Thursday, April 09, 2009
In addition to the latest Iain Sinclair of course, I recommend Michael Horovitz' A NEW WASTE LAND, subtitled Timeship Earth at Nillennium, from New Departures, London, 2007, a large work of prose, poetry, photographs, cartoons, collage, commentary, notes, and invective from the man of whom Kathleen Raine had written: "He is a morally engaged poet and a trenchant critic of social corruption, not so much from a political standpoint but rather from the perspective of the "politics of eternity" of William Blake." And on faith, because I haven't seen it yet, THE MABINOGI by John K. Bollard, a new translation of the ancient Welsh text.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Living on Hydra, with Marianna and her young son, Axel, in the 1960's, he learned to speak fluent Greek, and it is this knowledge, care, and precision, which, over 30 years later, permitted him to render Cavafy's great poem, THE GOD ABANDONS ANTONY, into the extraordinary lyric, ALEXANDRA LEAVING.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Ophelia Queiroz no longer wants to love a poet
You frighten me Fernando, Alvaro, Ricardo,
or are you now Alberto your cubical gaucho
who eyes his luscious pampas through the office window
who chases flocks of musings from the roofs of Lisbon.
The alien ones attract you; of some haughty hoyden
who walks a paper pavement, of some blinding blonde one
you say you espy her; really, have you eyed her?
In verse you want to drown me; you know that I, Ophelia,
won't feel the silty bottom, that the swelling river
is woven through my body, my body is soughing -
and when you print its soughing, I will drown forever.
Fernando, I forbid you to lyricize about me
I do not want a nosegay of letters so lovesick
That they will all be published as soon as death claims us
my own post on Pessoa and Ophelia Queiroz @ http://www.iprefernotto.blogspot.com/ (nov. 26, '05).
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Richard Burton said of Brando: "He surprises me. He's the only one who does."
The new biography, SOMEBODY (Knopf, 2008), by Stefan Kanfer is quite readable, and a good riposte to Peter Manso's 1000 page resentful hatchet-job which Kanfer calls "wearisome and creepy" but as in any biography there are a few things which need correction.
First, and most importantly, Kanfer foolishly characterizes Tarita Teripaia, Brando's third wife, mother of three of his children, the female lead of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, as an "empty-headed 19 year old hotel worker" which is not only surprisingly nasty but is also untrue. In addition to her other obvious charms, Tarita Teripaia was one of the best tamure dancers in Tahiti, and although I have yet to read her book, MARLON - MY LOVE & MY TORMENT, I don't see why Kanfer goes out of his way to denigrate her. Probably she refused to co-operate in the writing of the biography.
Brando, despite his clear and controversial stands against racism in America and the work he did and the commitments he made on behalf of American Indians, never, to the best of my knowledge, spoke out against French nuclear testing in the Pacific, a fact which Kanfer omits. I never met Brando, so I cannot say for sure, but I surmise it must have been part of the deal he cut with the French which allowed him to buy the Tetiaroa atolls. Kanfer says Tetiaroa cost him only $70,000. I was given to understand it was $700,000, but I may be wrong.
As Brando's old friend Karl Malden had written in a letter to him: "I went to see A DRY WHITE SEASON and I don't care if you are five hundred pounds or fifty pounds. You are a fucking genius." Having met one of Brando's cooks while on Moorea ("time held me green and dying though I sang in my chains like the sea"), I was told that he began to put on really serious and exceptional weight due to his continually eating melting chocolate ice-cream which he couldn't get enough of. Tubs of it arrived every day on Tetiaroa. At least that is what his cook said.
Except of course for the Drollet family and their ohana, everyone on Tahiti and Moorea spoke highly of Brando. But I suppose that Tarita and Brando's surviving offspring there do have the last word on this. The tragic death of Cheyenne was mourned by all who knew her. Personally, I believe that there was a form of sexual jealousy involved in Dag Drollet's murder by Cheyenne's half-brother, Christian, but Kanfer does not go into this, and, finally, it is none of my business and is perhaps over-analytical speculation.
Having visited Tetiaroa I can attest to its other-worldly and dreamlike beauty, and despite what Kanfer says, it remains not just undeveloped but, due to frequent cyclones, and its distance from Tahiti, and anywhere else for that matter, 4-5 hours by fast catamaran, undevelopable, thank God. In short its amazing natural loveliness ("le bleu qui fait mal aux yeux") remains by-and-large intact. Which is how Mr. Brando wanted it to be.
It is of course sadly understandable that after Cheyenne's suicide "the South Seas lost their power of enchantment" for Brando as Kanfer writes. Perhaps. But had he continued to return there (as he once secretly did) he would have been subject to arrest by the French authorities as a material witness in the murder of Dag Drollet and subject to civil suit, just as Cheyenne herself, had she not returned to Tahiti, would have been called to testify in Los Angeles.
Kanfer ends respectfully and properly and rightly: "Will Marlon retain his iconic status in the years to come?....Skeptics who think the man's impact is exaggerated can find the truth easily enough. All they have to do is compare the leading male performances before his debut with those afterward. Once observed, these astonishing performances cannot be unseen....By taking chances, by jumping without a net in film after film for more than fifty years, Marlon Brando rewrote the conventions of screen acting."
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Anyone out there who would like a copy please contact me by e-mail or by slow post @ 9300 Atlantic Ave., Apt. 218, Margate, NJ, 08402.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
9 January addendum.
(But Gran Torino is pretty damn good. Not quite as good as I had expected it might be. Who over the past decades has directed himself as lead in so many quality films. He's never won the award for acting; of course if half the hype is true, it will be Mickey Rourke. Hope to catch that one soon, and Revolutionary Road as well.)
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Rebecca Jones on BBC Radio 4 interviews the wonderful Carolyn Casssady.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Dominic Williams sent me this link to his film, a nine minute tracking shot, recording Clive Meachen, walking the walk and talking the talk in the hills above the village of Old Goginan, in Wales, where he lives with his family, only recently retired from his position teaching American literature at The University College, Aberystwyth. From the Tottenham neighborhood of London, Clive matriculated at the U. of Essex where he studied both with Ed Dorn and Robert Lowell. Early on, he became an Olson scholar, and Allen Fisher published his still useful, rarely-read, and quite idiosyncratic monograph titled CHARLES OLSON: HIS ONLY WEATHER as a Spanner - number 23, in 1983. Meachen's other essays and reviews have appeared over many years in pretty much every Anglo-Welsh magazine and journal published in the UK. He and his wife, Maureen, from Belfast, accompanied Robert Creeley on his reading tour of Ireland. His monologue discourse here is of iconic American writers, Whitman, Kerouac, Ginsberg....
Dominic Williams is a singer-songwriter who has played folk clubs in the North of England for over 30 years while teaching for DeLaSalle College in Manchester, and, later, at Liverpool Institute, until taking early retirement for medical reasons. He has played in the Belfast and Edinburgh Festivals, and in the latter, the New Bracken Band, of which he was one of three members, won the folk group competition. He continues to study Spanish classical guitar. His song "Free Tibet" was released as a part of a casette issued by Branch Redd in 1991, and remastered this summer in Liverpool, shortly to be released as part of a CD titled "Five Poems Five Pieces" which features five of his songs and five of my poems. Dominic also has taught music to Tibetan refugees in India.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
The second group of three appeared in Branch Redd Review, issue #5 (1990).
rain and after
a broom left
in the weeded
Driving into the
face of the mountain
opening from light
into light beyond.
All these words
and all this
so much else
and you stop
for a breath
You said it
As if you
here to have
word of it.
It's the pause
word more is
occurs - when
you come in.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Finestone prefaces his compilations with a quote from the opening of Goodis' first novel, Retreat From Oblivion (1939): "After a while it gets so bad you want to stop the whole business. You figure there's no use in trying to fight back. Things are dead set against you and the sooner you give up the better."
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
(updated Sept. 12th; Sept. 29th/30th; Oct. 1st)
It is difficult to support the Obama/Biden ticket for the reasons below. If it weren't for their hard-line support of off-shore oil drilling, and the slaughter of animals in Alaska, I would even be tempted to vote Republican for the first time in my life, though it's a passing temptation.
I am not a Nader-person, and I believe that he as much as anyone was responsible for the election of Bush II, in 2000, though, as someone once remarked, it doesn't matter how you vote. What matters is who counts the votes. Or in the case of electronic machines, what....
Still, he should be given the opportunity to participate in the so-called debates, and from my point of view, perhaps if he had offered the VP slot to Sanders of Vermont enough interest and commotion might have been created to make that happen. Neverthelesss, it remains clear to me that a vote for Nader is probably a vote for McCain.
I suppose it has not been since Eugene Debs (!) that the "Left" in the U.S. has ever gotten it together to unite. There is always squabbling, so that socialist workers and socialist labor parties and the Greens and all the others just don't seem to care enough about people's welfare to cease bickering and form a viable and lasting third party alternative to the republicrats.
My father was a Roosevelt-Stevenson liberal, and served 9 terms in the Pennsylvania Legislature (1954-'72) before retiring, and he co-authored and sponsored the first Fair Employment Practices Commission Act in that State.
I wouldn't want him to turn in his proverbial, and rather than considering voting McCain-Palin, I will exercise my right not to vote. Although "it is pretty to think so" perhaps if one acts in this Kantian imperative way the results might turn out as they did in Saramago's Seeing. Despite my opposition to the Vietnam War back then (I resisted the draft, did not "dodge" it like Clinton) and my opposition to the Iraq War and the subsequent occupations, McCain undeniably showed a sense of honor and courage those years ago, and despite Palin's anti-abortion stance, she backed it up, obviously. And I cannot believe, whomsoever is appointed, that the Court will overturn Roe v. Wade entirely, intruding itself thus into a woman's body, and returning us to the days of illegal backstreet abortion. In terms of gun-control, no party supports disarming the people, so even the NRA has become almost a non-issue in many respects, especially now that the "strict constructionists" of the Court have in fact legislated the way they have about people's rights to a weapon. Myself, I think it a tenuous right, given the fact that there are not many who purchase a weapon are in a "well-regulated militia." Certainly the right is nowhere near absolute, so what do the Democrats favor? Not selling sub-machine guns to felons? Allowing only one firearm purchase a month, as Obama has proposed? It's a bloody (excuse the pun) joke. Nor does either party really care to initiate a civilzed health care system for ALL Americans, modelled perhaps on the NHS in Britain, so that doctors and patients have the right to go private if they so choose, and the red herring of "socialized medicine" is removed. The Clinton Presidency went down the tubes first on this issue because a National Health Service in more than name only would require a complete long-term restructuring of how things work, what our priorities are, including medical school tuition, and how hospitals are run, not just a challenge to the motivation and dedication of doctors and researchers, and of course to the power of private insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Biden is an admitted plagiarist from back in his law school days, and this is quite forgettable/forgivable, except he seems to have continued to do this throughout his career, most recently in the Neal Kinnock working-class roots speech. I don't believe Biden has working-class roots in any substantive sense anyway, and out of law school only a few years he is elected to the Senate at age 29/30, so he can hardly be said to have worked at all! And in the Senate, how many overseas jaunts on taxpayers' money, and for what? To jaw with foreign leaders and tour about. No, I am no advocate, in spite of his votes against Roberts and Alito, which didn't, really, take any politcal courage at all.
Senator Obama keeps changing his position on each issue on which he has taken a stand. First he was against the Iraq War, then he said let's wait 16 months to withdraw troops because of what the military says, and then he says we'll send more troops to Afghanistan! I am sure the Afghan people were delighted to hear that. He says people in small-town Pennsylvania were embittered and thus clung to religion and guns (which I think is accurate), but when challenged, he said "that is not what I meant at all / that is not it, at all." He said he was against oil drilling off-shore, then he said, well, we will have to reconsider, given energy dependence. Now he even says that we have the right to violate Pakistan's borders looking for "terrorists" - which is exactly what Palin has said.
However, this couplet from a poem by James Norman Hall (*) conveys a primary reason I cannot vote for McCain/Palin either. Written while he was as he writes "...en route by train from San Francisco to Los Angeles where Nordhoff's parents lived at that time. Along the beautiful coast between the two cities I saw oil wells in the sea - even in the sea!" - and reacted to the profanation in a sonnet ending with the following lines:
"They must be vermin, surely, who defile
Their very Homeland coasts, mile after mile."
Perhaps it's all just show-biz now. And the "lesser of two evils" riposte went out the window after '64, and in 1968. But I will watch the debates..........
M.K. of Madison, Wisconsin, says: Sarah Palin is our Eva Peron. Especially after Obama's lipstick-on-a-pig comment, I can only respond Viva Evita!
And Viva Tina Fey!
(Although a bit wary of admitting it in today's climate, and not wishing to be labelled a "creationist" or in any way near that camp (though on another level of discourse, why should we trust scientists?) I think, since, for the artist "all time is contemporaneous" - that it is a rather poetic thought that humans and dinosaurs were, as she said, on earth at the same time!)
(*) Hall is one of our most under-regarded post WWI writers. In a very early poem, he coined the phrase "band of brothers" - and for anyone interested, his posthumously published book, THE FORGOTTEN ONE, which includes his great essay "Frisbie of Danger Island" is a good place to begin reading. In another couplet unfortunately becoming prescient, he wrote of the America he loved:
A ruined land: the forests, prairies, gone;
Slums measureless, the rivers foul with slime.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Every time I return to Britain I maintain the hope that I will find an agent or a publisher for my retro detective novel and my book of short stories. But it's a bit late in the day now.
I saw The Wire here on TV for the first time. I was not impressed. Cops and gangs and politicians and reporters. Same old same old. One-dimensional writing. Can't hold a candle to Prime Suspect, let alone the metaphysical Prisoner (six of one). However, I was impressed by Man On Wire, the documentary film now showing in theatres here. And whatever happened to Hilda Downer's new book of poetry, Down To The Wire, which was due out years ago.
Hard to watch English language films, TV, listen to radio, music, now with increasing deafness. Still, not to gripe. Maybe easier to go deaf in America where not many have anything to say of a literary/intellectual nature, at least not in South Jersey where living like a hermit is easier than socializing. Not that my provincial home town of Philadelphia is any better, but thinking of Philadelphia, I wonder if the academics in charge of Pennsound there will ever have the balls to record for their archive the exceptional performance poem, The Black Glove, by Ketan Ben Caesar, a South Philadelphia poet who has been reading and organizing readings for 40 years now. But he is not an academician and so wears no Emporer's New Poetry Clothes. On his website, he has consistently denied Cosa Nostra rumors, but it is true that since Ketan arrived on the scene, not one Philadelphia poet has been whacked, though as Ketan knows, there were a few worthy candidates. Also in Philadelphia, Vincent Rinella, who has worked 40 years as a therapeutic counsellor and attorney in health care fields for the disabled, has published privately his second chapbook of what he calls Coterie Works.
Except for speed, computer technology seems to me to isolate human beings rather than to enhance communication, but then I suppose someone my age after Gutenberg would have said: there goes illuminated manuscripts. Still, as the late Denise Levertov had opined, no great poetry will be written on a computer. In fact it is the end of literature as we have known it, and quite possibly consciously so since what writers get (beyond this kind of digital vanity press aggrandisement) is simply the trickle down (golden shower) from computer use by the military. It has put an end to the art of letter-writing. And has (as all travellers know), put an end to the romance of short-wave radio.
Well, never mind. I began blogging when I thought my increasing hearing losses might be due to acoustic neroma and thought if I have anything left to say, best get it out there. But isn't it all vanitas and loneliness and boredom and bullshit, really?
With household bills going up here even faster than in the U.S., the head of British Gas recently said that people should stop complaining and wear an extra sweater indoors. He makes millions of course, like American CEO's. When will these people be put in prison as they probably deserve to be. Still, I would rent here if I had the bread, but with grotty studio apartments in decent neighborhoods going for $2000 a month and one bedrooms going for 3, what's the point. A decade ago I did rent a studio here but ended up suing the landlord, a property developer named Goldenberg, because of undisclosed vermin infestation. But I lost the case, not having hired a lawyer, and also because I could not provide substantial enough evidence in the form of live cockraoches and rats. British justice. And once, over 40 years ago, I was forced to leave a place I had rented because I was fucking my girlfriend there. We can't allow that, the Arab landlords said. Gombeen men, all of them, as the 20th century's greatest comic-ironic novelist, J.P. Donleavy, would say.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I must read "Maugham vs. James" by Adeline R. Tinter in ANTIQUARIAN BOOKMAN, number 7, (Nov. '63). How nice to look forward to reading something one wants to.
I live so vicariously now it seems that I too much look forward to the forthcoming Niedecker biography.... Did she or didn't she with Louie? And an abortion? Why should I desire to pry?
A psychoanalytic theoretician would say that laughter defuses, and supports the status quo. Ed Dorn, in ED DORN LIVE (U. of Michigan Press) says he uses it to attack.
August Kleinzahler's fluent poem in an LRB six weeks after his denigration of Zukofsky in that same journal is quite interesting. (I can't help but wonder if his diss of LZ was highly influenced by the late Kenneth Cox, whom he greatly admired. And what was it, really, made Cox change his mind so radically about Zukofsky's poetry, after they met? Was it that Cox was queer and Zukofsky was not?) Although Keith Woolnough dismissed "Shoot The Freak" as prose, let me leave that for the moment. I liked the poem on a first reading, and I was drawn back to several re-readings because there seemed something there underneath which I found disturbing (ok) but also distasteful, and then I came to a perhaps incorrect conclusion that beyond the nastiness of the poet's condescending disdain for the people whose voices speak in the poem, Brooklyn or Queens day-trippers, there is an ethnic and cultural and class-ridden racist and smirking undertone, clearly a defense mechanism, cheap irony.
That kind of nasty irony has become fashionable in London over many years, and Kleinzahler, who has spent time here, apes it. London has become quite a nasty place with 90 knife killings so far this year. Not just gangs. Jack The Ripper's town. Of course there are some who believe still that Powell's old "rivers of blood" speech was prophetic.
In the London literary world, it was recently that Lionel Shriver knifed the corpse of Norman Mailer when she wrote that she was glad that Mailer was dead so she wouldn't have to write a review of the sequel to THE CASTLE IN THE FOREST. Prior to that, Andrew O'Hagen tried to trash Tusitala in a review by saying RLS was really in a closet, and then he babbled on to propound his homosexualist view of Jekyll and Hyde. For anyone interested, see my post for Dec. 20, 2005 on OMOOPART2 (i.e. iprefernottopart2.blogspot.com).
I am FIU with all this gay crow jim.
July 22nd was my 38th wedding anniversary, or would have been, might have been.
I need to leave this cosmic vacuum cleaner of London, maybe manage a train to Wales for a few days, or even a Eurostar.... Almost 3 years now since I've been back to Tahiti and Moorea. I keep returning here instead. Perhaps it is no longer my destiny to return there....
No one I am intimate with, and no thing to return to in the U.S. except my apartment in New Jersey. A roof over one's head at least. Due now for an Aug. 21 flight back.
Good to see London friends - Anabel, Elaine (my theatre guru), Gash (Crowley & Hawkwind afficionado), Jim (print shaman) and Annette, Keith, Suko. (Bray (and indigenous Debbie)who I did not catch up with this trip.) However, I seem to have developed a John Betjeman/Philip Larkin mindset about travel to the Continent. Maybe it's just aversion to airports/airplane trips, and now it is wearying travelling alone.
The London I knew continues to vanish. In some ways a good thing. When I first lived here in 1964-'65, little 3x5 cards in shop windows often said EUROPEANS ONLY in To Let (For Rent, in American English) adverts. I remember not phoning/applying for those flats and bedsits because I am American. Obviously I was still quite naive.
Note that the English poet, Kate Ruse, now has a website: http://www.kate-ruse.co.uk/.
(from London, July 16-30th)
Saturday, June 28, 2008
These two rejoinders by Leon Lewis were sent to THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS (re: Charles Simic's "review" of / denigration of, the poetry of Robert Creeley, issue dated Oct. 25, 2007), and to LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS (re: August Kleinzahler's piece on Mark Scroggins's biography of Louis Zukofsky, issue of 22 May 2008). Neither letter was accepted for publication.
Leon Lewis is the author of the best full-length study of the works of Henry Miller (Schocken/Random House, 1986), and ECCENTRIC INDIVIDUALITY IN WILLIAM KOTZWINKLE'S THE FAN MAN AND OTHER WORKS OF FICTION AND FANTASY (The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002). He is the translator of Gilbert Michlin's OF NO USE TO THE NATION (A JEWISH FAMILY IN FRANCE, 1925 - 1945: A MEMOIR) (Wayne State U. Press, 2004), and the Editor of ROBERT M. YOUNG: ESSAYS ON THE FILMS (McFarland & Co., 2005). He also guest-edited the current issue of COLD MOUNTAIN REVIEW (Spring 2008).
His essays are wide-ranging, and they do not sacrifice insight or depth for scope. He has published substantial pieces on Hesiod, on Issa, on Scott Fitzgerald, on Heaney, on Charles Wright, on Burroughs, as well as on Bunting, Olson at Black Mountain, Creeley, two pieces on Zukofsky, most recently a brilliant cognitive exegesis of some of the poems of 80 FLOWERS titled "Aural Invention as Floral Splendor: Louis Zukofsky's Vision of Natural Beauty" (The Writer's Chronicle, volume 40 #1, Feb. 2008). Another recent essay, on Robert Frost, "Frost Among The Infinities" - published in SHENANDOAH, is the finest short literary/critical/theoretical piece on Frost I have ever read.
Lewis is a professor of literature and film at Appalachian State University, and he lives in the hills near Boone, North Carolina, with his wife and daughter.
The concept of a "publishing event" - once an eagerly anticipated occasion when a book of unusual significance for the literary community was about to appear - has been engulfed by too-familiar marketing strategies more dependent on an appeal to the sensational than one based on any discernable literary merit. If the traditional aspect still carries much currency, it might apply to the publication of a "book" that provides, at the moment of conclusion of a distinguished writing life, the full range of the work that drew and held attention through a span of at least several decades. The U. of California Press two-volume edition of Robert Creeley's COLLECTED POETRY - arranged by chronology as 1945-1975 and 1975-2005 is arguably such an "event," and the imprimatur of a review by the current poet laureate of the U.S., Charles Simic, would seem to support this assumption.
While Simic's consideration of these two volumes is welcome recognition of Creeley's place in American letters, his discussion of Creeley's life and work presents a portrait that does not adequately convey some of the singular qualities that made Creeley such an essential person in the development of American literature in the twentieth century. In too many ways, Simic seems to diminish the dimensions of Creeley's contributions to both the practical and theoretical aspects of American poetry, particularly in his dismissal of Creeley's work after 1975, which he finds "especially hard going." It would take at least as much space as Simic uses to present an argument for the latter work, and I expect there will be adequate venues for this to occur. (*) The limitations of Simic's essay lies in its dependence on assertions forming the basis for judgments that make vital elements of Creeley's oeuvre unrecognizable.
Part of the problem may be Simic's perspective, which is revealed by his comment on "the fabled circle of poets" including Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Paul Blackburn and Ed Dorn which he describes as "little understood." This was an accurate enough assumption at the time that Donald Allen's ground-breaking anthology The New American Poetry, 1945-1960 appeared in 1960, but by the time Allen and Warren Tallman produced The Poetics of the New American Poetry in 1973, the conversation had progressed to the point that a lack of understanding was primarily a product of the resistance or opposition of other gatherings of poets who had their own agendas about what constituted poetic excellence. It might be useful to substitute the term "militia" for "school" since this is often a more accurate depiction of the internecine aspect of the pernicious combat that sometimes erupts. Albeit a valid argument in some aspects, it leads to Simic's condemnation of encouragment from Allen Ginsberg and Duncan, which Creeley called crucial to his own development, as "two awful pieces of advice." This is an indication of the disparity between Simic's own poetic practices and those of the "little understood" circle, a legitimate point of contention, but in Simic's essay a means of easy disparagment and too-casual dismissal.
He misreads Ginsberg's statement that "you don't have to worry so much about writing a 'bad' poem" as license for laxity. Ginsberg was aware of the kind of care Creeley brought to every poem he wrote, and understood that even if the method of composition might not involve extensive revision, there was a kind of directed attention to the process in accord with Olson's statement in his "Projective Verse" essay that the poet "be instant by instant, aware of forces" operating in a poetic field. Ginsberg was suggesting that the adverse reception that a particular poem might draw ought not to discourage Creeley. Both men knew that not every poem would be a polished masterpiece, and that to use as a model an established and accepted poetic form could be a severe detriment to the evolving poetic voice which Creeley was fashioning, Creeley's visionary ideas about form, which began as an epistolary exchnage with Olson and which have been recorded in their letters and many other places - notably Creeley's interview in The Craft of Poetry: Interviews from the New York Quarterly (edited by William Packard; New York: Doubleday, 1974) - indicate just how much thought Creeley gave to the shape of a poem, and illuminate many of the methods of the "little understood" company (to use one of Creeley's favorite formulations) brought to their craft. Simic imples that Creeley was following a destructive strategy, but the idea of what a "bad" poem might be is a point in an ongoing argument between Simic and Creeley's company. This does not mean that Simic is wrong, just that he might not have been the most appropriate choice for the review. And that is at the core of my concern. There are numerous examples of a totally inappropriate choice by a prestigious publication for a significant review of an important, even ground-breaking book, such as the selection by LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS of August Kleinzahler for Mark Scroggins's life of Louis Zukofsky.
Even as he acknowledges how much Creeley continued William Carlos Williams's efforts to speak in the American vernacular, Simic reduces the complexity of Creeley's control of this kind of speech to a "colloquial ease" and summarizes the intricate shape of Creeley's poetic invention as "the fragmented look of modern poetry." When he actually examines the earlier poems of the first volume, his discussion is often illuminating, but too frequently he generalizes as in his comment that Olson and Creeley "raised each other's spirits" even though they didn't have that "much in common," further revealing his misunderstanding of their intense friendship. The several paragraph summary of Creeley's early life and his contact with Olson covers some of the facts, but leaves out much of what makes the "facts" interesting, or narrows them deceptively. To depict Creeley as "a slight, stooped figure" misses that aspect of the man who presented himself, with a sly smile and dashing cape in a photograph from his days at Black Mountain, "as a Spanish assassin." Similarly, Simic's view of Olson gets a few details right, but gives no sense of the daunting intellectual presence Duncan called "a great fire source." Understandable limitations of space require Simic to contain his rendition of the context for Creeley's writing, and I appreciate the prestige that Simic brings to Creeley even as he marginalizes him as "a cult figure." Nonetheless, the words of a previous laureate, Robert Haas, might help to expand the sense of what Creeley has accomplished. As Haas astutely put it, Creeley's way "has been to take the ordinary, threadbare phrases and sentences by which we locate ourselves and to put them under the immense pressure of the rhythms of poetry and to make out of that what dance or music there can be."
* (Editor's Note): For the best explorations of Creeley's poetry, see Marjorie Perloff's superlative essay, "Creeley's Radical Poetics", @ electronic book review 10/13/07, and Susan Stewart's beautiful piece, "A Human Pledge", in The Nation, January 2, 2008.
The dismissive supercilious tone of the first paragraph of August Kleinzahler's review of The Poem Of A Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky is an indication of his lack of respect for both Zukofsky's poetry and Mark Scroggins's ambitious, informative book. Imprecise, inaccurate and reductive, Kleinzahler calls Zukofsky's parents Russian Jewish (they were from Lithuania); doesn't mention Zukofsky's attendance at Columbia where he worked on a literary magazine with his friend Whitaker Chambers, has him in New York City his "entire life" although he taught in Wisconsin, traveled to the United Kingdom and lived and worked in Brooklyn where he taught for many years at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, rather than "doing as little as possible." Calling him "abstemious, hypocondriac," and asserting that "he cared little for food," the portrait that emerges is of an eccentric, self-centered individual who still managed to have a "long writing life." Kleinzahler concedes that some of the lyrics are "splendidly musical" but asserts that "it's hard to determine what any given poem is about." Assuming correctly that Zukofsky's life and work is not that familiar to even most literate readers, he draws a psychological portrait of the poet that is highly selective and which expresses a particularly personal estimate of Zukofsky's poetry, concluding his review by quoting Kenneth Cox, once a strong supporter of Zukofsky's work who eventually decided that "Assiduous industry and cautious calculation do not replace creative energy," a position which he finds "difficult to argue with finally." A reviewer does not have to be an advocate, but he should be able to substantiate his judgment. Kleinzahler does not do an especially effective job of supporting his comments about the poetry, but the real failure of his review is his completely inadequate assessment of Scroggins's book, a thoroughly researched, carefully considered, clearly explained presentation of Zukofsky's life and work which is also an excellent overview of American poetry in the twentieth century.
Undisputably the leading Zukofsky scholar, whose work is cited and admired by nearly everyone who has written about Zukofsky, Scroggins stated in his ground-breaking earlier study Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge (1998) "I love Louis Zukofsky," and it is this passionate response, combined with an impressive grasp of the sources and subjects of Zukofsky's work and an ability to make Zukofsky's distinctly original employment of language and syntax at least understandable, that make The Poem of a Life indispensable for anyone interested in a poet whose reputation for obscurity has kept him hidden in spite of the wide range of other esteemed poets who have declared their debt to him. Kleinzahler devotes a significant section of his review to Zukofsky's friendship with Basil Bunting, an important if intermittent relationship, but doesn't account - as Scroggins does - for Zukofsky's contacts with and influence on the next generation, especially Robert Creeley (not mentioned at all) and Robert Duncan (one brief reference). Kleinzahler faults Scroggins for not making a definitive statement about Zukofsky's relationship with Lorine Niedecker, somehow misunderstanding Scroggins's measured account of available evidence, and ultimately dismisses the entire enterprise by recommending "Rather than read Scroggins, anyone interested in Zukofsky's life should read the interview with Celia," Zukofsky's wife Celia Thaew. This is an absurd suggestion. Scroggins provides a full, sensitive and appreciative portrait of Celia, which succeeds in encouraging further explorations of her life and their relationship; not a substitution. His summation (quoting Cox, who he preposterously describes as "perhaps Zukovsky's closest and most appreciative reader" which ignores Michele Leggott's Reading Louis Zukofsky's 80 Flowers;1989) that "Zukofsky's exploration of language looks like a child's exploration of a new toy; heedless or ignorant of its original function," is an absurd contention, and reveals a misunderstanding of Zukofsky's extraordinary involvement with language sufficient to disqualify him as a commentator. Nonetheless, as a reviewer, he is entitled to his opinions. It would be unfortunate, however, if his review - containing some useful information and illuminating insights - were regarded as a fair account of Scroggins' book, or if it deterred a library or academic institution from purchasing it. At this time, there is no other publication that comes close to providing as much essential information and incisive commentary about a poet finally beginning to receive the kind of attention that is long overdue.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
603 N. 17th Street is where the Howard Sounes biography says Bukowski lived in Philadelphia during his ten year drunk, hanging out in a local bar. Actually, it was upmarket a bit from the skid row dives down by Dock Street where "the sullen Delaware" runs and where David Goodis's characters often lived. (For more on Goodis, see omoopart3.blogspot.com. - post for 2006/09/09.) Goodis's protagonists were much more down-and-out than the regulars at the Spring Garden area bar in which Bukowski drank. "Down there" (to use the title of Goodis's most well-known book, the one which Truffaut filmed as "Shoot The Piano Player") Goodis's skid row residents would be lucky to be able to afford the price of a drink at a bar, howsoever rough. Both areas have been gentrified in the intervening fifty years, and both are now quite fashionable if there is such a thing as "fashionable" in Philadelphia. The first step to erasing the Eraserhead ambiences of my home town would be for writers like the editor of CITY PAPER to stop trashing other people's neighborhoods in his fiction. Like Feltonville, a decent working-class/lower middle-class place. He should deposit his garbage in his own neighborhood.
Poe also lived in Philadelphia, with his 15 year old wife, and her mother, about a mile east of where Bukowski drank, and another mile further east, the river, Goodisland. In any anthology of American short stories from Poe to Bukowski, Goodis's "Professional Man" should be included as surely as anything from Hawthorne and Melville or "The Outcasts of Poker Flats" or "The Blue Hotel" or "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" or "Eli The Fanatic" or "You're Too Hip, Baby" or "At The Anarchists' Convention" - and I suppose it would be a cop-out not to include Bukowski's "The Fiend".
I'm surprised that some enterprising publisher like Virago hasn't done an anthology of Great Short Stories Written By Women. Or perhaps some publisher already has, and if they have, I doubt they would have included (though I would have hoped they would) Isabelle Eberhardt's "The Convert", Jean Rhys's "Let Them Call It Jazz", Angela Carter's "The Courtship of Mr. Lyon", and Tove Jansson's "The Cat".
It is Anita Stewart Gilmore I have to thank for putting me on to Tove Jansson's "The Summer Book" and "The Winter Book" and thinking some about it, I wonder if her other writings, her Moomin stories for children, the first two books of which came out in English translation a few years before the Shmoos made their appearance in Al Capp's Li'l Abner, didn't have a conscious influence.
At least there is still freedom here to publish. At one extreme, the mimeographed and stapled pages of a poet named Statts Wyon, selling his stuff on the hard streets of San Francisco in 1974, for 25 cents. Or at the bottom rung of the commercial enterprise, Paul Blackburn's translation of EL CID. Robert Vas Dias is the only person I know who has a copy. One hopes that whoever holds the rights will do it. It should have been out long before yesterday. And Ron Silliman is correct when he blogposts that there is an affinity between EL CID and GUNSLINGER. (N.B. As Silliman also points out (on his blog for today, May 19th) I did not know that the U. of Oklahoma Press had re-issued EL CID in an edition edited by George Economou.)
At the other end of the spectrum, Trigram Press's beautiful edition of Tom Raworth's LION LION (1970). (It should be noted here, since it goes unacknowledged anywhere else, that the Trigram edition of Zukofsky's A22/23 is the definitive one. The U. of Cal. version is based on the Grossman edition, in which there are errors. Interestingly, I was told by Mark Scroggins that the Zukofskys were not pleased with the Trigram edition, even though Asa Benveniste worked closely with them, even to finding and using the same dictionary Louis had used at the time of composition. I suppose the reasons for this are buried somewhere in the correspondence.) As another example of poetry properly published is the Auerhahn edition of MAXIMUS, FROM DOGTOWN -I.
In addition to the short story by Olson, "The Post Office" and the poem-sequence by Lee Harwood, "Notes Of A Post Office Clerk" and the play by Rabindranath Tagore (who probably didn't work in the post office), both Richard Wright and Bukowski (and there must be others I am missing from those who did stints there) wrote post office novels. I seem to remember that LAWD TODAY was Wright's first, as was Bukowski's POST OFFICE. Ferlinghetti said that the only difference between Bukowski's poetry and his prose was that he wrote poetry when he was too drunk to push back the carriage very far. I suppose this remark, out of pique, is akin to what Capote said of Kerouac's ON THE ROAD. Not true of course. "the light" for example in THE NIGHT TORN MAD WITH FOOTSTEPS, one of the posthumous books of his previously uncollected late poetry, a book containing poems of tribute to John Fante, is worthy of inclusion in any anthology of 20th century poetry. As is "my nudie dancer" from the same book, a longer poem in a more typical Bukowski-esque manner.
Then there is Larry Brown. A reviewer on Amazon going by the moniker of Johnny Roulette, specifically recommended Brown, and another reviewer recommended his FAY. Not being of and knowing next-to-nothing of Mississippi, I cannot vouch for the authenticity of his delineations, but it's a rural Goodisworld of the deep south, and perhaps Brown really is the second best writer to come from Oxford, Mississippi.
I lost no one personally in recent tsunami, earthquake, or cyclone, and it is not possible for me to imagine the suffering of so many, the immensity of it. Eighteen years ago, my then ladyfriend, who was working as a geologist, told me in apparently scientific language that the earth replenishes itself thus losing nothing from the continued extraction of the black gold. I didn't believe it then, and I don't now.
Well, one is not waving but blogging, and anyone out there who would like to read some of my work on the web outside of these posts, can go to http://www.poetrymagazines.org.uk/ and hit FIRE poetry magazine, and scroll through on-line issues 26, 17, 12 11, 9, and 8 (Guest Editorial), where the editor, English poet Jeremy Hilton, published some of my poetry and prose.
"Something further may follow of this Masquerade."
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Sometimes, it is reported, due to serious head injuries.
Yet is it not the case, if we are to be honest, that at least that many, if not more, had problems of a psychological, cognitive, and/or behavioral nature prior to enlistment? (*)
Of course such a thing as post-traumatic stress exists; always did. It exists as much as what war-mongering creeps and their toadies call "collateral damage" to justify the murder of thousands of children and innocent people in the name of peace. It was Allen Ginsberg, in his great poem, "Wichita Vortex Sutra" who first pointed out what he called the invention of "black magic language" - which was used to justify slaughter.
It was Charles Bukowski (in the fifth and final volume of his posthumous poems, The People Look Like Flowers At Last, 2007, paperback 2008, (perhaps not the strongest of his work, but the most vulnerable, the most moving, the most compassionate) - with an author photograh by Linda Lee Bukowski, edited by John Martin with a cover illustration by Barbara Martin, and a surprising back-cover blurb by Billy Collins) who wrote a poem titled "the elephants of Vietnam" which I am pirating here:
first they used to, he told me,
gun and bomb the elephants,
you could hear their screams over all the other sounds;
but you flew high to bomb the people,
you never saw it,
just a little flash from way up
but with the elephants
you could watch it happen
and hear how they screamed;
i'd tell my buddies, listen, you guys
but they just laughed
as the elephants scattered
throwing up their trunks (if they weren't blown off)
opening their mouths
kicking their dumb clumsy legs
as blood ran out of big holes in their bellies.
then we'd fly back,
we'd get everything:
convoys, dumps, bridges, people, elephants and
all the rest.
he told me later, I
felt bad about the
(*) And YAHOO reports today (April 21) that the army and marines have "sharply" raised the
number of recruits with felony convictions admitted to the services....Felonies of enlistees include sex crimes, manslaughter, aggravated assault, armed robbery, vehicular homicide, etc.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Soon: Bill & Hillary Clinton, Michelle & Barack Obama in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.
And "whoever's laughing hasn't heard the latest news." - Brecht.
(April 30th: Theatre-goers take note:)
Special MayDay performances of Henry IV (part 2), starring Barack Obama as Prince Hal, and Jeremiah Wright as Falstaff.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Today, seeing the Frida Kahlo exhibition, I was pleased and surprised to see that finally they have acknowledged the true title of the painting, PARAHI TE MARAE.
Apparently, someone with more clout and influence than I, has prevailed upon them to make the change. So the Museum of my native city is off my personal hook, and I have deleted from "Interests" on my "Complete Profile" "convincing the Phila. Art Museum to use the Tahitian language title to their Gauguin on its accompanying plaque."
For anyone interested, I have added an Addendum to my initial OMOO blogpost. (Also noted on that post is the unexpected death of Museum Director Anne d'Harnoncourt, who was quite probably the person who decided to make the change to the correct title on the plaque.)