This post is another in an occasional series offering poetry-related information that may be new to you.
Did You Know. . .
✦ Poet Tomas Transtromer, winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature, is an entomologist whose childhood collection of insects was exhibited (also in 2011) at the Swedish Museum of Natural History. A guidebook with six essays was published in a limited edition to accompany the show. In 2012, a newly discovered beetle from the island of Gotland was named after Transtromer.
✦ The late Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012), winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature, was described as a "Mozart of Poetry". She wrote approximately 400 poems. The site infoPoland offers a selection of Szymborska's poems with their translators' names.
✦ Poetry editor for The New Yorker, Paul Muldoon, on whom numerous prestigious poetry prizes have been bestowed, has a rock band, Wayside Shrines, in which he plays guitar and for which he writes song lyrics. Among his musical claims to fame: he co-wrote, with Warren Zevon, "My Ride's Here". He also has written operas, one of which, created with Daron Hagen, is based on the life of the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
✦ The poem "ARK", by Ronald Johnson (1935-1998), who also was a cookbook writer, is shaped like a spaceship. It took Johnson two decades to write the poem's 99 sections, which encompass three volumes. Poet Stephen Burt wrote an article about it, "Ronald Johnson's 'ARK': A Poem in Three Dimensions", for The New Yorker (March 12, 2014). Burt notes that this year, Flood Editions published "ARK", described in a blurb as being "for those who can see visions...." Another good article on the poem is at The Unknown.
✦ Poetry critic and consulting poetry editor Helen Vendler studied chemistry as an undergraduate; her Ph.D. dissertation was on an entire different subject, Yeats. In a wonderful 1996 interview with The Paris Review, she gave as her reason for writing the need to "explain things to myself."
✦ Edward Hirsch's 2014 reference A Poet's Glossary (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) took some 15 years to create, is 736 pages, and weighs two pounds. In the book's preface, Hirsch, who is the fourth president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, says he made A Poet's Glossary as "definitive, inclusive, and international as I could." His 1999 national bestseller How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is 368 pages and just one pound.