Recalculating

cover image by Susan Bee, photo by Alan Thomas

Dead to me (PoemTalk #114)

Claudia Rankine, 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely'

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Simone White, Kyoo Lee, and Gabriel Ojeda-Sague joined Al Filreis to discuss a passage from Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. The discussion follows Rankine's extrordinarily synthesis of various huge issues: illness and death, memory loss and the misery of forgetting, the ubiquitous frame-setting of television, incarceration, police violence, useful and useless language, antidepressants, and the poem as a social assertion of “here.”

Ambivalent romantics and jagged kinesthetics

A conversation between Angela Peñaredondo and Jai Arun Ravine

Images above courtesy of the authors.

Editorial note: The following is a transcript of a conversation between two artist-poets on their recent publications. Jai Arun Ravine, director of the short film Tom/Trans/Thai and author of The Romance of Siam: a Pocket Guide as well as แล้ว and then entwine: lesson plans, poems, knots, specializes in genres of blended identity, gender, and race. Currently based in Philadelphia, they take the time to sit down and discuss the themes of orientalism, colonialism, and tourism prevalent in their work.

The author and authority

Daniil Kharms and the Russian Absurd

“Like Gogol’s independent nose, Kharms’s nudge becomes shove as he punctuates discourses on faith or sex with grotesqueries, including the ultimate grotesque, death.” Major Kovalyov’s nose as depicted in The Metropolitan Opera in New York’s production of ‘The Nose,’ October 2013. Photo by Bengt Nyman.

As some of us are coming to know, the absurd may be characteristic of authoritarian regimes. If so, then the reading of Daniil Kharms is quite urgent in our day. When all norms are violated, it may be that only the absurdist pen can accurately swath through the fuzzy edges of alternative facts and fake news. Russian Absurd is thus a book for our age. With a devoted following in Russia and a growing cult of readers in the United States, writer Daniil Kharms (pen name of Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachev, 1905–1942) is achieving a fame that would have surprised him.

As some of us are coming to know, the absurd may be characteristic of authoritarian regimes. If so, then the reading of Daniil Kharms is quite urgent in our day. When all norms are violated, it may be that only the absurdist pen can accurately swath through the fuzzy edges of alternative facts and fake news. Russian Absurd is thus a book for our age. 

First reading of Lorine Niedecker's 'Popcorn-can cover' (4)

Xavier Kalck

The bigger picture obscures the actual one. I have to wonder, am I looking at a product of Imagism? This poem seems concrete, simple and based on direct observation. Is it Objectivist? There is sense of clarity countered by ellipsis as sound abstracts the image from its context, so yes as well. What about Surrealism? A trivial domestic object is endowed with uncanny — pun intended — (possibly sexual) significance. associated with distinct specularity (it seems I am looking at an interiorized interior). The list could go on. Does the sense of rural poverty implied in the makeshift device make it a rural poem?

Popcorn-can cover
screwed to the wall
over a hole
       so the cold
can’t mouse in
          — Lorine Niedecker

Total translation

Navajo song and the story of US modernism

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In her deconstruction of Mary Austin’s ‘The American Rhythm,’ Leah Dilworth argu
In her deconstruction of Mary Austin’s ‘The American Rhythm,’ Leah Dilworth argues that modernists held American Indian culture to be fundamentally analogous to that of ancient Africa and China. Above: Austin's 'American Rhythm,' Eda Lou Walton's 'Dawn Boy,' and 'Navajo Songs,’ 1933 and 1940 field recordings from settlements in New Mexico and Arizona courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

American Indian culture attracted many white poets to the Southwest in the early and mid-twentieth century. Educated in Anglo American traditions, but compelled by the modernist urge to develop new poetic forms, poets from Mary Austin to Jerome Rothenberg went to great lengths to represent what they were hearing and feeling. D. H. Lawrence wrote of his experience of Hopi dance, and he and Witter Bynner composed lyrics purportedly inspired by the Taos Pueblo. In American Rhythm, Austin “re-expressed” the music of several peoples, including the Paiute and Shoshone, and in Red Earth, Alice Corbin Henderson claimed to write “from the Indian,” naming the San Ildefonso and Tesuque pueblos. 

American Indian[1] culture attracted many white poets to the Southwest in the early and mid-twentieth century. Educated in Anglo American traditions, but compelled by the modernist urge to develop new poetic forms, poets from Mary Austin to Jerome Rothenberg went to great lengths to represent what they were hearing and feeling. D. H. Lawrence wrote of his experience of Hopi dance, and he and Witter Bynner composed lyrics purportedly inspired by the Taos Pueblo.

At the surface of days

A review of Rebecca Wolff's 'One Morning—'

One Morning— is a book about surfaces, about their complexity, inescapability, transience. Here, there may be no other art but the ekphrastic. In the famous Platonic scheme, where eternal forms are represented imperfectly in the world, nothing could be intellectually lower than ekphrasis. But maybe no other sort of knowledge exists. This is the suspicion of One Morning—, that there might be no other truth than the perception of surface, one surface indicating another, and the translation from one kind of surface into another kind.

One Morning— is a book about surfaces, about their complexity, inescapability, transience. Here, there may be no other art but the ekphrastic. In the famous Platonic scheme, where eternal forms are represented imperfectly in the world, nothing could be intellectually lower than ekphrasis. But maybe no other sort of knowledge exists. This is the suspicion of One Morning—, that there might be no other truth than the perception of surface, one surface indicating another, and the translation from one kind of surface into another kind:

The shape of the vigil

Cassandra Cleghorn's 'Four Weathercocks'

Photo by Kevin Bubriski.

The shapes in “Macondo,” which open the first section of Cassandra Cleghorn’s first collection Four Weathercocks, are obscure and drenched in oil. As they wash onto shore “flayed and stifled,”[1] they are pushed and pulled by the tide, but never named. We are given wings, feathers, pouches, and “a black eye bright in a face of black sheen,” but never the species. Even their heartbeat goes undefined, appearing as a “small throb” pinned to the speaker’s lap. Meanwhile, “lost farmers” spread straw along the shoreline, trying to soak up the oil.

Being matter recorded

Cecil Taylor on/poetry

Chris Funkhouser performing at 'Open Plan: Cecil Taylor,' Whitney Museum of American Art, April 2016. Photo courtesy of Constellation Funkhouser.

After my first encounter with Cecil Taylor’s work in November 1986, I never would have imagined having a series of extraordinary experiences with him across the decades that followed. Seeing him that first time, a two-hour solo concert during a thunderstorm, I didn’t realize music could exist in such a different aesthetic universe: concert as poem.

After my first firsthand encounter with Cecil Taylor’s work in Charlottesville in November 1986, I never would have imagined having a series of extraordinary experiences with him across the decades that followed.