December 2, 2009

October 28, 2009

Katrine Marie Guldager

Katrine Marie Guldager [Denmark]
1966

Born December 29th, 1966 in Ordrup, Denmark, she moved at the age of 3 with her family—her father working in forestry and her mother in charity—to Zambia, where started what she describes as “an old-fashioned school with British discipline.” When she returned to Denmark she lived in a housing community in Hillerød, where 27 families lived a communal life. She notes that she attended a left-wing school which she disliked.


When her parents divorced when Guldager was just 13, she began writing, and at Copenhagen’s University she studied literature. She has remained in Copenhagen since that time, and attended the famed Copenhagen School of Creative Writing.

Her debut collection of poems was Dagene skifter hænder (The Days Change Hands), which combined the ordinary with a strong sense of irony, and, along with her second collection Styrt of 1995, brought her major attention. That book also was translated into English as Crash.


In 1996 she published another volume of poetry, Blank, and more recently she published Ankomst Husumgade (Arrival at Husumgade, 2001), a comical long poem in prose. Guldager has also written dramas, collections of short stories (København, 2004 and Kilimanjaro, 2005), and a novel, Det grønne øje (The Green Eye, 1998). She won The Critics’ Prize in 2004.


Critic Lars Bukdahl wrote in the Kristelight Dagblad of Crash: “Whereas her first book was convincing but also somewhat hesitant, here in Crash there is not the slightest slip. This book of 37 prose poems is almost frighteningly assured and original, with not a single weak text to be found—a little ‘already-a-classic.’”


BOOKS OF POETRY

Dagene skifter hænder (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1994); Styrt (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1995); Blank (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1996); Ankomst Husumgade (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2001).

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Crash, trans. by Anne Mette Lundtofte (Brownsville, Vermont: Goats + Compasses, 1999).


Crash

It can happen, of course, that you get a flat, that you have to borrow a bike, that you end up on one that’s too high: You can barely reach the pedals and there are cars and yield right of way and crosswalks: There are asphalt and unfamiliar reflexes in your hands, accidents looming in the air like seconds someone has painted over with complete, total hush: There are the scraping and the asphalt, asphalt the bike slams against, asphalt you go plowing down through, small stones you hide under your skin, and glass, and there’s no way around it or down through it: There is only asphalt on top of asphalt, there’s a city on top of the asphalt, and nothing underneath but earth: There are earth and asphalt and a city: There’s a city that’s on top of the earth: there is a city on top of a city, there is asphalt on top of asphalt, earth on top of earth, and there’s no way down through it or around it, that’s how it’s always been: Like when you’re riding a bike—much too high up—and can’t reach the pedals.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Yes

You have to say YES every time: Every other time and maybe aren’t enough, and I just have to take care of 47 things. If you want to pet the cat there’s no use chasing it under the bed, you can see that much, if you want to open your letters and read them there’s no use slicing them up, ripping and kicking and hitting: You can see that much too and the logic between 47 and 17 is clear, what’s clear is what you see through and cut yourself on, and it hurts, your skin hurts far too much, scratches, wounds, and there’s nothing else to do: You just have to keep going, without watching every step and until you can hear it, totally clear: YES.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Position

It’s something you get roped in by, a surplus of foreign exchange and places you’re allowed to be: Movie premiers stream over your face like a fall wind that lifts your hair. It’s strings of stones that go skipping across each other, doors within other doors that open and close like quick chances in a labyrinth you suddenly escape from: It’s the glances of passersby and a happiness that winds out into the blue like the coastline, clusters of plants spread around the balcony, fragrances and a new trend in bathing suits. It’s what you turn on its head: Thickets you’ve gone and crept into among the thorns, one Sunday on a deserted mountain train, when you enter a dark house: It’s him standing in the corner casting about with his eyes.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Tracks

I’m so totally miserably sick and tired of the man who for the second day in a row is standing outside my front door and claiming that he lives here, and that I love him. He won’t go away, and he’s a pain in my mornings, the nighttime, my dreams. I dream I’m giving a lecture at Hillerød Station. I dream I can be in two places at once, on one track that crosses and one that topples and becomes metal rain over a hope, a handbag. I dream that I’m dreaming, and that inside that dream I’m awake: As awake as a ripple, a hint, a door slightly ajar.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Window

I recognize only half of what was going to be my life: The weeks cut into my skin like a net I can see through only at times. I get up and stagger out into the streets ecstatic, stumble over a gull’s cry and call it my own. I fling out my arms and let 7 equal 5: My memory is like window frames in the spring, which keep flaking; what I remember, like the rotting wood that’s slowly crumbling.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)


Public Pool

I take a child or something else by the hand and go down the street, go down to the public pool and rinse off, spray myself, shower between porous concrete and drunken tiles: I stand in the stall and grow as heavy as all the storeys of the building while the water runs from stall to stall and back again: The drain is about to overflow with shampoo and sweat, it rises and ebbs, rises and ebbs, belches like whole pub I walk past: I walk and walk through the streets, right between baby carriages and winos and hold beer crunching in the corners of their mouths, in their bones, drunks spit out between traffic circles and one-way streets: I walk and walk through the streets, with the faint scent of perfume trailing me.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Tea Party

As at a tea party, the rattling and could you please pass: We keep talking, long after the last cup is drained we keep talking, keep talking and talking. The radio chatters with announcers who keep talking, radio news in Greenlandic and re-runs from last summer: we keep talking, no matter what we keep talking, as in the courtyard where people are talking in the apartments: Each window hides someone who keeps talking, talking and talking, even if the sun goes down, calmly and quietly, while the talking goes on.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



City

They can’t help it, the bookshelves, but it’s them there’s something wrong with, TV, stairs, and should we go left or right are the last straw: Maybe what lies outside resembles a city, but it isn’t, city isn’t just city, city isn’t just a way of piling a whole lot of building together, city isn’t just roads, subways and buses, city isn’t just church towers and happy hours, restaurants and kiss my ass: City isn’t just city, and especially not here, buildings aren’t just buildings, city isn’t just city, it can’t be done, there are far too many things that can’t be done, be solved, there are piles of things, piles of city, used city, far too much used city, buildings, bookshelves and TV sets, for example in the courtyard, where it’s completely still.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Excerpt

You have to answer back, fast and with tempered steel, that you don’t have to go along with anything, from either God or everyman: You have to answer back, if need be in the middle of traffic, in the midst of colliding details, a collision of consideration, surfaces and I want to go home, all the way home, be safe at home as the saying goes, even if it’s impossible: You just have to answer back, and of course that’s why you stand there, in the middle of the traffic, paralyzed at the red light that just gets redder and redder, redder and redder, until it begins to overflow, down onto the asphalt, the asphalt that resembles itself.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Blackbird

So now everything’s fine, just fine, in its place, and the potted plants have been dusted: So everything’s completely OKAY, scoured and scrubbed, and there’s nothing to trip over on the way to the phone or out to the bathroom: Except maybe that blackbird, quite dead and with glass eyes, except maybe a sprouting apple tree under the mail slot, totally riotous: Except maybe the ladder someone’s propped in the entranceway, or that it’s so shiny.

Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Gravestone

There’s always something you have to take care of, a distraction you can get drawn into when the kitchen window swings and keeps slamming, and the flowers that you can only sense are having their petals torn off one by one: My eyes give birth to glass eyes that rattle in my sink when I drop them, drop them like the light that rotates on its titled axis in a labyrinth of shoes and footsteps: There’s always something you have to take care of, a grid that rumbles past under the asphalt, a toppled gravestone you can trip over: If for example you cross the cemetery without knowing whether you’re looking for shade or sun.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)



Red

Here’s what it’s like to be born: You’re never off, you don’t get a minute to yourself, not an instant when you can look the other way or a second when you can turn your back: Here’s what it’s like to be born, you can’t do anything about it, the whole time you’ve simply been born, you can’t get off, get away, be unborn again: There’s nothing to be done, you’re born, born in fluttering redness, in a wail that stays in your body as an echo, and sleep, sleep makes no difference, it can only be exchanged for something else that fits right into where the sleep was, there’s nothing to be done, it’s here the whole time, the whole think, yourself.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)







Traffic Accident

It’s impossible to say if there is anything outside the window, but a chronic curiosity forces you to sort of sniff—wind, people. It’s impossible to say how it happens, but you lean back in again, into the shade, and right away all your senses have clicked DELETE: suddenly you can’t remember why you leaned either out or back in, or what you really wanted, more than anything you feel like 17 kitchen appliances that are neither bought nor paid for, like a tired plastic bag from the supermarket that you’ve put aside and forgotten: It’s impossible to say how to do it, how to find your way back between everything you can’t revive: yourself, the kitchen table and a single traffic accident you’ve hidden under your breast.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Beach

Suddenly you’re a year older, and a number is added to others, but the day doesn’t change colors on that account: sooner or later you’ll have to admit that the congratulations too become less and less like themselves, that the summer is endless and a complete whole, wrapped up and sold: Nonetheless the sun is red, dazzlingly red, as above a beach you wish you could be washing up on, and it can certainly be night if someone remembers to hang the stars up with thread and stick the moon on with tape: For perhaps you could wake up, later, as three minutes to midnight, or as a flock of birds taking off.

—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)




Intersection

There is ground, there’s an army of ants and one that is eating its way into the darkness: Slow blind breathing. There is ground, there’s an army of ants and one that’s rummaging around behind the paneling: There are blades of grass that are creaking in the courtyard under a tree, a frog that slides in the mud on a boulevard and pulls in one hind leg: There is ground, there’s an army of ants, and one that’s making noise under a pedestrian crossing: There are wires spilling out of a seam in the asphalt, a word that has burst out in the middle of a sentence: Poems that force their way out through your skin like tropical fish.


—Translated from the Danish by Roger Greenwald

(from Styrt, 1995)


______


PERMISSIONS

“Crash,” “Yes,” “Posisition,” “Tracks,” “Window,” “Public Pool,” “Tea Party,” “City,” “Excerpt,” “Blackbird,” “Gravestone,” “Red,” “Traffic Accident,” “Beach,” and “Intersection”
Translated from Styrt (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1995). English language translation copyright ©2006 by Roger Greenwald. Reprinted by permission of Gyldendal.

October 26, 2009

Harryette Mullen

Harryette Mullen (USA)
1953

Born in Florence, Alabama, Harryette Mullen spent most of her childhood in Fort Worth, Texas. She earned her degrees in English and in Literature from the University of Texas, Austin and the University of California, Santa Cruz. For several years she worked in the Artists in Schools program sponsored by the Texas Commission on the Arts, and for another six years she taught African-American and other US ethnic literatures at Cornell University before becoming a professor at the University of California Los Angeles, where she teaches African-American literature and creative writing.

Her first book was Tree Tall Woman in 1981, but it was her second and third titles, Trimmings in 1991 and S*PeRM**K*T in 1992 that brought her national attention as a poet. Muse & Drudge followed in 1995, and in 2002 she gained further fame as a finalist for the National Book Award for her collection Sleeping with the Dictionary. A volume of her earlier work, Blues Baby was published in the same year.

Mullen has received several major grants and awards, including artist grants from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, and a Rockefeller Fellowship from the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Women’s Studies at the University of Rochester.

Mullen’s poetry is highly charged with the love of language, and often deals with issues of race, class, and gender. But, as she herself has explained, they do not represent “the sum of her poetry.” “I can be a black woman while chewing gum and thinking about Disneyland or supermarkets, while reading Stein or Shakespeare, just as I can be a black woman contemplating conventional representations of black women in literature, media, and popular culture. Living in California, where white people are a minority, I’m not so sure that my identity or experience is “marginal.” As a woman and as a person of color, I belong to two global majorities, but I’m also aware that throughout most of history, it is not the majority that rules, but a privileged minority.”

BOOKS OF POETRY

Tree Tall Women (City & Publisher, 1981); Trimmings (New York: Tender Buttons, 1991); S&PeRM**K*T (Philadelphia: Singing Horse Press, 1992); Muse & Drudge (Philadelphia: Singing Horse Press, 1995); Blues Baby: Early Poems (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Bucknell University Press, 2002); Sleeping with the Dictionary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002)


from Trimmings


What’s holding her up. Straps, laces. Garters, corsets, belts
with laces. What’s holding them up. If not straps, then laces.
Buttons and bows, ribbons and laces set off their faces. Girls
In white sat in with blues-saddened slashers. Laced up, frilled
To the bone. Semi-automatic ruffle on a semi-formal gown.


*

Her feathers, her pages. She ripples in breezes. Rim and
fringe are hers. Who fancies frills. Whose finery is a summer
frock, light in the wind, riffling her pages, lifting her skirt,
peeking at edges. The wind blows her words away. Who can
hear her voice, so gentle, every ruffle made smooth. Gathering
her fluttered pages, her feathers, her wings.

*

Clip, screw, or pierce. Take your pick. Fried or doctor, needle
or gun. A dab of alcohol pats that little hurt hole. Hardly a
dimple is soon forgotten brief sting. Stud, precious metal.
Pure, possessive ring. Antibody testifying with immunity to gold,
Rare thing. So malleable and lovable, wearing such wounds,
Such ornaments.

*

Body on fire, spangles. Light to sequin stars burn out at both ends.


(from Trimmings, 1991)


from S*PeR**K*T

What’s brewing when a guy pops the top off a bottle or can talk
with another man after a real good sweat. It opens, pours a cold
stream of the great outdoors. Hunting a wild six-pack reminds
him of football and women and other blood spoors. Frequent
channels keep high volume foamy liquids overflowing, not to be
contained. Champs, heroes, hard workers all back-lit with ornate
gold of cowboy sunset lift dashing white heads, those burly mugs.

*

Off the pig, ya dig? He squeals, grease the sucker. Hack that fatback,
pour the pork. Pig out, rib the fellas. Ham it up, hype the tripe. Save
your bacon, bring home some. Sweet dreams pigmeat. Port belly
futures, larded accounts, hog heaven. Little piggish to market.
Tub of guts hog wilding. A pig of yourself, high on swine, cries
all the way home. Streak a lean gets away cleaner than Safeway
chitlings. That all, folks.

*

Well bread ain’t refined of coarse dark textures never enriched a
doughty peasant. The rich finely powdered with soft white flours.
Then poor got pasty pale and pure blands ingrained inbred. Roll
out dough we need so what bread fortifies their minimum daily
sandwich. Here’s a dry wry toast for the new age when darker
richer upper crust, flourishing, outpriced the staff with moral
fiber. Brown and serve, a slice of life whose side’s your butter on.


*

A dream of eggplant or zucchini may produce fresh desires. Some
fruits are vegetables. The way we bruise and wilt, all perishable.


(from S*PeRM**K*T, 1992)

Between

My ass acts bad
Devil your ears Charybdis
Good engagements deep blue sea
Heaven my eyes your elbow
Last night jobs hard place
Now his legs hell
Rock the lines me
Scylla her breast shinola
Shit the sheets then
Yesterday my thighs this morning
You your toes today

(from Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)



Bilingual Instructions

Californians say No
to bilingual instruction in schools

Californians say No
To blingual instructions on ballots

Californians say Yes
To bilingual instructions on curbside waste receptacles:

Coloque el recipiente con las flechas hacia la calle
Place container with arrow facing street

No rude el recipiente con la tapa abierta
Do not tilt or roll container with lid open

Recortes de jardin solamente
Yard clippings only

(from Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)


Bleeding Hearts

Crenshaw is a juicy melon. Don’t spit, and when you’re finished,
wash your neck. Tonight we lead with bleeding hearts, slice raw
or scooped with a spoon. I’ll show my shank. I’d rend your cares
with my shears. If I can’t scare cash from the ashen crew, this
monkey wrench has scratch to back my business. This ramshackle
stack of shotguns I’m holding in my scope. I’m beady-eyes as a bug.
Slippery as a sardine. Salty as a kipper. You could rehash me for
breakfast. Find my shrinking awe, or share your wink. I’ll get a
rash wench. We’ll cash a shower of cranes. I’m making bird seed to
stick in a hen’s craw. Where I live’s a wren shack. Pull back.
Show wreck. Black fade.

(from Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)



Coals to Newscastle, Panama Hats from Ecuador

Waching television in Los Angeles. This scene performed in real
time. In real life, a pretty picture walking and sitting still. It’s
still life with fried span, lite poundcake, nondairy crème. It’s
death by chocolate. It’s corporate warfare as we know it. I’m
stuck on the fourth step. There’s no statue of stature of lim-
itations. I’ll be emotional disturbed for as long as it takes. You
can give a man a rock or you can teach him to rock. Access your
higher power. Fax back the map of your spiritual path. Take
twenty drops tincture of worry wort. Who’s paying for this if
you’re not covered? You’re too simple to be so difficult.
Malicious postmodernism. Petroleum jelly donut dunked in
elbow grease. You look better going than coming. You look like
death eating microwave popcorn. Now that I live alone, I’m
much less introspective. Now you sound more like yourself.

(from Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)


Eurydice

Can’t wait to be spring from shadow,
to be known from a hole in the ground.
Scarcely silent though often unheard.
Winding, wound. Wounded wind.
She turned, and turns. She opens.
Keep the keys, that devil told her.
Guess the question. Dream the answer.
Tore down almost level.
A silence hardly likely.
Juicy voices. Pour them on.
Music sways her, she concedes,
as darker she goes deeper.


(from Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)


Sleeping with the Dictionary

I beg to dicker with my silver-tongued companion, whose lips are ready
to read my shining gloss. A versatile partner, conversant and well-versed
in the verbal art, the dictionary is not averse to the solitary habits of the
curiously wide-awake reader. In the dark night’s insomnia, the book is
a stimulating sedative, awakening my tired imagination to the hypnagogic
trance of language. Retiring to the canopy of the bedroom, turning on the
beside light, taking the big dictionary to bed, clutching the unabridged
bulk, heavy with the weight of all the meanings between these covers,
smoothing the thin sheets, thick with accented syllables—all are exercises
in the conscious regimen of dreamers, who toss words on their tongues while
turning illuminated pages. To go through all these motions and procedures,
groping in the dark for an alluring word, is the poet’s nocturnal mission.
Aroused by myriad possibilities, we try out the most perverse positions
In the practice of our nightly act, the penetration of the denotative body of
the work. Any exist from the logic of language might be an entry in a
symptomatic dictionary. The alphabetical order of this ample block of
knowledge might render a dense lexicon of lucid hallucinations. Beside
the bed, a pad lies open to record the meandering of migratory words.
In the rapid eye movement of the poet’s night vision, this dictum can
be decoded, like the secret acrostic of a lover’s name.


(from Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)


Wipe that Simile Off Your Aphasia

as horses as for
as purple as we go
as heartbeat as if
as silverware as it were
as onion as I can
as cherries as feared
as combustion as want
as dog collar as expected
as oboes as anyone
as umbrella as catch can
as penmanship as it gets
as narcosis as could be
as hit parade as all that
as icebox as far as I know
as fax machine as one can imagine
as cyclones as hoped
as dictionary as you like
as shadow as promised
as drinking fountain as well
as grassfire as myself
as mirror as is
as never as this


(from Sleeping with the Dictionary, 2002)


____
PERMISSIONS

from Trimmings
Reprinted from Trimmings (New York: Tender Buttons, 1991). Copyright ©1991 by Harryette Mullen. Reprinted by permission of the author.

from S*PeRM**K*T
Reprinted from S*PeRM**K*T (Philadelphia: Singing Horse Press, 1993). Copyright ©1992 by Harryette Mulle, Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Between,” “Bilingual Instructions,” “Bleeding Hearts,” “Coals to Newcastle, Panama Hats from Ecuador,” “Eurydice,” “Sleeping with the Dictionary,” and “Wipe That Simile Off Your Aphasia”
Reprinted from Sleeping with the Dictionary (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Copyright ©2002 by the Regents of the University of California. Reprinted by permission of the University of California Press.

October 25, 2009

Deborah Meadows


Deborah Meadows [USA]
1956

Born in Buffalo, New York, Deborah Meadows' father—and others in her family—were ironworkers, and she grew up in a working class neighborhood. But Buffalo is also hope to notable cultural institutions such as the Albright-Knox Art gallery, where she spent many hours as a young girl. In high school she traveled to Stratford, Canada for the Shakespeare festival and attended concerts of the Buffalo Philharmonic, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, while working at the Buffalo Paper Stock factory. Meadows attended the State University of New York, Buffalo, where she studied literature under figures such as the postmodern critic and novelist Raymond Federman and professor Myles Slatin.

Leaving Buffalo, Meadows continued her education at the California State University in Los Angeles, where she studied philosophy and literature, graduating in 1986. Soon after, she began teaching at California Polytechnic University in Pomona. Her first book of poetry, The 60’s and 70’s from “The Theory of Subjectivity in Moby-Dick,” was published by Tinfish Press in 2003. Green Integer published her Representing Absence in 2004; in the same year Krupskaya press published her Itinerant Men.
     More recently, Meadows has written plays, published by BlazeBOX as Three Plays in 2015.

In recent years, Meadows has been active in international cultural affairs, traveling twice to Cuba to work to work with Cuban writers such as Reina María Rodríguez and Antonio José Ponte and she has traveled to and worked with poets in Buenos Aires. She has also been active with her faculty union and various issues involving access and equity in public higher education.

With her lover, Howard Stover, Meadows lives in the Los Angeles area. They spend part of each year in a house they built in the Piute Mountains.

BOOKS OF POETRY

The 60’s and 70’s from “The Theory of Subjectivity in Moby-Dick” (Kāne’ohe, Hawaii: Tinfish Press, 2003); Representing Absence (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2004); Itinerant Men (San Francisco: Krupskaya, 2004); Thin Gloves (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2006); The Draped Universe (New York: Belladonna Books, 2007); Involutia (Exeter, United Kingdom: Shearsman Books, 2007); Goodbye Tisssues (Exeter, United Kingdom: Shearsman Books); Depleted Burden Down (New York: Factory School, 2009); How, the Means (Los Angeles: Mindmade Books, 2010); Saccade Patterns (Buffalo, New York: BlazeVOX, 2011); Translation--the bass accompaniment: Selected Poems (Bristol, England: Shearsman Books, 2013); The Demotion of Pluto (New York: BlazeVox, 2016)



Chapter 61

Sightings, basis for portent specimen.

My body. The power to sway
in playfulness upon a vacant sea.

A sore of voices come back to life,
[touted regularly as carved
[by invisible, gracious water:
[the body, itself.

A match, only start her, assault
the female fish, obliquely.
In place of an enormous head,
[raise the buried taken.

Turns were taken, it jetted up
[and passed round that point
wherein the event rushed a steady finger.

The process:
—red tide
—“slanting sun… sent back its reflection
[into every face, so that they all glowed
[to each other like red men”

The ideological slip:
—killed or killers, the Pequod/Pequod again

The poetic process:
—each puff from whale spout matched
puff from Stubb’s pipe
—penetrating in search of gold watch,
“His heart had burst.”

The slip in Time
—expense of moral capital to acquire it

The process of exposé:
—death agony, a witnessed
tragedy of corporeal Body

The national slip:
—casual equation, large death
and small goods use us up


(from The 60’s and 70’s, 2003)



Chapter 2

Reaching
inhaled reaching, followed by or tucked
in as most stop at this place.

A place of departure where headrests, sleep,
originals are required: cement
banisters merge public and private lives,
how can order disguise the bows, bowsprits, etc.

Frost lay. I said to myself, as towards
identity and self-naming, lower your bag
and cover the darkness toward
expensive pavements and pumice the
secret inwardness. It’s all self, all
society, dreary streets and buses on from
here and hereafter. Moving
absorbs many of the works in public, so
encased in ashes, in poor boxes.

A common place. I muttered bathetic
entertainment by the weeping negro church.
I suppose I might look enough, seem
sufficient that tenting indoors, that judgment
more than ever divides. Matchless
is the miracle on the outside where the
window frosts only one-way. Northern
lights raise the dead man within, silken his
pillow lengthwise.
Now fiery, more of this scrape and plenty.


(from Representing Absence, 2004)


We’ve held subject positions


We’ve held subject positions beyond
the grave, experts claim.
A breakwall against sea surge
and psychological reduction, somebody
[or other coined it spectacular.

Too busy participating, we had no idea
how it resolved into a “scene,” and
we had no idea, and we had.

Official declarations that this
is the time for it were many places,
yet few of us felt implicated or even addressed,

[so we admired defacers:
This is the time for the foibles of logic
meant, alone, a long sentence
without appeal.
[The absurdities
of our shared rhetoric
omit how the body knows
[to do body things.

To bring out the shine, as a goal,
meant parental jingles extracting loyalty
[on whose behalves Our nation
[engages in it.

Sometimes you need a rock
to weigh something down.


(from Representing Absence, 2004)

Faux translation of Charles Baudelaire’s “To the Reader”

The sot, his error or fishing lens
lives in our spirits, works in our bodies,
so we eliminate our friendly notes
like mendicants nourishing our vermin.

Our fish are heady, our repentance milky.
We do ourselves gross injustice by what we have
and lease happiness in a scarlet shirt.
Known for its dye that runs when washed, we touch it.

On the topic of bad birds, there’s thirteen
who longs for our impress, our service,
whose baton will vaporize all our freedom
like a suave atomic scientist.

It’s the bull who has our reconstructed son!
About the repulsive objects we work on, we joke
about the day the flames of our descendants are not about here
we joke without bleakness in order to cross the sills that leak.

The poor debauched sot who lowers his mouth and eats
the martyred river from an antique cupboard
we go together along a passage of pleasure and secrecy
that is hard pressed like our agent’s orange.

Zig-zag yet still being formed by millions of hemoglobin donors
is the cut womb of the townspeople
and when we breathe death itself into our lungs,
we breathe the invisible flowers very deeply of our sad songs.

If Viola, poison, flowery painters, and revolutionaries
are not brooding again and again over their demented pleasures,
then the everyday canvas of our pitiful destiny
is our friend like a hell that can’t be hardy.

But the old images in the canyons, the mountain lions and bugs,
the chanters, scorpions, and biting snakes
are all monstrous exaggerations of those that are merchandized
at ramparts of our notorious zoo of cruelty and vice.

It is more laid, more sold, more unworldly
than anything else that can be a large gesture or big cry.
It volunteers the garbage of the land
and lowers all our attempts in this world.

The eye of the bored person involuntarily blinks
because it dreams of the sot high from smoking.
You know it’s true, that monstrous delicacy,
that drug of hypocrisy, like me, like you.



(from Representing Absence, 2004)

____


“Chapter 61,” reprinted from
The 60’s and 70’s from “The Theory of Subjectivity in Moby-Dick"(Kāne’ohe, Hawaii: Tinfish Press, 2003). ©2003 by Deborah Meadows. Reprinted by permission of the author.

“Chapter 2,” “We’ve Held Subject Positions,” and “Faux Translation of Charles Baudelaire’s ‘To the Reader’” reprinted from
Representing Absence (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2004). ©2004 by Deborah Meadows. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.




Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2006-2007

Midnight in Our Motivated

Right here, an alternate reading or despair our conditions?
Suggestion of foul play makes us experimental partners tentative

in keeping beat as nationalist pulse that races,
arranged in steps. But then coming down, erratic

words in mold and stale bread, informational or distilled
story, no unturned example, unpermitted dumping

altogether-now when most attacked historically –
At reading, our meter for conditioned signs now bypassed,

valid signature, worked valve, slick-faced
interference, rolled up welcome mats, suspicion –

now that's another story: hopped up percussionists
hum of air tankers on return circuit ‘til it's out

emphasizing old taints and favors, impediments
liked for charting counterintuitive voting patterns

believers are no longer pulled inward to its great
or sundown, whichever comes first. A new science,

a sort of confusion using bad foot to drag good
as two ends reach across states' suspension.

Hadn't you hoped for a change adding fire,
telling-knots addressed to mind by hand, but the music

acquired measure runs its blood circuit, what's there
after midnight in our motivated glacial moraine. None.

No software adequate to discern delusion, an error
behind favoring the favored, never happens

yet how little we know of the world's composition
in just societies even in legislative form

or social constraint, those forces holding power of refusal
to natural domination, ill-gotten releases.

Products from agricultural regions compete for last:
feathers drop after double barrier, world becomes wide.

Irresistible volume to pattern desire, define equally
as mystify, knowing deferral works well –

boulder and drag-marks behind the car's embankment.
The means already upon us completes
our education by vanishing, tools stuck with range:

limits embellish mortal compass with blurred sides, so true

_____
Reprinted from Shearsman, No. 67/68 (2006)

Guy Bennett

Guy Bennet [USA]
1960

Guy Bennett was born in Los Angeles, but grew up in the suburb of Gardena. As a young child, his father left the family, and Bennett and his younger brother—a sickly child who died at the early age of 29—were raised by his mother and grandmother, both of whom spoke a dialect of Italian, the grandmother’s native language. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Bennett attended the University of California and received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. In 1993, he graduated from that institution, with a PhD in French literature. His interest in Futurism also led him to master Russian and Italian.

Soon after graduation, Bennett met Douglas Messerli at an Italian Futurist conference, and—after showing the publisher some translations he had done of Marinetti, for which he had recreated the original typefaces—came to work as typographer for Sun & Moon Press.

Simultaneously, Bennett taught French language and literature at UCLA and other local community colleges. He also began to translate books from French and other languuages, many of which were published by Sun & Moon and Green Integer. Previous to the publication of his own first book of poetry, Last Words, Bennett began his own press, Seeing Eye Books (in 1997) which continues to publish four books, available by subscription, annually.

In 1999 he became Associate Professor of Liberal Studies and Communication at Otis College of Art & Design. The year before he married French scholar and writer Béatrice Mousli, and together they now split their time between Los Angeles and her native Paris.

In 2000, Bennett published The Row, and in 2001 his chapbook 100 Famous Views was published by 108.93 press. The Italian publishing house ML & NLF published a bilingual collection of his poems, Drive to Cluster (with art by Ron Giffin), in 2003.

Bennett has continued to translate and to typeset books for several local and national publishers. With Standard Schaefer, Bruno Franklin and Chris Reiner, he organized a poetry reading series at a local café. And he has been active in several poetic ventures throughout the city. With his wife, Bennett organized an exhibit and conference on “French and American Poetry in Translation” at the University of Southern California, the Autry Museum, and Otis College of Art & Design in 2003.

Bennett’s writing, like his personality, is witty, urbane, and highly focused. His writing often has formal systems quietly embedded in it, but the poetry itself in influenced by a wide range of interests: music (for several years he played bass in a local musical group), photography, film, architecture, and, as one might expect, the languages and literatures of other countries.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Last Words (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1998); The Row (Los Angeles: Seeing Eye Books, 2000); One Hundred Famous Views (Atlanta: 108.93, 2001); Drive to Cluster (Piacenza, Italy: ML & NLF, 2003); 32 Snapshots of Marseilles (Corvallis, Oregon: Sacrifice Press, 2010); Self-Evident Poems (Los Angeles: Otis Books/Sesimicity Editions, 2011)




from Self-Evident Poems



Preliminary Poem


This poem is self-contained
and self-sufficient.
It does not require critical commentary
or explanations of any kind
to convey its meaning,
which is self-evident.

It does not exceed a single page,
and is thus appropriate
for publication in magazines
and anthologies.

It can be read in a single sitting,
and will not unduly tax the reader or listener
as it neither necessitates nor benefits from
excessive post-reading reflexion.


Literal Poem


This poem
means exactly what it says
and nothing more.
It was intended
to be taken literally,
thus no figurative language
was used,
and no symbolic meaning
can be infered.
For this reason
I feel confident in asserting
that it is not possible
to not understand
this poem.


Poem Based on a Comparison


This poem
is not unlike a small animal
living, imperceptibly,
on the periphery of the human world,
hiding in bushes,
crawling through tall grass,
or cruising silently
in water so turbid
that no one will ever see it.


Conceptual Poem


Aesthetically speaking,
this is not a conceptual poem.

Linguistically speaking,
it is.



Palindromic Poem


A palindromic poem
reads the same way
from beginning to end
as from end to beginning.


Poem Written to Be Read


This poem
was written to be read,
whether silently or aloud,
to oneself or others,
as frequently or infrequently
as one might like.

In that respect,
it is no different
than any other poem.

In other respects
it is.


Poem with Rhyme


Everyone knows
that poems don’t rhyme
anymore.


Enigmatic Metaphorical Poem


This poem is something else!



Elliptical Poem


This poem

.


Poem on the Death of The Author


This poem was written
prior to the death of the author,
obviously.


Socially-Relevant Poem


I had never written one
before this.








Elitist Poem


The paradigmatic shift
implicit in the title of this poem
may well elude the common man.








Populist Poem


I couldn’t think of one.








Anti-Intellectual Poem


This poem is against intellectualism
in all its forms.
It rejects the results
of abstract reasoning and analysis,
which often contradict the simple home-truths
held since birth by the majority.
It is deeply suspicious
of anyone and anything
not immediately and transparently
understandable,
and is acutely wary of explanations,
elucidations, and demonstrations
of any kind.
It prefers home-schooling to education,
faith to knowledge,
opinion to evidence,
entertainment to information,
shooting first to asking questions,
cowboys to indians,
Oprah to opera,
ketchup to kimchi,
and us to them.
In its blithe self-centeredness
and baseless confidence,
it bitterly opposes anything
not as patently self-evident
as this poem.


________


(c) 2010 by Guy Bennett

Jóhann Hjálmarsson

Jóhann Hjálmarsson [Iceland]
1939

Jóhann Hjálmarsson is the author of 22 books of poetry, three chapbooks, six books of translations, and two volumes of critical essays on Icelandic literature.

Hjálmarsson published his first book of poems when he 17 years old and working as a printer’s apprentice. Critics recognized the talent of this young poet, and he was encouraged by Jón úr Vör, one of Iceland’s foremost Modernist poets, to go abroad to study. Hjalmarsson applied and was accepted at the University of Barcelona, where he studied Romance languages. At this time he also began to translate Federico Garcia Lorca into Icelandic. His reading led him subsequently to translate the French and Latin American surrealists and the French Symbolists.

By his third, and seminal, book, Malbikud hjortu (Heart of Asphalt), he was recognized as being one of the leading avant-garde writers in Iceland. At this time he was also hired by Iceland’s largest newspaper, Morgunblaðið, as a literary and art reviewer as well as a travel writer. In this job, he traveled around the world—more than any other poet of his generation in Iceland. Wherever he traveled he sought out the leading poets of the country and translated their work into Icelandic. This discipline honed Hjálmarsson’s own poetry, while also introducing new literary influences to young Icelandic writers.
In the early 1970s, Hjálmarsson turned his attention toward reading and translating contemporary American poetry. Hjálmarsson was looking to mine the stories of his family, and by doing so exploring the socialist/communist influences in Icelandic culture from pre-World War II through to Iceland as a modern society, and many American poets inspired him. Here, Hjálmarsson did what no Icelandic poet had done before—use a “confessional” voice to speak directly of the privacies of mind—something no other poet within Icelandic literature had ever expressed through prosody. This American influence led Hjálmarsson to write two book-length poems: Myndinn af langafa (Portrait of Great Grandfather) and Fra Umsvolum (Daybook from Umsvali). No other Icelandic poet had ever written such ambitious and controversial works.

Hjálmarsson has received numerous awards for his work. He was awarded the 2000 Nordic Literary Prize for his third book of a trilogy of poems, Hljóðleikar (Sound Play), based on Eyrbyggja Saga, whose events take place in the region of Iceland where his ancestors settled. He was presented with the 2003 Icelandic Parliament Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to Icelandic literature as a poet and translator. Now semi-retired, Hjálmarsson lives with his wife in a townhouse overlooking the Smoky Bay.

--Christopher Burawa


BOOKS OF POERY

Aungull í tímanum (1956); Undarlegir fiskar (Heimskringla 1958); Malbikuð hjörtu (Bókaverslun Sigfúsar Eymundssonar, 1961); Fljúgandi næturlest (Reykjavík: Birtingur, 1961); Mig hefur dreymt þetta áður (Reykjavík: Almenna bókafélagið, 1965); Ný lauf, nýtt myrkur (Reykjavík: Almenna bókafélagið, 1967); Athvarf í himingeimnum (Reykjavík: Almenna bókafélagið, 1973); Myndin af langafa (Reykjavík: Hörpuútgáfan, 1975); Dagbók borgaralegs skálds (Reykjavík: Hörpuútgáfan, 1976); Frá Umsvölum (Reykjavík: Hörpuútgáfan, 1977); Lífið er skáldlegt (Reykjavík: Iðunn, 1978); Sjö skáld í mynd (Reykjavík: Svart á hvítu, 1983); Ákvörðunarstaður myrkrið (Reykjavík: Almenna bókafélagið, 1985); Gluggar hafsins (Kópavogi: Örlagið, 1989); Blá mjólk (1990); Skuggar (Kópavogi: Örlagið, 1992); Rödd í speglunum (Reykjavík: Hörpuútgáfan, 1994); Marlíðendur (Reykjavík: Hörpuútgáfan, 1998); Anímónur til Ragnheiðar (Kópavogi: Örlagið, 1999); Hljóðleikar (Reykjavík: Hörpuútgáfan, 2000); Með sverð í gegnum varir: úrval ljóða 1956-2000 (Reykjavík: JPV, 2001); Vetrarmegin (Reykjavík: JPV, 2003)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Of the Same Mind, trans. by C. M. Burawa (Claremont, California: Toad Press, 2005)


Forest Wind

The wind drops
like a green sail on a skiff
crossing the smiles of women—
who can summon the sea?
It always returns
out of each tree, brake
and out of itself
from a great height.

The men threaten it with hammered knives.
The women shelter it,
shutting it away
in the idle cloud.
These women drink of its physics
and await the result,
which fills them with currants and flame—
enough to ignite a forest.

The men can only look at the ground
and say:
I believe it is gathering into a fresh storm.
The women groan
or become silent
out of anger and stroke
the wind’s brow
as if it was an old lover.

The men stand.
The forest wind drops the sail,
changes to dew
so the squirrel in the mast
can, at last, spell out its name.

—Translated from the Icelandic by Chris Burawa

The Forest

The forest avoids my certainty
gives me assurances
The forest shuns my quiet mind
gives me the wakefulness of trees
I fill the forest with my breath
I fill the forest with song and heartbeat
The birds jubilantly sing like the sky does
The forest’s sky that intrudes into my dreams


—Translated from the Icelandic by Chris Burawa


On the Death of a Poet

The summer sunsets only give off red and here I extend
my hands that cannot even lift a bayonet

It would be better if I had some power over them
like a daring soldier over his metal snap-together weapons

But I’ve inherited an inadequate vocabulary
and most of the words I’ve lost
on my walks around the block

The sunsets are red and my sorrow and joy
are laid up in them

Blue is the color of distances
that the sunsets rust along the way

—Translated from the Icelandic by Chris Burawa


Evening in Barcelona

Here come the shadows
with their truth of green trees
Antonio reflects on their sadness
while in his refuge of palm trees

Wheat bread on the table
and red wine in the bottle
are flesh and blood
of Antonio of Granada

The ants set off
communicating a thousand messages
that are found deep in Spanish earth
the genius of expectation

In the city square, Plaza de Cataluña
I rejoice at the complaints of the pigeons
and refuse to think in this late light
about your sad shadows

—Translated from the Icelandic by Chris Burawa

Squalls

1.
We are fishermen of death. We’ve never imagined ourselves hauling up polished cod on cold mornings or in the small dimensions of night, bringing our catch back to land. We never make land. But we won’t give up. Catch yourself a man. The warm-blooded fish. Newly laid out. We want the hands to poke out of the sleeves. We trawl for death. No one gives us a thought until it’s too late. The cheeky moon drawing men to its light. Little Agna is willing, out of hate and love. She sings all the songs she dances to, in hopes of changing the situation. The music that creates the fullness of this moment, it worries that she knows the source. A tremble on the hook. So we drink purple wine. Set a table on the sea’s bottom. There are more of us than barbs on all the snow crabs. Let the crabs live in the carcasses, help themselves to a bloodless body. Leopard seals look into the eyes of the drowned, weep at the calm. The buoyed seaweed is a good, proposes play. We are the fishermen of death. We arrive on the scene just as you seize.

2.
The blessings of life turn into two rounded stones. They visit the sea with the same joy as you engage breasts and their blooms. Your hand gropes for God’s hand, and finds God. The breath finds the hand of God. But God is smaller than you can account for. He is a period to which all lines attach. Shout, illuminating your sorrow or joy. You tremble as you touch each new emotion with your fingertips. How you love. I know that love is lonely. A beggar who patiently waits, collects sugar cubes knocked to the floor. I’ve overheard conversations about the blessings of life. I can only understand this concept as something interpreted by the self. I cannot perceive of God, because I am a reflection of God’s imagination. The blessings of life become two worn stones. Some day a mob may bash your skull in with them. You will lie in your own blood. Maybe then you will find the blessings of life.

3.
The dead call on us. Death is everywhere. On the coffee table. In the green eyes that I love. Death is like the bay I now row over. The years go by without my noticing them. I aim for a spit of land. The dead have lined up like torches along the pebbled shoreline. There hands direct me. I see no face. The front door of the house is open. Fingers strum a dusty guitar. The blue moon acts as a lookout? Life is like the song of the red flounder, found only at great depths. The dead come to us saved through the eye of a needle.

4.
All at once the universe has new stars. The darkness crowded out, comes back. The lights were simply embers from the crematorium. In town there are more tombstones than villagers. The carpenters don’t have it in them to build coffins anymore. The priests asphyxiate on the flat bed of eulogy. You say that the world is suddenly alive. But then a heavy darkness collapses at the window. The optimists lead their old dogs around the cemetery. These house pets lift their left back legs and strain. Mankind’s fall is no longer pure madness. It’s nature’s work. We are thirsty, brother. The cocktails almost always change. Again, the universe fills with the lawns swallowing their tongues.

5.
Poison collects along the curbs, runoff of our anger that includes our children. The cafés, the troughs of the city, document it. The women and men expect it to glow from fingertips. Life could be more charming. We have forgotten about the nobility of scarred mountains and the innocence of flat lakes, say the minor poets. But the poison has come to our aid. We cannot decide among ourselves why happiness has turned in on itself and now cares more about contentment than about childhood. We wait around with sunglasses in the rain. Really, life should be a captivating drama.

6.
Certainty makes up only a small fraction of our lives. Clown-like fedoras strewn about. The coliseum is reserved for something more enticing. What’s true must be a component of laughter. Distort this, and you discover a brute. And the brute won’t have sex with the simpletons. He sits on the cat and tries to groom its tail. Truth won’t talk about trips it’s taken abroad. You might as well set up a playpen, cram it full of toys and gewgaws. It’s comforting to be able to glimpse it as you emerge from the tub. Be sure you dry your back. Have you lost your own scent? Certainty doesn’t answer disagreeable questions. You and delusion skip through the house. Go ahead, you can watch the acrobat, the man in the ape costume, spinning around a rope. To this day your wife still hangs the keys from black sewing thread. You’d better scoot down to the basement. The rats at their folk dances dance across the floor. You chase after them with a twig. You shoot straight for a place by the least likely means of transportation available. Truth lifts you up as a monument, erects you in the town square. The people are in favor of you. Certainty drowns in your tub. You love it so tightly you can’t perceive of it in yourself. You take a bath in the bath. Then, something tragic happens.

7.
Why I was a witness to their fall, I cannot say. They set off at once. A fire burned through their eyes. Stones creased at their steps. A rainbow aureoled in support of their courage. Mountains were in agreement, but had been before this. So they hoofed it to the seashore. Why they wanted to walk into the sea I still don’t know. Ships stood idly in the bay. They didn’t know this place. Went directly ahead. The water was calm after the rain, and the shore smelled of seaweed. I watched them high-step through the shallows. All at once they changed color. I was watching myself. You hesitated. I saw nothing more. The sea swallowed then. I couldn’t do anything but laugh. Their look of dread reminded me of something very funny. Later, I pursued the algae dream of shrimp. It was wonderful to find them climbing up an arm, clustering around a left breast. That night, I lied down in the marooned seaweed, watched the bodies drifting one by one out to sea, enjoying myself.

8.
Through the dead silence, the nights observe the domestic lives of birds. Earthworm songs cut the air. Shred at the feet of lovers. Their blood-driven hopes drift in the storm. The gallows is plumb. Your ships neatly in a row. Where is the executioner? He’s always the first to cheer up the vultures. There on the gibbet floor he speaks of the victory of humanity. Two ancient boulders can no longer keep their peace. They trick themselves into a promenade around the corpse. The river began grieving when blood streamed down the inside of the window and door. Through the dead silence, you witness the nights of the birds’ domesticity.

9.
Cats lay fearlessly by your feet. The blade that terrorizes the autumn hay relishes their blood. What really frightens them is a freelance demon. But they can’t be subdued, and instead smoke their pipes out of resignation. My pen disappears there where I know two doves have taken cover under a rock, just like children who dive for flasks at the bottom of a lake. They make their grandparents ill with this water. These patients remember their own children whenever they drink from the flat bottles. Resigned, we recall our own children because what we choose to keep is long and tiring. Darning needles knit our lips together so that we cannot speak or kiss, let alone find out what’s wonderful about each other’s lips. As the smoke from our brave pipes sketch the likeness of heaven.

10.
The morning light plays a monotonous sonata about the merits of suicide. The world’s cowl must be night. You see something in the silence that drinks from the wakes of ships. A poem dies suddenly of doubt. A bus continues on its way without knowing any of this. The quiet retracts at the hawking of the newspaper boy. The wine has altered. Doesn’t trust you to provide a proper memory of God. Perceives of your suffering, and believes in this memory. I don’t believe in you. You should find another ear. The answer is nowhere to be found, yet you insist on frying an egg in the same pan. Eyes like slugs climbing a ladder. Absolve me of manifold truths so that I may join the abandon of the squall. My nights linger there. A knife slicing songs of praise in half. An eel thrashes about in a puddle. The fishermen of death sail into the bay.

—Translated from the Icelandic by Chris Burawa


_______
English language copyright ©2009 by Christopher Burawa. Reprinted by permission of the translator.








August 1, 2009

Matt Robinson

Matt Robinson [Canada]
1974

Matt Robinson is a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, who currently works in Residential Life at The University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, NB. His most recent collection of poetry is no cage contains a stare that well (ECW, 2005), a full-length volume of hockey poems.

A two time National Magazine Award finalist, robinson’s poetry has received numerous awards, including The Petra Kenney International Poetry Prize and Grain’s Prose Poem Prize. A recipient of The NB Foundation for the Arts’ Emerging Artist of the Year Award, his poems have appeared on radio and television, in numerous Canadian, American, British, and Australian publications, as well as in anthologies such as The New Canon (Vehicule, 2005), Breathing Fire 2 (Nightwood, 2004), Poetry: A Pocket Anthology (Pearson, 2004), Literature: A Pocket Anthology (Pearson, 2004), Coastlines: The Poetry of Atlantic Canada (Goose Lane, 2002), Exact Fare Only 2 (Anvil, 2004), and Landmarks: An Anthology of New Atlantic Canadian Poetry of the Land (Acorn Press, 2001).

A poetry editor at The Fiddlehead, Robinson has also served as NB / PEI Regional Representative and President of The League of Canadian Poets. He holds a BA and a BSc from Saint Mary’s University, a B.Ed. from Mount Saint Vincent University, and a M.A. in Creative Writing from The University of New Brunswick.

Robinson's previous books of poetry include the letter-pressed, limited edition chapbook of hockey poems, tracery & interplay (Frog Hollow Press, 2004), as well as the full-length collections how we play at it: a list (ECW, 2002), and A Ruckus of Awkward Stacking (Insomniac, 2000), which was short listed for both the Gerald Lampert Memorial and ReLit Poetry Awards.


BOOKS OF POETRY

A Ruckus of Awkward Stacking (Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2000); how we play at it: list (Toronto: ECW Press, 2002); tracery & interplay (Victoria, British Columbia: Frog Hollow Press, 2004); no cage contains a stare that well (Toronto: ECW Press, 2005)

July 31, 2009

Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi [USA]
1953

Born in Oak Park, Illinois, Elaine Equi grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. She received a B.A. and M.A. in English from Columbia College, and after graduating, went on to teach a poetry workshop there for several years. Along with her husband, poet Jerome Sala, she helped create a lively performance poetry scene. In 1988, they moved to New York City where she currently teaches creative writing in the M.F.A. programs at The New School and City College.

Equi’s early books are Federal Woman (1978), Shrewcrazy (1981), and The Corners of the Mouth (1986). In 1989, she published Surface Tension, the first of many books with Coffee House Press—firmly establishing herself as a poet of national reputation. It was followed by Decoy (1994), Voice-Over (1998) (chosen by Thom Gunn for the San Francisco State Poetry Award), and The Cloud of Knowable Things (2003). Ripple Effect: New & Selected Poems was published by Coffee House in 2007.

Equi’s work is often praised for its lucid simplicity. Wayne Koestenbaum characterizes it as “clean, clear, cool, quick,” adding that, “she is at once an entertainer and an oracle….” Of her own work she writes: “I like the fact that for the most part, my poems are pretty accessible. I don’t consciously aim for that, but I do know that my sense of audience is always a mix of literary and non-literary types. On the other hand, I like to keep things (especially in terms of language) interesting. Over the years, my work has been informed by a wide range of styles including surrealist, concrete, and classical Chinese poetry, so it’s not unsophisticated—just willfully direct in a minimalist sort of way.”

BOOKS OF POETRY

Federal Woman (Chicago: Danaides Press, 1978); Shrewcrazy (Los Angeles: Little Cesar Press, 1981); The Corners of the Mouth (Los Angeles: Iridescence Press, 1986); Accessories (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1988); Views without Rooms (New York: Hanuman Press, 1989); Surface Tension (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press); Decoy (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1994); Friendship with Things (Great Barrington, Massachusetts: The Figures, 1998); Voice-Over (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1998); The Cloud of Knowable Things (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2003); Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2007)

╬Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
1993-1994

To the Unconscious

Grey cat in coffee shop
Head cocked over cup.

Caught in the act
(poised in the art)
of listening

Like when I say
I wasn’t thinking about us
and “us” comes out in
another voice, not mine.

An echo of she
whose presence we find
ourselves in

(already gone)

that was Eurydice.


______
Reprinted from The World. Copyright ©1993 by Elaine Equi



Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006



Bent Orbit

I wind my way across a black donut hole
and space that clunks.
Once I saw on a stage,
as if at the bottom of a mineshaft,
the precise footwork
of some mechanical ballet.
It was like looking into the brain
of a cuckoo clock and it carried
some part of me away forever.
No one knows when they first see a thing,
how long its after image will last.
Proust could stare at the symptom of a face
for years, while Frank O’Hara, like anyone with a job,
was always looking at his watch.
My favorite way of remembering is to forget.
Please start the record of the sea over again.
Call up a shadow below the pendulum of a gull’s wing.
In a city of eight million sundials, nobody has any idea
how long a minute really is.


_____
Reprinted from The Brooklyn Rail (January 2005). Copyright ©2005 by Elaine Equi.

Rod Smith


Rod Smith [USA]
1962

Rod Smith was born in Gallipolis, Ohio in 1962 and grew up in Northern Virginia where he attended Stonewall Jackson High School. His first publication of poetry was a Ferlinghetti imitation which ap-peared in the Baltimore Sun in 1982. In the early 1980s Smith was a rural carrier for the US Postal Service in the vicinity of the Manassas Battlefield, during which time he studied Pound, Stein, Williams, Ashbery, O'Hara, Oppen, and others.

He began the journal Aerial with Wayne Kline in 1984 and published the first Edge Book in 1989. He moved to the District of Columbia in 1987 and became part of the DC poetry community which included the writers Tina Darragh, Lynne Dreyer, P. Inman, Doug Lang, Douglas Messerli, Joan Retallack, Phyllis Rosenzweig, and others. This group expanded over the years to include such writers as Leslie Bumstead, Jean Donnelly, Buck Downs, Heather Fuller, Mark McMorris, Carol Mirakove, Tom Orange, and Mark Wallace.

He met John Cage in Rockville, Maryland in 1987 and saw him regularly, playing chess (usually losing), in Washington and New York until Cage's death in 1992. Aerial published a selection of Cage's writing in 1991.

The playful title of Smith's first book, In Memory of My Theories, published by O Books in 1996, unequivocally locates his work in the New American and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry traditions. Additional full-length collections, Protective Immediacy and Music or Honesty were published by Roof in 1999 and 2003. A long poem, The Good House, was published by Spectacular Books in 2000. A selection of poems entitled Poèmes de l'araignée was published in France in 2002 by Un bureau sur l'atlantique.

Smith manages the independent bookstore Bridge Street Books in DC and continues his editorial work with Edge Books, which has published award winning volumes by Joan Retallack and Kevin Davies. He is currently working on Aerial 10: Lyn Hejinian with the poet Jen Hofer. Smith is also editing, with Kaplan Harris and Peter Baker, The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley for The University of California Press.


BOOKS OF POETRY

The Boy Poems
(Washington, D.C.: Buck Downs Books, 1994); A Grammar Manikan [Object 5, featuring Rod Smith] (New York: Object, 1995); In Memory of My Theories (Oakland, California: O Books, 1996); The Lack (love poems, targets, flags...) (Elmwood, Connecticut: Abacus, 1997); Protective Immediacy (New York: Roof, 1999); The New Mannerist Tricycle [with Lisa Jarnot and Bill Luoma] (Philadelphia: Beautiful Simmer, 2000); The Good House (New York: Spectacular Books, 2001); Poèmes de l'araignée (Bordeaux, France: Un bureau sur l'atlantique, 2003); Music or Honesty (New York: Roof Books, 2003)


Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English
2005-2006



from “Protective Immediacy”


But, Dr Williams
they die miserably,
anyway


& the light goes on on the
kneeling Ave Maria no sun
shining - come -
looking wood
hold off
so that we could meet
in my bag -
close I felt
it was content
even though I still didn't
history - you can read it -
you can snow -
Bernadette cupped it in her hands
a hole filled with cured place
because & in response
I read the manuscript
thinking about the fog
glass shook &
tell everything afraid beside the fruit
form
of a cross town bus
to happen to
police we have strange stolen
love at the moment
to you w/ a poem some said nothing
was trembling
is like a popsicle
you can read drinking itself
to see it script
with no sharp edges
the last part always
falls off
on the damp pavement behind us
burning
the creative process
on yr clothes


Reprinted from Cartograffiti, no. 1 (2005). Copyright ©2005 by Rod Smith.



give them retro cheese

Slave I,
of Kelly’s opinion, boxed modernist
6 bath valved cup dust/mist respirator via
the sons of gods gone down
on--

Fortunes have sunk thee,
most psychedelic, most
laughably overdubbed keepsake
wilted in Halifax

o Halifax!
-- invariant Arg residue devolving --
We shun thy moot attempting, break
out fussin’ like craigslist newbies--
Latex, disposable, glove,

For see there the naked jonesing
of war floweres, fixt ramparts
& wolverine sexlings--our whistled
lain poetics there splain

Their &/or our ice-cherry brains
peeled like justice, like Captain Black,
rhapsodic isabooties in the playset
isle, O dissonant world!
(so) plunging & (so) pointy ~

Is Harvey Keitel longer than a piece of string cheese?

I read David Fricke's Rolling Stone piece about
Ben Franklin lying in bed naked with an electrified kite string tied to his
Harvey Keitel. What seemed like a deal at $19.95, suddenly no longer does.
My dad liked to tell the old joke about the piece of string who kept getting
a tough-guy lieutenant History Channel condoms.
If only we could objectively measure the precise amount of cheese.
If only Steve Buscemi and a handful of other great actors barbecued together.



GENESIS

As anyone who has flown out of a cloud knows,
you are always on the other side of the equation.

For example, If you go poop as soon
as you feel the urge then usually it isn't as stinky.

It's customer service. Say you've come to a company
With questions only to be told by some sterile voice

To press this or click that until you arrive full circle
To your starting place with no help at all, and you still

Have to poop. Then you simply _must_ remember that
Whoever sheds the blood of a human,

By a human shall that person’s blood be shed;
For in his own image

God made mankind. When he was on hold.
When he had to poop.


WASHINGTON, DC IS GREAT!
for Ara Shirinyan

Washington, DC is a city that routinely appears in the news week after week.

The westernmost point of the Great Inverted Pentagram
of Washington DC is George Washington Circle Park.
My family and I recently visited your amazing city for the first time,
and may I say it was a great experience.

DC is a great city full of history and culture
that becomes home to a large number of UVA alumni.

If you are looking for great cheap eats, then Washington DC is a great
place to be.

Bike tours are a great way to explore D.C. There
are also many pharmacy jobs in Washington, DC.

We've got great tickets to all kinds of musicals and plays this year.
Visit the neighborhood surrounding Georgetown University for great
shopping from designer boutiques.

I love Washington, DC and it thrills me that this type of Washington,
DC is available.

GREAT NEWS FROM WASHINGTON DC!

A great nation deserves the truth.

Washington DC is a wonderful place to be in the Summer and you can find
an enormous amount of great deals throughout the city.

It's almost worth not getting blind drunk on Friday nights so you can be
up early enough to hit the Arlington Farmer's Market on Saturday.

My son and I had never been to Washington DC. We took your tour
this past weekend and it was a great!

Once upon a time in Washington, DC, there gathered over two hundred
Aggies, desperate for some good food.

Washington, DC is a great furnished place with lots of malls.

Washington DC. WOW!

Very well done, I can see you had a fantastic trip in America!
It was on Rachel Ray $40 a Day show.

Great Washington D.C. restaurants, great shopping and a contemporary
mix of American people can be found strolling the city streets of an area.

You Can Even Take a Woman to on a Date in Washington DC.

Another great new option that Dish TV Washington Navy Yard Washington
DC provides for its subscribers is portable programming through its
new PocketDish.

DC is great and way too much to see there for just one.

The home page of James Trotta's site for vacation/trip itineraries features some
great ideas for a trip to Washington DC. Uncork the Wine, Uncork the
Flavor, Uncork the Fun.

Great Wraps & Cheesesteaks, Union Station, Washington, DC - poor
customer service experience.

Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia: Great Destinations.

Basic

Operations - 100 words

come, get, give, go, keep, let, make, put, seem, take, be, do, have,
say, see, send, may, will, about, across, after, against, among, at,
before, between, by, down, from, in, off, on, over, through, to,
under, up, with, as, for, of, till, than, a, the, all, any, every, no,
other, some, such, that, this, I, he, you, who, and, because, but, or,
if, though, while, how, when, where, why, again, ever, far, forward,
here, near, now, out, still, then, there, together, well, almost,
enough, even, little, much, not, only, quite, so, very, tomorrow,
yesterday, north, south, east, west, please, yes.

Things - 400 general words

A-F

account, act, addition, adjustment, advertisement, agreement, air,
amount, amusement, animal, answer, apparatus, approval, argument, art,
attack, attempt, attention, attraction, authority, back, balance,
base, behaviour, belief, birth, bit, bite, blood, blow, body, brass,
bread, breath, brother, building, burn, burst, business, butter,
canvas, care, cause, chalk, chance, change, cloth, coal, colour,
comfort, committee, company, comparison, competition, condition,
connection, control, cook, copper, copy, cork, cotton, cough, country,
cover, crack, credit, crime, crush, cry, current, curve, damage,
danger, daughter, day, death, debt, decision, degree, design, desire,
destruction, detail, development, digestion, direction, discovery,
discussion, disease, disgust, distance, distribution, division, doubt,
drink, driving, dust, earth, edge, education, effect, end, error,
event, example, exchange, existence, expansion, experience, expert,
fact, fall, family, father, fear, feeling, fiction, field, fight,
fire, flame, flight, flower, fold, food, force, form, friend, front,
fruit

G-O

glass, gold, government, grain, grass, grip, group, growth, guide,
harbour, harmony, hate, hearing, heat, help, history, hole, hope,
hour, humour, ice, idea, impulse, increase, industry, ink, insect,
instrument, insurance, interest, invention, iron, jelly, join,
journey, judge, jump, kick, kiss, knowledge, land, language, laugh,
law, lead, learning, leather, letter, level, lift, light, limit,
linen, liquid, list, look, loss, love, machine, man, manager, mark,
market, mass, meal, measure, meat, meeting, memory, metal, middle,
milk, mind, mine, minute, mist, money, month, morning, mother, motion,
mountain, move, music, name, nation, need, news, night, noise, note,
number, observation, offer, oil, operation, opinion, order,
organization, ornament, owner

P-Z

page, pain, paint, paper, part, paste, payment, peace, person, place,
plant, play, pleasure, point, poison, polish, porter, position,
powder, power, price, print, process, produce, profit, property,
prose, protest, pull, punishment, purpose, push, quality, question,
rain, range, rate, ray, reaction, reading, reason, record, regret,
relation, religion, representative, request, respect, rest, reward,
rhythm, rice, river, road, roll, room, rub, rule, run, salt, sand,
scale, science, sea, seat, secretary, selection, self, sense, servant,
sex, shade, shake, shame, shock, side, sign, silk, silver, sister,
size, sky, sleep, slip, slope, smash, smell, smile, smoke, sneeze,
snow, soap, society, son, song, sort, sound, soup, space, stage,
start, statement, steam, steel, step, stitch, stone, stop, story,
stretch, structure, substance, sugar, suggestion, summer, support,
surprise, swim, system, talk, taste, tax, teaching, tendency, test,
theory, thing, thought, thunder, time, tin, top, touch, trade,
transport, trick, trouble, turn, twist, unit, use, value, verse,
vessel, view, voice, walk, war, wash, waste, water, wave, wax, way,
weather, week, weight, wind, wine, winter, woman, wood, wool, word,
work, wound, writing, year.

Things - 200 picturable words

angle, ant, apple, arch, arm, army, baby, bag, ball, band, basin,
basket, bath, bed, bee, bell, berry, bird, blade, board, boat, bone,
book, boot, bottle, box, boy, brain, brake, branch, brick, bridge,
brush, bucket, bulb, button, cake, camera, card, cart, carriage, cat,
chain, cheese, chest, chin, church, circle, clock, cloud, coat,
collar, comb, cord, cow, cup, curtain, cushion, dog, door, drain,
drawer, dress, drop, ear, egg, engine, eye, face, farm, feather,
finger, fish, flag, floor, fly, foot, fork, fowl, frame, garden, girl,
glove, goat, gun, hair, hammer, hand, hat, head, heart, hook, horn,
horse, hospital, house, island, jewel, kettle, key, knee, knife, knot,
leaf, leg, library, line, lip, lock, map, match, monkey, moon, mouth,
muscle, nail, neck, needle, nerve, net, nose, nut, office, orange,
oven, parcel, pen, pencil, picture, pig, pin, pipe, plane, plate,
plough, pocket, pot, potato, prison, pump, rail, rat, receipt, ring,
rod, roof, root, sail, school, scissors, screw, seed, sheep, shelf,
ship, shirt, shoe, skin, skirt, snake, sock, spade, sponge, spoon,
spring, square, stamp, star, station, stem, stick, stocking, stomach,
store, street, sun, table, tail, thread, throat, thumb, ticket, toe,
tongue, tooth, town, train, tray, tree, trousers, umbrella, wall,
watch, wheel, whip, whistle, window, wing, wire, worm.

Qualities - 100 descriptive words

able, acid, angry, automatic, beautiful, black, boiling, bright,
broken, brown, cheap, chemical, chief, clean, clear, common, complex,
conscious, cut, deep, dependent, early, elastic, electric, equal, fat,
fertile, first, fixed, flat, free, frequent, full, general, good,
great, grey, hanging, happy, hard, healthy, high, hollow, important,
kind, like, living, long, male, married, material, medical, military,
natural, necessary, new, normal, open, parallel, past, physical,
political, poor, possible, present, private, probable, quick, quiet,
ready, red, regular, responsible, right, round, same, second,
separate, serious, sharp, smooth, sticky, stiff, straight, strong,
sudden, sweet, tall, thick, tight, tired, true, violent, waiting,
warm, wet, wide, wise, yellow, young.

Qualities - 50 opposites

awake, bad, bent, bitter, blue, certain, cold, complete, cruel, dark,
dead, dear, delicate, different, dirty, dry, false, feeble, female,
foolish, future, green, ill, last, late, left, loose, loud, low,
mixed, narrow, old, opposite, public, rough, sad, safe, secret, short,
shut, simple, slow, small, soft, solid, special, strange, thin, white,
wrong.

April 28, 2009

Francis Ponge

Francis Ponge [France]
1899-1988

Francis Ponge was born in Montpellier, France in 1899. His work became known in French literary circles in the early 1920s, primarily through publication in the Nouvelle Revue Française, at the time Ponge worked for Gallimard publishing house as a production manager. Ponge, who had joined the Socialist Party in 1919, had a brief association with the Surrealists in the 1930s, which, in turn, led him to join the Communist Party.

During the same period, he worked for the book distributor Hachette until he was drafted into the army in 1938. In 1942, he published his great masterpiece Parti pris de choses. In the same year Ponge joined the Resistance.

After World War II, Ponge left the Communist Party, and the period from 1947-1951 was a lean time, interruped by a trip to Algeria in 1947-1948 with Henri Calet and Michel Leiris. From 1952 to 1964 he taught for the Alliance Française in Paris. In 1956 the Nouvelle Revue Française devoted a special issue to Ponge, in which Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre both wrote in his praise. And throughout the 1960s, Ponges work was highly praised by the Tel Quel group, Philippe Sollers, Jean Thibaudeau and Marcelin Pleynet, in particular. In 1965 Ponge traveled to the United States, lecturing in over sixty venues at various universities; the following year he spent a term as Visiting Professor at Barnard College and Columbia University. In 1972 he was awarded an international prize by The Ingram Merrill Fondation, and two years later Ponge was awarded the Books Abroad/Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Douze petits écrits (Paris: Gallimard, 1926); Le parti pris des choses (Paris: Gallimard, 1942); Le guêpe (Paris: Seghers, 1945); L'œillet, La guêpe, Le mimosa (Lausanne: Mermod, 1946); Le carnet du bois de pins (Lausanne: Mermod, 1947); Liasse: Vingt-et-un Textes suivis d'une bibliographie (Lyons: Écrivains Réunis, 1948); Proêmes (Paris: Gallimard, 1948); La Crevette dans tous ses états (Paris: Vrille, 1948); La Seine (Lausanne: La Guilde du Livre, 1950); L'Araignée (Paris: Aubier, 1952); Le Rage de l'expression (Lausanne: Mermod, 1952); Des Cristaux naturels (Saint-Maurice-d'Ételan: Bettencourt, 1952); Ponges [selection, edited by Philippe Sollers] (Paris: Seghers, 1963); Le grand recueil: I. Lyres; II. Méthodes; III. Pièces (Paris: Gallimard, 1961); Tome premier (Paris: Gallimard, 1965); Pour un Malherbe (Paris: Gallimard, 1965); Le savon (Paris: Gallimard, 1967); Nouveau Recueil (Paris: Gallimard, 1967); La Fabrique du pré (Geneva: Skira, 1971)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Two Prose Poems, trans. by Peter Hoy (Leicester: Black Knight Press, 1968); Rain: A Prose Poem, trans. by Peter Hoy (London: Poet and Painter, 1969); Soap, trans. by Lane Dunlop (New York: Grossman, 1969); Things, trans by Cid Corman (New York: Grossman, 1971); The Voice of Things, trans. by Beth Archer (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1972); The Sun Placed in the Abyss and Other Texts, trans. by Serge Gavronsky (New York: Sun, 1977); Vegetation, trans. by Lee Fahnestock (New York: Red Dust, 1987); The Power of Language: Texts and Translations, edited and translated by Serge Gavronsky (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979); The Making of the "Pré" (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1979); Selected Poems (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Wake Forest University Press, 1994);
Unfinished Ode to Mud, trans. by Beverley Bie Brahic (London: CB Editions, 2007)


The Oyster

The oyster, the size of an average pebble, has a coarser appearance, a less even color, brilliantly whitish. It is a stubbornly closed world. It can be opened however: you have to hold it in the hollow of a rag, use a chipped, rather dull knife and go at it several times. Curious fingers are cut, nails broken: it's a rough job. Nicking it, we mark its casing with white circles, sorts of halos.
Inside we find an entire world, to eat and drink: under a pearly firmament (strickly speaking), the skies above merge with the skies below, forming a single pool, a viscous, greenish sachet that flows back and forth to both smell and sight, and that is fringed with a blackish lace.
On very rare occasions a little form beads in their pearly throats, with which we quickly adorn ourselves.

Translated from the French by Guy Bennett

(from Le parti pris des choses, 1942)


The Nuptial Habits of Dogs

The nuptial habits of dogs are really something! In a village in Bress, in 1946...(I want to be precise because, considering the celebrated evolution of the species, if it were to hasten...or if there were to be an abrupt mutation: one can never tell)...

What a curious ballet! What tension!
It's beautiful! This movement engendered by a specific passion. Dramatic! And how lovely are those curves! With critical moments, paroxystic, and drawn-out patience, perserverance of a maniacal immobility, circumlocutions in very slow revolutions, circumvolutions, pursuits, strolling in a special way...
Oh! And what music! What a variety!
All those individuals like spermatozoa who come together after unbelievable detours.
But that music!
That hunted female; cruelly importuned; and thos male hunters, grumblers, musicians.
This lasts a good week...(more perhaps: I'll correct it when it's over).
What maniacs those dogs. What stubbornness. What heavy brutes. What chumps! Sad. Narrow-minded. A pain in the ass!
Ridiculously stubborn. Plaintive. Ears cocked, on the scent. Busy. Scenting. Raising and knitting their brows, sadly, comically. Everything strained: ears, backs, legs. Growling. Plaintive. Blind and dumb to everything else but their specific determinations.
(Compare this to the grace and the violence of cats. To the grace of horses also).

But she wasn't my bitch. She belonged to my neighbor, Féaux the postman: I was unable to get close enough, to observe the organs of the lady, her smell, her trails, her loss of seed.
I was unable to determine if she had begun by being provocative, or if it had only come to her (her condition, first of all, then her discharges, her smell, then the males and their attention, so long, so importunate), if it had only been for her a surprise, only a timid groan, with calculated and consenting movements.
What a sad story, after all! How life, revealed to her at that moment, must have appeared harassing, bothersome, absurd!
And there she is, wounded for life,─mortally, too! But she will have her pretty little puppies... Alone to herself, for a little while... Then those males will stop hanging around, and what joy with her little ones, even what fun, what fullness,─despite an occasional traffic jame between her paws and under her belly, and a lot of fatigue.
The fact is, we didn't sleep much for a week... But that's of no importance: you can't always have everything,─sleep and something like a series of nocturnal performances at the Classic Theater.

The moon there above (above the passions) also seemed to me to have played a major role.

Translated from the French by Serge Gavronsky

(from Le grand recueil, III, 1961)

Marsden Hartley




Marsden Hartley, Painting No. 47



Marsden Hartley [USA]
1877-1943

Born in Lewison, Maine, Marsden Hartley grew up in a family of poverty. At 14 Hartley dropped out of school and went to work in a shoe factory, joining his family the next year in Cleveland, where they had moved. There he was able to study art, and won a scholarship to study of the Cleveland School (now Institute) of Art. In 1898 he moved to New York City, continuing his art studies at the William Merritt Chase School, but grew frustrated with the Chase methods of painting and teaching. He left the school in 1900 to attend the National Academy of Design. During these early years of 1908 and 1909 Hartley returned often to Maine, painting its landscape and writing poetry.


In 1909 Alfred Stieglitz gave Hartley his first one-man exhibition and took him on at his famed 291 Gallery. Stieglitz also introduced Hartley to the works of European modernisn, including Matisse, Picasso and Cézanne, whose influences began to appear in his still-lives of 1912. Between 1912 and 1916, and continuing in the years 1922 to 1929, Harley lived in both New York and in Europe, traveling, painting and writing.


While in Europe he became fascinated with the works of the Blaue Reiter group, particularly Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, influences that would remain in Hartley’s paintings for several years. He exhibited with the Blaue Reiter group in the First German Autumn Salon in Berlin.


Hartley was a witty conversationalist and noted for his often straight-forward but elegantly expressed statements. But, as a closeted homosexual—at least in the US—Hartley could also be aloof and, at times, distant. Soon after the outbreak of World War I, Hartley lost his dear friend and reputed lover, Karl von Freyburg, who died in battle. He began a series of paintings paying tribute to Freyburg and other German friends who inhabited Berlin’s vibrant homosexual world.



In 1919, having returned to the United States, he began to publish poetry and essays in many of the important small journals and presses of the day, including Poetry, The Dial, The Little Review, and Others. In the early 1920s he came briefly under the influence of Dadaism. He also became close friends with the artists of Stieglitz’s group—Arthur Dove, John Marin, Georgia O’Keefe and Paul Strand—as well as writers such as Arthur Kreymborg, Djuna Barnes (her wrote of him in a couple of her journalistic pieces on “Greenwich Village” life), William Carlos Williams, e. e. cummings, and others.. It was he who first introduced Williams to Robert McAlmon, resulting ultimately in the Contact publications. McAlmon published Hartley’s own book of poetry, Twenty-five Poems in 1925. In Paris Hartley had also become a close friend of Gertrude Stein’s.


As a result of the war, Hartley increasingly moved in a new direction both in his painting and writing to a more regional approach. Influenced by Whitman and others, he centered his writing in more of the plain speech of common people and in his art depicting the fishermen and workers, often in homoerotic images, of his beloved home state. Whereas his earlier poetry had often been experimental, in his later work he often returned some rhyme and meter and to more narrative forms. Yet, Hartley wrote with no particular programme, and it would be difficult to characterize his poetry as following any one trend. As he wrote in his 1919 essay (reproduced in the Documents section of this book), “Personal handling counts for more than personal expression. We can learn to use hackneyed words like ‘rose’ and ‘lily,’ relieving them of Swinburnian encrustations.”


In 1930 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, traveling to Mexico and them to Germany. Returning to the United States in 1934, he continued to express the language and images of Maine. He died in Corea, Maine in 1943.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Twenty-Five Poems (Paris: Contact Editions, 1923); Androscoggin (1940); Sea Burial (Portland, Maine: Leon Tebetts Editions, 1941); Selected Poems, ed. by Henry Wells (New York: Viking Press, 1945); Eight Poems and One Essay (Lewiston, Maine: Treat Gallery, Bates College, 1976); The Collected Poems of Marsden Hatley 1904-1943, ed. by Gail R. Scott (Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow Press, 1987)


Local Boys and Girls Small Town Stuff

A panther sprang at the feet
Of the young deer in the grey wood.
It was the lady who had sworn
To love him,
That rose, wraithlike
From the flow of his blood.
He swooned with her devotions.

There was never one
More jolly and boyish
than he was, in the great beginning.
Once his slippers were fastened
With domesticity,
He settled down
Like a worn jaguar
Weary with staring through bars.
The caresses that were poured
Over his person
Staled on him.
Love had grown rancid.
Have you emptied the garbage
John?

(Others, 1919)




To C——

I

If a clear delight visits you
Of an uncertain afternoon,
When you thought the time
For new delights was over for that day,
Say to yourself, who rule many a lost
Moment in this shadowy domain,
Saving it from its dusty grey perdition,
Say to yourself that is a flash
Of lightning from a so affectionate west,
Where the clear sky, that you know, resides.
The rainbow has crossed the desert once again,
I took the blade of bliss and notched it
In a roseate place.
It shed a crimson stream—
That was our flush of joy.

II

They will come
In the way they always come,
Swinging gilded fancies round your head.
So it is with surfaces.

They will walk around you
Adoringly,
Strip branches of their blooms for you—
Young carpets for young ways.

With me it is different.

Stars, when they strike
Edge to edge,
Make fierce resplendent fire.
I have lived with bright stone,
Burned like carnelian in the sun,
Myself;
Myself seen braches wither.

Carbon is a diamond—
It cuts the very crystal from the globe.

You are so beautiful
To listen.


(Poetry, 1920)

Rapture

Is the confession of the leaf—at the brave moment of trembling. The white virginal ones run long thin fingers through the mystic’s fiery hair. It gives a slight twinge to the gelid existence of the virgin, about to perish. This virgin is male. Is the spiral eligible, when it comes too late? Take me with you, upward fire of the man—swirl me away from ethical ethers. Swirl me from this arteio-sclerosis of the soul. I am not known here. I am not known there. I am not in reality known outside myself. God does not covet originality. the virgin twirled a bit of pointed lace that festooned his illicit mind, and settled down to more opinionating at the rusty gate. The university whispers—the mind is carried in another bag, and weighs too heavily with mystic themes on hands not made for work. The lunchroom notes the bookworm fattening its lean body with flesh of other minds. The lunchroom notes the pity of faggot gathering brains. The classroom loves its back and worm as arums love the sickly tropic shade. The white hands turn the leaves of other minds and wander whitely in the world of other men’s appraisals. They never redden with their own incisions in the flesh of proud experience.

A gathering of words of other fondled words begotten is called investigation, and this in turn is called cerebral rapture.

Asceticism is a virtue in itself, the boyish virgin says. It saves a lot of trouble.

(Contact, 1920)

For two more poems, click below: