Friday, October 24, 2008

 

Brett Evans & Frank Sherlock’s
Ready-to-Eat Individual

§

Contemporary politics:
the darkness surrounds us

§

Jonathan Mayhew
with capsule reviews
of seven good books
& two others

§

Bill Knott on
Hart Crane & Thomas Hardy

§

John Ashbery’s advice for young writers

§

Freakonomics & Frank O’Hara

Edward Mendelson on O’Hara (MP3)

& reading FOH (MP3)

§

Who is J.M.G. Le Clézio?

§

Afghan student
”spared” death penalty

for distributing article
on rights of women

Jordanian poet
arrested for
“insulting Islam”

§

Writing an opera with Paul Muldoon

§

The Latino Cultural Revolution

§

Reading report on 21 Grand
(Ara Shirinyan &
Wild Analysis,
a play by Cynthia Sailers
& Jocelyn Saidenberg

§

Reading report
on Pam Brown,
Magdalena Zurawski
& myself

And another

Plus some photos
by Pam Brown

§

The first review of
the new collected Spicer
is at the very bottom
of this Publishers’ Weekly
roundup

§

Donna Stonecipher’s
The Cosmopolitan

§

Carla Harryman’s
Adorno’s Noise

§

Geof Huth’s
reading of The Alphabet
continues with
”VOG” part VI

§

Rosmarie Waldrop & Ulf Stolterfoht

§

Remembering Philip Lamantia

§

Javier Huerta
on hunger artists

Linh Dinh’s
original article

§

Steve Benson’s
Blue Book

§

Quoth the Raven,
Translate me more

§

Imaginary quotations

§

The British Library’s CD
of rare reading recordings
including Arthur Conan Doyle
& the only recording of
Virginia Woolf

§

Talking with Claire Askew
parts 1 & 2

§

A memorial reading for
David Foster Wallace
@ Kelly Writers House
(MP3)

§

Jim Harrison’s
The English Major

§

Talking with Rachel B. Glaser

§

Robert Pinsky’s comments stream
on anonymity & the poetry in Slate

§

A poet with a problem

§

Peter Ceccariello’s
faux poem issue one

§

Elbot on Issue 1

§

Lawrence Joseph’s
family store

§

Hot for Words: Maverick

§

Censoring Bill Ayers

§

Good & bad public sculpture

§

Ralph Stanley gets political

§

Friday, Oct. 24
Cecil Taylor in San Francisco

§

Margaret Atwood on the Dow

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

 

In his Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs and Steel, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond argues persuasively – overwhelmingly – for the role of geography as the single most important aspect of the physical world on this planet, not just for nature, but for human society as well. For example, the domestication of animals is a phenomenon that moves East & West, not North & South. The taming of the horse ensured travel from the westernmost shores of Frances to the eastern shores of China & Russia. Yet the one animal domesticated in South America, the llama, had no such impact on the North American continent – only in the past century has it really been able to be transported beyond the Panama isthmus in any numbers at all. All the hyperbole Charles Olson used to employ about the role of space as a defining condition of life on our continent turns out to be true.¹

Vancouver, by definition, is the Canadian Southwest. Only Vancouver Island, on which sits the capital of British Columbia, Victoria, lies further to the southwest. The whole notion of “southwest” in the United States conveys an ensemble of images & connotations: sun, warmth, the visible presence of Native and foreign cultures along its southern border, the newness of cities. That last one is worth considering. Vancouver turns out to be a newer city than San Diego, Los Angeles, or even Portland or Seattle. Initially scouted out by the ill-fated British explorer George Vancouver & later by the trader Simon Fraser around the turn of the 19th century, Vancouver itself was not settled until the early 1860s after the discovery of gold along the Fraser River brought a raft of disappointed prospectors up from the hills of the Sierra in California. Strictly speaking, Vancouver is newer than all of the towns of Silicon Valley, the technological apotheosis of Pound’s modernist dictum: Make it New.

I mention this because that Vancouver is absent entirely from George Stanley’s long poem Vancouver: A Poem, published earlier this year by New Star Books, which operates jointly out of Vancouver and Point Robert, Washington. Composed over an eight-year period and openly modeled after William Carlos Williams’ Paterson – or perhaps I should say originally modeled Vancouver is only incidentally about the city & far more a phenomenology of age. Everything in Vancouver, starting with the city but more crucially including its author/narrator, is O.L.D. I almost want to get out some ice sculpture lettering a la Ligorano/Reese to make my point.

A decade ago, that conclusion might have struck me as a negative one, as I suspect it will no doubt strike some of the readers here. That I don’t now may be because I’m finally in my sixties, just a couple of years younger than Stanley was when he started this project. There are relatively few major poets who have begun anything approximating long poems after the age of 60, and most of them were Objectivists. One notable non-Objectivist, John Berryman, in his Paris Review interview, speaks movingly of the idea, but then he killed himself at the age of 58. Louis Zukofsky’s 80 Flowers, which is really a poetic series, was written between the ages of 70 & 74. Basil Bunting’s Briggflatts, a “long” poem only insofar as its extraordinary concentration of energy has an impact of a work several times its 20 pages, was written in his 65th year. Charles Reznikoff published the first volume of As Testimony at the age of 69, tho obviously he had been working on it for some time. He was 81 when Holocaust appeared. George Oppen, the youngest of the Objectivists, was 60 when Of Being Numerous appeared. And of course William Carlos Williams, more a mentor to, than a member of, the Objectivists, was 63 when the first volume of Paterson appeared in 1946.

Even more than Marianne Moore, Williams was the great American modernist poet who never left home. Though he wrote important works occasioned by his travels to cities as diverse as Paris & El Paso, Paterson is the record of a man settled in a single town his entire life. Its insistence on place as a counterbalance to Pound’s fantasy of history as the grounds for an epic is one of that poem’s most important literary claims.

Stanley’s relationship to Vancouver, the city, is quite different. A native San Franciscan in the Spicer Circle, he, Robin Blaser & Stan Persky all moved to British Columbia in the years immediately following Spicer’s death. At rather this same time, Stanley also had something of a conversion experience that he relates to meeting the Irish (now Irish-American) poet Jim Liddy, who taught at San Francisco State in 1966 & ’67. Liddy never met Spicer but was overwhelmed by the experience of the poems he was then able to find in print, while at the same time introducing Stanley to the work of his own chief influence, Patrick Kavanagh. As Stanley tells it, the two poets traded Gods. In Stanley’s case, this offered him a new freedom as a poet, much in the way British Columbia offered him a new landscape.

Yet unlike Blaser, say, Stanley didn’t become a Vancouver poet as such, precisely because his work, much of it as an itinerant Poet-in-the-Schools in the northern reaches of the province. One never senses in Stanley’s writing that this was part of a back-to-nature program a la Gary Snyder. My take is that Stanley remained a city poet at a distance, maintaining an ambiguous relationship to Vancouver until he was able to secure a teaching job there at an age when many men retire.

So what we have here is a very different document than we would have had if, say, longtime residents like George Bowering or Gerry Gilbert had penned such a book. It’s not the chronicle of a man who has spent fifty years or more crossing the same bridges daily. At the same time, it is the work of a writer who has had some kind of relation to Vancouver now for over four decades. The ambivalence shows, even to the book’s cover, a photograph of a man (not Stanley) walking along an otherwise deserted street in front of what appears to be an empty industrial shop front, no product visible in the darkened window, graffiti tagging the metal doors. Because of earthquakes, brick hasn’t been used for construction on the west coast since the 1920s² which means that this building was constructed when Vancouver itself could not have been much more than 30 years old.

What we get, often, is a litany of what used to be where: the Caprice Lounge once was the Caprice Theater, Granville Books is gone, “the 900 block where Blaine Culling once planned to open two grand restaurants, one Mexican, one Russian,” and inevitably the names of friends now departed. And that’s just pages 105 & 106. Young as it is, Vancouver can be, if you look at it right, a city of ghosts.

Age is of course relative. You can find artifacts in the Cluny Museum from the settlement that became Paris that are 2,000 years old. Any book of the East Coast of the United States, as both Paterson & the Gloucester of Olson’s Maximus attest, inevitably must address questions of history. Vancouver, in contrast, is an infinitely more personal account even than Paterson. And that’s precisely where its importance lies. As Stanley himself seems to grasp. It’s a question he confronts most directly in a poem within this poem entitled “Phantoms” on the subject, of all things, of masturbation – “Wanking” in Stanley’s vocabulary, deliberately using the Britishism to avoid the associations that other terms carry with them. He quotes a poem on the same subject that Ginsberg wrote at the age of 70, regaling in its memory of all the imagined young men he’d once slept with.

The shame & defiance I feel
are my own, not language’s –
– and to be so dismissive,
nay, intolerant of the phantoms –

helpless (yes!) half-beings
that one must oneself become

a half-being
to touch

This is a book that might have been subtitled Half-being and Nothingness. It stares directly into that abyss, using the city of Vancouver as its lens.

Stanley is not without humor here. Indeed, right after “Phantoms” comes “Seniors” – the title piece of a suite within this poem – that reads

Seniors know everything.
Correction. Each senior knows everything.
The others don’t want to hear about it.

It’s inevitable, what with “modern medicine” & more importantly postmodern longevity, that we are about to see a renaissance of good, even great books on precisely the topic of aging. Hettie Jones’ Doing 70 certainly sounded that alarum a couple of years back. Vancouver: A Poem is a complex meditation & an interesting counterpoint to her work. It expands the grounds of what’s possible here & is one of the most moving books I’ll read all year.

 

¹ Thus Olson begins Call Me Ishmael, the groundbreaking study of Melville that inaugurates his career,  with

I take SPACE to be the central fact to man born in America, from Folsom Cave to now. I spell it large because it comes large here. Large, and without mercy.

It’s worth noting here that Ishmael is published before Williams begins work on Paterson.

² The mortar between the bricks invariably dries & gets brittle, allowing the bricks to pop out, causing the floors to collapse, pancaking to the ground.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

 

    

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Robert Adamson, The Golden Bird, Black Inc. Books, Melbourne 2008

Ed Baker, Restoration Poems: 1972 – 2007, Country Valley Press, Gardnerville, NV 2008

Allison Carter, A Fixed, Formal Arrangement, with an introduction by Danielle Dutton, Les Figues, Los Angeles 2008

John Donlan, Spirit Engine, Brick Books, London, Ontario 2008

Nabile Farès, Hearing Your Story: Songs of History and Life for Sand Roses, English translation by Peter Thompson, introduction by Réda Bensmaïa, University of New Orleans Press, New Orleans 2008

John Giorno, Subduing Demons in America: Selected Poems 1962 – 2007, edited by Marcus Boon, Soft Skull, Berkeley 2008

Ted Greenwald, In Your Dreams, BlazeVox, Buffalo 2008

Owen Hill, Against the Weather, Blue Press, Santa Cruz 2008

Friedrich Hölderlin, Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin, translated by Maxine Chernoff & Paul Hoover, Omnidawn, Richmond, CA 2008

Brenda Klar, Cypress, Brick Books, London, Ontario 2008

Brenda Leifso, Daughters of Men, Brick Books, London, Ontario 2008

John Levy, Oblivion Tyrants Crumbs, First Intensity, Lawrence, KS 2008

Billy Little, St. Ink, Capilano University Editions, selected by Jamie Reid & George Stanley, North Vancouver, BC 2008

Randall Maggs, Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems, Brick Books, London, Ontario 2008

Sheila E. Murphy, Collected Chapbooks, Blue Lion Books, Puhos, Finland & West Hartford, CT 2008

David O’Meara, Noble Gas, Penny Black, Brick Books, London, Ontario 2008

Monty Reid, The Luskville Reductions, Brick Books, London, Ontario 2008

Sam Sampson, Everything Talks, Auckland University Press, Auckland, New Zealand 2008

Sue Sinclair, Breaker, Brick Books, London, Ontario 2008

Susan Wheeler, Assorted Poems, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York 2009 (!)

Ronaldo V. Wilson, Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 2008

Laura Winter, Coming Here to be Alone, Mountains and Rivers, Eugene 2008

 

Books (Other)

John Ashbery & James Schuyler, A Nest of Ninnies, Dalkey Archive, Champaign, IL 2008

Aaron Cometbus, The Loneliness of the Electric Menorah, published as Cometbus no. 51, Berkeley 2008

Alfred Corn, The Poem’s Heartbeat: A Manual of Prosody, Copper Canyon, Port Townsend 2008

Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Dust, translations from the Russian by Thomas Epstein, Evgeny Pavlov, Shushan Avagyan & ana Lucic, Dalkey Archive, Champaign, IL 2008

J.M.G. Le Clézio, The Prospector, translated by Carol Marks, David Godine, Boston 1993

John Olson, Souls of Wind, Quale Press, Williamsburg, MA 2008

Vanessa Place, La Medusa, Fiction Collective 2, Tuscaloosa 2008

Jonathan Strong, Drawn From Life, Quale Press, Williamsburg, MA 2008

Magdalena Zurawski, The Bruise, FC2, Tuscaloosa, AL 2008

 

Journals

House Organ, no. 64, Fall 2008, Lakewood, OH. Includes Brian Richards, Ed Sanders, Kenneth Warren, Hugh Fox, Stephen Ellis, Curtis Faville, Tom Clark, Cliff Fyman, Michael Rothenberg, Stephen Paul Miller, Diane di Prima, John Bennett, A.L. Nielsen, more.

No, issue no. 7, 2008, Santa Monica. Includes Heather Christle, Lyn Hejinian, Peter Cole, Elizabeth Willis, C.D. Wright, Paul Hoover, Nichita Stanescu, Keith Waldrop, Geneviève Desrosiers, Thalia Field, Forrest Gander, Nathaniel Mackey, Ann Lauterbach, Richard Foreman, Kate Colby, Aaron Kunin, Jennifer Moxley, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Rae Armantrout, Michael Clure, Michael Palmer

Poetry Project Newsletter, no. 216, October/November 2008, New York. Includes Dale Smith, Tim Dlugos, David Trinidad, Marcella Durand, Elizabeth Robinson, Urayoán Noel, Susie Timmons, Prageeta Sharma, Kimberly Lyons, Mariana Ruiz Firmat, Vyt Bakaitis.

Verse, vol. 24, no. 1-3, 2008, Richmond, VA. French Poetry & Poetics issue. Includes Emmanuel Hocquard, Caroline DuBois, Dominque Fourcade, Jacques Roubaud, Pierre Alferi, Craig Dworkin, Olivier Cadiot, Claude Royet-Journaud, Philippe Jaccottet, Marie Borel, Michael Heller, Ted Pearson, Nathalie Stephens, Rusty Morrison, Eleni Sikelianos, Dawn-Michelle Baude, Laird Hunt, Paul Kane, Kristin Prevallet, Nicholas Manning, Marcella Durand, more.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

 


Barack Obama & a few of the 100,000 folks who gathered to hear him in St. Louis October 18th.

Two weeks from today, we have the opportunity to rescue the United States from the most incompetent & malevolent regime in the nation’s history, and to prevent it from being carried forward by a McCain-Palin administration that, if anything, promises to be worse.

I’m already scheduled to take Tuesday, November 4 off and will spend it getting out the vote here in Pennsylvania. I encourage you to do likewise wherever you live (presuming that it’s within the U.S.).

Accordingly, today’s note comes from Adam Ruben of MoveOn:

Dear MoveOn member,

If you're an Obama supporter, watching the polls or reading the news can feel pretty good right now. And we should feel good—progressives have worked hard to get this far!

But we can't listen to the pundits who say it's over. Can you share these "Top 5 reasons Obama supporters shouldn't rest easy" with your blog readers—and encourage them to volunteer for Obama between now and Election Day?

TOP 5 REASONS OBAMA SUPPORTERS SHOULDN'T REST EASY

1. The polls may be wrong. This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they do in the voting booth. And the polls are narrowing anyway. In the last few days, John McCain has gained ground in most national polls, as his campaign has gone even more negative.

2. Dirty tricks. Republicans are already illegally purging voters from the rolls in some states. They're whipping up hysteria over ACORN to justify more challenges to new voters. Misleading flyers about the voting process have started appearing in black neighborhoods. And of course, many counties still use unsecure voting machines.

3. October surprise. In politics, 15 days is a long time. The next McCain smear could dominate the news for a week. There could be a crisis with Iran, or Bin Laden could release another tape, or worse.

4. Those who forget history... In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote after trailing by seven points in the final days of the race. In 1980, Reagan was eight points down in the polls in late October and came back to win. Races can shift—fast!

5. Landslide. Even with Barack Obama in the White House, passing universal health care and a new clean-energy policy is going to be hard. Insurance, drug and oil companies will fight us every step of the way. We need the kind of landslide that will give Barack a huge mandate.

If you agree that we shouldn't rest easy, please sign up to volunteer at your local Obama office by clicking here:

We're just two weeks away from turning the page on the Bush era—but we can't afford to take our eye off the prize. We've got to keep pushing until the very end.

By posting this Top 5 list on your blog and encouraging folks to volunteer for Obama (and signing up to volunteer yourself), you can make a big difference and help Obama win.

Thanks for all you do.

–Adam, Lenore, Adam G., Patrick S., and the rest of the team

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Monday, October 20, 2008

 

Talking with Marie Ponsot

§

Jack Spicer’s bedside reading

§

Lee Ann Brown
on WVPM’s Wordplay
(first link is to the MP3)

§

Coming up at St. Mark’s:
Bob Grenier on Larry Eigner
&
a Helen Adam Halloween

§

Hilda Morley at Black Mountain

§

Emily Dickinson’s secret lover

§

Bush signs law
creating © czar

§

A profile of Anselm Berrigan

§

Fazil Hüsnü Dağlarca
has died

§

The life & afterlife of
Walter Benjamin
(sub req’d for full article)

§

Free Verse:
The Flarf Collective
at the
Walker Art Museum
in
Minneapolis

Flarf
as a verb

§

In L.A. at the REDCAT:
Untitled:
Speculations on the Expanded
Field of Writing
,
with Johanna Drucker, Kenny Goldsmith,
Robert Grenier, Jessica Smith, Steve McCaffery,
Brian Kim Stefans, Shanxing Wang, Heriberto Yepez
& more

§

Talking with Roberto Bedoya

§

Secular Jewish Culture /
Radical Poetic Practice

§

Persian poetry from Tajikistan

§

Salvaging Jose Garcia Villa

§

Screaming Monkeys
is mostly online

§

Pushing back
against representation

§

Of poetry & politics

§

A fun online book
of short poems by
Jason Sanford Brown

§

I meant to link to
Geof Huth’s reading of
Skies” and “Toner
last Thursday

Plus “VOG”
(parts II, part III, IV & V)

§

Some answers for Raymond Federman

§

Anne Waldman, Patricia Smith,
Carter Ratcliff, Valentina Saracini

§

Kevin Killian’s Oroniad,
parts 22, 23 & 24

§

Maulidi ya Homu,
Islamic praise poetry of
Zanzibar

§

Remembering Hima Raza

§

Gary Snyder
in The New Yorker

Gary Snyder’s “last book

§

The other poet on
Lew Welch’s football team

§

A maid of one’s own

§

John Gallaher’s “last lecture”

§

Thumbspeak

§

Steve Fama on
Jordan Scott & John Olson

§

A profile of Jim Harrison

§

Lolita at 50

§

Sharon Dolin
adds a new sin

§

The impact of Kundera’s past

§

Samuel R. Delany’s
The Ballad of Beta-2

§

Young Shakespeareans

§

The unbearable lightness of informing

§

Dave Farrow reads a book

§

The preface
& table of contents
to Jerry Rothenberg’s
Poetics & Polemics

§

If these images were not images,
but words
,
what words would they BE,
and in what order?”

§

Language-driven digital art at Brown

§

Larry Lessig in defense of piracy

§

British authors,
the emerging police state
& the number 42

§

A Quietist attack on John Ashbery
that is as ignorant of linguistics
as it is of society

§

Where is our Nobel poet?

§

Toni Morrison, Nobel icon

§

Aravind Adiga wins the Man Booker

What’s wrong with the Booker

The ten types of Booker

§

German critic spurns prize

§

National Book Award finalists:
Patricia Smith & 4 members
of the School of Quietude

(Judges: 5 members of the SoQ)

Talking with Patricia Smith

One bookseller’s reaction

On the fiction side:
a novel released in the 1990s
is on the shortlist

§

The oft-rejected William Stafford

& a prize for his son

§

Best books that never existed

§

The con of literature

§

Prodigies vs. late bloomers

§

Orhan Pamuk
denounces
Turkey’s recent history
of banning, jailing, killing & exiling writers

Pamuk’s new role

§

Seeking literary talent
in the Arab world

§

Reading Sherry Jones’
ostensibly incendiary
Jewel of Medina

§

A celebration of Tagore

§

Attempting to preserve
Gloucester, MA

On first seeing
through the eyes of
Charles Olson

§

In San Francisco on Tuesday,
Stephanie Young & Bill Luoma

At Openned in London,
also on Tuesday,
a breath-taking lineup

§

Booksellers look at staffing
to get through rececession

§

Leonard Cohen’s
Book of Longing

§

Kimi Eisele:
Why I write

§

Gregory Corso
reading Bomb

§

Jim Harrison’s
The English Major

§

Words into hype

§

Talking with Wendy Cope

§

In the vernacular

§

My life in the bush of ghosts

§

Poetry, shame & Toi Derricotte

§

A roundup of fall books
including 11 volumes of poetry

§

Resuscitating Arapahoe

§

Theological Dostoevsky

§

Ezra Pound & Emmett Till

§

Coleman Barks’ Winter Sky

§

Nature & the Self:
Emily Dickinson & the
School of Quietude

§

British Library
acquires Ted Hughes’ archive

§

Renting the home of
Dylan Thomas

§

Annie Proulx
is up to here
with
Wyoming

§

Granta
to bore in three languages

§

An Arthur Vogelsang video
& a treasure trove
of SoQ videos

§

Writer’s rooms

§

Cody’s events
outlive demise of the book store

§

Google Books vs. the Open Content Alliance

§

Best account of Issue 1’s debacle

§

New architecture in Beijing

§

Shklovsky on film

§

Rudy Burckhardt at the Met

§

The paintings of Jane Freilicher

§

The economy of the art world
is changing

“If the work is free,
is it art?

§

In Plain Sight:
NY street & performance art,
1968 – 1971

§

The success of Dr. Atomic

On John Adams

§

Charles Bernstein’s Blind Witness News

§

Poetry in the music of Elliott Carter

§

Mad Men’s reading list

§

Bukowski the icon

§

“High” theory
& cultural new media activism

§

John Cleese on
”the funniest Palin

Ode to Sean Hannity

§

How Sarah Palin
got on
the GOP ticket

§

“Every Man a Derrida”

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