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Your summary of all the essential poetry news from the month of February, painstakingly distilled by yours truly…
Be My Valentine
A study in the UK for Valentine’s Day showed that a quarter of women would like their partner to write them a handwritten poem on February 14th, compared to just 1% of women who said they wanted lingerie.The Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, on the other hand, probably didn’t want or expect the poem he received on Twitter from Democrat senator Patty Murray, which read: “Roses are red. Violets are blue. The #Senate passed #VAWA. Now it’s up to you.” VAWA is the Violence Against Women Act.
An animated video about bullying went viral this month. The video is an animated version of Shane Koyczan’s excellent and harrowing poem ‘To this Day’ about the impacts of bullying and it’s a must see.
On the 18th February BBC Radio 4 read out Tony Harrison’s landmark but controversial poem v. The poem was inspired by an incident when Harrison visited his parent’s grave and discovered it has been desecrated by obscene graffiti.
The Guardian published an excellent article about v examining its links to social changes in the north of England.
“A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
The recent news that the body of the medieval English king Richard III has been found in a Leicester car park has attracted a lot of attention.One interesting story reported that a Welsh poem was being used to work out exactly how Richard died. The poem describes how Richard’s head was scalped or “shaved” and this is being compared to forensic evidence from the remains.
Black History Month
It was Black History month in the USA and this threw up a few stories. A student at the University of Texas at Arlington discovered a poem written by the USA’s first published black writer, Jupiter Hammon. The poem dates from 1786 and is an important addition to the history of African-American literature.
Meanwhile, a poem read out over the intercom at a high school as part of Black History month caused controversy when it was discovered that it was written by a Black Panther. The Black Panthers were a controversial 1960s civil rights movement that supported militant action.
News from the Gulf
Poetry in Translation
A Saudi university student attracted plenty of attention in local media by skillfully writing and delivering a poem in perfect Japanese to government officials.
Equally impressively, the British ambassador to Romania wowed local senators this month by reciting an iconic Romanian poem.
50 unpublished Rudyard Kipling poems have been found during renovations at a house in Manhattan. The hoard has been described as a “treasure trove.” There are hopes the poems could be displayed at the family home in East Sussex.Meanwhile a real treasure trove of millions of dollars has been hidden by a New Mexico multimillionaire who has sensationally published a poem revealing clues to its whereabouts.
Up for Auction
There was an unusually steady stream in February of rare poetry manuscripts going up for auction. These included:
- A rare handwritten A E Housman draft of a poem about unrequited love.
- The manuscript of Oscar Wilde’s poem ‘Les Ballons.’
- An extremely rare handwritten poem by Charlotte Bronte.
- A Rupert Brooke poem, ‘He Wonders Whether to Praise or Blame Her,’ which contains multiple revisions in his own hand.
- An unpublished John Clare verse of 12 lines.
The American poet Robert Bly received the Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for a “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.” Bly is known for being part of “the expressive men’s movement” that sought to reconnect men with their masculinity, and for his translations of European and Latin American poetry.
Notable poetry book releases in February included:
- Archangel by Henry Shukman, which tells the story of several thousand Jewish tailors who were forcibly repatriated from London to Russia in 1917. Herald Scotland describes the poems as “moving and narrative-led.”
- Dear Boy, a debut collection from Emily Berry. The Guardian says that Berry’s voice is “new yet anything but hesitant” and that “she approaches poetry as a flexible, permissive, dynamic ally.”
- Ethiopian Boy by Chris Beckett, inspired by the author’s childhood in Ethiopia. The Telegraph says that his “colourful incantations evoke the sights and sounds and above all the food of the East African nation.”
Archive: Poetry News from January 2013 can be viewed here.