Saturday, November 03, 2007

 

Dear Mr. Silliman:

You recently posted as having received The noulipian Analects, noting "author unknown." For 411 purposes, The noulipian Analects is a collection of contemporary constraint-based writing and writing about constraint-based writing – the publishers' synopsis:

The noulipian Analects is an alphabetical survey of constrained writing in modern English. The book gathers critical and creative pieces from some of the most prominent and influential writers using constraint and generative procedures – Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök, Johanna Drucker, Paul Fournel, Jen Hofer, Tan Lin, Bernadette Mayer, Ian Monk, Joseph Mosconi, Harryette Mullen, Doug Nufer, Vanessa Place, Janet Sarbanes, Juliana Spahr, Brian Kim Stefans, Rodrigo Toscano, Matias Viegener, Christine Wertheim, Rob Wittig, Stephanie Young – adding the unknown variable n to the great legacy of Oulipo. The result: an excellent mix of introductory notes for those new to constraint-based writing, blended with in-depth exposition and critique for those already avid readers and writers.

or, as Charles Bernstein's blurb says:

An Alpha Bestiary of Exogenously Exotic Essays and Dazzlingly Delectable Design, Complexly Charismatic Constraints and Occasional Oulipian Outrages, Thoughtful Theoretical Threads and Ludicrously Ludic Limits, Gutsy Gender Gaiety and Dantesque destinies Detourned, Quixotic Queneau Quests and Cocky Combinatorial Collisions, Real Rubber Roses & Radiantly Removed R’s…What We Wanton Woeful Whimsical Wanderers Willingly Want. – Charles Bernstein

Thank you for your attention,
Vanessa Place

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Friday, November 02, 2007

 

If Polis is This: Charles Olson and The Persistence of Place isn’t the best motion picture ever made about an American poet – a claim attributed to Bill Corbett on the film’s website – it’s mostly because What Happened to Kerouac? the 1986 documentary made by Richard Lerner & Lewis Mac Adams (with major post-production editorial work from co-producer Nathaniel Dorsky) set the bar so very high. But perhaps because Kerouac in death as in life has long been an icon in the American popular imagination, while Olson remains primarily of interest to other poets, the task of these two films is fundamentally different.

In fact, one of the best sequences in Polis comes early on with the filmmaker wandering around Gloucester, Massachusetts, asking the locals what they recall of Olson, who died, mind you, more than three decades before. A surprising number remember “the big guy,” a reasonable way to characterize a poet 6’8” tall – one of them is able to cite the passage where he and his buddies can be found in Maximus. This film is full of such small, fine touches, while offering a narrative of Olson’s life and an exposition of his main ideas, particularly his appropriation of Robert Creeley’s “form is never more than an extension of content” (explained here by Creeley himself with assistance from NFL film footage!). Another absolutely amazing moment is Pete Seeger’s explanation of how Charles Olson caused Woody Guthrie to write Bound for Glory. That by itself is worth the price of admission.

Most of the limits of the film are the consequence of attempting to pack so much into a one-hour time slot. Polis hardly touches the last decade of Olson’s life – particularly odd given his status as a late-starter & his death at 59 – which also means that the question of alcohol is never addressed. Nor the ways in which the death of his wife Betty in an auto accident in 1964 set him emotionally adrift. And there are themes within his work, places literally, that the film could have detailed far better for the reader who has not (yet) wandered the streets of Gloucester with Maximus as their map. The Cut, for one, Dogtown for another. Dogtown once was a town itself, an alternate Gloucester that sprang up before residents understood just how dependent on the proximity of the sea the community would become. As people moved east to the shore, the houses left behind were given to the inevitable widows left by shipwrecks, etc. Finally the neighborhood was abandoned & reverted to the brambles of “open space,” tho you can still find the foundations of the old houses there. It’s so overgrown today that visitors are warned to take compasses and let friends know they’ve gone in. To be “from Dogtown,” like Olson’s alter ego, is to be from the wild, abandoned, tragic past. This is not Russell Crowe’s Maximus, but the Creature from the Black Lagoon as oversized, absent-minded professor. If this be persona, it is the most complex, fascinating example of such in American literature.

Perhaps the film’s main weakness, tho, is one that it shares with What Happened to Kerouac? The scarcity of women & women’s voices. There are just a handful, notably Susan Thackery, Anne Waldman & Diane DiPrima. The most glaring omission turns out to be Frances Boldereff, Olson’s mistress during the period in which he formulated “Projective Verse” and Maximus both. Even if it’s overblown to set Boldereff up as Olson’s muse, the “secret sauce” that makes possible these epoch-changing projects, her impact was nonetheless profound. Her absence, even if it was a condition of the family’s cooperation, doesn’t serve Olson well.

But the larger problem isn’t so much the erasure of Boldereff – whose existence wasn’t widely known even to Olson’s friends at the time – as it is the whole question of the New American Poetry’s way of relating to women. The Allen anthology includes just four females among its 44 contributors: Denise Levertov, Barbara Guest, Madeline Gleason and Helen Adam. Only Levertov, who died in 1997, would have made sense in the context of this film, tho she never was a student at Black Mountain and largely abandoned her New American roots after 1970. (Three of the four, it’s worth noting, were personal friends of Robert Duncan’s, who did teach briefly at the North Carolina college, but whose relationship to women as a gay male differed from Olson’s machismo.) One wonders if future conferences & panels concerning male New American poets generally won’t end up having the same unspoken requirement that conferences do today regarding Ezra Pound’s politics, where either a panel or, at the least, a speaker is compelled to address the problems of fascism & anti-semitism. We may just need an extended series of “Olson & Women,” “Creeley & Women,” “O’Hara & Women,” “Blackburn & Women,” “Duncan & Women,” "Eigner & Women," “Baraka & Women” events.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

 

Perfection & Ed Baker

§

Post-avant women

Plus
talking with
Cynthia Hogue
& Elizabeth Frost

§

Adrienne Rich
reading
in
Chile

§

30 years of
Anglo-Québec
poetry

§

Orhan Pamuk:
Evoking the Other
is a
political act

§

A review of
Grand Piano 3

§

A poetry of muscle

§

Reading
Eric Mottram
on Robert Duncan

§

Robert Hass,
time traveler

§

Fear & loathing
& the
Poet Laureate
(No, not that one)

§

Bush poets
(No, not that Bush)

§

Curtis Faville
on
Aram Saroyan &
Robert Grenier

§

Belles with Balls” –
Niama Leslie Williams
interviewed by
Tuck Self

§

Forrest Gander
on
John Ashbery

§

Jon Anderson
has died

§

Fup,
the dean of bookstore cats,
has died

§

Talking with
Bob Arnold

§

Rumi’s
ambiguous legacy
in the west

§

Talking with
Shanxing Wang

§

Mark Strand,
alone at 73,
starting over

§

On Gael Turnbull’s
Collected Poems

§

Another poet
back from Iraq

§

Jennifer Moxley
on
John Wieners
& Arthur Rimbaud

Plus John Temple
on Wieners

§

The persistence of
the printed page

§

The Atlantic
at 150 –
the senility
is complete

§

Save a magazine:
reverse
the postal rate hikes!

§

On Ted Berrigan’s
Collected Poems

§

Cut-Up
Poetry Scrabble

§

Saving a bookstore
in Park Slope,
Brooklyn

§

Congressman Braley
opens
Pandora’s Box

§

A European
bookstore blog

§

Pissed-Off Zombies” –
Linh Dinh
on the state of the nation

§

Another poet
who died too young

§

Zuckerman’s
(Roth’s)
aesthetic:
George Plimpton
as literary giant

§

A piece
on the letters
of Ted Hughes

with links
to large excerpts

§

More on
poetry & cricket

§

A.E. Stallings
here in
Chester County

§

P.B. Shelley,
the poet as stud

§

Performa 07
is under way!

§

Banksy in action

§

Schwabsky
on
Picabia

§

Schjeldahl
on
Frida Kahlo

§

The “newPrado

§

Evaluating
Philip Glass

§

Aesthetics
&
information

§

Special thanks
to John Tranter
& Pam Brown
for making
Jacket
the best zine
on the web

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

 

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Jennifer Bartlett, Derivative of the Moving Image, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque 2007

Hugh Behm-Steinberg, Shy Green Fields, No Tell Books, Reston, VA 2007

Peter Ciccariello, Uncommon Vision, foreword by Geof Huth, no press listed, Providence, RI, 2007

Jordan Davis, When I was the Subject, Subpoetics Self-Publish or Perish, no location given, 2007

Michel Devrient, Martini with a Splash of Dawn, translated by Robin Magown, Fras, Blair Atholl, Perthshire UK, 2004

Richard Froude, The Margaret Thatcher Trilogy, Catfish Press, Brevard, NC 2007

Michael Kelleher, Human Scale, BlazeVOX, Buffalo 2007

Matthew Langley, Letters Toward Jim, Catfish Press, Brevard, NC 2007

Robin Magowan, 100 Sentences Written on Fans, translated from the French of Paul Claudel in parallel text, Fras, Blair Atholl, Perthshire UK, 2004

Robin Magowan, At the Open Window Autumn, Feral Press, Oyster Bay, NY 2005

Robin Magowan, Rim of Dawn, Pasdeloup Press, Stratford, Ontario 2005

Ryan Murphy, Down with the Ship, Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, Los Angeles 2006

Ryan Murphy, Poems for the American Revolution, Dutchess County Department of Occupational Training, no location given 2006

Laurel Snyder, The Myth of the Simple Machines, No Tell Books, Reston, VA 2007

Kevin Varrone, g-point almanac : id est (9.22-12.21), Instance Press, Boulder, Co 2007

Nico Vassilakis, Text Loses Time, ManyPenny Press, Moscow, ID 2007

 

Books (Other)

Clayton Eshleman, Archaic Design, Black Widow Press, Boston 2007

 

Journals

American Poet: The Journal of the Academy of American Poets, vol. 33, Fall 2007, New York. Includes Janet Holmes on Louis Zukofsky, Wendell Berry on Hayden Carruth, John Yau on Judson Evans, Nick Flynn on Sasha West, Marvin Bell, Charles Bukowski, Zbigniew Herbert, Cathy Park Hong, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Donald Revell, Kevin Young, Anne Sexton, more.

Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art, vol. 36, no. 2, Fall 2007, Fairfax, VA. Includes Jonathan Lethem, Carl Philips, Martin Corless-Smith, Julie Wade, more.

Poems Against War: A Journal of Poetry And Action, vol. 6, 2007, Shelbyville, KY. Music & Heroes, includes Antler, Grace Cavalieri, Medina Krause, Dike Okoro, Mary Riley, Gregg Mosson, more.

President’s Choice, no. 1, no location given, 2007. Includes Marie Buck, Rodrigo Toscano, Craig Dworkin, Laura Elrick, Bhanu Kapil, Paper Rad, Robert Fitterman

Rampike, vol. 14, no. 1, 2005, Toronto. 25th Anniversary Issue (Part 1), includes Nichole Brossard, Richard Truhar, Frank Davey, bill bissett, Karen Mac Cormack, Steve McCaffery, Susan Holbrook, Tom Dilworth, Lina Vitkauskas, more.

Rampike, vol. 14, no. 2, 2006, Toronto. 25th Anniversary Issue (Part 2), includes Joyce Carol Oates, Roy Miki Di Brandt, Doug Barbour, Sheila Murphy, Christopher Dewdney, rob McLennan, more.

Rampike, vol. 15, no. 1, 2006-2007, Windsor, Ontario. Frank Davey Issue, includes Davey, Paul Hegedus, Penn Kemp, Louis Cabri, Nicole Markotic, Sara Bonet, George Bowering, Charles Bernstein, Joyce Carol Oates, Darren Wershler-Henry, rob McLennan, more.

Rampike, vol. 15, no. 2, 2007, Windsor, Ontario. Includes Paul Hegedus, Stuart Ross, Paul Hegedus, Eugene McNamara, Kim Goldberg, Karen Herzog, Susan Holbrook, Omaha Rising, Mark Dunn, more.

Wayne Literary Review, Winter 2006, Detroit. Includes Ben Ness, Louis E. Bourgeois, Abbas Bazzi, Sandra Tolbert, Elizabeth Latty, Frances R, Dee LeRoy, Mary Byrnes, Joel Levise, more.

 

Broadside

Rae Armantrout, Hey, Visiting Poets Broadside Series, vol. 3, no. 1, 15th Room Press of Kelly Writers House for Common Press, Philadelphia 2007, edition of 50.

 

Still more books received since September 21

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

 

Jordan Davis and Chris Edgar know the secret of editing a magazine that is ordered alphabetically. It helps to get work either from a Rae Armantrout – as they have done with the seventh issue of The Hat – a John Ashbery (who led off its fourth number), an Anselm Berrigan (issue number two). It’s those little touches – like knowing how best to title an untitled poem on the page – that shows their experience & intelligence. The result is a journal that is always worth reading. Still, I came away with questions after reading the current issue that made me wonder just where both poetry and the institution of the magazine might be headed.

I don’t think there is any publication more dedicated to the work it presents than The Hat. Like most if not all strengths in life, this is also its weakness. It’s not simply that there is no embellishment, no art work, no commentary, no contributors’ notes, a minimalist design that stretches from the cover to the idea of having only author’s names in a san seraph that contrasts with the roman type of these texts on the white, white page. Even to the alphabetical ordering, The Hat lets you know in every way possible that it is precisely – and only – a repository for texts. Each issue is a small archive. Tho, oddly perhaps, the journal’s website fails to pick up on this, simply replicating the minimalism of the print edition, listing names without actually posting work. This raises the question: would this work better online? Wouldn’t these poets even ultimately become more accessible if this were online? The first five issues would appear to be out of print & hence out of sight. Is this a way of distributing the work, or of limiting distribution? I think you can make a good argument in either direction.

Because of its deliberate plainness, the almost Mennonite severity of its approach, it can be hard to discern the very active editorial intelligence that is at play here. When you have 64 contributors with 99 poems and one story (or is it 98 and two if we place Anne Boyer’s prose suite on the side of narrativity, if not fiction as such?) dividing 152 pages, point of view can difficult to convey – that’s partly what is wrong with most campus literary magazines. Here The Hat excels – it offers work that mostly falls in such a distinct range that its personality as a publication is almost instantly apparent. If you like the writing of the folks whose poetry you already know – Armantrout, Jim Behrle, Aaron Belz, Anne Boyer, Jesse Crockett, Vincent Katz, Wayne Koestenbaum, Reb Livingston, Rachel Loden, Catherine Meng, Andrew Mister, Charles North, Ken Rumble, Gary Sullivan, Chris Vitiello – you are very apt to like the writing of the people who are completely new to you. Thus Jason Koo turns out to have one of the most exciting pieces in the entire issue, tho it’s remarkable just how close Koo’s recounting of lost loves feels, in practice, to Gary Sullivan’s broad satire of a help desk call center for poets or to Rev Livingston's more collage like list of “What There Wasn’t Time to Mention.” Since there is no contributor’s note, I can’t tell you anything about Koo that you can’t find out by googling.

Editorially, a project like this turns on three or four decisions: who goes first? is there to be a consistent tone, and if so, what? which contributors get the most space? In general, you might characterize this tone as post-NY school, although there are exceptions like an Armantrout or a Koestenbaum, Rumble or Vitiello who don’t quite fit that picture. Still, the poet who has the most work here is Gary Lenhart so that it is his work, and the long story by Dale Herd, that ultimately define the issue.

Herd is a prose writer who, some 35 years ago, was loosely associated with the poetics of the Bolinas mesa, which brought together Creeley and Bobbie Louise Hawkins with Joanne Kyger, Richard Brautigan, and such NY School exiles as Lewis Mac Adams, Bill Berkson & Tom Clark. Herd’s prose in those days was part of the broader tradition of fiction for poets that Creeley, Hawkins & Brautigan all practiced, along with the likes of Douglas Woolf, Fielding Dawson, Michael Rumaker & Jim Dodge. Herd had three books (Early Morning Wind, Diamonds and Wild Cherries) in eight years, two of them published in Bolinas, the third in Berkeley, and then nothing for over a quarter century. So “The Dream” published here is a real coup – the sort of piece another journal would have put up front, rather than burying between Anne Heide and Claire Hero. It appears to have been written if not very recently, at least well after his early books, and its tone is more straight forward & less stylized than his earlier writing. As narrative, it’s masterfully simple, with not a single wasted move or extra word that I could see.

Lenhart has always been one of the more affable members of the New York School’s third generation and the poems here all fit comfortably into that mode. They are well written, personal and contained. Which may be why they set the tone for so much else in this issue. Imagine, if you will, walking into an art gallery and seeing a show by five dozen or so painters all doing smallish still lifes in the style of Wayne Thiebaud. Thiebaud himself is a wonderful painter, but dozens and dozens of such works with dozens of names attached to them would frankly be exhausting. That’s a little how I felt reading The Hat – poem after poem that I liked but very few that I actually could say I loved. Perhaps just Armantrout’s, Koo’s and a piece by Wayne Koestenbaum. Koestenbaum, the archivist of beatitudes and the Bettie Page of situationism, the Cal Arts of maple syrup & the Beresford of bilge, is somebody whom I’ve been reading for years without getting particularly excited. But “Possessiveness,” his piece here, which lists 29 “X of Y” constructions such as the four I’ve just deployed, strips the poem of everything but figurativity and feels like a bucket of Gatorade in ice dumped over your head after some 80 pages of warm, cozy Other. His two other pieces here are superb as well.

It’s the contrast that Koestenbaum creates, coming as he does deep in the issue, makes me worry about the future of what I think of as post-NY School writing. It very much feels here as tho the tradition, to call it that, is at risk of being conquered by its own domesticity. It reminds me that Davis himself has (or has had) a project called a Million Poems, an idea that has always made me wonder. His own poems are always well-made, but the premise suggests its own problematic – who needs a million well-made poems, regardless of how friendly and bright they might be? It is of course just another way of slicing the Whitman-Zukofsky “the words are my life” longpoem approach to one’s work, but it’s a strategy that privileges containment, discreteness, segmentation. The world wrought small. It seems to me that The Hat comes very close to being an argument for such a poetics, while at the same time revealing precisely what the risks must be.

This is where the personality of the journal, one of its best features, is a weakness – there is no visual poetry here, and no poetry that would suggest anything on the order of a broader aesthetic perspective. You can’t imagine Lyn Hejinian here, nor Barrett Watten, nor Nate Mackey, nor Will Alexander. David Antin would be as much of a shock as Richard Wilbur, Kenny Goldsmith as much as C.D. Wright. In reaching out to other aesthetics that don’t disrupt its tight frame – Armantrout, Herd, Koestenbaum, Rumble, etc. – The Hat ultimately feels timid. Disruption is precisely what it needs.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

 

Rumi
as the object
of cultural struggle

§

A primer on
Afzaladin Khaghani Shervani
& Persian poetry

§

Kurdish poet nominated
for UK Forward award

§

Terror trial poet
compared to Owens

§

Bookstores in Iran
ordered to stop
selling coffee

§

The insider’s outsider

§

Why the NEA
is like Jell-O

§

20 poems by Bill Deemer
(plus new work by
Joanne Kyger)

§

Of Jayne Cortez,
Ornette Coleman
& their son Denardo

§

Passions like Cheap Jewelry

§

Umberto Eco’s
latest essays

§

How to talk about books
you haven’t read

§

Remembering
Richard Hugo

§

The problem of pricing
Canadian books

§

Dan Gerber:
What is your work about?”

§

A conservative look
at the state of poetry

§

Translating Russian poets
into English and Bangla

§

Eliot’s heirs

§

Two new versions
of Dante’s
Paradiso

§

A review of
Dog Medicine

§

A memorial
for
Len Roberts

§

More on
Winona’s
poet laureate

§

Offbeat bookshops
in the
L.A. region

§

Write what you
don’t know

§

From blogger
to publisher

§

Papers from
the Scholarly Publishing Conference

§

A new bookstore chain
hits
New York

§

Profile of a
Malaysian poet

§

A taste of
the Marathi Book Festival

§

Poetry & nation
(& a very strange
idea of nation,
at that)

§

Pinsky on Bridges

§

The sage of Sag Harbor

§

Of Henry Reed
& John Burnside

§

Housman
as correspondent

§

As fawning a review
as I’ve ever read

§

Larry McMurtry
on
Diane Keaton
on
photography

§

Hal Foster on
Baudelaire’s museum today

§

Fisk must sell
stake in O’Keeffe
in order to survive

§

Michigan will continue
to distribute
Pluto Press

§

The ballad of
Gram Parsons

§

“The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide
to Capitalism and Socialism
with a Key to the Scriptures”

§

Nightmare on Broad Street

§

The right-wing
smear machine
in cyberspace

§

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

 

True tales of poetry & surveillance. In 1976, I rode the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART), then just four years old, writing down everything I saw into a single, run-on sentence as I traversed the entire system. Having grown up in the Bay Area, as had my mother & my maternal grandparents, this was to some degree a work about not being to look out a window without seeing through an overlay of personal & oral histories – I can still tell you something about virtually every block in Berkeley west of College, every block in Albany. My grandmother was born roughly kitty corner from the West Oakland BART station, tho that blasted urban ghetto was a different world in the 1890s. Much later, for a sentence that appears in Ketjak2:Caravan of Affect, I replicated the process with MARTA, the Atlanta commuter rail system. There the process was, literally, about seeing what was out the window & about only knowing what appeared on surfaces.

In Detroit on Thursday, Joel Levise, the editor of the Wayne Literature Review and a big bear of a poet not unlike John Sinclair in his day, told me and maybe two dozen others in Barrett Watten’s Poetics Research seminar, of his attempt to replicate this process locally. He boarded whatever the equivalent Detroit transit system is and was into his writing when he noticed that the train was being stopped and passengers on other cars being quickly herded off while transit cops boarded his car and were headed right for him. They wanted to know what he was doing. Writing down everything he saw, he said. “You look suspicious,” one of them added. “You could be writing down how many policemen there are guarding the trains.” I’m writing down that there are two policemen on this car, Joel replied. After further haggling, Joel convinced them that his intentions were literary and not details for the evildoers.



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