Saturday, February 14, 2009

 

Tuesday
February 17
6:30 PM

A celebration of The Alphabet

Kelly Writers House
3805 Locust Walk
Philadelphia



Thursday, February 12, 2009

 

  

 

Recently Received

 

Books (Poetry)

Ed Baker, Butcher of Oxen and Other Poems, Doxie Press, Silver Spring, MD 1970

C.E. Chaffin, Unexpected Light, Diminuendo Press, Saginaw, TX 2009

William Corbett, Poems on Occasion, Pressed Wafer, Boston 2008

Michael Dickman, The End of the West, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend 2009

Alexander Dickow, Caramboles, Argol, Paris 2008

Denise Duhamel, Ka-Ching, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 2009

Susanna Gardner, [lapsed  insel  weary], The Tangent, Portland OR 2008

Geoffrey Gatza, Housecat Kung Fu: Strange Poems for Wild Children, Meritage, St. Helena & San Francisco 2009

Geoffrey Gatza, Kenmore: Poem Unlimited, GOSS 183 Casa Menendez, Bloomington, IL 2008

Jamey Hecht, Limousine Midnight Blue: Fifty Frames from the Zapruder Film, Red Hen Press, Los Angeles 2009

Kathleen Jesme, The Plum-Stone Game, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2009

Ann Lauterbach, Or To Begin Again, Penguin, New York / London 2009

Tan Lin, Heath (Plagiarism / Outsource), Zasterle Press, La Laguna, Canary Islands 2007

Barbara Maloutas, The Whole Marie, Ahsahta Press, Boise 2009

Wayne Miller, The Book of Props, Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis 2009

Charles North, Complete Lineups, Hanging Loose Press, Brooklyn 2009

Akilah Oliver, A Toast in the House of Friends, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis 2009

Ric Royer, The Weather Not the Weather, Outside Voices: Bootstrap Productions, Buffalo & Cambridge MA 2008

Jill Stengel, Lagniappe, Nous-zōt Press & Dusie Books, Lafayette, LA 2008

John Tyson, BARREN   poise   swill, singlepresse, probably Milwaukee 2007

John Tyson, (horizon), singlepresse, probably Milwaukee 2008

John Tyson, Killing Time, singlepresse, probably Milwaukee 2007

John Tyson, Spit &Sugar  Evolution of Smoke, singlepresse, probably Milwaukee 2008

John Tyson, Strike Hard  Old Diamond, singlepresse, probably Milwaukee 2007

JoSelle Vanderhooft, The Memory Palace, Curiosities (Norilana Books), Winnetka, CA 2009

Megan A. Volpert, The Desense of Nonfense, BlazeVOX, Buffalo 2009

Anne Waldman, Manatee / Humanity, Penguin, New York / London 2009

 

Books (Other)

Jules Boykoff & Kaia Sand, Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry & Public Space, Palm Press, Long Beach, CA 2008

Robert Buckeye, Fade, House Organ (published as no. 65, Winter 2009), Lakewood, OH 2009

Cid Corman & Ed Baker, Restoration Letters (1972 – 1978), Tel-let, Charleston, IL 2003

Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Dust, Dalkey Archive, Champaign & London, 2008

Jennifer Firestone & Dana Teen Lomax, Letters to Poets: Coversation about Poetics, Politics, and Community, Saturnalia Books, Philadelphia 2008. Includes Anselm Berrigan & John Yau, Brenda Coultas & Victor Hernádez Cruz, Truong Tran & Wanda Coleman, Patrick Pritchett & Kathleen Fraser, Hajera Ghori & Alfred Arteaga, Jennifer Firestone & Eileen Myles, Karen Weiser & Anne Waldman, Jill Magi & Cecilia Vicuña, Rosamond S. King & Jayne Cortez, Judith Goldman & Leslie Scalapino, Traci Gourdine & Quincy Troupe, Brenda Iijima & Joan Retallack, Dana Teen Lomax & Claire Braz-Valentine, Albert Flynn DeSilver & Paul Hoover

James Tate, Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee: 44 Stories, Wave Books, Seattle / New York, 2008



Journals

Dichten =, no. 10, Providence 2008. 16 New (to American) German Poets. Includes Ann Cotton, Franz Josef Czernin, Michael Donhauser, Ute Eisinger, Daniel Falb, Hendrik Jackson, Marget Kreidl, Bert Papenfuss, Steffen Popp, Monika Rinck, Frahad Showghi, Hans Thrill, Raphael Urweider, Anja Utler, Ron Winkler, Uljana Wolf. Translators include Andrew Duncan, Tony Frazer, Nicholas Grindell, Christian Hawkey, Ann Cotton, Ute Eisinger & Rosmarie Waldrop.

Model Homes, issue 3, Fall 2008, Detroit. Includes Hung Q. Tu, Donato Mancini, Steven Zultanski, Kim Rosenfield, Kristen Gallagher, Douglas Kearney, Tommy Buck, Anna Vitale, Tyrone Williams, Jean Day.

Poetry Project Newsletter, no. 218, February / March 2009, New York. Thomas Walker remembering Hanon Reznikov, Kyle Schlesinger interviewing Ugly Duckling Presse, Stacy Szymaszek on Etel Adnan, reviews of Alice Notley, Lewis Warsh, C.S. Perez, Anne Tardos, Sharon Mesmer, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Kevin Davies, Roberto Tejada, Micah Ballard, Abigail Child, Lila Zemborain, Valentina Saraçini.

 

 

Still a big stack of books
waiting to be noted here

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

 

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

 

Reading report:
Kaia Sand, Yedda Morrison
& Kim Rosenfield

at Small Press Traffic

§

AWP events at Links Hall

§

Infection in the Sentence
Festival

§

J.H. Prynne & Pierre Alferi
at the Pompidou

§

M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!

§

Inger Christensen’s Alphabet

Remembering Christensen

§

Searching for Lorine Niedecker

§

Stephen Vincent’s Beverly Dahlen Haptic

Charles Alexander on Beverly Dahlen

Kathleen Fraser & Jocelyn Saidenberg
on Dahlen, her work & her impact

§

Jack Collom’s Exchanges of Earth and Sky

§

Talking with John Ashbery

§

A chat with Ron Silliman

A memento of conferences past

§

The Segue series
at the Bowery Poetry Club
for Spring (PDF)

§

Is Leningrad the precursor
to The Grand Piano?
(scroll down a bit)

§

Elizabeth Bishop & Neal Cassady

§

A serious gourmand
reads Harry Mathews

§

A semiotic theory of poetics

Plumbline poetry

Joseph Duemer on the plumbers

Against the binary

§

Beth Joselow:
from In the Green Zone

§

The arts = jobs (PDF)

§

Gerald Stern sings Jimmy Durante

§

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

§

Talking with Peter Porter

§

Christopher Funkhouser on digital poetry

§

The space between sentences

§

Talking with Elizabeth Alexander

§

Oscar Wilde is set to close

So is the last indie bookstore in
Henderson, Nevada

§

The fading world of
Charing Cross Road

§

The importance of indie bookshops

§

The first SPD catalog?

I’m in the second one

§

Adding up
The NY Times Book Review

§

BookExpo Canada cancelled

§

The NY Times’ plan
to survive

§

Amazon by the numbers

§

The next publishing model

§

How to save your newspaper

§

The Bards in the Bog
in Shetland

§

Valentine poetry from China
by way of Ezra Pound

§

Searching for Nicu Lutan

§

A profile of Walter Mosley

§

Mick O’Brien:
King of the Ode

§

A profile of Richard Howard

§

What Jack Micheline & Mary Oliver
have in common

§

Jordan Davis:
Are you better off than you were
13,000 years ago?

§

Scenes from the poetry wars

§

Dale Smith on Jordan Davis
on Kevin Davies in The Nation

& on Gary Sullivan
on Sharon Mesmer in
The Poetry Project Newsletter

& on “symbolic efficiency

§

K. Silem Mohammad
on Dale Smith’s “tough love”

These are your instructions

§

Who owns the avant-garde?

§

Temple’s Spring reading series
starts Thursday
with Anselm Berrigan

§

Richard Kostelanetz
gets around

§

Falmouth, Massachusetts
where everyone is reading poetry

§

Katy Lederer’s
The Heaven-Sent Leaf

§

A haptic a day
for Barack Obama

§

Santa Clara searches
for its laureate

§

Much good stuff
in the exceedingly well-dressed
Scantily Clad Press

§

The same is true for
Little Red Leaves

§

& the new mark(s)

§

Potlatch poetry

§

You can download LRL editions
or buy them hard copy

§

A note on Hugh Fox

§

Monday was
National Poetry Day
in Vietnam

§

The Serial Killer’s Daughter

§

Matthea Harvey
wins the Kingsley Tufts award

§

Celebrating chapbooks

§

Aracelis Girmay’s Teeth

§

Philip Metres on Kent Johnson

§

Larkin could read aloud
but what about others?

§

Philippe Soupault
on Breton, automatic writing, suicide

On surrealism

§

11,000 out-of-print
Yiddish books
have gone online

§

Hokum

§

Lagos of the Poets

§

Sally Van Doren’s
Sex at Noon Taxes

§

Editing Updike

§

A profile of Carol Niederlander

§

Craft-Talk: On Writing Poetry

§

Alexis Rotella reads

§

Cost, space & time
the problems of collecting

§

Book dealer jailed over library thefts

§

The amazing Donald Barthelme

§

Poems of aging

§

Tim Bowling & Oana Avasilichioaei

§

American Academy of Arts & Letters
names J.D. McClatchy president

§

Zadie Smith:
A clear & unified voice

§

What is the place of poetry
on a blog?

§

A profile of Kathleen Graber

§

Heading to read
at the Library of Congress

§

Some writing resources

§

Nikki Giovanni’s Bycycles

§

Boyle’s Wright

The LA Times review

§

Talking with Kenton Robinson

§

A literary publishing roundtable
sans the literary

§

TypeBound

§

Japanese Young Artists’ Book Fair

§

Book autopsies

§

Access Restricted:
nomadic lectures in prohibited space

§

Phong Bui
on art & development
in brooklyn

§

Harvard adds art

§

Laura Moriarty
talking to Mai-Thu Perret

§

Cops to Shepard Fairey:
Tag, you’re it

§

Remembering art’s first superstar

§

Siddhartha at Brandeis

§

A nose for verse drama

§

Daily performances of
John Cage’s 4’33”

§

Fresh Air reviews
Anthony Braxton’s
Complete Arista Recordings

§

Max Neuhaus has died

§

My KPFA,
an oral history in MP3s
of alternative culture’s most influential station
(includes everyone from Robin Blaser
to Charles Amirkhanian,
Larry Bensky to William Mandel,
Charles Shere to Phil Elwood)
[note also the ratio of genders!!]

§

Michael Wood on
Slumdog Millionaire

§

The W-word, back again

§

Jared Diamond:
why societies collapse

§

The structure of everything

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Monday, February 09, 2009

 

There is a tonal shift in “Dark Matter,” the sequence that composes the second half of Rae Armantrout’s Versed, quite unlike anything elsewhere in her writing. I want very much to remove that qualifier, “her,” but I’d have to read more than I have. Let me say it this way: there is a tonal shift here quite unlike anything I have ever seen in writing. Armantrout has envisioned death in a new way. It’s not a subject I’d thought was available for this.

Consider the poem “Anchor”:

“Widely expected,
if you will,
cataclysm.”

Things I’d say,
am saying,

to persons no longer
present.

Yards away trim junipers
make their customary
bows.

”Oh, no thank you”
to any of it.

If you watch me
from increasing distance,

I am writing this
always

By the end of this short poem, the speaker, old friend “I,” exists solely as absence. Each one of us will, in time, reach that curious half-life (that is not one at all) in which others might talk to us the way I talk now to my dead grandparents who raised me or to Robert Duncan or to a dear friend who died far too soon. A one-way conversation. And one in which the other is frozen in time: I am writing this / always. What is real here is not the physical world at all, but the presence of time, time itself as presence. That’s exactly why the junipers appear, trans-temporal the way the natural world always appears. So the title of the poem refers not just to a television anchor who might have spoken the overheard words of the first stanza, but to what anchors nouns & to the way they in turn anchor speech.

The title of the poem on the facing page, “The Hole,” is even more concretely focused on absence:

A string of notes

a string of words
could be a worm
or a needle

passing
in and out
through some hole

stitching what to what?

I imagine myself
passing
among your thoughts,

a sleepwalker,

saying and doing things
I am ignorant of
as they occur.

These are poems, literally, from beyond the grave. Not at all in the sense of Topper or Casper or Ghosthunters, but recognizing that one will persist – a string of notes / a string of words – no longer anchored to the physical world. I understand now why a few poems that refer more narratively to Armantrout’s confrontation with cancer as such were moved out of chronological sequence back into the book’s first section, which carries the title of the collection, “Versed.” They’re the poems that conceive of illness & death in far more conventional terms –

Woman in a room near mine moans, “I’m dying. I want
to be fine. It’s my body!
Don’t let me! Don’t touch me!”

   *
By definition,
I’m the blip
floating across my own
“field of vision . . ”

When this same narrative is actually named in the book’s second half, it’s presented in a frame that goes far past surrealism:

The woman on the mantel,
who doesn’t much resemble me,
is holding a chainsaw
away from her body,
with a shocked smile,
while an undiscovered tumor
squats on her kidney.

What keeps this from being black humor in the traditional sense of that phrase is not simply that to exist “on the mantel” (with its feminist echo of pedestal) one must be reduced to ash, which thereby renders the grotesquery of the image that follows – quite the figure for surgery – a scrambling of time (there are at least three present in this sentence). Rather, facing death unblinkingly, the fact that Armantrout was raised in a conservative protestant tradition – she’s referred to her mother as a “holy roller” – gives her access to a very different sense of the spiritual as pervasive presence. Indeed

The present
is a sentimental favorite,
with its heady mix
of grandiosity
and abjection,
truncated,
framed.

These themes reach an apotheosis in Hoop, possibly the finest poem Armantrout has ever written:

God twirled
across the face of
what cannot be named
since it was not moving.

God was momentum then,
that impatience
with interruption,

stamping time’s blanks
with its own image

I’m not going to quote the poem’s longer second half, since it (and the book) ends with a twist. Somewhere in his prose, Olson says that if there is eternity, this is it, which is certainly the case. Here Armantrout literally offers us the face of God – not your stereotypical language poetry resistance to theme. It was Olson, ironically perhaps, who would be – in his own chess shorthand – “kinged by the kidney,” dying of cancer at roughly the age Armantrout is now. Her own, I believe, squatted if you will on her pancreas, the same type that took Jerry Estrin & which every story about the actor Patrick Swayze reminds us carries a minuscule survival rate. Thus far, Armantrout is doing amazingly well.

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog to learn that Armantrout has been my best friend in poetry now for nearly 40 years. If I never did anything else in poetry other than offer feedback to her incessant drafts – five versions in a day is not rare – as part of the little focus group she’s been using for decades (myself, Fanny Howe, Bob Perelman, Lydia Davis, a few others), I would have had a substantial literary career. Indeed, I used to describe Armantrout as the sister I never had until the ghost in my own life, my long dead father, up & surprised me, giving me a “real” sister when I was 50. Life is funny like that. So I don’t read a book like Versed with any sense that I’m reviewing whether it’s “good” or not – I take it as a foundational principle of life that any serious person will want to read every word Armantrout’s ever written. But, within that framework, I have no doubt that Versed is her greatest book yet. Like John Ashbery, as Armantrout has aged, she’s been writing more & more. And also better & better. It’s an unparalleled gift to us all.

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