Erica Hunt sets this reading up by calling Alexander a metaphysician. One of her students said “like Jimi Hendrix.” Hunt says yes and also Aimé Césaire, Jayne Cortez. How are they all metaphysicians? What permutation of Black Magic is this political postmodern grimoire? What is it evoking?
Just before reading my bullet points and notes on Will Alexander’s poem, I read a story, saw a video that speculated on how Mars looked before it lost its atmosphere. There are speculations about how this happened, how it lost its magnetic poles, but it went from earthlike with seas and air and clouds to a rusty tomb, where our small land robots search for evidence of microfossils from billions of years ago. I thought about this kind of sifting from a whole to atomic, from the big bang’s busting to dust.
When I read a poem like this from Will Alexander, it evokes so many, many expressions of Black people about/in space, coming from outer space, being not extraterrestrial but superterrestrial. Not the first humans, but beings that, larger than life, made humans possible, not in a protohuman, Darwinian hierarchical way. In the overshadowing way that human parents make blastocysts.
The first stanza reminds me of another story. When Barak Obama got elected for the first time, a Black male friend of mine says: “The day after the election, I was walking down the street and a White woman saw me. I mean she actually saw me. She looked in my eyes and saw me.” We talked about this and he briefly mentioned how he is so often unseen, often by White women. Their eyes glide past, around.
To make someone in front of you invisible, in that classical Ellison sense, is a form of magic. (Of course you make yourself disappear, too. Is this White magic? Is this Glenda or a death hallow?) It’s disappearing action, in the way that iterations of the disappeared have been in South America. In fact, this action is a precursor to the other.
The second stanza: at first I thought it was an incomplete line that led to the third stanza, but then I realized I was wrong. I read “like” as simile when it’s a verb. I came to this when I chose the parenthetical phrase because Will left it open. If I were to excise it for clarification, for a second, it would be: “My perception through … that I ingest like(s) a blackened preexistence or (likes) collected hawks through assignation.” Or even: “My perception through … through assignation.” And so do we simply dismiss the hawks? Why such a terrestrial reference in this scope? I thought of them in the way that Etheridge Knight’s “crows” grounded us in a poem also comments on race, Knight’s “On the Black Male Being the #1 Sex Object in America.” This complements Alexander’s work. Knight’s protagonist is in high relief, right here on earth, as the visible object among “snow janes” and “crow janes.” The birds, the chicks, but also in both hawks and crows, soaring black. Or the metaphor for the unforgiving wind that blasts out through Chicago from the stratosphere. What kind of word is “like”? What does it evoke similarities/similes/smiles to?
Editorial note: Trevor Joyce is a contemporary Irish poet whose work attests to the endurance and proliferation of a diversity of modernist traditions in Irish literature. Born in Dublin in 1947, Joyce has written more than seventeen volumes of poetry since his initial collection, Sole Glum Trek, was published in 1967. This book was the first to appear from New Writers Press (NWP), which Joyce cofounded with Michael Smith with the intention of publishing young poets from Ireland and abroad who were not receiving an audience through the few Irish presses in existence. Joyce and Smith published some rather trenchant editorials in the in-house journal The Lace Curtain over the following years; however, their inaugural statement of intent for the press was less polemical. In an addendum to Sole Glum Trek, the editors describe the range and scope of the writers they intend to publish as follows: “Believing poets should be beyond the herd instinct, they belong to no school, movement, club or clique. They are all serious poets, that is, human beings for whom writing poetry is morally, a profoundly central activity, not a mere hobby or ornamental grace” (Joyce, “Irish Terrain: Alternative Planes of Cleavage,” in Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetries Transnationally, 277). This project began as a study aid for my own research on Joyce, and the material amassed complicates understandings of his oeuvre and its significance to Irish poetry. The primary list of Joyce’s books and chapbooks led to a section on individual poems published, and his editorial work with NWP prompted a record of prose essays and reviews. Each new reference revealed another, and the bibliography quickly incorporated as much of the valuable and scarce secondary criticism as possible. With time, patterns emerged across the bibliography. From the early ’90s onwards, several names appear again and again in the sections on secondary criticism and reviews, so much so that the same four critics are responsible for writing nearly half of all of the essays on Joyce’s work. The bibliography emerged out of frustration with the wildly dispersed nature of Joyce criticism and the lack of a catalogue comparable to Nate Dorward’s checklists on J. H. Prynne (recently extended by Michael Tencer) and Tom Raworth.
There are several points to note and editorial decisions to explain that should help to make the bibliography more useful. All of the sections from “Poetry: Books and pamphlets” to “Video/Sound Recordings” are organized chronologically from earliest to most recent. The critical writing on Joyce which follows — “Secondary criticism,” “Reviews” and “Notes/Introductions” — is organized alphabetically, with “Dictionary entries” arranged chronologically. The references are broadly consistent with Chicago documentation style; however, further information regarding publishers’ names, place of publication, dates, and reprints is also included intermittently. Usually, these additions are intended as an acknowledgement of those editors publishing Joyce’s poetry; however, they also keep the references in line with individual publisher’s style, as in Randolph Healy’s specification of “Bray, Co. Wicklow” as the location of Wild Honey Press. On the subject of publishers, New Writers’ Press was established by Joyce and Smith, along with Smith’s wife Irene. The names included in my references to the Press — Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce — cohere with the editorial information provided in each individual publication.
Returning to the bibliography, the references to Joyce’s poetry collections include information on the number of pages, which is followed by the print run of each collection in parentheses, e.g. (150). This information is important in distinguishing pamphlets from chapbooks and longer collections, and for emphasizing the small press distribution of most of Joyce’s poetry. For with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold and Courts of Air and Earth, I use the acronym “POD” to indicate print-on-demand, which means that there is no print run in the traditional sense. Joyce’s essay “New Writers’ Press: The History of a Project” includes an extensive bibliography of the NWP books in which he is credited for cover art on five of his own poetry collections, as well as several other NWP publications. These include Jorge Luis Borges’s Poems, Michael Smith’s Homage to James Thomson (B. V.) at Portobello, and Michael Hartnett’s Tao: A Version of the Chinese Classic of the Sixth Century. There is a drawing by Joyce of the Man in the Moon modeled on that of Gyffyn Church included in the New Writers’ Press Archive at the National Library of Ireland. That image was used for the cover of Sole Glum Trek (1967), and would later become the logo of Zozimus, a Cork-based imprint of NWP. Incidentally, Joyce also created the cover image for Without Asylum.
The bibliography is not exhaustive; there are a number of publications and references that still elude me, and of course Joyce is still writing and publishing. That said, many people helped in compiling this bibliography, and I would like to acknowledge some of them here: my thanks to James Cummins, Alex Davis, Nate Dorward, Marcella Edwards, Harry Gilonis, John Goodby, Trevor Joyce, Justin Katko, David Lloyd, Jim Mays, and Keith Tuma.
Suggestions for further references would be greatly appreciated and can be submitted to Jacket2. — Niamh O’Mahony
Trevor Joyce bibliography
Sole Glum Trek: New Irish Poets. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1967. 30 pp. (500).
Watches. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1969. 16 pp. (150).
Pentahedron. Dublin: Zozimus-New Writers’ Press, 1972. 53 pp. (1,000 pb; 250 hb).
The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine: A Working of the Corrupt Irish Text. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1976. 48 pp. (500).
stone floods. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1995. 52 pp. (400).
Syzygy. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wild Honey Press, 1998. 16 pp. (228).
Hellbox. London: Form Books, 1998. 3 pp. (50).
Without Asylum. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wild Honey Press, 1998. 13 pp. (98). Online at Wild Honey Press.
with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold. Exeter: Shearsman Books, 2001. 241 pp. (600). 2nd ed. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 2003. (POD). Online at Shearsman.
Take Over. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig, 2003. 52 pp. (150).
Undone, Say. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig, 2003. 48 pp. (150).
Dwory Powietrza i Ziemi. Edited and translated by John Comber and Lidia Nowicka-Comber. Poznan: Motivex; Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 2004. 137 pp. Dual-language publication of Courts of Air and Earth.
What’s in Store: Poems, 2000–2007. Dublin: New Writers’ Press; Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig, 2007. 322 pp. (800).
Courts of Air and Earth. Foreword by Fanny Howe; afterword by Máire Herbert. Exeter: Shearsman, 2008. 95 pp. (POD). Online at Shearsman.
Poems of Aregemia. Edited by Mark Mallon. Translated by Seija Kerttula and Trevor Joyce. Helsinki: Ntamo, 2012. 80 pp.
The Immediate Future. Cork: Runamok Press, 2013. 36 pp. (100).
Rome’s Wreck. Los Angeles: Cusp Books, forthcoming.
“Time Piece. Clocks Err Through Anger of the Watcher.” The Lace Curtain, no. 1 (Autumn 1969): 20–21. Edited by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press.
“I Know These Streets.” The Lace Curtain, no. 2 (Spring 1970): 18. Edited by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press.
“Elegy of the Shut Mirror” and “Surd Blab.” The Lace Curtain, no. 3 (Summer 1970): 30–33. Edited by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press.
“Engravure.” The Kilkenny Magazine, no. 18 (Autumn–Winter 1970): 117. Edited by James Delahunty.
“Death Is Conventional (Song, Probably Evasive)” and “Bronze Through Seagrowth.” St. Stephen’s 2, no. 19. (Hilary Term, 1971): 12–14, 24–25. Guest edited by Trevor Joyce.
“The Fall.” “Ecrivains irlandais d’aujourd’hui; Nombre Speciale.” Special issue, Les Lettres Nouvelles 3, no. 1 (March 1973): 208. Guest edited by Serge Fauchereau.
“Fulgurite.” Icarus, no. 67 (Winter 1974): np. Edited by Edward Brazil. Trinity College, Dublin.
“Mirror: Of Glazier Velasquez.” “Irish Poetry.” Special issue, The Niagara Magazine, no. 3 (Summer 1975): 31–32. Guest edited by Michael Smith and Augustus Young.
“One” and “Mirror: Of Glazier Velasquez.” The Lace Curtain, no. 6 (Autumn 1978): 8–9. Edited by Michael Smith. Dublin: New Writers’ Press.
“‘Two Poems from Magazine’: A Work in Progress.” The Irish Review, no. 8 (1990): 12–13. Edited by Kevin Barry et al. Retitled “Cold Snap” and “Cold Course” in stone floods.
“The Turlough” and “Cry Help.” “Autobiography as Criticism.” Special issue, The Irish Review, no. 13 (1992): 143–5. Edited by Kevin Barry et al.
“Counmeenole.” In Pathfinder: Skills in Language and Literature, edited by Michael Smith, 166. Dublin: Educational Company, 1994.
“Cold Course.” Irish Times, December 9, 1995, A8. Edited by Conor Brady.
“‘in three quarters now you lie,’ a stanza from his forthcoming Syzygy.” FormCard: Irish Modernism Series, no. 4 (April 1997): np. Edited by Harry Gilonis. London: Form Books.
Some poems. “Lewis Marsh Issue: Five Irish Poets.” Special issue, Talisman: A Journal of Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, no. 18 (Fall 1998): 130–137. Guest edited by Keith Tuma and William Walsh.
“Hopeful Monsters.” The Gig, no. 1 (November 1998): 30–39. Edited by Nate Dorward. Willowdale, Ontario.
“A Father of the Useful Arts (1738),” “Capital Accounts, From OBEX (work in progress),” and “Trem Neul.” Sub Voicive Poetry, no. 2 (1999): 5–8. Edited by Lawrence Upton.
“Approach of Bodies Falling in Time of Plague,” “Proceeds of a Black Swap,” and explanatory notes on both poems. Shearsman, no. 38 (February 1999): 5–9. Edited by Tony Frazer.
“Trem Neul.” Masthead, no. 4 (January 2000): 18–22. Edited by Alison Croggon. Online at Masthead. In 2000, Masthead became an online journal with issue 4 as the first digital issue.
“Data Shadows,” “Joinery,” “Let Happen,” and “Dark Senses Parallel Streets.” Alterran Poetry Assemblage, no. 5 (December 2000). Edited by David Dowker.
“STILLSMAN.” In Vectors: New Poetics, edited by Robert Archambeau, 170–181. San Jose: Writers Club Press, 2001.
“Saws.” Poetry Ireland Review, no. 71 (Winter 2001): 62–64. Edited by Maurice Harmon.
“Saws.” The Gig, no. 9 (September 2001): 3–6. Edited by Nate Dorward. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig.
“The Fishers Fished,” “Concentration,” and “Incidents at Cloghroe, Co. Cork.” Southword 2, no. 3 (2000): 10–11. Edited by Patrick Galvin and Mary Johnson.
“Watch.” Southword 3, no. 1 (2001): 16. Edited by Patrick Galvin.
“The Turlough,” “Cry Help,” and “Tohu-bohu.” In Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry, edited by Keith Tuma, 742–747. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
“Love Songs from a Dead Tongue.” Poetry Ireland Review, no. 74 (Autumn 2002): 42–59. Edited by Michael Smith.
“A Father of the Useful Arts (1738),” “Dánta Grádha 18,” “Watch,” “Without Asylum,” “Approach of Bodies Falling in a Time of Plague,” “Proceeds of a Black Swap,” and “behaviour self!” A Chide’s Alphabet: Second Chiding, May 2001. Edited by David Bircumshaw.
“4 Poems from the Chinese of Ruan Ji” and “STILLSMAN.” Shearsman, no. 58 (Spring 2004): 2–6. Edited by Tony Frazer.
Some poems. In Onsets: A Breviary (Synopticon?) of Poems 13 Lines or Under, edited by Nate Dorward, np. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig, 2001.
“Dark Senses Parallel Streets. With and for Tom Raworth.” Jacket, no. 26 (October 2004). Edited by John Tranter.
“From Saws.” Free Verse, no. 7 (Winter 2004). Edited by Jon Thompson.
“Counmeenole.” In New Writers’ Press Anthology, edited by Martin Dolan and Michael Smith with an introduction by Declan Kiberd, 93–95. Poznan: Motivex, 2004.
“From a work in progress.” Masthead, no. 9 (March 2005). Edited by Alison Croggon.
“STILLSMAN.” In Vinyl: Material Location Placement, edited by Simon Cutts, np. Tipperary: Coracle, 2005. In this book, Cutts records the exhibition of Joyce’s poem “STILLSMAN” as an installation as part of the vinyl: project for installation held in Cork City during July and August 2005.
“The Peacock’s Tale.” In Cork Caucus: On Art, Possibility, and Democracy, edited by Trevor Joyce and Shep Steiner, 375–377. Cork: National Sculpture Factory and Revolver, 2006.
“From Ana.” Masthead, no. 10 (March 2006). Edited by Alison Croggon.
“From Outcry.” Masthead, no. 11 (September 2008). Guest edited by Andrew Burke and Candice Ward.
“From ‘Rome’s Wreck.’” Poetry Salzburg Review, no. 15 (Spring 2009): 137–139. Guest edited by James Cummins, Fergal Gaynor, and Trevor Joyce.
“From Rome’s Wreck.” past simple, no. 6 (March 2009). Edited by Jim Goar and Marcus Slease.
“Fragmentos.” RevistAtlántica de poesía, no. 34 (2010): 71–80. Edited by Màrius Torres. Translated by Luis Ingelmo. With an introduction in Spanish by Michael Smith. Cádiz: Diputación de Cádiz.
[“granted …”] and “Sixth Month, Year 408: Fire.” Cambridge Reading Series: Nour Mobarak and Trevor Joyce, April 2010, 5–6.
“(From Ruan Ji).” In Invisibly Tight Institutional Outer Flanks Dub (Verb) Glorious National Hi-Violence Response Dream, edited by Ryan Dobran, Justin Katko, and Sara Wintz, 18–19. New York and Providence, RI: Life Gang Documents, 2008.
“all that is the case” and “now then.” In The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry, edited by Patrick Crotty, 794–795. London: Penguin, 2010.
“Wretched to me … (from the late Middle Irish).” MATERIALpoetry. Edited by Simon Cutts, np. Tipperary: Coracle, 2010.
Five extracts from The Immediate Future. Chicago Review 56, no. 2 (Autumn 2011): 89–93. Edited by Joel Calahan and Michael Hansen.
Five extracts from The Immediate Future. Truck, February 2013. Edited by Mark Weiss.
Two extracts from The Immediate Future and “when I died …” Return to Default, June 2013. Edited by James Cummins, Sarah Hayden, and Rachel Warriner.
“Ideologist of Love: The Poetry of James Liddy.” The Lace Curtain, no. 1 (1969): 44–48. Edited by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press.
“The Young Poets, 12: Michael Smith.” Hibernia 33, no. 18 (1969): 15. Edited by John Mulcahy.
“New Writers’ Press: The History of a Project.” In Modernism and Ireland: The Poetry of the 1930s, edited by Patricia Coughlan and Alex Davis, 276–306. Cork: Cork University Press, 1995.
“The Point of Innovation in Irish Poetry.” In For the Birds: Proceedings of the First Cork Conference on New and Experimental Irish Poetry, edited by Harry Gilonis, 18–24. Sutton, UK: Mainstream; Dublin: hardPressed, 1998. Reprinted in “Six Poets: Views and Interviews.” Special issue, The Gig, no. 2 (2001): 45–50. Edited by Nate Dorward. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig, 2001. Also reprinted in New Writers’ Press Anthology, edited by Martin Dolan and Michael Smith with an introduction by Declan Kiberd, 16–22, 23–30. Poznan: Motivex, 2004.
“Why I Write Narrative.” Narrativity, no. 1 (March 2000). Edited by Mary Burger et al. San Francisco State University. Reprinted in The Recorder 13, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 57–63. Edited by Christopher Cahill.
“Interrogate the Thrush: Another Name for Something Else.” In Vectors: New Poetics, edited by Robert Archambeau, 136–169. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club Press, 2001.
“Irish Terrain: Alternative Planes of Cleavage.” In Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetries Transnationally, edited by Romana Huk, 156–168. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003.
“On stone floods: A Commentary from a Letter to Michael Smith.” “The Fly on the Page.” Special issue, The Gig, no. 3 (2004): 3–15. Edited by Nate Dorward. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig.
“On ‘Without Asylum’: An Email Exchange.” “The Fly on the Page.” Special issue, The Gig, no. 3 (2004): 16. Edited by Nate Dorward. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig.
“‘Approach of Bodies Falling in Time of Plague’ and ‘Proceeds of a Black Swap’: Some Explanatory Notes.” “The Fly on the Page.” Special issue, The Gig, no. 3 (2004): 17–18. Edited by Nate Dorward. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig.
“Introduction: On This Book.” In Cork Caucus: On Art, Possibility, and Democracy, edited by Trevor Joyce and Shep Steiner, 17–18. Cork: National Sculpture Factory and Revolver, 2006.
“On ‘The Peacock’s Tale.’” In Cork Caucus: On Art, Possibility, and Democracy, edited by Trevor Joyce and Shep Steiner, 371–74. Cork: National Sculpture Factory and Revolver, 2006.
Introduction to “SoundEye 12: Festival of the Arts of the Word. 3–6 July 2008.” Poetry Salzburg Review, no. 15 (Spring 2009): 82–84. Guest edited by James Cummins, Fergal Gaynor, and Trevor Joyce.
“The Phantom Quarry: Translating a Renaissance Painting into Modern Poetry.” Enclave Review, no. 8 (September 2013): 5–8. Edited by Fergal Gaynor and Ed Krčma.
“The Role of Poetry in Chinese Cultural Life.” Talk at the Europe-China Association Annual Conference, University of Oxford, 1982.
“New Writers? Some Irish.” Talk at Assembling Alternatives, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, 1996.
“Irish Practice Imperfect.” Talk at Third Sub Voicive Poetry Colloquium, University of London, 1999.
Poems of Aregemia. Edited by Mark Mallon. Translated by Seija Kerttula and Trevor Joyce. Helsinki: Ntamo, 2012.
Coffey, Brian. Versheet, vol. 1. Edited by Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writer’s Press, 1971. 6 pp.
Cork Caucus: On Art, Possibility, and Democracy. Edited by Trevor Joyce and Shep Steiner. Cork: National Sculpture Factory and Revolver, 2006.
The Lace Curtain, no. 1. Edited by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1969.
The Lace Curtain, no. 2. Edited by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1970.
The Lace Curtain, no. 3. Edited by Michael Smith; associate editor Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1970.
Pawlowski, Robert. Versheet, vol. 2. Edited by Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1971. 6 pp.
Redshaw, Thomas Dillon. Such a Heart Dances Out. Versheet, vol. 4. Edited by Trevor Joyce. Dublin: New Writers’ Press, 1971. 6 pp.
“SoundEye 12: Festival of the Arts of the Word. 3–6 July 2008.” Poetry Salzburg Review, no. 15 (Spring 2009): 82–194. Guest edited by James Cummins, Fergal Gaynor, and Trevor Joyce.
Review of When She Was Good, by Philip Roth, The Far Side of the Sky, by Maslyn Williams, and Satori in Paris, by Jack Kerouac. Hibernia 32, no. 2 (February 1968): 20. Edited by John Mulcahy.
Review of The Hard Hours, by Anthony Hecht, and Just Like the Resurrection, by Patricia Beer. The Dublin Magazine 7, nos. 2–4 (Autumn/Winter 1968): 107–108. Edited by Rivers Carew and Timothy Brownlow. Formerly The Dubliner.
“Nazi Aftermath.” Review of Camp 7 Last Stop, by Hans Hellmut Kirst, and The Hour of the Unicorn, by James Parish. Hibernia 33, no. 10 (May 1969): 16. Edited by John Mulcahy.
“Reading the Metre Before Moving On.” Review of An Introduction to English Poetry, by James Fenton. The Irish Times, July 20, 2002, B9. Edited by Conor Brady.
Interview by Michael S. Begnal. The Burning Bush, no. 7 (Spring 2002): 44–48. Edited by Michael S. Begnal.
Interview by Leonard Schwartz. Cross-Cultural Poetics, episode 62 (Fall 2004). Olympia, Washington: KAOS-FM.
“Partly for the Shiver.” Interview by G. Keohane. Karnival, no. 5 (October 2005): 9–10. Edited by Dan Finn.
“Poetry, Form, Meaning.” Interview by Keith Tuma in Cork Caucus: On Art, Possibility, and Democracy, edited by Trevor Joyce and Shep Steiner, 377–378. Cork: National Sculpture Factory and Revolver, 2006.
“Finding a Language Use: Trevor Joyce in 2011.” Interview by Niamh O’Mahony. Jacket2, 2013. Edited by Julia Bloch and Michael S. Hennessey.
Interview by Marthine Satris. Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry 5, no. 1 (2012). Edited by Robert Sheppard and Scott Thurston.
Interview by Marthine Satris. Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, forthcoming. Edited by Robert Sheppard and Scott Thurston.
Red Noise of Bones. Dublin: Coelacanth; Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wild Honey Press, 2001. Compact disc.
SoundEye Festival recordings, Cork, Ireland, July 4, 2005. Posted at Meshworks: the Miami University Archive of Writing in Performance.
Question and answer session after a reading at Test Reading Series, Mercer Union, Toronto. October 2007. Mercer Union, Toronto. Available at archive.org.
Reading at Miami University, Ohio, October 2007. Part 1 (no longer available), part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7. Posted at Meshworks: the Miami University Archive of Writing in Performance.
Reading with Fergal and Marja Gaynor, SoundEye Festival, July 2009. Posted to YouTube September 17, 2009.
Archambeau, Robert. “Another Ireland.” Part 1, Notre Dame Review, no. 4 (Summer 1997): 133–144; part 2, Notre Dame Review, no. 5 (Winter 1998): 135–146. Edited by William O’Rourke. Reprinted as Another Ireland: An Essay. Bray, Co. Wicklow: Wild Honey Press, 1998.
Begnal, Michael S. “The Ancients Have Returned Among Us: Polaroids of 21st-Century Irish Poetry.” In Avant Post the Avant, edited by Louis Armand, 307–324. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2006.
———. “Beyond Tradition: The Wild Honey Poets.” The Burning Bush, no. 5 (Spring 2001): 14–17. Edited by Michael S. Begnal. Online at Wild Honey Press.
Butler, David. “Where to Look for the Wild Honey.” Poetry Ireland Review, no. 79 (2004): 57–60. Edited by Peter Sirr.
Davis, Alex. A Broken Line: Denis Devlin and Irish Poetic Modernism. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2000. Joyce discussed on 135–148, 161–164.
———. “Deferred Action: Irish Neo-Avant-Garde Poetry.” Angelaki 5, no. 1 (2000): 81–94.
———. “The Irish Modernists and Their Legacy.” In The Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry, edited by Matthew Campbell, 88–91. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
———. “Is it Really a Revolution Though?: Paul Muldoon and Linguistically Innovative Poetry.” Masthead 10 (2006). Edited by Alison Croggon.
———. “‘No Narrative Easy in the Mind’: Modernism, the Avant-Garde and Irish Poetry.” In For the Birds: Proceedings of the First Cork Conference on New and Experimental Irish Poetry, edited by Harry Gilonis, 37–49. Dublin: hardPressed Poetry; Surrey: Mainstream Poetry Press, 1998.
Dorward, Nate. “On Trevor Joyce.” Chicago Review 48, no. 4 (Winter 2002–2003): 82–96. Edited by Eirik Steinhoff.
Edwards, Marcella. “‘A Scheme of Echoes’: Trevor Joyce, Poetry and Publishing in Ireland in the 1960s.” Critical Survey 15, no. 1 (2003): 3–17. Guest edited by Eibhlín Evans.
———. “Poetry and the Politics of Publishing in Ireland: Authority in the Writings of Trevor Joyce, 1967–1995.” PhD diss., University of Strathclyde, UK, 2003.
Falci, Eric. Continuity and Change in Irish Poetry, 1966–2010. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Joyce discussed on 31–35.
Fauchereau, Serge. “Ecrivains irlandais d’aujourd’hui.” Special issue, Les Lettres Nouvelles 3, no. 1 (March 1973): 185. Guest edited by Serge Fauchereau.
Gilonis, Harry. “Good Fruit and Sour: Trevor Joyce, Seamus Heaney and the Buile Suibhne Geilt.” “Colonies of Belief: Ireland’s Modernists.” Special issue, Suitear na n-Aingeal/Angel Exhaust, no. 17 (Spring 1999): 107–116. Edited by Maurice Scully and John Goodby.
Goodby, John. “‘Comes the Experiment’: Irish Poetry and the Avant-Garde.” In The Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry, edited by Fran Brearton and Alan Gillis, 214–236. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
———. “‘Current, Historical, Mythical or Spook?’: Irish Modernist and Experimental Poetry.” Introduction to “Colonies of Belief: Ireland’s Modernists.” Special issue, Suitear na n-Aingeal/Angel Exhaust, no. 17 (Spring 1999): 51–60. Edited by John Goodby and Maurice Scully.
———. Irish Poetry from 1950: From Stillness into History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. Joyce discussed on 303–307.
———. “‘Through My Dream’: Trevor Joyce’s Translations.” Études Irlandaises 35, no. 2 (Autumn 2010): 149–164. Edited by Sylvie Mikowski et al.
Goodby, John, and Marcella Edwards. ‘“Glittering Silt’: The Poetry of Trevor Joyce and the Myth of Irishness.” Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 8, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 173–198. Edited by Kalman Matolcsy.
Howe, Fanny. Foreword to Courts of Earth and Air, by Trevor Joyce, 7. Exeter: Shearsman, 2008.
Kersnowski, Frank L. The Outsiders: Poets of Contemporary Ireland. Texas: Texas Christian University Press, 1975. Joyce discussed on 164–165.
Longley, Edna. “Irish Poetry and ‘Internationalism’: Variations on a Critical Theme.” The Irish Review, no. 30 (Spring–Summer 2003): 48–61. Edited by Kevin Barry et al.
Mays, J. C. C. “Flourishing and Foul, Six Poets and the Irish Building Industry.” The Irish Review, no. 8 (Spring 1990): 6–11. Edited by Kevin Barry et al.
———. N11: A Musing. Dublin: Coleacanth, 2003. Reprinted in Little Critic, no. 18 (Autumn 2006).
O’Mahony, Niamh. Essays on the Poetry of Trevor Joyce. Bristol: Shearsman Press, 2015.
Pehnt, Annette. “Rewritings of Buile Shuibhne in the Twentieth Century.” PhD diss., University of Freiburg, Germany, 1997. Published in summary form in Harvard Celtic Colloquium, no. 15 (1995).
Quinn, Justin. The Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry: 1800–2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Joyce discussed on 108–111.
Sealy, Douglas. “The End of Tribalism: Irish Poetry During the Last Decade.” “James Joyce and the Arts in Ireland.” Special issue, The Crane Bag 6, no. 1 (1982): 74–84. Edited by Richard Kearney.
Sirr, Peter. “The Cat Flap.” Poetry Ireland Review, no. 78 (2004): 110–114. Edited by Peter Sirr.
Smith, Michael. “The Contemporary Situation in Irish Poetry.” In Two Decades in Irish Writing: A Critical Survey, edited by Douglas Dunn, 154–165. Cheadle: Carcarnet, 1975.
———. “Irish Poetry Since Yeats: Notes Towards a Corrected History.” Denver Quarterly 5, no. 4 (Winter 1971): 24.
Steinhoff, Eirik. “Who Needs a Hundred Million Lilly Dollars?” Chicago Review, no. 49 (Summer 2003): 190–196.
Tuma, Keith. “Collaborating with Dark Senses.” “Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth.” Special issue, The Gig nos. 13/14 (2003): 207–16. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig.
———. “Introduction to the Poetry of Trevor Joyce.” In Anthology of Twentieth Century British and Irish Poetry, edited by Keith Tuma, 741–742. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
———. On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes. Cambridge: Salt, 2011. Joyce discussed on 93–98.
———. “Whatever Irish Poetry: Some Musings.” The Journal, no. 2. Limerick: hardPressed Poetry, 1999. np. Edited by Billy Mills and Catherine Smith.
Williams, Nerys. Contemporary Poetry. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001. Joyce discussed on 216–217.
Begnal, Michael S. “Polar / cold / marks terminus.” Review of What’s in Store: Poems 2000–2007. Free Verse, no. 14 (Summer 2008). Edited by Jon Thompson.
Boland, Eavan. “Evening of Poetry.” Irish Times, August 31, 1967, 6. Edited by Douglas Gageby.
Bukowska, Joanna. “Irish Topography of a Disturbed Mind in Seamus Heaney’s Sweeney Astray and Trevor Joyce’s The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine.” In Ironies of Art/Tragedies of Life: Essays on Irish Literature, edited by Liliana Sikorska, 239–264. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2005.
Caleshu, Anthony. “On Radu Andreiscu, Trevor Joyce, Leanne O’Sullivan, Laurie Duggan, Giles Goodland, Lisa Dart, and Mark Halliday.” “This Time It’s Personal.” Special issue, Poetry Review 99, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 111–114. Edited by Fiona Sampson.
Davis, Alex. “Purity and Dirt: Review of Syzygy.” The Irish Review, no. 22 (Summer 1998): 114–116. Edited by Kevin Barry et al.
Donnelly, Paul. “Demanding Voices: Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold by Trevor Joyce and In the Aviary of Voices by Karin Lessing.” Stride Magazine, May 2002. Edited by Rupert Loydell.
Donnelly, Peter. “Voices from the Past.” Review of The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine. Irish Independent, September 11, 1976, 8. Edited by Michael Hand.
Dorward, Nate. “In the Net: Review of Robert Archambeau, Randolph Healy, Trevor Joyce, Billy Mills, and Maurice Scully.” Review of Syzygy. The Gig, no. 1 (1998): 57–59. Willowdale, Ontario: The Gig. Online at Wild Honey Press.
Duncan, Andrew. “Pale Angel Exuvial Who Can Mix It with the Chicken.” Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold: a body of work, 1966–2000. Jacket 20 (December 2002). Edited by John Tranter.
Frazer, Tony. “Letter from England.” Poetry Ireland Review, no. 79 (2004): 72–77. Edited by Peter Sirr.
———. Review of stone floods. Shearsman, no. 36 (1998). Edited by Tony Frazer. Devon: Shearsman.
———. Review of Without Asylum. Shearsman, no. 42 (1998). Edited by Tony Frazer. Devon: Shearsman.
Fryatt, Kit. “Process, Product and a Peacock.” Review of What’s in Store. Irish Times, April 19, 2008, B10. Edited by Geraldine Kennedy.
Glavin, Anthony. “Review of Sole Glum Trek by Trevor Joyce, Endsville by Brian Lynch and Paul Durcan, and The Rebel Bloom by Rudi Holzapfel.” Hibernia 31, no. 10 (October 1967): 17. Edited by John Mulcahy.
Higgins, Kevin. “Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold by Trevor Joyce.” Poetry Quarterly Review, no. 20 (Summer 2003): 23. Edited by Derrick Woolf and Tilla Brading.
Johnston, Fred. “Surprised by Familiarity.” Review of stone floods, et al. Books Ireland, no. 191 (December 1995): 323–324.
Jordan, John. “Finding Poetry in Suburbia.” Review of Versheets, edited by Trevor Joyce (New Writers’ Press). Irish Independent, May 29, 1971, 5. Edited by Conor O’Brien.
———. “Five Voices.” Review of Pentahedron. Irish Independent, September 6, 1969, 6. Edited by Hector Legge.
———. “I Knew These Streets.” Review of Pentahedron. Irish Independent, June 17, 1972, 10. Edited by Conor O’Brien.
Keery, James. “Barbed Wire.” Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold. Poetry Review 92, no. 4 (Winter 2002–2003): 107. Edited by David Herd and Robert Potts.
Kellogg, David. Reviews of Wild Honey Press titles. Samizdat, no. 3 (Summer 1999). Edited by Robert Archambeau. Online at Samizdat.
Kiley, Frederick S. “Review of Selected Poems by Brian Coffey and Pentahedron by Trevor Joyce.” Éire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies 8, no. 3 (1973): 148–150. Edited by Eóin McKiernan.
Lloyd, David. “Review of The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine.” Granta, probably Autumn 1976. Cambridge.
———. “An Impressive Collection.” Review of With the First Dream of FIre They Hunt the Cold. Irish Times, September 18, 2001, 10. Edited by Conor Brady.
Longley, Edna. “Recent Irish Poetry.” Review of The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine. Irish Times, August 21, 1976, 8. Edited by Fergus Pyle.
Martin, Augustine. “A Worthy Enterprise.” Review of Sole Glum Trek, by Trevor Joyce, and Endsville, by Brian Lynch and Paul Durcan. Irish Press, August 5, 1967, 10. Edited by Tim Pat Coogan.
Mays, J. C. C. “Drift into Net Back to Drift.” Review of Syzygy. The Journal, no. 1 (1998): 58–60. Edited by Billy Mills and Catherine Walsh.
———. “Trevor Joyce’s Syzygy.” The Recorder 13, no. 2 (Fall 2000): 73–76. Edited by Christopher Cahill.
———. “Scriptor Ignotus, with the Fire in Him Now.” Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold. Dublin Review, no. 6 (March 2002): 42–65. Edited by Brendan Barrington.
McCarthy, Dan. “Book of the Day.” Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold. Irish Examiner, February 8, 2002. 20. Edited by Brian Looney.
McCarthy, Thomas. Review of stone floods, by Trevor Joyce, et al. Poetry Ireland Review, no. 48 (Winter 1996): 90–91. Edited by Moya Cannon.
McFadden, Hugh. “Richness of the Many Poetries.” Review of stone floods, et al. Irish Times, December 9, 1995, A8. Edited by Conor Brady.
McGurk, Tom. “Tame Beer and Old Brandy.” Review of The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine, et al. Hibernia 41, no. 1 (January 21, 1977): 22. Edited by John Mulcahy.
O’Brien, Treasa. “Niamh Lawlor and Partners Based on a True Story: A Seminar on Mis-Information. University College Cork, 27 January 2007.” Review of “Based on a True Story: A Seminar on Mis-information,” Cork, Ireland, January 27, 2007. Circa, no. 119 (Spring 2007): 95–97. Edited by Peter Fitzgerald.
Packer, Matt. Review of Cork Caucus: On Art, Possibility, and Democracy, edited by Trevor Joyce and Shep Steiner. Irish Arts Review 26, no. 1. (Spring 2009): 135–136.
Quidnunc, “An Irishman’s Diary.” Review of The Lace Curtain. Irish Times, July 19, 1967, 9. Edited by Douglas Gageby.
Ramsell, Billy. Review of What’s in Store. Southword, no. 13 (2007): 140–142. Edited by Patrick Cotter. Cork: Southword Editions.
Ryan, James. “Readers Choice: Stone Fields” [sic]. Irish Times, May 23, 1995, 14. Edited by Conor Brady.
Review of stone floods. Books Ireland, no. 237 (February 2001): 260.
Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold. Books Ireland: First Flush, no. 243 (October 2001): 275.
Review of stone floods. Books Ireland: First Flush, no. 189 (October 1995): 260.
Sirr, Peter. “Ways of Making.” Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold, by Trevor Joyce, and Collected Poems, by Pearse Hutchinson. Poetry Ireland Review, no. 73 (Summer 2002): 145–151.
Smith, Mandy. Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold. New Hope International Review, December 2007.
Smith, Michael. “A Modernist Eye.” Review of Syzygy. Irish Times, July 26, 1998, B9. Edited by Conor Brady. Online at Wild Honey Press.
———. “The Young Poets: Trevor Joyce.” Review of Sole Glum Trek. Hibernia 33, no. 9 (April–May 1969): 15. Edited by John Mulcahy.
Vincent, Stephen. Review of What’s in Store. Galatea Ressurects, no. 9 (March 31, 2008). Edited by Eileen Tabios.
Weir, Anthony. “Review of The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine.” Fortnight, no. 135 (October 22, 1976): 10. Edited by Ciaran McKeown.
Wheatley, David. “Not So Easy Options.” Review of stone floods. The Irish Review, nos. 17/18 (1995): 191–195. Edited by Kevin Barry et al.
———. “Trevor Joyce’s Courts of Air and Earth.” Times Literary Supplement, no. 5584 (April 9, 2010): 24. Edited by Peter Stothard.
Zinnes, Harriet. Review of with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold. Rain Taxi, Winter 2001/2002. Edited by Eric Lorberer.
Brancaleone, David. “The Avant, Cork City, July 2009.” Circa, no. 130 (Winter 2009): 51–52.
Gilonis, Harry. Introduction to Trevor Joyce at Sub Voicive Poetry. January 29, 1999.
O’Mahony, Niamh. “Trevor Joyce.” Poets and Poems. Poetry International. 2013.
“Trevor Joyce.” Prague Literary Review 2, no. 3 (May 2004): 13–14. Edited by Louis Armand.
“Trevor Joyce.” In Contemporary Poets, 578. Edited by Rosalie Murphy and James Vinson. London: St. James Press; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1970. Reprinted in 1973.
“Trevor Joyce.” In The MacMillan Dictionary of Irish Literature, 339. Edited by Robert Hogan. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1979.
“Trevor Joyce.” In A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Writers, 116. Edited by Brian Cleeve and Anne Brady. Dublin: Lilliput, 1985.
“Trevor Joyce.” In British and Irish Poets: A Biographical Dictionary, 449–2006, 209. Edited by William Stewart. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.
For over four decades Joyce has sought a vitality and innovation in his writing that continues to distinguish his poetry among national and international communities of poets. Here, formal constraint is an enabling device through which the chosen themes, ideas, and source texts are aligned and vivified. Joyce’s willingness to delineate these sources indicates a poetry always in excess of its constituent parts. Sources recur across collections and the notes that organize one poem become a palimpsest for another. Director and co-organizer of the SoundEye poetry festival since its inception in 1997, Joyce is a dynamic force in Irish poetry as it continues to change and evolve.
Joyce was born in Dublin on October 26, 1947, and grew up in the city, spending summers with relatives in the Galway Gaeltacht. His literary heritage relates back to his great-granduncles, Robert Dwyer Joyce and Patrick Weston Joyce. Both men were eminent writers and collectors of Irish music whose influence is carried through in appropriations of their work in Joyce’s poetry. Joyce met Michael Smith in the mid-sixties and together they founded New Writers’ Press. The press provided a forum for young poets, national and international, whose work was not receiving an audience in an Irish publishing community preoccupied with the construction of Irish cultural identity. From the outset, NWP worked to make innovative poetry available to a wide audience through large print runs and low-cost production. Joyce’s Pentahedron (1972) serves as an example of the editors’ commitments with a combined total of 1200 hardback and paperback copies printed. In his opening address at the inaugural SoundEye festival in 1997, Joyce reflected on the aspirations of the Press, stating, “We certainly saw what we were doing as alternative to the status quo, but we never saw it as eccentric.” As well as publishing some of the most innovative poetry of the sixties and seventies, NWP was intrinsic to the recovery of Irish modernists of the thirties such as Brian Coffey, Thomas MacGreevy, and Niall Montgomery.
Between 1967 and 1976 Joyce published four collections with NWP, Sole Glum Trek, Watches, Pentahedron, and The Poems of Sweeny Peregrine. In 1983 he visited the People’s Republic of China as a member of the Ireland-Chinese Cultural Society before moving from Dublin to Cork in the following year. After a nearly twenty-year hiatus, Joyce returned to publishing in 1995 with a collection titled stone floods which began a period of extraordinary productivity for the poet. Syzygy and Hellbox were published in 1998 and Without Asylum followed in 1999. In 2001, with the first dream of fire they hunt the cold appeared, a veritable “body of work” bringing together The Poems of Sweeney Peregrine, Pentahedron, stone floods, Hopeful Monsters, Trem Neul, and a variety of poems spanning the course of his writing career. In 2007, Joyce published an extensive collection of new work titled What’s in Store and this was followed by Courts of Air and Earth in 2009 and The Immediate Future in 2013.
Critical analysis by Keith Tuma, Nate Dorward, Alex Davis, Marcella Edwards, and John Goodby among others offers strategies for reading Joyce’s poetry. This scholarship attends to the poet’s place within the national literary history and European modernist tradition and also considers, among other things, the importance of translation, theory, and philosophy to his writing. Such criticism did not always reach its deserved readership, either because of low print-runs or the ephemeral nature of poetry magazines and journals. The bibliography published with this essay consolidates that critical history and acknowledges the contribution of a variety of publishers to Joyce’s poetry. Since submitting the bibliography for publication several more references have emerged, and more will follow as Joyce continues to write and publish poetry.
“tipped / lobes”
Corona was the first book by Bruce Andrews that I read, circa 1976. I was drawn to it for its strict, if oblique, economies, but also because its exclusions reveal as much as its manifest content. I suppose my primary “rubric” for poetry is that it not assume a place for itself, but rather that it construct such a place in fidelity to the contingent logic that requires it to be as it is and not otherwise. For better and worse, as they say.
No less intriguing, however, was the sense that Andrews was building — that is, batching and sorting “mouth signatures” via “all kinds / of robbery” — a scalable vocabulary for the work to come, albeit I had no idea of how capacious that scale would soon become. Was the magisterial mayhem of The Millennium Project already present in nuces in the “tipped / lobes” of Corona?In hindsight, apparently so.
We can now adduce from its opening poem the method — “peel off” and “dislodge” — the métier — “inner vortex” — and the politics — “passport venom” — that have informed and enlivened his work ever since. Despite their precocity, then — a feature we know to distrust — the radical formalism of these early poems was, and remains, compelling.
Earlier still, as I soon discovered, Edge had declared the topographic feature that Andrews’s work continues to map, hone, bash, blunt, blur, blend, parse, nick, tease, test, limn, vex, query, fuse, fondle, fray, erase, and realign. And though edges may define a spectrum of entities that ranges from the edges of the known universe to the famously edgy behavior of quantum particles — it is to the intractably human, anxiously social, fractiously discursive, and multiphonically audible portions of that spectrum that his work directs our attention. And does so with wicked abandon.
Wicked? Yes. As in “wicked good.” As in “fierce” and “mischievous.” As in “reckless.” And — for those whose shibboleths it skewers — as in “morally offensive” as well. Poor dears, as if any poem, including Andrews’s lexical tsunamis, were obliged to pander to, much less be policed by, consensus-driven catechists of whatever dispensation. Yet, they too are among the company of readers that his work ineluctably addresses, more and less directly. So, “If thy ears offend thee, get the wax out.” Or, as Mr. T might have said, had the “A” of “The A-Team” stood for Althusser: “Interpellate this, fool.”
Hoodoo the polis in divers voices
You will forgive the musty allusion to Eliot, but the undead are a nuisance — wrapped as they are in their verities and pieties, and for whose neoliberal spawn “the Reverend Eliot” will serve as well as any other empty signifier. Happily, Andrews’s work provides the requisite prophylaxis: a lifetime supply of goofer dust — part powdered rock of ages, part stone-ground memes — which can be had for a veritable song and, as a matter of praxis, if not of fact, will induce “the paroxysm of the one recurring every day.”
Apropos such paroxysms, in deploded view, Andrews’s work presents a palimpsest or thick depiction of “the American idiom” (now plural) in the raw — while its obverse or exploded view reveals a disarticulated, randomly distributed, noisomely fulminant body-politic. But, not to worry. This, too, shall “compose itself” and be reanimated in a kaleidoscopic montage of speaking and writing subjects, purposively unmoored from the subjectivities their idioms instantiate. Their own mothers wouldn’t recognize them, and in that sense never did. The outcome of all this hoodoo, then, is a cagey “mutilation for whose benefit” any resemblance to actuality is no coincidence at all.
–ak (the root of “edge”) denotes something “sharp” or “pointed” in proto-Indo-European. From which all manner of metaphors spring, to include “the cutting edge” so dear to marketing directors, as well as such temperaments as we call “edgy” and the “sharp tongues” we associate with them. As Washington Irving once observed, “A sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use.” So it isn’t Andrews’s acknowledged place at the “cutting edge” of culture that concerns me here. Rather, it’s his commitment to the “ragged edge” of compositional practice, which, as we know, is always already a social as well as an aesthetic site — a contested site — of production brought forth in dissensus, where risk has consequences that far exceed the whimsies of cultural capital.
What I’m getting at is compassion — his in specific — though that’s not a concept one often (ever?) hears in discussions of his work. But I fear I must insist. It’s easy enough to be pissed off at the endlessly proliferating depredations of, and acquiescence that enables, globalized capitalism. But to simultaneously sustain that anger and transform it into art — especially art that makes by no means easy psycho-affective demands on its readers — requires a visceral belief that our current social arrangements could (and should) be radically otherwise. Given that Andrews’s work expresses its compassion for the suffering wrought by social injustice in relentlessly confrontational ways, its singular (signature) admixture of political anger and poetic jouissance is honestly and thoughtfully come by — as is its (allegedly) utopian casting of its lot with the premise that the materiality of language matters (a fundamental premise of Language writing).
Of course “the ragged edge” can be more technically rendered as “the theoretical limit of traction.” On analogy with a racing line, when a poetic line (broadly understood) exceeds 10/10ths of its limit — which is the only way it can discover that limit — the possible outcomes are few: you can back off, spin out, crash, or gain an edge. And every writer knows these outcomes from experience. But, since it’s the last of these that warrants taking the risk, the salient question becomes over what or whom does one seek an edge? And that, or so I think that Andrews’s work argues, is a political question no less than a poetic one. And, as I think it also argues, a question of jouissance.
Dear Bruce: 2,800 road miles and a half-tank of gas say I won’t be attending the symposium on Friday, much as I’d like to be there. Instead, come the appointed hour — Happy Happy Hour, as Keats might say — I’ll raise a glass in your honor. After all, in former times, symposia were drinking parties (and I wish that they still were).
Grateful as I am for the work you’ve done, and the trove of plausibilities (“this is called catharsis”) that it masterfully unearths, it seems rather silly to thank you for having done what you were damn well going to do regardless. So I’ll thank you instead for the pleasure I anticipate from the work, yet to be done, you will have done. Meanwhile, keep on steppin’ and remember: Por el tango, el abrazo es más importante que al paso.
* * *
Editorial note: This essay was written for a symposium on Bruce Andrews that took place in New York on December 7, 2012. “Page two” of the event website published five poems that Andrews read at the event, four of which were previously unpublished. There is currently a wealth of information on both the symposium and Andrews at this Fordham University website. We are grateful to Jeff Hansen and Ted Pearson for making Pearson’s piece available to the readers of Jacket2.
I knew John Ashbery before I met him, by which I mean that I subsequently realized that I’d adopted in my teens and early twenties more or less the same tastes and attitudes as John had a generation earlier.
I actually first came across John’s name as the translator of an essay on Raymond Roussel, the French protosurrealist writer who felt from early childhood that he was predestined for greatness, to the extent that he thought he had been born with a star on his forehead.
Written by Michel Leiris, the essay “Confection and Reality in the Work of Raymond Roussel” was published in the spring 1964 issue of “Art and Literature.” Reading the essay was to change my life as an artist at the impressionable age of twenty-one, describing as it did several of the techniques Roussel had utilized in writing his bizarre books, techniques that I myself would later use to paint my own bizarre paintings.
The article that John had translated also contained a wealth of Rousselian anecdotes, including the occasion when Roussel had visited the great French astronomer Camille Flammarion. Such was Roussel’s admiration for Flammarion that, after their meal was over, Roussel kept a little star-shaped cookie as a souvenir, and subsequently had a star-shaped glass container specially made to preserve his pastry treasure.
A few months after reading John’s translation, I learned that the translator himself was due to give a reading of his own poetry at the American embassy in London. I cut classes at the Royal College of Art where I was a student in order to attend, and I’m glad I did, since it changed my life just as surely as the Roussel article. Not that I actually met John at the reading — I was far too shy to introduce myself. Little did I know at that time that John was a shy person himself.
I realized through John’s reading that poetry could be as rich and inventive as painting and contain as many ideas and — this was especially important to me as a young painter — contain as many images as a painting. I later realized that it was the richness of John’s vocabulary that led automatically to a richness of imagery, as it had for Roussel.
To close his reading, John read his poem “The Skaters,” a poem which concluded with the lines:
To refuse the square hive, postpone the highest …
The apples are all getting tinted
in the cool light of autumn.
The constellations are rising
in perfect order:
Taurus, Leo, Gemini
The final lines hit me with the force of a thunderbolt, relating as they did to Roussel’s little star-shaped cookie I’d become obsessed with, and also because simultaneously I was becoming enamored with Joseph Cornell’s boxes, many of which had astronomical charts pasted onto their rear surfaces.
John and I were obviously on the same wavelength, since a couple of years later, when he reviewed a Cornell retrospective, he concluded the review with the spot-on observation that, and I quote:
The genius of Cornell is that he sees and enables us to see with the eyes of childhood, before our vision got clouded by experience, when objects like a rubber ball or a pocket mirror seemed charged with meaning, and a marble rolling across a wooden floor could be as portentous as a passing comet.
This conflation of the large with the small, adult vision with childhood vision, was important to both John and Roussel, too, and became one of the characteristics of my own painting, mainly as a result of reading John’s Cornell article.
Jump ahead another year or so, when I’d moved from London to New York. John arranged that we should make a pilgrimage together to visit Joseph Cornell in his nondescript house on the inappropriately named Utopia Parkway in darkest Queens. I took along a copy of Roussel’s “New Impressions of Africa” as a present, a volume ending with a drawing of a star-filled sky.
After eating some rather unbearably hard — if not downright stale — cookies that Cornell had specially bought from the only automat in Manhattan that still had the gall to sell them, we all three went downstairs to Cornell’s workplace in the basement, a spooky basement straight out of Psycho. The workplace was lined with shelves laden with various-sized boxes, bearing such labels as “silver balls, clay pipes, white sand, stardust.” As Cornell was opening one of his thimble peepshows on the table before us, I noticed a cheap, transparent jewel box beside my elbow. It contained a heap of glass stars.