Saturday, February 15, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

English poet Kate Ruse reads her short poem "Puritan Black" (visual interpretation by j.p. dougan)


Vimeo

Puritan Black English poet Kate Ruse reading her short poem "Puritan Black"
About this video
"My interpretation of a poem by Kate Ruse, from her series of poems entitled 'Poetry of Colours'. It is concerned with the use of campeachy wood in the production of black during the 18th Century."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Robert Leeson, a man of his word: (brief personal memoir and Guardian obituary)

In the 1970's in London, the feminist-Marxist writer and translator, Cathy Porter, author of the definitive biography of Alexandra Kollontai, put me on to Robert Leeson, who was then serving as the Features Editor of Morning Star, the daily Communist newspaper of Great Britain. Although I was not of that political persuasion, Mr. Leeson offered me the post of poetry reviewer. He said he would never change a word of what I submitted and that he would never ask me to review any book I preferred not to. After I had written on George Oppen's Selected Poems, published by Stuart Montgomery's Fulcrum Press, Iain Sinclair's ground breaking "Lud Heat", Linton Kwesi Johnson's first book, "Dread Beat and Blood", Farida Majid's translations of poets of Bangaldesh, "Take Me Home, Rickshaw" published by her Salamander press, and other innovative works ignored by the British establishment, and usually printed in limited editions by small presses, Bob Leeson was put under in-house pressure to get rid of me due to complaints by Communist poets that their books were not being reviewed. But Mr. Leeson was a man of his word and never asked me to change my brief essays or to write reviews in praise of the usual suspects. I respected and admired his integrity and "grace under pressure" enormously, and although I did not know him well, I was saddened to read of his passing.




> Colin Chambers
>
> Wednesday 20 November 2013
>
> The Guardian
>
> http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/nov/20/robert-leeson-obituary
>
> ----
>
> My friend and former colleague Robert Leeson, who has
> died aged 85, was a powerful force for change in
> children's books in the 1970s and 80s, as a critic,
> campaigner and creator. The author of more than 70 titles,
> he championed robust storytelling free of the scars of
> class, gender and race bias that bedevilled conventional
> children's literature at the time.Born in
> Barnton, Cheshire, the youngest of four children, Bob joined
> his local paper on leaving school before national service
> took him into the army and to Egypt, where he edited a
> clandestine Nissen hut newspaper. It was not surprising
> that, as a communist whose passion was writing, he continued
> as a journalist, post-army, on the Daily Worker and its
> successor the Morning Star, for which he served as a
> broad-minded and knowledgable literary editor, as well as a
> witty feature writer.He achieved his ambition of
> becoming a full-time writer when he was in his 40s.
> Alongside fascinating studies in trade union history, he
> crafted an impressive array of adventures for younger
> audiences, criss-crossing genres and historical periods,
> from a splendid trilogy set in the late 16th/17th centuries
> to sci-fi tales and The Third-Class Genie (1975), in which the
> eponymous hero lives in a beer can and ends up pursued as an
> illegal immigrant.Bob's fertile output included
> five novels inspired by the characters in the BBC TV series
> Grange Hill, beginning with Grange Hill Rules, OK? (1980). His imaginative
> creation of different milieus was fed by countless visits he
> made to schools, aimed at fostering in his youthful
> listeners the same love of writing and reading that drove
> him.As chair of the Writers'
> Guild's books committee in the early 1980s, he
> played a vital part in negotiating minimum terms agreements
> with leading British publishers and in 1985 he was elected
> chair of the guild itself. Also in 1985, he won the Eleanor Farjeon award for distinguished service
> to the world of British children's books.Bob had
> a marvellous and wicked sense of humour (which he used like
> a harpoon to prick pomposity) and the densely detailed
> erudition common among autodidacts. He kept writing until
> the end, self-publishing regular volumes of poems
> illustrated by his Norwegian wife, Gunvor, whom he met in
> Budapest in 1952 and married two years later in
> Oslo.He is survived by Gunvor and their two children,
> Fred and Christine.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Antonio de Cairu

Antonio de Cairu, a Portuguese writer and poet who died last year, was from Alverca,  a small town not far from Lisbon, where Antonio Lobo Antunes, Portugal's most outstanding living writer, one year older than de Cairu, also had lived.

In Lobo Antunes' great book of cronicas, The Fat Man and Infinity translated by Margaret Jull Costa, there is a touching short piece  ("Alverca 1970") of Antunes, just out of medical school, attending to his mother's dying and death in his parents' home in Alverca.

de Cairu, a performance artist whose first book was a book of poetry issued in 1965 titled Isa (his sister's name), owned a saloon bar/coffee shop in Alverca, and his posthumously published novel, The Breath of Olive Trees, opens with the fictionalized tale of why he left Portugal.

He receives a letter from "Maria Manuela":

"I have a father who no longer wants me, after having spent money on an education which produced no positive results; a father who spies on people in coffee bars and who reports their political ideals to the Government; a father who beats my mother as my mother beats my grandmother.  I have a little 'Byron' in my belly - in my dreams.  I await only my Poet to complete my fulfillment.  All I need is a night with you - if you will not accept this need, my father will confirm his report on your political views."

de Cairu continues:

"I am alone in a cell filled with silence and anger.  Silence brings the stability of one's thoughts - but in confinement, silence can also bring a clarity to the memory of past mistakes and the cruelty of mental torment over life's unresolved issues.  In a free space, such torments would magically vanish.  Life has a method of fading the past in order to make room for the future, but in a small cell such as this, torments will multiply and reduce a man's life to a humble and fragile existence."


de Cairu lived as an openly gay man during the time of the dictatorships in Portugal.  It is the fifth of October 1969, the day of his court case "a year after Marcelo Caetano succeeded the dictator Salazar as prime minister; when international criticism is breathing discontent among Portuguese mothers, forcing the government to abandon the Portuguese colonies; when in France the first shanty towns are beginning to appear, filled with Portuguese youngsters who have fled there to escape their military service, exchanging their original skills for slavery; when tinned sardines have started to appear in English shops as food for cats; when Mateus has started to embellish the tables of Europe owing to the ingenious design of the bottle and the label; when Portuguese footballer Eusebio has brought to the attention of Europe that a nation called Portugal is not a part of Spain and when I awaken on this fateful day, the fifth of October 1969, I am convinced that Portugal is a little garden planted along the shore of the Western part of Europe and that I am not a victim of a Fascist regime."

The Nobel laureate, the late Jose Saramago, wrote in his native Portuguese, and Lobo Antunes, writes in Portuguese, but de Cairu, who flees to England, (first to Bristol for a decade, then later in life to London) chooses to write his two novels, the first being The Man Who Loved Cherry Trees, in English, his second language.  Of his Portuguese modernist literary predecessors, it was only Pessoa, in his first two slim volumes of self-published poetry, who chose to write in English.  Pessoa is always insistent on the "specificity" of the Portuguese, the language, the people, the country, and de Cairu's English is a Portuguese English in the same way as there is an American English, East Indian English, West Indies English, and Antipodean English.

His first book in English prose, "The Man Who Loved Cherry Trees" was revised by Simon Stanley in the posthumous edition and he also writes a brief Introduction.  The use of idiomatic English and sentence structure is thus corrected. I don't see much loss at least of tone in the 2011 edition, published a decade after the first edition, although the flow of the unedited edition is not simply more "charming" but also more revealing of the writer's struggle with narrative.  Ian J. Breen does the quite lovely and appropriate cover illustrations for both books.

However, it is unlikely that de Cairu, writing in English, will receive any posthumous celebration in the immediate future, perhaps primarily because his two novels, The Man Who Loved Cherry Trees, and The Breath of Olive Trees are published by a subsidy press, Bright Pen Books, who took over the reissue of Cherry Trees in 2011 after the original subsidy press publisher, Minerva Books, went belly-up.  It's become (almost?) respectable now to publish with what used to be called "vanity press" in an "e" format, and some, like Bright Pen, produce handsome print editions as well, and distribute through Amazon, and the other usual suspects.

It is inaccurate in some way for me to call them novels, although "Olive Trees" is less surrealistic, more sombre in tone, and the flow of language is tightened  some so that it is properly appropriate when disclosing political issues in Portugal and their effects on the psyche of the people. Although de Cairu resettled in England, saudade (and the end of dictatorship) continually draws him back to his native land, which he had left after his protagonist-narrator's remission from prison, saying goodbye to his friends and returning home a last time to see his mother.


"I move towards the head of the bed and I sit on its edge and then I kiss my mother's sweltering forehead as if trying to alleviate the pain.  She used to do the same for me when I was younger.
'Mommy is going to kiss your head and the pain will go.'
She doesn't say anything.  There is nothing to say.
Our eyes, fixed upon each other, are more than words.
Mothers can read their sons' feelings only with their eyes and heart.
'I am sorry, Mother, I had to return,' I say.
'I know, my son, I know,' she replies with tears rolling down her face."


"Life" de Cairu writes, "might be acceptable if only we knew the meaning of it."  These books are memoirs with meta-narrative, and Pessoa's "The Book of Disquietude" is clearly an avatar, an analogue, as is perhaps the writing of Mario De Sa-Carneiro, friend and colleague of Pessoa, who killed himself in Paris at age 26.  However, it is the leitmotif of homo-eroticism in both de Cairu's books, often explicit in description of sexual acts, which makes me think of the Rupert Brooke - James Strachey correspondence, or of Denton Welch, or even of John Wieners's poetry, especially in Hotel Wentley.  de Cairu makes use of the epistolary style, and also includes poems as a part of the unfolding story.  In "Cherry Trees" he thinks of the book he is writing (which he leaves behind until his return to Bristol) as the anchor which will draw him away from Portugal despite passionate love trysts there and the nostalgia for the cafe life.  He returns to England, to Bristol and to Edward, the character in the book who loves cherry trees and who, in the best Pessoan tradition, writes a short "Foreward" to the book. With the strange English customs and language having been assimilated, de Cairu, in the second text, "Olive Trees" looks clearly at post-dictatorial Portugal and his own life in relation to it, and notes:


"As before, we try to extend the evening, and in this way annoying the cafe's owner, who is anxiously trying to close up for a well-deserved rest after a hard working day.

We have no sense of time with so much to say and so much to hold.

As in the old times, the night is ours; but for me, not for too much longer."



The Man Who Loved Cherry Trees and The Breath of Olive Trees are published in England by Bright Pen Books.

My weblog post on Fernando Pessoa is on the first "omoo" :  www.iprefernotto.blogspot.com   (November 26, 2005).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

In excellent company...

4 of my poems written 40 years ago (it all goes so quickly) newly posted online @ www.poetrymagazines.org.uk in Poetry Review (editor: Eric Mottram), numbers 3 and 4 (double issue) - 1976/77.    



and on that same site, (www.poetrymagazines.org.uk),  poetry and prose in Fire,
numbers 26, 17, 12, 11, 9, and "guest editorial" in #8. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Re:Takes On Ed Dorn



Wikipedia notes that Aklavik wasn't incorporated into a hamlet until 1974.  Dorn's lead-off poem in "The North Atlantic Turbine" - quite rightly called a "great poem" by Iain Sinclair in his review of the new Collected (LRB, 11 April, "Collected Poems" by Edward Dorn) was written prophetically prior to that, since Turbine was published in 1967 by Fulcrum Press. 
 
Sinclair also writes of a time and place, when Compendium Books was still there in the now swarmed over Camden Town.  Mike Hart, a mutual friend, is mentioned, and the shadow of Nick Kimberly.  And the world of poets publishing poets in Limited Editions. 
 
Peter Riley's two-part article in his "Fortnightly Review" overview of Dorn's work, correctly, in my opinion, notes that "Recollections of Gran Apacheria" is the apex of Dorn's achievement, another truly great poem, although personally I also love some of the early lyrics like "The Air of June Sings" and "The Rick of Green Wood" and "Like A Message On Sunday" and "Vaquero"....However, Riley goes on to denigrate Turbine (the title poem in particular) as if Dorn had no right to criticize things English, and he finds Dorn's forays into world politics to be a wrong turning foreshadowing misanthropy.  But then Riley has never lived in "the belly of the beast".
 
In both articles, Iain's much stronger in his praise of Dorn, it is argued that "Gunslinger" set out be be comedic.  I believe this is not so.  That tone became prevalent more in "The Winterbook", and then after, when cocaine sets in.  True, the talking horse (no doubt inspired by the smoke and the old American TV series "Ed, The Talking Horse"), and the Canterbury-like group assembling prepare one for mock-epic, but the tone is post-Zizekian if you will; back then when first published, I found it totally de-familiarizing. It is not only serious, despite its mixed tone, it is the first poem I know to have made discourse shifts, an insistent epistomological and cosmological changing of gears, sometimes within the line itself and the contiguous words, an integral part of a "spiritual address", which Dorn said "The North Atlantic Turbine" (a crucial book) had freed him up for.  It is in Turbine that his Gunslinger makes his first appearance:
 
"This is for your sadly missing heart....
it is the girl you left
in Juarez,  the blank
political days press her now
in the narrow alleys
or in the confines of the river town
her dress is torn
by the misadventure of
               her gothic search
 
----------
 
my mare lathers with tedium
her hooves are dry
Look they are covered with the alkali
of the enormous space
between here and formerly.
 
----------
 
And why do you have a female horse
Gunslinger?  I asked.  Don't move
he replied
the sun sits deliberately
on the rim of the sierra" 
 
 
 
It reminds one of early Godard (Band of Outsiders), and it was, to use Ralph Maud's term "archaic postmodern" referring to Olson.  It was a new mode of poetic composition in a way, but "The Winterbook" begins its descent into satire from a loftier plane into the comic mode Riley and Sinclair say was its original intent.  I think the aim was higher.  He wanted to be "a classical poet" he had said, not "neo-classic" - though Byron too loved the eighteenth century poets, and attacked Keats for his dissing of them ("they swayed back and forth upon a rocking horse / and called it Pegasus").  As Tom Clark, in his biography of Dorn, "A World Of Difference"  perceptively writes of "The Cycle" interrupting what was becoming of the epic turned mock:
 
"Dorn extends the range of his symbolism into an area very close to moral allegory.  The extension is consistent with his working principles in the poem, which differs from his previous efforts in the multivalent density of the referential field it activates...." (p. 113). 
 
And here is the opening of Book 2:
 
          "This tapestry moves
as the morning lights up.
And they who are in it move
and love its moving
from sleep to Idea
born on the breathing
of a distant harmonium, To See
is their desire
as they wander estranged"
          
In the later work: the sardonic aphorisms of "Abhorrences" and the under-rated "Languedoc Variorum" and the final poems of "Chemo Sabe" "spectacular rewards" as Sinclair writes, "are offered...as the strategic shifts and heretical inspirations of the poet's long career are revealed.  First, his courage. Then his persistence....Dorn refined his ability to articulate a precise report from wherever he stood.  He mastered a 'terrific actualism'."
 
Yes, he has moved from some beautiful early poems (almost Frostian at times), to original authentic voice, innovative and enduring, a lasting achievement. 

 
 
(Bill Sherman, April 6th/7th 2013)   
 
 
 
 
 

 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Harry Musick (1946 - 2013)

Harry M. Musick, book and flea market maven, student of philosophy, U.S. Marine, author of just one published chapbook of prose and poetry: "Poems For The Abnormal Mind" (Soap Box Publishing, Stamford Connecticut, 1978).  Here are three excerpts:



     The nights were cold, and the moon left shadows of forthcoming danger.  Lurking in the darkness half starved animals waited silently for their prey.  Howls from dying beasts saturated the silence.  Fits of laughter echoed from the mouths of mindless men.

     The mortal chose to sit on the mountain for eternity.  He composed songs.  He sang to the goddess.  The music with a magic melody drifted to earth, compelling other mortals to conquer other peaks only to find that nothing existed but their own madness.




a river of blood
of human infamy
                       meandering
through a forest
with black
leafless trees
                  towering
toward the dark,
             the starless heavens,
sprouting branches
                            upward
                             away
from a scarlet sea.
Each tree
            a huge bulk
                            of stone
bled its guts
upon the foam
                   which bubbled


    

Kiss me softly gentle wind;
I am sighing.
Tales from a painful heart
Keep my loves from dying.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

poem by Anselm Hollo (1934 - 2013)

Buffalo Limited Edition Fortune Cookie


Comrade Lenin's watch: always ten minutes fast
SeƱor Buddha had no watch at all
 just sat there watching the sky evolve
he too gone now like Mr. Edward Hopper
and yesterday's grasshopper
         so do not ask for whom the car honks
watch out for that bicyclist whirring near
 early & late     
remember those whom you hold dear








first published in intent. Letter of Talk, Thinking, & Document
(vol. 3 No. 2 & 3, Summer/Fall 1991)
edited John Clarke

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dafydd Ap Gwilym

Dafydd ap Gwilym, slightly older than Chaucer, melded the tradition of courtly love poetry with innovation to traditional Welsh meter and rhyme.  Rachel Bromwich had written: "It is a general belief that poetry is untranslatable except at a cost of so great a loss as to call in question the reasons for ever attempting it.  Dafydd ap Gwilym's poetry is an extreme example of the validity of this interdiction, since his awdlau and cywyddau made their primary appeal to the ears of the original audiences: rarely - if ever - did these audiences see his poems in writing."  (Dafydd Ap Gwilym: A Selection Of Poems, Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed, 1982).  Not to enter into a controversy about translation, especially since I believe it can be an invaluable labor of love, but medieval Welsh poetry is simply not possible to translate literally into a poetry in English.  And English was the oppressor's language - Dafydd having lived in the 14th century, "between the fall of Llywelyn and the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dwr." ("The Story of Dafydd ap Gwilym" by Gwyn Thomas with Illustrations by Margaret Jones - published by Y Lolfa, Talybont, 2004).  Of course one could attempt what Pound did in "Cathay" or what Blackburn did with "El Cid" or what Logue did with Homer.... There are some translations on the web,  published by The Swansea Project.   

He was the greatest, certainly the most well-known, medieval Welsh poet, though perhaps there are those who regard his colleague, friend and rival in the composition of cynghanedd and cywdd, Gruffudd Gryg, as his equal.   

Much of his poetry concerns love's frustrations; often the poems are self-deprecating, even sardonic; however, his irony is sometimes imbued with the beauty of the natural world, the forests of Wales, and the birds and beasts who live there, and his work uses racy and erotic language within the internal rhymes, stress, assonance, and alliterations of the cynghanedd, or harmony, as Dr. Bromwich had noted in her exceptional text: "Cynghanedd was an organic growth which like the cywydd itself, became permanently stablilized in its lasting form in the 14th century.  It had evolved slowly over the previous two centuries in the long lines of nine or ten or twelve syllables in the awdlau composed by the court poets who were Dafydd's predecessors."  She modestly asserts that her translations should be regarded as prose. 

Here are two very brief excerpts from her 1982 book (with an Introduction by Thomas Parry), which features the Welsh, interfacing.



from: The Girls of Llanbadarn  ("Merched Llanbadarn")

I am distraught with passion:
a plague on all the parish girls!
because I never - violation of trysts -
was able to win even one of them,
no maiden - a gentle request -
nor little maid, nor hag, nor wife.

What bashfulness is this, what mischief?
How have I failed, that they'll have none of me?
What harm, to lass with slender brows,
to meet me in the forest's thick-set dark?
No cause of shame to her
to see me in my leafy lair.

---------------

And when I have long surveyed
across my feathers, the people of my parish
one sweet tender lass will say
to her companion, lively, famous, wise:

"That grey-faced flirt of a boy
wearing in his head his sister's hair,
lascivious is the look he has,
he has a side-long glance, he must know mischief well."

"Is that how it is with him?"
the other by her side replies,
"He'll get no answer while the world endures,
to the devil with him, stupid thing!"

Shocking to me was the bright girls's curse,
a trifling payment for distracting love.
Needs must that I contrive to cease
this habit, with its tantalizing dreams.
It is imperative that I become
a hermit - job for a dejected man.
Because of ever looking - awful lesson -
over my shoulder, an image of distress,
it has befallen me, though poetry's friend,
to go wry-headed, without any mate.




And, in much the same vein, (but with angry final quatrain) from "Cyngor y Biogen" or "The Magpie's Advice"


I, the poet of a lissom girl
in the greenwood, joyful enough
yet weary-hearted from remembering her;
my spirit being refreshed within
for sheer joy of seeing the trees
with vital force, having donned new clothes
and the shoots of vine and wheat
after the sun-shot rain and dew,
and the green leaves, on the valley's brow,
and the thorn-tree, fresh, white-nosed.
By Heaven, there was also
the Magpie, most cunning bird in the world
building - lovely stratagem -
in the tangled crest of the thicket's core
an ambitious tenement of leaves and clay and lime,
and her mate was helping her.

--------------------

The Magpie muttered - indictment of my anguish -
proud, sharp-beaked, upon a thorn-bush:
"Great is your fuss, a vain and bitter chant,
old man, all by yourself,
better it were for you, by Mary of eloquent fame,
to be beside the fire, you grey old man,
rather than here, amidst the dew and rain,
in the greenwood, in a chilly shower."

"Shut up, and leave me here in peace
if only for an hour, until my tryst.
It is my passion for a lovely, faithful girl
that causes me this tumult."

"It is but vain for you, servant of passion,
despicable grey old man, half imbecile;
-a foolish sign of the labour of love -
to rave about a sparkling girl."

--------------------

"You Magpie, black your head,
help me, if you are so wise,
and give me the best advice
that you may know for my sore sickness."

"I would impart to you sound advice
before May comes, and do it, if you will.
You have no right, poet, to the handsome girl:
there is for you but one advice
since you are so deep in verses, become a hermit,
alas, you foolish man!  and love no more."

By my faith, God witness it,
if ever yet I see a Magpie's nest
from this time on, she will not have
God knows, either egg or fledgeling.






Friday, November 30, 2012

Spain: Buffalo Days

Hunched in an old felt green armchair at 1001 Lafayette Ave.
Must have been Jeremy Taylor introduced us all
Because of the demonstrations against HUAC.

Hunched over a small acoustic guitar,
He played in the classical style
Almost painfully sweet these melodies he was inventing
Moreso coming from a man of such power.

He had drawn the cover of Landscape of Contemporary Cinema
My first published book, co-authored with Leon Lewis.
His work even then defined Iconic.
And Cindy, writing short stories under the name N. Howard.

Riding security with the Road Vultures.
Protecting by this act many young undergrads
Otherwise might have been beaten that day
During the protest at the McCarthy-era Committee's
Leaving D.C.'s confines first time in years....
Given the keys to the city, Buffalo, 1964.

Around the monument across from City Hall they rode
Spain in the lead, holding aloft
(Was it in his right hand, or his left?)
The black anarchist flag
Of the Spanish Civil War.

It was truly a sight to behold!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Asa Benveniste

These two contiguous paragraphs posted below from the only published prose essay of poet and publisher/printer/book designer (Trigram Press) Asa Benvensite, are excerpted from Language: Enemy, Pursuit which was initially published by Poltroon Press (1980) and reprinted in mimeomimeo, issue number 4 (Winter 2010), edited by Kyle Schlesinger and Jed Birmingham.

There is unpublished correspondence between Asa and Cid Corman (between the UK and Kyoto) praising Louis Zukofsky's 80 Flowers, and there were notes toward an essay on Zukofsky, which he was writing toward the end of his life, but they seem to be lost.  There are also his "last letters" to me in the 1980's which I published in Branch Redd Review (issue #6, 2002).   Tom Raworth's obituary for Asa was published by Critical Quarterly, vol. 32, no.3.




Gematria.  A fierce confrontation with word, one of the best ways to barricade oneself against the confused inlay.  Linguistics is not language.  No one "understands" language.  Communication is the last word to use to describe its purpose. Though to every poet, as to every Kabbalist, there must be more to those words than their beauty.  That their meaninglessness itself is part of the divine (linguistic) fabric.  In the end, at the start, early Kabbalists believed that the whole of the Torah consisted of one word only, though each of the lettters had seventy aspects, and the Torah as a whole had 600,000 meanings, on four levels of interpretation, all leading to the profoundest meaning which was "meaninglesss," which was not open to understanding but was only itself.


And is that true of poetry? One thing it cannot be: story.  It must not be based on experience  "...one of the forms of paralysis" (Satie).  It cannot be descriptive.  It cannot be about love.  It cannot be about hate.  It cannot contain specific meaning. It must avoid sensuality.  It must not be capable of restatment in another language.  It must not be allegorical.  It cannot be translatable into a foreign language.  It must have no beginning or conclusion.  If it's "about" anything it must be about language.  It must be language.  That's the only kind of poem which will keep its divinity.  It must have 600,000 meanings and in the end be "meangingless."




 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day

I voted for Obama in 2008, and I am  exercising my right not to vote today, but then New Jersey is not a swing state (now that Sinatra's gone), and is solid; and after his post-Sandy visit, maybe even  Chris Christie might just have another look at himself, and vote for him.  It is still a secret ballot after all.  Of course, one's cynicism remembers someone saying "it doesn't matter who you vote for, what matters is who counts the ballots."  Even though I have posted against Obama-driven policies and/or the lack of them, I can't believe the people of America will elect Romney.  If he is elected, will we still be permitted to say that Moby Dick is the greatest book ever written by an American?  Or will The Book Of Mormon be placed alongside it on the curriculum? 


If the land had not been abused, the rivers and the ocean would have someplace to go and to be absorbed naturally.  If only developers and their cohorts hadn't built apartments and expensive homes
where before there were only dunes (natural dunes) and sand....at least here on the South Jersey shore...yet, I myself bought into a beach and ocean view.  The probem was there, as Chris Gilmore once said, I came to the problem.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Aftermath

Nov. 1.  Am ok. Thanks to all those who tried to contact me.  No electricity three days, only battery radio.  Had written some stuff during the hurricane, but forget that, will just say must have been the eye here or near, much debris, damage, etc., ocean was wild of course, bulkhead outside this bldg. destroyed. The bldg. itself hard hit, though trees withstood it, but while waiting for electricity to come back, water pipe or some thing burst today and after some drenching, sons of building's plumber arrived to turn off the water at the main, so no water for I don't know how long, maybe a few days maybe a week or more?  I just don't know; maybe find out tomorrow; they won't let anyone from off shore come on island yet, and if you leave you can't return until they say so.  No deaths here I know of on this barrier island.  Being thrown back on oneself in the aftermath was, until the flooding and the fire alarm going loudly off, a rather spiritual enterprise of sorts though not necessarily recommended, and although the fire department said it was safe to go back inside, the alarm-fix people are not on island and have for the moment been denied entrance, so one waits.

Anyway, the lockdown is now lifted after 5 p.m. so I am fortunate, really, since I have a car and can go to a hotel offshore if need be.  However, only residents are permitted in now, and there will be long lines waiting to come over the Margate Bridge even when off island emergency services are allowed in to turn off the fire alarm.

For a more objective and less first-person impressionistic take on the hurricane as it hit Margate in particular, see www.athebeach.blogspot.com. for Nov. 1,  the blog of Glenn Klotz.

And thanks, great thanks, to all those who offered to put me  up.  I really didn't think there were so many  who cared.  ...  and to Keith, for the shout-out from across the seas.      

Margate, NJ



addendum: Nov. 2nd.

The sea was born of the earth without sweet union of love Hesiod says

But that then she lay for heaven and she bare the thing which encloses
every thing, Okeanos the one which all things are and by which nothing
is anything but itself, measured so

(Charles Olson, Maximus, From Dogtown -I)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Times like these I wish my old friend Christopher Cook Gilmore were still here

A Mandatory (mandatory evacuation order) in force from tomorrow, the 28th.  I plan on going out only for batteries, maybe peanut butter.  No one allowed to go off or onto the island after 4.p.m., downbeach in lockdown.   Stocked up on bottled water, non-perishables.  Flashlight, since electrics will doubtless go off at some point.  Still, it would be nice to have a DVD of Key Largo.  No tellin' when you will be permitted to return if you leave - 3 nights maybe longer, who knows.  For the moment, I'm goin' nowhere.  Too out-of-it to make the 60 mile drive to hotel in Philadelphia (or some motel along the route) as I did last year during the Mandatory when Irene came ashore. Casino Hotels in Atlantic City closed.  Interesting how nary a seagull can be seen now on the beach.  Ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in exciting times." 

(Margate, NJ, October 28th. 12:30 a.m. - 2 a.m.)





"Same Day, Later"

Time to give thanks to Vince, in the Phila. suburbs, for checking in to find out how I'm doing, and to my oldest friend, Len, who e-mailed from out there in Wisconsin where he is Emeritus in Jurisprudence at the law school.  Perhaps he can explain to me how the then "liberal" majority on the Court, could have arrived at the decision they did in Kelo vs. City of New London, Connecticut.  I shake my head in bemused disbelief to find myself agreeing with Justice Thomas's concurring dissent. Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the minority opinion.  Because of this decision your land and your home can be expropriated not simply because it is in the public good or "purpose" but now also in the economic good - even if the developers are private, even if they are foreign corporations.  This allows the "travesty" (as one geologist in Oklahoma called it) of the Canadian oil pipeline through Oklahoma and Texas, and the oil out for export, not even using American workers or parts manufactured in the U.S.  This is of course even before approval for the pipeline from Canada through Nebraska.    And permits fracking even if access by the owner is denied.  And moutain-top removal strip mining for coal.

--------

Most who are going to other places or homes, have left.  Some are staying.

Sorry no snaps (or video)  of ocean waves since I have no digital camera, or in fact any working camera except a Brownie Hawkeye sans film. 


Now it's evening.  High tide soon, Sandy due for landfall on Monday.  24 hours of rain to follow.  Power outages, if they happen, are always a drag at the very least.  Hopefully the pine trees outside my windows will survive the wind.

Well, I'm all in favor of better safe than sorry, but Govenor Soprano's mandatory evac order doesn't help the people of Atlantic City many of whom do not have the money to just go away for 3 days. Many are sent to Atlantic City with a one-way bus ticket from some misbegotten and doubtless uncaring social service outside of the area.  Some have to ride it out.  There are shelters of course, and Absecon Island emergency services are usually very good.  They could set up shelters in Trump's 2 casinos of course.  That'll be the day. 


High tide now passed.  Nothing exceptional happening here yet.  Poet Ketan Ben Caesar called from Philly.  Judy (www.magicbuckles.com)  from Oregon with an e-mail.  Paul, now on Buffalo Avenue, Ventnor, checking in with a call, monitoring things, looking after his elderly father, and with his girlfriend.  Then Nechama, my Israeli friend in Philadelphia, phoned to ask after me.  She and her partner, Eli, a bit concerned if their electrics go out since everything is electric where they live on the 11th floor in center city.  My cousin here in a condo down the road, also on the 11th floor, and everything electric there too,  Still, this isn't Syria, with random bombs. 

All these calls - sometimes I go a whole week or more without conversation except to ask to get a refill please on the coffee.  As old and as hearing-impaired as I am, I reckon it is still Romantic here in a storm.  Not a monster one though heading right for New Jersey.  Winds up to Cat. 1, the news now reports. Tomorrow morning through evening is the big day they say.....   
















Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rupert Brooke (1887 - 1915)





There's Wisdom In Women





"Oh love is fair and love is rare;" my dear one she said,

"But love goes lightly over."  I bowed her foolish head,

And kissed her hair and laughed at her.  Such a child was she;

So new to love, so true to love, and she spoke so bitterly.



But there's wisdom in women, of more than they have known,

And thoughts go racing through them, are wiser than their own,

Or how should my dear one, being ignorant and young,

Have cried on love so bitterly, with so true a tongue?



(June 1913)





The  first new edition of The Collected Poems Of Rupert Brooke in almost 100 years was published in 2010 by The Oleander Press (Cambridge, England), with an Introduction by Lorna Beckett (Chair, The Rupert Brooke Society).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

poem by R.S. Thomas

A Peasant



Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.
Docking mangels, chipping the green skin
From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin
Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clods that glint in the wind -
So are his days spent, his spittled mirth
Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks
Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.
And then at night see him fixed in his chair
Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.
There is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.
His clothes, sour with years of sweat
And animal contact, shock the refined,
But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.
Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind's attrition,
Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress
Not to be stormed even in death's confusion.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.

Monday, July 30, 2012

CHAVS

In this new book, published by Verso, Owen Jones analyses the hidden agendas in the Britain of  Thatcher-Blair-Cameron; however it is applicable to American politics as well, where, as one commentator points out, in the U.S. "the illusion is similarly perpetuated...that the middle class is all that matters."  Jones explores how the working class has gone from 'salt of the earth' to 'scum of the earth' and as Eric Hobsbawm notes in his praise of the book, it is "passionate and well-documented."  Jones writes that "the demonization of the working class is the ridiculing of the conquered by the conqueror....the fashionable idea that people at the bottom deserve their lot in life....Get rid of all the cleaners, rubbish collectors, bus drivers, supermarket checkout staff and secretaries, for example, and society would quickly grind to a halt.  On the other hand, if we woke up one morning to find that all the highly paid advertising executives, management consultants and private equity directors had disappeared, society would go on much as it did before: in a lot of cases, probably quite a bit better."  The demonization was "an offensive against working-class communities, industries, values and institutions. No longer was being working class something to be proud of: it was something to escape from, never mind to celebrate. The wealthy were adulated.  All were now encouraged to scramble up the social ladder, and be defined by how much they owned.  This vision did not come from nowhere.  It was the culmination of a class war. Those who were poor or unemployed had no one to blame but themselves. Old working-class values, like solidarity, were replaced by dog-eat-dog individualism."  The ideal was "a property-owning individual who looked after themselves, their family, and no one else.  Aspiration meant yearning for a bigger car or a bigger house."  Working-class communities "were seen as the left-behinds, the remnants of an old world that had been trampled on by the inevitable march of history.  There was to be no sympathy for them: on the contrary, they were to be caricatured and despised."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On William Bligh

There is a curious movement afoot to restore the reputation of the villainous Captain Bligh. Two books, The Bounty, by Caroline Alexander, now a decade old, and a new book, Bligh:William Bligh In The South Seas,  by Anne Salmond, both postulate that Bligh was hard done by, not a bad chap at all.  The latter book was favorably reviewed in The London Review Of Books (24 May 2012).  Both books ignore the best book on the Mutiny, which is What Happened On The Bounty, by Bengt Danielsson, published in 1962. Danielsson, the only non-Norwegian on the KON TIKI, settled in Tahiti, where he and his wife wrote Love In The South Seas, among other books.  Although Danielsson does not entirely trash Bligh, his is the only non-fiction book which takes into consideration the oral evidence gathered from Tahitian people concerning the Mutiny.

The British establishment spin-doctors who actually promoted Bligh from Lieutenant to Captain after the court-martial were the same Royal Society scoundrels who falsified the accounts of Cook's Hawaiian journals (see To Steal A Kingdom by Michael Dougherty (Island Style Press, Hawaii, 1992).  Dougherty's account of Hawaiian history, cultural history, and the disgraceful exploitation of the Hawaiian people is enlightening, names names, discloses motives.  His well-researched and accurate text is widely read and studied in Hawaii.   
 
 
 
Bligh needed to reinforce his megalomania by making the long voyage in the open boat, thus proving he was one of the world's best navigators.  Other than the Tahitians (who navigated the entire Pacific by "dead reckoning" - i.e. no sextant nor compass, just the stars above) he may well have been, but he could have sailed less than a thousand miles to the island of Tubuai, a place he had anchored in before, but insisted to the men in his boat that Tubuai was a cannibal island.  True, Tubuai was against the prevailing trade winds, but the Bounty mutineers had returned there for supplies, and it would have not been an overwhelmingly difficult journey.  Fletcher Christian had expected Bligh to make for the Tongas, an easy voyage, but Bligh was obsessed with returning to England to report the mutiny, and he knew that he'd have to wait well over a year or more for a British ship at Tubuai or the Tongas, whereas if he could make the Dutch East Indies, Timor, he would have an excellent chance of finding a British ship to immediately take him to London.

12 of the men on Bligh's boat died before reaching London, and Bligh was not present at the trial of those mutineers who remained on Tahiti and were either eventually captured or gave themselves up.  The evidence he gave was simply in a written statement.  This resulted in the execution of three of the mutineers: Thomas Burkett, Thomas Ellison, and John Millward.  These three had no family connections to save them from the gallows, were only working-class seamen. 

In fact, after his promotion, there were two other subsequent mutinies against Bligh, in 1804, when he was given only a "reprimand" for "tyranny and  unofficer-like conduct and ungentlemanly behaviour" and in 1806, after he was appointed Governor of New South Wales and held prisoner in his residence for a year during the infamous "rum rebellion" in Australia.  After he returned to England he was promoted to Vice-Admiral and made a Fellow of the Royal Society!   He died in 1817 and is buried in St. Mary's churchyard in Lambeth.

The first clear evidence of what I can only call Bligh's insanity (seemingly a compulsive-obsessive disorder) was his attempt to reach Tahiti by sailing around Cape Horn, risking both his ship and the lives of the men under his command.  He had to turn back and went around Good Hope, the usual route, losing several months, which is why he had to anchor in Tahiti for five months during the South Pacific hurricane season to collect the uru (breadfruit) with which the British imperialists wanted to feed the slave population of the West Indies.  Of course, Bligh himself was in a closet sexually, which explains why he refused to participate in any of the "amorous pastimes" (as Danielsson puts it) of the open-hearted people of Polynesia.



(I had sent this information to the London Review Of Books as a riposte to their favorable review of the new book on Bligh,  but of course they declined to publish.  What the LRB does often publish are the nasty ravings of one of its editors, Andrew O'Hagen, who takes great pleasure in trying to sully the reputation of his fellow Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, and his noble life and fine writings of the South Seas during the last years of his life, saying, for example, that Stevenson was really a homosexual (the "evidence" for this being his dandyish mode of dress) and that his Jekyll and Hyde was really a book about Stevenson's hidden homo-erotic life.  Recently, in the June 2, 2012 issue of that journal, he took delight in criticising Hemingway, ostensibly for becoming an alcoholic, but actually for the manliness and courage in wartime of his activities, falsifying what Hemingway did and did not do, and then denigrating  not only his great and lasting literary achievments, but his deep friendship with Fitzgerald.  I do find it irksome that people who can't write their way out of a paper bag so easily find establishment outlets for their jealousy and bile.  In the same way, writers of literary Theory, which came primarily from France, epitomised the condescending nature of academicians in Britain and in the U.S. who rapidly took it up, defaming creative efforts they themselves obviously aspired to but could not achieve.)          
  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jeremy Hilton & the FIRE project

After 35 issues over a period of 17 years, English poet and editor-publisher of the poetry journal, Fire, Jeremy Hilton, has packed it in, leaving him more time to concentrate on his own poetry and also on his musical compositions in the European classical tradition, the  most recent of which was performed last month at Lauderdale House in London. Author of 10 published collections of poetry, he is one of Britain's best poets, with appearances beginning in the early 1970's in the now legendary 20 issues of Poetry Review edited by Eric Mottram.

I can't be objective about Fire having first met Jeremy in 1976 when Allen and Elaine Fisher invited me to accompany them on a journey up North to see Jeff Nuttall, and to stop off on the way to visit with Paul Buck and Glenda George, and Ulli Freer.  In recent years, Jeremy and I have become good friends, and he has published my own work, poetry and essays (once as a Guest Editorial), in many issues, well over 30 pages, in the print journal, including the final number, and in six of the dozen or so issues he's put online. (see www.poetrymagazines.org.uk - #'s 26, 17, 12, 11, 9, 8).

However, it is fair to say that Fire was as much a Project as a poetry journal.  Most issues ran to well over 250 tightly packed pages, and Jeremy idealistically refused all grants from Arts funding bodies, preferring to finance each issue from his pension as a social case-worker.  He accepted new work by more previously unpublished poets (and "emerging" poets) in the 17 years than any other editor in the history of English small press publishing, and in each issue published the work of schoolchildren/teenage poets alongside the poetry of old-timers like myself.  As Jeremy had written, his aim was to publish poetry which "doesn't fit within the narrow stereotypes of so many magazines."

In fact you'd be hard-pressed to name very many UK innovative/experimental/"unorthodox"/ poets who did not appear in the mag at least once or twice, and there were many "regulars" among the usual suspects besides myself: Colin Simms, John Welch, Chris Torrance, Harry Guest, Owen Davis, to name but five.  Jeremy was also more open to submissions from the U.S. than most other British editors, and the list of distinguished American poets he published includes Adrian C. Louis, Lyn Lifshin, Philip Levine, Barbara Guest, and others less-well known like the late Albert Huffstickler.

Double Issue 29/30 (The International Issue) ran to 400 pages of work from around the world, in English and in translations from poets including Anselm Hollo, Jonathan Griffin, Anthony Rudolf, Joseph P. Clancy (translating Bobi Jones), Thomas Land (translating Radnoti), Ketaki Kushari Dyson (translating Buddhadeva Bose), and many many others.

Like others approaching 3 score and 10, Jeremy has been slowed some by health problems; however, he and his longtime partner, Kim Taplin, poet and prose eco-warrior (and mother-in-law of journalist/author Luke Harding), continue their birding activities from the old farmhouse in rural Oxfordshire.

Blessings and best wishes to my friend on the successful completion of his project.

(from London, April 2012)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitman Larkin

Goodbye, my Fancy!
Farewell, dear mate, dear love!
I'm going away, I know not where,
Or to what fortune or whether I may ever see you again.
So Good-bye my Fancy.





Rather than words comes the thought of high windows
The sun-comprehending glass.
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Byron

"The appeal of the Byronic hero is not hard to understand. He is, in Herbert Read's delightful phrase, the "super-realist personality" who by the absolute courage of his defiance of moral and social taboos becomes "the unconfessed hero of humanity." He exists in one form or another in the dream life of all of us, whether we like it or not, as the embodiment of those impulses cramped or inhibited by society. He is the expression of our social insecurity, our distrust of our fellows, our dissatisfaction with authority, our disillusionment with social achievement. He is the symbol of our defiant refusal to accept the insignificant role of the individual ego in society or the universe which modern knowledge forces upon us. In short, he represents the ego in conflict with the forces battering to subdue or destroy it - the ego which triumphs even in its moment of defeat." (Edward E. Bostetter, Introduction to Byron's "Selected Poetry And Letters" - Rinehart Editions)



Yet, inevitably:


So, we'll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving
And the moon be still as Bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

with thanks to my friend Keith Woolnough

Here's an excerpt from Longfellow in response to "F. Scott" Romney, who would be POTUS, and who believes the "very poor" are different from him, and, like Oliver Twist, mustn't ask for more.

Titled "Challenge" the poem closes Jack London's book THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS.



There is a greater army
That besets us round with strife,
A starving, numberless army
At all the gates of life.

The poverty-stricken millions
Who challenge our wine and bread,
And impeach us all as traitors,
Both the living an the dead.

And whenever I sit at the banquet,
Where the feast and song are high,
Amid the mirth and music
I can hear that fearful cry.

And hollow and haggard faces
Look into the lighted hall,
And wasted hands are extended
To catch the crumbs that fall.

And within there is light and plenty,
And odors fill the air;
But without there is cold and darkness,
And hunger and despair.

And there in the camp of famine,
In wind, and cold, and rain,
Christ, the great Lord of the Army,
Lies dead upon the plain.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sweet Lorine


"I was Blondie" she wrote....
 
"I worked the print shop
right down among em
the folk from whom all poetry flows
and dreadfully much else"
 
 
I can understand why Mark Scroggins, in his biography of Zukofsky, fought shy of  Lorine Niedecker's role in Z's life and his poetry; however, as Margot Peters notes in LORINE NIEDECKER A POET'S LIFE (U. of Wisconsin Press, 2011) :
 
"Scroggins's exclusion of LN from a life of LZ seems inexplicable unless one knows that LZ's son, Paul Zukofsky controls his literary estate and hence any biography.  PZ is, by all accounts, an obsessively private person determined to eradicate anything that might discredit his father."
 
There is much to discredit Louis Zukofsky personally: his wieldling his power over Lorine Niedecker to the extent that, in addition to bullying her into an abortion of what would have been, as it turned out, twins, although she wanted the child and had said she would never bother him for requests for money and would live as a single-parent mother back in Wisconsin,  he is responsible for having her, against her will, destroy all parts of her letters to him (and his to her) except those parts dealing specifically with attention and praise for his, Zukofsky's, poetry.  And all of their early intimate correspondence.  Of course Margot Peters's biography, though clearly written and most readable, and well-researched, does read sometimes (in its relating hearsay "evidence" in lieu of a microphone in Zukofsky's bedroom in his apartment in Manhattan where Lorine visited and stayed several times)  like a Janet Evanovitch novel.  Now I like her protagonist, Stephanie Plum, as well or more as the next guy.  I'm not overly keen on it all in a biography.  We learn, for example, that Pound and Zukofsky had sexual relations, Z considering P a "sexual predator"; that Jerry Reisman was Zukofsky's sexual partner before Lorine arrived on the scene.  Not a lot of authentication for this, but maybe it's common knowledge, I wouldn't know. 
 
Mark Scroggins skips too lightly over the "family romance" of the Orthodox Jewish Zukofsky family into which Louis was born, except to say that when he was bullied as a young boy on the streets, he would recite his way out of it by doing the Yiddish version of "Hiawatha" by Solomon Bloomgarden.  It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that he was never going to allow, if he could help it, a child of his to be born to a shiksa.  And he was not averse to having her type out all of his manuscripts, including the first parts of "A" his "poem of a life" in 23 plus one often arcane installments which go on and on too often like a broken record (except for A 16).  He uses language to keep his subconscious repressed or at least at bay while constructing what he perceives as moving closer to music in the exactitude and precision of words.  As Basil Bunting commented, sometimes it worked, although too often it was failed experiment (BBC Cassettes, conversation with Eric Mottram). In my opinion, Zukofsky is the most highly-overrated of 20th century innovative poets.  This is despite the exceptionally high opinion which both Cid Corman and my dear friend Asa Benveniste had of his work, and was celebrated between them in unpublished correspondence.  And the highly successful cognitive explication of 80 FLOWERS, by my old friend Leon Lewis (published in "The Writer's Chronicle" volume 40, number 4). All agreed Zukofsky was beyond difficult as a man.  The friendship with George Oppen went to breaking-point when Oppen admitted he preferred his own poems to Z's.  And Bunting was taken aback meeting Zukofsky again in New York, after a Bunting reading Z did not attend, and spending "a painful hour" later with him, describing Z as "very bitter and, strangely, very jealous."  The Artist is a Monster Cocteau wrote, and though no monster, Z was certainly a bit of a schmuck
 
Niedecker survived her broken heart syndrome, worked her sad way through the "For Paul" poems, and went on to become the greater poet of the two.  Wintergreen Ridge is one of the most outstanding eco-poems ever written, praising "Women / of good wild stock" who
 
Stood stolid
Before machines
They stopped bulldozers
 
cold
We want it for all time
they said
 
 
 
Peters' bio does give you a fair sense of the hard rural poverty Niedecker lived in and through most all of her life.  Having made a pilgrimage some years ago with my oldest friend, Leonard V. Kaplan, then a professor at Wisconsin College of Law in Madison, I can attest to the almost dire nature of where/how she lived, having not even indoor plumbing for many years.  Her late-life marriage brought her a bit of comfort of sorts, and Cid Corman made the only tape of her reading her poems, just a few months before she died in 1970.  Her nickname was "Squeaky" in high school, and the remnants of that voice are present enough on the tape so that her detractors have commented on her "girlish" rather than "mature" voice.  "Every woman adores a Fascist" Sylvia Plath had written, and despite decades of failing eyesight (she used a magnifying glass over her spectacles to read), she faithfully, one might say slavishly, typed Z's manuscripts, which he sent to her from New York.  Zukofsky's work is polar opposite of Bukowski's (original spelling of his name: Bukofsky), and it is the avant garde end of Academia (an oxymoron) who now read Z's poetry.  When Zukofsky and his wife, Celia, and son, formed "a closed Trinity" as Carl Rakosi said, Lorine was ex-communicated.  Z's major work, "A", is, as Eric Mottram writes in the issue of John Taggart's MAPS devoted to Z's work, "Autobiography, organic poem, and history contrasted to perfection in art.  But this is a pattern of alibis for constructing an organic vision which takes place within the stasis of perfection."
 
Rita Dove omits both Niedecker and Zukofsky, along with Oppen, and of course so many others (Dorn!) in her Penguin American poetry anthology, in the pursuit of what?  Crow Jim? Not excellence, certainly, or why publish Amiri Baraka's weakest poems, which include his anti-Jewish prejudice, rather than his best work.  I reckon Dove either is ignorant of innovative poetry, willfully or not, or just has her own axe to grind against it.  Her anthology continues the tradition of the monied establishment dumbing-down  American life and Letters by setting up a Canon which keeps many of the omitted major poets out of mass distribution, just as Eliot, at Faber & Faber, kept Williams out (the first edition of WCW being published in the UK not until 1964, when Williams was already one year dead) and away from publishers' radar, and kept most if not all heterosexual poets at arm's length from Faber during his tenure there.  Niedecker is one of our great twentieth century poets.  Even though she spent years of her life scrubbing hospital floors in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, she never lost her dedication, and her idealistic belief in poetry as a Way.  Some of her short poems, like "I rose from marsh mud"; "There's a better shine"; "I married"; and a few others, are among the best we have.   
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christopher Logue, R.I.P.

It wasn't until late 1962, when I was a young (21 year old) Teaching Fellow in the English Department of the State U. of N.Y. at Buffalo, doing an M.A., that I began to fully feel and understand the extremes of terrible beauty and transformative power of poetry, beyond any I had previously experienced. It was when I encountered the new English version/translation of Book 16 of THE ILIAD by Christopher Logue, first published in issue number 28 of THE PARIS REVIEW.

Here is the final section.



Coming behind you in the dusk you felt
-What was it? - felt the darkness part and then
APOLLO!
Who had been patient with you,
Struck.

His hand came out of the east,
And in his wrist lay eternity.
And every atom of his mythic weight
Was poised between his fist and bent left leg.
And it hit the small of your back, Patroclus...
Your eyes leant out. Achilles' helmet rang
Far and away beneath the cannon-bones of enemy horses,
And Achilles' breastplate (five copper plys
Mastered with even bronze) split like a pod.
And you were footless... staggering... amazed
Between the clumps of dying, dying yourself,
Dazed by the brilliance in your eyes
And the noise, like weirs heard far away.
So you staggered, blind eyes open,
Dabbling your astounded fingers in the vomit
On your chest.
And all the Trojans lay and stared at you,
Propped themselves up and stared at you,
Feeling themselves as blest as you felt cursed.
All of them just lay and stared
Except a boy called Euphorbus.
He took his chance and threw. Straight.
The javelin went through both calves,
Stitching your knees together, and you fell
(Not noticing your pain) and tried to crawl,
Towards the fleet, and - even now - snatching
Euphorbus' ankle, Ah! and got it? No...
Not a boy's ankle that you got.
But Hector's

Standing above you,
His bronze mask smiling down into your face,
Putting his spear through...ach, and saying,
"Why tears, Patroclus?
Did you hope to melt Troy down
And make our women carry home the ingots for you?
I can just imagine it!
You and your marvellous Achilles sitting,
Him with his upright finger wagging, saying,
"Don't show your face in here again, Patroclus,
Unless it's red with Hector's blood."
You fool.
You weak, impudent, silly little fool."
And Patroclus,
Shaking his voice out of his body, says
"Big Mouth,
Remember it took three of you to kill me,
A god, a boy, and last of all a hero!
I can hear Death
Calling my name and yet,
Somehow it sounds like "Hector"
And when I close my eyes
I see Achilles' face with Death's voice coming out of it."

Saying these things Patroclus died.
And as his soul went through the sand like water,
Hector drew out his spear and said,
"Perhaps."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Army tests hypersonic weapon over the Pacific - Are We Feeling Safer Now?





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From: mailbot@news.yahoo.com <mailbot@news.yahoo.com>
Subject: Army tests hypersonic weapon over the Pacific - Yahoo! News
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Date: Friday, November 18, 2011, 4:17 PM

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Army tests hypersonic weapon over the Pacific - Yahoo! News
http://news.yahoo.com/army-tests-hypersonic-weapon-over-pacific-025853085.html
The Army on Thursday conducted its first flight test of a new weapon capable of traveling five times the speed of sound.
Read the full story

Monday, November 14, 2011

Joe Frazier.....R.I.P.

"In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries a reminder
Of ev'ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
'I am leaving, I am leaving'
But the fighter still remains"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Obama goes on another holiday....

As if playing golf every weekend isn't enough time off in addition to his other vacations, readers of my blog know that although I've visited Hawaii as often as finances and health allow (and tried for years to get teaching work there), and have spent even more time when younger in Polynesie francais, even for a time being granted a carte de sejour (Residency) there, I've never been to Guam, but I continue to be moved by the overlooked plight of the people there as evidenced in the blog titled "The Drowning Mermaid" and the blog titled "Peace and Justice for Guam and the Pacific". Guam is officially a part of the U.S. Empire and continues to be decimated by our increasing military presence there. Because of protests in Okinawa and Korea, mostly having to do with continued rape by American military scum of young native girls (and children) in both places, and the closure of some bases there, Guam, to where the military is beginning to further relocate, suffers. Our only South Pacific colony, American Samoa, with a large navy base, has been almost culturally genocided by the encroachment of our "culture" - if one can call cheeseburgers and vulgarity, culture. Perhaps it is too late to save Guam from the same fate. However, Obama did promise the people of Guam he would go there after the election to see what was going on with the military in relation to the people and the protest movement.  He has not done so. Thus I am appalled by Obama's going on yet another out of the U.S. holiday under the guise of meeting his fellow "leaders" - most no better than the dictators of China. First they all meet in Hawaii, obviously the preferred holiday spot for our President (a wonderful place to have grown up, but I do get a sense he was always an alienated outsider there - probably something like "repitition compulsion" working), for whom I have lost more and more respect as his time in office passes. Then he travels on to places like Bali and Australia (to firm up Australian support for the Afghan war) just as his wife travelled on taxpayer money (millions for the security detail alone) to Spain and India. & for what? To what end? Really, is he no better than the dimmest of all the right-wing dim bulbs, megalomaniac politicians and jejune hacks vying to replace him? Surely, he must be. Or is it all just the weapons trade and corporate Mammonism now.

(& this from the Honolulu Star-Advertizer (one of the daily newspapers): The managers of Iolani Palace objected to its closure during the gathering of Obama and the APEC oligarchs....22 protestors were arrested and removed from the grounds of the Palace and all workers summarily laid off during the time of the visit of Obama and the Asian dictators. These Hawaiians are supporters of the Sovereignty Movement in Hawaii - which continues to protest against the long continuing illegal seizure and annexation of the islands (before people there - though not a majority of native Hawaiian people, voted for statehood) and its militarization - the first incursion of the U.S. Empire outside of the mainland. It is the first serious secessionist movement since the Civil War. Obama never visits any island other than
Oahu, and always stays, when there, on the Kaneohe military complex (with its adjoining golf course) or at multi-million dollar vacation homes of his sponsors nearby.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Advice to a Prophet by Richard Wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God's name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?--
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone's face?

Speak of the world's own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.