Tuesday, April 12, 2011


... er, I mean effervescing. The usual suspects line up to be counted in this trend piece for The New York Times profiling the present, surprising survival of literary magazines: McSweeney's, ZYZZYVA, CLMP. Wonder why your mag wasn't mentioned? Are you not thriving as well? Tip of the hat to Jenna D. for pointing this piece out.


News from the Republic of Letters has put on a new digital costume, i.e. has a new website, which serves in large part as a vehicle for Republic of Letters books, the third of which is out this month.

The Editor's motto for the new form of the magazine: We are not here to teach writers but to put them to the proof." For, Botsford continues, "In 21st-century America it is quite likely that the average reader has no idea that metals get proven: writers by publication among their betters."

Of the first offerings, I recommend "My Friend Borges."Really, it all looks good.


Below, and at the Boston Review website, Gregory Pardlo reads his poem "Palling Around":

This video is part of BR's special package celebrating National Poetry Month. The rich jangle of noun phrases Pardlo is using here is rather like what Lucy Brock-Broido was writing in her dense poems of the eighties; for example, these lines from "I Wish You Love" [from AGNI 27, 1988, pg. 11]:
Like Josef's skull ascending from Brazilian soil
On a twine, she rises from her famous white bed,
Exhumed by morning. I am hunted into daylight
When I wake like that, god-hungry, startled.
Now that my father is gone, he has gone
Luminous. I wish him love.


The Boston Joyce Forum is sponsoring a symposium at Boston College this Saturday, April 16th. Joyceans of international repute such as Joe Valente (Buffalo) and Marilyn Reizbaum (Bowdoin) will present a series of lectures on the theme of "Joyce and History."

For more information on the BJF, write to Joseph Nugent or Patrick Mullen. Take note: throughout the academic semester, Raidin the Wake -- the Boston College Finnegans Wake reading group, now in its seventh year -- meets weekly in the ILA building at Stone Avenue.


William Giraldi, a 2004 graduate of the BU MFA program in fiction, has been named a 2011 National Magazine Awards Finalist for his essay "The Physics of Speed" in the Fall 2010 issue of The Antioch Review. From the essay:
In the following days I learned that absence takes up space, has mass, moves from room to room. Grief is much heavier than fear. Fear hung before me in anticipation, whereas the grief was planted like a sequoia in my stomach, its roots reaching far down into my legs for water, its branches reaching up through my arms and torso and neck, the poison from its fruit spilling into my cells. Each terrible dawn stretched across the day and illuminated my father's absence.
 If you'd like to read the whole piece, subscribe to The Antioch Review, or ask to borrow my copy -- I'm happy to mail it out.


In the latest iteration of the Poetic Justice reading series, January O'Neil, Marsha Pomerantz, and Ron Slate will be reading this Thursday, April 14th, at 6:30. The reading will take place in the 5th floor Esplanade Room of the Liberty Hotel, 215 Charles Street. Organized by Tapestry of Voices and The Grolier Poetry Book Shop.


The First and Last Word Poetry Series presents Joshua Coben, Ron Slate, and Kim Triedman, reading on Tuesday April 12th, at 6:30 PM at The Center for the Arts, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville Mass. Admission: $4; followed by an open mic.


New Zealand artist and writer Claire Benyon is raising money to go toward relief efforts following the earthquake at Christchurch. It's something like a raffle; even a small donation will put you in the running to win one of the lovely works of art or literature donated by their creators to support the project.


From that same part of the world, an announcement: distinguished British poet/translator Anthony Rudolf will feature in the seventh edition of the magazine chapbook titled "broadsheet." The authors in this series are rather carefully chosen, and the chapbooks themselves are elegantly produced.


This week's selection was made by Massachusetts poetry advocate/burr George Slone.
  1. "Estoit-il lors temps de moy taire?" -- François Villon
  2. "Me diste con la carne y la leche las silabas que nombraran tambien los palidos gusanos que viajan en tu vientre" -- Pablo Neruda
  3. "Walk on gaunt shores and avoid the people." -- Robinson Jeffers
Let us know by email if you'd like to share three lines YOU like, in a future weekly bulletin.


Issue 24 of The Wolf is out, with poems by Paul Stubbs ('The Last Signs of Science'), Will Stone, Blandine Longre, Gabriel Levin, John Kinsella, and Anne Waldman among others, as well as critical prose and reviews (of Tabish Khair's Man of Glass, Siddhartha Bose's Kalagora, Charles Reznikoff's Holocaust, etc.) and paintings by Bahram.

The editor, James Byrne, will be reading with Tess Taylor, Laura Healy, and James Stotts, at a special session of the U35 reading series to take place at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival on Saturday, May 14th.


"One of the best places for workshops," says The Boston Globe. Barbara Helfgott Hyett of The Workshop For Publishing Poets has asked me to announce the start of their Spring 2011 workshops.

For details on class schedules and fees, and where to submit poems in application,visit http://www.poemworks.com, where you'll also find poems by current members, and lists of awards won including Pushcart Prizes and Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowships. To register, and/or ask questions, contact the workshop administrator.


Below, an excerpt from the transcript smuggled out of Russia of Joseph Brodsky's trial in 1964 for "malicious parasitism":
JUDGE: And what is your profession?

BRODSKY: Poet. Poet and translator.

JUDGE: And who told you that you were a poet? Who assigned you that rank?

BRODSKY: No one. (Non-confrontationally.) Who assigned me to the human race?

JUDGE: And did you study for this?

BRODSKY: For what?

JUDGE: To become a poet? Did you try to attend a school where they train [poets] . . . where they teach . . .

BRODSKY: I don't think it comes from education.

JUDGE: From what, then?
BRODSKY: I think it's . . . (at a loss) . . . from God.


The Sixth Annual Newburyport Literary Festival will kick off Friday, April 29, 2011, with an opening ceremony at 6 pm at the Firehouse Center for the Arts, in Market Square, Newburyport. Events on Saturday, April 30, begin at 8:30 am with Morning Coffee with the Poets.


This little outfit in Michigan is publishing little-known books of great quality. Last summer they brought out 7PROSE by Franz Wright, a slim paperback in a paper wrapper. A text from this collection, concerning Wright's visit to see a friend in a Boston mental ward, will appear in the forthcoming issue of The Charles River Journal.


John Armstrong has issued a manifesto for Slow Poetry [read: Dense Verse]. Along these lines, readers might enjoy the poetry of Ted Richer, a poet living in Scituate. His poems often show a perfection of slowness via repetition; for example his poem "Secrets" at Public Republic. Below, a video of Richer reading several short poems (he starts at 38:11), the first of which was finished on the morning of the reading.


The Liberation Poetry Collective presents a reading to launch a new book by Tontongi (aka Eddy Toussaint), and to say farewell to John Wronoski to the staff of Pierre Menard Gallery as they close for good after many years of artistic production. This Thursday, April 14th, 6 PM, at 10 Arrow Street, Cambridge. Open to the public; refreshments will be available. For information, call the Gallery at 617-868-2023.


Congratulations to poet and translator David Ferry, whose lifetime of accomplishment in letters has been recognized by the Poetry Foundation with the 2011 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.


Poetry's website relaunch has made the back issue contents more easily available than ever before... such contents as Landis Everson's poem from the October 2006 issue, "What's Wrong":
What you are struggling with," said
the psychologist, "is
a continuous song, something like
a telephone's tone. [...]
Not serendipitously, but sadly, I came across two poems written in memoriam for Everson while reading this  Saturday, and a third in Stephen Sturgeon's Trees of the Twentieth Century when a friend and I were paging through and talking about the collection on Sunday.

I think of a short poem by Greg Delanty:
For many are not here who were here before.
In Dark Sky Magazine last month, Ben Mazer wrote about his relationship with Landis, and how his collection January, 2008 grew out of the grief he felt when the older poet died in 2007.


Karyn Crispo Jones, Jillian Saucier, and James Eggleston will be reading their poetry at MIT this Wednesday, April 13, at noon, in Killian Hall (14W-111, in the Institute's nonce locational scheme). Part of MIT's Artists Behind the Desk events series.


Jessa Crispin, writing for The Smart Set, agrees with Goldsmith that it's all dross, but unlike Goldsmith does not see much value in setting oneself up as a dross broker:
Not even the most idealistic among the cultural critics bother to argue that the system is merit-based. She takes aim at the MFA industry, the overproduction of underdeveloped books, and at the shallow hunger of amateur writers.
Of course, her complaint is not new: "Of making books there is no end," said Ecclesiastes a few millenia ago. Brian Bauld, a retired teacher of secondary school English, has compiled a capacious round-up of sensible essays concerning books and the idea of books, many of which make the same point -- too much noise, too little music. His list of lit crit is also worth checking out.


George Kalogeris' first book Camus: Carnets (published by Bill Corbett's Pressed Wafer Press here in Boston) exemplifies the positive qualities of Quietude, and for many of us was a touchstone publication when it came out a few years ago. Slate magazine ran his new poem "Odysseus Seeing Laertes" last week. An interesting debate plays out in the discussion thread following the poem, between those who think the poem's allusion to ancient literature helps, and those feel it obfuscates.


The faculty of the Creative Writing Program will be reading TONIGHT, Tuesday April 12, at 6 PM in the Boston University School of Management Auditorium, 595 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston (Green Line to Blandford Street). With Leslie Epstein, David Ferry, Louise Glück, Allegra Goodman, Ha Jin, Ronan Noone, Sigrid Nunez, Robert Pinsky, and Maya Sloan. Free and open to the public. For more information, e-mail crwr@bu.edu.


Speaking of glittery word-hoards cached in back issues archives, the Fall 1966 issue of Beloit Poetry Journal (Vol. 17, No. 1, edited by Stephen Bann) was devoted to Concrete Poetry. Don't be wary; the visual puns and calligrams and serious typographic playfulness on display are more evolved than the portfolio of contemporary 'vispo' works featured in Poetry in 2008.


More on words and art. In its exhibition catalogue for the 51st New York Book Fair, Bromer Booksellers has listed Thomas Ingmire's calligraphic interpretation of Octavio Paz's The Word (thumbnail above). If the list price of $5,500 seems beyond your wallet's reach, you can content yourself with learning more about Ingmire's work at Scriptorium St. Francis. To see more examples of contemporary fine calligraphy, visit the artists' websites listed at the website of The Society of Scribes and Illuminators, for a start.


The English artist and writer David Jones -- a core member of my personal canon -- also blended calligraphy into his work. In the video below, you can watch "David Jones at Capel y Ffin," an episode of the BBC series "Framing Wales: Art in the 20th Century."

I came to this video via a post on the blog David Jones: Artist and Poet, maintained by Kathleen Henderson Staudt under the banner of The David Jones Society in North America. Staudt's book on Jones and modern poetics, is quite valuable.


Robert Archambeau has been thinking about Kenneth Goldsmith lately, probably not least because Goldsmith has just had two provocative posts on the Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog: "The Bounce and the Roll" and "Death of a Kingmaker." RA writes: "It [Goldsmith's account of how poetry careers are created these days] all seems a bit caught up in the logic of fame, cultural capital, and the reputation market." RA wraps up at the end of his essay (an example that epitomizes really how well the blog format suits this kind of informal discourse) by observing how the pendulum swings: where once the fashionable thing was to denounce text and scramble after reputation directly, it might now be thought more risky, more daring, to renounce status, and instead crawl unnoticed into a cave to write runic verse on the rocks. (Corollary: The School of Quietude is a cabal of meditative radicals.)

Joseph Wood concerns himself with similar questions and hypotheses, albeit with more existential squirming, in Open Letters Monthly. Wood seems disquieted by the same status game that Archambeau noncommittally calls a "hedonic treadmill." I myself can see how the person who starts each day by checking blog stats and whether she earned a mention on Silliman's Blog, resembles those Danaïd daughters trying to carry water with a sieve.

In a recent post, Henry Gould grapples with similar issues, though his starting point is Pushkin. He writes:
The kind of literary activity I am idealizing can only be developed on the fertile ground of literary tradition.
Does Gould know he's channeling Roger Shattuck's "Nineteen Theses on Literature"?


Issue 27 of AGNI (1988) featured a symposium titled "'Lairs of God': Spirituality after Silicon Valley." Eliot Weinberger contributed an essay, titled "Is God Down?", which seems relevant two decades later, to this question of how technology and poetry relate, whether by mediation or obstruction. This is from Weinberg's conclusion:
Finally, the less important question of computers and literature: is the writer a robot, or has the robot become a writer? To take the second question first: certainly the computer has forever proved that a thousand monkeys typing at a thousand typewriters for a thousand years will not produce Hamlet. There are a few serious writers who have made use of hte computer (not as "word processor") to "generate" texts, most notably Jackson MacLow and the members of OULIPO. These are not, as would be assumed, impersonal: behind each text is the human who programmed it. The results are weird or amusing, the ultimate pleasure deriving mainly from seeing the rules of the game put into action, like extremely complex poetic forms: chant royal, say, or Chinese poems that can be read forwards or backwards.
The typewriter certainly had an effect on the writing of poetry. It is impossible to imagine the stepped lines of Williams, Paz, and so many others without it. Pound's Cantos makes much more visible sense in his manuscript than on the printed page, and Robert Duncan in later years insisted that his books directly reproduce his own typed manuscript. With the advent of "desktop publishing," there will no doubt be poems that take advantage of its various features, including the mixing of type styles. (I know of only one poet, Jed Rasula, who has done so to date.) Furthermore, the computer has democratized certain tricks of the trade. Auden's far-reaching and witty rhymes lose much of their charm after a glance through the computer-generated Penguin Rhyming Dictionary (with its hundred rhymes for "Freud," but only one, "broaden," for "Auden"). Rhyme-- lately championed again by young conservatives-- becomes more than ever a question of selection rather than invention. But this is not "word processing," that wonderful phrase that turns writing into packaged cheese. (Poets, said Chesterton, have been strangely reticent on the subject of cheeses.) Word processing is essentially a means of manuscript production that eliminates retyping.

He makes a good point about the execution of rules providing pleasure of a more durable kind than that deriving from the mere concept of rules (as in Goldsmith's books that he tells people not to read). As a grace note on this pell-mell of material, here's Wisława Szymborska giving advice to "Mr. K.K. from Bytom" in an excerpt from her newspaper column on poetry:
You treat free verse as a free-for-all. But poetry (whatever we may say) is, was, and will always be a game. And as every child knows, all games have rules. So why do the grown-ups forget?

Writers who would rather be rune-carvers and in caves instead of cities, might want to buy a ticket to see Herzog's new film, Cave of Forgotten DreamsSh.