From America to Syria: Award-winning international poetry from Yale University Press

Adonis

Adonis attends the ceremony to receive the Goethe Prize 2011 in Frankfurt

Today we take a look at some of Yale University Press’s critically acclaimed and award-winning poets. We also look at two important series of books, which highlight new and translated poetry from around the world.

Those following the recent speculation prior to the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature will have seen the poet Adonis‘s name amongst the luminaries in the running for the prize. Days before the prize was announced The Guardian reported that the Syrian poet was the favourite to win. The prize eventually went to Swedish writer Tomas Tranströmer, but the speculation highlighted Adonis’s importance as one of the greatest living poets (Adonis has since helped to spread Tranströmer’s fame in the Arab world, accompanying him on readings).

The 81-year-old poet, a perennial favourite to win the Nobel prize, was also presented with the prestigious Goethe prize earlier this year (on 28 August, Goethe’s birthday), the first Arab writer to do so. The jury called him “the most important Arab poet of our time”, and praised his “eminent literary talent, his cosmopolitanism and his contribution to world literature”. In recent years he has been recognised as a true pioneer of modern Arabic poetry and is often seen as a rebel who follows his own rules.

“Arabic poetry is not the monolith this dominant critical view suggests, but is pluralistic, sometimes to the point of self-contradiction.” – Adonis

Last year Yale published Adonis’s Selected Poems to widespread acclaim. As well as being a renowned publisher of fine art books, exhibition catalogues and scholarly non-fiction, Yale University Press is a prolific champion of the finest contemporary poetry in the world. Whether it’s the Margellos World Republic of Letters series, which translates world literature into English for the first time and includes Adonis’s Selected Poems, or the Yale Series of Younger Poets, which publishes new American talent, Yale have a huge catalogue of poetry titles.

Margellos World Republic of Letters

Launched in January 2009, the Margellos World Republic of Letters series identifies works of cultural and artistic significance previously overlooked by publishers, canonical works of literature and philosophy needing new translations, and important contemporary authors whose work has not yet been translated into English. The series is designed to bring to the English-speaking world leading poets, novelists, essayists, philosophers, and playwrights from Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, to stimulate international discourse and creative exchange. Books in this series are being published regularly by Yale so keep an eye on the website for new editions (Spring 2012 will see a substantial list of new titles added).

Below are a selection of poetry titles in this series:

Selected Lyrics

Theophile Gautier: Selected Lyrics

Selected Lyrics
Theophile Gautier

In his “ABC of Reading”, Ezra Pound begins his short list of nineteenth-century French poets to be studied with Theophile Gautier. Widely esteemed by figures as diverse as Charles Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Gustave Flaubert, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and T. S. Eliot, Gautier was one of the nineteenth century’s most prominent French writers, famous for his virtuosity, his inventive textures, and his motto ‘Art for art’s sake’. His large body of verse, however, is little known outside France. This generous sampling, anchored by the complete Emaux et Camees, perhaps Gautier’s supreme poetic achievement, and including poems from the vigorously exotic Espana and several early collections, not only succeeds in bringing these poems into English but also rediscovers them, renewing them in the process of translation. More

Adonis

Selected Poems

Adonis
Selected Poems
Adonis

This volume serves as the first comprehensive survey of Adonis’ work, allowing English readers to admire the arc of a remarkable literary career through the labours of the poet’s own handpicked translator, Khaled Mattawa. Experimental in form and prophetic in tone, Adonis’ poetry sings exultantly of both the sweet promise of eros and the lingering problems of the self. Adonis: Selected Poems positions the work of Adonis within the pantheon of the great poets of exile, including Cesar Vallejo, Joseph Brodsky, and Paul Celan. More

Songbook

Songbook

Songbook
The Selected Poems of Umberto Saba
Umberto Saba

Umberto Saba‘s reputation in Italy and Europe has steadily grown since his death in 1957, and today he is positioned alongside Eugenio Montale and Giuseppe Ungaretti as one of the three most important Italian poets of the first half of the twentieth century. Until now, however, English-language readers have had access to only a few examples of this poet’s work. This bilingual volume at last brings an extensive and exquisitely translated collection of Saba’s poems to English-speaking readers. Both faithful and lyrical, George Hochfield’s and Leonard Nathan’s translations do justice to Saba’s rigorous personal honesty and his profound awareness of the suffering that was for him coincident with life. With its publication, this book provides the English-speaking world with a momentous occasion to rethink not just Italian poetry but also the larger European modernist project. More

Yale Series of Younger Poets

Recently the Huffington Post enthusiastically reviewed Richard Siken’s Crush in an article looking at the very best works of contemporary poetry in the United States:

“Siken captures better than any other of his generation the borderlessness of eroticism (in this case, homoeroticism): filled with panicked, desperate, off-the-rails longing and obsession, up to paranoia, this collection captures the ease with which lust slips into various violences, slips into despair, slips into oblivion… The poems “swerve and rush” syntactically, a psychosis of passionate paralysis that permeates every line and stanza. Would that the legions of dispossessed youth who think today’s print-published poetry deaf to their strongest emotional convictions could read this book; Crush rebukes those critics who think sexy, dangerous, craving poetry can’t be rendered in a manner consistent with the very highest standards of art.” – Seth Abramson, The Huffington Post

The acclaimed Crush is part of the Yale Series of Younger Poets, which champions the most promising new American poets by publishing the winners of the annual Yale Younger Poets Competition. Awarded since 1919, the Yale Younger Poets prize is actually the oldest annual literary award in the United States. Past winners include Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, William Meredith, W.S. Merwin, John Ashbery, John Hollander, James Tate and Carolyn Forché.

Here is a small selection of top American poetry on offer in this series:

Radial Symmetry

Radial Symmetry

Radial Symmetry
Katherine Larson

Winner of the 2010 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. With Radial Symmetry, Katherine Larson has created a transcendent body of poems that flourish in the liminal spaces that separate scientific inquiry from empathic knowledge, astute observation from sublime witness. Larson’s inventive lyrics lead the reader through vertiginous landscapes – geographical, phenomenological, psychological – while always remaining attendant to the speaker’s own fragile, creaturely self. An experienced research scientist and field ecologist, Larson dazzles with these sensuous and sophisticated poems, grappling with the powers of poetic imagination as well as the frightful realization of the human capacity for ecological destruction. The result is a profoundly moving collection: eloquent in its lament and celebration. More

It is Daylight

It is Daylight

It is Daylight
Arda Collins

Winner of the 2008 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. Mesmerizing and electric, Arda Collins’s It Is Daylight reads as a series of dramatic monologues articulated in the privacy of an enclosed space. The poems are concrete and yet metaphysically challenging, both witty and despairing. Collins’ emotional complexity and uncommon range make this debut both thrillingly imaginative and ethical in its uncompromising attention to detail. In her Foreword, contest judge Louise Gluck observes ‘I know no poet whose sense of fraud, the inflated emptiness that substitutes for feeling, is more acute’. Gluck calls Collins’ volume ‘savage, desolate, brutally ironic… a book of astonishing originality and intensity, unprecedented, unrepeatable’. More

Crush

Crush

Crush
Richard Siken

Winner of the 2004 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. Richard Siken’s Crush is a powerful collection of poems driven by obsession. Siken writes with ferocity, and his reader hurtles unstoppably with him. His poetry is confessional, gay, savage, and charged with violent eroticism. In her introduction to the book, competition judge Louise Gluck hails the “cumulative, driving, apocalyptic power, and purgatorial recklessness” of Siken’s poems. She notes, “Books of this kind dream big… They restore to poetry that sense of crucial moment and crucial utterance which may indeed be the great genius of the form.” More

For more on Yale’s poetry titles click here to view our complete list of poetry.

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