Posts Tagged ‘Brenda Hillman’

Brenda Hillman, Anne Carson win Griffin Awards in Toronto!

Thursday, June 5th, 2014
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Two-time winner.

The Griffin Awards were announced in Toronto a few hours ago, and we’re happy to see familiar names on the lists.  Canadian poet Anne Carson, recently a Stanford guest (we wrote about her here and here)  became the first two-time winner of the $65,000 award, one of the most lucrative poetry prizes in the world, for her latest collection Red Doc.  The Berkeley’s Brenda Hillman was awarded the international prize, also worth $65,000, for her ninth collection, Seasonal Works With Letters on Fire. The jury had praised the collection as “a unique work. Its letters are on fire.”

In her acceptance speech, Brenda said that the world requires “more poetry and fewer weapons.” She had the guts to show it during the recent Occupy protests, when she and her Pulitzer prizewinning husband Robert Hass were roughed up by the police (I wrote about it here). The shortlisted poets gave a reading last night  at Koerner Hall in Toronto – a video of the readings from the shortlisted poets below. Brenda is about 36 minutes into the video, Ann Carson is at about 1.51.

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Brenda goes international.

Here’s part of the reason for excitement for me: the Griffin Poetry Trust considers poetry in translation in its awards as well. It was a pleasure to hear Polish poetry again, recited by one of Poland’s best new poets, Tomasz Różycki – I was pleased to have a chance to meet him in New York three years ago. Stanford Stegner fellow Mira Rosenthal is the translator for his collection Colonies (Zephyr Press). You can see both at about 1.03 on the video below. See if you love the sound of Polish as much as I do. The book has already received a “notable translations of 2013” recognition from World Literature Today.

Other finalists for the Canadian prize were Sue Goyette for her fourth collection, Ocean, and poet and novelist Anne Michaels for Correspondences, a collaboration with the artist Bernice Eisenstein.

colonies-cover-imageThe other finalists for the International prize were Carl Phillips for Silverchest and Rachael Boast for Pilgrim’s Flower. All the finalists, including both winners, received $10,000 for taking part in the shortlist readings.

Adélia Prado was this year’s recipient of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry’s Lifetime Recognition Award – Bob Hass read a few of the Brazilian poet’s poems at about 1.40 on the video. (I’ve written about Bob here and here and here.)

Colonies is also on the short-list for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Award, which will be announced next week, June 13-14 in Oxford, UK. The book is also on the long-list for the PEN Poetry in Translation award.  The short-list for the PEN will be announced on June 17 in New York City. We’ll let you know how it goes.

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griffinpoetryprize on livestream.com. Broadcast Live Free

Robert Hass: A new meaning for “beat poets”

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
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“None of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning.”

When former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer prizewinning poet Robert Hass went to visit Berkeley’s Occupy movement, it was mostly from curiosity. He had heard that thousands of UC-Berkeley students, staff, and faculty protesting a proposed 81 percent tuition hike were “beaten viciously” earlier in the day.  “I didn’t believe it. In broad daylight? And without provocation?” He went to see for himself. And you can see him at about 1:13 in the KTVU video here.

I don’t know much about the Occupy movement; I’m mistrustful of large crowds of any kind.  But I do know Bob Hass, a gentle presence who has been personally kind and generous to me.

So when the Berkeley professor, who turned 70 last March, gets beaten by police with billy clubs, it’s hard to be of two minds about it. Ditto if they push and knock down his slender wife, the poet Brenda Hillman.  Here’s the way the Bob explained the episode in a New York Times oped:

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“I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. … If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines. …

O'Brien

“We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. … I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, ‘You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!’ A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging.”

This passage is vintage Bob:

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“My ribs didn’t hurt very badly until the next day and then it hurt to laugh, so I skipped the gym for a couple of mornings, and I was a little disappointed that the bruises weren’t slightly more dramatic. It argued either for a kind of restraint or a kind of low cunning in the training of the police. They had hit me hard enough so that I was sore for days, but not hard enough to leave much of a mark. I wasn’t so badly off. One of my colleagues, also a poet, Geoffrey O’Brien, had a broken rib. Another colleague, Celeste Langan, a Wordsworth scholar, got dragged across the grass by her hair when she presented herself for arrest.”

In Berkeley, of all places.  A place where the police should have known better. This month’s events looked more like Tiananmen Square than the home of the Free Speech Movement.

To paraphrase George Orwell, or rather to quote Jesse Kornbluth at the Huffington Post paraphrasing George Orwell: When I see a policeman with a club beating a man on the ground, I don’t have to ask whose side I’m on.

Here’s Celeste Langan being dragged by the hair:

“Heaven is the third vodka” — Czesław Miłosz

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011
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So far the events celebrating the Czesław Miłosz centenary have been marked by a special warmth and conviviality, almost like a family reunion – but nowhere was that impression more pronounced than at last Wednesday’s event at Wheeler Hall at the University of California, Berkeley.  No surprise.  Berkeley was the poet’s home for four decades.

Thanks to the notorious Berkeley parking — a university parking lot meter that would not take cards, not take bills, and, once I got about three dozen quarters, wouldn’t take those either (nor return them) – I arrived about 45 minutes late.

Adam Zagajewski was saying “Has he grasped the totality? … Well, yes.”

“It’s in ruins, because totality is in ruins, but it’s still a totality.”  I wasn’t quite sure what the “it” was – the world?  the Nobel laureate’s oeuvre? — nor did I get more than the gist of what he was trying to say, having missed the context, but it was vintage Zagajewski, so I pass it on.

“The world does not belong to any single poet,” said Adam.

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Robert Hass was the emcee for the event, and commented on Miłosz’s stunning memory, and also on the unusual and sometimes dark connections it made.  A singing of “happy birthday” would remind Miłosz of the crematoria at Auschwitz, and crematoria might remind him of strawberry jam.

Berkeley is also the home of the poet’s son, Anthony (or Antoni) Milosz.  I met him once before, several years ago at the San Francisco memorial organized by poet Jane Hirshfield, but the resemblance to his father did not strike me nearly so forcefully then.  On Wednesday evening, it gobsmacked me.

Toni has translated his father’s last poems (Wiersze ostatnie was published by Znak in 2006), to be published with the paperback selected this fall as Selected and Last Poems.

The younger Miłosz said that he was aiming at “sound translation,” and felt too often translations of his father’s poems “intellectual content dominates.”

He noted the rhythm of his father’s work, and that, among musical instruments, Miłosz favored the bass and drum – “though he claimed to like the harpsichord and more refined instruments.”

“My father’s poetry is immensely direct,” he said, adding that directness pits it against current trends.

He read his father’s late poem “In Honor of Father Baka,” which he described as “funky, short-lined” poems in the baroque manner.  It’s wry and mysterious – and I am looking forward to the November 15 publication.

Peter Dale Scott reiterated the claim that Czesław Miłosz was “perhaps the greatest poet of our time,” and called him  “a poet of radical hope” in a way “not seen since Schiller and Mickiewicz.” Miłosz saw poetry as “a home for incorrigible hope” — another feature of his work that was “in marked contrast to the times.”

Peter ranked Miłosz with poets from Dante to Blake, the poets who were “enlarging human consciousness.”  He discussed Miłosz’s poem, “Dante,” which concludes:

“The inborn and the perpetual desire
Del deiformo regno — for a God-like domain,
A realm or a kingdom. There is my home.
I cannot help it. I pray for light,
For the inside of the eternal pearl, L’eterna margarita.”

Miłosz, said Peter, was “obsessed with the need to reach the ‘second space’ – the world of paradise and perfection beyond this world we inhabit.”

Peter called Miłosz a “leading visionary of his time, looking into the open space ahead.”

Jane Hirshfield noted that for Miłosz, “everything was I and Thou, everything was personal.”

Most of the evenings speakers at the front of the room arrived via literature, said journalist Mark Danner. “I come here through real estate.”  (That’s not quite true; he was Miłosz’s friend for several years before he bought the poet’s house on Grizzly Peak.)

He described the roughstone chimney and the roughstone path of the house that has been compared to a cottage from a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale.  He also remembered “Czesław’s deer.”  “The deer populate the place,” even though Miłosz would chase them away from the garden they viewed as a salad bar.

Bingo! (But it's not Żubrówka...but would you notice by the third round?)

One morning he recalled seeing more deer on the lawn than he had ever seen before – over a dozen, as he recalled.  Bob Hass’s voice was on his answerphone – “Mark, I don’t want to leave a message on a machine…” Miłosz had died in Krakow.

Mark thumbed through a book Miłosz had inscribed to him, and was startled to read the reference he had apparently forgotten, the inscription “in the name of all generations of deer.”

Bob Hass’s wife, the poet Brenda Hillman, recalled the Monday translation sessions Bob shared with Miłosz — sometimes spending the session working on a single line.  Bob recalled Miłosz appearing on their doorstep, with the command, “Vodka, Brenda!”  A bottle was always in the freezer, waiting. I hope it was Żubrówka.

Brenda was, for a time, interested in the knotty issues the Gnostics raised, and asking Miłosz, “What is heaven?  What is it like?”  To which the poet replied:

“Brenda, heaven is the third vodka.”