Saturday, May 26, 2007

 

Gary Snyder
on Jack Kerouac

& against
the new
nuclear enthusiasts

§

Linh Dinh’s
video archive

§

Wise men fish here

§

Auctioning off
the remains of
Gotham Book Mark

§

The used & rare
book trade
in Moscow

§

Writing in
totalitarian
times

§

Languages
as design objects

§

EAOGH’s
3rd issue
is on
Queering Languange

Hear the massive
launch reading
at the Bowery Poetry Club
here

§

A protest poet
in the language of
Marathi

§

“The profession
that professionalizes best
professionalizes least

§

Sharon Harris’
photo archive
of the Toronto
literary scene

§

Jonathan Lethem
on Philip K Dick

§

Secret grammar

§

The Promethean spirit
in the poetry of
Siddhicharan Shrestha

§

Really – this
is the real
talking with
Leonard Gontarek
site


(I had the wrong URL on Wednesday)

§

Gender & typing

§

A feminist poet
in
Calcutta

§

Garbage in,
fiction out

§

Contemporary Iranian poetry
on the trams of Stuttgart

§

Talking with
Louis McKee

§

More like fantasy baseball
for books

§

Bring back
the English major!

§

From blogs
to books

§

Karl Marx:
The Hollywood Years

§

Bad Time Rhymes

§

The slush pile

§

Garrison Keillor
needs to
take a break

§

Ending the manuscript

§

Because he’s a purveyor
of stereotypes

§

Reading Matthew Rohrer
as the next James Tate

§

The poetics
of Roddy Woomble

§

Roy De Forest
has died

§

Richard Serra
at MoMA

§

Reinventing
the Detroit Institute of the Arts

§

Invasion
of the
art consultants

§

Installation art
goes to court

§

What $72 million
will buy
in the Rothko market

§

Oh, but who gets the $$$?

§

The next
Henry Moore

§

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Friday, May 25, 2007

 

In my note on Paul Auster’s poetry the other day, I wrote:

Auster’s work looks on its surface a little like New York School verse, especially of the uptown Columbia variant that looked more to Ron Padgett & John Ashbery than, say, to Ted Berrigan (who, so far as I’m aware, never published any translations¹).

The footnote admitted that “This virtually is an invitation to be corrected, and I’d love to be.” Several people wrote in, either via the comments stream or via email, including (among others) Jordan Davis, Tinker Greene, Ron Horning & Anselm Berrigan, pointing to a variety of instances of translation in Ted Berrigan’s work. What follows is a synthesis of these comments.

There is a translation of Rimbaud’s Le Bateau ivre published by Adventures in Poetry with illustrations by Joe Brainard under the title The Drunken Boat that is also the basis for many lines throughout The Sonnets, especially the first I-VI and LXXIV. There are at least eight copies of this side-stapled mimeo volume currently available in used or rare book shops in the U.S., the very least expensive of which is $110.

Life of a Man is collected in the In the Early Morning Rain section of the Collected Poems tho it first appeared in Bean Spasms. The notes to the Collected characterize this sequence as “transliterated from Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Vita di un uomo.” The version in the Collected contains two poems not in Bean Spasms while dropping two others. In Nothing for You is a translation from Rilke called “Autumn’s Day.” Tinker Greene typed the whole thing into the Auster note comments stream.

In Easter Monday is a translation from Leopardi done as a collaboration with George Schneeman & Gordon Brotherston. There is another collaborative translation with Brotherston in the Collected, in a section right near the end entitled A Certain Slant of Sunlight Out-Takes is “Der Asra,” a working of Heinrich Heine’s poem of the same name. A chapbook of eight collaborative translations Berrigan & Brotherston did together is apparently in the works, under the title Water Under the House. In addition to these two poems I am told that there is a work by Neruda in that collection.

Compared with, say, Ron Padgett or Anselm Hollo, this is not a vast quantity and in some ways this is surprising. Translations invariably are a mode of forced collaboration, not just for the translated poet but for the translator as well. And Berrigan was easily the most collaborative poet of his generation – indeed many of our accepted ideas about what collaboration is can be traced directly back to Berrigan’s practice and the huge influence it has had over the last four decades. What we can say about the translations here is that they’re of poets who were already canonic before Berrigan got to them & that he’s very much following the Poundian model of using the process to access different modes of being. This is nowhere more true than in Life of a Man, in which the ex-GI Berrigan writes through the Italian poet of World War I. Further, as a Jew born in Alexandria, Egypt & raised partly in Paris, Ungaretti’s own relationship to his family’s ancestral home of Lucca is at least as complicated as that of the relatively unlettered Berrigan thrown in with all the Ivy-League graduates-turned-art-critics who populated the New York School.

Perhaps Adventures in Poetry should reissue The Drunken Boat. I’ve heard two people in the past week claim it to be second only to The Sonnets among Berrigan’s achievement & tho I’m a “late poem” guy myself, I take that as a serious claim. The other obvious book that should come out – I would be surprised to discover that nobody’s working on this – is a Collected Collaborations. Now that will be a volume to conjure by.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

 

This Weekend
in the Mid-Atlantic

Tom Mandel & Ron Silliman

Baltimore
Saturday
May 26
8:00 PM
i.e. reading series
Dionysus Restaurant & Lounge,
8 E. Preston Street,
410-244-1020

Washington
Sunday
May 27

7:00 PM
Bridge Street Books
2814 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
202 965 5200

In celebration of

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

 

Dancing on Hippie Hill, Golden Gate Park (Photo by Robert Altman)

Summer of Love
40 years later --
Michael McClure’s
memory

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s
recollection

Wavy Gravy

Mountain Girl

Woz

§

Altered books
&
shrunken ones

§

Weird poetry videos

(looks better on
Internet Explorer)

§

An argument
for copyright protection
that never ends

§

When is a book
out of print?

§

What Susan Schultz
is reading

§

Lydia Davis:
the story
as logic poem

§

Reading Gao Xingjian
in the People’s Republic

§

Ain’t gonna work on
David Wojahn’s
farm
no more

§

A Kurdish poet
reads to parliament
in the
U.K.

§

Shrink lit

§

Serious vs. accessible

§

“Apparently not all poets
are dour, driven creatures.”

§

The poetry police

§

Canada’s
greatest unknown poet

§

The best defense
of Ed Dorn
yet

§

The novel that ate
Ralph Ellison

§

Death of a bookseller

§

Writing a eulogy

§

Shakespeare’s politics

§

Baseball haiku

§

Striving for the ordinary

§

the contemplation of nature
at his homes in
Key West
and an 80-acre wooded spread
in Cummington, Mass


(why the School of Quietude
is so quiet)

§

Stalin, the poet

§

How a song
commissioned by
Czar Nicholas I

played a significant role
in the careers of
both
Pete Seeger
&
Irving Berlin

§

From Pope to Burns
them well-wrought urns
start to look
wobbly & crack’d

§

The poetry of
John Ash

§

Why the rash
of literary festivals?

§

“a dreamy urgency…

The feeling is not gloomy,
but a gentle and haunted

Unornamented and intimate”

§

Catullus remembered
by a poet
who dares to
Wild Civility

§

Talking with
Amy E. Laub

§

Chatting with
Chatterji

§

Sexism 101:

Torontoist calls her
Velocity Girl

The Literary Wife

Mom, This Poem’s for You

§

The exhibition
you could almost see

§

On the road
with Merce Cunningham

§

Daniel Libeskind:
from accordions
to architecture

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

 

That average tenure of a web page being between 44 and 75 days is carried upwards some by the presence of Ygdrasil, which makes a good case for having been the first literary journal on the net, or at the very least the oldest continuous such publication. In the words of editor Klaus Gerken, Ygdrasil – the name refers to the tree in Norse mythology that holds heaven, earth & hell together – the journal actually predates the origin of the World Wide Web as we know it in June 1993, having functioned from

May 1993 to Oct 1994 on the BBS circuit (24 countries phoning in to get the magazine on a monthly basis), then Igal Koshevoy created the first Ygdrasil Internet pages in Nov 1994….

Koshevoy gave up poetry a year later & basically walked away from the project, with Gerken & Pedro Sena taking over in December 1995, revising Ygdrasil into its current form. Since August of 2000, the Literary Archives of Canada have archived the Ygdrasil site.

As an early adopter, Ygdrasil shows the features (and limits) of its origin – it made design decisions early on when the options were fewest & not well understood. The text of each issues is on a single, rather endless HTML page, with pages that might as well be still in ascii. No flash graphics here. The logo reminds me, actually, of the magazine graphics Andy Warhol did before he became famous as an artist, as such. But those were in the early 1950s. Still, the journal’s interest in works in Spanish (there have been several special issues) as well as translated from the Spanish – and in the work of Clayton Eshleman – ensures its legacy. And it has received over 750,000 hits since a counter was installed back in 2001, making it one of the most widely perused journals online. Yet at some level, Ygdrasil has the dubious distinction of being, almost by definition, the online journal that has needed a design update the longest as well.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

 

Of my reluctance in 1970 to include Bob Grenier in the “15 New Poets of the San Francisco Bay Area” feature that David Melnick & I edited for the Chicago Review, an old acquaintance & longtime editor writes that

there was really no need in late 1970 to be afraid of bob grenier's minimalism: aram saroyan was already there

It was, of course, impossible not to know about Aram Saroyan circa 1970. Random House had published his eponymous volume, Aram Saroyan, (in which the poem above appears) in 1968, Pages one year later. How many other experimental poets were getting books published & widely distributed by New York trade presses back then? Clark Coolidge’s Space, published by Harper & Row in 1970¹, was really the only other one. If you knew about the New York School, you knew about Aram Saroyan. Ditto if you paid attention to the conceptual poetics that seemed to be emerging from 0 – 9, the journal co-edited by Vito Acconci & Bernadette Mayer, tho that was, at the time, a much more fugitive endeavor. And, of course, when Saroyan got a grant from the NEA, some congressman read some of his work, perhaps “Blod” (a one-word poem, if, that is, Blod’s a word) into the Congressional Record with all the rhetorical froth we would expect today from Bill O’Reilly. Finally, the name Aram Saroyan inevitably rang bells simply because, for my generation & at least in California, William Saroyan’s My Name is Aram was as predictably a part of the high school curriculum as Things Fall Apart or Beloved are today. That the title character’s name in the book is not Saroyan, or that the poet was born three years after My Name is Aram’s initial publication, were just details.

But, as I replied, I was pretty sure that, in 1970, I wouldn’t have included Aram Saroyan in that grouping either. His conceptual poetics were perceived, I think, as a satire on publishing and poetry itself, witty & fun perhaps, but decidedly & willfully outré. And outré was not what Chicago Review was about in that era. While it published some experimental fiction, thanks to editor Eugene Wildman, in poetry the journal struck Melnick & I as being anxious about its status as a “major” college-based publication, which meant in practice that they were not looking for Aram Saroyan but the next Sylvia Plath.

Besides which, what Saroyan & Grenier were doing at that time were not exactly identical, a distinction that might have been lost because both used exceptionally short forms & were often paired in the minds of readers & editors with Clark Coolidge. Grenier’s best known work from this period is Sentences, published originally by Whale Cloth Press in an edition of 500 cards delivered in a box, but now online at the Whale Cloth site. Saroyan’s work has been online also, principally at the Eclipse website, but now is available in a fat & sumptuous edition from Ugly Duckling Presse under the title Complete Minimal Poems. At 275 pages, it’s just slightly over half the size of Sentences.

Saroyan’s work often seems to come out of the same conceptualism that drove Acconci’s work of that period. One poem in Aram Saroyan, the first of Saroyan’s minimal books, is a page of nothing but radio call letters. Another reads:

STEAK

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQURSTUVWXYZ

A third contains the word crickets repeatedly typed, one word to a line, down an entire page. This is a type of poem almost entirely absent from Grenier’s work, which shows almost no interest in conceptualism. The closest Grenier gets to this mode is an occasional poem that functions at the metacomment level:

TWELVE VOWELS

breakfast

the sky flurries

A second Saroyan type that comes closer to Grenier entails poems that utilize the graphic elements of language – the poem at the top of this note is a famous instance of this. As it does there, this kind of poem works when there is some intelligible connection – it doesn’t have to be articulatable – between what is going on the page and denotative & connotative dimensions of the word at hand. Thus

eyeye

strikes me as effective precisely for the way it calls up the double-image element involved in stereoscopic vision, why humans see in 3D, whereas

lighght

just sits there on the page doing not much of anything.

Grenier likewise has works in Sentences that depend on their graphic presentation, such as this poem, which builds on a device – the s t r e t c h e d word – first developed by Paul Blackburn::

s o m e o l d g u y s w i t h s c y t h e s

At one level, this is a poem about the blank space, what Hugh Kenner liked to call the 27th letter of the alphabet (and certainly the last one “invented”) and how it cuts (or scythes) discrete words from the flow of speech – it a prerequisite for the existence of words at all. Yet there is a richness both of sound and image here that gives Grenier’s poem dimensions that simply aren’t active in Saroyan’s work. This is characteristic of Grenier, whose most common mode of micropoetics in Sentences is a snatch of language that begins & ends in atypical places, e.g.,

yawns at solid

or

or the starlight on the porch since when

Grenier’s use of the graphic dimension of language doesn’t really occur until much later, when he moves into his “scrawl” works. In those pieces, tho, what seems to interest Grenier most is the making explicit of the “coming to recognition” process of reading. He is really fascinated at the idea of identifying the instant a word “pops” into consciousness & poem after poem functions to locate precisely this moment. I’ve often that Grenier comes closest to what I would call a cognitive formalism – using form to explore cognition, the mind as such. There are of course limits to this – one can explore that instant in which words appear, for example, but it would far harder to identify a gap that occurs, for example, when one can’t think of a term, even tho it is every bit as palpable.

The place where Saroyan and Grenier completely overlap, not surprisingly, are in the poems that call up the relationship to what they’re doing as poets and the larger tradition of poetry, as such, especially the short poems of Louis Zukofsky & the Robert Creeley of Pieces:

LOUIS

Noisy
“Zukofsky”

Or this, entitled “Placitas” and dedicated to L.Z.:

The trees’
noise of
the sea

Or this, entitled “POEM”:

One two
three there
are three are
never seen
again.

These three all are the work of Saroyan.

A word that turns out to be important to both poets is crickets. Not only does Saroyan have a couple of poems that allude not just to the critter, but to the great summer drone of insects, one of Grenier’s best known essays explores the ways in which Keats’ own use of the term – “hedge-crickets sing” – milk

words of all possible letter/phonemic qualities without really challenging notion of English word/morpheme as basic unit of ‘meaning.

My favorite of Saroyan’s several cricket poems is one that falls into the neo-Zukofsian category:

Not a
cricket

ticks a
clock

But when Saroyan moves away from this one area that he shares with Grenier, he goes back toward either a conceptual poetics and/or a New York School one. These two poems appear on facing pages in Pages:

cat
book
city

And

Ted Ted Ted Ted
Ted

The first depends entirely on scale of referents for its impact, something I can’t imagine Grenier ever doing, the second may be a parody of the NY School’s (esp. Gen 2) penchant for name dropping. Or it might be the most NY School poem ever written.

Grenier’s default mode, in sharp contrast, tends toward documentation:

of life days like

*

a port to a green

*

rain drops the first of many

*

repetitive bird and black

Each of these four one-line poems can be read both as an instance of language-in-the-world and as a study in form. It requires an almost obsession focus on the language itself. With Saroyan, not so much:

Later

the atelier

ate her.

It’s not that Grenier does the micropoem better, whatever that means, than Saroyan. Nor is it that Saroyan is the original, Grenier the copy. Rather, what each was seeking to find & explore was ultimately something different about language & the poem. Which suggests that even one-line poems can (are) so thoroughly stylized that one can discuss their relationship to different literary movements. This makes me wonder what a new formalist one-line poem would look like – not a couplet, not a haiku, but a real single-line work of art. How would it then enact its values? What would it be able to look, see, do in the world of poetry? Or is it simply the case that new formalism, so called, is by definition incapable of writing so focused? I’d love to see someone try.

 

 

¹ As part of Fran McCullough’s attempt to bring the second generation New York School out broadly through Harper. Other books published by Harper during that period included Tom Clark’s Stones (1969), his volume Air, Dick Gallup’s Where I Hang My Hat and Lewis Mac Adams’ The Poetry Room (all 1970). Then it stopped. Once Robert Duncan & Robert Creeley left Scribner’s for New Directions, the publication of post-avant poets by the New York Trades largely came to an end, save for later collected editions of already canonic poets. The School of Quietude had successfully defended what it saw as its turf.

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