Saturday, July 07, 2007

 

Poet & performance artist
Sandy Crimmins
has died

§

Harvey Goldner,
the Bard of Belltown,”
has also died

§

Alzheimer’s kills
Philip Booth

§

Leonard Schwartz’
Cross-Cultural Poetics
radio archives

(over 100 hours
of terrific stuff)

§

Destroying books
as art

§

The San Diego Union-Tribune
folds its Sunday Book Review

§

The audience laughs
while the writer
breaks down in tears

§

Another occasion to cry:
The Last Novel

§

Or,
try it the other way:
80 pages of discussion
concerning humor & poetry

Plus
24 pages of poetry
from the HumPo
list

§

When
(if)
Shakespeare met Cervantes

§

“As a surrealist,
I quite enjoy having dementia

George Melly is dead

§

A lengthy portrait
of Mayakovsky

§

The politics
of book reviews

§

John Irving
on
Günter Grass

§

Lorraine Wild
& the design of books

§

Modest proposals
for a right-wing
English curriculum

§

Peggy Fox on
Ezra Pound, James Laughlin
& the founding of
New Directions
(PDF)

§

The New York Times
obit
for Mary Ellen Solt
tries
to demonstrate
vispo
in its text

& the Associate Press piece

§

Imagine a review
of Paul Celan translations
that alludes to the work
of Pierre Joris
as an afterthought

§

The silliest
”Great American Novel”
list
I’ve ever read

§

The slam team
from Springfield

§

Terry Eagleton’s
Mikhail Bakhtin

§

San Francisco’s
International Poetry Festival
reflect’s the city’s
beat street roots

§

A hospital
with a poet laureate

§

A profile of
Barry Spacks

§

The impact of metaphor
on scientific theory
(PDF)

§

Hypertext
on a refrigerator door

§

How
not
to start a magazine

§

Early writer’s block

§

Language, Mind & Culture
(PDF)

§

Salman Rushdie,
between East & West

§

Another review
of Carol Muske-Duke’s
prison (writing worksho) memoir

§

To whom it may concern

§

Buying David Halberstam’s
apartment

§

Foreword Magazine’s
Book of the Year Finalists,
all 699 of them

§

Who killed the novel?
Tony Soprano!

§

Is selling on the web
devaluing
used & rare books
?

§

In Canada,
fears that bookselling
may be a dying industry

§

This week’s
death-of-a-bookstore articles
come from
The OC
& West Hollywood
while in
Brentwood,
a bookstore is spared

§

But it’s
bricks & clicks
for
Detroit
booksellers

§

In Chicago,
they’re arguing
over
which bookstore
is best

§

Banning chains
to save
the independents

§

Pennsylvania libraries
may be endangered

§

If you think
bookstores are hurting . . .

§

Jazz & fiction

§

The latest lament
o’er the demise
of “classical” music

§

The architecture
of Zaha Hadid

§

Frida Kahlo
turns 100

§

Mass MoCA mayhem

§

Is Banksy
Britain’s best?

§

Busting the tag

§

The Chinese ‘Mona Lisa

§

The dealer who bought
a Raphael

for $325

§

The art bubble

§

Tales of parenting
& the circus

§

Paris Fashion Week

& here

§

Flickr’s
censorship problems
in
Germany
& elsewhere

§

Scorsese’s way

Labels: ,



Friday, July 06, 2007

 

You know you’re older than dirt when somebody finds a poster like this with your name on it. It’s from 1968, and I can still vaguely remember the event. Herb deGrasse, a film-maker who was active around Canyon Cinematheque from the mid-60s well into the 1980s, was the person who invited me onto this bill. He’d made a bunch of highly idiosyncratic films, one of them including David Bromige. John Thomson was the poet who inadvertently triggered the 1965 “Filthy Speech Movement” at Berkeley by holding up a sheet of note paper with the F word on it from the steps, I believe, of the UC Student Union. Later he became John Poet, which I believe means he must be the very same pirate radio pioneer & music critic who occasionally writes these days for the Daily Kos. Hilary Fowler – better known as Hilary Ayer – was then the wife of Gene Fowler, a poet who spent too much of the 1950s as a guest of the state at San Quentin. Alas, I don’t recall the other folks on this bill. Freight & Salvage still exists, tho it’s moved down the street and around the corner. My thanks to Richard Krech for permission to post this here.

Labels:



Thursday, July 05, 2007

 

I get, as you might imagine, some unusual mail, some of it virtual, some not. Right now I’m receiving maybe ten poems every day from different people, including one person in New Orleans who never signs his or her texts, but merely types them (sometimes directly, sometimes on white paper which is then glued or taped) onto various pieces of commercial cardboard (off-brand soft drink boxes, packaging for facial tissues), slaps a stamp on it & sends it along. But I’ve long been a recipient of such curiosities. Because I’ve been writing a poem entitled The Alphabet since 1979, I’ve received a few items that appear related, starting with a 1983 publication from Romania entitled ABC, with a subtitle that reads 1933:Eriocele Lupte Ale Clasei Muncitoare, which I take to be some kind of Communist Party tract (Romanian being one of hundreds, indeed thousands, of languages I do not read). That social realist front cover more than makes up for the fact that I can’t discern a word of Dumitru Almaş’ text.

Given that The Alphabet, my Alphabet, is scheduled for publication next year with the University of Alabama Press, I’ve paid more attention in recent years to the occasional poem that uses some form of this as (or in) its title. Perhaps the most amazing, given that it was written during roughly the same years I first started my project – and that it actually uses Fibonacci sequence I employed in Tjanting (and which does appear in a couple of minor guises throughout The Alphabet) – is Inger Christensen’s 1981 Alphabet. Chronologically, Christensen, one of Denmark’s major authors, is closer to the New American poetry of the 1950s than she is to more recent post-avant poetics, and to some degree it shows. Christensen’s Alphabet, more than anything else, is a prayer against nuclear annihilation, a position with which I’m sympathetic, if not a genre I would think to use. It’s hard to imagine that two poets who both employ Fibonacci at points during their careers could write poems with virtually the same title that are less similar in their aesthetic sensibilities. I didn’t learn of Christensen’s work until I came across Susanna Nied’s translation a couple of years ago.

A more recent doppelganger is Ellen Baxt’s Analfabeto / An Alphabet, published earlier this year by Shearsman, one of Britain’s best presses. Analfabeto is, more than anything else, a poetic memoir of a self-identified Brooklyn Jewish lesbian’s trip to Recife, Brazil, where she works as an English language instructor. Issues of gender, orientation, religion, language, positionality within the fragile politics of globalization all make an appearance, indeed are pretty much omnipresent throughout, since Baxt is nothing if not a conscientious reporter of her own circumstances.

To my eye, this is the book’s strength, but I feel fairly sure that some readers may experience it as the volume’s weakness as well. For a book that is, by definition, intensely personal, Analfabeto often has the feel, above all else, of reportage:

Rua dos Judeus became Rum Bom Jesus. Blue script on white tile.

 

In 1634, a band of twenty-three Jews expelled by the Portuguese from Recife, Brazil, landed in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. From that day to the present, there has been a permanent Jewish population in what is now the United States.

 

In the vegetarian restaurant, paintings of cashew fruit with Hebrew signs. It smells like a Hari Krishna cafeteria, vinegar and shredded beets. Rua Bom Jesus is expensive. The synagogue is a museum. The sanctuary is closed except for special occasions. A stone well was found underground, mikva. You can read the list of names.

Some portions of the text – especially around issues of romance &/or translation – are much more intimate:

Thank you for your wildcat dare. Yes, I have sheep, an ounce of wave, a flap of a book. I have an oyster. Yesterday you were shoulder, attention, declining sun. Thank you for your kindness.

 

I smell feminine glimpse, a milky egg. Show me to bone eight. It is difficult to fall or Autumn, offering gold. Yesterday bore dew. É dificil orientar-se nesta cidade.

The text has something of a notebook feel to it, alternating prose paragraphs, verse & the sort of on-the-fly notations of daily experience that recall the very latest portions of Charles Olson’s Maximus. Baxt does all of these well & makes considerable use of the page as space to keep things in balance while steadily moving forward. One consequence of this approach, tho, is a 75-page text with no more words to it than another poet might have used for 35 pages, or for 40. For this much experience, it’s a surprisingly quick read. I was amazed to find myself at the end so quickly, wanting, in fact, to read a lot more.

The overall result is that much of the reader’s experience of this book is going to depend on just how much you like Baxt. The craft is always exacting, if not ground-breaking, and the intelligence, good will & earnestness evident throughout, so I come away with a sense that, tho I’ve never met her directly, Ellen Baxt would be a terrific person with whom to share a panel or a meal.

Labels:



Tuesday, July 03, 2007

 

Gloria Helfgott,
one of the first great
contemporary book artists,
has died

§

The Tom Phillips
fetishism project

§

The UPI obit
for Mary Ellen Solt

§

Barrett Watten
visits
Buchenwald

§

100 years
of Gertrude & Alice

§

Shanna Compton
deconstructs
Curtis Faville
over POD publishing

§

Like a Prisoner of Soft Words

§

Like Something Flying Backwards:
a big selected poems
for C.D. Wright
in the
U.K.

§

The NYR of Books
on
Roberto Bolaño

§

Is poetry
the new black?

§

Accessibility
vs.
difficulty
in Nigerian poetry

§

Endangered sound patterns

§

The largest Federal literature program
since the WPA

§

A collective book review
of Brenda Hillman

by Marjorie Welish, Graham Foust, Evie Shockley,
C.D. Wright, Forrest Gander, Carol Snow,
Robert Hass, Michael Davidson, Claudia Keelan,
Robert Kaufman, Norma Cole, Marjorie Perloff,
Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Juliana Spahr, Calvin Bedient,
Reginald Shepherd, Cole Swensen, Elizabeth Robinson,
Nathaniel Tarn, Bin Ramke, Donald Revell,
Patricia Dienstfrey & Michael Palmer

§

Four feminist poets
from Tamil

§

Poetry
at Juvenile Hall

§

Channeling
Carol Muske-Dukes

§

JT Leroy’s
real secret:
she can write

§

Phillip K. Dick’s
canonization
continues

§

A memoir of minimalism

§

Another tribute
to
Lenny Michaels

§

Writers workshops
for indigenous peoples

§

Remembering
Ayyappa Paniker,
Malayalam modernist

§

Talking with
David Ray

§

The song collector

§

To dream
the impossible dream

§

The Publisher’s Weekly
review of

The Age of Huts (compleat)
uncut

§

Poetry & Second Life

§

Robert Pinsky
on
Carl Phillips

§

Poetry as beach reading,
a conservative U.K. view

§

Kermode on Housman

§

Poetry
why bother?

§

Publishing
why bother?

§

Talking with
Jane Alberdeston Coralin

§

Fractured fairy tales

§

Closing Antioch:
Where goeth the archives?

§

OSU Press
putting the backlist online

§

Chase Twitchell
against the egg-heads

§

Finish These Sentences

§

The latest
Wikipedia vs. research nonsense

§

Art
and/or
words

§

The legacy of
Hélio Oitícica

§

The importance now
of the London
art market

§

Street art escapades
(there’s a reason
they call it
Dumbo)

§

A ‘Nobel Prize”
for manga

§

An Eames
centennial

§

Dylan plays Woodstock

§

A profile of
Ornette Coleman

§

The Family Jewels

§

My species,
my self

Labels: ,



Monday, July 02, 2007

 

No two books of Jennifer Moxley’s really seem remotely alike, so it’s no surprise that The Line feels like a radical departure not just from her last book, Often Capital – which is a “last book” only in terms of its publication date, having been written in 1991 prior to her “first” volume, Imagination Verses – but from every book she’s written. It’s as if Moxley decides to become, in some sense, a different person between each major writing project, so that the work that comes forward feels inevitable – The Line certainly does – but that the connections that come to mind for a reader aren’t necessarily back to her work as a historical record, but rather to the whole of literature itself, which is now being invaded & rendered problematic in some altogether new fashion. I can’t think of another writer who manages this sort of effect from book to book beyond, say, the later publications of Jack Spicer. But Moxley goes much further – there are continuities between, say, Language and Book of Magazine Verse that I think Moxley would reject on principle. Which is not to say that there aren’t continuities, but that you’ll have to read much deeper than a proclivity for a certain type of line break or sentence style to find them.

The names that kept coming to me as I read The Line over the past five days were Lydia Davis, John Ashbery, W.S. Merwin, Kafka & Borges. There is a revealing interview with Lydia in the new Poets & Writers that I’m not entirely done with yet & this weekend saw not one, but two reasonably fawning reviews of the new Merwin collection of short prose, a book that my first thumb-through invoked words like “flaccid” & “lifeless.” The Line plays with this same form of the self-contained prose work, often the apparent recounting of a dream, that one associates with several of these writers, but it does with a buzz-saw attitude that is unlike any of the above:

The Periodic Table

She was wearing a dress that looked like a book but actually was a baby. All of the letters were on her back to make room for her bulging stomach. I climbed through many foreign backyards in search of my bedroom window. I lived on
Ire Street off of Sport in room one hundred and ten. The mailbox was filled with paychecks or grade sheets, I couldn’t tell the difference. Is this my name or isn’t it? Pink, yellow, and white, a temporary carbon-based witness.
    I sleep with approximately 14,000 days sitting on my chest. A slow hour many years old pushes aside yesterday’s appetites and enters as a whisper through an unmuffled ear: “remember me, remember me, remember me!” And so the incantation continues until I open my eyes to find that I am changed into a patient on a table. Wait, it’s not me, it’s my mother. Men are taking her out on a stretcher. Oh no. Blood, blood, everywhere!

That’s not a poem I will forget anytime soon. It raises so many questions, starting with its very first word, She. Everything here makes me want to pull this imagery – part Alfred Hitchcock, part David Lynch – into a coherent whole, which is possible only if (as) She becomes I becomes my mother. The poem even asks the question: Is this my name or isn’t it? In doing so, it underscores what we already know, that these associations are superimposed & not at all “inherent” in the text itself. It’s as if Moxley knows exactly how to identify that razor-thin edge between what is in the language & what we bring to it. Again, Moxley knows we can’t read patient on a table without hearing Prufrock, but excising the aestheticized etherised from Eliot’s poem renders the present reader guilty at having imported the association. That Prufrock is, in addition to being brilliant, one of the most egregious uses of persona as appropriation only sharpens our sense of reading as complicity.

The tone of horror with which The Periodic Table – think of the implications of that title – ends is very much a part of this book, tho it appears through a variety of different registers:

The Pitiful Ego

Take yourself off of the market before you become an embarrassment. Last night, believing yourself to be the bomb, you stripped him of his T-shirt and kissed every spot on his slim hairless chest as if you were a famished child sucking on a piece of sugarcane in order to drain it of its last drop of sweetness. While you were thinking how grateful he must be he was silently plotting his escape. He lay on his back on the coffee table, feeling the cold touch of your old lips, his head cocked toward the door. A flock of boots and hairdos were giggling as they watched this. He pulled away and, leaving you with a grin of apologetic condescension, joined the youthful group.
    Moving to the end of the plush couch you pulled the flannel throw to your neck and shrunk down in humiliation. How could you be so stupid as to mistake deferential attention for ravenous sexual desire?

There is not a single word out of place in this piece, including sucking & cocked. But where the sheer horror of the referent comes through is in the impersonalization of boots and hairdos. They’re youthful because the impersonal can’t age, not having a body, whereas less than four dozen words separate you as famished child from you as old lips. The delicate balance of this prose pushes back in both directions – it’s not he that experiences ravenous sexual desire, the word before in the first sentence rings a loud bell of denial. We’re supposed to recognize the askew in each.

There is a ruthlessness in much great art that is unmistakable here – Pound’s despair in Pisa, Spicer’s love poems between pitcher & catcher, the rawness that Kathy Acker permits, especially in her early books. Tho both began their careers as writers in San Diego, Moxley’s work differs from Acker’s in that time or age is the potent condition that appears to trigger everything for Moxley, rather than sex. Each, however, is an arc bracketed by death & desire:

The Wrong Turn

Is it true that your memory and senses are enslaved to creative projects? Immaterial textual existence has come to claim your remaining years. A Faustian pact? Lay there and think about it. Sleep and worry. You’ve been taken in by a fast-talking salesman and won’t see your money again. On the cartography of your aging body a new nodule has suddenly appeared which definitely augurs death. A clarion call at the cellular level. Such are the melodramas of
midnight, the punishment for assuming the many your master instead of the missing necessity. Why does this poem exist? Nobody knows. But it seems to be mourning the ideal.

There is a wistfulness to the end of this poem that echoes, for me at least, the work both of John Ashbery & Rae Armantrout. So often Ashbery’s works, particularly his best writing, appears to come around almost cyclically to certain themes as if he had a “catch & release” policy on meaning. With Moxley, the hooks, once in, stick, so that the “innocence” implied in the final sentence, the idea that a poem might aspire to an ideal, comes across much more starkly because the counter terms (aging body, death) have so many heavier connotations lumped upon them over the course of this book. Where Ashbery always seems to deflect or turn away from conflict, Moxley here is digging in, refusing to blink & refusing to let you blink either. It’s no accident that this volume of prose poems is called The Line, for what is the line to poetry? It’s the measure of time, ergo the measure of death. What does it mean to write a book of prose poems and call it that?

The Line is the kind of project that, had it been published by FSG, would have been nominated for all of the awards. And it’s the kind of project that, were Jennifer Moxley to repeat this book five or six times, would ensure her a franchise as one of America’s best writers. Yet the most predictable thing about her work is that the next book is going to be completely different. Completely compelling, completely crafted, completely courageous, but utterly different nonetheless. All you can do is strap yourself in and get ready.

Labels:



Sunday, July 01, 2007

 

The Zinc Bar reading
is now online

(My thanks to MiPo radio)

Labels:



This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?