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This item is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.News & Notes
KAY RYAN has been awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. California-based Ryan, who served as the American Poet Laureate (2008-2010), received the award for New and Selected Poems. The Pulitzer judges praised 'a body of work spanning 45 years, witty, rebellious and yet tender, a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind'. Seeking clarification, Ryan asked the Associated Press: 'It comes with a really big car, doesn't it? Don't you get a Humvee? The poet's car.' She added, 'Since my nature was not very compatible with the tastes of my time, I had to find ways to express what must be expressed in poetry, which is the activity of the mind and the heart.' Also, 'I suppose it sounds like a cliché, but poetry came and got me. I came to it very reluctantly, but it insisted.' Carcanet will publish Kay Ryan's Odd Blocks: Selected and New Poems in July. The book includes twenty-one new poems, seven of them first published in this edition. According to The New York Times, 'You can't help consuming Kay Ryan's poems quickly, the way you are supposed to consume freshly made cocktails: while they are still smiling at you.'
The inaugural Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize for the translation of Russian poetry into English is open for entries. Launched at the London Book Fair this April by the Stephen Spender Trust in association with the poets' widows, Maria Brodsky and Natasha Spender, the prize celebrates the poets' long friendship and the rich tradition of Russian poetry. In the 1960s Spender knew Brodsky only by reputation, as a poet imprisoned in the Soviet Union. They met in 1972 when W.H. Auden brought Brodsky, recently expelled from his country, to London for the Poetry International Festival. The 2011 prize will be judged by Sasha Dugdale, Catriona Kelly and Paul Muldoon. Visit www.stephen-spender.org/brodsky_spender.html to submit translations alongside the Russian original before the deadline of 31 August 2011. Alternatively, write to the Stephen Spender Trust, 3 Old Wish Road, Eastbourne, BN21 4JX for further information.
On the subject of translation, JEFFREY ANGLES recently received the 2011 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets for his translation of the Japanese poet Tada Chimako in Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems (University of California Press, 2010). Jeffrey Angles is an associate professor of Japanese and Translation at Western Michigan University and a prominent translator of contemporary Japanese poetry. Visit www.poets.org for more information about the award.
After The Anxiety of Influence comes The Anatomy of Influence. At the age of eighty, with some forty books to his credit and many honours, HAROLD BLOOM in his new critical book sings, as he puts it, 'my virtual swan song'. Published in May by Yale, The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life was born of Bloom's urge 'to say in one place most of what I have learned to think about how influence works in imaginative literature'. The book meditates on the abiding preoccupation of his academic career, ranging in subject from Hamlet, Iago and Cleopatra ('For me, Shakespeare is God') to Eliot ('a great if tendentious poet'), via his early appreciation of Paradise Lost at the age of thirteen ('thrilling to Satan and falling in love with Eve'). Bloom was interviewed in The New York Times Book Review (20 May 2011) by the Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, an old pupil of his at Yale: visit www.nytimes.com to read the piece and watch video footage of Bloom. It is a rare pleasure to hear him reading Whitman, and reflecting on the impact Emerson had on the simmering young poet.
The Irish poet and playwright PATRICK GALVIN has died. A successful writer, Galvin also founded and chaired the Munster Literature Centre and the Dún Laoghaire Poetry Now Festival and was a member of Aosdána, the organisation that honours those who have made outstanding contributions to the arts in Ireland. Described by Poetry Ireland as fiery, iconoclastic, socialist and anti-establishment, Galvin was shaped by his working-class childhood in Cork. His work 'resisted categorisation and seems closer to European or South American writing than anything else produced in Ireland'. Galvin published poetry books, including Heart of Grace, and theatre and radio plays. His autobiography, which formed a trilogy, Song for a Poor Boy, Song for a Raggy Boy and Song for a Fly Boy, received critical acclaim and was adapted into a film starring Aidan Quinn.
On 20 May it was announced that the HMV group had sold the Waterstone's chain to a little-known Russian tycoon, ALEXANDER MAMUT, who has in turn appointed the outstanding independent bookseller james daunt as MD. The Bookseller on 25 May reported Stephen Page, CEO of Faber and Faber, claiming that the safeguarding of the future of Waterstone's will secure the midlist of history and science writing, literary fiction and memoir. He might have added poetry to the list. If Mamut's acquisition goes ahead, it will be 'tremendous' news for readers and writers. 'Despite all the noise about ebooks and online marketing, bookshops are still at the heart of creating audiences for books.' As shops close, sales are not replaced by online purchases, argued Page, citing the recent demise of high street player Borders as an example. He still predicts an important curatorial role for the bookshop: 'Clearly, readers are happy to browse for books and ebooks online, and Amazon et al. do a superb job of serving the online customer. But it's equally clear that online choice can be overwhelming and the lack of “signposting” problematic'. Such problems are solved in the traditional comfort of a good bookshop, Page implied. 'If that were to diminish quickly, we may jump from Long Tail to Cheshire Cat: the grinning faces of dominant bestsellers, with the larger body of publishing hardly visible.' A mixed economy of physical bookshops (led by a buoyant Waterstone's) and digital publishing and shopping was the best solution for readers and publishers, he said. 'The new ownership of Waterstone's should ensure that publishers and writers have a sizeable high-street partner to work with [...]. Until last week, there was a real danger that the mid-list would vanish from view and become a ghostly memory: a great loss for our culture and for the pleasure of readers everywhere.'
An international conference commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of PRIMO LEVI'S death will take place on 6 and 7 July 2012 at Edge Hill University, Lancashire. 'A Sort of Wisdom: Exploring the Legacy of Primo Levi' will feature keynote speeches by Professor Norman Geras (author of The Contract of Mutual Indifference: Political Philosophy After the Holocaust), Robert S.C. Gordon (University of Cambridge), the poet, publisher and translator Anthony Rudolf (author of At an Uncertain Hour: Primo Levi's War against Oblivion), and Judith Woolf (University of York). Primo Levi (1919-87) was born and lived his entire life in or near Turin, with the exception of the years 1944-45, when he was captured as an anti-Fascist partisan, deported to Auschwitz, and then released into war-torn Europe. After liberation, with 'a torrent of things to tell the civilised world' and 'the tattooed number on [his] arm burning like a sore', he wrote a series of remarkable books, including If This Is a Man, The Periodic Table and The Drowned and the Saved. While he is now considered one of the most important writers of the Holocaust and a key figure in twentieth-century literature, for many he is also a deeply ethical writer, a subtle and humane 'political philosopher'. The conference will consider how Levi's legacy can be appreciated critically without encouraging what Bryan Cheyette has called the 'reductive discourses' which have 'turned him into a saint-like figure'. Proposals for papers on Levi's work from any discipline are welcome. Visit www.edgehill.ac.uk/events/2012/07/06/primo-levi-conference.
2011 is the centenary of cult poet, artist and Gormenghast novelist MERVYN PEAKE. To mark the occasion there will be a number of events, including a weekend symposium at Chichester University (15-17 July), talks, radio programmes and an exhibition in the Folio Society Gallery at the British Library featuring some of the original Gormenghast manuscripts (from 12 July). Centenary publications include the reissuing of Peake's novels by Vintage Classics, a new memoir by the author's daughter, and Complete Nonsense, a comprehensive illustrated gathering of Peake's nonsense poems edited by Peter Winnington and R.W. Maslen, to be published by Carcanet in July. For more information about the celebrations visit www.mervynpeake.org, a website maintained by Peake's indefatigable son Sebastian. The last issue of PN Review (199) included a series of Peake's illustrations for his 1944 collection of nonsense Rhymes Without Reason. The accompanying article by R.W. Maslen (editor of both Peake's Collected Poems and Complete Nonsense) describes some of the characters in the pictures, who include a 'giraffe who is slow to respond to jokes because his laughter takes so long to travel from his belly to his face'; 'a Bohemian-looking lion'; 'a suspicious owl and an overconfident frog'.
The poems of the Jamaican poet EDWARD BAUGH have been added to the Poetry Archive's audio library. Baugh, who delivered the PN Review Lecture at the University of Glasgow in 2010 (see PN Review 194), may be known more as a literary critic than a poet, but his poetry is central to the contemporary Caribbean scene. His distinguished academic career has been devoted to West Indian literature, especially the study of Anglophone Caribbean poetry, and in particular the work of Derek Walcott. His books, essays and lectures have made an enormous contribution to the establishment of a vibrant school of criticism. They include the early pamphlet A Study in Cultural Decolonisation (1971), essays such as 'Towards a West Indian Criticism', written just six years after Jamaican independence, and 'The West Indian Writer and his Quarrel with History' (1977), a pioneering piece of criticism on a complex and omnipresent literary theme. Visit www.poetryarchive.org to listen to his poems.
The Chilean poet GONZALO ROJAS has died at the age of 93, it was reported from Santiago on 25 April. One of the most significant Chilean poets of the past few decades, he received the 2003 Cervantes Literature Prize, the 1992 National Literature Prize and the 1992 Queen Sofia Ibero-American Poetry Prize. Rojas was born in 1917 in Lebu, 660 km south of Santiago, and lived abroad from 1970 to 1995. He wrote Qué se ama cuando se ama (What We Love When We Love), La miseria del hombre (The Misery of Man) and Contra la muerte (Against Death), among other works.
Mike Freeman remembers Glyn Hughes:
GLYN HUGHES, who died on 24 May, aged 76, was a man with a restless imagination which found expression in various art forms: painting, radio plays, novels, topographical and historical excursions, a verse autobiography, and several collections of lyrical, meditative poems. Much of the work was rooted in his sense of Northernness, though not in any limiting sense of regionalism, because it focused two recurring strands in his work. One was the natural world and landscape; the other was a history of social and political change, especially as it was inscribed on the landscapes he knew. His acute responsiveness to nature has the precision and evocativeness of a Clare, and he circled round visionary possibilities that echo Blake, but with little hankering after a system or a metaphysic. His work was based on a tough-minded - often enough angry - sense of what was going on, though his poems mostly held explicit polemic at bay. His home was a weaver's cottage at Mill Bank which he'd rebuilt from a ruin, a hands-on reconstruction that he half-jokingly called his Thor Ballymillbank. He had a smaller 'tower' in his last book of poems, A Year in the Bull-Box (Arc Publications, 2011). This was the isolated stone hut, too small for any Yeatsian trope, which he regarded as a place of healing and of affirmation of 'the vulnerable creatures, wild and domesticated'. A bull is also the title-image of his first collection, The Stanedge Bull and Other Poems, a 1966 pamphlet from the legendary days of the Manchester Institute of Contemporary Arts. As it happened, my review of it for Harry Chambers' Phoenix magazine was the start of a forty-year friendship with Glyn. We became neighbours on the hill-sides where the Ryburn runs into the Calder, the particular landscape his books explored and evoked, though his years in Lancashire and later in Greece also made their mark on his writing and painting. He had trained as an artist, and his painting continued to underpin his writing; his 1992 novel, Roth, owes a lot to his enthusiasm for David Bomberg. In the closing months of his life he was working on a large canvas that he knew might be the last embodiment of his fascination with colour and painterliness. But for this reader at least, his poems are the distinctive, distinguished core of the rich body of work he leaves. Despite - maybe because of - a discernible undertow of urgency from the pressures of his cancer, his last book contains some of the most measured and moving poems he ever wrote.
This item is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.