Saturday, September 24, 2011
Today is the day!
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Labels: 100 Thousand Poets for Change
Friday, September 23, 2011
The Paris Review interview
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I am old enough to remember the world of poetry before Jerome Rothenberg began to issue his extraordinary anthologies. Which is to say that I still retain a visceral sense of just how dramatically Shaking the Pumpkin, Technicians of the Sacred & Revolution of the Word, in particular, transformed one’s sense (my sense) of what poetry had been, was & could be. Part of what made those three books so important was that they greatly expanded & deepened one’s understanding (my understanding) of those things. They left the world not only more complex, but more articulate as to what those complexities might be. This might be a literal definition of enrichment.
I recall getting this also when I first read William Carlos Williams’ Spring & All in 1970. It had been out of print at that point almost continuously for more than 40 years. Spring & All completely recast my sense of what modernism and the modernist project might be about – indeed it was impossible afterward not to take the work of Gertrude Stein utterly seriously, not because Williams wrote about her, although he does in a way, but because it was impossible afterward not to see how what the good doctor was doing was not, at least in part, a response of her writing. In everything he did from the early 1920s onward. Which made (& makes) him a much more modern writer than his peers (Pound, Eliot, even Joyce) who did not. Their work reaches the earliest portions of the 20th century but then freezes as to what it can do, say, or think about. Williams does not, it keeps going, developing for another half century, precisely because he is able to respond to the challenge of Stein. This is what makes him so valuable for the poets who come after. In ways that even the Pisan Cantos is not. Williams’ “American language” is built up precisely from Stein’s little words. Yet I don’t think you would get this, “grok it” as we might have said in 1970, if you have not read Spring & All or even if it had always been a part of the Williams you knew, always already there. Books change you in just this way. The moment when Gertrude Stein went from being a marginal character of comic relief, Life magazine’s favorite avant-gardiste, into being one of the foundations of 20th century writing was the moment that Harvey Brown reissued this book by Williams. It is the part of the modernist jigsaw that suddenly makes it all cohere.
Which is exactly my take on Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, co-edited by Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black & Michael Northen, & just released by Cincos Puntos Press, the terrific little press run by the Byrd family of El Paso, Texas. This is not just the most ambitious publication Cincos Puntos has attempted to date, it’s going to be one of the defining collections of the 21st century – and let’s hope it doesn’t take nearly half a century for us all to recognize it.Read more »