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This item is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

News & Notes
The voice of C.H. SISSON can now be heard at the Poetry Archive – It is wonderful to experience again his bluff, direct address, straight talking, and some of his most popular poems are included.

‘And we knew that we would one day have to leave / Because we do not deserve the bliss of animals.’ The Austrian poet EVELYN SCHLAG, whose work has featured in PN Review (146, 172, 179) has received the 2015 Austrian Art Award for Literature, one of the highest among the state prizes of the Republic of Austria and provided by the Ministry of Education, Art and Culture. The jury declared: Evelyn Schlag’s body of work [poetry and fiction] is marked by a highly poetic as well as a political power. It defines the position and then analyses a female genealogy. At the centre of her examination are relationship between genders, questions of the body and the experience of disease. In her quest for a gendered language for the erotic and for love, Schlag avoids, in her prose and poetry, sentimentality and relies on precision and self-reflection.

The Uruguayan poet IDA VITALE, a resident in Austin, Texas, for more than twenty years, is the fifth woman to receive the Queen Sofia Award for Iberoamerican Poetry, one of the chief instruments for recognising the achievement of poets from the scattered literatures of Latin America. It has been described as the Cervantes Prize for poetry. The poets chosen are contributors to ‘the patrimony of Latin America and of Spain’ – in short, contributors to the common language and a tradition assumed, even so long into a post-colonial era, to be shared. Vitale is a member of the celebrated generation of 1945, like two of her female predecessors – all poets who regarded Juan Carlos Onetti as a guiding light. Vitale celebrates her ninety-second birthday this year. She is, however, busy as ever with literary projects, including a selection of her poems for readers in Spain.

David Ward, senior historian of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, welcomed the appointment of JUAN FELIPE HERRARA as this year’s American Poet Laureate. Herrera was a migrant worker whose youth – he was born in 1948 in Fowler, California – was spent in the migrant camps of California. He was able to get himself through high school and college and by age 40, having become interested in words and word play (he published several chapbooks of poetry along the way), also earned a degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has gone on to establish himself as a poet of note, of note not just in the sense of a gathering reputation but in his lyrical use of language.

Nearly £22 million has been received since the killings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. This fortune, a significant harvest of sympathy and goodwill, was proving divisive. Who would benefit from it? Eleven staff members called for all employees to become equal shareholders, setting them at odds with management. The magazine is 40% owned by the family of the director of the magazine killed on 7 January, 40% by Riss, the cartoonist recovering from the attack, and 20% by a joint manager. One of the magazine’s journalists announced the establishment of a group to discuss an equal division of the magazine’s capital. Before the attacks, Charlie Hebdo was on the brink of insolvency. From 30,000 copies its sales jumped to seven million. And the donations… According to the Telegraph, donations in France are taxed at 40%.

GREGORY PARDLO has been awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection Digest which, before the award was announced, had slowly sold about 1500 copies. Pardlo is at that problematic age, forty-six, no longer young, not yet venerable. He received the award with surprise. The poet and professor Stephen Burt, familiar to readers of PN Review, characterised some of Pardlo’s poems as ‘deliberately inelegant in a modernist kind of way […] They’re very information-dense and very conscious of playing with genre and trope’. Pardlo said, ‘I’m trying to lampoon academic language, but my little secret is that I actually speak that.’

LOUISE GLÜCK has won the Gold Medal for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, one of American culture’s highest honours. Glück edited the Yale Series of Younger Poets 2003–2010, has written ten collections and received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Yale’s Bollingen Prize for her poetry. The Poetry Foundation has awarded ALICE NOTLEY the 2015 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which recognises the outstanding lifetime achievement of a living American writer. D.A. POWELL is the 2015 recipient of the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, presented annually to a living American poet selected with reference to his or her genius by a jury of poets. The 2015 Bocas Prize has been awarded to VLADIMIR LUCIEN (see PN Review 213). The Stairwell by MICHAEL LONGLEY and Blue Sonoma by JANE MUNRO won this year’s Griffin Poetry Prize. The 2015 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism was presented by the Poetry Foundation to MARK FORD for This Dialogue of One: Essays on Poets from John Donne to Joan Murray

The 2014 Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry went to ANDREW MOTION for his radio performance Coming Home. The judges Julia Copus, Kei Miller and Grayson Perry admired Motion’s reimagining of shared conversations centred on the effect of conflict for its ‘innovative and deeply moving’ poetry. In PNR 223 the work of CARRIE ETTER, shortlisted for this award, was mis-described. It was not two independent series of poems but the book Imagined Sons as a whole that was chosen, as the judges’ citation made clear. We apologise for the error.

German Poet MONIKA RINCK has received the 2015 Kleist Prize, an award bestowed annually for a writer’s work to date. The Heinrich von Kleist Society highlighted the 46-year-old Berlin-resident poet’s linguistic versatility: ‘Rinck’s tonal range is as amazing as her wit. Her texts are […] moving yet pack a punch, amusing und melancholy.’ Rinck established her reputation with the poetry volumes Helle Verwirrung (2009) and Honigprotokolle (2012). She also writes prose and essays. In 2013 she was awarded the Peter Huchel Prize for Poetry. Her work is available in English in 16 Poems, translated by Alistair Noon, Barque Press, 2009, and in to refrain from embracing, translated by Nicholas Grindell, Burning Deck, 2011. Grindell is currently working on a translation of Honigprotokolle, and Ann Stokes is translating her selected poems.

The Welsh Academy, the national society of writers in Wales, has announced the appointment of GILLIAN CLARKE as the new English-language President. She is the current National Poet of Wales and she joins poet, fiction writer and critic Bobi Jones, the Academy’s Welsh-language President. She was the natural choice for the post. As the press release made clear, ‘Gillian Clarke is one of the central figures in contemporary Welsh poetry. Her poetry is studied by GCSE and A Level students throughout Britain and her work has been translated into ten languages. She has also made her cultural mark through her inspirational role as a teacher, as editor of the Anglo-Welsh Review from 1975 to 1984, as co-founder of Ty Newydd Writing Centre and as National Poet of Wales.’

The Portuguese poet HERBERTO HELDER has died at the age of 84. He was born in Funchal, Madeira, and lived for many years outside Lisbon in Cascais, shunning the limelight, refusing public recognition and awards, and yet over 57 years publishing a vivid body of work in magazines and books and suffering at the hands of the censors, though he was not a political writer (a paradox in so political an age as his, and though he worked in Angola and elsewhere during the bloody years of transition). He was also a significant editor. He was among Portugal’s leading post-surrealist poets, and his work has been widely translated in Europe – not yet in Britain, though some translations have appeared in Boulevard, Barrow Street, Cream City Review, Confrontation, Grand Street and Osiris. Astute critics of modern Portuguese poetry affirm that Helder will be seen as the dominant poet of the second half of the twentieth century as Pessoa was of the first. Like Pessoa, he wrote stories as well as poetry, though his work is more contained in form, his imagination indivisible. His poems do not talk with the reader: they are self-contained, with ‘an internal organism, coherent and sufficient’.

Michael Cayley commented in PNR 14 that GÜNTER GRASS, who died in April at the age of 87, was ‘a master of all tricks, always witty and disturbing. He brings a light-fingered touch to the most serious of subjects: [the poems’] gravity is magicked into comedy. […] Grass, with his love of the pun, is one of the most difficult of poets to translate.’ His poetry related closely to his fiction in theme and image, and in politics. When an aircraft carrier and a cathedral manage to sink one another, the matter-of-factness is funny and chilling: ‘To the last / the young curate played on the organ. / Now aeroplanes and angels hang in the air / and have nowhere to land.’ As Cayley notes, ‘One of the hallmarks of Grass’s best work is that one is never certain when he is being serious.’ He was an irrepressible force in German and European literature from the moment that his novel The Tin Drum appeared in 1959. Forty years later he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The citation noted his ‘creative irreverence’, his ‘cheerful destructiveness’. In 2006, in his autobiographical Peeling the Onion, he described how at seventeen he was drafted into the Waffen-SS and was a member for the closing months of the Second World War. The controversy that followed that revelation never quite died away.

In PNR 220 Gerry McGrath provided a luminous reading of THOMAS TRANSTRÖMER'S 1978 poem ‘Schubertiad’. McGrath concludes: ‘The poem ends with a simple metaphor that Tranströmer delivers with trademark matter-of-factness: that where it matters our everyday lives are sustained by a human music that talks back to us from the past and from the future.’ This human music was, eventually, celebrated by the Swedish Academy in 2011 with a Nobel Prize. Tranströmer’s complete poems in English in one volume is entitled The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems (Bloodaxe). This best-known Scandinavian poet of the post-war period is also the most widely translated. His close friendship with the American poet Robert Bly brought him an American readership. In his later years, seriously debilitated after a stroke, he continued to write. He was an avid pianist and released a recording of classical piano pieces performed with his left hand. He died in March, aged 83.

He made his living as a psychologist working in the small Swedish towns of Linkoping and Vasteras in state institutions for young offenders and then for the disabled, writing poetry in the evenings and at weekends and avoiding the limelight. His stroke in 1990 virtually put an end to his writing.

This item is taken from PN Review 224, Volume 41 Number 6, July - August 2015.

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