Saturday, June 09, 2007

 

The National Poetry Map

§

Kenny Goldsmith’s Traffic
now available
as a book

§

Tim Peterson’s
report
of the Gil Ott
memorial reading

§

For $250,
you can walk across
the Brooklyn Bridge

§

Google’s “Book Project
(aka Pirates of Silicon Valley)
is joined by
the
University of Chicago
& the 11 schools
in the
“Big Ten”

§

Emory offers
a different model
for digitizing its library,
one that respects copyright

§

And then
there is the other extreme,
Mr. Joyce

§

Direct democracy
comes to
Long Island:
Nassau poets
take laureateship
into their own hands

§

A profile of
Ken Babstock

§

Poets & the chronicler
of Avenue A

§

A profile of
Dan Waber
&
Jennifer Hill-Kaucher

§

500 years of Hebrew poetry
from Spain

translated by Peter Cole
& reviewed by
Harold Bloom

§

Slamming at
the House of Hunger

§

The West Chester
Poetry Conference
is at it again

§

The Poet Laureate
of
Alexandria, VA

§

Leonard Nathan,
a poet who taught rhetoric at
Berkeley,
has died

§

The Griffin Prize:
No one under 65
need apply

§

What’s new in the dictionary
over on the islands

§

Remembering
Ponatshego Mokane

§

Book Expo
for a small market

§

Music critics
are getting the ax also

§

A review of
Zoe Strauss’
first New York solo show

§

Two photos by
Nick Ut
taken on the same day
35 years apart

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Friday, June 08, 2007

 

A couple of quick questions today.

First, I’m curious as to whether or not anybody finds it useful when I post a list of what’s been recently received. I first put this together at the request of a couple of publishers, but I want to make sure that it’s not something that only publishers find interesting. The comments streams have received a couple of “Holy cow, a new Carla Harryman book” type responses, but thus far that’s all I’ve heard. Use today’s comments stream to let me know what you think.

Second, I’m going to be reading at Mills in Oakland on October 2 and would be happy to entertain other readings that week anywhere reasonable on the West Coast. If you have a series (especially one with a travel budget), send me an email at silliman at gmail dot com.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

 

A few quick notes & photos of last Sunday’s reading in memory of Gil Ott & to celebrate the publication of the first winner of the annual Gil Ott poetry award, Tim Peterson. Robin’s Books, long & thin as it is, isn’t always the best place for a large reading, and there’s a real advantage to sitting up front.


CA Conrad, Tim Peterson, Eli Goldblatt

Craig Allen Conrad, whom nobody in Philly calls Craig (it’s either CA or Conrad) organized this event, not once but twice since a Nor’easter took out the first day in April. It was raining on Sunday too as another, more modest Nor’easter barreled through, tropical depression Barry. Conrad got things started by playing a tape of Gil singing. Tim Peterson read from Since I Moved In, the award winning volume. And Eli Goldblatt, one of Gil’s closest friends, discussed “growing up as poets” with Gil & announced that he’s part of the team putting together a selected writings, that hopes to include not just the poetry & prose, but correspondence as well. (Anyone with correspondence from Gil should contact Eli at eligold @ temple dot edu.)


Alicia Askenase, Joshua Schuster, Frank Sherlock

Alicia Askenase & Josh Schuster read poems dedicated to Gil, then read a joint excerpt from Traffic. Frank Sherlock, looking thinner from his own recent flirtations with the immortal, read from Maize. Conrad then read a paragraph from the introduction to Harryette Mullen’s new collection Recyclopedia that discusses Gil, his importance & his process. Conrad remembered the days when the whole central city of Philadelphia was awash in artists because some landlords deliberately kept their rents affordable. The tree outside – there are relatively few of these downtown – brushed against the window with approval. Conrad read from The Amputated Toe.


Jenn McCreary, Chris McCreary, Linh Dinh

Jenn McCreary read from The Yellow Floor, while I and Chris McCreary read from The Whole Note, the work of Gil’s I wrote about last Monday. Then Linh Dinh discussed Gil’s fiction & how it impacted & influenced his own, reading from Gil’s emails (and I believe one of his own) from correspondence that took place when Linh was back in Vietnam. He read two passages from Pact. You can tell how the Nor’easter was doing by the fact that it’s dark out the window behind the readers already, and it’s not even six o’clock.


Ryan Eckes, Bob Perelman

Ryan Eckes gave an example of Gil’s mentoring style, describing how Gil prodded him with the question of how was he going to get away from a normative, comfortable upbringing. He then read the short story “Empathy” from Pact. Bob Perelman read his tribute to Gil – it appears in The Form of Our Uncertainty, the festschrift edited by Kristen Gallagher. Perelman then read some work from the latter part of Traffic. Tim Peterson re-arose to read Gil’s poem “Status.”


Kristen Gallagher, Julia Blumenreich

Brooklyn’s own Kristen Gallagher talked about “Gil’s willingness to complain” and that it was integral to his personality & his politics both. She read from his emails concerning politics and then read the poem “Heaven,” a copy of which I just rediscovered in my files of mail from Gil on Tuesday. Julia Blumenreich, Gil’s widow & a terrific poet in her own right (one of the cofounders of 6ix), talked about Gil’s use of systems in his writing and how, since his death, she had been, as she put it, finding Gil in trees. She read from one of the poems she has written out of this process, “Elm Disease,” a poem rich with detail, connecting Dutch Elm Disease & its history in North America with Nephrogenic Fibrosing Dermopathy, NFD, one of the extremely unpleasant side effects of kidney disease. The poem was, as has been all of Blumenreich’s poetry that I’ve seen since Gil died, magisterial. The tree brushed against the window with approval.

CAConrad has written a wonderful blog note expanding on his idea, stated midreading, that Gil was as much an anti-mentor as a mentor. Didi Menendez has put a recording of the event up on the MiPoesias site in three files and they can be accessed here, and here, and here.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

 

Stalin greets the Muse

§

Ken Rumble
is the latest addition
to Kate Greenstreet’s
first-book
interview blog

Cold Front review
of aforementioned
first book

& another
from Mathias Svalina

§

The Age of Rhetoric

§

A profile
(from the UK)
of Jonathan Lethem

§

Your next
pen & paper?

§

Techno tsunami
floods
Book Expo

§

Laureate nixed
over peace poems

§

Edwidge Danticat:
Marie Micheline

§

The slam poet
whose day job
is working as
a school security guard

§

Dan Chiasson
on Les Murray
in The New Yorker

§

Robert Pinsky
on burning books

§

23-year-old wins
the Urdd Eisteddfod,
a poetry slam
dating back to
1176
(not a typo)

§

BS from abroad:
” the unmistakable heir
of the Emerson and Whitman
who so ecstatically
hymned flux”
(being of course
the least
Whitman-like author
alive)

§

An assistant editor
for The American Conservative
reviews
a School of Quietude Poet
for Rev. Moon’s
Washington Times

§

A review of
the most pompous
translator
of our time

§

Poetry of
the Six-Day War

§

The Pretenders

§

Speed dating for book proposals

§

More newspapers
have begun
laying off arts critics

§

Caribbean poetry
published in Zimbabwe

§

What Ray Bradbury
thought he wrote

§

The Poetry Society of Oklahoma
hosts confab
of the like-minded

§

Poetry over pistols

§

Daniel Libeskind
& the building
as
open sore

§

The garden of
Philip Johnson

§

Tracy Emin,
Biennale Queen

§

Peter Schjeldahl
on
Richard Serra

§

Barry Schwabsky
on
Gordon Matta-Clark
(subscription required)

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Recently Received

Books (Poetry)

Christopher Alexander & Kristen Gallagher, Tony Snow’s Band, no publisher listed, no location listed, 2007

Chris Alexander, Kristen Gallagher & Zach Scott, Our National Catastrophe: March-April 2007, no publisher listed, no location listed, 2007

Bruce Andrews, Swoon Noir, Chax Press, Tucson, AZ, 2007

Alicia Askenase, Shirley Shirley, Sona Books, Brooklyn, NY 2004

Rachel Tzvia Back, On Ruins & Return, Shearsman Books, Exeter, UK, 2007

Bill Berkson, Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently, The Owl Press, Woodacre, CA 2007

Mairéad Byrne, Talk Poetry, Miami University Press, Oxford, OH, 2007

Julie Carr, Equivocal, Alice James Books, Farmington, ME, 2007

Albert Flynn DeSilver, Letters to Early Street, La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, NM, 2007

Buck Downs, Recreational Vehicle, Apathy Press Poets, Baltimore, MD, 2007 b/w Chris Toll, Be Light, Apathy Press Poets, Baltimore, MD, 2007

Joel Felix, Monaural, Answer Tag Press, Chicago, 2007

Benjamin Friedlander, The Missing Occasion of Saying Yes, Subpress, New York, 2007

Kristen Gallagher, No Goal², no publisher listed, no location listed, 2007

Gregory Kiewiet, In the Company of Words, Past Tents Press, Ferndale, MI, 2007

Mel Nichols, The Beginning of Beauty, Part 1: hottest new ringtones, Edge Books, Washington, DC, 2007

Mel Nichols, Day Poems, Edge Books, Washington, DC, 2007

Tom Orange, Equal Us, no publisher listed, Washington, DC, 2006

Tom Raworth, Caller and Other Pieces, Edge Books, Washington, DC, 2007

Sarah Riggs, Water Works, Chax Press, Tucson, AZ, 2007

Logan Ryan Smith, The Singers, Dusie Books, Winterthur, Switzerland, 2007

Chris Toll, Be Light, Apathy Press Poets, Baltimore, MD, 2007 b/w Buck Downs, Recreational Vehicle, Apathy Press Poets, Baltimore, MD, 2007

Craig Watson, Secret Histories, Burning Deck, Providence, RI, 2007

 

Books (other)

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, The Flexible Word, Rubba Ducky, no location listed, 2007

Chris Alexander, Kristen Gallagher, Matthias Regan, Neoliberal Poetry, no publisher listed, Brooklyn, NY, 2007

Steve Lacy, Conversations, edited by Jason Weiss, Duke University Press, Durham, NC, 2006

Jana Martin, Russian Lover and Other Stories, A Yeti Book published in association with Verse Chorus Press, Portland, OR, 2007

 

Anthologies

Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry, edited by Denise Duhamel, Maureen Seaton & David Trinidad, Soft Skull Press, Brooklyn, NY 2007

Lust for Life: On the Writings of Kathy Acker, edited by Amy Scholder, Carla Harryman, Avital Ronnel, Verso Press, London, 2006

 

Journals

Abraham Lincoln #1, Ashland, OR, 2007. Includes Gary Sullivan, CA Conrad, Alli Warren, Rodney Koeneke, Sharon Mesmer, Nada Gordon, Sandra Simonds, Shanna Compton, Michael Magee, Lanny Quarles, Bill Luoma, Drew Gardner, Katie Degentesh, more.

Best of Café Café: Summer 2007, A Didi Menendez Publication, no location given, 2007. Includes AnnMarie Eldon, Amy King, Birdie Jaworsky, Evie Shockley, Jordan Stempleman, Rathanak Michael Keo, Michelle Buchanan, Pearl Pirie, more.

Ocho number 9 number 9 number 9 number 9 number 9, Bloomington, IL, 2007. Includes Tara Birch, Pris Campbell, Nick Carbo, Denise Duhamel, Adam Fieled, Campbell McGrath, Anthony Robinson, more.

Pleiades 27:2, Warransburg, MO, 2007. Includes David Wojahn, Mary Jo Bang, Tomaž Šalamun, Paul Legault, Billy Collins, J.D. Smith, more.

Sal Mimeo #7, New York, NY, 2007. Includes Steve Malmude, Ange Mlinko, Clark Coolidge, Ted Berrigan, Robert Desnos, Elizabeth Robinson, Jessica Dessner, Ron Padgett, John Godfrey, David Perry, Marcella Durand, more.

 

CDs

Liz Downing, Rebby Sharp, Mark Jickling, Chris Mason, Alcman – Old Songs, no publisher listed, 2005

Liz Downing, Rebby Sharp, Mark Jickling, Chris Mason, plus 13 others, 19 Old Songs, Race of Bees Records, no location listed, 2007

 

Works all received after May 28th

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Monday, June 04, 2007

 

It’s hard to imagine that it’s been seventeen years since Gil Ott was the writer in residence at the Headlands Institute in some old military barracks that you get to through a little tunnel from the outskirts of Sausalito on what is literally called Bunker Road. I’d known that Gil had lived in Marin earlier in his life, had in fact shared a tree house somewhere in the Bolinas area with Kush, an anthropologist, poet & later the ubiquitous videographer of poetry readings in & around the City. But I hadn’t known Gil then & he hadn’t stayed. He’d gotten sick & learned that his kidneys were failing. The Gil Ott I first corresponded with in 1978 was living again with his parents in a suburb of Philadelphia called Blue Bell, quite unhappy about that fact, restless really, trying to figure out how he was going to make his way as a poet & a person with a compromised body, making his first real effort with a magazine called Paper Air that he’d started a couple of years before.

I didn’t actually meet Gil for another year or two when, one day when I was supposed to be having lunch with Charles Bernstein in Manhattan, Charles showed up with Gil. After lunch Charles had to return to his job as a CETA-artist, leaving Gil & I in each other’s company with a free afternoon ahead of us. Gil wanted to walk, so we did, although it proved to be slow going. He was in need of a kidney transplant he explained – this was the first I’d heard of this – and didn’t have the stamina to go very fast. In fact, though he was four years my junior, he walked as tho he were in his nineties, slow, deliberate steps that made each block take up to 20 minutes. The amazing thing, in retrospect, was that we walked for hours, down through the Lower East Side, down Hester Street past all the little carts (I hadn’t known that such scenes still existed in America), back up through Little Italy, all the while Gil expounding on his life, his reading, the scene in Philadelphia (about which I functionally knew nothing), his poetics, what he was trying to accomplish with Paper Air, his sense of urgency that American poets, especially progressive poets, needed to be progressive in their politics as well. I know that Gil later professed that it was “just a walk,” and to some degree he was preaching to the choir trying to persuade me of positions I’d already held for some time, but it was the closest thing to an education in one afternoon – a complete statement of one’s active poetics – as I’d ever heard anyone ever give. More than a quarter of a century later, that’s still true.

So when Gil came out to the Bay Area to do a residency as the Headlands Institute in 1990, there was an undercurrent of satisfaction in it for him – he was poet returning to a previous home as a successful writer. Since Gil often had a disproportionate sense of how much power the School of Quietude had – he never applied, he once told me, for a Pew Fellowship since he already “knew” he was going to lose¹ – this was an especially sweet moment for him. Paper Air, Singing Horse Press & his own writing were all successful, Gil was still in his role as the literary director of The Painted Bride, an arts center on the north side of Olde City.

While Gil was at the Headlands, he composed the first three-fourths of a work called The Whole Note, later to be published as a small book by Manuel Brito’s Zasterle Press on the Canary Islands. For Gil, it’s a remarkably formal project, brilliantly conceived & executed. The work is composed of four sections, each of which in turn is a sequence of eight passages, or pages. Both in the book & the one anthology excerpt I have around (Dennis Barone & Peter Ganick’s The Practice of Outside, which contains the one section not written at the Headlands), each passage is according its own page, so I tend to think of them – and call them – just that: pages.

Each page is composed of between four and six smaller sections. In the book, they look like paragraphs, tho only the first begins at the start of a sentence with a capital letter. In the anthology, which uses a page larger than the 4-by-6 inch Zasterle edition, they look more like lines, since the shorter ones down turn back again at the right hand margin. In both places, any line that runs over is printed as tho it were prose.

What it looks like in the book is that a paragraph, invariably of seven or eight sentences, is divided into these subdivisions, so that each page is thus one “true” (if not physical) paragraph. But this isn’t so much the case in the anthology, where each “line” looks more independent. Thus consider the first page of what in The Practice of Outside is called “Fourth Fourth”:

Moving, variant ornithography of those uninitiated

made into memory by the me briefly incarnate. Full of myself on successive nights dense and alone sings

you back. Need keeps the book of dying open, the language common after all. Relieved, the task finally changing prompts tapping my reserve

feeling, now, wise to its edge. Where are you risk any detail of what’s in me, having been tricked by the image of a man. Softly paint the intuit

applications under authority of breathing. I drive this one, I get winded

calendar’s familiar, speed and abruption.

Now consider the same passage from what is called “4/4” in the book, where a tighter page uses justified margins:

Moving, variant ornithography of those uninitiated

made into memory by the me briefly incarnate. Full of myself on successive nights dense and alone sings

you back. Need keeps the book of dying open, the language common after all. Relieved, the task finally changing prompts tapping my reserve

feeling, now, wise to its edge. Where are you risk any detail of what’s in me, having been tricked by the image of a man. Softly paint the intuit

applications under authority of breathing. I drive this one, I get winded

calendar’s familiar, speed and abruption.

Actually, I can’t quite capture this in HTML since the Zasterle page uses mid-word hyphens to tighten the kerning even further. But you get the idea.

In the first three sections of The Whole Note, Ott sculpts his phrases – they sometimes build into sentences, but more often sweep this way & that, reaching a climax rather than a conclusion – from what he observed at the Headlands – kestrels appear – and his reading, which at that moment focused on Santeria & voo doo (the one book he credits by name, in a footnote to a page in “3/4” is Louis Mars’ The Crisis of Possession in Voodoo). The fourth section, composed back in Philadelphia, begins first by turning inward, away from landscape. Instead of birds, we get, literally, ornithography, a neologism that combines both birds & moving, associating immanence (the me briefly incarnate) with memory.

Much of “4/4” brings together issues implicit in the first three sections, as movement is contrasted with terms like debility and even Cripple. A major concern, perceptible but not tated, is whether one can accept unconditional love if one has issues with oneself. The argument makes perfect sense for a man who would have multiple kidney transplants in his life, every one of which eventually would fail. But a writer’s presence need not be reduced to or limited by the body, as true for Gil Ott as it was for Larry Eigner. The poem’s final page is about as close to pure closure as the post-avant Ott would allow himself:

Prone to the observance, a formal end only, blurred with or without morphine decides to live. I have made a mistake, a meandering

stasis, down a notch and starting over. Someone else’s surgery pulled a knot out, left a man handled roughly

bumped and thrown what dirt brackets. Possessed of this violence, a plea remains. Fed on seed here, a small black bird

far and still admissible.
I will build a body of utterance, that fooled me. The odor will stay, and I

will walk away.

I am aware, as I think everyone at the reading on Sunday must have been, that Gil Ott is somebody who needs to have his big collected poems out, because there’s a marvel there that every reader I know could benefit from. This body of utterance stands tall & strong.

 

¹ Pew recipients over the years include Linh Dinh, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Jena Osman, Lamont Steptoe, Bob Perelman, Mytili Jagannathan, Teresa Leo, Homer Jackson, Major Jackson, Molly Russakoff & yours truly, a list that I think suggests that Ott was almost certain to have received a Pew at some point, if only he’d applied.

Drawing of Gil Ott by Christopher Webster courtesy of Artvoice.

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