Saturday, September 22, 2007

 

New Yorker promises
Paul Muldoon as poetry editor
does not represent
”some sort of radical
aesthetic or theoretical shift”

§

Rae Armantrout
reading at
Writers House
last Thursday
(MP3)

§

The fleas of Ulla Dydo

§

A suite of poems
by
Terence Winch

§

On Barbara Cole’s
Foxy Moron

§

Sucking:
Ariana Reines & The Cow

§

All about
Lorenzo Thomas

§

Charles Simic
discusses his plans
as Poet Laureate

§

Reading Whitman
in Oroville

§

Bookstores in Kyiv
(a.k.a.
Kiev)

§

The new Russian
pulp fiction

§

Rushdie:
blogs are not the enemy

§

The case of
the vanishing book review

§

The case of
the vanishing hyphen

§

Stephen Greenblatt
on critical writing
as an
ethically adequate object

§

Poets & militarized cyberspace

§

A poet from Cameroon

§

Indie bookstores
in Pittsburgh

§

A test of translation:
Miyazawa Kenji

§

Talking with
Benjamin Zephaniah

§

The most influential
novel
of the past
half century?

§

The life & impact of
H.L. Mencken

§

The global evolution
of
intellectual property rights

§

Picabia’s poetry

§

Talking with
Justin Vitiello

§

More on dying languages

§

A book of poems
from Palestinian filmmaker
Hind Shoufani

§

A bookstore owner
in
Southern Spain

§

Brain surgery
alters accent

§

Joshua Corey
goes for
baroque

§

School
as the enemy
of literature

§

Imagining Heather McHugh
as not being a member of
the School that Dare Not
Speak its Name

§

Religion in prison
imprisons religion

§

The poet laureate
of
Takoma Park, MD

§

Wittgenstein
& the limits
of radical poetics

§

Imagining slams
as
performance art

§

Double-speak
vs.
double meanings

§

Agi Mishol,
a “major minor poet”
in
Israel

§

“a horrible story
of the poet

§

Four
poetry/poetics
jobs

§

Meanwhile,
in an alternate universe

§

A New York Times
profile of
François Truffaut

§

Bilbao!

§

Abstract expressionism
at the Met

§

The artist known as
Richard Prince

§

Stupid artist tricks

§

A profile of
Frankie Valli,
the last great voice
of 50s doo-wop

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Friday, September 21, 2007

 

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

William Allegrezza, Fragile Replacements, Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, CA, 2007

Tim Atkins, Horace, O Books, Oakland 2007

Tim Atkins, Translations of Horace, Matchbox (no. 6), Manchester, UK, no date given

Ivan Blatný, The Drug of Art, Selected Poems, translated by Matthew Sweney, Justin Quinn, Alex Zucker, Veronika Tuckerová & Anna Moschovakis, edited by Veronika Tuckerová, Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn 2007

John Bloomberg-Rissman, No Sounds of My Own Making, Leafe Press, Nottingham, UK 2007

John Bloomberg-Rissman, World0, Leafe Press in conjunction with Bamboo Press, Nottingham – Culver City 2007

Noah Eli Gordon, Novel Pictorial Noise, Harper Perennial, New York 2007

Nathan Kernan, Lunch. A Poem, Pressed Wafer, Boston 2007

Susan Landers, Covers, O Books, Oakland 2007

Alan May, Notes toward an Apocryphal Text, Port Silver Press, Tuscaloosa, AL 2006

Chris McCabe, Tongue (BUGJAR), Matchbox (no. 10), Manchester, UK, no date given

William Michaelian, Winter Poems, Cosmopsis Books, San Francisco 2007

William Michaelian, Another Song I Know: Short Poems, Cosmopsis Books, San Francisco 2007

David Mutschlencner, Sign, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2007

Alice Notley, In the Pines, Penguin, New York & London, 2007

Michael Peters, Vaast b1n, n ephemerisi , Calamari Press, New York 2007

Sarah Riggs, Chain of Minuscule Decisions in the Form of a Feeling, Reality Street Editions, East Sussex, UK 2007

Jerome Rothenberg, Triptych (Poland/1931, Khurbn, The Burning Babe), New Directions, New York 2007

Frank Sherlock, Wounds in an Imaginary Nature Show, Night Flag Books, Philadelphia, 2007

Heidi Lynn Staples, Dog Girl, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2007

Scott Thurston, Hold, Shearsman, Exeter, UK, 2006

Spring Ulmer, Benjamin’s Spectacles, Kore Press, Tucson 2007

Carol Watts, Brass, Running, Equipage, Cambridge, UK 2006

Carol Watts, Wrack, Reality Street Editions, East Sussex, UK 2007

 

Books (Other)

Eileen R. Tabios, The Light Sang As It Left Your Eyes: Our Autobiography, Marsh Hawk Press, New York 2007

 

Journals

Action Poétique, 189, September, 2007, Ivry-sur-Siene, France. Includes Hélène Bessette, Paul Nagy, Bernard Noël, more.

Cue, A Journal of Prose Poetry, vol. 4, issue 1, Winter 2007, Tucson, AZ. Includes John Taggart, CA Conrad, Julia Bloch, Monca Youn, Rodney Phillips, Ryan Eckes, Gabriel Gudding, Michael Snediker, more.

House Organ, no. 60, Fall 2007, Lakewood, OH. Includes Bill Berkson, Serge Gavronsky, James Bertolino, Vincent Ferrini, Brian Richards, Gerald Nicosia, Bob Arnold, Cliff Fyman, Merrill Gilfillan, Michael Rothenberg, Ed Sanders, more.

Parser, no. 1, May 2007, Vancouver. Includes Alice Becker-Ho, Roger Farr, P. Inman, Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Aaron Vidaver, Rita Wong, more.

The Pulchritudinous Review, no. 1, no location given. Includes Alice Notley, Eleni Sikelianos, Ken Mikolowski, Renee Zepeda, Ron Silliman, Faye Kicknosway, more.

 

All books received since September 7

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

 

David Giannini responds to my blog on his book, Other Lines:

Dear Ron Silliman:

Thank you for reviewing Others' Lines. These days, one is grateful for almost any notice!

You have certain agenda items of your own throughout most of the review, and I needn't agree with you. You do end the review with a tidy handshake and nod much appreciated! You mentioned nothing about the Note (at the beginning of O.L.) indicating my overall intent and attempted honoring of a diversity of poets coming from many "campsites" and how they become, one line with another, intimately linked. There is no "game" involved, the whole process was quite organic for me. There is also the matter of the simple gap-narrative one may discern throughout O.L., one reason why I felt it was necessary to place three triads to a page in most cases, a matter of 'fluidity'. My hope is that the process in O.L. will be built upon by others.

I want to provide you, here, with another poet's response, one who is also a university professor and a Buddhist. I copy a portion of his response verbatim:

It is wonderful to see Your (for you've done something no other has here!) Lines as a book now and fitting that Ganick bring it out.

 You 'call into question' so many assumptions about poet and poem in a delightful way, show how a poem, any poem, is made out of poems, renew the idea of, well, I'd say sangha for want of something better.

 There's so much pontification these days about 'authorship' and 'intellectual property' all of it nonsense and all of it because people want to hold onto something unreal. They want, figuratively if not literally, their royalties. To be royal. And all worked up because they're not, because no one is. And you've made something here that transcends it all, shows us something lovely 'on the other side.'

Quite a felt response, I'd say, one quite different from most of the seven responders to your review, people who are judging and even attacking the integrity and veracity of approach in Others' Lines WITHOUT HAVING READ THE BOOK ITSELF! At first I thought to stick the prongs of my pitchfork of contempt into the mess of them, but why bother? Their own words betray them. Nor is this a matter of 'sour grapes' on my part I respond to what is obviously and innately various ego-stances of uninformed pronouncements. I am, then, grateful for Edward Baker's response, and for "nate the writer", his openness.

Thank you, again, Ron Silliman.

David Giannini

P.S. If you think, for some reason, that this letter might hold interest if placed within your blog site, go right ahead!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

 

Tom Devaney’s review
of Charles North’s
Cadenza

§

“Please welcome
John Ashbery

§

Christian Bök
on Writing & Failure
(part 1, part 2, part 3)

§

Perry Anderson
on
depicting Europe

Alice Kaplan’s Paris

§

The collective work
of a single author

§

This time
it’s Barnes & Noble
that closes

§

Ange Mlinko
on
the materiality of language,
Modernism Concentrate
& what Romanticism lost

§

Joseph Hutchison
takes me to task
for not picking
Larry Eigner’s
more ”luminous,
energetic” work
for my blog yesterday

§

The Nobel Prize-winning poet
you never heard of

§

That “tight-ass,”
Ron Padgett

§

A weeklong poetry fest
in Edmonton

§

Poetry
takes it to the station
in
Missoula

§

Sawako Nakayasu
gets an NEA grant
to bring the poems of
Sagawa Chika
into English

e-books
in translation

§

The New York Times
is now
free online

§

The Prince of Poets

§

Where was
Kerouac going?

On the road
on the web

Kerouac
in Queens

§

The next generation
of Bukowski
wannabes

§

Preserving
Philip K. Dick’s
legacy

§

Can Shakespeare
save theater?

Can blogging
save theater criticism?

§

Les Murray
in
The New Yorker

§

Derrida vs. Jerry Lewis
(this is actually
a much better movie
than its reviews)

§

Dying languages

One more goes
every two weeks

§

The New York Art Book Fair

§

Make your enemies
vanish

§

A profile of
Tess Gallagher

§

Time, Space & Motion
in the Age of
Shakespeare

§

Beckett
for Babies

§

Indie bookshops
in
Brooklyn

§

Judging
the Man Booker Prize

§

Poetry & duck noodles
in Hat Yai

§

Joni Mitchell,
poet

§

Poetry
is the Darfur
of twenty-first century
literature”

§

With a little help from
Tyson Foods & Lucinda Williams,
the
U. of Arkansas Press
announces
The Miller Williams Poetry Prize

§

Pinsky
on
poetry & the academy

§

The poetics
of
dog training

§

Zoe Brigley,
a feminist poet
in
Wales

§

Remembering
Shahriar

§

A review of
Sheri Benning
&
Glen Downie

§

Gambling on
Eugene Gloria

§

A young adult novel
from
Sherman Alexie

§

The most hated
philosopher
writing in English

§

Talking with
Big Poppa E

§

Camille Paglia:
gauging gender studies
from books on sperm

§

Wistful
about Wystan

§

Famous Seamus

§

Heidegger’s hut

§

Whittier’s Hampton

§

The legacy of
Allan Bloom

§

Bird brains

§

A story about
Coltrane’s work

§

Ansel Adams
& technology

§

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

 

It took me a long time – seven years – to read Larry Eigner’s last works, readiness / enough / depends / on. Green Integer is the post-avant press least likely to send me a review copy of anything, and I never see its wares in bookstores unless I happen to be visiting Small Press Distribution in Berkeley. But the more important reason why it took me so long before I finally picked up a “hurt” copy in the Harvard Book Coop this past spring was that I dreaded “completing” my reading of Eigner’s oeuvre. If you were to list out the ten or twelve most influential poets in my life, Eigner would surely be on it. And after he moved to Berkeley in 1978 or thereabouts, he became more than a friend-by-correspondence. His death in early 1996 was the real hammer blow that let me know I didn’t live in the Bay Area any longer – Berkeley without Larry Eigner is simply a different city.

It’s no accident that In the American Tree is dedicated to Larry. His impact on my generation was enormous. While he’d originally become known in the 1960s as one of the Projectivist Poets – he’s included in the “Black Mountain” section of the Allen anthology, tho he never visited the college to my knowledge & certainly couldn’t have been scoring his own speech for the printed page, given the impact that cerebral palsy had on his capacity to form words – Eigner really was a philosopher of consciousness who used poetry almost architecturally to sculpt the most marvelous observations of the particular, even when he chose the simplest categorical terms to plot this out. There is one poem in this relatively slender volume that is perhaps the apotheosis of this approach to the poem. Like most of Eigner’s works, it has no title other than the date of its composition, “September 24 78”:

hills

    earth

        sky

          night

                  clouds

Five nouns, no waiting. It proceeds from the particular to a more general category – hills are a synecdoche for earth, and one might say further that sky performs the same role for night. But not really. We have shifted from the physical to the temporal. That shift is in fact one of the meanings of the final term clouds. What is the relationship between the observable and these larger categories in our lives? If sky leads us to night (or alternately day), where does clouds take us? What ultimately do clouds mean? Is there a storm brewing or are these the lollipop puffballs of a serene evening? Eigner doesn’t answer that question.

It’s not unreasonable for a person unfamiliar with Eigner’s work to counter, when they hear a reading like the one above, that I’m getting an awful lot from five of the blandest words in the English language. To which really the only answer would appear to be that if you read all of Eigner, all two or three thousand poems that have appeared in books & journals, that he would type into his letters (or, worse, write with the faintest of pencils – his penmanship was worse than his speech, and for the same reasons), you’d realize that this text above can’t really be read any other way. Eigner’s economy of vocabulary and means may have once been prompted by the physical challenges of his palsy, but I think he must have understood almost at once the limitless power of brevity. He is, as a result, the most exacting of poets – if a word is two spaces to the right, there is a reason for it. Nothing is casual here, even for a poem that can be read in fewer than five seconds.

This also accounts for the sometimes strangely torqued grammar that, for example, can be found in this book’s title. I’ve always thought of this as what Eigner learned from Charles Olson in much the same way that his conciseness owes a debt to Robert Creeley. The key term in that sequence is in fact its last: on. Readiness enough depends on. What is that state of dependency, of contextuality, that lurks in this preposition? It’s as tho these maximally taut first three terms were driving through that last one – it’s no accident that the syllable count here moves steadily downward: three, two, two, one.

I was surprised to discover that Larry wrote just six poems in the nine months after I moved to Pennsylvania, that he himself seemed to understand that his life’s project had completed. The final poem is a single line:

nice   and how many times

Written on November 17, it’s one of the rare ones with a title, “Might Gertrude Stein Lie Open to Criticism?” to which the poem sounds like a joke response until you start to allow all the possible meanings of nice to filter in, that extra space between it and the four remaining words all the punctuation in the world. To this Eigner appended a note which editor Robert Grenier proves wise enough to leave in: I guess this is / what I had, though / now, dec. 9, it / seems to be. This is indeed what Larry Eigner had at the end of a long and fruitful life. As you permit all the possible connotations from that last phrase – it / seems to be – rise up & drift away, you realize just how very much that was.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

 

3:10 to Yuma has gotten some rave reviews – four stars from Roger Ebert for example – and there is no doubt that it’s a good movie with what may be the best acting Russell Crowe has ever done. But just as that latter detail isn’t necessarily great praise in itself, much of the positive reaction this film has garnered to date (this morning, viewers were ranking it among the 150 best films ever made over at IMDB) has, I fear, been tainted somewhat by its context as the first sorta serious “big” film to arrive in theaters after a particularly barren summer. Once the kiddy action blockbuster flicks that kick off each summer season were out, there was frankly not much to watch. Often the later weeks of the summer are filled with “problematic” movies, jinxed Hollywood projects that the marketing department can’t figure out how to pitch properly, like The Brothers Grimm, or Hellboy or The Illusionist, which often turn out to be among the most enjoyable films of the year. This year it was The Simpson Movie or bust. So Christian Bale without a mask & Russell Crowe quoting from The Bible as he shoots his way around Arizona seems like quite a relief. I sympathize completely.

But 3:10 to Yuma has some gaping howlers in it that left me as a viewer gasping at just how much disbelief was I was being asked to suspend. The first of these comes when Peter Fonda, playing a wizened old bounty hunter in the employ of the Pinkerton Agency, is shot in the stomach & has the bullet removed by the local vet in an operation that looks up close – and this is the sort of film that likes to show you the up-close stuff – more like a disemboweling, but is riding blithely away the very next day with the guard that is taking outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) off to be put on the mail car of the train to Yuma, since that car has a jail cell conveniently situated therein for the transport of felons.

It’s been too many decades since I saw the original version of this film, with Glenn Ford of all people in the Russell Crowe role and Van Heflin as the crippled civil war vet who is desperate enough to agree to take this murderer to the train that is supposed to send him off to his trial & subsequent hanging. The late Halsted Welles, who adapted Elmore Leonard’s short story for the 1957 film, is listed here as a screenwriter as well and surely some of the dialogue that is too corny for words, such as the son’s speech to his dad in the final scene, must have carried over from 1957’s idea of positive family values. These are lines that would have made more sense in The Simpson Movie, where Bart’s contentious relationship with his father would given such silliness an ironic edge. Here it’s like watching a sound crane loom suddenly at the top of the screen – an element of the film-making intruding into the narrative, but without any of the flair of a Brechtian gesture. There is an almost identical moment earlier in the film in which the father addresses Doc after the veterinarian saves them by causing a railroad tunnel to cave in. It makes you wonder just what the hell director James Mangold (Walk the Line; Girl, Interrupted) could have been thinking.

We have a ritual in our family whenever such nonsense appears on screen. When they were younger, my kids would want to know why this Pinkerton, who should have died from blood loss before he ever got to the vet, or from septic shock once he got there, is sassing Ben Wade as they ride through the postcard perfect desert landscape. “How did he live, Pa?” they would ask. “Narrative,” would be my response. “With narrative anything is possible.” For example, a one-legged man might outrun bullets while running, jumping & all but somersaulting over rooftops even as he returns gunfire. You bet.

It’s one thing for such “miracles” to occur in a film involving wizardry & muggles, quite another in a historical drama. When I was a lad of about ten, my favorite TV show was Rin Tin Tin, about a German shepherd in the old west, an odd enough choice for a boy terrified of dogs. Set in a fort somewhere in the last half of the 19th century, each show involved some problem with Indians or rustlers that the dog invariably solved. Rinty, as everyone called him, was more than just the “run and get help” type pup that made Lassie seem ever so wimpy – he could go into K-9 force mode and knock baddies off their horses. But it was disconcerting to watch the action while, in the background, a jetliner clearly traversed the 19th century sky, which happened more than once.

Almost Brechtian in its own challenge to the viewer, Roy Rogers, another one of my childhood TV favorites, set half of its episodes in the 19th century, and half in the present. Sometimes the only way you could tell was that Roy’s sidekick Pat Brady had his jeep. At least both versions ended with the patented harmony of Roy & his wife Dale Evans singing “Happy Trails to You,” a song that can still make me melt.

3:10 to Yuma doesn’t have any airliners or jeeps that I discerned, but it does use language that comes across as distinctly present day – “I’ll go check us in” says the railroad man to the rest of the posse, referring to the hotel where they plan to hole up until the train gets to town. Similarly, Ben Wade is smarter, more literate & thoughtful than any of the other characters in the film. Between drawing sketches of everything he likes – birds, a naked lady, his primary captor – and citing the good book chapter & verse, he sometimes seems like Peter Falk in the film Wings of Desire. Except that Wade kills maybe 30 people over the course of the film.

Wade’s character is crucial to the story, which calls on him to make some surprising choices, more in line with Inspector Renault at the airport in Casablanca. Crowe, as I said, does a generally credible job – he’s far more appropriate to the role than either Glenn Ford, who played Wade in ’57, or Tom Cruise, who was originally signed for the part this time around – breaking character only once when singing in a manner that suddenly reminds you that this is the lead singer for 30 Odd Foot of Grunts gone into folk ballad mode, sounding more like Ian Tyson than Gabby Hayes. Crowe must have stayed in character for the whole shebang since the closing credits list several people as Ben Wade’s Stand-In, Ben Wade’s Driver, Ben Wade’s Personal Assistant. Hey, at least he doesn’t have the Australian accent.

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