September 22, 2014

"The Language of Eden" | long poem by Robert Kelly [link]

To read a long poem for voices. The Language of Eden, by Robert Kelly, go here:

Inger Christensen (Denmark) 1935-2009

Inger Christensen (Denmark)

Born in the town of Vejle, on the eastern, Jutland coast of Denmark, Inger Christensen is considered the foremost poetic experimentalist of her generation. After graduating from Vejle Gymnasium, she moved to Copenhagen and, later, to Århus, studying at the Teachers’ College there. She received her certificate in 1958. During this same period, Christensen began publishing poems in the journal Hvedekorn, and was guided by the noted Danish poet and critic Poul Borum (1934-1995), whom she married in 1959 and divorced in 1976.
     After teaching at the College for Arts in Holbaek from 1963-1964, she turned to writing full time, producing two of her major early collections, Lys (Light, 1962) and Græs (Grass, 1963), both examining the limits of self-knowledge and the role of language in perception. Her major work of the 1960s, however, was the highly acclaimed masterwork det (it), which, on one level, explored social, political and aesthetic issues, but more deeply probed large philosophical questions of meaning. The work, almost incantatory in tone, opposes issues such as fear and love and power and powerlessness.
     In these years Christensen also published two novels, Evighedsmaskinen (1964) and Azorno (1967), as well as a shorter fiction on the Italian Renaissance painter Mantegna, presented from the viewpoint of various narrators (Mantegna’s secretary Marsilio, the Turkish princess Farfalla, and Mantagena’s young son), Det malede Værelse (1976, translated into English as The Painted Room by Harvill Press in 2000).
      Much of Christensen’s work is organized upon “systemic” structures in accordance with her belief that poetry is not truth and not even the “dream” of truth, but “is a game, maybe a tragic game—the game we play with a world that plays it’s own game with us.” In the 1981 masterpiece, alfabet, the author use the alphabet (from a [“apricots”] to n [“nights”]) along with the Fibonacci mathematical sequence in which the next number is the sum of the two previous ones (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…). As Christensen has explained: “The numerical ratios exist in nature: the way a leek wraps around itself from the inside, and the head of a snowflower, are both based on this series.” Her system ends on the n, suggesting many possible meanings including “n’s” significance as any whole number. As with det, however, despite its highly structured elements this work is a poetically evocative work concerned with oppositions such as an outpouring of the joy of the world counter posed with the fears for and forces poised for its destruction.
     Sommerflugledalen of 1991(Butterfly Valley: A Requiem, 2004) explores through the sonnet structure the fragility of life and mortality, ending in a kind of transformation.
     Christensen has also written works for children, plays, radio pieces, and numerous essays, the most notable of which were collected in her book Hemmelighedstilstanden (The State of Secrecy) in 2000.
     In 1978 she was appointed to the Danish Academy, and in 1994 she became a member of the Académie Européenne de Poésie. She won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1994, the Nordic Prize in the same year, the European Poetry Prize in 1995, The America Award in 2001and has received numerous other distinctions. Her works have been translated into several languages, and she was frequently mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature.
     Christensen died in 2009.


Lys (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1962); Græs (Copenhage: Gyldendal, 1963); det (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1969); Brev in april (Copenhagen: Brøndum, 1979); alfabet (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1981); Gedicht vom Tod (Münster: Kleinheinrich Verlag, 1991); Sommerfugledale. Et requiem (Copenhagen: Brøndum 1991); Samlede digte (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1998).


Alphabet, trans. by Susanna Nied (Tarset,Northumberland,UK: Bloodaxe Books: 2000/New York: New Directions, 2001); Butterfly Valley: A Requiem, trans. by Susanne Nied (Dublin: Dedalus Press, 2001/New York: New Directions, 2004); it, trans. by Susanna Nied (New York: New Directions, 2006); Light, Grass, and Letter in April, trans. by Susanna Nied (New York: New Directions, 2011)

September 19, 2014

Ivan Bunin (Russia / USSR) 1870-1953

Ivan Bunin (Russia/USSR)
Best known for his novels, The Village (1910), Dry Valley (1912), Mitya’s Love (1924) the autobiographical work, The Life of Arseniev (1933), and his numerous collections of short tales, Ivan Bunin was one of the most revered writers of pre-Communist Russian literature, and was the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he received in 1933. Bunin, however, was also the author a several important collections of poetry.
     He was born on his parental estate in the Voronezh province of Central Russia, the third son of parents from a long line of rural gentry with distinguished Polish ancestors, including the poets Anna Bunina (1774-1829) and Vasily Zhukovsky (1783-1852).

Bunin reportedly lived a happy childhood in Butyrky Khutor and Ozerky. His father was an intelligent, physically active man, addicted to gambling. Before the Crimean War, in which his father served, he abstained from alcohol, but upon his return he became a heavy drinker. Bunin’s mother, however, was the one who introduced her son to the world of Russian folklore and literature. Educated by a home, first by a colorful tutor, Romashkov, and, later, by his university-educated brother, Yuly Bunin (a man who had been deported for being a Narodnik activist, the Narodniks being a socially conscious middle class movement that eventually opposed the Tsarists), the young Ivan grew up with a passion for painting and poetry. He wrote both prose and poetry from an early age.
     By the late 1870s, however, the Bunins had lost most of their wealth from the father’s gambling debts, and Ivan was sent to a public school in Yelets. He never completed the course, having been expelled from school in 1886 for failing to return to the school after Christmas holidays, due to his family’s financial problems.
     In May of the next year, 1887, Bunin published his first poem in the St. Petersburg literary magazine Rodina (Motherland). His first short story appears in 1891.
     In the Spring of 1889, Bunin, like his brother before him, moved to Kharkov, where he first became a government clerk before moving to a position as assistant editor of the local paper. He also worked as a librarian and a court statistician before moving to Oryol to work as the de fact editor of the local Orlovsky Vestnik newspaper, where he also published numerous of his stories, poems, and reviews. In Oryol he also met Varvara Paschenko, whom he married.
     Moving in with his brother Yuly in Poltava, he found, with his brother’s help, a job in the local government administration. His first collection of poetry, Poems 1887-1891 was published in Oryol in 1891.
     During 1894 Bunin traveled throughout Ukraine, where, as he described it: “I fell in love with Malorossiya (Little Russia), its villages and steppes.” And the following year, for the first time, he visted the capital, meeting the Marodniks Nikolay Mikyalovsky and Sergey Krivenko, Anton Chekhov, Alexander Ertel, and the poets Konstantin Balmont and Valery Brysov. A few years later he developed a close friendship with the playwright and fiction writer Maxim Gorky, to whom he dedicated his 1901 collection of poetry, Falling Leaves.
     From 1895 through 1896, Bunin traveled back and forth between Moscow and St. Petersburg, as he continued to write poetry and stories. In 1898 he published his second collection of poetry, Under the Open Skies.
     In June 1898, he moved to Odessa, becoming close to the Southern Russia Painters Comradeship, and developed friendships with E. Bukovetski, V Kurovsky, and P. Nilus. In the next couple of years he began attending the Sreda (Wendesday) literary group in Moscow, forging a friendship with Nikolay Teleshov and others.
   His third collection of poetry, mentioned above, received positive critical attention from numerous writers and journalists, including Alexander Ertel, Alexander Blok, and Aleksandr Kruprin, who saw it as an antidote to the pretentiousness of “decadent” poetry. For that third volume, as well as for his translation of the American Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha, Bunin received his first Pushkin Prize.

     Over the next several years, Bunin continued to publish fiction, stories, and poetry, three volumes of which were collected into Poems and Stories (1907-1909), published by Obschestvennaya polza publishing house.
     Throughout the 1900s Bunin traveled extensively, regularly visiting Chekhov and his family until 1904. During the October Revolution, Bunin was living in Yalta, Crimea, and he soon after moved back to Odessa, developing in 1906 a passionate love affair with Vera Muromtseva, with whom he not only defied social conventions but abandoned Russia in 1907 for an extended tour throughout Egypt and Palestine, resulting in numerous travel sketches.
     Upon his return to Russia, Bunin wrote some of his most noted fictions. In 1909 he was awarded his second Pushkin Prize for Poems 1903-1906 and translations of Lord Byron and, once again, Longfellow. He was also elected as a member of the Russian Academy.

     In 1910 he and Muromtseva again traveled to the Middle East before visiting Ceylon. Upon their return to Russia they discovered that conditions had worsened, and traveled between Moscow and the Bunin family estate at Glotovo village. He wintered for three years in Capri with Gorky, there meeting Fyodor Shalyapin and Leonid Andreev.
     During the first couple of years of World War I, Bunin and Muromtseva lived in Glotovo, while he worked to finish his first volume of prose and verse Chalice of Life, and composed perhaps his best known story, “The Gentleman from San Francisco,” translated into English by D. H. Lawrence.
     Throughout the war Bunin attempted to keep aloof from contemporary literary and political debates, refusing to be pigeon-holed into any literary school. “I did not belong to any literary school; I was neither a decadent, nor a symbolist, nor a romantic, nor a naturalist. Of literary circles I frequented only a few.” By 1916 Bunin had become deeply depressed because of the war.
     In October 1917, the Bunins returned to Moscow, staying with Vera’s parents, while continued to attend meetings of the Sreda circle. That same year, Bunin severed all ties with Gorky, who by this time had become openly revolutionary, while he worked on the anti-Bolshevik newspaper Iuzhnoe Slovo.
     On January 26, 1920, Bunin and Vera boarded the last French ship in Odessa, traveling to Constantinople, and, after brief periods in Sofia and Belgrade, arrived in Paris, where he would live until World War II. Continuing to write significant works, Bunin became one of the major spokesmen for a generation of expatriates living abroad. Accordingly, his award of the Nobel Prize was seen in the USSR as “an imperialist intrigue.” Bunin donated some of his prize money to create a literary charity fund, but his helpful attempts resulted in controversy among his émigré friends resulting in a severing of friendships with Gippius and Merezhkovsky.
    Although friends attempted to help Bunin, a strong anti-Nazi spokesperson, out of France, Bunin determined to remain in France at his mountain retreat in Grasse. There he was joined by Leonid Zurov and Nikolai Roschin, sometimes joined by others, living in a commune system attempting to survive. According to Zurov, who lived with the Bunins for the rest of their lives, “Grasses’s population had eaten all of their cats and dogs.” A visiting journalist in 1942, found a Bunin whom he described as “skinny and emaciated…looking very much like an ancient patrician.”
    Throughout the war Bunin risked his life by sheltering several Jews and other fugitives, despite the fact that a heavily guarded German headquarters stood only 300 meters from his home. Although Bunin continued to write throughout the war, he published nothing.
    With the war’s end, Bunin and Vera returned to their 1, rue Jacques Offenbach home in Paris, with Bunin spending spells in a clinic in Jan-les-Pins) convalescing. Bunin remained in Paris until his death in 1953.


Poems (1887–1891) (1891, originally as a literary supplement to Orlovsky vestnik newspaper); Под открытым небом, (1898); Листопад (Moscow, 1901); Стихотворения (Stikhotvorenīia) (St. Petersburg: Znanīe, 1903-1906) (1903); Стихотворения, 1906); Poems of 1907 (Saint Petersburg, 1908); Selected Poems (Paris, 1929); Stikhotvoreniia (Petrozavodsk: Izd-vo “Kareliia”, 1978); Stikhotvoreniia (Moscow: Sovetskaia Rossia, 1981); Listopad: poèma (Moscow: Sovremenik, 1982); Stikhotvoreniia (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1985)

Poems also appeared  in several of Bunin’s short story collections and in his books published in emigration.


Stories and Poems (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1979)

Click here for a selection of poems:

September 15, 2014

"Baraka in 2010: 'To understand it as a worker and understand it as an intellectual" | interview with Amiri Baraka and Dennis Bűscher-Ulbrich [link]

To read an interview "Baraka in 2010: 'To understand it as a worker and understand it as an intellectual,'" with Amiri Baraka and Dennis Bűscher-Ulbrich, go here:

Alfred Jarry (France) 1873-1907

Alfred Jarry (France)

Born on September 8, 1873 in Laval, Mayenne,France, Alfred Jarry was of Breton descent on his mother’s side of the family.

While attending the lycée in Rennes, Jarry as among the boys who devoted a great deal of their time to satirizing and making fun of their obese and incompetent physics teacher, Hébert. Jarry and another classmate, Henri Morin, went so far as to write a play, Les Polonais, satirizing their teacher, who they nicknamed Pére Heb, a large-bellied fool who had three teeth (one of stone, one of iron, and one a wood), a single retractile ear, and a misshapen body. Performed with marionettes, the drama delighted his classmates.That character would later be incorporated into a redeveloped as Ubu Roi in Jarry’s renowned play of 1896.
     Jarry received his baccalaureate and moved to Paris to prepare for admission to the École Normale Supérieure. He was not admitted, but he quickly gained attention for his original poems and prose poetry works, a collection of which, Le minutes de sable mémorial, was published in 1893. That same year his parents died, leaving him a small inheritance which he quickly squandered.     Jarry quickly became an alcoholic, preferring absinthe, which he described as his “Green Goddess.” At one point he painted his face green, riding about the city on his bicycle in honor of the drink.
  Drafted into the army in 1894, Jarry, who stood less than 5 feet tall without a uniform (since the military did not issue uniforms small enough), made so much public fun of his ridiculous situation that he was discharged. That experience later inspired his Les Jours et les Nuits, roman d’un déserteur (Days and Nights, a Novel of a Deserter) of 1897.

     Freed from the military, Paris returned to Paris, where he devoted himself to writing, drinking, and developing deep friendships with figures such as Remy de Gourmont. Invoved with the art publication, L’Ymagier, devoted to the symbolic analysis of prints, Jarry drew on Symbolist motifs for his play Caesar Antichrist (1895), which created a world in which Christ is resurrected not as a spiritual leader but rather as agent of the Roman Empire. The absurd premises of the play and its hermetic imagery, hinted at the absurdist principles and the field of Pataphysics which later emanated from his work.
     The spring of the following year saw the magazine publication of his famed Ubu Roi in Paul Fort’s Le Livre d’art. The play was so outrageous that few expected that it might every be mounted on stage, but theater director Aurélien-Marie Lugné-Poe decided to take a risk of presenting it at his Théâtre de l”Oeuvre. On the evening of December 10, 1896, where an audience mixed with traditionalists and avant-gardists waited, actor Firmin Gémier stepped to the footlights as King Ubu, intoning the play’s opening words: “Merdre!” or “Shitter.” Within a half an hour the place was a scene of pandemonium, audience members shouting, booing, whistling, cheering and applauding. So extreme was the reaction the play was not performed again until after Jarry’s death.
    Rumor had it that Gémier had modeled the character on Jarry’s own staccato, nasal vocal delivery, and had based several of his histrionic stances on Jarry’s own well-known behavior.
    During the following years, Jarry co-founded with Franc-Hohain and Claude Terrasse, the Théatre des Pantins, which performed marionette productions of Ubu Roi.
    Having spent all of his inheritance, Jarry lived in a mud hut by the river, drinking excessively, but continued to write, including what has been described as the first cyborg sex novel, Le Surmâle (The Supermale), and other fictions, many of which were published after his death.
    Among his many drinking friends were the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, Gide, Mallarmé, and Wilde. Wilde found Jarry incredibly beautiful and androgynous, and others recognized the playwright, fiction writer, and poet as being gay.
    Jarry died in Paris of tuberculosis on November 1, 1907. The writer was only 34.
    His work would influence a host of literary movements that followed, including Dadaism, Surrealism, and, as already suggested, the Pataphysics that predominate so much of the Oulipo writings. Picasso purchased several his manuscripts and his pistol Echoes of works can be seen in the writings of Eugène Ionesco and Samuel Beckett.  His complete works are published in three volumes by Gallimard in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade series.
    In his study of Gertrude Stein, J. Malcolm Brinnin writes of Jarry’s poetry:

   Jarry's poetry, showing signs of fragmentary influences from
Mallarme, combined strains of wild fantasy with perverse eroticism
and the humeur noire of anarchy. Reality and unreality were
mixed to his order. His favorite comment on any noteworthy
occasion was "It was as beautiful as literature, wasn't it?"


Le minutes de sable memorial (1893) (Paris: Edition de Mercure de France, 1894 / Paris: Fasquelle, 1932 / Paris: Gallimard, 1977); Œuvres poétiques completes (Paris: Gallimard, 1945)

September 14, 2014

Kim Soo-Bok (South Korea) 1953

Kim Soo-Bok (South Korea)
 Kim Soo-Bok was born in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang Province, Korea, in 1953. He graduated from the Korean Language and Literature of Dankook University in Seoul, and completed his PhD. there.

His earliest poems began to appear in 1975, with a collection, Jirisan taryeong (Ballad of Mount Jiri) following in 1977. More volumes followed, including Naje naon bandl (1980, Half moon appearing by day), Saereul gidarimyeo (1988, Waiting for birds),
Gidohaneum namu
(1989, Praying trees); Modeun gildeureun noraereul bureunda (1999, All the roads are singing), Sarajin Pokpo (2003, The vanished waterfall), Umurui nundongja (the eye of the well, 2004), Dareul ttara geonda (2008, Walking after the moon), and Oibak (2012, Sleeping out).
     Kim received the Pyeonun Award and the Award for Lyric Poetry.
     At present, the poet is a professor of Creative writing at Dankook University.


Jirisan taryeong (1977); Naje naon bandl (1980); Saereul gidarimyeo (1988); Gidohaneum namu (1989); Modeun gildeureun norareul bureunda (1999); Sarajin Pokpo (2003); Umurui nundongja (2004); Dareul ttara geonda (2008); Oibak (2012)


Beating on Iron (trans. by Brother Anthony of Taizé) (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2016)

For a poem by Kim Soo-Bok, go here:

John Wieners | typescript of his poem "[And if to die is to move]"

Obe Postma (Frisian Islands, Netherlands / writes in Frisian) 1869-1963

Obe Postma (Frisian Islands, Netherlands / writes in Frisian)
Born in Cornwerd in the Netherlands Frisian Islands on March 20, 1868, Obe Postma, the son of a Protestant farmer, grew upon on the family farm. But his father taught him a love for literature, and brought him into contact with other Frisian writers such as J. C. P. Salverda and J. G. Blom.
     After a primary education in his hometown of Makkum, Postma attending Gymnasium in Snits before moving on to the University of Amsterdam to study mathematics and physics. Although he developed a wide range of cultural interests during his university years, he did not forge his Frisian upbringing and language.

He graduated in 1892, becoming a lecturer of mathematics in Tiel and Tilburg the following year. From 1894 to 1933 he taught mathematics and mechanics at the HBS school in Groningen and, later, in Amsterdam.
     His first poetic work was published in the journal Forjit my net in 1902, and his first collection of poetry, Fryske LAN en Fryske Libben appeared in 1918, reprinted in 1923. In these early works the poet used the Frisian literary genre to express vaguely sentimental rural, romantic themes. Yet there was a simplicity and ironic tone to the work that reminds some of the American poet Robert Frost.
    In later works he sought out philosophical themes, introducing free verse into Frisian literature and combining an eclectic mix of subject matter from the medieval past to automobiles and airplanes.
     His voice became even more ironic after World War I, particularly in the book Il sil bistean.
     Postma retired from teaching in 1933, but continued writing poetry throughout his life. He also used the pseudonym J. C. Falke in his writing.
     Besides poetry, Postma wrote essays on science and modern agricultural methods.
     He died in Leeuwarden in 1963.


Fryske Lân en Fryske libben (Snits: A. J. Osinga: 1918; 1923); De ljochte ierde (1929)’ Dagen (1937); It sil bistean (1947);Samle fersen (Snits: Brandenburgh, 1949); Eigen kar (Drachten: Laverman, 1949); Twaris fiff (1955); Een groene lantaarn (1957); Fan wjerklank en bisinnen (Drachten: Laverman, 1957); Anne Waman bespreek: Een groene lantaarn van J. C. Falke (1958); Boedga rapsodie (1961)

What the Poet Must Know: An Anthology [in Frisian and English] (England: Librario Publishing Co., 2004)

Olvido García Valdés (Spain) 1950

Olvido García Valdés (Spain)

On December 2, 1950 Spanish poet Olvido García Valdés was born in Santianes de Pravia, in Asturias, Spain.
     García Valdés was educated at the University of Oviedo, where she received a degree in Philosophy, and at the University of Vallodolid, where she studied Romance Philology. Today she is a professor of Literature and Spanish at the Instituto El Greco in Toledo, Spain and at Sant Em de Sant Feliu de Guíols.

She also was director of the Cervantes Institute in Toulouse, France, a position she resigned in 2008. She is co-director of the poetry review, Los Infolios, and is on the editorial board for El signo de gorrión, which she co-founded.
     Her poetry began with three verse collections in the later 1980s and early 1990s: El tercer jardin (1986, The third garden), Exposiciíon (1990, Night hung, which won the Icarus Prize for Literature), and Ella, los pájaros (1994, Her, birds, which won the Premio Leonor de Poesía).
      The publication of Caza nocturna (1997) comprised what she and her critics have described as the “second stage” of her career, while her most recent books, Del ojo al hueso (2001, From the eye to the bone), Y todos estábamos vivos (2006, And we are still alive), and El mundo es un jardín (2010) representing her so-called “third stage”—works which are focused on a perception of death.
     Her collected poems, Poesía reunida (1982-2008) was published in 2010.
     Generally, her work has been characterized as being made up of “juxtapositions of fractured verbal asceticism with the sustained lyrical line.”
     She has also translated several writers into Spanish, including Pier Paolo Pasolini, Anna Akhmatova, and Marina Tsvetaeva. She is also the author of a biographical essay, Teresa de Jesús (2001) and several art essays.
     García Valdés’ poetry appears in several major Spanish anthologies and has been translated into several languages. In 2007 the poet was awarded the prestigious National Poetry Prize.
     She is married to the poet Miguel Casado.


El tercer jardin (Valladolid: Editorial del Faro, 1986); Exposición (Ferrol: Esquío, 1990); Ella, los páros (Soria: Diputación, 1994); Mimosa de febrero (1994); Caza nocturna (Madrid: Ave del Paríso, 1997); Si un cuervo trajero (2000); Del ojo al hueso (Madrid: Ave del Paraíso, 2001); La poesía, ese cuerpo extraño (Madrid: Ediciones de la Universidad de Oviedo, 2005);  Y todos estábamos vivos (Barceolona: Tusquets, 2006); Esa polilla que delante de mí revolotea (Galazía Gutenberg: Círculo de Lextores, 2008); El mundo es un jardín (Madrid: Círculo de Bellas Artes, 2010); Poesía reunida (1982-2008) (2010); Lo solo del animal (Barcelona: Tusquets, 2012)


Selection in Panic Cure: Poetry from Spain for the 21st Century (Forest Gander, trans.) (Los Angeles: Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2014)



That misery seems to have been only a face

of our happiness. Bliss

doesn’t rise but falls

like softest rain. Remember

that Saturday in February

so like this one in November.

Close your eyes. Wear yourself out

climbing on, you without your voice,

carrying that notebook in which you write

things you’d like to say.

The non-materiality of words

blasts us with heat and surprise, a hand

squeezing a shoulder,

warm breath on a sweater.

To the parched, a jug of water,

the eyes of wolves

to see. Context

is everything, cold

transparent air. Something like this:

Tibetan farmers

sitting on the ground, in semicircles,

learning to read at winter’s end,

when work is done, they’re discussing

a photograph, they’re

wrapped up warmly; or a boy

beaten to a pulp,

who time leaves behind,

who is restored, like some old photograph.

Three moths, at the lamp’s light,

enter the glass.

        Translated from the Spanish by Forest Gander

(from El tercer jardin, 1986)

English language translations copyright ©2014 by Forest Gander. Reprinted by permission of Otis Books/Seismicity Editions.

For other translations of poetry, go here: