I've been writing about Charles Reznikoff’s Inscriptions, which collected 53 short post-holocaust poems written in the late 1940s to mid-1950s and published finally — self-published by Rezi, actually — in 1959. Reviewers got to it in 1960 and ’61. I came across A. R. Ammons's review in the April 1960 issue of Poetry. Ammons is reviewing Bob Brown's amazing, fabulously unusual 1450-1950, a book published by Jonathan Williams that consists of hand drawings, in a sense reversing the era of the book (marked by the dates of the title) — an avant-garde undoing. Ammons liked the book, although thought of it as a high modernist throwback: “a cool breeze from the Twenties for our hot, dry, thermonuclear times.” Most of the review is taken up by Ammons's assessment of Robert Duncan’s City Lights Selected Poems, and there’s nothing per se wrong with that. But Reznikoff’s Inscriptions deserves more than the 55 words it gets here.
Here is a video-recording of a performance of “Facts,” performed by Jake Marmer, Frank London, Greg Wall and Uri Sharlin at Cornelia Street Cafe at the release party of the Hermeneutic Stomp CD, October 14, 2013. Watch and you’ll hear the refrain, chanted by the audience: "We’re not of this world." For more about the CD, see this comment at Jewish Currents; the piece includes a link to an audio recording of "Bath House of Dreams." Frank London is of course the Grammy Award-winning trumpeter who performs with the Klezmatics. Marmer’s first book of poems is Jazz Talmud, published by Sheep Meadow Press in 2012. He left a small provincial town in the Ukraine at the age of 15. He is co-founder of North America's first Jewish Poetry retreat at KlezKanada Festival.
Don’t let the title dissuade you from reading this provocative book. The poets and thinkers represented here, many of them groundbreakers in American literature and thought, don’t know what it means either. That’s the point — to define these terms so as to answer a question that has not yet been posed in American poetry: what is radical Jewish poetry and how is it related to secular Jewish culture?
Daniel Morris's introduction to Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture is now on-line at the website Secular Culture and Ideas: Rething Jewish. Meanwhile, PennSound has recently upgraded it's vide0 of the "Secular Jewish Culture/ Radical Poetic Practice," which took place at the Center for Jewish History on September 21, 2004 (with Marjorie Perloff, Paul Auster, Stephen Paul Miller, Kathryne Hellerstein, Jerome Rothenberb, and me).