February 26, 2022

THE SKRYNIA GROUP (THE "CHEST" GROUP) Ukraine (1971)

THE SKRYNIA GROUP (THE “CHEST” GROUP) (Ukraine)

Created by Hrytsko Chubai (1949) in the Soviet Ukraine, the “Skrynia” group was a samizdat-like publishing gathering in Ukraine that included poets Mykola Riabchuck, Oleh Lyshenha, singer-songwriter Viktor Morozov, and critic Roman Kris.

Hrytsko Chubai


     In 1971 the group printed and distributed an underground samizdat publication, a literary collection titled Skrynia (The Chest). The second issue was confiscated by the KGB in January 1972, and the group was disbanded and punished, most of the members being dismissed from school, Riabchuk from the Polytechnical Institute, Lysheha (with only one semester left) from L’viv University. Chubai was arrested and eventually released, with the KGB rumoring that he had collaborated. Isolated and alienated by the slander, Chubai died in 1982. Other writers, including Lysheha, went on to become significant Ukraine writers in the post-Soviet generation.

—Douglas Messerli

Oleh Lysheha (Ukraine) 1949-2014

 Oleh Lysheha (Ukraine)
1949

Born in Tys'menytsia in western Ukraine in 1949, Oleh Lysheha began his university studies at L'viv University in the 1960s, majoring in foreign languages, particularly English and American poetry.
      Soon after the poet began translating the works of figures as diverse as Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams and others.


    
In the 1970s he became involved in the underground literary group which included poet Mykola Riabchuk, singer-writer Viktor Morozov, and critic Roman Kis. The unofficial leader of this group was Hryhorii Chubai, born the same year as Lysheha. In 1971 the group printed and distributed in samizdat fashion a literary collection titled Skrynia (The Chest). The second issue was confiscated by the KGB in January 1972, and the group was disbanded and punished, most of the members being dismissed from school, Riabchuk from the Polytechnical Institute, Lysheha (with only one semester left) from L'viv University. Chubai was arrested and eventually released, with the KGB rumoring that he had collaborated. Isolated and alienated by the slander, Chubai died in 1982.
     Without his university position, Lysheha was drafted into the Soviet army, spending time outside of Moscow and, later, in the Autonomous Buriat Republic in the Soviet far east. Because of his ability with English, he was allowed twice a week to teach at a local school.
     In 1975, Lysheha left the army and returned to Ukraine, living first in Tys'menytsia and then L'viv, while he worked at various odd jobs. In the 1980s be worked as a decorator at the Karpenko Karyi Theatrical and Cinematic Institute in Kyiv, but remained on the brink of homelessness.
     Despite these difficulties, however, Lysheha wrote poetry, publishing his first collection, "Winter in Tys'menytsia" in samizdat form in 1977. More of his poetry appeared in the 1980s in the journal Vsevit and in Vitryla (Sails), an anthology of "young" poetry. His first published volume was Velykyi mist (The Great Bridge) of 1989, published by the Communist Youth League.
    The 1990s were a better period for Lysheha, although he published only one further book of poetry, The Selected Poems, published in Ukrianian and English by the Ukrainian Research Institute of Harvard University. He also published a play, Friend Li Po, Brother Tu Fu, as well as a few essays.
     From 1997-1998 Lysheha was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Penn State University, and upon returning to Ukraine, devoted himself to poetry, painting, and sculpture. In 2002 he published his third collection of poetry, To Snow and Fire.
         He died on December 17, 2014.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Velykyi mist (Kyiv: Molodist', 1989); The Selected Poems of Oleh Lysheha, in Ukrainian and English, trans by James Brasfield (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Ukrainian Research Institute/Harvard University Press, 1999); Snihovi i vohn︠i︡u (Ivano-Frankivsʹk : Vyd-vo "Lile︠i︡a-NV", 2002)


Swan


God, I'm slipping..
This road can't hold me anymore..
I'm not even that drunk..
Moon, come here..
I come out from under the pines -- you're hiding..
I go back under the pines -- you shine..
I start running -- you're at my back..
I stop -- you're gone..
Only dark pines..
I hide behind a pine -- and you come out..
I come out -- you're not there..
Not there..
Not there..
There..
Not there..
There.. not there..
I can't move that fast..
Wait.. I want to
Stand in your light..
Maybe you don't see me?..
See this is my foot --
Don't the wires holding my shoe together sparkle?..
My naked ankle's so pale it must glisten..
I need a cigarette, but haven't got one
I look around -- nothing..
The night train just stopped here
A bunch of them got out
And stood here shivering
I could smoke one of the butts..
I'll look -- I bend down over and over
To search the ground..
Nothing.. just a filter..
Here's something.
No, just an old bone..
Why don't you send me some company?..
How about a guy on his bike ringing his bell?..
After you -- I'll step aside..
The moonlit road is empty --
I'll wait..
Once I found a shot glass
Under this pine..
Where the road splits,
The glass stood right in the middle..
I picked it up and sniffed it..
Maybe someone had left it for me?..
It was warm, cut glass..
I was going to take it, but then I changed my mind..
In this very spot one night I pulled out a dried up pine,
Roots and all, and dragged it off..
And when I had almost gotten to town, it started to drizzle..
I heard someone singing softly and so I stopped..
They stood in the road swaying..
In that spot near the puddle, in the shadows,
Where there's a tree with very low hanging branches --
Maybe a cherry tree gone wild..
He stood there singing and staring at the bubbles in the water..
I dragged the pine through the puddle,
In my other hand I held a bag --
With a bottle
Of what they said was red wine..
He didn't step aside, but went on singing..
Maybe I should have stopped
And joined him?..
Maybe he had found
The tree of bliss?..
Nobody knows where it grows or what type of tree it is..
Or who is destined to find it..
As for me, I never stood under that tree..
Not once, not even to wait for the rain to stop
While watching bubbles swell up
Between the raindrops..
He was humming and swaying..
The tree held him fast..
Otherwise, he would have fallen over..
If he had, the rain would have stopped..
His dancing brought the rain
To that tree..
I don't know how to do that..
On second thought.. maybe it was a wolf?..
Right here between the pines
An old woman ran by, looking over her shoulder..
The full legs were hers --
But further up there was only
A frowzy armful of irises..
Like sweaty children, they clung to her neck,
And feebly hung down her shoulders..
They had fallen asleep at her breast.
Their sleepy eyes were
Dusted with yellow powder..
She floated by, a full bright cloud,
And I also clung to her,
Swaying at her breast,
Falling asleep, warm..
She carried us carefully
Like something precious, dear,
Hiding us in the shadows,
So that our poor, wheezing lungs
Wouldn't fill up too suddenly
With this world..
At the same time, I felt that
She had rushed out of my heart,
Escaping..
Disappearing with the whole world
Down this road,
Where no one will ever pass again..
I wasn't here all winter..
I managed to hide out..
A little further up the road-- over there..
Under the tallest pine,
The one under Ursa Major,
Where the Big Bear seems to fall straight down
Head first..
This winter Venus was on fire
And chased me further and further west..
In Danzig I couldn't find
Any shoes --
See -- I had to wire these together
And there's a hole near the big toe..
I stopped everywhere,
Walking up to every heavy carved door
With a crystal bell, and asked..
But do you think you could ever satisfy this foot?..
Finally I walked into this museum
Right near the canal..
I had to get warm at least,
The rain wouldn't stop..
No one else was there..
And in a corner under glass
I saw a dried out pair of ancient slippers,
Which must have lain in some swamp or bog
On their way to the next world.
The feet they once held
Have probably turned to dust..
Pointy, graceful,
With curved straps
I couldn't pull myself away from them..
A little past them stood
Funeral urns --- dark pots
With painted eyes and ears
Pierced with a awl, maybe a bone..
From which hung heavy brass earrings..
They were like one big family
That had just sat down in a clearing
For a picnic of fresh wild boar..
I walked around each one
Examining it, enchanted..
They were beautiful.. very beautiful..
Each one had a necklace of tiny,
Sharp beads, like mouse teeth --
The color of milky amber..
These were the urns
Of young girls who died
After eating boar
Each stomach bloated till it burst..
Would anybody now believe
That I was actually there?..
That once my foot was so free
In those slippers?..
And my spirit didn't have to look
Into every pot?..
After the museum,
There was nowhere to go,
The evening had gotten cold,
Winter is winter after all, even without snow,
There was only the rain..
I waited for it to stop,
Then I left..
It was getting dark,
I passed some pines with low-hanging branches.
Under each tree there was a hole,
Where they once found amber..
Foxes dug and made the holes even deeper..
I almost fell into one..
But then managed to get past them.
It was dark,
When I got to where the land ends..
There wasn't a living soul,
Only wet sand..
I sat down.. and stared out for a long time..
So quiet..
Then suddenly out of the thick mist
A swan swam out..
It turned its head..
And disappeared.. Just as suddenly..
That long neck
Was like the last ray of the sun..
Was he the guardian who let me in?..
What a look he gave me!..
There was no one else..
So I ripped my clothes off and stepped in..
It was not high tide.. no.. on the contrary..
It was ebbing away, pulling me out..
Suddenly I felt the sandy bottom give way
And then I went under..
So I opened my eyes wide
And forced my lids to embrace
The entire sea at once..
It was only me and him
Eyes wide open,
Not bound by a bottom or a sky..
Now, when I walk
Down this road again at night,
It's like I'm still there and
My eyes are still wide open..
But who's behind that pine?..
Some poor drunk?..
Please, take these eyes..
I'll step aside..
Tell me, how do I get out of here?..
Just step into the shadows of the pines?..
Can it be so easy?..
But that will be my final move, won't it?..
Maybe it wasn't me
Who came back from there?..
Well, who came back then?..
On that day,.. no, it was later,
It was a long time before I would've dared to..
Yes, it was later when I opened the gate
And asked Maria for an egg..
I had some money in my pocket..
She went into the hen house
And brought out three eggs.. and didn't even take a cent..
She said: Derhach, the guy with one arm
Who lived up the road, abandoned his house.
Now he begs at the train stop..
She gave me a knowing look
What a pity..
He always had such calm, clear eyes..
This road always leads some place again and again..
And I'm leaving..
Where can a tired man go at night
After he's been to the sea?..
What's left?..
Maybe the mountains..
But going up and down is so hard..
I touch the ground,
Only shadows of pines..
I always step over the same pine..
Is this the foot of the mountains?..
Was it a swan?..
How he raised his head..
Blocking the sky over the sea..
I don't know.. I only stepped in and now am swept away..
Look, I fling out my arms
And am rising towards you..
God, I'm falling..

—Translated from the Ukrainian by Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps


____
English language copyright (c) Virlana Tkacz and Wanda Phipps)

Oswald Egger (b. Italy / Austria) 1963

Oswald Egger (b. Italy/Austria)
1963

Born in Lana, Italy on March 7, 1963, Oswald Egger graduated from the University of Vienna. He currently divides his time between Vienna and Hombroich, Germany.
     His first book of poetry and theatrical works was Der Erne der Rede, published in 1993. Gleich und gleich followed in1995, a year in which he won the Austrian “Staatstipendium” for Literature, an award he was again awarded in 2001.


    
The following year, upon the publication of Blauberts Treue, he received a stipend for the Stuttgart School of Solitude. Juli, Steptember, August was published in 1997. And with the publication of Herde de Rede in 1999, he was awarded the Mondsee Poetry Award. To Observe the Obverse won him a George Saiko Award and the Brentano Award.
     In 2000 he was Artist in Residence at the Chinati-Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and the following year he was Writer in Residence at Villa Aurora in Los Angeles. Nichts, das ist, followed in 2001, and over the past few years Egger has continued to publish new volumes of poetry and prose collections, including -broich (2003), Tag und Nacht sind zwei (2006), nihilum album (2007), Lustrationen (2008), Diskrete Stetigkeit (2008), Alinea (2009), and Die gance Zeit (2010). A collection of prose work, Pros, Proserpina, Prosa appeared in 2005 and Your Lenz in 2013. Green Integer published an English-language translation of Nichts, das ist as Room of Rumor: Tunings in 2004. He also recently published a collection of poetry speeches published by the Poetry Cabinet Foundation in Munich.

BOOKS OF POETRY

Die Erde Rede (Münster: Kleinheinrich, 1993); Gleich und gleich (Zürich: Howeg, 1995); Juli, Steptember, August (Stuttgart: Edition Soliture, 1997); Herde de Rede (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1999); Poemanderm Schlaf (De Rede Dreh) (Züurch: Edition Howeg, 1999); Nichts, das is (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2001); -broich: Homotopien eines Gedichts (Wien: Edition Korrespondenzen, 2003); Tag un Nacht sind swei Jahre (Warmbronn: Ulrich Keicher, 2006); nihilum album (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2007); Lustrationen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008); Diskrete Stetigkeit (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2008); Alinea. Vom Zersingen der Lieder in Babel: Für Werner Hamacher (Basel: Urs Engeler, 2009); Die ganze Zeit (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010); Gnomes und Amben (Berlin: Brueterich, 2015); Harlekinsmäntel und andere Bewandtnisse (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2017); Val di Non (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017);"Entweder ich habe die Fahrt am Mississippi nur geträumt, oder ich träume jetzt" (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2021, with watercolors by the author)


ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Room of Rumor:Tunings, trans. by Michael Pisaro (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2004); selection in The PIP Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century, Volume 7: At Villa Aurora—Nine Contemporary Poets Writing in German (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2006)


from Room of Rumor

I would not dream of going away from the coast in
the desert, past rotor petals wind saddle
things, in the calm stream valley, from passing rage pole-
heap flat-felloes into gravel—these, stalks.
 
Again I want to pull in the rain strings, rain-
sword, rill-crinkle over prick-apple palms fair-fields-
intervals transfer lines, a channel
of bypass wings from power plantations
 
in the track wind out of breath, flock creatures perhaps
from etch-wind pore-cyclets, from hatch-
fleets and automats finger-trees, hand-
straights reaching through slope-sand, grasping at the air.

 

 

 

 

In the creeping darkness, epicure-animals, who bloom in the glimmer-walls and calibrate first floors, scan-bridge-gauge pump-baths, where leafless plants thrive and the overflow keeps to rotation, Bakelite-houses rafters, informer wing-creatures, air tumbler tunnels whirring alarms, fluttering, pixels in the x-arbitrary (an bury themselves under hollows).

 
(from Nichts, das is, 2001)

Translated from the German by Michael Pissaro

 

I am saluted, fields, as non-foamed
deserts, crumble-piles pointed wool-lines, pebble rifts
and, blurring, moss-posts of the fore-spaced
the bloom-spatula up

on hill-flagelliforms with their stick-palm-
ferns moon-bristles corollary and cilia-muzzles,
new world-hood-plait like these so-called ornimals and
gazellepedes, lash-tassels and

stiff-spikelets from blue lilies, shift-seaweed in the
whirlpool wrist of nostril whales snort-funnels and the
split pin lapping glow-green and grind-teeth of the
eye-animals, white nesting and

 

 

 

Sometimes, when the sun is sunken under ground, gleam-lights, one round the other, is themselves self-capsizing inflaming, fields, huff-bow, and falling rustle-leaf deception, garrison gangways of fore-wall fortifications, holy-grain screen instantaneous incomprehensible glug-images appeared the trickle flarings, hard shadows shimmer in the bare bared wire (land). I am astounded sighting a thousand corrugated iron waves, the rivers of traffic in the fortress network of freeway-lines viaduct-stumps—and unto the traffic-tide I shall return.—


(from Nichts, das is, 2001)

Translated from the German by Michael Pissaro

 

February 25, 2022

"Sun & Moon: A Journal of Literature & Art--A Youthful Reflection" | essay by Douglas Messerli (on his journal Sun & Moon)

 I discovered among my files an essay I had written in 1976, the very year in which I published our first issue. I don’t even recall penning this piece for the Maryland Arts Council, and I am quite startled by both its youthful enthusiasm and, at times, its insights (“A lifetime of frustration may result.”) The concepts of “hot and cold type,” “hot wax,” and large paper purchases now seem something out of an ancient text, but were crucial issues at the day. And if my easy metaphorical relationship of publishing with a Broadway show production is glib and today seems somewhat embarrassing, it is appropriate for a young man who so loved theater throughout his youth. If my younger comments seem, at times, blissfully absurd, I am, nonetheless, in admiration of that lost self for some of my insights and disparaging comments about my own impossible undertaking. Alas, most of my disparagement was merely bluff; I was already hooked and was ardently committed to literary publishing as I remain so today. If I had enough money (the problem with both the endeavors) I’d probably still attempt to produce a play!

sun & moon: a journal of literature & art--a youthful reflection
by Douglas Messerli

If we were to believe the motion picture industry, the national fantasy of the thirties and forties was to produce and star in a Broadway show. Once Hollywood got hold of the idea, of course, it didn’t matter whether such a fantasy had previously existed or not. It soon did. It was myth, and therefore it was truth. The ritual lines are still in our blood (at least in my blood): “Hey kids! I’ve got an idea! Let’s get together and make a musical!”
     I remember, as a child growing up in the fifties, living with that fantasy and acting it out in the form of “plays” in our basement, sometimes with others—a cousin or a shanghai’d brother or sister—more often alone. But by the 1960s, we had grown up, both as individuals, and, one hoped, as a nation, and we were interested in more“serious” things. And one of the most serious of all things was to begin a newspaper or a little magazine. I won’t call it a national fantasy, but from the evidence of those working around me, and from the statistical facts, there were certainly great numbers of individuals who actually said, “Let’s start a journal.” Of course, these were all sorts of little magazines, dealing with everything from politics to health food. The kind of journal that I was interested in, a literary magazine, may never have such an impetus as in the middle and late sixties, but it had a long tradition, especially in this (20th) century. And I suspect that those of us with a “literary bent” dreamt of being editors simultaneously with producing Broadway shows.
     The dangers of such manufactured fantasies are obvious. As we all know, most of these fantasies are unrealizable, and a lifetime of frustration may result, and, thus, I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually stop dreaming and act. My “fantasy” was finally realized a few months ago, at a time in my life when I have long since perceived the absurdity of such fantasies, and at a time when I have no more illusions about the simplicity of beginning a journal than I have about the possibility of a few friends getting together and opening a Broadway show. Working on the Index to Periodical Fiction,* both my co-editor, Howard Fox, and I had studied the hundreds of small journal which yearly replaced hundreds of others that couldn’t survive. So we had no excuses. We knew the odds against the project on which we were about to embark. Moreover, neither of us had had any editorial experience, so we were in the strange position of not being blind, and yet being in the dark. I thought it might be interesting, therefore, to share some of what I learned from this unusual vantage point, so that others who can’t shake their fantasies can bring their fantasies, when and if they must, a little more easily to life.
     It was late in May 1975 when Howard and I decided to pool our interests and begin a magazine of literature and art. We had thought out loud of the idea previously, but this was the first time that we took ourselves seriously. We had just been indexing the small journal, The Floating Bear, and we had seen in it an exciting magazine that had not been printed, but mimeographed. It was not that mimeographing appealed to us, but that it was affordable. By beginning with a mimeographed journal, we could publish immediately, and as we caught on—so our reasoning went—we could improve our format.
     I suggested the title Sun and Moon, a title of a novel by the Austrian, Albert-Paris Gütersloh. I’d never read Sonne und Mond (it has never been translated), but the title had appealed to me, and now it seemed to apply nicely to a quarterly that would try to embrace two different and yet related disciplines.
     Later, we were to reconsider. We were afraid that it might sound too dated, as if it were something from the sixties like The New Moon Trading Post. For a while, we considered calling the journal The Literature and Art Quarterly, but that was too academic. Eclipse had too many negative connotations, although we felt it signified a dramatic event. Other titles were too provincial, too clever, too cute. When our friend Marjorie Perloff suggested we change the “and” to an ampersand, we found the journal’s name stuck.


     Now that we had a title, we immediately sent out letters to several of favorite authors and artists who had previously contributed to small magazines. Our letters were honest and personal; we made no large claims, pretended no exceptional experience. By late June and early July we received some responses. Far sooner than we had expected, manuscripts were arriving. Actually having the stories, poems, and artwork in our hands, we suddenly realized that we couldn’t mimeograph. We both felt we owed it to our contributors (some of them noted figures) as well as to our egos to somehow afford a better format. Our first step, understandably, was to find out what else was available to us.

     In the heat of late July and early August, I made the rounds of a few local printing centers, where I quickly learned a little about terms that had been previously vague, such as “letterpress,” “cold type,” “offset,” and “type composers.**” At least I now knew that I was looking for a composer on which I could rent time, and I was seeking an offset printer whom we could afford. That summer it seemed that no one except IBM had a composer we could use, and it was beginning to look like we were doomed to the typewriter’s unjustified margins, instead of set type.
     Late in August, Merrill Leffler, of Dryad Press, mentioned the Print Center, Inc. in New York. However, to use the Print Center was impractical, especially since I hoped to be able to do our own typesetting (I am still a speed typist, and had worked as a typist in the year I lived in New York). To stay in New York for that length of time was not only unaffordable, it was impossible, since the classes I taught began in a week or so. Merrill also suggested we contact a place in Baltimore that we heard might be getting a composing machine. It was called The Maryland Writers Council.
     It’s needless to say what happened. Here I am writing for their newsletter, and anything I can say could only sound like an in-house testimonial. Let me just say that what the Council offers was perfect for a journal of our sort. But of course that hardly meant that every problem was solved, that now the issue could proceed without more ado. There was still type-size and style to choose, paper to select, and my own lay-out work to do.
     The latter two problems were the difficult ones. The first was simply a matter of choice. The facts that we managed to add $50 to $100 to the cost of typesetting by doing revisions after some manuscripts had already been set, and that an issue which we planned to be eighty pages long suddenly turned out to be one hundred pages, I claim, are common-place mistakes beginning editors make. I suggest that future editors without experience should expect those kinds of problems; it is somehow inextricably linked up with an editor’s fate.
     On paper, however, I can give advice. One should find a large paper company and helpful clerks and one should ask to see everything the company has. The more different types of paper one can see, the more ably one can choose exactly what one wants. We chose a laid stock because we had developed certain aesthetic associations with it. But even laid papers differ, sometimes quite radically, and it took several weeks to choose the paper we liked and could afford.***
     Doing the lay-out on the journal, that actual pasting-up of the pages, is where I learned the most about what a little magazine is all about. Some important considerations had begun to arise already in proofreading, and as I waxed each page, carefully aligned it, measured each line for evenness and rolled the sheets into place, I reread it, wondering if, now that we had an issue, whether we truly had magazine. Did the works we had chosen come together to say anything as a group, as a voice? For many weeks after we had begun receiving manuscripts and had turned away from the mimeographed format, we had debated what we should be. We modeled ourselves, very vaguely, after magazines like John Ashbery’s Literature & Art, a journal we felt to be superior. But, of course we had neither yet developed the friendships or taste of Ashbery, and we hadn’t yet the attraction or the resources of his journal. Our contributors, for the most part, we felt were excellent, but were comparatively few. And, more importantly, we still hadn’t—perhaps we still haven’t—clearly established our own taste. Our solution has been eclecticism, but from those other journals with which we had worked we learned that eclecticism is not to be a hodge-podge of quality, styles, and tastes. Had Sun & Moon resolved those problems? I couldn’t answer that question. I knew I would have to wait. No editor can be without these fears, and at no time are these fears more prominent, it seems to me, than when he is literally putting the journal into shape.****
     Meanwhile, I had numbered wrong for perfect binding, I was having troubles without inserts, and, without my new glasses, I wasn’t sure my lines were truly straight. But two weeks later I was finally finished. Once again, good fortune saved the day. Long-experienced editors Pam and Charley Plymell***** working on their own journal had been on hand to give their expert pointers and advice.
     Now the flyers have been mailed, subscriptions are being taken, the issue is at the binders, and I wait impatiently******. I have lost all objectivity, and I can no longer tell whether Sun & Moon will be the journal that I had once dreamt about. It doesn’t really matter. For I have made something, and despite all the difficulties, I enjoyed doing it. Most importantly, I learned so much. Finally, I guess if I reconfirmed to myself that such fantasies are absurd, I also rediscovered the beauty and important of those fantasies, especially when there is that urge to bring them to life. But please, please somebody top me if I try to produce a Broadway show.

Reprinted from The Supplement to the Bulletin of the Maryland Writers Council (Special “Catch Up” issue, February-May 1976).

*In 1974 through 1976 Howard Fox and I edited a 764 page volume of bibliography listings of fiction published in hundreds of magazines and journals from 1965-1969. The book, published by Scarecrow Press in 1977, was meant to be a bibliographical annual, but the amount of work involved and the numerous hours we spent in the Library of Congress and elsewhere, compiling the information, discouraged us from continuing its publication.

**When we begin our publishing, hot type, that is molten lead cast into letters and lines, was just beginning to give way to “cold type,” type composed on computers. But the computers of the day, the one I worked on called a Compugraphic compositor, were huge machines that looked more like giant organs inside of sleek laptops. The typesetter “composed” almost blindly, line by line, transferred onto photographic paper, which then needed to be processed through a mix of deadly chemicals. The process was spotty at best; if, during the process the chemicals were not perfectly blended the work was destroyed. So too could the type be faded by simple day light. Hot “wax” was applied to the underside of the sheets to allow them to be positioned onto large cardboard quartos that were later photographed for printing.

***Today, fortunately, most printing houses, who do both the printing and binding, also provide a selection of papers to be chosen from. In the early days of typesetting, however, the processes were separate, requiring the editor to visit both a paper maker and a printing house.

****In fact, looking back at the contributors of that first issue, only one or two would later been seen to represent the values of what the magazine ultimately represented. I had not yet developed a literary taste not comprehended my later aesthetic values. Perhaps only by the third issue did those begin to come into play.

*****Pamela Beach Plymell is the daughter of the renowned artist Mary Beach, who working at City Lights publishing discovered the poet Bob Kaufman, and later, under her own imprint, Beach Books, published William Burroughs; she is a distant cousin of the original publisher of Joyce’s Ulysses, Sylvia Beach; Charlie, involved early with the Beat Generation poets, lived for a while with Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. Above I have featured a picture of the couple today.

******We received the completed first issue on February 14, 1976, Valentine’s Day. Sun & Moon: A Journal of Literature & Art, published 11 volumes from 1976-1981, at which time the magazine was abandoned in order to publish only books, which had already begin in 1979. The issue featured above is issue no. 8 (Fall 1979), featuring on its cover a piece by artist Robert Longo.
    

February 24, 2022

The Project for Innovative Poetry (USA)

The Project for Innovative Poetry

If you are reading this, you have (perhaps unknowingly) visited The Project for Innovative Poetry, a program of Green Integer publications devoted to a wide range of what might be described as “innovative” poetry writing, expanded to include poets outside of that limited rubric as well.
      The idea behind the Project by its founder, writer, editor, and publisher Douglas Messerli is seen as an attempt to gather, in coherent form, biographies, complete bibliographical listings in both the original languages and in English translation, and a selection of poems by over 2000 major international poets from the turn of the 20th century to the present. To date the Project has gathered in anthologies (published by Green Integer) about 600 informational sites on poets, poetic groups, presses, magazines, critics, and numerous other related poetic organizations, along with extensive linkings to internet essays, sound recordings, films, and other commentary aimed at helping students, scholars, and general readers to comprehend the interrelatedness and potential connectivity of poets and writers of/about poetry throughout the world. The listings attempt to be as inclusive as possible, and encourage writers and scholars to contribute to original postings and the updating of its entries. The site also embraces its Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in the English Language, annual selections of new poems by older and younger poets in English language magazines.
     The PIP publications and its site, informed by a group of 50 international figures—which over the years have represented some of the most notable poets and critics of the 20th and 21st century—, encourages not only scholarly study, but attempts to make available its extensive archives and links to high school and university courses, offering students and their teachers an intelligent and inexpensive alternative to classroom teaching by giving students informed summaries about poets, evaluation of some of those figures, and a selection of their poems for no cost. To date, the PIP (the acronym of the Project) has had over a million visitors from nearly every country to its site, along with thousands of book sales for its several PIP anthologies. In several cases the Project has also posted free and low-priced books available through PDF files. The Project is directed by Douglas Messerli.


     Below we have listed the current advisory members of our board, along with those members now deceased.

 
THE PROJECT FOR INNOVATIVE POETRY (PIP)

members of our advisory board:

Douglas Messerli (USA) Director

Adonis (Syria/Lebanon)
Demosthenes Agrafiotis (Greece) 
Rae Armantrout (USA) 
Régis Bonvicino (Brazil) 
Coral Bracho (Mexico) 
Bei Dao (China/lives Hong Kong) 
Charles Bernstein (USA)
Nicole Brossard (Canada/writes in French)
Remco Campert (Netherlands)
Antonio Colinas (Spain) 
Maurizio Cucchi (Italy) 
Tua Förstrom (Finland)
Lilianne Giraudon (France) 
John Godfrey (USA) 
Lars Gustafsson (Sweden)
Oscar Hahn (Chile)
Paal-Helge Haugen (Norway)
Lyn Hejinian (USA)
Ranjat Hoskote (India)
Jóhann Hjálmarsson (Iceland)
Susan Howe (USA)
Xi Murong (Hsi Muren) (b. China/Taiwan) 
María Negroni (Argentina)
Maggie O’Sullivan (England) 
Susanne Jorn (Denmark)
Ko Un (South Korea)
Reiner Kunze (DDR/Germany)
Oleh Lysheha (Ukraine) 
Nathaniel Mackey (USA) 
Martin Nakell (USA) 
Giulia Niccolai (Italy)
Leonard Nolens (Belgium/writes in Dutch) 
Henrik Nordbrandt (Denmark) 
Michael Palmer (USA)
Marjorie Perloff (USA)
Meredith Quartermain (Canada) 
Reina María Rodriquez (Cuba)
Jerome Rothenberg (USA)
Jacques Roubaud (France)
Claude Royet-Journoud (France)
Lev Rubinstein (Rubinshtein) (Russia) 
Said (b. Iran/Germany) 
Tomaž Šalamun (b. Croatia/Slovenia)
Roberto Sosa (Honduras)
Takahshi Mutsuo (Japan)
Paul Vangelisti (USA)
Rosmarie Waldrop (USA)
Yang Lian (China/New Zealand)
Yoshimasu Gōzō (Japan)
Visar Zhiti (Albania)

former members [deceased]

Ilse Aichinger (Austria)
Anne-Marie Albiach (France)
David Antin (USA)
John Ashbery (USA)
Ece Ayhan (Turkey)
Nanni Balestrini (Italy)
Robin Blaser (b. USA/Canada)
Elisabeth Borchers (Germany)
André du Bouchet (France)
Kamu Braithwaite (Barbados)
Aimé Cesaire (Martinique)
Haroldo de Campos (Brazil)
Andrée Chedid (b. Egypt/France)
Inger Christensen (Denmark)
Robert Creeley (USA)
Henri Deluy (France)
Jacques Derrida (France)
Arkadii Dragomoschenko (Russia)
Barbara Guest (USA)
Fiama Hasse de Pais Brandão (Portugal)
Paavo Haavikko (Finland)
Miroslav Holub (Czech Republic)
Kenneth Irby (USA)
Philippe Jacottet (Switzerland)
Sarah Kirsch (DDR/Germany)
Gerrit Kouwenaar (Netherlands)
Günter Kunert (DDR/Germany)
Mario Luzi (Italy)
Jackson Mac Low (USA)
Nāzik al-Malā’ika (Iraq)
Jean Métellus (Haiti)
Christopher Middleton (England/lives USA)
Friedericke Mayröcker (Austria)
Oskar Pastior (Romania/Germany)
Carl Rakosi (USA)
Tom Raworth (England)
Gonzalo Rojas (Chile)
Edoardo Sanguineti (Italy)
Abraham Sutzkevver (Lithuania/Israel)
Tomas Tranströmer (Sweden)
Manuel Ulacia (Mexico)
Nanos Valaoritis (Greece)
Saül Yurkievich (Argentina)
Andrea Zanzotto (Italy)

"The Queer Affairs of Yone Noguchi: An Interview with Amy Sueyoshi--Part 2": interview by Andrew Way Leong with Amy Sueyoshi [link]

 For the second part of the interview between Andrew Way Leong and Amy Sueyoshi on "The Queer Affairs of Yonge Noguchi, go here: http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2013/1/11/queer-affairs-yone-noguchi-2/

Amy Sueyoshi



"The Queer Affairs of Yone Noguchi: An Interview with Amy Sueyoshi--Part I" | interview by Andrew Way Leong with Amy Sueyoshi (on Yone Noguchi) [link]


For an interview and brief biography of the Japanese poet Yone Noguchi, please click below:



February 23, 2022

"Ways of Reading: Marjorie Perloff and the Sublimity of Pragmatic Criticism" | essay by Charles Bernstein [link]


For one of several excellent essays on critic Marjorie Perloff’s career, click below on Charles Bernstein’s “Ways of Reading: Marjorie Perloff and the Sublimity of Pragmatic Criticism.”





"Davy Crockett's Hat" | essay by Douglas Messerli (on Marjorie Perloff's The Vienna Paradox)

davy crockett's hat 
by Douglas Messerli

Marjorie Perloff The Vienna Paradox (New York: New Directions, 2004).

At dinner one night at Marjorie Perloff’s house—an event with just a handful of couples as opposed to her usually larger affairs—the conversation turned to the subject of what those around the table, all quite renowned in our fields, had done before embarking upon our current careers. I can’t recall large parts of this friendly dinner conversation—which I believe included the artists Susan Rankaitis and Robert Flick, Marjorie’s daughter Nancy, a curator at the Getty Museum, and her husband Rob, scholars Renée Riese and Judd Hubert, and Howard and me—but I do remember reminding Marjorie that she had once told me that early in her career she had been so desperate for a job that she had applied at small colleges such as Beaver College (now called Arcadia University). Knowing of Marjorie’s erudition, her brilliant writing and teaching abilities, and gift of language(s), the idea of her teaching in that self-advertised pastoral place of peace and quiet in the Philadelphia suburbs was unthinkable for everyone in the room.

Marjorie laughed, admitting that as a young housewife she’d had numerous jobs, even producing German titles for American films. “You can’t imagine how difficult it is to translate the humor of Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz’s The Long, Long Trailer into German. How do you say, as Lucy does, “turn left right here, which leads Desi to swerve right.” “I also worked on Davy Crockett,” Marjorie admitted, “I still have a coonskin cap!” We broke into delighted laughter, while she went to find it in a nearby closet.


The very thought that this great woman of academic renown had once worked on the very movies that I had attended as a child with my entire family was a revelation. As a family unit we shared perhaps only four movies (the other two being White Christmas and The Ten Commandments), and the idea that Marjorie had in any way had been connected to the other two films seemed almost miraculous; I remember feeling at the time that it may have been the only thing in our backgrounds, outside of the classroom camaraderie of teacher and student, that connected us!

Soon after, the conversation turned to Marjorie’s childhood. We all knew that she had been born in Austria, the daughter of highly educated parents, and that she had escaped with her family via train on the night of March 13, 1938, the day the Anschluss (Austria’s political annexation by Germany) took effect. “My parents simply could not believe that the Austrian government could possibly submit to the Germans,” she reported. When asked to describe that shattering event, Marjorie demurred. “I can hardly remember anything. I was just a child at the time. I can only recall my mother telling my brother and me to be very quiet.”

The publication of her memoir, The Vienna Paradox, accordingly, was more than just an event of interest for those of us close to this remarkable woman; it seemed a sort of personal answer to our dinner time questions.

That book’s reproduction of the first two chapters of her childhood travel journal, “Die Areise” (“The ‘A’ Journey”) poignantly reveal the mixed feelings of a six year-old girl experiencing the excitement of events, but perhaps not recognizing their intense danger and significance; she translates:

“On the Train”

 On the train, we went to sleep right away. But my cousins, as is
 typical of them, complained they didn’t sleep all night. In Innsbruck,
we had to get up and go to the police station where they unpacked
all our luggage and my poor Mommy had to repack everything.
There was such a mob and we had to wait so long that Mommy
said she would unpack a book and I sat down on our hatbox and read.
When we finished, we went to the station restaurant where we had
ham rolls that tasted very good. And as I was sitting in this
restaurant, I didn’t yet have any idea that later in America I would write a
book. Well, I hadn’t experienced much yet but, just wait, there will be more!

Perloff compares that charmingly innocent view of the family’s circumstance with a letter from her mother sent two days later to her sister in London, in which the family’s terror is quite clearly elucidated: the intense planning and packing up of family possessions, the sleepless night of March 12th, the “incessant shouts of ‘Sieg Heil!,” the sound of bombers flying overhead and vehicles rumbling through the streets, the hurried goodbyes, the tears. The same events of the young daughter’s travel journal are far more dramatically detailed in her mother’s recounting:

So we finished packing and left in the evening: my father-in-law,
Stella, Otto, Hedy and Greta, and Aunt Gerti. Those who didn’t
have the same last name had to pretend not to know one another.
This applied to the children as well: they were not allowed to speak
and in fact didn’t speak. We traveled comfortably second-class as
far as Innsbruck. The children slept. In Innsbruck, there was passport
control: for Jews, the order was,“Get off the train with your
luggage.” Aunt Gerti was allowed to continue. Evidently, they took
her for Aryan although no one asked. We were taken by the S.A.
to the police office, across from the railway station. There, we
were held in a narrow corridor, heavily guarded. One after another,
we were called into a room where our passports were examined,
our money confiscated (since the rules had been changed overnight).
They took 850 marks and the equivalent in schillings. We didn’t care
the slightest. Our thought was only: will they let us travel further?
Will we be arrested? Then all of our luggage was unpacked piece by
piece. Finally, we were allowed to leave. …Back on the train, we
passed one military convoy after another going the other way.
At 10 in the evening, we arrived [in Zürich].
…Here we are deciding what to do next.

This letter alone might have been a scenario for a film.

But Perloff’s profound memoir is more than another story of escape from Nazi control. For Marjorie is less interested in how her family escaped, than she is in why they and others like them had waited for the very last moment to leave their beloved home; how their seeming assimilation as Jews into the anti-Semitic Austrian culture so completely misled these brilliant individuals; and, just as important, how these assimilated Austrians readily adapted themselves to their new American situations.

Gabriele Mintz was born to Ilse Schüller Mintz and Maximilian Mintz in 1931. Her early childhood took place in the comfort of the Ninth District of Vienna near the University and Votifkirche (the neo-Gothic cathedral built in the mid-19th century on the sight of the attempted murder of the young kaiser Franz Joseph), the neighborhood she herself describes as “Austrian upper-middle-class.” Their apartment on Hörlgasse contained a high-ceilinged nursery painted white, heated by a large porcelain stove; a dining room and adjacent salon with floor-to-ceiling bookcases; and a maid.

Gabriele’s father, Maximilian was a lawyer with a passion for poetry and art, which he shared with a circle of friends known as the Geistkreis, which included noted economists Friedrich Hayek (the group’s founder and a major influence on American Libertarianism), Gottfried von Haberler, Oscar Morgenstern, and Fritz Machlup, legal scholar Herbert Fürth (also a partner in Maximilian and his father’s law firm), art historians Otto Benesch and Johannes Wile, musicologist Emanuel Winernitz, political philosopher Erich Voegelin (with whom the father continued to correspond from 1938 to the late 1950s), the phenomenologists Felix Kaufmann (also a member of the famed “Vienna Circle”) and Alfred Schütz, the historian Friedrich Engel-Jansi, and the mathematician Karl Menger (former tutor to Archduke Rudolf von Habsburg and, later, founder of the Austrian School of Economics). The group, in Perloff’s words, devoted “evenings to the theater, opera, concerts, and their own areas of reading.” But the group’s influence—with its interweaving memberships with other such Vienna groups: the earlier “Menger circle,” the first “Austrian school,” and the “Vienna Circle”—made it influential to 20th century thinking.

It must have been difficult for Gabriele’s mother, Ilse, to accept the role of silent hostess, serving coffee and cake before discreetly leaving the room at the Geistkreis meetings in Hörlgasse 6. For she, like her husband, was a “proud intellectual,” with a doctorate—a degree also attained by her two sisters—in economics. Some of the reviews of Perloff’s memoir refer to her mother’s role in her later life in the United States as a “housewife.” But in fact, she took a second doctorate in economics at Columbia University, later combining teaching at Columbia with a position, alongside noted economists Martin Feldstein (later president of that organization and chief economic advisor to President Reagan) and Milton Friedman (winner of a Nobel Prize) at the National Bureau of Economic Research. A search of the NBR website still calls up several essays by Ilse Mintz on such subjects as “Determination in the Quality of Foreign Bonds,” “American Exports During Business Cycles, 1879-1958,” and “Cyclical Fluctuations in the Exports of the United States Since 1879.” I recall Marjorie’s humorous dismay in our early friendship in Washington, D.C., when, after discussing Pound, O’Hara, and David Antin, she observed, “Of course, my mother is distressed that I’m not reading Goethe.”

The young Gabrielle’s grandfathers were even more illustrious figures in Viennese culture. Her maternal grandfather, Richard Schüller, born in Brno in what is now the Czech Republic, traveled to Vienna to study law with Karl Menger, later serving as the Austrian representative to the League of Nations. In the Austrian government, he served first in the Department of Commerce and later in the Foreign Office under chancellor Dollfuss (and the successor upon Dollfuss’s murder, Kurt Schuschnigg), a position from which he negotiated major trade agreements and foreign loans for the Austrian government (including a trade agreement with Mussolini). Schüller escaped Nazi-controlled Austria at the age of 68 by hiking through the Alpine pass into Italy. Her paternal grandfather, Alexander Mintz, was an eminent Justitzrat (King’s counsel) who, in his youth, was a member of the noted literary coterie meeting at the Café Griensteidl that included Arthur Schnitzer, Hermann Bahr, and Peter Altenberg.

In short, one could not imagine a family more involved in Austrian cultural life. How could they be so oblivious to the problems—particularly after Dollfuss’s murder? Perloff analyzes the problem first within the perspective of her own family: Richard Schüller was asked by his government superiors to allow himself to be baptized (he refused “the honor”); his brothers Hugo and Ludwig became Lutherans, the latter committing suicide in 1931 upon the collapse of his bank; and a distant cousin, Robert, was a devoted Nazi who after the Anschluss was sent to his death in Auschwitz. Perloff then considers these issues in the context of accounts such as that of art historian Ernst Gombrich (colleague of Perloff’s uncle, Otto Kurz) of the physical assault against Jews in the university, long before the Anschluss, where it became increasingly common for Nazis to beat up Jewish students, sometimes defenestrating them so that upon the sidewalk they might be charged (if they survived) with disturbing the peace (an incident also described in Lillian Hellman’s Pentimento story, “Julia”). How could they tolerate these assaults and still describe themselves as Austrians? she wonders, a question reverberating, quite obviously, back upon her own family’s acceptance of their disintegrating Viennese life.

Ultimately, she suggests that they saw their assimilation through a cultural lens that did not include ethnic and racial concerns. Since they shared cultural interests such as their love of Goethe, Stefan George and others, they perceived themselves as Austrians without realizing that for their countrymen in general they remained racially “outsiders.” Their allegiance to the Germanic tradition blinded them, in a crucial way, to the religious and ethnic differences embedded in German and Austrian thought.

Gombrich’s statement that he doesn’t “believe that there is a separate Jewish cultural tradition” may signify his failure to comprehend the deeply ingrained ideas of his countrymen, but it simultaneously points to the reason why many Austrian Jews, including Perloff’s parents, were able to quickly readjust their lives to their new American experience, were able to reinvent themselves as émigrés. While recognizing and disdaining the anti-intellectualism of their new home, Perloff’s parents quickly adapted to their now “lower middle-class” situation. Her father abandoned law to become an accountant, and despite now having to cook all meals by herself in their one-bedroom apartment, Marjorie’s mother still found time (and energy) to return to university studies.

Gabrielle, moreover, like young immigrants everywhere, adapted to her life at an even faster rate. Within a month of her arrival in a new country, she switches from German to English in mid-sentence of an autobiographical entry:

 Abe rim September musten [sic] wir angemeldet werden. Ich und
eben der Hansi [the son of Professor Felix Kaufmann, of Geitskreis
fame, and his physician wife, Else] kamen erst in de erste A, mein
Bruder in die drite [sic] A und meine Cousinen in die vierte B.
But my Kronstein cousins went to another school. After three days
I and George [as Hansi is now called!] skipped to 2A.

She has not only skipped a whole grade in three days, but crossed the language barrier as well. When Gabriele graduated high school, she changed her name to Margie, and later Marjorie.

Much of The Vienna Paradox recounts the education and transformation of its author from an Austrian-born child to a professor of contemporary poetry—answering some questions we had begun to ask at that dinner-time conversation years earlier. She recounts her education at P.S. 7 and at The Fieldston School—sponsored by the New York Ethical Society—as well as her later graduate education at Catholic University. She mentions also her early employment at the Bettmann Archive and her short-lived job as an M-G-M title writer, which included her work on The Long, Long Trailer and Kiss Me Kate. But Davy Crockett and his hat has disappeared from the narrative, replaced in her memoir by her recollection of composing rhymes for Nelson Eddy’s “Indian Love Song” of Rose Marie, a job which earned her a “trapper’s hat.” Was my memory wrong? Had my desire for connections been so strong that I had transformed Nelson Eddy into Davy Crockett? It hardly matters; as we know, memory is often unreliable, and the story was the same. Most likely Perloff’s research of the events of her life had revealed something different from what she herself had recalled that long-ago night.

 Over time perspective changes. As she relates of her 1955 return to Vienna, the city “looked like a set for The Third Man,” “I tried to find Hörlgasse 6…but something got mixed up and [we] took a photograph of the wrong house.” “From my vantage point in 1955, none of this seemed very real.” Perloff, accordingly, has little patience with those who perpetually tout the superiority of pre-war Viennese life over their new American lives in the present. The young Gabrielle clearly grew up more involved in American popular culture, perhaps, than her Iowa-bred student—and with the advantage of a cultural heritage that deepens and enlivens her observations on American literature and art. And in that sense Perloff is herself a “Vienna paradox.”

I first met the adult Marjorie in a classroom at the University of Maryland in 1975. I was a Ph.D student in American fiction, and, although I disliked poetry, I knew that I had better take a course in this mysterious genre before graduation. Word around the student-teacher bull-pen—as the large, open room containing over thirty desks was called—was that Perloff was an excellent but “difficult” teacher, by which I presumed my colleagues meant that she was “demanding.” Without any background in poetry, I felt it prudent to take another poetry course before enrolling in Perloff’s. With professor Milne Holton (who three years later would translate a book of Polish poetry with my close friend Paul Vangelisti), I studied Robert Lowell and Hart Crane. Lowell merely reinforced my belief that poetry was simply a chopped-up symbolic narrative, but, despite the sometimes heavy-handed symbolism of The Bridge, I was able to write a convincing-enough essay on Crane that it was published by a Canadian journal [see My Year 2007]. So, I felt, I was now ready for Perloff.

The moment this enthusiastic woman entered the room on the first day of class, I was spellbound. Her voice has something in common with the effusive croak of Jean Arthur’s vocal instrument, a voice I simply cannot resist. She brought just three poems with her, one by Frank O’Hara, a second by John Wieners (a poet of whom none of us, I am sure, had ever heard), and a third by Richard Wilbur.

She read the first poem, “The Day Lady Died,” and asked for our reactions. We were slow in responding, gradually coming forward with only a few obvious observations. Unknown to me, she was completing a critical book at the moment on O’Hara’s poetry (Frank O’Hara: Poet Among Painters), and since my classmates and I seemed unable to say anything original about the work, she brilliantly demonstrated its charms, elucidating the poem line by line.

I was flabbergasted. Could a poem be so simple and yet complex, so rich in association without a symbolic structure to support it? I still remember my unspoken feelings as she read the poem. The “I did this, I did that” pattern of this work seemed at first like something out of an amateur writer’s journal; but gradually, as the references moved from simple acts–getting a shoeshine, eating a hamburger and malted—to the literature of the day. Then, things began to shift, the subjects changing from mundane actions in the American landscape to cultural experiences of significance (the new poets of Ghana [I had purchased the same volume a few years earlier], Verlaine, Bonnard, Hesiod, Brendan Behan, Genet’s Les Nègres [the book version of which I had stolen—as I describe in another essay in this volume—from an Iowa City bookstore]) before returning to more ordinary versions of things from around the world with the bottle of Strega purchased in a liquor store and the cartons of Gauloises and Picayunes bought with the The New York Post. Suddenly, as the narrator/poet walked into the 5 Spot with Mal Waldron at the keyboard, I recognized that the “she” who whispered a song— somehow related to these exotic beings and things (many of whom and which had Black or “outsider” associations)—was even more exalted by the fact that her voice literally stopped this seemingly endless catalogue of things and events, as “everyone”—the narrator and presumably the reader as well—stopped breathing. The current of this seeming narrative had been suddenly severed, leaving me with an image of her breathlessly stunned audience, an image, as well, of myself upon hearing the poem.

My reactions to the second poem, “Long Nook,” can be found in the second issue of my journal, Sun & Moon: A Quarterly of Literature & Art, published a year later, written originally for the course:

There she took her lover to sea
and laid herself in the sand.

………………………………

 He is fast, was down the dune
with silk around his waist.
Her scarf was small.

She opened her clothes to the moon.
Her underarms were shaved.
The wind was a wall between them.
Waves break over the tide,
hands tied to her side with silk,
their mind was lost in the night.

 The green light at Provincetown
became an emerald on the beach
and like stars fell on Alabama.

The poem begins with a direct narrative statement in the past tense, with the vague “There” hinting at a world beyond time, like a “faraway country” of children’s tales. However, we are immediately made to question these expectations. The construction of “to sea,” because there is no article, makes us think of the infinitive “to see,” which changes the whole tone of the line and urges us to move to the second line to discover what it is that she wants him “to see.” But we are not told. The poet simply describes the process of her lying down in the sand. The word “laid” is wrong here, however, and the object of the verb, “herself,” makes no sense. Even

as a sexual pun it is, at first thought, ludicrous. Yet, when we think back to the previous line we recall that it was she who took her lover to “sea,” and, thus, we see the connotations of the pun. As the seducer, she encourages her love to have sexual intercourse by seductively lying down in the sand, a seduction which is reflected by Wieners’ use here of the l and s sounds (lover, laid; she, sea, herself, sand); but, in so doing, she is also taking the male role (as we shall see there are reasons for the stereotyping of roles) and, thus, in sexual slang, is “laying herself.”

Suddenly, in the next line, there is a shift. A command is whispered in the present tense, ostensibly her command: “Go up and undress in the dark.” But, in in its short, clipped iamb with a labial ending followed by two anapests, we are told more about the upward movement of the male than about her….”*

This goes on for three more pages!

My point in reproducing this passage is to demonstrate that suddenly upon hearing these poems I discovered what poetry was; and, although my graduate student eagerness to pin down the meaning of each and every word clearly belabors my writing, it is equally obvious that I could now talk about poetry in a meaningful way.

I can’t recall which poem Marjorie selected by Wilbur. It hardly matters; his poetry represented a direction different from one in which the course would proceed. By hour’s end, my life had changed! It was as if a cabinet containing rows of dusty objects d’art had been opened up, the objects taken out, inspected, and revealed to be pulsating beings ready to spring to life.

 Motivated as I suddenly had become, I undertook a class report of the theories of Ezra Pound. I’m still amazed at my youthful vigor: I think I read every prose work of that poet, including his Selected Letters, learning, in the process, the concepts behind much of modernist American poetry. I still recall my frustrations in attempting to describe the Vorticist image—as opposed to what Pound described as Amygism—outlined in Pound’s Gaudier Brezska: a record of an interchange between nature and the mind, an instant “when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective.”

 “It’s sort of like when it’s raining,” whined one of my classmates, “and you’re listening to a certain song, and it makes you think of….”

 “No, no, not at all,” I interrupted. “It’s not an association; it’s more like music, an abstraction that represents the objective thing.”

“Like when you feel sad and it rains all over your windshield.”

 “No,” I began again. “It’s not like Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, where the trombones imitate a donkey. His emotion carries the essence in the mind, where, like a vortex, it is purged of all ‘save the essential or dominant or dramatic qualities,’ emerging ‘like the external original,’ but as something new, something different.”

 “Oh, like when you’re thinking of….”

 Marjorie recalls that I grew angry, but I don’t remember feeling anything other than the frustration of attempting to explain something to my classmates that perhaps not even I completely understood.

Soon after that event, a few individuals in the class began to show their hostility to Perloff’s choice of the poets we read (Rimbaud, Apollinaire, Pound, Williams—and other figures who would ultimately become the subjects of her important critical study, The Poetics of Indeterminacy).

I had already published three of my classroom papers in academic journals, and I was, I now painfully recognize, rather cocky. One day, I knocked on Perloff’s office door, head down in embarrassed determination to apologize about my peers’ classroom demeanor. I believe she recognized my apology for what it was, not a representation of my superiority, but simply an expression of my fears that she might take their obstinate opposition as evidence that she was failing to communicate. Perhaps it was at that moment that we became something more than simply teacher and student, that we became friends.

I took one more course with Marjorie, a study of Yeats and Pound. I was not, I admit, a model student in this instance. I found Yeats boring. And I felt I had already learned everything there was to know about Pound. By that time, moreover, I had begun writing poetry myself, and was editing the first issues of Sun & Moon. I had other things on my mind.

Both Marjorie and I were reviewing, during this period, for The Washington Post Book World upon the invitation of the Pulitzer-prize winning editor, Bill McPherson. And I was reading poets in little magazines—an interest that grew out of my study of John Wieners—such as Roof, Big Deal, and United Artists, all of which presented the works of poets my mentor had not yet read. As I began to develop friendships with Bruce Andrews, Charles Bernstein and other younger poets, Marjorie and I often had heated debates—that is, when I could get a few words in between her remarks. Anyone who has met her will tell you, and Marjorie herself will be the first to admit it, she is an artful conversationalist, able to listen to someone speaking while simultaneously expressing her own sentiments. A shy person would have little success in communicating with Marjorie.

Some of the poets I found most interesting, she felt were not worth her attention. But, although she may sometimes be quick to judgment, Perloff is seldom closed-minded. Gradually, she began to read these poets and developed an interest in some of their writing, culminating in numerous essays, including her book-length study, The Dance of the Intellect. She always encouraged my own writing, moreover, in those days when I was still meekly imitating the methods of collage I’d discovered in the work of O’Hara and Ashbery.

In the midst of this developing friendship, Marjorie’s husband Joe, a prominent cardiologist and author of the most established textbooks on the subject, became head of that program at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Perloff family moved from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia. Upon finishing my Ph.D., I was hired in 1979 by Temple University, located in the same city. So while Marjorie commuted back and forth between Philadelphia and Washington, I traveled in the opposite direction.

I recall visiting their Germantown home with Howard during my first year of teaching. Their daughter, Carey (who today is the director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco) was still in high school and Nancy was home from Princeton University. A huge dollhouse dominated one of their rooms. As we sat down to dinner, however, they began a discussion light-miles away from what one might have heard from teenage girls in any other home. Much of the work of Derrida had not yet even been translated (Of Grammatology, a work I had attempted to read without success, had been published in English only five years before), and postmodernism, let alone “post-structuralism” was not yet a term readily applied to literature. Carey and Nancy, however, had read Derrida’s work in French and brilliantly debated his theories over the roast chicken.

 

Soon after, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Marjorie became a professor at the University of Southern California, and over the next several years our discussions and debates were continued through the mails and telephone talks. The Perloffs were immediately delighted by their new surroundings, and Marjorie joyfully reported on her new cultural experiences, including a performance by actress Beatrice Manley of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy—in her own bed! Upon my first visit to Los Angeles for a reading, I stayed in the Perloff’s Almafi Drive house—alone, since they were traveling. Marjorie’s continued expressions of love for Los Angeles helped me adapt quickly upon our move to the same city in 1985. I jocularly admitted to all reports that I was following her around the country!

I had, in fact, moved to Los Angeles on account of my companion’s job. But sometimes I wonder if there wasn’t, after all, an ineffable force behind our friendship. How else to explain my utter fascination with a large German-language novel I’d spied in the Fifth Avenue New York shop of Brentano’s by the Austrian novelist Albert-Paris Gütersloh, Sonne und Mond; several times I asked for that glass cabinet to be unlocked so I might turn its pages, just to glimpse the book which, had I had any money, I most certainly would have purchased—despite the fact I did not read a word of German! Not even my previous pleasure in reading Robert Musil and Hermann Broch could not have have explained my obsession. It is no coincidence that my literary and art magazine and publishing house had taken its name from that lost treasure. What led me one day, I now wonder, to telephone the Knopf rights editor (the very first year of my book-publishing activities) and make an offer for the rights to reprint Heimito von Doderer’s great two-volume opus The Demons, a fiction recounting many of the events leading up to the Anschluss? Von Doderer’s Every Man a Murderer was the second book for which I purchased rights, and, when an unknown woman living in Austria, Vinal Overing Binner, wrote me to report that she translated von Doderer’s The Merovingians, I readily published that book as well (of which I think we sold something like 200 copies). Why did I suddenly choose to read Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle, soon after reprinting it as well? Two Schnitzler novels, Lieutenant Gustl and Bertha Garlan, followed. How did such a small American press as Sun & Moon come to publish Friederike Mayröcker and Ingeborg Bachmann (the tale of that acquisition is worthy, some day, of recounting)? I cannot remember Marjorie suggesting any of these titles to me. From my youth on I simply have been inexplicably drawn to Austrian literature and history.

As Perloff has made clear, however, although she was shaped in many respects by her Austrian heritage, she is most definitely a product of the USA. And, although I often describe her as my mentor, my inborn sense of individuality combined with what The Music Man composer-writer Meredith Willson has described as “Iowa stubbornness,” has made me a difficult disciple. Fortunately, Marjorie never sought devotees, and our special friendship has remained. As her poignant memoir has reminded me, moreover, we have far deeper links than any frontiersman’s hat.


Los Angeles, August 23-24, 2006