Saturday, May 31, 2008

 

I’m glad to read this
if only because it means that
Reginald Shepherd
is alive to have written it

§

Poets on mentorship

§

Campbell McGrath’s Seven Notebooks
skewered for hubris

McGrath & reviewer Bobby Baird
discuss the book & the review

§

Kwame Dawes, blogging
Calabash 2008
from
Jamaica

§

A colloquium on Barbara Guest

§

A celebration of Susan Howe

Kim Minkus on Susan Howe

§

George Garrett
has died

§

Andrew Klobucar on
Rae Armantrout

§

Reading Steve McCaffery

§

Collecting the poems of
Tim Dlugos

§

The poetic economies of performance

§

Readers have their say
in e-publishing debate

§

Henry Gould & Anny Ballardini & Peter Thompson reading
in RI (& in RI)

§

Kenny Goldsmith & uncreative writing

Kenny blogging
the Conceptual Poetry Conference
from
Tucson

§

The 30th anniversary festival
& poetry conference
at Robert Frost’s homestead

§

Harvard Book Store
is up for sale

§

rob mclennan on
Stephen Brockwell & David McGimpsey

§

Ecopoetics

§

This year’s Prague Writer’s Festival
commemorates 1968

§

Who is a regional poet?

§

Clint Burnham on Stuart Ross

§

Woeser hacked

§

Talking with Deborah Kolodji
about science fiction poetry

§

Stephen Collis on Peter Gizzi

& on Roger Farr

Roger Farr on “Poetry and Pedagogy”

§

D.A. Powell
on the pitfalls of translations

§

Why the young hate us

§

Language & sex:
did homo sapiens speciate on the Y chromosome?

§

Birdsong as aggression

§

A linguistic analysis of Hillary’s non-apology

§

A campaign to stop the bill
to “free” works with orphan ©

§

3.13 billion books
sold in the
US last year
(roughly 10 per person),
up 0.9% from 2006

§

David Byrne:
Playing the Building

§

Anish Kapoor in Boston

§

U. Utah Phillips
has passed away

§

Dreaming in stereovision

§

Welcome to modernity!
Hope you survive

§

Monkey see, robot do

§

Kudos to the new How2
which is offering most all of its articles
in both HTML & PDF formats
(really great idea!)

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Friday, May 30, 2008

 

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

 

A few of my correspondents have suggested that I should write a note this month about the events of forty years ago. That I’ve taken this long to get around to it is an index of my ambivalence toward the whole idea. 1968 was, of course, an entire year, perhaps the most tumultuous since the end of World War II. There were major student revolts at Columbia, in Mexico City, Prague & at the Sorbonne. There were two major assassinations. The Democratic Convention in Chicago devolved into a sustained police riot ordained & supported by the city’s obscene mayor Daley, who went so far as to denounce Sen. Abraham Ribicoff as a “kike” on national television when the senator suggested shutting the convention down and reconvening in a city absent the Gestapo. Mind-numbingly, the Republicans nominated the only member of their party whom the Democrats could have beaten, the ever-shifty-eyed Richard Nixon, already a two-time loser, a politician who even then evoked feelings somewhere midway between those now reserved for Dan Quayle & Dick Cheney. Even more mind-numbingly, the Democrats then nominated the only member of their party who could not beat Nixon: Hubert Horatio Humphrey, a man who personified the concept of craven subservience as vice-president to Lyndon Baines Johnson. I cast my ballot that fall for Eldridge Cleaver, running on the Peace & Freedom Party Ticket, a concept he didn’t do much to personify either.

In California, then-governor Reagan tried mightily to get his pal Max Rafferty elected to the Senate, ousting Alan Cranston, a longtime liberal Democrat (and one-time boss of Charles Olson). Reagan’s plan was simple. He wanted to provoke a student revolt at one of the state’s public universities and then show the world that his administration had learned how to cope with such events through the deployment of overwhelming force. The campus he picked was San Francisco State,where I was a sophomore studying writing. The student body had raised funds for a new student union and had hired architect Moishe Safde – then a big deal thanks to his design of the facilities for the recent Montreal Expo. Reagan ensured that the plan for the student union was vetoed. He then moved to rescind the authorization for two of the school’s ethnic studies departments. The students voted to strike in response, but also decided not to go out on strike until late on election day. That way their actions couldn’t benefit Rafferty, who was Reagan’s secretary of education. Very quickly, however, Reagan’s plan to deploy overwhelming force came into play – police chased students on horseback, swinging their billy clubs indiscriminately; hundreds were arrested’; the school president, John Summerskill, a handsome JFK clone, was fired and a faculty member who’d put himself forward as the leader of the anti-student forces, linguist S.I. Hayakawa (he climbed onto a flatbed truck where the students’ sound system was located & tried to wrest the mike away from the speaker – someone grabbed Hayakawa’s signature tam-o-shanter, which made every TV news program in the state – but nobody reported what Hayakawa had done next, which was to bite student leader Ernie Brill) was appointed to replace him. Every teacher I respected was either fired or quit at the end of that term (everyone in the English Department & writing program knew Hayakawa). I had a Chaucer instructor who was carrying a pistol on campus out of fear of the police. And, thanks no doubt to philosopher John Searle’s trips over from UC Berkeley to identify “known Berkeley radicals” inciting these events, somebody opened a CIA file on me, tho I wouldn’t learn about that for a decade.

From my perspective, that was the logical end of a disastrous year. Not one of the student or citizen rebellions had been successful, although in Paris they had come very close (and might have succeeded if it had not been for the betrayal of the Communist Party). The victories had been few. Cranston’s reelection would have been a nit had it not prevented Rafferty from taking office. And, in fact, the Democratic Party had accomplished one thing worth noting. It had forced out a sitting president of its own party because the lies & fabrications he told about an unnecessary war. That was a level of patriotism the Republicans never have approached.

One almost forgets that the year began with the Tet Offensive, an event that destroyed any illusion that the U.S. was winning the war in Vietnam (tho, to accomplish this, the Vietnamese forces were themselves barely able to carry on). Other significant public events, such as the shooting of Andy Warhol by SCUM Manifesto author Valerie Solanis on June 3, barely were able to get attention in all that followed.

In those days, the only access to national news came via radio or television and in Berkeley, TV meant going from wherever you lived to one of the two TV sets they had in the Student Union at UC Berkeley. Night after night we watched the Democratic Convention on NBC, surrounded by hundreds of other students (my wife was attending Berkeley tho I was at State). I don’t think that we bothered to do so, say, for the rebellion at Columbia, and the news from both Mexico & Europe were spotty & heavily biased. For information about those events, you had to turn to The Nation.

In Berkeley, having gone through the Free Speech Movement in 1964-65 & the earliest anti-war activism (the Vietnam Day teach-in was in the fall of 1965), the events at Columbia seemed, to put it mildly, a day late & a dollar short. I remember reading magazines like Time & Life and being startled to see the amount of coverage these Eastern preppy poseurs were getting compared with what we’d gotten three years earlier. Here, for example, was a two-page spread of students who’d taken over the office of Columbia President Grayson Kirk as a centerfold [!!] of Life magazine. That image, which is at the head of this note, featured none other than student poet David Shapiro sitting at Kirks’s desk helping himself to a cigar. With all that hair, that great mustache amp; the dark glasses, Shapiro might as well have been a movie star. I already knew him to be a concert violinist and somebody already having books published by trade publishers – how was it conceivable that somebody could be that talented, good-looking & successful that young? I’m sure that I wasn’t the only young poet that year riven with envy.

I’d spent the first part of the year working for the US post office in San Francisco and had just come back from a reading in the City when I learned that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. I hadn’t been a Kennedy supporter – I’d voted that morning for Eugene McCarthy, in fact, who’d been the person who’d forced LBJ off the ticket. I thought of Kennedy as a crass opportunist, jumping in because he thought he could pull enough votes from progressives and enough from establishment Democrats to gain the nomination. Like the King assassination just two months & two days earlier, it was an event I experienced entirely through radio, feeling very distant & alienated both by the news and how very far away it all felt.

In retrospect, one of the largest lessons of 1968 was that the problems of globalization can be devastating. With rebellions going on more or less simultaneously from Saigon to Paris to Mexico City, as well as within the United States, there was no means for representatives of these different movements to even communicate with one another, let alone offer anything more than moral support. Certainly there was no global Communist menace here. With the possible exception of funds for the Vietnamese, the actually existing Communist Party directed out of Moscow was completely useless everywhere, and actively on the wrong side in both France & Czechoslovakia. That Communists were rebelling in Mexico City & were being rebelled against in Prague was one of the great contradictions of that year. It was a level of incoherence on the Left that it could not overcome. And it meant that almost every member of my generation would be left with a deep distaste & distrust of our local CP. When the CP USA decided not that long afterwards to “give itself” to the direction of California philosophy professor, Angela Davis, a protégé of Herbert Marcuse, the real problem was that there wasn’t anything left to give. From my perspective, what is most tragic about 1968 is not the failures nor even the needless deaths, but that the Left then proceeded to splinter into a million more segments as the self-enclosing bantustans of the identity movement came into play. More than anything, that is what has condemned my generation to decades of malicious, malevolent, dishonest regimes in Washington.

Within the Democratic Party, the what-ifs are almost endless. What if Robert Kennedy had decided to support Eugene McCarthy, which would have been the principled thing to have done? Or what if Kennedy had lived & gone on to have gotten the nomination, a completely plausible scenario? The Democrats are only now really beginning to recover from the disaster brought on by his assassination. The Obama campaign is really the first I’ve ever seen that hasn’t been predicated on the fault lines cemented within the party by the cataclysm of 1968. Yet even that campaign carries its echoes, as Sen. Clinton’s words of last week have been a painful reminder. That’s why the counter-campaign of Hillary Clinton feels so very tragic. She certainly knew that the nomination would come down eventually to herself versus somebody who would be the “anti-Clinton” candidate. But she presumed that it would be a white male who had likewise voted in support of the war in Iraq – a Chris Dodd or John Edwards. Against any white male who supported the war, Clinton has no trouble winning. The most visible national Democrat who had opposed the war from day one, Russell Feingold, had already announced the year before that he would not run. But Obama completely blind-sided her. Now she must eventually realize that she lost this campaign the day she voted to support the war in Iraq.

Ж

I’m going to be getting fiber-optic cabling for the internet sometime in the next few days. If I should disappear, it just means that things are not going smoothly. Never fear – I shall return.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

 

 

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Pamela Alexander, Slow Fire, Ausable Press, Keene, NY 2007

Jim Barnes, Visiting Picasso, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago 2007

Bruce Beasley, The Corpse Flower: New and Selected Poems, University of Washington Press, Seattle & London 2007

Ken Belford, Seens, off-set house, Prince George, BC 2007 (no. 30 of 50 copies)

Maxianne Berger, Dismantled Secrets, Wolsak and Wynn, Toronto 2008

Stephen Bluestone, The Flagrant Dead, Mercer University Press, Macon, GA 2007

Coral Bracho, Firefly Under the Tongue, translated with an introduction by Forrest Gander, New Directions, New York 2008

Domenico Capilongo, I Thought Elvis Was Italian, Wolsak and Wynn, Toronto 2008

Catherine Daly, Chanteuse / Cantatrice, Factory School, Brooklyn NY 2007

Gregory Djanikian, So I Will Till the Ground, Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh 2007

Emily Galvin, Do the Math: Forms, Tupelo Press, Dorset VT 2008

Margaret Gibson, One Body, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 2007

Anselm Hollo, Guests of Space, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis 2007

Tung-Hui Hu, Mine, Ausable Press, Keene, NY 2007

Brenda Iijima, Animate / Inanimate Aims, Litmus Press, Brooklyn 2007

Zoë Landale, Once a Murderer, Wolsak and Wynn, Toronto 2008

Cate Marvin, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, Sarabande Books, Louisville 2007

Stanley Noyes, Alles Kaputt: Poems of World War II, Timberline Press, Fulton, MO 2007

Judith Rechter, Wild West, Raw Art Press, Pittsburg, CA 2007

Christine Redman-Waldeyer, Frame by Frame, Muse-Pie Press, Passaic NJ 2007

Matthew Rohrer, Rise Up, Wave Books, Seattle & New York 2007

Kyle Schlesinger, The Pink, Kenning Editions, Chicago 2008

Prageeta Sharma, Infamous Landscapes, Fence Books, Albany, NY 2007

Tracy K. Smith, Duende, Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, MN 2007

Rawdon Tomlinson, Geronimo After Kas-ki-yeh, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 2007

Paul Violi, Overnight, Hanging Loose Press, Brooklyn 2007

 

Books (Other)

Charles Bernstein & Ben Yarmolinsky, Blind Witness: Three American Operas, Factory School, Quuens 2008

Aaron Shurin, King of Shadows, City Lights, San Francisco 2008

 

Journals

if p then q, spring 2008, Manchester, UK, 2008. Includes Tom Jenks, Tony Trehy, Ceri Buck, Andrew Shelley, James Davies. Unbound pages (A4 paper) in an envelope, with a CD containing readings by Buck & Jenks.

 

Other Media & Formats

David Buuck, Paranoia Agent, OMG press, no date or location limited, but 2007, no. 99 of 100, small chapbook with paper (rather than stock) cover inside a baggie.

George Oppen, The Poem, broadside, no publisher listed, Buffalo 2008, “Printed for George Oppen: A Centenary Conversation (Buffalo, NY: 4.23.08 – 4.25.08)

George Oppen: A Centenary Conversation (three-panel “book style” brochure listing speakers with a three-panel zigzag insert listing schedule, the former glossy, the latter matte finish), Poetics Program, SUNY Buffalo 2008

Dana Ward, For Paris in Prison, OMG press, no date or location limited, but 2007, no. 35 of 100, image by Matthew Hughes Boyko, 2-page poem saddle stapled into miniature booklet inside a baggie. (Website indicates the book is sold out.)

 

Still catching up on all items received
since January 11.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

 

Christian Hawkey’s verse is very fast & very smart & never very direct. Here is “Unwritten Poems” from Citizen Of, published by Wave Books. It is, I think, the most conventional poem in the book.

One was tied to a fence post, bawling.
Another was little more than a smudge
left behind by a forehead resting
on a pane of glass. A third
was traumatized, during childhood,
by a water pick, while another formed
a deepening fetish for the rudders
of submarines. One had a bloodshot eye,
one eyelash left, while another poem
was a cell phone, hurled into a toilet.
One poem was arrested for excessive
public prayer; another,
excessive pubic hair. One
fell in love with the word “prong.”
One was a necklace of living bees.
One moved like a grasshopper
trying to outrun a lawnmower.
Another bushwhacked in the nerve-factory.
One spent the entire poem holding,
out of boredom, a socket wrench
up to its eye socket, while another
argued vision is a kind of invisible
suction action. This particular poem was unable
to pull its eyes away from the TV.
This poem a round, golf-ball-sized hole
in the back of its head.
This poem the light
shining, when it sleeps face down, from that hole.

By conventional, I mean that it reminds me quite a bit of the contemporary post-surreal poetics that lately have come out of Europe (think Tomaž Šalamun), and to a lesser degree some of the American poetry that has taken that for its inspiration. But where most American versions of post-surrealism tend to follow the dumbing down School of Quietude principle of one poem = one idea, precisely what makes soft surrealism soft if not positively limpid, Hawkey is jumping around all over the place, and does so with a specificity of observation that makes you root for him even when he slides into the too-easy half-rhyme of public prayer / pubic hair. In this regard, Hawkey reminds me of nobody else so much as Frank O’Hara, a poetics of ADHD turning constant movement into a perpetual dance of the mind. I know from the very second sentence – a terrific moment of observation – that I want this poem to work, to win me over, to keep me enthralled to the very end. If I waver after the prayer / hair passage, I’m roped right back in with “prong” – and the truth is I never waver much in the first place because I’m so happy to see him using a semi-colon, that rapidly disappearing gem of punctuation.

And that, to my mind, is the weakest poem in this extraordinary book. Here is something more typical, entitled “Hour”:

My chest is a kind of topsoil
it always slips off in the rain
it has drawers for every insect
I tuck my head into my sternum
a rapid beak nibbling is the
most efficient form of preening
there are glands in my cheeks
I know nothing of how they work
although I am drawn to rubbing them
against the tips of car antennae
fence posts the end of a big toe
often I bite the skin of my arm
and let go the indent is a circle
of books my skin a shelf
submerged in the air it marks
the border of an island
how happy for the land to have an eye
a string of islands is a beautiful sight
the ocean uses them to spy on us
this puddle just winked at me
Donald doesn’t like me anymore
his chest is in my teeth
he reads me to sleep at night when
the wind floats the house out
from under my skin into the stars
eating so many holes
in the island the sky the weather
a sweater falling apart in my hands

Here the shifts are faster, even as the text continues schema – biting, the body, islands – through many of these changes. As with “Unwritten Poems,” the test is one of specificity & accuracy of observation, whether comic (“my head into my sternum”) or strictly observational (“this puddle just winked at me”), tho it is interesting to see how the focus now moves in both directions, to the nuances of a phrase, and outward toward larger schematic terrain (e.g. chests, of which there is more than one). The poem comes to a terrific conclusion because of the near-rhyme of weather / sweater in the last two lines (extending the t to a th is a move of considerable elegance), the image itself mocking the text of the poem.

At its simplest, a book like Citizen Of can be read as a kind of Tigger poetics (flouncy, bouncy, fun fun fun), and so long as you’re not somebody incapable of reading poetry that doesn’t adhere to the social realism of an Auggie Kleinzhaler or Ted Kooser, this book is one delight upon another. One thing that Citizen Of does that works quite well is to go long, ever so slightly, coming in at 126 numbered pages, 140 if you take front matter & signatures into consideration. One doesn’t quite recognize just how much poetry is equivalent to the idea of “small book.” Of the nine terrific volumes from the William Carlos Williams contest that I haven’t yet reviewed (Citizen Of being the tenth that I have), seven are under 100 pages, and that’s pretty typical even for an award that explicitly excludes chapbooks. (Maybe it’s not coincidental that I gave the award to a volume that was 284 pages long, tho there were others just as long that were total cringers.) Citizen Of is quite aware that it conveys a vision, even if it is, if not daft exactly, very playful indeed, especially in harrowing times. As a result, I know that I’m going to be reading everything Christian Hawkey writes.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

 

Ezra Pound’s birthplace
is open to the public

§

POGsound
puts MP3s of
nearly three dozen readings
online

§

Paul Zukofsky on
”4 Other Countries”

§

Didi Menendez
on Belinda Subraman Presents

§

Geoffrey Gatza
on the Joe Milford Poetry Show

§

The state of British poetry

§

Nobuo Ayukawa’s American and Other Poems

§

Salman Rushdie now

Joyce Carol Oates on Rushdie’s new novel

§

Charles Bernstein’s Girly Man

§

Chinua Achebe
& the Great African Novel

§

What if Bob Cobbing
had been the British poet laureate?

§

Queen urged to appoint a woman

§

If poets are jackals…”

§

Poetry & political murders

§

David Antin will be pleased to learn
that he has become a language poet,
so says this conference in France

§

Jeff Harrison & Allen Bramhall
have been interviewing one another
for nearly three years

§

Maggie O’Sullivan
reading her text “Windows”
with help from Charles Bernstein

§

Zadie Smith on George Eliot

§

Anne Boyer & flarf

§

women are few among poets in every country”

§

Russia’s “Poet” award goes to
Timur Kibirov

§

Quintessential rebel wins establishment prize

§

A profile of John Burnside
(a long ways from
Scotland)

§

Re-imperializing American lit

§

Rimbaud’s new work

§

Kevin McFadden’s Hardscrabble

§

Coming to Chicago, June 1:
The Modernist Poet as Jew

§

Talking with Jason Camlot, David McGimpsey & Stuart Ross

§

The ethical problems of criticism

§

Will criticism as gate-keeping survive?

§

The library in the new age

§

Historic library’s collection
at risk after fire

§

In Canada, the danger is flooding

§

Microsoft shuts down book search

While Google expands its reach

§

England braces for the latest
German literary phenom,
Wetlands

§

The language experiment

§

Judging a book by its cover

§

1001 Books
You Must Read
Before You Die

§

Naipaul’s India

§

A poem by Samih al-Qasim

§

Alison Pick & Kevin Connolly

§

Selling surrealism
& getting a good price

§

Honor Moore’s memoir
of her father on the down-low,
The Bishop’s Daughter

§

The New Yorker
adds a book blog

§

Baseball haiku

§

Adam Zagajewski in Israel

§

Anti-Appalachian bigotry
still isn’t politically incorrect

§

Saginaw celebrates Roethke

§

James’ names

§

A profile of Jeff Stumpo

§

Auden in New York

§

Claude McKay and Langston Hughes
both died on a May 22

§

A profile of Michael Ryan

§

A profile of Hussein Abu Bakr Al-Mihdhar

§

Summer poetry

§

Alfred Kazin’s bio

§

Poetry, religion & gender studies
in the work of Theodora Ranelli

§

“Chatterbox” Derek Walcott

§

Introducing the 2008 Madison slam team

§

The National Poet
of the People’s Republic of
Bangladesh

§

McGonagall gets revenge

Why we like bad art

Maybe McGonagall was just misunderstood

§

The little tough guy

Little tough guy beaten by “a bowl of fruit

§

None of that free-verse stuff

§

Poetry Out Loud as a response to rap
& “complicated poetry”

§

A profile of Michael Hoffman

§

An email interview with Floyd Skloot

§

Cynthia Ozick on Lionel Trilling

§

In Taiwan, an honorary Ph.D. for
Yu Kuang-chung

§

Book prizes & bookies

§

The right can’t tell a story

But neither can the left

§

Who gets to write the title?

§

O Heraclitus!
Can you give the same paper twice?

§

The academy & work

§

A biography of Raymond Williams

§

The anti-journalism of Karl Kraus

§

The influence of Robotech
on Battlestar Galactica

§

The paintings of Stephen Rodefer

§

Didi Menendez’ portrait of me

Her portraits of (mostly) American poets

§

Rauschenberg’s contribution

Gagging on Rauschenberg worship

P.S., he was gay

§

Peter Schjeldahl on the abstract expressionists

§

Cornell Capa has died

A slide show of his photos

More images by, of & about Capa

§

This season’s big art money

§

SF MoMA picks up Hammer head curator

§

Who owns antiquity?

Talking with James Cuno

§

The only library with three Gutenbergs

§

Decoding Charlie Parker

§

Ono & John Lennon’s sons
fight to keep Imagine
out of “intelligent design” movie

§

A restaurant unequaled

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