Ex-probation officer Simon Armitage named poet laureate

Simon Armitage, celebrated for his “witty and profound” take on modern life, has been announced as the UK’s new poet laureate.
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Simon Armitage: ‘Witty and profound’ writer to be next Poet Laureate

The “witty and profound” writer’s work spans sharp observations about modern life and classical myths.
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Jenny Lewis: ‘I’m a barf bag poet’

The singer discusses writing a “rebound album” on scraps of paper and aeroplane sick bags.
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Books of The Times: A Poet Remembers Her Impulsive Trip Into a Civil War

In her new memoir, Carolyn Forché tells the story of how a stranger’s suggestion that she visit El Salvador in the late 1970s changed the course of her art and her life.
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Essay: Political Poetry Is Hot Again. The Poet Laureate Explores Why, and How.

Tracy K. Smith, the United States poet laureate, looks at the ways poetry has dealt with the shifting political landscapes of the past two decades.
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Books of The Times: A Poet Laureate Sends News From the End of Life

Donald Hall died last month at 89, and his recently published memoir, “A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety,” is “up there with the best things he did.”
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Books of The Times: ‘Poet in Spain’ Offers New Translations of Lorca’s Soulful Work

The translator Sarah Arvio bypasses Federico García Lorca’s New York poems, focusing instead on what she calls his “moonlit earthbound Spanish poems.”
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In a Lost Essay, a Glimpse of an Elusive Poet and Slave

A previously unknown manuscript by George Moses Horton, a poet and slave, opens a window onto eerily familiar debates about race, power and free speech on campus.
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John Ashbery, a Singular Poet Whose Influence Was Broad, Dies at 90

Among his many honors, Mr. Ashbery was the first poet to win the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
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Meet Tracy K. Smith, America’s New Poet Laureate

“Her work travels the world and takes on its voices,” says the standing Librarian of Congress who appointed Smith.
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Tracy K. Smith Is the New Poet Laureate

Ms. Smith, 45, says she hopes to be a poetry evangelist of sorts, going to parts of the United States “where literary festivals don’t always go.”
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Derek Walcott, Poet and Nobel Laureate of the Caribbean, Dies at 87

Mr. Walcott’s intricately metaphorical poetry captured the physical beauty of the Caribbean, the harsh legacy of colonialism and the complexities of living and writing in two cultural worlds.
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Coen brother to Trump: ‘Make me Poet Laureate!’

Ethan Coen has penned an open letter to President Trump, pleading with him to make him “Poet Laureate of the US”.
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Afro-Latinx Poet Takes On White Privilege In Powerful Poem

Gabriel Ramirez is not mincing words when it comes to calling out those who don’t recognize their white privilege. 

The New York-based poet and teaching artist was featured in a We are mitú Facebook video on Wednesday. Ramirez, who is of Dominican descent, performed his poem “White Privilege” as illustrations and text appeared around him. 

“Excuse me, you dropped your white privilege,” Ramirez says in the poem. “Must be real hard, you know? Not being discriminated against. What was that? You got every job you applied for because your name didn’t sound black. With all that money you could buy the same clothes I wear and not be called a thug.”

In his verses, he also touches upon “Stop and Frisk,” gentrification and the high number of black deaths there have been in recent months. 

“The entire poem was spoken from the ‘I’ perspective, I was responding directly to things that white people have said to me that I didn’t have the answers or the language to speak against at the moment,” Ramirez told The Huffington Post. 

The response to the video has been mixed, according to the poet, who says he’s received plenty of hateful messages on Facebook. But Ramirez says none of those negative reactions take away the real purpose of his poem.  

“There are some white people who are like ‘yo, that poem is having me see the error of my ways, it’s having me think about the way I move throughout the world” and that’s all the poem is suppose to do,” he told HuffPost. “If it makes you uncomfortable, then it makes you uncomfortable. And if it makes you uncomfortable that means you have some things to work on. If you get angry it’s because you feel attacked, which means it relates to you. And if you think there’s a problem with the poem more than there is problem with racism, you’re wrong.”

Watch the Ramirez’s poem above. 

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The Poet Idolized by a New Generation of Feminists

Long relegated to the fringes of American culture, Eileen Myles is suddenly hot.
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What It’s Like To Date When You’re A Poet

I’ve been going on a number of first and second dates lately, by way of the Internet (OK Cupid, Match, Hinge, Tinder, JDate, ChirstianMingle, FarmersOnly, etc., etc.). It’s been an altogether interesting experience and has taught me a great deal about courtship in the 21st century, but nothing stands out more for me personally than the hiccupping moment of how I choose to answer the standard first-date question of, “so what do you do?”

“Well, I work as a legal assistant,” I say, “and it’s a perfectly perfunctory day job. Kind co-workers, good benefits, things of this nature. But what I really do” — and sometimes I lean in when I say this part, and take a deep inhaling breath — “is write poetry.”

Silence often ensues.

“I’m a poet,” I’ll say again, lest there exist any confusion.

I’ve come to regard this as the Unicorn Moment, and I call it that because the first few times I made the big reveal, it felt as though I had just said, “I’m a unicorn! Now come, let us ride to the magical land of pixie dust and make-believe!”

The trouble I seem to be experiencing is that, by identifying as a poet, I’m basically declaring that money and/or financial security are not my primary life pursuits. This can be a challenging conversational exchange to have on a date, depending on the goals and interests of the person sitting across from you.

****

“All women are looking for a man to take care of them,” advised a male co-worker of mine during our lunch break a few months ago. This seemed to me a particularly misogynistic assessment of half the world’s population, but I let him continue. “They want someone who is going to make them feel protected, and safe, and secure.”

“And how do women feel about clouds that look like lightning bugs, or honeypots?” I replied, averting my attention away from this inane conversation and towards the cumulus-crowded sky.

We haven’t had lunch since.

****

Of course I can’t fully agree with my co-worker’s assessment. But there may be some truth to his hypothesis, if only he’d have shelved the part where he puts the claim on women alone. After all, isn’t everyone looking for someone to take care of them, man and woman alike? To make them feel safe, and secure? Hell, isn’t that why idiots buy guns?!

****

Sometimes the dates work out well. Painters seem to like me, as do other women with artistic interests (actresses, choreographers, that one girl who made cat videos). I live in New York — Brooklyn, actually (sorry) — and thus, there’s no shortage of interesting, artistically-inclined women to meet, greet, and with whom to exchange pleasantries, witticisms, and possibly late-night (or early-morning) farewell subway kisses.

Sometimes, though, it’s less successful. I had a date recently ask me what my five-year-plan was, which made me feel like I was on a job interview (which, I suppose, all dating is — except instead of gunning for the corner office, you’re trying to land a spot in her bed… and/or heart).

“My five year plan?” I said. “I don’t really have one.” We walked a little further through the park, the energy between us fading to a freeze, when my eyes fell upon a nearby toad, leaping through the grass.

“My life’s like that toad,” I opined, freewheeling and spit-balling as quickly as I could. “I don’t know where it’s all going… but for now, I just want to hold it to the light, and count its many spots.”

“I don’t understand,” she said, face scrunched up, arms crossed.

“Karen,” I said, “you don’t have to understand.”

“My name’s Jennifer,” she replied, and I knew there would be no second date.

****

It would be better if I, too, didn’t care about money as a defining characteristic when it comes to the idea of success, but unfortunately that is not (yet) entirely the case. I was born and raised in the wealthy suburbs of metro Detroit, and so to pursue one’s artistic life, full-throttle, in a medium where financial gains seem an absolute impossibility can appear dubious and downright wrong. It often feels as though I am in a tiny canoe, paddling furiously against the stream of parental and community expectations. It has been many years since I left the world of manicured lawns and two-car garages, and yet those values and ideals seem to have burrowed themselves into my skin. It will, I often believe, take a lifetime to unpack myself of such suburban burdens.

“I don’t know why you’re so neurotic,” said one particular date, Bronx-born, of Dominican descent. “You have a job, it pays your bills, and then you have a passion. What’s the big problem?”

I liked that girl. We saw each other five times.

****

But of course, if I am being honest, I know that no woman (or man, or any gender variation therein) will be able to solve my own internal conundrums of what it means to be a poet against a backdrop of a culture that long ago deemed wealth and prestige as the most important factors to determining “success.”

The work is mine to do, and mine alone. It may seem obvious to you reading this, but it has taken me a few months of new dating — and 33 years of living — to finally recognize that no woman will be able to love and/or accept me unless I am willing to love and/or accept myself, and the entirety of what I am, and what I do, in the world, and for the world.

So that’s what I’m working on.

I seem to like myself best when I regularly read, write, and publish poems.

So that’s what I’m working on.

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Young Poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner Explains The Essence Of Climate Change At UN Summit

When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations,” John F. Kennedy proclaimed in 1964. “When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.”

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a 26-year-old poet from the Marshall Islands, recently demonstrated the impact a poem can have. She spoke during the opening segment of the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit this week. In a piece titled “Dear Matafele Peinem,” she managed to capture the stark reality of climate change in just over three minutes.

The entire poem, and the speech that preceded it, can be heard in the video below.

“To tackle (climate change), we need a radical change of course,” Jetnil-Kijiner explains. “This isn’t easy, I know. It means ending carbon pollution within my lifetime. It means supporting those of us most affected to prepare for unavoidable climate impacts. And it means taking responsibility for irreversible loss and damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions.”

“I ask world leaders to take us all along on your ride,” she added. “We won’t slow you down. We’ll help you win the most important race of all. The race to save humanity.”

Jetnil-Kijiner is a spoken word artist and co-founder of an environmental NGO in the Marshall Islands called Jo-JiKuM. The organization focuses on empowering youth by educating them on the importance of environmentalism and mobilizing them to work toward solutions to climate change issues. She was one of 38 civil society representatives chosen to present at the Summit.

An excerpt from her poem:

hands reaching out, fists raising up, banners unfurling, megaphones booming

and we are canoes blocking coal ships

we are the radiance of solar villages

we are the rich clean soil of the farmer’s past

we are petitions blooming from teenage fingertips

we are families biking, recycling, reusing, engineers dreaming, designing, building, artists painting, dancing, writing

we are spreading the word

and there are thousands out on the street, marching with signs, hand in hand

chanting for change NOW


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