“So at Christmas in this court I lay down a challenge: / If a person here present, within these premises, / Is big or bold or red-blooded enough / To strike me one stroke and be struck in return, / I shall give him a gift of this gigantic cleaver / and the axe shall be his to handle how he likes. / I'll kneel, bare my neck and take the first knock. / So who has the gall? The gumption? The guts? / Who’ll spring from his seat and snatch this weapon? / I offer the axe — who’ll have it as his own? / I’ll afford one free hit from which I won't flinch, / and promised that 12 months will pass in peace, / then claim / the duty I deserve in one year and one day. / Does no one have the nerve to wager in this way?” [more inside]
It's rare that a comments section is more entertaining than the post or article to which it is attached, but this post comes with a garden of delightful double dactyl verse dedicated to Benedict Cumberbatch. [more inside]
In 1739, an English washer-woman named Mary Collier published a long poem called "The Woman's Labour" about the difficulties faced by working women. Her poem was a response to The Thresher's Labour by Stephen Duck, which mocked the poetic conceit that agricultural workers spend a pleasant time in nature, and took a few pot shots at women along the way: "Ah! were their Hands so active as their Tongues/ How nimbly then would move the Rakes and Prongs?" Collier refutes Duck's criticisms and describes women's added labour: [more inside]
Three young women, part of a literacy project called Get Lit, drop a powerful message on Queen Latifah's talk show. (TW: mentions of sexual assault, racism, assault)
Chile admits Pablo Neruda might have been murdered by Pinochet regime. [The Guardian]
The interior ministry released a statement on Thursday amid press reports that Neruda might not have died of cancer as previously believed. The statement acknowledged a ministry document dated March of this year, which was published by the newspaper El Pais in Spain. “It’s clearly possible and highly probable that a third party” was responsible for Neruda’s death, the document said.[more inside]
Down Cemetery Road (1964), from the BBC Monitor series, in which Larkin was interviewed by John Betjeman. - A casual conversation that halts and resumes in Larkinland. [more inside]
The challenge: if people would only know, hear, and see what poets did, then at least some of them would realize too how cool literature can actually be. - Three projects which engage in popularizing, mediating, and digitally archiving contemporary Hungarian poetry. [more inside]
"I am somebody. I am God's child. I may not have a job, but I am somebody. I may be Black, but I am somebody. I may not have an education, but I am somebody. You may not respect me, but I am somebody. I may be a Puerto Rican, but I am somebody. I may be an Indian and my land was stolen, but I am somebody." The history of the chant. [more inside]
Vetch (dropbox PDF link) is the first known literary journal for transgender poets and prose writers.
"Desiderata" is a 1927 poem by Max Ehrmann. It's been subjected to misattribution and mutation (the second Google result is a typo-ridden version that's lurked on a .edu site since 1996 and substitutes "Neither be critical about love" for "Neither be cynical about love" and "Be careful" for "Be cheerful". Even Snopes prints a version with "careful" rather than "cheerful.) Daniel Nester digs into the history of the poem in a piece published on the website of the Poetry Foundation.
An untitled poem from NLU Delhi's student newspaper. Trigger warnings for rape, sexual abuse, and pedophilia.
I Sing for You an Apple is an account by writer and translator Eric Wilson of "escorting a Faroese poet-hero around the USA" in 1978. The poet-hero from the Faroe Islands was Steinbjørn Berghamar Jacobsen, who wrote fiction, poetry, plays and children's books in the language of his North-Atlantic archipelago. His works have not been translated into English, but they have been set to music. On Tinna og Tám he reads his own poems, accompanied by Kristian Blak and Heðin Ziska Davidsen (YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 ). And after his passing in 2012, two of his children, Kári and Eyð Jacobsen, made an album, Tungl, where they turned his poems into indie songs (YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).
The Most Misread Poem in America by David Orr [The Paris Review]
“And almost everyone gets it wrong. This is the most remarkable thing about “The Road Not Taken”—not its immense popularity (which is remarkable enough), but the fact that it is popular for what seem to be the wrong reasons. [...] Frost’s poem turns this expectation on its head. Most readers consider “The Road Not Taken” to be a paean to triumphant self-assertion (“I took the one less traveled by”), but the literal meaning of the poem’s own lines seems completely at odds with this interpretation. The poem’s speaker tells us he “shall be telling,” at some point in the future, of how he took the road less traveled by, yet he has already admitted that the two paths “equally lay / In leaves” and “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.” So the road he will later call less traveled is actually the road equally traveled. The two roads are interchangeable.”[more inside]
One of the poets appearing in the anthology Best American Poetry 2015 is Yi-Fen Chou. In the anthology, the poet's bio states baldly that he has found greater success in the publication of his poetry since he adopted his pseudonym rather than using his real name, which is Michael Derrick Hudson. Naturally, this has been poorly received. Sherman Alexie, guest editor of the anthology, explains his decision to keep the poem in the anthology anyway, despite his anger at having been deceived. [more inside]
"If I could write this shit in fire, I would write this shit in fire." Dominique Christina delivers the fiercest poem you'll ever hear.
2009 UK Slam Poetry Champion Hollie McNish, aka Hollie Poetry, questions our attitudes on immigration with Mathematics. [more inside]
In 1915, there were many ways to drive across and around in the United States (though trans-continental routes were mostly dirt, with some improved sections). So why did a group meet that same year to develop another cross-country road, one that would take 15 years to complete, rather than tying together existing segments? Tourism to their communities, mostly, but their* Old Spanish Trail also boasted of being the shortest route from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Today, you can still find remnants of that road, and there's a group of people who are trying to revive this historic highway. [more inside]
St Anthony: An Ode to Anthony H Wilson aka Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records by Mike Garry and Joe Duddell. More on the project here. Happy Mondays' Rowetta on Tony Wilson: 'He made you love Manchester'
Unfinished Letters From the Most Popular Kid in the Psych Ward (TW: mentions of sexual assault, profound mental illness events). , an article by woman of colour, poet, sometime interviewer, and activist Casey Rocheteau. Her blog is well worth reading, too. In 2014, she became the first recipient of the Write a House writer's residency in Detroit.
One hundred years ago today, the SS Eastland, about to set out for a company picnic in Indiana, tipped over at its dock in the Chicago River with over 2,500 people aboard. Eight hundred and forty-four of them died in one of the worst non-military maritime disasters in American history. The Chicago Tribune has published some previously unseen photographs of the recovery efforts. [warning: a couple of these are potentially disturbing] [more inside]
Battle Lines is an essay by academics Robyn Creswell and Bernard Haykel in The New Yorker on the poetry of jihadis, especially those who follow the Islamic State. They argue that the way to understand them is to study their cultural products, especially poetry, which is part of their daily socialization, as discussed in this video. Poetry has a special status in the Arab world. Elisabeth Kendall explores that context in her essay Yemen’s al-Qa'ida and Poetry as a Weapon of Jihad. Jihadi poetry is closely linked to the nasheed tradition of songs which are usually sung a capella. Behnam Said traces their history in the essay Hymns ( Nasheeds): A Contribution to the Study of the Jihadist Culture.
Lament for the Dead is an online community poetry project which will mark the death of every person killed by police this summer, and every police officer who loses life in the line of duty, with a poem
"On July 18, in a moment of belated poetic justice, a stone will be laid on the otherwise unmarked grave of Thaddeus Marshall, an African-American street vendor from Rutherford, N.J., noting his unsung contribution to American literature."
As bread owes something to the wheat winnower, etc. So much happening in between. A letter from Ezra Pound to French critic/academic, Rene Taupin. [more inside]
Richard Siken (previously) published his second book of poetry, War of the Foxes, in April. Supernatural fans thought it was fanfic - specifically Wincest - and have used many lines to fuel their own slash. Meanwhile, Siken himself has become involved in Sherlock slash. The Awl's Adam Carlson interviews Siken about all this and more, including I Can Haz Siken.
22 Books by Black Authors to Add to Your Beach Bag this Summer In response to recently published summer reading lists from The New York Times and NPR that featured mostly White authors, Blavity shares a list of 22 summer reads from Black authors. [more inside]
Juan Felipe Herrera, From Farm Fields to Poet Laureate [New York Times]
The Library of Congress announced on Wednesday that Juan Felipe Herrera, a son of migrant farmworkers whose writing fuses wide-ranging experimentalism with reflections on Mexican-American identity, will be the next poet laureate. The appointment of Mr. Herrera, who will succeed Charles Wright, comes as the country is debating immigration, a recurring subject of his work, which has been collected in books like “Border-Crosser With a Lamborghini Dream” and “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border.”[more inside]
Poem of the Week is a series in The Guardian's books section, originally started by Sarah Crown but quickly taken over by poet, playwright and professor Carol Rumens. Every week she selects, introduces and interprets one poem. The archive has about four hundred poems, with only a few repeat poets, so here are a few favorites, ranging from English-language classics (John Donne, John Keats, Emily Dickinson), contemporary poets (Shazea Quraishi, Kei Miller, Katha Pollit) translated classics (Wang Wei, Horace, Rainer Maria Rilke), translated contemporary writers (Tua Forsström, Zeng Di, Aurélia Lassaque) the unfairly neglected (Adelaide Crapsey, Rosemary Tonks, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu), avant-garde (Gertrude Stein, Hugo Ball, John Ashbery) and anonymous (The Lyke-Wake Dirge, The Bridal Morn, This Endris Night). There are hundreds more on all kinds of subjects by all kinds of poets.
Phillip Larkin was one of Britain's most famous twentieth century poets. He's probably most well known for 'This Be The Verse' (nsfw) but another notable poem was 'The Whitsun Weddings' based on a railway journey or journeys he undertook from Hull to London fifty years ago. Fellow poet Ian McMillan revisits that journey.
Experimental Writing Seminar: Constraints & Collaborations. In addition to setting out a few dozen writing exercises, the online syllabus for an introductory course taught by Charles Bernstein (poet and co-editor of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E) links to a variety of poems, poetry generators, and prose experiments on the web. [more inside]
May 16 is officially Denise Levertov Day in Seattle. On the eve of this celebration of her life and work, Paul Constant covers the personal, artistic transformations of Levertov by asking, "How do you immortalize a willfully uncategorizable poet?" Jan Wallace writes of remembering and bearing witness. Emily Warn traces nature and spirituality in Levertov's work.
The Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature at the Library of Congress dates back to 1943, when Allen Tate was Consultant in Poetry. It contains nearly two thousand recordings—of poets and prose writers participating in literary events at the Library’s Capitol Hill campus as well as sessions at the Library’s Recording Laboratory. Highlights from the collection include: Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rita Dove, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, W.S. Merwin, Sandra Cisneros, Amy Clampitt, Robert Pinsky , and Miłosz, Czesław, among many others. [more inside]
12 short poems is all that remains of the work of Nossis, one of the most beloved of the Ancient Greek poets. Exactly when she lived is uncertain, but it's certain that she was from Locri, which was on the "toe" of Italy. You can read about what archaeologists have found out about the ancient city on the website Locri Epizephyrii, Welcome To Magna Graecia. Scholars have tried to use Nossis' poetry to explain the particulars of life in Locri, looking for support for claims that noble status descended matrilineally. Marilyn B. Skinner looks at the status of women and explores the "unusual aspects of religious practice at Locri" in her essay Nossis and Women's Cult at Locri. You can read different translations of some of Nossis' poems, three by Skinner and two by Diane Rayor.
Measure Yourself by the Standard of the Capybara
April is both Mathematics Awareness Month and National Poetry Month, so logically we should be reading mathematical poetry. "Unit of Measure" by Sandra Beasley is a perfect poem for this purpose. This year ’s Mathematics Awareness Month theme is “mathematics, magic, and mystery.” How could a poem that proposes the capybara as a universal ruler not be magical? How could the fishiness of the capybara not be mysterious?[more inside]
Variations on the Right to Remain Silent is an essay by poet and classicist Anne Carson about translation, cliché, divine language and the way some words violently resist being explained. She touches on Homer, Sappho, Joan of Arc, Friedrich Hölderlin, and the painter Francis Bacon.
In 1910 and 1911, Anna Akhmatova and Amadeo Modigliani were in love. She was a then-unknown Russian poet who would return to Russia and struggle within the Soviet system before being widely acknowledged as one of Russia's great poets; he was a mercurial artist who would be dead within 10 years, but whose art would capture the imagination of future generations. [more inside]
Founded by celebrated poet and White House guest Kenneth Goldsmith, Ubuweb for years has been housing massive gigabites of work that exists outside the lines—from audio archives of rare performances by avant-garde musicians and video artists, known and unknown, to whole lifetimes of textual and interpretative work dug up and given new life online. -- Vice on how Ubu Publishes the Unpublishable. [more inside]
Since the late 19th century, the amount of her writing we have access to has more than doubled and our views of sexuality have changed, leading to constant modern reexamination of one of the greatest poets the world has ever seen: Who was Sappho? And just how much does her sexuality and her personal life matter to a discussion of her work?
Some ancient writers assumed that there had to have been two Sapphos: one the great poet, the other the notorious slut. There is an entry for each in the Suda. The uncertainties plaguing the biography of literature’s most famous Lesbian explain why classicists who study Sappho like to cite the entry for her in Monique Wittig and Sande Zeig’s “Lesbian Peoples: Material for a Dictionary” (1979). To honor Sappho’s central position in the history of female homosexuality, the two editors devoted an entire page to her. The page is blank. . . . Even as we strain to hear this remarkable woman’s sweet speech, the thrumming in our ears grows louder.Previously: Metafilter (awesomely) tackles the newly discovered "Brothers Poem" in real time.
On Tsvetaeva, tragedy and the end of the tsarist era. There's a whole series of these articles about Russian poets told through their last days. A bit morbid, but quite appropriate tributes to the artists, as well as a good starting-point for those interested in Russian poetry.
The most optimistic people often struggle the hardest. They can’t quite square what’s going on in the world with their beliefs, and the disparity is alarming. [slnyt]