Friday, June 26, 2009

Poetry News from Europe

I have the very good fortune to be in Germany this week, as a Fellow at the International Youth Library for a week-long study and as a presenter at their special 60th anniversary celebration and two-day Symposium focused on—what else?—POETRY! I promise to post more about this amazing opportunity afterward, but for the mean time, I thought it would be fun to share a few nuggets of European poetry news that have come my way.

***The “shortlist” of books for the 2009 British CLPE Poetry Award (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in London) has been announced. It includes:

John Agard, The Young Inferno

Allan Ahlberg, Collected Poems

Sharon Creech, Hate That Cat

Sophie Hannah and John Hegley (eds), The Ropes

JonArno Lawson (ed), Inside Out

This year’s Poetry Award winner will be in conversation with Jackie Kay on Tues., July 7 (5-7pm) in London. For more info, go here.

***I read in a recent Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf newsletter (June 11, 2009), that a new Ted Hughes poem for children has been discovered by Hughes’ second wife, Carol, and is being is being published this fall by Thames & Hudson. Apparently, he wrote it in the mid-1950s and it was lost for decades.

According to PW, it is entitled “Timmy the Tug,” and “was inspired by Hughes' former flat-mate Jim Downer, who had written and illustrated his own version to impress his future wife, and convince her that ‘he would not only be a suitable husband, but a good father too.’ After reading the poem, Hughes told Downer he would create his own version, and took the original to add his verses.”

***IN THE OOPS, "CHECK YOUR FACTS" CATEGORY-- J. Pat Lewis has been kind enough to offer a correction on the following news item-- see his "comment" below. Either way, it's a juicy poetry-related story. (Thanks, Pat!) And for even MORE backstory, see Julie Larios's additions in the "comments" below. (Thank you, Julie). And finally, J. Pat Lewis shared this nugget with me from The New York Times. Ruth Padel, has been elected the new Oxford professor of poetry and will be the first woman to hold the post since it was established in 1708, According to Steven McElroy at the Guardian, Ms. Padel, the great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was chosen following a controversial contest for the position. Ms. Padel’s selection follows closely on the heels of Carol Ann Duffy’s appointment as Britain’s poet laureate; a post held by male writers for 341 years.

***To celebrate European poetry for kids, I’m digging into the holdings of the IYL to see what I can find. I’m also looking forward to hearing several poets at the Symposium, including Andrew Fusek Peters from Great Britain. Here’s a nugget from his Web site to whet your appetite:

Short Poem

by Andrew Fusek Peters

I am a very tiny verse,
Noticed by no-one at all,

My ending is unhappy,

Because I am so small

Published in Shorts, Edited by Paul Cookson, Macmillan
Available here.

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

Image; (Photos courtesy of Kimberly McFall Benfield)


J. Patrick Lewis said...

Update: Ruth Padel was indeed named the first female Oxford Professor of Poetry on May 17th, I believe, but she removed herself from the position a week later because of the continuing flap over her involvement in the campaign to scuttle Derek Walcott's chances of being named Poet Laureate. She had sent emails to journalists that resurrected Walcott's sexual transgressions against a Harvard student(s) years before. And then Padel admitted that she had lied. When she was caught in the lie, she resigned the Laureateship, to which she had recently been named. So now she has had to quit two eminent positions.

The new Oxford Professor of Poetry should be named very soon. I'm betting on Clive James.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Pat, THANK YOU for offering this addendum. I can't believe I missed this juicy story!

Deri David said...

Hello, Dr. Vardell. Lucky you to be in Germany for a week of poetry! I saw where you posted the poem by Eugene Field this month. I wanted to join Poetry Friday and as was looking for a poem to post,I happened to run across a book of poetry by Eugene Field, Poems of Childhood. However,I didn't find the poem you posted in the book. There surely are some sweet ones though!
Can you guide me to Poetry Friday for this week? I am still having problems finding it. Thanks! Deri

Sylvia Vardell said...

How fun to make the Eugene Field connection! Sorry I didn't respond to your question sooner, but I've not had email access since Friday morning. I hope you found the Poetry Friday host at Kelly Herold at Crossover. It may not be too late, if you want to give it a try:

Elaine Magliaro said...


Lucky you! I hope you have a grand time in Germany.

Julie Larios said...

Hi, Sylvia - Sorry to correct the correction (especially sorry because it's Pat's) but Padel never resigned the Laureateship, because she was never named Britain's Poet Laureate. Carol Ann Duffy is the Laureate, and the confusion seems to arise because suddenly, for the first time in history, two women were named to the top posts (Padel being the Oxford Prof. of Poetry.) Duffy is STILL Poet Laureate, having had nothing to do with the whole messy Derek Walcott thing, which was confined entirely to the Oxford position which Padel and Walcott were vying for. Is that clear as mud? Anyway, these are two very different positions we're talking about - Walcott was never up for the Laureateship, possibly due to the fact that it's common knowledge he pressured a former female student to have sex with him, and gave her a bad grade because she wouldn't (Harvard investigated and found the student's claim credible - Walcott was reprimanded.) Walcott is well known in poetry circles for what some call his "flirtations; apparently, Padel didn't trust the people who vote for the Oxford Prof position to know that fact. Once Walcott withdrew from consideration (he had been the front runner for the position) Padel was elected - and within a few days resigned, due to the fact that she had previously claimed no involvement in the resurrection of the scandal.

Whew. Messy business.

Julie Larios said...

Forgot to say what I actually meant to say - how lovely to see a Collected Poems from Allan Ahlberg (though disappointing that it's not out yet in the U.S...and so far has no release date here) illustrated by the divine Charlotte Voake. Fingers crossed it will get the CLPE award.

J. Patrick Lewis said...

Mea culpa, Julie and Sylvia, and thank you for rectifying my gaffe.

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank you, Julie, for the additional backstory. Whoa, who knew poetry could be such a hotbed of controversy?

And I saw Ahlberg's collection at the International Youth Library in Germany last week and it is a lovely book, I agree. Comprehensive, but accessible-- I hope it will cross the ocean, too!

Sylvia Vardell said...

Pat-- and thanks for generating more commentary than I've ever seen! :-)