modernism

A lot of things happened

On Lisa Rogal's 'Morning Ritual'
Photo of Lisa Rogal (right) courtesy of greetingsreadings.org.

The title of Morning Ritual superimposes the divine and the mundane: one thinks simultaneously of a prayer to greet the sunrise and of brushing one’s teeth. In this book, however, Rogal is firmly rooted in the quotidian: it’s toothbrushing that she’s interested in, and she resists the urge to give daily “rituals” like this more than their usual significance. What she shows us by doing so is that their usual significance, though minor, is nonetheless an essential part of the tapestry of our experience and worth exploring.

An interview with Action Books

From the screen to the streets...

Action Books is making moves on the indie lit scene

I interview Johannes Göransson of Action Books. Here are the questions and the answers. You can read more about Action Books at their website, http://actionbooks.org.

a. How did you get the idea for your press, and who started it?

In many ways the most important push for us was realizing that no U.S. press was daring enough to publish my translations of Aase Berg, a major young Swedish woman poet who was writing these wild poems unlike anything that was being published in the U.S. I assumed all U.S. presses would be interested in something new and wild from another culture, but I soon found out that the opposite was true: that’s exactly what U.S. presses did not want to see.

Bright arrogance #11

Sawako Nakayasu's modernist feedback loops

Clark Lunberry and Hiroko Washizu at Tokyo National Museum, Ueno Park, Tokyo

I met with long-time colleagues and collaborators Clark Lunberry and Hiroko Washizu in Tokyo to discuss Sawako Nakayasu’s book of translations and anti-translations Mouth: Eats Color.

'Maybe, it is only on Earth / that we lose the body?'

Williams and the decaying body

Contact sheet (detail), ca. 1960, Beinecke Library Special Collections (photo by Harry Grossman).

The most compelling feature of William Carlos Williams’s poetry, for me, has perhaps always been the complex tango of virility and fragility that fight it out in his deeply autobiographical poetry. The idea that man could be both potent and capable of great frailty was a fact of his work that resonated with the vigorous and clumsy youth I was when I first encountered his work. Williams traces the deterioration and ultimate betrayals of his body in his poetry, reflecting on both the particularities of his condition and the universals of aging.

Stein's wedding cake

Rachel Blau DuPlessis with the Italian edition of Stein's 'Tender Buttons,' published by Liberilibri in Macerata in 1989 and 2006, translated by Marina Morbiducci and Edward G. Lynch, with an introduction by Nadia Fusini.

How can Stein’s Tender Buttons be one hundred years old? We are still eating the buttercream frosting and rosebuds from that three-tiered cake: “Objects,” “Food,” “Rooms.”

A poetics of virtuosity

A. R. Ammons.
A. R. Ammons.

“A Poetics of Virtuosity” considers — through the writing of A. R. Ammons, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Arthur Rimbaud, William Carlos Williams, and the obscure Trumbull Stickney — what it means to write against the dominant literary modes of your time.

Living Dada

“Why should I — proud engineer — be ashamed of my machinery?”

In her poem “The Modest Woman,” published in the modernist literary magazine The Little Review in 1920, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven derides the prude and celebrates the female body and modern form.

The Plain Edition

Gertrude Stein and modernist book history

Sarah Stone
Sarah Stone (center) at Kelly Writers House, April 2013.

In 1916, seven years after her first book publication, forty-two-year-old Gertrude Stein fantasized about ways to see more of her work into print. She exclaimed in a letter to Carl Van Vechten, “where oh where is the man to publish me in series. […] He can do me as cheaply and as simply as he likes but I would so like to be done.” Fantasies of “being done” aside, it is in fact Stein’s persistent self-assertion that secured what limited publishing opportunities she had before the popular success of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933).

The first book Stein saw into print, Three Lives, appeared at her own expense through the vanity publisher Grafton Press in 1909. From then until Brewsie and Willie, the last titlereleased before Stein’s death in 1946, she created, alongside a remarkable body of literature, a record of how she saw her writing into public circulation. Herthree-year career as copublisher of the Plain Edition (with her partner Alice B. Toklas) occasioned drafts and correspondence that show Stein engaging with the book as a material object. While her writing is now recognized as among the most innovative in the twentieth century, Stein’s paraliterary work in book design and publishing has gone largely unexamined. 

Epic silence

On Myung Mi Kim's 'Under Flag'

Myung Mi Kim at the Kelly Writers House, 2010. Photo by Arielle Brousse.

When the feminist poetry press Kelsey St. published Myung Mi Kim’s 1991 epic work Under Flag, a publicity blurb described it as a book that “documents” the “struggle to learn English,” an experience, the blurb goes on to say, that “resembles the experience of innumerable other US citizens in a century that has been shaped by wars and vast human migrations.”

Translating Cavafy: Eros, memory, and art

C.P. Cavafy
C.P. Cavafy (Cavafy archive)

“Just the place to bury a crock of gold,” said Sebastian. “I should like to bury something precious in every place where I've been happy and then, when I was old and ugly and miserable, I could come back and dig it up and remember.”  — Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

I wanted to draw out George Economou on the task of translating Cavafy as he was finishing up an extended project to be released, by coincidence, in the poet’s sesquicentennial year. I began by asking him to describe that project. (To conserve space, many of my subsequent questions are elided; they are implicit in George’s discursive responses.)

Economou: My current project consists of 162 poems, the 154 “Collected” or “Published” poems, seven poems from the group known as the “Unpublished” poems, and one poem from the “Repudiated Poems,” i.e., early poems that Cavafy withheld from publication. The title is Complete Plus, The Poems of C. P. Cavafy in English, to be published by Shearsman in early 2013.

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