This week we observed World Poetry Day. The coffeehouse chain Julius Meinl celebrated by accepting poetry in exchange for coffee in its #PayWithAPoem campaign. Starved poets from around the world flocked to participating coffee outlets, overjoyed to finally get remunerated for their work.
As far as we’re concerned, every day is World Poetry Day! So even though it’s 362 days until the next celebration, we thought we’d share some essential poetry criticism and work by poets we think might not be on your radar yet.
- ‘British poetry, like British society, has a serious problem with race.’ In this rigorous essay, Sandeep Parmar investigates the lack of critical engagement with race in British poetry. Just last year we saw sexist and racist criticism of Sarah Howe after she won the T.S. Eliot Prize. Parmar identifies lack of representation of BAME poets in both the ‘mainstream’ and the ‘avant-garde’ traditions, and outlines the pressure poets face to self-fetishize or self-orientalize in order to be considered palatable or marketable · LARB
- LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is an interdisciplinary poet and sound artist whose work is deliberately difficult to define: her debut collection TwERK, published in 2013 by Belladonna Books, is dizzying, expansive and huge fun. It’s full of play on popular media and history, code switching and cultural inclusivity. In this essay on accessibility and the avant-garde, she addresses the importance of the multiple intersecting linguistic and cultural heritages in her work, admitting that: ‘I accept that Bob may never understand me.’ Diggs is a polyglot herself and richly weaves many different languages into her work, from Urdu to Chamorro and even Pig Latin. Enjoy this video, where she performs and talks about her poem ‘Damn right … it’s better than yours’ · B E L L A D O N N A *
- Literary translation has always been about power, yet this dynamic is often invisible to the Anglophone world, where a measly 0.7% of literary fiction and poetry books are translated into English, as opposed to figures of 10–25% in non-Anglophone countries. Currently & Emotion edited by Sophie Collins, is a new anthology that challenges dominant perceptions of poetry translation, and uncovers intersections between feminist and translation theory. This landmark collection features work by poets and translators such as Anne Carson, Rosemarie Waldrop, Erín Moure, Kim Hyesoon and Tomaž Šalamun · Test Centre
- Yoko Tawada is an author who transcends many boundaries. Born in Tokyo, she moved to Germany in her twenties to pursue studies in philosophy, where she has stayed ever since. She now publishes in both German and Japanese, and her awareness of the foreign through multilingualism means much of her work plays with the materiality of language. Her latest novel Memoirs of a Polar Bear, which follows three generations of these mysterious mammals, provokes questions about nationhood, history and the barriers between humans and animals. Here she is applying her magnificent brain to the poetry of Paul Celan, uncovering some surprising patterns that might not be merely coincidences. (Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky) · The White Review
- Have you ever been told not to use a certain symbol or word in a poem? ‘Moon’, ‘heart’ and ‘angel’ are all usual culprits. In this conversation with Adam Fitzgerald, Dorothea Lasky thinks it’s silly that some words are off-limits: ‘I don’t think we can make new language if we are scared to use old language.’ Fitzgerald admits that he instinctively avoids biography and family history, and says ‘But then, like an accident site, I feel driven to all of these things because I’ve amassed resistance to them. I firmly believe that art is a resistance machine. I want poetry to give hardcore thigh burn’ · Granta
Photograph © Alan Yoo