Grass’s Poem

Jeffrey Goldberg “What Must Be Said” is interesting for what it says about the mind of Guenter Grass, but it is more interesting for what it says about the manner in which some intellectuals think about Israel and Iran. By extracting the self-pity, self-aggrandizement and guilt-expiation from “What Must Be Said” and leaving only the … Continue reading

Going Somewhere

How poets like Walter Raleigh reported on the quick flickers and sudden changes in emotional life. Robert Pinsky Sir Walter Raleigh A compliment among jazz musicians, delivered after a killer solo, is “You were really going somewhere.” That kind of improvised performance, at its best, is not just a stack of impressive phrases or a … Continue reading

Privacy Policy

On the public commodification of privacy. Stefany Anne Golberg We have no more privacy. That’s what we’re told; certainly it’s something we feel. Of course it’s been thrilling, for those of us with the means and the Internet, to be more connected to each other and the world than we could have ever imagined. We … Continue reading

The House of Headache

Tomas Tranströmer     I woke up inside the headache. The headache is a room where I have to stay as I cannot afford to pay rent anywhere else. Every hair aches to the point of turning gray. There is an ache inside that Gordian knot, the brain, which wants to do so much in so … Continue reading

How To Write A Love Poem

Jim Behrle Poetry occupies a cultural space in Contemporary American Society somewhere between Tap Dancing and Ventriloquism. People are certainly aware that poetry exists, but this awareness comes upon them only vaguely and in passing moments. During commercials, mostly, which feature corporate poetry. When people think of a poet, perhaps they imagine the finger-snapping beret-wearing … Continue reading

Frederick the Great’s Erotic Poem

Kathryn Hadley An erotic poem written by Frederick the Great was recently discovered amongst some of the king’s letters by the French literature teacher Vanessa de Senarclens at Berlin’s Humboldt University. Frederick the Great wrote the poem entitled ‘La Jouissance’ (‘The Pleasure’, The Orgasm’) in French, in July 1740, shortly after he became ruler of … Continue reading

The Poem That Changed the World

Stephen Greenblatt thinks he’s found it, but has he? Adam Kirsch Titus Lucretius Carus, the Roman poet and philosopher, ca. 99 BC. When Stephen Greenblatt, the eminent Renaissance scholar and Harvard professor of English, titled his new book The Swerve, it’s a safe bet that he wasn’t thinking about the current slang meaning of the … Continue reading

Ocean View

How pleasant to sit on the beach, On the beach, on the sand, in the sun, With ocean galore within reach, And nothing at all to be done! No letters to answer, No bills to be burned, No work to be shirked, No cash to be earned, It is pleasant to sit on the beach … Continue reading

Instantly Unforgettable

Martin Amis remembers Philip Larkin. Martin Amis Philip Larkin in a library In the mid-1970s I edited the Weekend Competition in the literary pages of the New Statesman (with the judicious assistance of Julian Barnes). One week we threw down the following challenge: contestants were asked to reimagine Marvell’s "To His Coy Mistress" in the … Continue reading

Pablo Neruda’s death is next to be investigated as Chile exhumes its past

Daniel Hernandez Was Pablo Neruda poisoned? A judge in Chile has opened an investigation into the death four decades ago of the Nobel Prize-winning poet in response to allegations by his former driver that Neruda was poisoned by agents acting for Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The general led the military junta and coup that toppled President … Continue reading

At the end of the tube

by Adina Dabija, translated from the Romanian by Claudia Serea May 2011 At the end of the tube, there is an ant climbing slowly toward my window as I descend, I descend carefully on a straw into the garden. The ant climbs onto the anthill, and I descend into the underground dungeons of the Egyptians, … Continue reading


by Nathalie Handal The Arab Revolt 2011 The story begins with a song— it’s stubborn, breaks air into history; for a minute it’s quiet to allow everyone in, and then it raises to celebrate voices, clears its throat, says: We will bury the smoke that blinds us, plant our soul on every page, we will … Continue reading

Ted Hughes, archives and alligators

How – and why – writers’ papers end up in British and American libraries Stephen Enniss In 1995 the manuscript dealer Roy Davids offered my library a manuscript draft of a single Ted Hughes poem. (At the time I was Curator of Literary Collections at Emory University in Atlanta.) The manuscript ran to several pages, … Continue reading


by Laura McCullough Babies have more red marrow,                   adults more yellow, but in cases of severe blood loss,                   the body can change its yellow to red                   which makes new blood cells. Conditionality is unconditional,                   like brains being plastic after all, humans one example of plastic art,                   all tape and welding, … Continue reading

The Worst Buddhist

by Bill Neumire Some nights a wild dog scratches a circle & lies down at the edge of the yard. Everyone knows he’s killed the missing cat. He’ll do it again. I once read an introduction to Buddhism to cure my mind. In the slantways snow I made lists of facts. Hummingbirds weigh less than … Continue reading

Philip Larkin, the Impossible Man

How the most exasperating of poets met his match By Christopher Hitchens Image credit: Philip Larkin Estate In May 1941, Philip Larkin was the treasurer of the Oxford University English Club and in that capacity had to take the visiting speaker George Orwell out to dinner after he had addressed the membership on the subject … Continue reading

Poetryland’s Secrets

David Orr reveals what poets and readers need to know about each other. By Craig Morgan Teicher David OrrGuidebooks, especially guidebooks to poetry, make me nervous. I can’t help feeling ambivalent about authoritative maps, wherever I’m headed—but in particular if I’m delving into poems. That’s why David Orr, the New York Times Book Review‘s poetry … Continue reading

Modern Times

To be modern is one thing; to know what to do with that is quite another. By Morgan Meis I’m scared of Arthur Rimbaud. Frightening lines like the following can be found in his last collection of poems, Illuminations, newly translated by the great American poet John Ashbery. Long after the days and the seasons, … Continue reading

Taxonomy and Grace

By Joseph P. Wood When I first heard WS Merwin’s poem “Berryman,” I didn’t know who either writer was. Instead, I sat mesmerized as Olga Broumas—a poet whose own reputation I scantly appreciated—recited the poem in my undergraduate creative writing workshop. Her voice began with her usual airy breathlessness but quickly demanded attention. By the … Continue reading

"Two Poems"

By Charles Simic Red Alarm Clock "I want to sail down the Nile At sunset Before I die," You said once, Cleopatra. The room, I recall, Had a plank floor, A narrow bed, and a window Facing a brick wall, Plus a chair where I kept A pint of bourbon, The coffee cup we used … Continue reading

Like a nation’s bulk that has started

by Osip Mandelstam, translated from the Russian by Alistair Noon, February 2011 Like a nation’s bulk that has started to make the earth sweat, the dust-encrusted armada of the herd, with its many strata, sails straight into my head: its heifers’ tender sides, its tearaway bullocks, the ships of the buffalo looming into sight, and … Continue reading

from Prose from the Observatory

by Julio Cortázar, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean, January 2011 This hour that can arrive sometimes outside all hours, hole in the web of time,                this way of being between, not above or behind but between,                this orifice hour to which we gain access in the lee of other hours, of … Continue reading


by Yang Li translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury, December 2009 Back in our day there wasn’t anyone who didn’t know Albania who didn’t know it was the bright light of European Socialism or that the other bright light was us. Back then from Beijing to Tirana, we could all sing A bosom friend … Continue reading

Four Erotic Poems

by Chinese poets translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping, January 2007 To the Tune of “Magpie on the Branch” Her peony is raised high and dewed with fragrance but his legs are too short to reach, so he uses a small table like a man climbing up a cloud ladder or an old monk … Continue reading

Four Poems on War

by Chinese poets translated by Geoff Waters, January 2007 Lodging at the Stone Creek Way-Station, Hearing a Woman Crying by Li Duan (ca. 780) Outside the door of this mountain station is a woman, Crying bitterly into the night clouds of autumn. She told me her husband died in the wars; This morning she met … Continue reading


by Bei Dao, translated from the Chinese by Clayton Eshleman and Lucas Klein, September 2010 The shadow is drinking water laughter is imitating the way the collapse of light opens up the dawn The books one travels with age because of the journey become anonymous because of the journey the horse pushing into the stage … Continue reading

Wherever Home May Be

Elizabeth Bishop was a restless, searching writer whose poems are rich in the wonder of being human By DANA GIOIA  One hundred years after her birth in Worcester, Mass., in 1911, Elizabeth Bishop stands as the most highly regarded American poet of the second-half of the 20th century. She is admired in every critical camp—from … Continue reading

The Karma Bum

When Allen Ginsberg stayed with the family of a young TYLER STODDARD SMITH, the two played video games and read together. But the harmony was broken when the yoga began. It wouldn’t be the last time. Courtesy of the Author I was nine years old in 1983, when my father, a professor at Rice University, … Continue reading

Measuring hell

Was modern physics born in the Inferno? by Chris Wright “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” When Sir Isaac Newton made this remark, in 1676, the name Galileo Galilei would not have been far from his mind. Galileo, who died the year Newton was born, did much … Continue reading

"Half Moon, Small Cloud"

"Half Moon, Small Cloud" by John Updike Caught out in daylight, a rabbit’s transparent pallor, the moon is paired with a cloud of equal weight: the heavenly congruence startles. For what is the moon, that it haunts us, this impudent companion immigrated from the system’s less fortunate margins, the realm of dust collected in orbs? … Continue reading

A Poem for…

"Aubade" by Terese Svoboda Sinews here and there, his legs twined at desk and all of him bare, mousing around, click, so the child won’t wake. Sinews, his sex thick but laptopped, glasses found then lost then a child flushes and my hands on him count only as clothes, as information. Sinews, I say, sotto … Continue reading

As I Walked Out One Evening

by W. H. Auden As I walked out one evening, Walking down Bristol Street, The crowds upon the pavement Were fields of harvest wheat. And down by the brimming river I heard a lover sing Under an arch of the railway: ‘Love has no ending. ‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you Till China and … Continue reading

Listening to Dylan Thomas Read Auden: An Antidote to Heartbreak

In Thomas’s tremulous, hellfire brogue, Auden’s allegorical verse sounds like both a sermon and a song. Thomas’s driving voice, rising in intensity and in pitch, builds marvelously towards the moment of reckoning in Auden’s climactic pair of stanzas:   O look, look in the mirror, O look in your distress: Life remains a blessing Although … Continue reading


Sir Walter Raleigh and the art of the poetic takedown. By Robert Pinsky Sir Walter RaleighDenunciation abounds, in its many forms: snark (was that word invented or fostered in a poem, Lewis Carroll’s "The Hunting of the Snark"?), ranking-out, calling-out, bringing-down, blowing-up, flaming, scorching, trashing, negative campaigning, skepticism, exposure, nailing, shafting, finishing, diminishing, down-blogging. Aggressive … Continue reading

"Two Poems"

Jane Hirshfield Alzheimer’s When a fine, old carpet is eaten by mice, the colors and patterns of what’s left behind do not change. As bedrock, tilted, stays bedrock, its purple and red striations unbroken. Unstrippable birthright grandeur. "How are you," I asked, not knowing what to expect. "Contrary to Keatsian joy," he replied. The Kind … Continue reading

R. Walser

I should be all alone in this world Me, Steiner and no other living being. No sun, no culture; I, naked on a high rock No storm, no snow, no banks, no money No time and no breath. Then, finally, I would not be afraid any more. … …………………………………… I would wish it on no … Continue reading

Polish Poets in Dublin

Out of reluctant matter What can be gathered? Nothing, beauty at best. And so, cherry blossoms must suffice for us And Chrysanthemums and the full moon. From “No More” by Czesław Miłosz Ireland Literature Exchange, in association with the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival, is hosting an evening of Polish and Irish poetry at the … Continue reading

unlock the mathematical secrets of verse

Science and poetry were once closer than they are now, writes Steve Jones in response to National Poetry Day. By Steve Jones  Lord Byron, a rather better poet than Erasmus Darwin and a fan of Newton. Photo: GETTY Thursday is National Poetry Day, a fact that once would have been of much interest to scientists. … Continue reading

Web exclusive Popshot: the new face of British poetry?

By Tom Chatfield  Four issues, unknown contributors, cutting-edge illustrations, no adverts or sponsors. Tom Chatfield talks to the 23-year-old editor of the first British poetry magazine to win international distribution The future of poetry is a quietly boring question that’s been hanging around British letters for the last few decades. Very few poets sell more … Continue reading


When Allen Ginsberg was a cute, soulful gay boy. By Dana StevensPosted Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, at 12:27 PM ET Read Fred Kaplan’s "Life and Art" about "Howl." Aaron Tveit and James Franco in Howl You may think you know what Howl (Oscilloscope) is, but you don’t. ("You" here being me before I walked into … Continue reading

How "Howl" Changed the World

Allen Ginsberg’s anguished protest broke all the rules—and encouraged a generation of artists to do the same. By Fred Kaplan James Franco in Howl Howl may be the unlikeliest movie ever to come out of Sundance with national distribution: a translation of a poem—the substance, spirit, and cultural heft of a poem—into film. The poem … Continue reading

I Like the Wind

by Robert Wrigley September 6, 2010 We are at or near that approximate line where a stiff breeze becomes or lapses from a considerable wind, and I like it here, the chimney smokes right-angled from west to east but still for brief intact stretches the plush animal tails of their fires. I like how the … Continue reading

Western Conifer Seed Bug

by Cleopatra Mathis September 6, 2010 He’d become a house guest, noncommittal and impassive. She tried to see to it he wasn’t disturbed, nothing to trip him up: a book, perhaps, laid down in some rash motion might scare him off an edge, although he had a talent, it seemed, for focussing on himself. He’d … Continue reading

Men at Work

by Julie Bruck August 30, 2010   I said, “Do you speak-a my language?” He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich.                                                             —“Down Under.”   We middle-aged sense them immediately: four brittle pop stars sprawled across the rigid fibreglass chairs at the airport gate. It’s not just that they’re Australian, that gorgeous thunk … Continue reading

On The Inevitable Decline Into Mediocrity of the Popular Musician Who Attains a Comfortable Middle Age

by David Musgrave August 30, 2010   O Sting, where is thy death?   … More>>

Knight of the white elephant

On the life & times of the great McGonagall. by Anthony Daniels. Very few afternoons in my life compare for joy with that on which, when I was about twenty years old, I discovered the poetry of William McGonagall, who is by common consent the worst poet in the English language, unlikely ever to be … Continue reading

The Straightforward Mermaid

by Matthea Harvey The straightforward mermaid starts every sentence with “Look . . . ” This comes from being raised in a sea full of hooks. She wants to get points 1, 2, and 3 across, doesn’t want to disappear like a river into the ocean. When she’s feeling despairing, she goes to eddies at … Continue reading

The “Ode To Man” from Sophocles’ Antigone

by Anne Carson Many terribly quiet customers exist but none more terribly quiet than Man: his footsteps pass so perilously soft across the sea in marble winter, up the stiff blue waves and every Tuesday down he grinds the unastonishable earth with horse and shatter. Shatters too the cheeks of birds and traps them in … Continue reading

Great poetry is no scandal

TRADITIONALLY, the Oxford Professor of Poetry has tended to receive much less publicity than the British Poet Laureate. By Richard King Employed as he is by the royal household, the laureate is obliged to write poems about the royal family, a practice that makes him an easy target for what Alfred Lord Tennyson, a laureate … Continue reading

Winter in the Summer House

by Robert N. Watson Home is a place we never notice Needing much repair, and coming back Year after year, the separated man Filled the cracks in the hardwood floors with his own dust. The house no longer creaked, or he no longer heard it; The walls were painted but not covered; Tiles of flint … Continue reading