Friday, December 26, 2008


In February 1948, Henri Michaux’s wife, Marie-Louise, after surviving four years of the Nazi occupation and a fight with tuberculosis, died of complications from burns when her nightgown caught fire. The next year, Michaux published Poetry for Power, a short book of 3 “action poems” intended “to transform what is wrong, the enemy, the irritating situation, hostile surroundings into energy.” As he wrote in the Afterword:
There is a certain threshold beyond which, but not before, a thought-feeling counts, counts differently, counts genuinely and takes on power. It may even spread out in all directions …

—Henri Michaux, Afterword: Powers and Maledictions (trans. David Ball)
The poem he designed to heal “a person who was very dear to me” (she healed) seemed a good way to send out 2008 and brace for the new.

Opening the door inside you, I have entered
To act, I come
I am here
I support you
You are no longer abandoned
You are no longer in difficulty
Their strings untied, your difficulties fall
The nightmare that left you haggard is no more
I am shouldering you
With me you place
Your foot on the first step of the endless stairway
Which carries you
Which brings you up
Which fulfills you

I appease you
I am spreading out sheets of peace in you
I am soothing the child of your dream
Surge in fronds on the circle of images around the frightened woman
Surge on the snows of her paleness
Surge on her hearth… and the fire lights up again

Your thoughts of thrust are supported
Your thoughts of failure, weakened
My strength is in your body, slipped inside
..and your face, losing its wrinkles, is refreshed
Sickness no longer makes its way in you
Fever leaves you

The peace of vaults
The peace of flowering prairies
Peace comes back into you

In the name of the highest number, I am helping you
Like a smoking crater
All the heaviness rises off your overburdened shoulders
The wicked heads around you
Venomous observers of the miseries of the weak
Can see you no longer
Exist no longer

A crew of reinforcements
In mystery and a deep line
Like an undersea wake
Like a bass chant
I have come
This chant takes you
This chant raises you up
This chant is animated by many streams
This chant is fed by a calmed Niagra
This chant is entirely for you

No more pincers
No more dark shadows
No more fears
There is no more trace of them
There is no need to have them
Where pain was, is cotton
Where scattering was, is solder
Where infection was, is new blood
Where locks were is open sea
The carrying sea and the fullness of you
Intact, like an egg of ivory

I have bathed the face of your future.

—Henri Michaux, TO ACT, I COME, trans. David Ball

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Note on Camp

There’s a lot of talk in poetry today about “camps.” Here’s a view from the Concrete Formalist one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Judith Roitman & Stanley Lombardo in Portland, 12/18/08 (Fin)

Stanley Lombardo read from his translations from five epics: the Iliad, the Odyssey, On Nature (Parmenides’s mostly lost philosophical epic), Virgil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno. The scenes he selected connected thematically, most involving the power of women, in forms human or divine, to impart what you might call the Roitmanesque virtues of rationality, restraint, impassioned detachment, and carefully measured language (as in Francesca’s speech to Dante) to a world on the lip of going berserk.

Lombardo read in a rich, dramatic, books-on-tape voice which stressed the oral provenance of the epic, and recovered the vivid intensities of well-worn HUM 100 scenes. His translations were elegant and direct, contemporary without resorting to the colloquial, and conveyed the still grandeur that epic seems to insist upon in even its most intimate scenes, where the effect’s hardest to pull off.

It’s tempting to think of the Lombardo/Roitman pairing as a kind of “state of the civilization” report, Roitman holding down centuries 20 and 21, Lombardo in the backfield tracing the path to the now. Beats the hell out of HUM 100, and the only syllabus is listening.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Judith Roitman & Stanley Lombardo in Portland, 12/18/08 (Part 1)

Judith Roitman & Stanley Lombardo read in Portland on Thursday, their first time together and not in a marathon of stars. Roitman read mostly from No Face, her “new new and selected” as David Abel put it, with title and some of the poems inside inspired by the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. I don’t know Miyazaki’s films, so couldn’t trace their affinities to Roitman’s compelling abstractions, direct enough in diction and syntax, and engaged with recognizably “poetic” subjects like love and sex and the phases of the moon, but made strange by a peculiar distance—an interest in features assumed to be present, but not able to be seen—that operates not unlike the image on the book’s cover: a “No Face” that’s clearly got one, but that we only intuit through its opposite, presuming a front from the back.

The lines swept by in clusters too tight for me to follow closely, but the ones I picked out most often mentioned distance or occlusion: “as if distance without mechanism”; “the distance must be kept around them”; “your heart tremble is unknown to the observer”; “you enter into it but it’s somewhere else”; “this would be our lifeblood if we could find it.” This insistence on the virtues of detachment, observation, and precision achieved through abstraction, like math I guess, or Zen (Roitman’s a veteran practitioner of both), contrasted with the nature of the subjects under scrutiny, “the body,” or sex (especially in the sequence Under Mollusk), or death: intensities not so easy to detach from. The paradox driving the poems, or the sense of reality they expressed, was the way the things of this world have of becoming more elusive the more we scrutinize them: analysis as Entfremdung, which is maybe poetry’s best claim to being a species of knowledge.

Roitman closed with the best intro to a closing poem ever: she simply announced it’s the favorite of all her poems. “Past Muster,” which I heard as “passed muster,” followed like a rim shot—the idea that the favorite of all your poems, after a lifetime of writing, would just “pass muster,” tickled me, and seemed typical of the clear-eyed exactitude I’d gleaned from her reading. But it was “past muster,” and lovely, and a wry meditation I think on death but I can’t find it online to be sure.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Vatic Urbanism

A friend back-channeled about yesterday’s post, wondering whether all modern vatics—Blake, Whitman, Ginsberg, maybe Hölderlin—are essentially urban at heart, taking their vapors from Lambeth or Brooklyn or the dreamy university towns of Central Europe, while keeping their eye fixed on the mythic ‘elsewhere’ beyond the carriages and horse crap of the boulevards. What grabbed me about Boone’s description of Dahlen’s work as “vatic urbanism” was the way it pulled the modern city adjacent to ancient prophecy, two great tastes I don’t usually think of as tasting great together. My friend points out though that an advantage of being an urban vatic, or more correctly, vatic urbanist (one website sniffs that in matters vatic, “no one seems to have ventured a noun thus far”) is that the target of your jeremiads—the city and the alienating modernity that pushes it up—is always close at hand. In this sense, a “rural vatic” would be hard to imagine. They’d complain about, what, suburban sprawl?

I liked this idea because it injects a little knowing charlatanism into a role that can quickly become obnoxious. The prophet’s a pure product of the surroundings she claims to transcend, and for the thunder to work, you’ve got to shake some sheet metal. Olson comes off best when he’s clearly talking out of his ass; Blake’s visions, when they don’t make me sleep, appeal where they’re most ludicrous, angels atop an omnibus or giants sprawled on public greens. With enough booze, I might argue that we’re all vatic urbans now, silly enough to carry on with an art so out of time with the media rush—the urban waged by other means—but just enough in it to giggle about it. Or revise it via giggle: “There can be compartmentalization in this world—and among those compartmentalizations are giggles.” (Bruce Boone)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"Osiris Grows in the Dark"

Phrase of the week: vatic urbanism.

(I’ll expose how local I’ve gone in just two years by pointing out that Beverly Dahlen’s from Portland. Bruce Boone isnt, but I like his case for the virtues of dyspepsia anyway. Can they ship some up here?)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Some of What He Does

You know that gimmicky new State by State anthology, where 50 “hot” writers cover different segments of the Union? Instead of that, why doesn’t some genius editor commission Brandon Brown to red-eye the nation and write up reports like these? North Carolina, Ohio, and New York already down (with advanced drafts of Nevada & Missouri.) That leaves just, what, 46.5 to go.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Other Side of Language, Part 2 (Elvira edition)

Nada Gordon left this comment on yesterday’s post about J.M.G. Le Clézio:
I’m a little suspicious of the notion that one writes (poetry) to “make a better world.” In fact, I criticized the otherwise wonderfully uppity authors of the “Neoliberal Poetry” essay in the new Crayon on that very point.

It just sounds so do-goody. I can accept that one writes poetry to create alternative paradigms, to build fantasies, to narrow or widen focus, to drive a wedge into, to collapse or overturn, to celebrate, etc. (this list could go on and on). I just don’t think it’s about “making a better world,” which makes me think of nothing so much as Disney’s Tomorrowland.
I replied:
Hi Nada,

One thing that intrigues me about Le Clézio’s Nobel Lecture is that he tips his hat to the “must make better world” idea while fully recognizing that most peoples of the world don’t need literature to do that—they’ve got movies, or myth, or storytellers to do whatever socially useful things it is that art does. That’s a weird bind to place the writer in, whose ability to even “remember” or bear witness or whatever, let alone improve the world, becomes kind of superfluous. A desire to “have an impact upon reality” instead of a real possibility. The upshot’s not a better world, but writerly malaise. That seems like an odd (and very possibly true) thing to say.

If you read the
whole speech, I wonder what you make of this “Elvira” he dedicates his prize to (among others). Elvira is an Amerindian storyteller Le Clézio witnessed in performance in the Embera forest of Central America. I admire his humility and generous angle of vision, but why then aren’t we hearing from Elvira? Is Le Clézio’s (the writer’s) global role just middleman between cultures? It reminded me a little of that moment at the end of Heart of Darkness where the African “queen” that Chinua Achebe talks about in his critique of the novel gets to keen, but not talk. Not sure how to feel about all this … one reason I like it.
Some of this exchange reminded me of Konrad Steiner’s comments about Peter Sellars’s “The State of Cinema” speech last year in San Francisco. (“Film is the greatest art form at the moment for penetrating deeply across the cultures, across the world, and it’s the art form that has the lifeblood of the gestalt flowing through it right now”). You?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"The Other Side of Language"

I thought the intense concern with the relevance, and especially the political efficacy of literature was a pragmatic American thing, but here’s J.M.G Le Clézio in his Nobel Lecture taking it global:
The idea that literature is the luxury of a dominant class, feeding on ideas and images that remain foreign to the vast majority: that is the source of the malaise that each of us is feeling—as I address those who read, who write. Of course one would like to spread the word to all those who have been excluded, to invite them magnanimously to the banquet of culture. Why is this so difficult? Peoples without writing, as the anthropologists like to call them, have succeeded in inventing a form of total communication, through song and myth. Why has this become impossible for our industrialized societies, in the present day? Must we reinvent culture? Must we return to an immediate, direct form of communication? It is tempting to believe that the cinema fulfils just such a role in our time, or popular music with its rhythms and rhymes, its echoes of the dance. Or jazz and, in other climes, calypso, maloya, sega.


To act: that is what the writer would like to be able to do, above all. To act, rather than to bear witness. To write, imagine, and dream in such a way that his words and inventions and dreams will have an impact upon reality, will change people's minds and hearts, will prepare the way for a better world. And yet, at that very moment, a voice is whispering to him that it will not be possible, that words are words that are taken away on the winds of society, and dreams are mere illusions. What right has he to wish he were better? Is it really up to the writer to try to find solutions? Is he not in the position of the gamekeeper in the play Knock ou Le Triomphe de la médecine, who would like to prevent an earthquake? How can the writer act, when all he knows is how to remember?

J.M.G. Le Clézio, Brittany, 4 November 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Attention, Terry Gross

North Carolina’s NPR affiliate, WUNC, must be pretty cool, because they talked to Magdalena Zurawski for a good 20 minutes about philosophy, literary theory, and The Bruise.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dept. of Good Questions

“Why did pirates and dinosaurs disappear?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Time for Heine

I’m anxious to see the new Chernoff & Hoover Hölderlin, but isn’t this is more the age of Heine?
“For Heine, the elements of Nature—nightingales, roses, lilies—have become a kind of emotional bric-a-brac, and they work simply as part of a psychological system of signs: nightingales are only a symbol of the lover’s sorrow; lilies make present the whiteness of the beloved’s skin. The banality of his poetic paraphernalia does not disturb Heine—quite the contrary: he uses it expertly to reflect a bitter irony onto a genuine passion, a passion that is forced to use such commonplace modes of expression to reveal itself.”

—Charles Rosen, The Romantic Generation

Thursday, December 04, 2008

They Paved Paradise ...

This “flying books” installation in North Beach should make me feel happy; instead, it’s sad like those plaques in Silicon Valley that remind you there were once fruit groves where you’re standing, or the Ohlone memorial at the Emeryville Shellmound mall.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Proposition Future (Vagueness of Reputation Remix)

Johannes Göransson blogs about poetry and futurity, along with poets’ sometimes ugly efforts to vault themselves into the syllabi that distribute poems forward into time. He lays C.K. Williams’s recent swipe at the Language poets and their anxiety to be recognized next to Dana Levin’s broad dismissal of “younger poets since the late 1990s” as flashy confectioners, sweet on the palate but short on lasting flavor. Both sound dorkily Victorian:

Williams: “I don't like to speak badly of anyone but I can’t bring to mind a single poem by any of the core group of language poets that’s stayed with me more than five minutes after I read it.”

Levin: “… such books promise sensational tastes that in the end amount to light confections [because their] lingual beauty doesn’t linger long after turning the page.”

I’m apt to be softer on the future than Johannes. In an art that so often gets so little attention in its time—whose “classics” (say, Harmonium, or Alcools, or Flowers of Evil, or the entire output of Emily Dickinson) can move less than 200 copies, if any, in their day—it’s natural for the future to take on more weight than it does for filmmakers or novelists or painters or musicians, where the chance of reward in the present diffuses some of the panic over posterity. The gap between present-day neglect and the fantasy of future readers is less a product of poets’ vanity I think than a structural condition of the business.

What I can’t get down with though is pegging a poem’s value to its ability to stay in the memory, which is one step away from saying it ought to be memorized. Here, let’s take that last step:
“I wonder about some poets I enjoy reading and much admire: why do their poems not lodge in my mind? Between readings, they sink into the vagueness of their reputation. I have read most of John Ashbery’s poetry and reviewed three or four of his books, but I couldn’t recite two consecutive lines of his work. When I go back to “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” I assent to a cultivated voice as it leads me through the lines, but when I’ve finished reading it, nothing of the voice stays with me but a fading echo. If it is a superb poem—as I think it is—its quality is consistent with a culture that reads with the eye and keeps the ear idle.”

Denis Donoghue, Words Alone: The Poet T.S. Eliot
I agree with what a lot of what Donoghue says here—my experience of reading Ashbery isn’t so different from what he describes. But the “fading echo” is a deliberate (and virtuoso) effect: Ashbery couldn’t deliver the experience of time he means to convey without the “cultivated voice” standing slightly above or apart from the pressures of memory, solipsistic melancholy, and trivia bearing up the skirts of the sublime if the language made the same demands on our attention that “consecutively memorable” lines do. More significantly, this isn’t a private or mannered effect, it’s “consistent with a culture that ___________ .” Fill in that blank however you like: once you’ve conceded a poetry that’s “consistent with” its time and place, you’ve opened up the door to things like poetics, world events, social structures, and poetic careers whose value may be separate from (and, for future readers, potentially more interesting than) individual poems.

The truth is, none of us know what the future’s going to need from us. For readers still unborn, poetry may be, like Levin’s, a type of fine dining, where connoisseurs recall the exquisite meals they’ve enjoyed. Or like Williams’s, where you strive in your off-line hours to “bring to mind” great poems as a form of sentimental exercise. Donoghue’s read a ton of poetry in his literary career: maybe for professional readers like that, it’s the stuff that still sticks in your head at retirement that’s great, or that you read (like Donoghue did Eliot) as your gateway drug to poetry in your twenties, and nothing after was the same. Right now, my money’s on a poetry future of geeky comic book collector-types with tenure: brainy, overworked, under-appreciated, and spending way too much time on the web.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Couldn't Leave Her If I Tried

“A style, when it is no longer the natural mode of expression, gains a new life—a shadowy life-in-death—as a prolongation of the past. We imagine ourselves able to revive the past through its art, to perpetuate it by continuing to work within its conventions. For this illusion of reliving history, the style must be prevented from becoming truly alive once again. The conventions must remain conventional, the forms lose their original significance in order to take on their new responsibility of evoking the past. This process of ossification is a guarantee of respectability.”

—Charles Rosen, The Classical Style

This gets me thinking not only about my own relationship to the cartoon-Beatles version of the ‘60s I grew up with, but the “shadowy life-in-death” the 1910-1939 generation still lives through our best poetry. That one floated on a bubble, the other on a bust, makes me wonder what the Dow has in store for 21st-century poetics. While we wait, maybe we can re-jigger our attitudes toward “The conventions.” Irony is the first step toward the realization that a “natural mode of expression” is most natural when it recognizes it’s also conventional. Is it the last? At what point is the difference between the Beatles and the Monkees no longer worth a snicker? When does the set become simply the world, by dint of us living in it?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dept. of Monday

“Piú cari i piú mordaci.”
The harder you bit the better it felt.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ceremony of Thanks

“So much good has been flowing in to me on all sides, that the mere ceremony of returning thanks has prevented me from having any practical life.”

Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Guest Blogger: Supporting the Unit

“We are rolling into November with lots of activities planned. We will be discussing the continent of Europe, specifically England. Our focus will be on the Pilgrims, their reasons for choosing to leave England, preparation for their journey, the voyage, discoveries upon arrival and the many challenges they faced the first year. We will be supporting this unit with many hands on projects. This focus project deals with the perspective of the children involved in this event. We do not judge or delve into the uncomfortable historical misrepresentations we have all learned to question. We try to help the children understand the condition of life in England and on the ship, as well as the hardships the children endured building a life in a new country.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Why I Am Not A Huge Groan"

... poetry is a kind of dionysia as nozzle ...

Lanny Quarles

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Round Midnight: Bettridge, Fisher, Sand at PSU, 11/20/08

Thursday’s reading at Portland State had a kind of tragic symmetry—four poets, four audience members (4.5 if you count the 3-year-old who came in near the end. But I think she was there strictly for the cookies). The upside was that I heard new work from three of my favorite Portlanders; with a little imagination, you could pretend it was an after-hours jam, when the jazzers used to play mostly for each other, except it was 4 PM instead of AM, and with cookies and cider.

Joel Bettridge started off with a few poems from Presocratic Blues, due out with Chax Press next spring. The pieces he read marry the terse cosmological speculations of the early Greek philosopher-poets to the sexy concerns of the blues. Some of the poems took the form of jokes (so Anacharsis says to a cocktail waitress …), others borrowed lyric motifs and patterns from popular song. Thinking it over later, I wondered about the connection between the multiple variations possible within simple forms like “walked into a bar” jokes or the blues and the Presocratic sense of existence as one substance distributed across shifting forms. What if Being was like sex, multiples made one, and Becoming the many come-on lines that precede it? And which one of the two is the poetry? Maybe that’s the appeal of Heraclitus and his band—you don’t have to split one into twos until Socrates. Are the blues in the title a lament for that loss of the whole?

Tom Fisher read from the “Songs” section of his manuscript in progress. Each poem in the series is named for a pop song, with titles that range from Phil Ochs’s “No More Songs” to Rush’s “Rivendell,” Foreigner’s “Jukebox Hero” to The Specials’s “Ghost Town.” The relationship between the title track and the poem that followed was loose and appealingly opaque; Fisher’s language was taut and philosophical in a way that focused attention on the experience of listening, with pop music used as a kind of sonar for making a self appear. In the course of his reading, he mentioned Ochs’s record 50 Phil Ochs Fans Can’t Be Wrong, and the abbreviation that title relies on to make its point was a key technique in Fisher’s poems too, where concision and white space worked to intensify the meanings of individual words (“Fantasy abides little/precisions”). He explained one poem as a kind of reenactment of the “doubling” you used to be able to do on old cassette players, where you could sing over the original tape while the song still played behind you (“the voice passes and doubles/in the analog technology/of small selves”). The poems seemed to explore the implications of that particular understanding of “voice,” and hold it up against sound’s necessary opposite, silence: “Sing goodbye to song in songs,” “encryptions of the withdrawn,” “No More Songs.” A few of these poems are up online at Cultural Society; I’d like to hear all of them soon.

I keep meaning to blog about Kaia Sand’s powerful Rembember to Wave: A Poetry Walk in North Portland back in September, and now I’m sorry I haven’t, because her performance Thursday was a deft adaptation of the walk to the textier confines of a poetry reading. Speaking against a recording of instructions for Japanese internment in Portland in the 1940s, Sand repeated key phrases in a way that set seemingly neutral bureaucratic language into new, more sinister contexts. The material she mined from corporate ads, disaster relief manuals, legal documents, and—as part of a separate project—language from “The NAFTA” turned the vocabulary of regulation and control into a type of dissenting social lyric. If poetry is a heightened awareness of language, Sand’s poems insisted on working with language we’re not supposed to be aware of—codicils, bans, exclusions, and obscure provisos whose power depends on their ability to slip under the public record. While she read, she passed around “texts” that wove maps, words sliced from treaties, drawings, and actual stitching into the space of the writing, symbol and enactment of the labor her poems engage. Her reading complemented the approach to poetry in Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry and Public Space, where poems become a form of intervention to help reclaim an increasingly restricted “public.”

I hope there’s more public to hear it next time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

News from the Oracle at Delphi

Poetry as shurikens with Verdi operas for tips.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Seven Seconds in the Art World

Thanks to Eileen Tabios for turning me on via blog to Barry Schwabsky’s review of Seven Days in the Art World in The Nation. Especially liked this tasty locution:

“Art is the field that exists in order for there to be contention about what art is.”

He goes on to argue that despite academic theories, waves of Dada-like anti-art gestures rolling through the century, the “umbilical cord of gold” that threatens to turn artworks into commodities pure and simple, and savage doubts about the social role of the museum along with objects it contains, collectors themselves keep coming back for old romantic goodies like uniqueness, originality, visionary struggle—“the revelation of creative selfhood through the manipulation of impersonal materials.”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reading at Portland State this Thursday: Bettridge, Fisher, Koeneke & Sand

I’m reading with three of my favorite poets & Pacific Northwesterners—Joel Bettridge, Tom Fisher & Kaia Sand—this Thursday, 4 PM at Portland State University. What you do is, you make your way to Portland (see map at left), find Cramer Hall 117 (the University Studies Office) and ask the bookworm/bon vivant at the front desk where to turn. May you somehow find us.
University Studies Teaching & Research Series presents:

JOEL BETTRIDGE, TOM FISHER, RODNEY KOENEKE & KAIA SAND Portland State University, Cramer Hall 117

JOEL BETTRIDGE is the author of That Abrupt Here and co-editor of Ronald Johnson: Life and Works, a collection of essays on the increasingly influential poet. He teaches in the English Department and University Studies Program at PSU.

TOM FISHER is a poet and scholar of silence, whose research focuses on 20th-century poets who stopped writing. He teaches courses on literary modernism, popular culture, and American studies in the English Department and University Studies Program at PSU.

is author of the poetry books Musee Mechanique and Rouge State. A new collection, Rules for Drinking Forties, appears as a Cy Press chapbook this fall.

is the author of Interval, selected as a Small Press Traffic Book of the Year, and co-author with Jules Boykoff of Landscapes of Dissent: Guerilla Poetry and Public Space. She is co-founder of The Tangent Press and reading series in Portland.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tottered or Staggered?

It was Damion Searls (not pictured at left) who tipped me off to the new translation of Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge while I was in San Francisco. This is one of those books I’ve beaten my head against many times, started and stopped, bought then resold then re-bought in a rainbow of different editions, turned upside-down and shaken on some instinctive but otherwise unfounded hunch there’s bound to be something to fall out of it for me. But the right vacation always meets the wrong translation, or catches me in an inter-Brigge period where I can’t track down the copy I’m sure I had.

Burton Pike, who along with Sophie Wilkins stirred Musil to life in English, may be the magic key. Here he is up against Stephen “StephenMitchellBooks” Mitchell in the first few lines:
September 11, rue Toullier

So, this is where people come in order to live, I would have rather thought: to die. I have been out. I have seen: hospitals. I saw a man who tottered and collapsed. People gathered around him, that spared me the rest. I saw a pregnant woman. She was pushing herself with difficulty along a high warm wall, which she sometimes reached out to touch as if to convince herself that it was still there. Yes, it was still there. And behind it? I looked on my map: Maison d’Accouchement. Good. They will deliver her—they can do that.

trans. Burton Pike
September 11th, rue Toullier

So this is where people come to live; I would have thought it is a city to die in. I have been out. I saw: hospitals. I saw a man who staggered and fell. A crowd formed around him and I was spared the rest. I saw a pregnant woman. She was dragging herself heavily along a high, warm wall, and now and then reached out to touch it as if to convince herself that it was still there. Yes, it was still there. And behind it? I looked on my map: maison d’accouchement. Good. They will deliver her—they can do that.

trans. Stephen Mitchell

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dept. of Monday: History Edition

May the stutter be part of the record.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tangent Reading Saturday: Dinh, Koeneke & Hardacker

Dear Friends,

Please join us for the first Tangent reading of the new hope era on SATURDAY, NOV. 15 @ 7 PM. Feel free to come to the Clinton Corner Café early and have dinner, or join the party afterward.
Tangent presents
Clinton Corner Café, 2633 SE 21st Avenue (@ Clinton) Portland, OR

LINH DINH is the author of two collections of stories, Fake House and Blood and Soap, and four books of poems, including most recently Borderless Bodies and Jam Alerts. Blood and Soap was chosen by the Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. His work has been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007 and Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, among other places.

Dinh is also the editor of the anthologies Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam and Three Vietnamese Poets, and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao. His poems and stories have been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and he has been invited to read his works all over the US, London, Cambridge, Paris, Berlin and Reykjavik. He has also published widely in Vietnamese.

is author of the poetry collections
Musee Mechanique and Rouge State. A new chapbook, Rules for Drinking Forties, is due out this fall from Cy Press. A poem has been translated into Icelandic. He writes frequently about poetry and Portland at his blog, at ... well, here.

is an experimental filmmaker and educator. She has been making films and videos for over 13 years and her work has screened widely in festivals across the U.S. Currently she teaches film/video studies and production at Pacific University in Oregon.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

News from the Oracle at Delphi

Experiment begins in ressentiment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

CAMELS!, Barf!, Unincorporated Territory!, Ferment!, Try!: Works Received in San Francisco, 10/31/08

Brandon Brown CAMELS! (Taxt, 2008)
Brandon Brown is up there with Alli Warren and Dana Ward on my list of Poets From Whom I’d Most Like to See A Book-Length Collection. But Brown’s used the chapbook to such good effect since 2005’s My Life as a Lover that I’ve come to see their sequence as a form unto itself, a kind of delayed serial poem that leaves itself time to grow and distill between installments. CAMELS! amplifies Brown’s thinking about translation as an index of our relationship to the (usually Middle Eastern) other, and the other as a product of our looting crusades from Agamemnon through George W. (“the bomb that’s never stopped being dropped.”) The hip hop flow bangs up against a recurring stutter on the “k” sounds—“kah … cuh” “cuh ... coh”—that stands in negative relation (peasant abjectness? subaltern resistance?) to the repeating figure of the Kaiser, or “misprision of interests the Kaiser represents,” along with the camel that’s broken to serve him. Brown wears his deep sense of the past lightly and naturally, like people once wore suits in the ‘30s, and the erudition is never arcane, but works to clarify some of the uglier vectors of the present: “In direct speech: the fable’s not/so fabulous. Indirect speech:/war cries are never, um, worn out.”

Dodie Bellamy Barf Manifesto (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008)
Barf Manifesto makes a totally compelling case for the virtues of the personal, messy, digressive, and awkward against the chic distance always ready to sing experimental writing into the rocks. In the course of working out what it is that makes Eileen Myles’s “Everyday Barf” tick, Bellamy ranges from her mother’s death to the “snooty pockets” of the MLA to the embarrassment of clogging Eileens toilet in a diptych of academic “talks” whose panels mirror back on themselves and set up affinities of contrast like an Op Art study of Bridget Riley’s (who also figures in the piece.) The paradox of Bellamy’s manifesto is that in putting so much of herself in, barf and all, she gains a kind of heroic authority to undo the spell that turns writers into pure and odorless literature machines: “Sophistication is conformist, deadening. Let’s get rid of it.”

C.S. Perez from Unincorporated Territory (Tinfish, 2008)
With Unincorporated Territory, C.S. Perez works to repair the fallen bridges between poetry and collective memory. Part history primer, part Olsonesque exploration of place, part sermon on the U.S. denial of its own imperial involvements, this first of twelve installments worries the gap between orality and literacy, documentary transcription and a commitment to poetry as an act of resistance to collective erasure. Langston Hughes and Pablo Neruda suggest some of the moral coordinates of Perez’s project, with the tight, economical maneuvers of the Objectivists as part of its formal armature. If poetry still has meaning for a people rather than an agglomeration of persons, here’s a good instance of how it might sound when it speaks.

David Petrelli Ferment (Try!, 2008)
Ferment is an impassioned diapason to the liberations made possible through black sound, especially the stretch of it that runs from free jazz to hip hop. To his litany of preterite heroes and famous pathbreakers Petrelli brings a deep awareness of the music’s social roots, so that changes in musical form serve to track patterns of social oppression, with Amadou Diallo and Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell worked into the same oscillation between injustice and artistic breakthrough, “the relationships between music and social movements [made] clear and limpid.” If Ferment has anything as simple as a thesis, it’s that “it is unlikely that a cultural current can grow or even survive if the social ferments that feed it are repressed or ,,, annihilated”—as good a gauge as any for measuring our stumbles and occasional triumphs in “creat[ing] a collective consciousness rooted in freedom and peace.”

Try! Magazine, 23 October 2008, edited by Sara M. Larsen & David Brazil
Try! is a twice-monthly assemblage of fonts, scrawls, maps, cartoons, inscriptions, legal documents, hand-colored DVD sleeves, homemade movies, graphs, charts, polyglot abecedaria, graffiti, musical notation, movie stills, zigzag quotations, handwritten lists and murky photographs that pull the poems embedded inside into the larger syntax of each issue, so that every number becomes a giant poem spoken across media, like one of Pound’s cantos souped up and with the politics right.

The poets included reflect the readings and afterparties of the Bay Area, but also the network of affinities that feed and flow from the happenings there, so that Try! is less a record of a particular scene or school than a real-time transcription of emerging sensibilities in the post-Bush era. Try! comes closer than any magazine I can think of to capturing how the poets I know really talk. Marx and Benjamin are inescapable spirits; community is a problem but also a given; film eclipses jazz or painting as the “second art” of choice; and the sense of the past is deep, sly, and politicized, putting the present at the lip of a process that began with the Ugaritic “A.”

The labor that goes into each issue marks itself with off-kilter cuts and freestyle kerning, so that you’re always aware of the scissors and paste behind the brainwork, behind all work and the bodies assembled to accomplish it. I think what Try! is trying is to offer a counter-assembly, new ways of making meaning out more genuine connections between persons. In direct speech: change. Indirect speech: Love.


Friday, November 07, 2008

News That Stays News In the News

Kudos (and thanks) to Sean Patrick Hill for reviewing a poetry reading—that’s right, a poetry reading—in the Willamette Week. Let the trend begin.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

New Reasons to Love San Francisco

Coonskin cap series conceived and executed by Alli Warren. Chapeau (for all) provided by Lindsey Boldt. Makeup (for all with red eyes) by Sara M. Larsen.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dept. of Monday

Today I am a Harvard of the entire Northern lights.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

San Francisco Halloween

I’ll be reading/performing in the events below in San Francisco over Halloween weekend. Friday gets you a vampire afterparty; Saturday, super nonstop Bollywood. If the Bay’s your haunt, hope you’ll come.
earthworm reading series & HALLOWEEN PARTY!
899 Oak Street (@ Pierce), Apt. 7, San Francisco

RODNEY KOENEKE is the author of Musee Mechanique (BlazeVOX, 2006) and Rouge State (Pavement Saw, 2003). A new collection, Rules for Drinking Forties, will appear as a Cy Press chapbook this fall. He lives in Portland, OR where he curates the Tangent Reading Series with Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand.

CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ, a native Chamoru from the Pacific Island of Guahan (Guam), has lived in California since 1995. He received his MFA in Poetry from the University of San Francisco and is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. He is co-founder of Achiote Press and author of several chapbooks. His first book, from Unincorporated Territory, is now available from Tinfish Press.
kino21 presents THE NEW TALKIES: Bollywood Night
curated by Summi Kaipa and Konrad Steiner
Bollyhood Cafe, 3372 19th Street (@ Mission), San Francisco

Gunga Din/Lives of a Bengal Lancer) is a writer and artist, alternately residing in the San Francisco Bay Area and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where she curates the Moles Not Molar Reading Series). Recent work of hers can be found in Encyclopedia, Pocket Myths: The Odyssey Edition, horse less review, eco-poetics, Digital Artifact, and Cut & Paste. Her chapbook, Toward Eadward Forward, will be published by horse less press (November 2008). A chunky excerpt from her book-length work-in-progress, Muzzle Blast Dander, can be found in Edition 3 of the Chain Links book series.

Silsila) is a writer and editor in San Francisco. By day, she helps young people tell their own stories at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, and by night, she sleeps and dreams of edible typewriters. Somewhere in-between that, she is the managing editor of Hyphen magazine and is working on a short story collection entitled Misbehaving.

Navrang) is the author of four poetry books: Folly, V. Imp, Are Not Our Lowing Heifers Sleeker than Night-Swollen Mushrooms?, and foriegnn bodie - and, with Gary Sullivan, an e-pistolary techno-romantic non-fiction novel, Swoon. She practices poetry as deep entertainment and is a proud member of the Flarf Collective. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her blog at ULULATIONS

Hare Rama Hare Krishna) is the author of several chapbooks, including The Epics and, most recently, The Language Parable. Kaipa performed her first benshi to the Rishi Kapoor-Dimple Kapadia hit, Bobby. She is currently making excruciatingly slow progress on a first full-length manuscript, Was.Or.Am.

Pyaasa) is the author of two poetry books, Musee Mechanique and Rouge State. A new collection, Rules for Drinking Forties, will appear as a Cy Press chapbook this fall. In addition to tonight's scene from Pyaasa, he's written and performed neo-benshi pieces to scenes from Mary Poppins and German silent classic The Golem. He lives in Portland, OR where he curates the Tangent Reading Series with poets Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand.

ANUJ VAIDYA (Purab Aur Paschim) works in the cusp between film and performance. His previous video works, Chingari Chumma ('00) and Bad Girl with a Heart of Gold ('05), have screened both national and international venues including the Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley), the London Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, The Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Tokyo), Sarai (New Delhi) and the Institute of Modern Art (Brisbane). His performance work with the Chicago-based collective Mrs. Rao's Growl, has taken him from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Singapore. Anuj currently lives in Oakland, and works at the Pacific Film Archive and with the 3rd I SF International South Asian Film Festival.

Monday, October 27, 2008

"SCARY": Koeneke, Spanbauer, Yuknavitch

I’ll be reading with fictioneers Tom Spanbauer and Lidia Yuknavitch this Wednesday for Loggernaut. The theme is “Scary,” and I'm sticking to it.
Loggernaut Reading Series
Urban Grind, 2214 NE Oregon Street
(a few blocks north of Sandy at NE 22nd)

RODNEY KOENEKE is the author of the poetry collections Musee Mechanique and Rouge State, as well as a chapbook, Rules for Drinking Forties, due out from Cy Press this fall. His work is included in Bay Poetics and in the Flarf anthology forthcoming in 2009. He lives in Portland, where he helps curate The Tangent Reading Series.

TOM SPANBAUER was raised in Idaho, spent two years in the Peace Corps in Kenya, and for the past fifteen years has lived in Portland, where he teaches Dangerous Writing workshops. He's the author of the novels Now Is the Hour, The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon, In the City of Shy Hunters, and Faraway Places.

LIDIA YUKNAVITCH is the author of three books of short stories: Her Other Mouths, Liberty's Excess, and Real to Reel. Her work has appeared numerous journals and anthologies. She teaches writing, literature, film and women's studies at Mt. Hood Community College.