Friday, September 05, 2008

 


Joel Oppenheimer & Francine Du Plessix Gray
at
Black Mountain College 1951
(Photo by Jonathan Williams)

David Landrey sent the following letter after my note on Joel Oppenheimer last weekend. The Electronic Poetry Center has begun work on an Oppenheimer “page.”

I am at once grateful for and guilt-ridden by the discussion of Joel Oppenheimer and his work: grateful that, 20 years after his death, there is renewed interest; guilt-ridden because I and some others who knew Joel in his later years (in my case through frequent visits to Buffalo, where, among many talks and readings, he delivered the 4th of the annual Charles Olson memorial lectures, following Duncan, McClure, and Sanders) have allowed those years to pass with relative silence.

As I point out (please excuse the self-promotion) in “Robert Creeley’s and Joel Oppenheimer’s Changing Visions” (in The World in Time and Space: Towards a History of Innovative American Poetry in our Time, Talisman House, 2001, 2002), Joel’s life and work changed utterly from 1970 on, as he stopped drinking and moved out into “New Spaces” (the title of perhaps his finest volume).

The comments so far in this thread—understandably, given the difficulty of acquiring his later work—are caught up in pre-1970. In fact: 1) his later work broke much new ground and grew stronger to the end; 2) his explorations of language and the worlds of politics and mind were huge and exciting; and 3) his poems were increasingly “supercharged with emotion,” and oh how they sing.

Kirby Olson asked if there are “any Oppenheimer poems that haunt the imaginations of any contemporary readers.”  What folks on this line have not seen is Collected Later Poems, published in 1997 by The Poetry/Rare Books Collection of SUNY Buffalo, wherein there is a gold mine of such work. Start with “The Woman Poems” (1975) and read on. Some particularly extraordinary pieces are: “A Village Poem,” “Lessons I & II,” “Acts,” “Cacti,” “Houses,” “The Uses of Adversity” (such a powerful presentation of his chemotherapy as to cause some of my Turkish colleagues to quit smoking); and “New Hampshire Journal.” I’ve seen many friends re-read Collected Later Poems and become torn by emotion, yet his reputation lags.

His reputation’s bad fortune can be illustrated by a Sunday book-signing at St. Mark’s Church in the Village in 1997. Robert Bertholf and I had published a collection of his Village Voice essays called Drawing From Life (Asphodel Press), but the books we were to sign had been sent to St. Mark’s Bookstore instead of to the church. The store was closed.

References to Lyman Gilmore’s biography are right on. The book is a profoundly insightful study of the man and his work. (Lyman has also written a superb biography of William Bronk: The Force of Desire. Both biographies are published by Talisman House.)

For a fine sense of Joel in the late years, read Robert J. Bertholf’s Remembering Joel Oppenheimer, also from Talisman. And try to find: 1) The Wrong Season, 1973 from Bobbs-Merrill, an immersion in the 1972 Mets; 2) Poetry, the Ecology of the Soul, 1983 from White Pine, a selection of Talks and Poems.

I hope that this discussion produces the awareness of Joel’s work that it richly deserves.

David Landrey, Buffalo, NY September 2008

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

 

Eileen Tabios
”I am nobody’s heir”

§

“Skyscraper” John Ashbery
only 4th living American
to see his own Library of America collection

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David Caddy on John Riley

§

Elias Khoury on Mahmoud Darwish

§

I saw the figure 125
 in gold

§

A grand tour of notebooks

§

Naguib Mahfouz’
Cairo Modern

§

Maps of bookstores

(I note that the Chester County Book Company
appears to be missing from the Philly region)

§

Translation, property, race & gender

Is translation possible?

§

Maggie Nelson’s
Something Bright, Then Holes

§

Now I know
just how
Kathy Griffin
feels

§

Joel Chace’s
Matter No Matter

§

Talking with Charles Bernstein
the Nepalese connection

§

G.C. Waldrep’s Disclamor

§

Rescuing Keats

§

David Hoenigman’s Burn Your Belongings

§

Philip Lopate’s Two Marriages

§

Geof Huth
on poetry & archives

§

George Kalamaras
Gold Carp Jack Fruit Mirrors

§

Perseus offers digital publishing to indies

§

What could be worse than poetry
as “on hold” music?

§

Grand Terrace has an “official” poem

§

Breton’s Martinique

§

Robert Graves in Buffalo

§

Judith Rechter’s Wild West

§

Andrew Hudgins’ After the Lost War

§

Online dating for readers of Penguin books?

§

September 21 –
Petaluma’s Poetry Walk

§

The “Kiwi Kerouac

§

Glück & Kelly win awards

Pinsky wins Roethke prize

§

Christopher Sorrentino on John Barth

§

The comparative literature of massive construction sites

§

Thomas Frank on Norman Mailer’s 68

Christopher Hitchens on Norman Mailer
on political conventions
(may not be posted for long)

§

The Henry Ford of literature

§

Planning for the “next Harry Potter

§

Paulann Peterson’s Kindle

§

Russia’s authoritarian literary revival

§

Most abandoned books

§

Sokal’s folly

What Fish wants

Fish on “academic freedom

§

Starving for Democracy

§

Starving for education

§

Lobbyists for McCain

§

Hidden in the Shadows
wives & models

§

Just a guess that this sculptor
is actually trying to offend

§

Lets offshore Damien Hirst

§

Here comes
the strangest Lear ever

§

Christopher Wheeldon:
reality vs. reality TV

§

In Toronto,
keeping the music of Steve Lacy alive

§

The value of daydreams

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

 

The University of Arizona Press has a reputation for being one of – if not the – most active publishers of Native American poetry & poetics in the United States. If you are interested in this literature, you’re certainly know the press and its Sun Tracks series of books. But I wonder to what degree outsiders like myself – those who may have only an indirect relationship to the writing – know about the press and its work. I can’t remember when I last saw one of its books in a store. Not that long ago, for example, I was under the impression that it had been ages since Simon Ortiz, a favorite poet of mine, had had a book until several friends, mostly living in the Arizona area, corrected me. Now, reading Margo Tamez’ riveting Raven Eye, I wonder just how much else I must be missing. It would appear to be a lot.

Raven Eye is a book of poems in two movements, one that recounts the lives of women in two generations, Raven & Corn Girl, bringing out the many kinds of violence facing Native women, opening up questions like what is desire in a world in which one is not just a victim of rape, but likewise the mother of another such victim, while the second movement elaborates rituals that might be employed in at least a partial attempt at healing. But this description doesn’t do the book any justice whatsoever, since what it is not is a simplistic black-and-white collection of political poetry. There are not only no simple answers here, there are no simple poems. And Tamez is capable of filling almost any page with some tremendous moments of writing even when what is being depicted is itself utterly horrific. It’s an exceptionally complex project & Tamez shows herself to be completely up to the task. Think of the implicit aspects of “Hanging from Red Cord”:

There exists
A hand-carved boat
With a way to go
Up the long length
Of river
Clogged by invasive species
Toxic sludge

The river calls
In any case
Contaminated or not

Calls a song     moony waxing waft
Heart of a silverhair
Grandma calling with instructions

Outfitted with a bone knife
Pounding stone
Dried nuts   wolfberries   mesquite  nopales
Drinking water and wool blankets woven and dyed the old way

I close my eyes
Grasp my knife
Hanging from red cord
Around my neck    a gift
From she who emerged from water slicklove  wet
Pressing her motherlove into me

Practice
Knowing the beast
Do
What is necessary
She chanted

These are images, or links to further images, that will recur throughout this book, but what makes them work here is the specificity of Tamez’ writing, the boat in the compromised river, the remarkable lyric tone of the song – captured in just three words – and perhaps most of all the list of foods. One might see such detail as superfluous to the forward motion of an underlying narrative, but by the time you reach this piece, a third of the way through the book, I doubt seriously that you’re reading for narrative so much as your allowing it to come in with everything else. Indeed, what first made me pull this book out of the mass of volumes submitted for the William Carlos Williams award was just such wonderful “excess” right on the very first page:

Who will return lamps to the smelted sky?
Who will remember the knots that held up sun?

O! sky!
O! luminous tree!
O! raven! O! muted one!

Falling water
Falling down
Croaking raven
Flutter wind
Nobody hears
not the sound
nor the thought

O
! fist!
O! fist on raven’s head!
Is it night’s or is it sun’s?
Or is it the war?
Or the world of wars?

You can’t write like that and make it work without total confidence in your skills, and utter fearlessness as well. Tamez makes the reader, this reader, feel completely comfortable with both the specificity of her vision – the smelted sky is a direct antecedent of the river clogged with invasive species & toxic sludge some 22 pages later – and the surges of emotion that are part & parcel of this text. The poet she reminds me of most in this regard is someone who, like Tamez, wrote from a deep sense of a mixed (she uses the word mongrel) identity, the late Lorenzo Thomas (Panama-Queens-Houston), and there are moments here, as in Thomas’ work, that make me think that such New York School peers of his as, say, Ted Greenwald must be somehow channeled into the work. I sort of doubt that this is really the case with Tamez, but she is somebody that anyone with a NY School background could read with great pleasure as well as with a shock of recognition at just how far she can take her poetics in the direction of the political. She’s someone you could read alongside David Shapiro & Eileen Myles & Alice Notley, the most social of those poets. And it would be very interesting indeed to see her reading alongside them, and getting published & distributed by the likes of Penguin. As Michael McClure once said of Helen Adam, a voice this powerful you just have to trust. It doesn’t really matter what genre she chooses to employ – the lightning bolt energy is going to go right through you.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

 


Photo by Stephanie Young

Dodie Bellamy
on class vs. gender

§

Andrew Schelling on
Post-Coyote” poetics

§

Haight poet & one-time
Straight Theater impresario
Jim Wilson has died

So did Irish poet Davy Hammond

And Urdu poet Ahmed Faraz

Faraz prize announced

Tributes to Faraz

§

Joshua Corey
maps the 4 tribes chart
to contemporary poetry

§

The Williams who torques

§

Poetry & hurricanes

§

Joseph Bednarik
on the changing ratio
of writers to readers

§

A profile of
Afaa Michael Weaver

§

Translating “Sidney West” into English
& other NEA translation awards

§

Charles Bernstein’s
Poem Profiler

§

Francis Ponge’s
Mute Objects of Expression

§

Linh Dinh
looks at globalization

& at blogging

§

Talking with Jorie Graham

§

Where were you at 22?

§

Ports for shorts
of sorts

W h i l e   t i t l e s   a r e  g e t t i n g   l o n g e r

§

The 4th International
Nýhil Poetry Festival

§

Olympic medals for the arts

§

Flarf Beat

§

In Millay’s garden

§

Al Filreis tries Kindle

Amazon’s viral marketing

§

Amazon buys Shelfari

§

Next steps for E-texts

E-textbooks may not be cheaper

§

Close reading a t-shirt

§

Random House
blacklisted from lit prizes
over self-censorship

This charge is fishy

But censorship might be
”good” for you

Don’t crucify that frog!

§

Alan Gilbert
on the lessons of blogging

§

Just how bad was Wordsworth?

§

An Indian view of Mahmoud Darwish

§

Claudia Emerson, Virginia’s poet laureate

§

Walter Bargen,
Missouri’s laureate
inaugurates newspaper feature
focusing on state’s poets

§

Looking at Charlotte Mew

§

Machado’s world

§

Adam Kirsch’s “bland doctrine”

§

In the birthplace of Ted Hughes

§

Larry Schug,
poet on campus
tho not in the English Department

§

Aesthetics, philosophy & literature,
an international perspective
(downloadable)

§

Ronald Johnson’s
The Book of the Green Man

from Johnson’s Radi Os
to this

§

What a contemporary
craft of poetry syllabus
ought to look like

§

The Academy of American Poets
Poets Forum 2008
does a much better job than the Dodge Fest
at including all types of verse

§

Lawrence Durrell & his cities

§

Singing Sandburg

§

A profile of Amitabh Mitra,
poet, painter, M.D.

§

In Chillicothe a bookstore burns

Two months later,
Martha’s Vineyard still struggles

§

A glossary of publication

§

The book market in Karachi

§

Used bookstores in Tacoma

§

Seattle bookstores struggle

§

Poetry in motion
out loud
in the
Philippines

§

The latest on Buffalo’s
Walk o’ Fame

§

Billy Collins & Victoria’s Secret

§

When a cowboy poet makes
”national TV”

§

A new set of neologisms
from Neal Stephenson

§

Libraries & noise

§

Rocky Mountain News
will publish fiction
(beyond what’s on the news page)

§

Dublin poetry videos

§

Talking with Bernice Chauly

§

The poet and the colonel

§

Michael Jackson
originally planned musical
based on Robby Burns

§

A profile of Kimmy Beach

§

3 operas by Charles Bernstein

§

Mary Karr remembers John Engman

§

Should Philippine literature
”move on” from Jose Garcia Villa?

§

Here comes Rebecca Foust

§

Great heights of poetry

§

Half a loaf

§

Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark

§

More on Joel Toledo

§

Rhythms of the language poets

§

Seven poets, seven emirates

§

Blogging with Orwell

§

Rushdie’s most readable novel

§

A profile of Abdulqader Al-Sabban

§


Red meat music

§

The long search
of the Philly Orchestra

§

Peter Plagens
serial novel,
The Art Critics
(chapter 1) (chapter 2)

§

Art engineering

§

Metalogos

§

The eyes have it

§

Christine Wertheim’s
Plastic Exploding Inevitable

§

Street art & politics

§

Public art in the age of Koons

§

The return of Paolo Soleri

§

James Wagner sees The Dark Knight

§

Little mouth on the prairie

§

Dark energy explained

§

Getting around to Bruno

§

In Berkeley tomorrow
@
5:30 PM,
George Lakoff
on The Political Mind

& on Thursday
@
6:30 PM,
a nifty reading by
UC Berkeley faculty
(Giscombe, Hejinian, Hass,
O’Brien & Shoptaw
)

& then
Christian Bök & K. Silem Mohammad
at the de Young
on Friday

A great week to be
in the Bay Area

§

“Look for the sign
Ted Berrigan is here!”

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