Saturday, December 24, 2011

(photo by Jude Ornstein)

Steve Benson: 3 works

A long reading in two sets
at EyeMediae, Ann Arbor, mid-80s
(Published in Blue Books as “Voice Overs”)

Reading at Hallwalls in Buffalo, 2008

Erika Staiti’s Rice-Paper-Moonlight
(Combining an improvised reading
by Benson from 2003,
a night-time train ride
& the song
by Jackie-O Motherfucker)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

These are the books published in 2011 that expanded, deepened, &/or transformed my reading, at least to date. I’m always playing catch-up and two of the books that have had a significant impact on me this past year were published in 1975 (Paul Blackburn’s The Journals, which I read for the third time) and 1932 (Alfred Kreymbourg’s The Little World: 1914 and After, a volume of political doggerel that anticipates Calvin Trillin). I may well read as many important volumes from ought-11 in 2012 as I have this year, especially as I hope to have more time to read & write.

In my mind, these books fall into some natural groupings, so it probably makes the most sense to present them that way. The first group is of volumes that I immediately felt were masterworks – the kinds of works that will become iconic place markers in my own literary imagination – by writers whom I felt had not previously had that kind of public recognition:

         Charles Alexander, Pushing Water, Cuneiform Press, Victoria, TX, 2011

         Anselm Berrigan, Notes from Irrelevance, Wave Books, Seattle & New York, 2011

         Srikanth Reddy, Voyager, UC Press, Berkeley, 2011

There are some caveats here. The first is that I’ve thought of Charles Alexander as a master poet for some time now, at least since Hopeful Buildings (1990) & arc of light / dark matter (1992). But as too often happens with poets who live away from the urban centers on either coast, my own sense of this has not caught on as widely as I think it should. I don’t see how anyone can read Pushing Water & not sense the mastery & scale with which Alexander is working.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Editing articulates value by picking winners: a mass grave at Wounded Knee

Aaron Belz asked for my list of the “top 10 books of 2011” for something he’s writing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch & I responded with a list of 18 titles, precisely because the entire concept of “top ten” (or, for that matter, top anything) strikes me as deeply problematic. Since then, even more titles keep popping into my head. Contrary to what one might hear from self-interested gatekeepers (think Vendler), we are living in a renaissance of English-language poetry, so much so that it is impossible for any critic – repeat, any – to read all that is deserving now.

Even in the 1980s, the national boundaries between different national brands of English-language poetry were becoming more tangled by the minute. What, after all, made Tom Raworth a British poet, Steve McCaffery Canadian, or David Bromige, Alan Davies or Anselm Hollo American? One might trace this intermingling back to Stein in Paris or even to Pound’s stint as Yeats’ secretary, but wherever one draws that line, the rise of the world wide web has obliterated such borders pretty much for good. In 2011, I think it’s safe to say that the only national literature produced in English that isn’t widely read in the United States is that of Nigeria. It’s just a matter of time before the division ceases to be national altogether – a world literature complemented by / balanced against multiple regional or metropolitan scenes, as well as a mind-numbing range of affiliational aesthetics, from ecopoetics to LGBT to crip poetry and beyond. Hybridity? Nomadism? You bet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011