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This item is taken from PN Review 201, Volume 38 Number 1, September - October 2011.News & Notes
PHILIP LEVINE has been named the new United States Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress, succeeding W.S. Merwin. 83-year-old Levine grew up in a blue-collar family of Russian emigrants in Detroit, working at automobile factories in his youth and publishing his first book of poetry in 1963. Called the 'voice of the working man' for his Whitmanesque evocation of urban life, Levine won the 1991 National Book Award for What Work Is and the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for The Simple Truth (Knopf). James Billington, Librarian of Congress, described him as 'the laureate of the industrial heartland'. He added, 'It's a very, very American voice. I don't know that in other countries you get poetry of that quality about the ordinary workingman.'
Poet, novelist and critic IAN WEDDE has been appointed the eighth New Zealand Poet Laureate. His work as an art critic in particular led him to curate several exhibitions and work as the head of art and visual culture at Te Papa Tongarewa (Museum of New Zealand) in Wellington from 1994 until 2004. His first British publication was Selected Poems by Mahmoud Darwish (Carcanet, 1973). His original work is widely published in magazines and anthologies, and he has to his credit fourteen collections, five novels, and two books of essays. He co-edited the 1985 Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse with Harvey McQueen.
Independent publishers dominate the longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, announced on 26 July, with nine of the thirteen titles. The 'Man Booker Dozen' includes four first-time novelists, alongside Sebastian Barry, Julian Barnes and former winner Alan Hollinghurst. PN Review declares an interest in PATRICK MCGUINNESS: his debut novel is the first longlisted title for the Welsh press Seren. Patrick is an award-winning Carcanet poet and professor of French literature at Oxford. His work has featured regularly in PNR. Other first-time novelists are Stephen Kelman, A.D. Miller and Yvette Edwards. The shortlist of six will be announced on 6 September and the overall winner on 18 October at London's Guildhall.
In The Last Hundred Days, McGuinness examines the downfall of the Ceausescu regime, shaped by his own travels in Romania during the 1980s. McGuinness found that 'more and more of my Bucharest experiences were coming through in poems', notably in the guise of his Romanian poet Liviu Campanu (1932-94), a character axed from his novel who has taken on a literary life of his own. A sequence of 'translations' of Campanu appeared in McGuinness's 2010 collection Jilted City. McGuinness's Romanian alter ego went down so well with critics that he may displace McGuinness in his next collection.
The iconic Gay's the Word bookshop on Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, was vandalised during the recent London riots. The bookshop, a well-known landmark, had its front window smashed and was pelted with eggsby thirty youths early on 8 August. The interior was undamaged and staff opened the bookshop the following day. This was the one business attacked on the street. Otherwise, bookshops were largely unaffected by the rioting; as of 10 August, spokespeople for Waterstone's and W.H. Smith were not aware of any damage to their stores. It was incorrectly reported that the Big Green Bookshop in North London's Wood Green had been vandalised, but the proprietors' blog
(http://woodgreenbookshop.blogspot.com/) set the record straight: 'We have opened as normal. We held our Knitting Group on Sunday and we did our songs and storytelling to under-fives on Monday morning.' Instant celebrity and a dedicated Facebook page greeted one plucky employee of Waterstone's Deansgate, itself half-heartedly targeted for arson by a rioter who heaped rubbish bags at the back entrance but couldn't light the fire. The employee declared during the Manchester riots of 9 August, 'We'll stay open. If they steal some books they might learn something.' While the socially networked middle classes scoffed - and it is difficult to argue with the stark economic realism of those who weighed up their looting options and came down firmly on the side of widescreen TVs and box-fresh trainers - recent events raise stark questions about education and access to books. 'Is reading just for the middle classes? Are you more or less likely to riot if you read? What could books offer the looters anyway?', asked Nikesh Shukla of the literacy charity Booktrust on the Guardian Book Blog (12 August 2011). 'The people who will want to read will read. Those who might stand to, as Waterstone's put it, “learn something”, need to be engaged more.'
More on literacy. The Women's Institute has launched an online petition in support of public libraries. It is currently seeking the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a Parliamentary debate on the future of libraries, in the light of library closures and proposed closures across the UK. The petition calls for the value of libraries to be recognised locally and nationally and asks government 'to honour both its commitment to act as a champion of the library service, and its duty of oversight to ensure that a comprehensive and efficient library service is provided.' Launching its Love Your Libraries campaign in June, the WI said: '[We] believe it is time for communities to love their libraries; to use them and share why we value their services, and to raise awareness of the threats to their future.' Visit the Campaigns and Projects area on www.thewi.org.uk for more information or pledge your support at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/1269.
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) believes libraries face disproportionate cuts, with 20% in England alone under threat. Online response to the cuts was inflamed by the Future Library report of 8 August by DCMS and MLA, in which the government appears to favour 'community-managed libraries' run by volunteers over staffed institutions. See the full report at www.mla.gov.uk/news_and_views/press_releases/2011/Report_on_future_libraries.
What a lot of forms modern vandals take! The Somerset village of East Coker is in peril. T.S. ELIOT'S burial place, one of the loveliest and most haunted corners of England, may shortly be swamped by 3,750 new houses and an industrial estate. A Liberal Democrat councillor on the South Somerset Council is pushing it through. He acknowledges his ignorance of Eliot, adding,'I don't like poetry'. And further: 'You may well personally hold that a dead poet's tomb is a national monument, and that the setting extends for miles around, but as I understand it Elliott [sic, contempt rather than accuracy being his strong suit] only had a passing link with the village, being the family home rather than his chosen place of regular abode. He was so overwhelmed with East Coker that he mentioned it in a poem once.' After such knowledge, what forgiveness? If the council does not feel a groundswell of opposition from those who have heard of Eliot, and of England, and who appreciate the uniqueness of the village, this scheme will proceed and another avoidable erasure will occur. Those opposed to the plans are encouraged to write to members of South Somerset Council and forward the appeal to other individuals who may be interested. The East Coker Preservation Trust can provide further information (email@example.com).
Carcanet Press celebrates its forthcoming anthology New Poetries V with the launch of a new blog and Facebook page. The blog, http://newpoetries.blogspot.com, is an online forum in which news, notes, gossip and discussion relating to Carcanet's New Poetries anthologies is conducted. The Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/pages/New-Poetries/212824798754926. The interest for PN Review readers is that most of the poets in the anthology have featured in PN Review, often for the first time, over the last five years. Evan Jones, a New Poetries V contributor, coordinates the blog. He writes: 'Over the past seventeen years, Carcanet's New Poetries anthologies have introduced some sixty poets to readers ... This blog is dedicated to the difference and variety of the New Poetries anthologies, to “the irreducible plural” of the title. We hope readers will find here some thoughtful discussion on the workings of poetry, and ideas about and around the writing of poetry today.' Recent posts include discussions of poetry in relation to film and portraiture, and editor Michael Schmidt on 'voice'. Comments and contributions are welcome.
The programme for the 2011 Manchester Literature Festival has been announced. The festival, which takes place from 10 to 23 October, will include the 'Manchester Sermon' by Andrew Motion, Antonia Fraser on Harold Pinter and new Manchester University Professor of Creative Writing (and successor to Martin Amis) Colm Tóibín in conversation with Alan Hollinghurst. Authors Tahmima Anam, Patricia Duncker, Jeffrey Eugenides, Michael Frayn, David Lodge, Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, Claire Tomalin and Zhu Wen will be appearing. Poetry events include a joint reading by Carola Luther and Mimi Khalvati (20 October), a European Poetry Night with Ágnes Lehóczky, Marcelijus Martinaitis and Toon Tellegen (21 October) and a tribute to the late Manchester poet and founder of Poets & Players, Linda Chase (20 October). Visit www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk for the full brochure.
Independent press SALMON POETRY is celebrating thirty years of publishing. Among the highlight events is a raffle with a prize of all 31 of its 2011 poetry collections, signed by the authors (€5 for 5 tickets or €10 for 12 tickets). The draw will take place at Salmon's Anniversary Gala Event at the Unitarian Church, St Stephen's Green, Dublin, on 1 November. More than 200 volumes of poetry have been produced during its thirty-year history. Visit www.salmonpoetry.com to see the catalogue.
Irish poet JOHN F. DEANE has been awarded the Golden Key of Smederevo. This honour is presented by the mayor of the town of Smederevo in Serbia in recognition of a distinguished poetic opus. Included is a visit to the Belgrade Book Fair and a Serbian translation of Deane's work, which will feature at the opening of Smederevo's 41st International Festival of Poetry. Deane also receives a gilt replica of the city's medieval key, to unlock the delights of this 'city of grape and wine' on the Danube. Previous recipients include Homero Aridjis, Yves Bonnefoy and Ewa Lipska. Achill Island-born Deane is founder of Poetry Ireland. His poems have been published in French, Bulgarian, Romanian, Italian and Swedish. His latest collection is Eye of the Hare (Carcanet, 2011).
The poet and songwriter FRAN LANDESMAN died in July. She was 'the poet laureate of lovers and losers' and 'the jazz world's answer to Dorothy Parker', the obituaries said. Born in New York, she began writing song lyrics in 1952. 'Spring Can Hang You Up The Most' (a wry exploration of 'April is the cruellest month') and 'The Ballad of the Sad Young Men' were recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan and Bette Midler. 'Nothing Like You' was recorded by Miles Davis and included on his 1967 album Sorcerer. In the 1970s she began publishing poetry; several volumes appeared, and she continued performing at festivals and on radio. Between 2010 and 2011 she appeared regularly at RADA for Farrago poetry and twice a year hosted a lunchtime concert at the 606 Club in London. In May 2010 the South Bank Centre presented 'A Night Out with Fran Landesman' at the Purcell Room and in April 2011 the Leicester Square Theatre hosted 'An Evening with Fran Landesman' as part of the Art of Song Festival. Her last appearance at RADA was on 21 July, two days before her death at the age of 83.
The American poet PAUL VIOLI died in April 2011; a full obituary will appear in the next issue of PN Review.
This item is taken from PN Review 201, Volume 38 Number 1, September - October 2011.