2010 Manchester Literature Festival in October. Visit www.manchesterwritingcompetition.co.uk
for details or to enter online before the deadline of 6August 2010.

ELENA SHVARTS (1948 - 2010), one of Russia’s outstanding contemporary poets, died in March aged 61. Like many writers of her generation, she remained unpublished during the Soviet period and was known only in samizdat, passed around between dedicated readers.

Shvarts was born into a theatrical family in St Petersburg (then Leningrad), a city whose streets and legends were to haunt her poems as much as they did those of Brodsky, Akhmatova and Pushkin before her. From an early age she was involved in theatre, writing and translating plays. Her first book, David, Dancing, was eventually published in New York in 1985, by which time she had gained a reputation in Russia and abroad for original writing and memorable performances. Like many ‘unofficial’ Soviet poets, she was unable to travel abroad before 1989. As a result of censorship, her first Russian publications did not appear until the 1990s, and even after then, she continued to receive more critical attention elsewhere. Notable for its religious imagery, intensity and wit, Shvarts’s poetry transforms contemporary urban scenes into mystical landscapes. Shvarts blended Russian Orthodoxy, Judaism, Catholicism, superstition and folklore into a personal vision. She writes in one poem: ‘When an angel carries away my soul/ All shrouded in fog, folded in flames/ I have no body, no tears to weep/ Just a bag in my heart, full of poems.’

Shvarts was widely translated. Two volumes of her poetry in English translation exist, Paradise: Selected Poems (1993) and Birdsong on the Seabed (2008), translated by Sasha Dugdale (Bloodaxe).

The Russian poet and writer ANDREI VOZNESENSKY, who has died aged 77, came to prominence during the post-Stalin years of the Soviet Union. The publication of his first two poetry collections, Mosaic and Parabola, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, coincided with a period of thaw following the death of Stalin in 1953. He became an idol of the younger generation, admired for his fashionable dress sense as well as his poetry. Before turning poet he studied at the Institute of Architecture in his native Moscow, an experience that informs the visual imagery of his work. Mayakovsky and the futurists and Neruda were important influences, as were the dark Quinta del Sordo paintings of Goya. Later volumes - The Triangular Pear (1962) and Antiworlds (1964), for example - owe a debt to Boris Pasternak, whom Voznesensky met at the age of fourteen and visited regularly until Pasternak’s death in 1960. His mentor’s grandeur and sense of history are absent from Voznesensky’s work, however: Peter Levi said it ‘lacked a grasp of real life’; and Clive James saw ‘the same limitations as most other Soviet literature which has ever been officially published […] what ought to be his main subject matter is hardly there’. His startling rhymes, dynamic rhythms and provocative idiom ensure that Voznes ensky’s stylistic originality is unquestioned.

Voznesensky was idolised for a time at home and abroad, participating in mass poetry readings in stadiums and concert halls with Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Robert Rozhdestvensky and Bella Akhmadulina. He received the Soviet state prize in 1978 and - as an unofficial voice of the USSR - travelled widely. He was on first name terms with Sartre, Picasso, Arthur Miller and Robert Kennedy. Auden translated some of his poems, and his rock opera with the composer Alexei Rybnikov, Juno and Avos (1981), was produced in Moscow, London, New York and Paris.

The Australian poet Chris Wallace-Crabbe remembers Peter Porter (1929 - 2010):
PETER PORTER died in London on 23 April, presumed day of Shakespeare’s death. He was a poet of brio, inventiveness and elastic reference. Characteristic of Porter’s tones is the opening of his poem ‘A Consumer’s Report’: ‘The name of the product I tested is Life,/I have completed the form you sent me/and understand that my answers are confidential.’ He was to have more than his share of sorrow, in the course of a buoyantly productive life.

Born in old-fashioned, anglophile Brisbane, Peter Porter learned to grieve early, his mother dying when he was still a boy. Leaving grammar school, he was briefly a journalist before sailing to England at 22. He shone in London, where he was part of a dense literary community for the next twenty years. He tested Australia again in 1974, and to his surprise liked it. For three decades he came south often, especially to Melbourne. He worked for an advertising agency, developing a taste for city lifestyles, before becoming a freelance writer. ‘Spending money is the kindest orgasm,’ he wrote at that jaunty stage. London had eased him into the brisk wit of ‘Who Gets the Pope’s Nose?’ alongside his harsher ‘Annotations of Auschwitz’. Perhaps he could always wring wit out of pain.

The first phase of Porter’s life in Britain closed with the sudden death of his first wife in 1974. His verse strengthened. In The Cost of Seriousness (1978), direct and oblique elegies mark his re-acquaintance with death: loss taking him back into the nine-year-old’s sorrow.

As his striking covers remind us, Porter was absorbed by the visual arts, though not by the modernists. His books contain a gallimaufry of poems which jump off from the Italian painters, or from German music. Nobody becomes a fine poet without acute observation and wide interests. Porter also enjoyed his opinions, as quirky as those of his master, W.H. Auden. Thus, he publicly disapproved of the French, and of mangoes. But he simply adored language itself. When OUP closed its living poets list, he moved on to Picador, who publish his playfully formal 2009 volume, Better than God, and now his posthumous collection, The Rest on the Flight.

Happily, he went as close as a modern poet can to living by his art, though he occasionally envied poets beginning with H. And from the squares of Bayswater, Porter accused some of us of being Pelagians, that our optimism was unsound. Clubbable though he remained, he glimpsed shadows under every poem and glass of wine. And kept on chatting.

He was a master of qualifications. His family and close friends still rejoice in lines like ‘Small wonder I best remember Indoors’, finding the irony endearing. To me he always was a dear companion.

This item is taken from PN Review 194, Volume 36 Number 6, July - August 2010.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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