Friday, September 19, 2008
I have been asked more than once this week why I do my link lists the way I do – once or twice per week, rosters of links that for the most part come from recent news stories, blog notes that are likewise recent (and often more thoughtful & well-researched as anything “in the media”), plus resources that are either new to the web or at least new to me. There are usually around 100 links and there have been up to around 160 during an especially busy time. Most directly relate to poetry, but close readers will note that I also include news of the publishing industry, in terms of the publishers, the technology and the distribution network (both bookstores & libraries) and likewise news concerning language itself. Then there are usually some links to the larger arts world, to contemporary philosophy & the human sciences, and – rarely – to politics.
In my links on poetry & poetics per se, you’re as apt to read a blog note concerning a recent chapbook by somebody you (and maybe I also) never heard of as an interview with Richard Wilbur, an online newspaper article concerning a poet-politician from the South Asian subcontinent or Africa as a lengthy discourse on the nature of conceptual poetics. There’s a reason – or at least a rationale – to all this.
What I want to provide, first of all, is context. With over 10,000 publishing poets in the English language, there is frankly a lot going on. A lot is going on elsewhere as well. Whether it’s cowboy poetry in Elko, Nevada, the National Slam in Madison, a conference in Nairobi (or Vancouver), Andrew Motion’s whining that being Laureate stopped him from writing (as good an argument for that post as I’ve heard, frankly), or somebody’s spirited attack on conceptual poetry, slow poetry, flarf, whatever – it’s all poetry. Or at least poetry related.
Nobody can read 10,000 poets & keep them even remotely straight in their head, or least nobody short of a Rain Man-type savant. But certainly it makes some sense to at least have some idea what’s going elsewhere, whether elsewhere is the wildly popular reality-TV competitions Prince of Poets and Millions Poets in the
So this doesn’t mean some of my links won’t be appalling – tho we might not concur on exactly which parts. It does mean that we ignore those aspects of poetry and its “scene” we choose to shunt aside at our own peril – the risk being that, in our own selected ignorance, we manage to make ourselves irrelevant. We could each pretend to be above it all, but frankly one Auggie Kleinzahler is already one too many.
One thing that the more institutional approaches to the dissemination of news about poetry is that, by their very institutional nature, they tend to be more wedded to a single view, that of the
Jilly Dybka’s Poetry Hut does a much better job, because it’s much more eclectic, but it is restricted by offering far too little of what is out there.
So I want you to know that the folks in Lowell are celebrating the Beats, to know that Evie Shockley has a good reading of Ed Roberson’s work, to read an interview with Adonis, to read Dragnet haiku or take note of the latest collection of Jack Gilbert imitations by Linda Gregg, not to mention seeing the governor of New Jersey standing by a cut-out of William Carlos Williams. It’s all part of the gumbo as Ishmael Reed might put it. And the richer the gumbo the better.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Harold Abramowitz, Dear Dearly Departed, Palm Press, Long Beach 2008
Andr’s Ajens, Quase Flanders, Quase Extremadura, translated by Erín Moure as translations from south to north with notes, La Mano Izquierda,
José Felipe Alvergue, Us Look Up / There Red Dwells, P-Queue, Queue Books, Buffalo 2008
Joe Amato, Pain Plus Thyme,
Anne Boyer, Art is War, Mizvah Chaps, Lawrence & Boulder 2008
Anne Carson, Short Talks, Brick Books,
Jan Conn, Jaguar Rain: The Margaret Mee Poems, Brick Books, London Ontario 2006
Jack Crimmins, The Rust Life, Earthworm Press & Projects, San Francisco 2008
Mark Cunningham, Body Language, Tarpaulin Sky Press,
Don Domanski, All Our Wonder Unavenged, Brick Books, London Ontario 2007
Marshall D. Dury, The Inside of a Load-Bearing Wall, self-published, “just outside of
Kate Eichorn, Fond, BookThug, Toronto 2008
K.S. Ernst & Sheila E. Murphy, Permutoria: Visio-Textual Art, Luna Bisonte Prods, Columbus 2008. Available also as a download.
Adam Fieled, When You Bit…, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia 2008
Lisa Forrest, To the Eaves, BlazeVox Books, Buffalo 2008
Elizabeth P. Glixman, A White Girl Lynching, Pudding House Chap Books, Columbus 2008
Mark Goldstein, After Rilke: To Forget You Sang, BookThug, Toronto 2008
Phil Hall, An Oak Hunch, Brick Books, London Ontario 2005
Charles O. Hartman, New & Selected Poems, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2008.
Kent Johnson, Homage to the Last Avant-Garde, Shearsman Books,
Robert Kroetsch, The Ledger, Brick Books,
Dennis Lee, Riffs, Brick Books,
Karen An-Hwei Lee, Ardor, Tupelo Press,
Travis MacDonald, The O Mission Repo, Fact-Simile, Denver 2008
Mao Zedong, The Poems of Mao Zedong, translated by Willis Barnstone, University of California Press, Berkeley 2008
Kristianne Meal, TwentyTwo: First Pallet, Little Scratch Pad Editons, Buffalo 2007
Catherine Meng, Dokument, Petrichord Books,
W.S. Merwin, The Shadow of Sirius, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008
Geraldine Monk, Ghost & Other Sonnets, Salt,
Marianne Moore, A-Quiver with Significance: Marianne Moore 1932 – 1936, edited by Heather Cass White, ELS Editions,
Dennis O’Driscoll, Reality Check,
David O’Meara, The Vicinity, Brick Books, London Ontario 2003
Doug Nufer, We Were Werewolves, Make Now, Los Angeles 2008
Michael Ondaatje, Elimination Dance, translated into the French as La danse éliminatoire by Lola Lemire Tostevin, Brick Books,
Meredith Quatermain, Matter, BookThug, Toronto 2008
James Reaney, Souwesto Home, Brick Books, London Ontario 2005
Stephen Rodefer, Call It Thought, Carcenet,
Mercedes Roffé, Like the Rains Come: Selected Poems (1987 – 2006), translated by Janet Greenberg, Shearsman,
Kathleen Rooney, Oneiromance (An Epithalamion), Switchback Books, Chicago 2008
Robyn Schiff, Revolver, Kuhl House Poets,
Karen Solie, Modern and Normal, Brick Books, London Ontario 2005
Chuck Stebelton, A Maximal Object, Mizvah Chaps,
Jordan Stempleman, The Travels, Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia 2008
Stephanie Strickland, Zone: Zero, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2008. Includes CD with digital versions of two of the sequences that appear in the print edition.
John Taggart, There Are Birds, Flood Editions, Chicago 2008
Shelly Taylor, Peaches the Yes Girl, Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, Brooklyn 2008
John Tranter, The Anaglyph / Brian Henry, John Tranter’s New Form(alism): The Terminal, no publisher listed but prepared for the Poetry and the Trace conference,
Lourdes Vázquez, Samandar: Libro de Viajes / Book of Travels, translated by Enriqueta Carrington, TséTsé, Buenos Aires 2007
Fred Wah, Isadora Blue, La Mano Izquierda,
Emily Warn, Shadow Architect,
Tom Yorty, Words in Season, Little Scratch Pad Editions, Buffalo 2007
Jan Zwicky, Songs for Relinquishing the Earth, Brick Books,
Books (Poetry Anthologies)
Jeff Hilson, The Reality Street Book of Sonnets, Reality Street Editions, East Sussex, U.K. 2008. Includes Bob Cobbing, Edwin Denby, Bern Porter, Mary Ellen Solt, Jackson Mac Low, Ebbe Borregaard, John Clarke, Ted Berrigan, Anselm Hollo, Beverly Dahlen, Kathleen Fraser, Tom Raworth, Clark Coolidge, Peter Riley, Stephen Rodefer, Lyn Hejinian, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Ron Padgett, John Welch, Adrian Clarke, Paul Dutton, Robert Adamson, Thomas A. Clark, Allen Fisher, Geoffrey Young, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Steve McCaffery, Aaron Shurin, Pam Brown, Bill Griffiths, Alan Halsey, Lawrence Upton, Ken Edwards, Jonathan Brannen, Geraldine Monk, Harryette Mullen, William Fuller, Robert Sheppard, Michael Leggott, Juliana Spahr, Michael Farrell, Eleni Sikelianos, Laynie Browne, Lisa Jarnot, more.
C.S. Perez & Todd Melicker, The Lone Mountain Anthology, 2008, Achiote Press, Berkeley 2008. Includes Susanne Dyckman, Amanda Field, Karen Pehlps, Val Witte, Alexandra Mattraw, Hannah Maggiora Wallstrum, Jennifer Reimer, more.
Dan Beachy-Quick, A Whaler’s Dictionary, Milkweed Editions,
Susanne Christensen & Audun Lindholm, Borders, Chain * Links,
Stephen Collis, Through Words of Others: Susan Howe and Anarcho-Scholasticism, ELS Editions,
Allen Ginsberg, The Letters of Allen Ginsberg, edited by Bill Morgan. Da Capo Press,
William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, edited by R.B. Parker, The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford University Press 2008
William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part One, edited by David Bevington, The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford University Press 2008
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, edited by Nicholas Brooke, The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford University Press 2008
William Shakespeare, Othello, edited by Michael Neill, The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford University Press 2008
William Shakespeare, Richard III, edited by John Jowett, The Oxford Shakespeare, Oxford University Press 2008
Barrellhouse, no. 6, 2008,
Cannot Exist, no. 2, May 2008,
Cannot Exist, no. 3, September 2008,
Hawk & Whippoorwill:Poems of Man & Nature, vol. 1, issue 1, Summer 2008.
Mandorla: New Writing from the
Mantis, no. 7, Summer 2008, Stanford. Special Heidegger & Char feature includes Mark Causey, R.D.V. Glascow, Stuart Kendal, Noreen Khawaja, more. Also includes Marie Etienne, Marilyn Hacker, Rusty Morrison, Peter O’Leary, Elizabeth Robinson, Mathias Svalina, János Marno, more.
: Journal of the Short Poem, no. 6.Summer 2008.
Open Letter, Thirteenth Series, No. 6, Summer 2008.
Phoebe, vol. 37, no. 2, Fall 2008.
The Poker, no. 8,
P-Queue, no. 5, 2008,
Vanitas 3: Popular Song,
Other Media & Formats
Ed Baker, Face Turned to the South / Face Turned to the Wall, Red Ochre Press Broadside,
Dan Beachy-Quck & Srikanth Reddy, Möbius Crowns, P-Queue,
Larry Ochs / Rova (Special Septet & Orketrova), The Mirror World (for Stan Brakhage), Metalanguage,
Labels: Recently Received
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Of the 19 authors whose books I read in judging the Poetry Society of America William Carlos Williams’ award that I thought deserved greater praise & attention, Joe Wenderoth’s name comes last alphabetically, tho that’s no reflection on No Real Light, a book that is full of sparkle. Many of the poems here come across as a
What Does Death Insure
that one will never hear
the sound of a small plane
sketched out in the sand
of a windless summer afternoon
Operation Enduring Freedom
like an eagle
into the sun
over frozen fields
or, the poem from which this book takes its title,
where all this rings true
no real light
Poem after poem here jumps out at you like these, crafted with an exact eye & a strong sense of when to stop. Not that they’re perfect – that first poem would have been considerably stronger had the term “summer” been dropped from its final line – but because they evidence a mind completely awake to the world.
Which is why, when suddenly it dips into the clichés of the
A woman has two children:
one is seven, a girl with Down syndrome,
and one is five, a deaf-mute boy.
Every day, the woman’s husband beats her
and calls her a lazy whore.
After a few years
the woman moves back into her mother’s house.
She locks the doors when her mother is at work,
but her husband, having promised to kill her,
gets in through a basement window.
When she hears and meets him in the basement,
pleading for her life,
he breaks her spine with a hammer.
As the two children watch from the steps,
he shoots her in the back of the head,
then turns the gun on himself.
The seven-year old, the girl with Down syndrome,
runs four blocks to the police station.
When the police arrive at the house,
the five-year old,
a deaf-mute boy,
is kneeling by his mother’s head,
pressing the pool of blood back toward her.
They pull him away and he doesn’t resist.
They think he has been playing there
in a pool of his mother’s blood.
That is truly what they think:
he was playing in a pool of his dead mother’s blood.
Later, with his bloody hands
he says things they cannot understand,
and they know then, at least,
that he was not playing.
Think for a minute how Charles Reznikoff would have handled this same narrative & you can see all the elements of melodramatic overwriting that come into play here, up to & including putting the poet onto a line all its own complete with italics. All we need are violins.
And this is the real issue of No Real Light – it has some of the best writing I’ve come across this year, but it also has more than a few real clunkers like the above. Of the 19 books I was wowed by in the contest (out of an original pool of 150), it easily is the most uneven. If this wasn’t his fourth book & he wasn’t already an associate professor at UC Davis, I’d be inclined to think that Wenderoth was a beginner who didn’t know how to put a manuscript together. That may still be the case, but at this point it’s inexcusable.
Reading Wenderoth’s web page at UC Davis, I get the sense that he may be more interested in poetry that is performable – in the Henry Rollins sense – than in the printed page, which may explain this puzzle. A poem like ”Twentieth-Century Pleasures” just might work very well at a reading to an audience inexperienced in contemporary poetry – those short pieces would likewise – but it does so for all the reasons that make poetry as performance an inherently debased art. The exact same qualities that would make you cringe at an episode of Matlock work very well at pulling forward stock emotions from audiences who aren’t trained to recognize such manipulations. There’s a reason why so many poets who participate in slams are notoriously unread. This might not be slam material, but the dynamics are fundamentally the same.
So Wenderoth is a puzzle. Eighty percent of this book is tremendous, maybe even 85. But I wonder why he doesn’t know to separate out work that simply reveals the gaping weaknesses of a performance-oriented poetics. I can envision, say, a half dozen very good books by him, followed perhaps by one collection of such performance pieces that are as lurid & mawkish as one might imagine. That would be a strange but do-able approach. Wenderoth’s current strategy undercuts much of what is excellent in this book.
Labels: Joe Wenderoth
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
One wonders exactly what motivates any artist to choose a particular project. It’s inscrutable enough if one is an individual artist. Why does one person write The Pisan Cantos and the next one a suite of haiku, or sonnets, or flarf? When capital gets involved, it gets funkier in a hurry. Why, for example, is Ed Ruscha a painter, a visual artist, and not a writer? Why this word & not that one? Why this context & not that one? Why don’t we think of Ruscha when we consider the history of minimalism & the works of, say, Bob Grenier & Aram Saroyan?
These sorts of questions get even murkier when both capital & collaboration are involved. One reason that Once may be the best movie musical ever filmed, give or take Hard Days Night, is that it involved a relatively small body of collaborators and almost no budget whatsoever. The party scene was filmed in the flat of the film’s star, Glen Hansard. The older woman who sings is, in fact, his mother. The whole movie was made for just $100,000, done off of credit cards, and the filmmakers never had permits to shoot on the streets. No wonder Hansard is believable as a busker.
At the other end of the scale, way way on the other end, we have the bloated star fests like Armageddon or Ocean’s 7-eleven where far too many name actors get fat checks to mail in performances with scripts that they seem barely to glance at. At least Sinatra & the Rat Pack didn’t pretend to be thespians. They just needed something to do in the daytime before the clubs opened for the evening in Vegas.
Burn After Reading sure has that feel to it. There’s Tilda Swinton, one of the best actresses anywhere, imitating her mean bitch role from Michael Clayton, but with none of the having-second-thought nuances. There’s George Clooney, glad-handing (and more) every woman he meets with exactly the same wide-eyed big smile con-artist stare he used in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Instead of pomade, he’s switched to asking everybody what their floors are made of.) Then there is Brad Pitt, better known these days as the afterthought in Brangelina, doing a send-up of sorts of his role as the clueless stud in Thelma & Louise. He’s really quite good, in a horrific sort of way. At least Frances McDormand isn’t reprising her laconic pregnant police chief from
Now all of this nonsense doesn’t matter much because these squirrels have been set loose in what is pretty close to a perfect Rube Goldberg device, the narrative as sketched out by from the Brothers Coen, fresh off their second best-picture Oscar for No Country for Old Men & happy to sweep up something like nine digits of cash with the first big film of the autumn. One suspects that their story board looked just a little like one of Anthony Braxton’s scores. If the year’s movies were a multi-course meal &the summer fare were a bunch of oddly rich too sweet fare, like a giant bowl of ice cream right before the entrée of the Oscar contenders when winter comes on, then Burn After Reading would be the perfect amuse bouche, the tiny morsel served to cleanse the pallet of the heavy aftertaste of Batman et al. That’s a very modest goal, but the Coen Bros. wind their little contraption up very very tight. It’s fun to watch it spin through the motions.
There are two premises behind this movie. The first is a series of coincidences as to who knows who socially and in what roles, the makings of many a screwball
So it’s not a thriller of good guys vs. bad guys, because there are no good guys really, just some folks with whom you might be more apt to identify (wide-eyed Clooney, wide-eyed McDormand) than with others (Malkovich & Swinton squint a lot). A lot of what makes this film work are the small bits of stage business or details that are ancillary at best to the main narrative, and which are often never explained, like why Clooney is interested in everyone’s floors & why he has to guess what they are (the people he asks are never really certain, like, is that really white pine?), or the large purple pillow he lugs around in a couple of scenes – apparently a sex toy of sorts, in that it allows the partner on the bottom to raise their hips & pelvis upward to interesting angles – but which nobody ever uses, mentions or otherwise identifies. Or that little invention Clooney’s constructed in his basement. I don’t believe my wife has laughed that loudly in a movie theater since at least A Mighty Wind. When this film comes out in DVD, I’m going to have to pay the closet confrontation scene frame by frame to see if it really is “muscle memory” that drives the plot. Malkovich also has a number of these bits as well, such as his various descriptions as to why he “left” the Agency, his attempts at dictating his memoirs and the great scene with his dad, who says nothing, because – we suspect – he couldn’t if he tried. We never do learn why Olson was in that meeting, or what Olson does or anything about him? The elements that articulate Malkovich’s depression – how can you be committing murder in your underwear & bathrobe that late in the day? – are all well done. There are also some details about Malkovich controlling his drinking by waiting until 5:00 pm to begin & by measuring just how much he pours into a glass that are smart & knowing as well as funny.
So this is a lark, as if the Coen Brothers want to show audiences that a comedy can actually be intelligent & funny, unlike, say, the drivel put out by so many former Saturday Night Live cast members. Not everybody gets out alive – it is a Coen Brothers film after all – but at least the brothers had the taste to leave their wood chipper at home. Now, one wonders, what if these guys actually decided some day to make a movie. Like something serious along the lines of Crash or Traffic or
Monday, September 15, 2008
on poetry after theory
The Golden Age of Paraphernalia
from Tom Orange
Nada Gordon’s “Poem to My Enemies”
Field of Wanting
Ian Jack has died
As has Edgardo Vega Yunqué
Eileen Tabios on prose poetry
Lourdes Vázquez on the fine press tradition
Rain Taxi reaches its 50th issue
Talking with & of Adonis
the 50th anniversary of
The Dharma Bums
& the Beat Generation
surround by beat poets
A question for Donald Hall:
"Why a ‘life in poetry'
when almost nothing gets said
about composing a poem?"
Close reading blurbs
Poets on War & Peace
Lisa Jarnot’s “For the Nation”
“odds and ends”
Geof Huth reading “Blue”
John Godfrey’s City of Corners
Talking with Gabeba Baderoon
I saw the best minds of my generation
turned into a cheesy docudrama
Wordplay welcomes Thomas Meyer
a list of resources
Alan Bernheimer’s Particle Arms,
a classic of
One more argument for
Wishing Auden were here
to put things right
NJ Gov. John Corzine
with William Carlos Williams
& other surprises
of the forthcoming 125th birthday conference
Michiko Kakutani on David Foster Wallace
Indian poets writing in English
The beats in
More “nano thoughts for the nano phone”
Linda Gregg’s All of It Singing
Elizabeth Smither wins
the Prime Minister’s Award for poetry
Mahmoud Darwish’ Hebrew translator
reflects on the late poet
A view from LiveMint.com,
The Wall Street Journal’s
web site for MBA students
The memoir of Leland Bardwell
One benefit of being laureate
Exactly how big his head has gotten
Fleur Adcock on Motion’s stillness
A platypus in Edmonton
Slammin’ in Westchester County
Five questions for Tom Paulin
A profile of Marianne Aweagon Broyles
BBC Four to run series
on British poetry
The pathology of “normal fiction”
A profile of Charlie Pratt
It’s because their
aren’t very good
Nicholas Manning on Mark Young
Celebrating Robert Dunn
Talking with Bill Johnson
The Yoda of typewriters has died
What’s driving the resurgence of libraries
is not books
Masterpieces get away
Searching for Troy
Why indie bookstores matter
Why Borders doesn’t
A 40th-birthday self-education project –
read 1,000 books
A digital library free to the world
Pirated digital versions boost sales
The GOP as book buyers in
E-book study at Penn State
Battles over textbook piracy
“The most dangerous book of poetry ever written”
Cultivating demand for the arts (PDF)
A great profile of Maurice Sendak
Why Diebenkorn isn’t famous
(minor error – the show opens
The New Museum
buys a building
Robert Hughes: Hirst is a hack
The Met promotes
one of its own
The war over Rothko
A major art theft in broad daylight
The advantages of facilitating theft
The House of Wittgenstein
isn’t about Ludwig (mosty)
Dancing for Israeli security
The pathology of the Republican party
The latest mode of adjunct abuse