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This item is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

News & Notes
Professor Citizen
At the end of May, Claudia Rankine was elevated to the post of Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale. Her duties there commence in the autumn. Before the multi-award-winning Citizen: an American Lyric her poetry collections include Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric (2004) – that ‘American Lyric’ epithet again! – and Nothing in Nature is Private (1994). Langdon Hammer, chair of the Department of English at Yale, said, ‘She has helped Americans think about race and identity in productively fresh, pointed, complex, and disorienting ways. She is also an innovative, intellectually challenging teacher, involved not only in poetry but in film, theater, and visual art…’

Professor Ireland
On 3 June Irish president Michael D. Higgins announced that Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin is the new Ireland Professor of Poetry, following in the wake of Paula Meehan in the three-year term. Starting in October, the Cork-born poet will be the seventh Ireland Professor, a post set up in 1998 after Seamus Heaney was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature ‘to honour other Irish poets’. The Irish Times in a warm citation said, ‘She moves at ease between Irish and European landscapes, between the material and the spiritual realms, unifying them by the force of her compelling imagination.’ She helped found and edit Cyphers. She received the Patrick Kavanagh Award for Acts and Monuments (1966). Later books include The Girl Who Married a Reindeer (2001); Selected Poems (2009); and The Sun-fish (2010), which won the International Griffin Poetry Prize. Her most recent book is The Boys of Bluehill (2015). She is an Emeritus Fellow of Trinity College Dublin where she taught from 1966 until her retirement as Professor of English in 2011.

Previous Professors are John Montague, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Paul Durcan, Michael Longley and Harry Clifton.

Pulitzer 2016
This year’s Pulitzer Prize for poetry was awarded to the Armenian-American Peter Balakian for Ozone Journal (University of Chicago Press): ‘Poems that bear witness to the old losses and tragedies that undergird a global age of danger and uncertainty,’ says the citation. The title poem, a sequence, is built out of the experience of excavating the bones of Armenian genocide victims in the Syrian desert in 2008, with a crew of television journalists. The poem’s speaker – close to the voice of Balakian’s own experience – moves between personal and historical memory. Balakian is a Professor of Humanities at Colgate University where he heads the creative writing programme. Shortlisted with Ozone Journal were Alive: New and Selected Poems by Elizabeth Willis (NYRB) and Four-Legged Girl by Diane Seuss (Graywolf Press).

Trying to Un-White-Out
On 11 May the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize was awarded by the Poetry Foundation to Ed Roberson for ‘outstanding lifetime achievement’. Commenting on the $100,000 prize, Don Share, editor of Poetry, declared: ‘In both language and in life (his studies have taken him to Alaska, South America, Africa and Bermuda), Ed Roberson is an explorer. Working at a healthy remove from the precincts of professional critics and tastemakers, but admired deeply by them, Roberson’s ten books of poetry take readers, as they have taken the poet himself, to every corner of the vivid labyrinth of life.’ Michael Palmer has called Roberson ‘one of the most deeply innovative and critically acute voices of our time’. He is a writer unsettling the language. ‘Words and phrases in [his] experimental poetry actively resist parsing, using instead what Mackey has called “double-jointed syntax” to explore and bend themes of race, history, and culture. “I’m not creating a new language. I’m just trying to un-White-Out the one we’ve got,” said Roberson in a 2006 interview with Chicago Postmodern Poetry.’

‘At Least 50% of My Body Is Made of Books’
La voz de Galicia reported on 24 May the death of ‘a fundamental figure in revitalizing Galician poetry, publisher of the first book of poems in Galician after the Spanish Civil War, Sabino Torres Ferrer.’ He ‘was half-composed of books’ not only as an editor (though he was active in this field) but also as a journalist, a writer and, of course, a reader. Born in 1924 in Pontevedra, he died aged ninety-two in Madrid, having edited the work of major Galician poets, many of them active in resistance to Franco. His first major publication was distributed without the permission of the censors in 1949. He repeated the deed some years later, though the second time the edition was confiscated and he was heavily fined. Like Whitman, he was a man who wore his hat as he pleased, indoors or out.

Dreaming on a Train
Michael S. Harper, described by the New York Times (10 May) as a ‘poet with a jazz pulse’, has died at the age of seventy-eight. Well loved as a writer and teacher, he was innovative in the sounds his poems made (his first book, in 1970, was entitled Dear John, Dear Coltrane) and thematically inventive, another heir of Whitman with an open sense of personal and Black history, but with elements shared between the American races. ‘My poems are rhythmic rather than metric,’ he wrote, ‘the pulse is jazz; the tradition generally oral; my major influences musical; my debts, mostly to the musicians who taught me to see about experience, pain and love, and who made it artful and archetypal.’ History is key to his imagination and to the embrace of his poetry: History is Your Own Heartbeat (1971) was the title of his second book. His use of notable lives and his sense of kinship proved useful to other writers. It is no surprise to learn that one of his teachers was Christopher Isherwood. He was a professor of literature at Brown University and in 2008 received the Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement. In 2002 Arc published his poems in Britain. His poem ‘Here Where Coltrane Is’ ends,

Dreaming on a train from New York   
to Philly, you hand out six
notes which become an anthem
to our memories of you:
oak, birch, maple,
apple, cocoa, rubber.
For this reason Martin is dead; 
for this reason Malcolm is dead; 
for this reason Coltrane is dead; 
in the eyes of my first son are the browns   
of these men and their music.

‘What Moves Me Is Ironies’
Aged ninety-four, Daniel Berrigan, the legendary Jesuit priest, peace activist, poet and teacher, has died. He will be remembered for his active resistance to the wars in Indo China and for his always public witness, most notably as one of the celebrated or notorious (depending on one’s point of view) Catonsville Nine, who used napalm to destroy draft files in 1968, issuing a statement: ‘We confront the Roman Catholic Church, other Christian bodies, and the synagogues of America with their silence and cowardice in the face of our country’s crimes. We are convinced that the religious bureaucracy in this country is racist, is an accomplice in this war, and is hostile to the poor.’ Later protests garnered publicity and prison sentences and had consequences for the American conscience. His poems live in their historical moments. ‘Time in its turning / lipped the clay lightly, taught it words/remembered for gentleness when a face recedes / to its stone image in an honored place.’

Janet Fisher: An Old Friend
Janet Fisher died on 11 April. She had been long active in the world of poetry, for the last twenty years in Huddersfield. She wrote four books of poems and was a co-founder of The Poetry Business. Her Quaker funeral was conducted at the burial ground at High Flatts Meeting House, near Birdsedge. It was followed by a commemoration of Janet’s life. It would have been nice if her poem ‘Canon’ (PN Review 171, 2006) had suggested the music for the event.

A Brief Resurrection
General Pinochet has not been cleared of the murder, by poison, of the Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda in 1973. But the poet, exhumed, examined over a period of three years, and now reburied at his former home in Isla Negra, facing the Pacific (as most of Chile does) could provide no proof of guilt. The mystery will persist.

In PNR 229 Rowland Bagnall’s poem ‘Drift’ was headed with an unattributed epigraph. The lines are from David Morley’s poem ‘Skeleton Bride’: ‘This happened to me and it didn’t happen to me / or I spied it when I only heard it or found it / when it was given me through a greater grief.’

This item is taken from PN Review 230, Volume 42 Number 6, July - August 2016.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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