Saturday, May 03, 2008
Heather C. Ackerberg, Dwelling, Burning Deck, Providence 2008
Ed Baker, What’s a Phantasy, Red Ochre Press,
Jan Beatty, Red Sugar,
Stephen Berg, Cuckoo’s Blood: Versions of Zen Masters, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend 2008
Edmund Berrigan, Glad Stone Children, Farfalla Press /
Joe Bonomo, Installations, Penguin,
Daniel Borzutzky, Failure in the Imagination, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007
John Crouse & Jim Leftwitch, Acts 4675 to 4689, dbqp, Schenectady 2008
Caroline Dubois, You Are the Business, translated by Cole Swensen, Burning Deck, Providence 2008
Michael Farrell, A Raiders Guide: New Poems, Giramondo,
Joel Felix, Regional Noir, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007
Elisa Gabbert & Kathleen Rooney, That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia 2008
Henry Gould, In RI, translated from the English by Anny Ballardini, no publisher listed, Providence 2008
Stephanie Gray, Heart Stoner Bingo, Straw Gate Books, Philadelphia 2008
Ariana Hamidi, Dear Cyclops, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007
Tom Hibbard, Critique of North American Space, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007
Mitch Highfill, Rebis, Openmouth Press, no location given 2008
Richard Howard, Without Saying, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008
Lester, Be Somebody, channeled by Patrick Herron, Effing Press, Austin 2008
Didi Menendez, When I Said Goodbye, with an introduction by Jack Anders, BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo 2008
Philip Metres, To See the Earth,
W. S. Merwin, The Shadow of Sirius, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008
Stephen Paul Miller, Being With A Bullet, Talisman House, Jersey City 2008
K. Silem Mohammad, Breathalyzer, Edge Books,
Aleš Mustar, C(o)urt Interpretations, translated from the Slovenian by Manja Maksimovič, foreword by Robert Simonišek, Blatt Books, Prague 2008
George Oppen, Discrete Series, Mother / Asphodel,
Danielle Pafunda, My Zorba, Bloof Books, Central New Jersey 2008
G.E. Patterson, To and From, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2008
Chris Pusateri, Anon, BlazeVOX, Buffalo 2008
Matt Rader, Living Things, Nightwood Editions, Gibsons Landing, BC 2008
Mary Ruefle, The Most of It, Wave Books,
Jennifer Scappettone, Err-Residence, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007
Leonard Schwartz, A Message Back and Other Furors, Chax Press, Tucson 2008
Rod Smith, Deed,
Chuck Stebelton, Flags and Banners, Bronze Skull Press, Milwaukee 2007
Gary Sullivan, PPL in a Depot, Roof, New York 2008
Anne Tardos, I Am You, Salt,
Nico Vassilakis, Holefont, dbqp, Schenectady 2008
Alan Wearne, The Australian Popular Songbook, Giramondo, Artarmon Australia 2008
C.D. Wright, Rising, Falling, Hovering, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008
Dennis O’Driscoll, Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008
Jason Shinder, The Poem I Turn To: Actors & Directors Present Poetry That Inspires Them, with an introduction by Billy Collins & afterword by John Lithgow. Sourcebooks,
Lord Berners, Dresden, Turtle
Kreg Hasegawa, The New Crustacean, Green Zone, Brooklyn 2008
Michael Heller, Speaking the Estranged: Essays on the Work of George Oppen, Salt,
Jay Parini, Why Poetry Matters,
Joe Ashby Porter, All Aboard: Stories, Turtle Point Press, New York 2008
James Wright, Wild Perfection: The Selected Letters of James Wright, edited by Anne Wright & Saundra Rose Maley, Wesleyan, Middletown CT 2008
Come Hither: The Winter/Thaw Issue (aka no. 2), Paris & Austin, 2008. Includes Alice Notley, Dale Smith, Jennifer K. Dick, John Beer, Hoa Nguyen, Zack Tuck, Denise Szymczak
Spell, no. 4,
Work, no. 2, no date given, includes K. Silem Mohammad, Jorge Boehringer, CA Conrad & Juliana Spahr
Work, no. 3, Oakland 2008. Includes Demosthenes Agrafiotis (trans. by John & Angeles Sakkis), Jeffrey Schrader, Chuck Stebelton, Rusty Morrison, J.D. Mitchell-Lumsden, Erik King
Karri Kokko, list’n / h’ear, dbqp, Schenectady 2008, one-page book
Just a few more of the items received since January 11
-- to be continued
Labels: Recently Received
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Talking with Geraldine Monk
Charlie Simic out as PLOTUS
Michael Palmer in
Brad Leithauser on Elizabeth Bishop
Travis Nichols on Phil Whalen
Essays on Women’s Experimental Poetries
In the American Tree –
the radio show
a Poets’ Theater Showcase
Talking with Lydia Davis
Robert Sward on Paul Blackburn
Reasons to remember George Oppen
Contrasting Oppen with Taylor Brady & Rob Halpern
Remembering Césaire in Nairobi
Eshleman on Césaire
A profile of Sherko Bekas
Leonard Schwartz talking to Pierre Joris (MP3)
Talking with Yusef Komunyakaa
Larry McMurtry, bookseller
Reading Creeley’s “Morning”
Talking with Paul Siegell
50 best cult books
CS Perez on Bill Knott’s
interpretation of the PSA Williams Award
David McCann on Kim Sowôl
Publishing “a right old mess”
Nothing like a roman a clef to attract reviews
gilding the Lilly
“Form is nothing more than an extension of content”
Nick Piombino on Goodreads
A scene grows in Brooklyn
Another 19th century genre
resuscitated by the NEA
A Mark Doty retrospective
What future for Euro-lit?
How to kill Shakespeare
“the daily miracle”
The lineup for this year’s
Philadelphia Book Festival
What’s become of libraries?
A reading in honor of Rita Riddle
Poetry Out Loud has a winner
A flight without a book
Is one book a week too much to ask?
So has Henry Brant
Knowing the Weather Underground
1968 at the movies
The aesthetics of web video
A short history of shock art
& for next week: head lice
The lure of heresy
Saving modernism’s “mistakes”
The (re)birth of British architecture
Talking about Jerome Robbins
Robert Rauschenberg & the limits of appropriation
Olafur Eliasson on the limits of museums
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Some thoughts looking back on a busy time –
I got to hear live music twice in one week, a rarity at this point in my life. And the two events really do represent the range of what I like: James Fei playing solo sax at the CUE Art Foundation last Friday, then Joe Ely & Joel Guzman at the World Café in Philly on Sunday. Fei I’ve written about here. His solo performance was every bit as magical as the work of his quartet at the Rotunda in Philly earlier in the month. Again his work was the closest thing I’d seen / heard to a cerebral minimalism applied to free jazz. The combination is exhilarating.
Ely, on the other hand, is the Lubbock-raised country / folk / rockabilly veteran who’s a key part of the legendary Flatlanders (alongside Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock), a recurring member of Los Super Seven, & who’s played over the years with such folk as Bruce Springsteen & The Clash. He & accordion-wizard Guzman performed an hour & 45 minutes of mostly up-tempo pieces that included all of the above influences, a touch of mariachi, the requisite Townes Van Zandt song (“
I came away from
Lights” at the New Museum (that strikethrough is part of the title). I have to sit with my reaction to the New Museum itself – I immediately liked the light inside, and the galleries felt appropriately sized, but I’m not at all sure about the wildly fluctuating “maximum occupancy” limitations from floor to floor. Also the fact that an eight-story building only proves capable of having three active galleries suggests that the whizbang architecture will have a long-term impact compromising curatorial impulses.
One show that I found somewhat disappointing, mostly because it was so Spartan, was the exhibition of Joe Brainard’s “Nancy” works (mostly, I think, from the volume If) at Tibor de Nagy, which was crowded into the gallery’s smaller alcove in order to leave the larger one to Ben Aronson’s lumbering & unwatchable urban ‘scapes. This is one of those cases where the book, which the
But the real train wreck was the Whitney & its lingering Biennale, even tho there were works there by people I like such as John Baldessari. Baldessari, who provided the cover for the first edition of my book Tjanting, has many virtues, but when he comes across looking like the master craftsperson in the building, something’s amiss. The theme appears to have been rubble (which would explain why the show includes Spike Lee’s magnificent HBO miniseries on
I missed the Poetry Society of America’s 98th annual awards ceremony earlier last week, due almost entirely to my pneumonia (which hangs on as I write) and its impact on my day job, plus my desire to be at the CUE opening. In addition to Aram Saroyan winning the William Carlos Williams Award, with Roberta Beary & Eileen Myles a finalists, the other winners (and judges) include:
Michael S. Harper, The Frost Medal (presumably given by the PSA board of governors)
Ed Roberson, The Shelley Memorial Award (judged by Lyn Hejinian & C.D. Wright)
Joanie Mackowski, The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award (judged by Donald Revell)
Brian Henry, Cecil Hemley Memorial Award (judged by Norma Cole)
Wayne Miller, Lyric Poetry Award (judged by Elizabeth Macklin)
Christina Pugh, Lucille Medwick Memorial Award (judged by Timothy Donnelly); finalist Sally Ball
Natasha Sajé, Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award (judged by Dean Young); finalists Kevin Prufer & James Richardson
Carey Powers, Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Student Poetry Award (judged by David Roderick); finalists Willa Granger & Philip Sparks
Theresa Sotto, George Bogin Memorial Award (judged by Prageeta Sharma)
Jocelyn Emerson, Robert Winner Memorial Award (judged by Annie Finch); finalists Rachel Conrad & Marsha Pomerantz
Catherine Imbriglio for Parts of the Mass, published by Burning Deck, Norma Farber First Book Award (judged by Thylias Moss); finalist Alena Hairston for The Logan Topographies, published by Persea.
What one notices first, or at least what I notice first, is the diversity. From Annie Finch & Dean Young to myself, C.D Wright, Norma Cole & Prageeta Sharma among the judges – that’s the broadest range I’ve seen for a set of awards. Last year’s judges (Thomas Sayers Ellis, Matthea Harvey, Tony Hoagland, Susan Howe, Michael Palmer, Srikanth Reddy, Eleni Sikelianos, Tracy K. Smith, Rosmarie Waldrop, and Eleanor Wilner) weren’t bad either. Whatever one thinks about awards, or these award winners, the fact that the PSA is making a concerted effort to reach a broader range of what poetry actually is can only be commended.
Which is not to say that it’s perfect. I made a point of recommending a specific work for inclusion in the program for the evening:
What I actually find in the program, which just arrived in the mail, is the following:
a man stands
My original suggestion stresses what is unique about Saroyan’s volume. The poem actually used stresses the ways in which his writing in the 1960s might be seen as continuous with the lyric tradition. Both aspects, as I noted here, are present in Saroyan’s writing. But, especially given the ongoing ghettoization of vispo, which do you think is the more important message?
One final note: readers of this blog clicked on over 5,000 links on Monday, a first.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Laurel Blossom’s Degrees of Latitude is a booklength narrative poem about a woman’s life organized through metaphors of geography, starting with the North Pole & arriving, eight sections later, at the South. It’s smart, funny, well-crafted, thoroughly envisioned and hardly a wannabe novel. Or if it is, then it occupies that strange intermedia space inhabited by Samuel Beckett, Carole Maso, David Markson. In short, very good company.
To call this a narrative poem, as Blossom herself has, fails to acknowledge how uniquely each section builds & focuses dramatic tension, not by getting characters in & out of rooms but through a palimpsest of detail. The narrator, “I,” functions as daughter, as wife, as lover, even as parent, pretty much in that order. The common thread that runs through each relationship, tho, is alcohol. Like the ice-breaker image on the book’s cover, alcohol plows through everything here, a path of devastation that runs from pole to pole.
Looking at how Blossom accomplishes this is worth noting. Here are the opening pages of “The Intemperate Zone,” very possibly the most hopeful in the book:
Hello, I dreamed, and nobody stared. Nobody laughed, thought they all had their clothes on. Margo put her arm around my shoulders, Hi hon. She drew me behind the green counter. She called to one of the others, who brought a uniform; she helped me into the black and white starched cuffs on the pretty white capped sleeves. She tied the apron in a white starched bow. She gave me a pair of white socks and black sneakers. They fit. Then she placed a headband on my black and white hair like a starched crown. It read Happy New Year. She showed me the kitchen. She taught me whiskey down.
I make circles with my pencil (feather duster) in the air.
I don’t know what to do with myself.
I haven’t had a drink in two weeks.
It’s all uphill from here, whispers my dead father in my ear.
Still, I thought everything would be changed.
The first time I stayed up past , the first time I stayed up till dawn, the day I got married.
Ah, but my first drink.
Please, Freddie said when I tried to give up smoking, please have a cigarette.
Raise your arm, says Tolstoy.
You think it’s free will but it’s not. The whole chain of events from the start has led you up to.
Have a drink, said Freddie.
If the earth revolves around the sun, if cogito ergo sum, if reason reasons only with itself, if chance, if no plan, if whatever happens, that’s what it means, if ruled by our subconsciouses, if time equals space, if the world is mostly interstices, if relative, if probably, if we can blow the world to kingdom come, if language grumbles to itself alone.
For my eighteenth birthday, I bought myself a cocktail dress.
Martinis rampant on a navy field, embroidered down the side the heart is on.
I put glow-in-the-dark tape on the ashtray I used when I smoked in bed.
I may be a drunk, I told Freddie, but I’m not stupid.
This is not the language of lyric verse, nor of the particular sort of Quietist confessionalism one might associate, say, with Carolyn Forché or Jane Miller, both of whom blurbed this book. There is a grit to these descriptions & the language is constantly descriptive, not only of actions but of the unnamed narrator, who at no point in this work makes the slightest effort to be likeable. The ample use of white space accentuates the static nature of the writing – trying to write about a person who is, in so many senses of the word, stuck is profoundly risky.
I think this is almost certainly a project you get, and get in its entirety, or simply don’t get at all. I find it completely persuasive. The other risk – this trek through the devastation of what otherwise appears to have been a privileged life – what I think of as the Anne Sexton problem – will perhaps limit its readership even further. There is even a moment of potential incest, not however with the narrator as predator. I have no idea whether any or all of this might have some basis in Blossom’s own life (seen then as a roman a clef, Lionel taken for Leonard, etc.) and frankly don’t care. Blossom clearly knows deeply about what she is writing – the tape on the ashtray is a perfect alcoholic detail, building in all the little buffers to prevent challenging the larger elephant in the room.
Like Roberta Beary’s The Unworn Necklace, Degrees of Latitude is a book I almost certainly never would have come across absent the Poetry Society of America process. I don’t think it’s for everyone – and it surely wasn’t written with language poetry’s audience in mind – but it’s a powerful, intelligent book. Its sadness will stay with you for days.
Labels: Laurel Blossom