Michael Heller: New writing and commentary

Michael Heller is the author of nearly thirty volumes of poetry, essays, memoir and fiction. His collected poems, This Constellation Is A Name: Collected Poems 1965–2010, appeared in 2012. His poetry notwithstanding, Heller’s masterly essays have been a major influence on our arts and letters; his collections of criticism (especially on poetry and art) have been instrumental in shaping contemporary poetics.

Inverting helplessness

An interview between Christy Davids and Nikki Wallschlaeger

Christy Davids (left) and Nikki Wallschlaeger (right). Photos courtesy of the authors.

Note: Nikki Wallschlaeger is the author of two full-length books of poetry:­ Houses (Horse Less Press, 2015) and Crawlspace (Bloof Books, 2017). Wallschlaeger lives in Wisconsin where she collects and propagates violets. She is a mother; she is a poet; she is at once tender, at once piercing. This interview took place in September 2017 shortly before Wallschlaeger arrived in Philadelphia to read at Philalalia, a small press and book arts festival hosted by Temple University.

Boring in a different way (PoemTalk 127)

John Ashbery, 'The Short Answer'

Left to right: Susan McCabe, Marjorie Perloff, Robert von Hallberg at Marjorie Perloff's home in Los Angeles

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Al Filreis and Zach Carduner traveled to Los Angeles to the home of Marjorie Perloff where they made a sound recording and film of a convesation about a poem by John Ashbery with Susan McCabe, Robert von Hallberg, and Marjorie herself. The poem is “The Short Answer” from a late book, Quick Question (2013). There are, abounding, the usual marooned pronouns, and the typically high “daftness quotient.” Marjorie and Al chose this poem with the goal of exploring of what it means to read closely and talk in detail about a seemingly “minor” poem from a “major” poet — a poem that might strike readers as an effect of Ashbery’s incessant and seemingly easeful poetic fermentation.

'North of the Equator'

'A TransPacific Poetics'

Photo from cover of 'A TransPacific Poetics.'

Coedited by Lisa Samuels and Sawako Nakayasu, A TransPacific Poetics is a unique anthology of essays and experimental poetry by sixteen writers who live in or between different Pacific Rim countries. As the “trans” in the collection’s title suggests, this is a regional trans-Pacific anthology — the first of its kind — that privileges the work of writers defined by the Pacific Ocean.

Coedited by Lisa Samuels and Sawako Nakayasu, A TransPacific Poetics is a unique anthology of essays and experimental poetry by sixteen writers who live in or between different Pacific Rim countries. As the “trans” in the collection’s title suggests, this is a regional trans-Pacific anthology — the first of its kind — that privileges the work of writers defined by the Pacific Ocean. To take a few examples: author and translator Don Mee Choi was born in Korea, moved to the US via Hong Kong, and now lives in Seattle.

'Pulverized language'

Bill Berkson in conversation with Carlos Villa

“There’s another kind of poem […] where there’s a kind of interchange between […] scratching around with the words or following the word, and some sense of what’s actively present in the environment, like the fog bank is very Bay Area. Especially if you are living in the country and the fog envelops you. You have no point of reference.” Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Note: The following conversation between poet Bill Berkson (1939–2016) and visual artist Carlos Villa (1936–2013) was recorded on September 4, 2004, in San Francisco at the KUSF studios. It was transcribed by Michael Nardone and edited for publication. Audio recordings of this interview can be found here and here.

The hymn of journals, poetic and public

Right: East Village, NYC, via Seaotterpup on Wikimedia Commons.

With today’s ubiquitous social media and all that sharing entails, the idea of poetry that delves into the personal and utilizes actual journals would command an especially astute and unique precision — one that Stacy Szymaszek’s Journal of Ugly Sites & Other Journals deftly delivers, reminding us of the raw power of the poetic personal / personal poetic, and how uncommon poetry with this kind of depth is nowadays.

With today’s ubiquitous social media and all that sharing entails, the idea of poetry that delves into the personal and utilizes actual journals would command an especially astute and unique precision — one that Stacy Szymaszek’s Journal of Ugly Sites & Other Journals deftly delivers, reminding us of the raw power of the poetic personal / personal poetic, and how uncommon poetry with this kind of depth is nowadays.

On being 'ill'-informed

H.D.'s late modernist poetics (of) d'espère

Image of H.D. above originally published in 'Tendencies in Modern American Poetry' by Amy Lowell, 1917; accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

In The H.D. Book, Robert Duncan aptly terms the work that H.D. produced during and after World War II a poetics of “testimony.”[1] In the last twenty years of her life, she experimented with new hybrid forms in both poetry and prose, writing major innovative works that bore witness to the public and shared trauma of World War II and responded to the ensuing rise of the Cold War. She was also increasingly chronicling the private trauma of disabling conditions following the war.[2

On being ill-informed: H.D.’s late modernist poetics (of) d’espère

Cynthia Hogue

Illness is not a metaphor. — Susan Sontag

Illness is a kind of knowledge. — Anonymous 

I

Forms of solidarity

“The voice of the poem transposes Kruger’s feminist dissent to the context of Trump’s inauguration; the President becomes Kruger’s boy-child clenching his fist to flex his bicep, an unnecessary ‘hero.’” Above: Vanessa Witter at the 2017 Women’s March in LA, holding a sign in the style of Barbara Kruger’s protest art. Photo by Scott Witter.

On April 9, 1989, over four hundred thousand women marched on Washington in the March for Women’s Lives. Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Your body is a battleground) (1989) is perhaps the most lasting image from the protest. Kruger divides a photograph of a woman vertically, half in black and white, half in negative, light and dark reversed; an aesthetic of conflict.

On April 9, 1989, over four hundred thousand women marched on Washington in the March for Women’s Lives. Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Your body is a battleground) (1989) is perhaps the most lasting image from the protest. Kruger divides a photograph of a woman vertically, half in black and white, half in negative, light and dark reversed; an aesthetic of conflict. It is a work made directly for the purpose of protesting for liberation from legislation that prohibited women’s reproductive freedom.

'But most by numbers judge a poet’s song'

A review of Randall Couch's 'Peal'

review
Photo of bells in Uzbekistan (left) by Adam Jones, via Wikimedia Commons. Photo of Couch (right) courtesy of Randall Couch.

Change ringing provides the model for Randall Couch’s remarkable book of poems, Peal

“Amongst other Diversions and Recreations practiced by, and delightful to, the Inhabitants of this Island; none is more diverting, ingenious, harmless and healthful, than the ART OF RINGING, used and practiced with Discretion,” writes Fabian Stedman in his 1677 book Campanalogia, or, The Art of Ringing Improved.[1] Stedman is widely considered to be the father of “change ringing,” a practice that emerged in sixteenth-century England when new methods of hanging sets of church bells on whole wheels enabled ringers to control the speed and order in which the bells we