We’re all going to die; very few of us will have a death as remarkable — or perhaps as unremarkable — as Ingeborg Bachmann’s. It is against this canvas, the final days of Bachmann’s life as she lay comatose in an Italian hospital, suffering from burns — the result of a fire caused by a wayward cigarette — and the pursuant withdrawal from sedatives, that Pierre Joris sets his play The Agony of I.B. (2016).
We’re all going to die; very few of us will have a death as remarkable — or perhaps as unremarkable — as Ingeborg Bachmann’s.
For eight years now I have been translating the poetry of Grzegorz Wróblewski, a Polish writer and visual artist based in Copenhagen. So far we have published two volumes: Kopenhaga (Zephyr Press, 2013) and Zero Visibility (Phoneme Media, 2017). We are now working on our third project, Dear Beloved Humans: New and Selected Poems. The title poem offers a good example of transposition.
Pierre Joris, Anna Strong, and Ariel Resnikoff joined Al Filreis to talk about Paul Celan’s poem “Corona.” Celan had chosen to continue writing in German after the elimination of Jews from his town and the murder of his parents by the Nazis and their fascist allies — and maintained, to the say the very least, a complex relationship to the mother tongue he kept using with increasingly inventive disfiguration. There was knowledge of the original difficult German in our Wexler Studio, although as PoemTalk is an English-language podcast series we focused on the challenges of the English translation. Our translation was Jerome Rothenberg’s, from his groundbreaking anthology New Young German Poets (1959, City Lights).
In identifying archetypally with healer and hunter, Pierre Joris brings his poems of the twenty-first century into an ever more fervid and restless search mode. Healers and hunters operate under the most severe time constraints, with survival at stake. Which is why Robert Kelly’s sage half-truth “Nothing truer than fragment” needs to be fleshed out. What Joris does with fragments, with increasing acuity decade after decade in his poems, is search and sift among fragments with urgent speed and decisiveness — nomad on the run — to shape fragments so they coalesce into culturally vibrant patterns of meaning.
My father was a healer & a hunter. Is it any surprise I became a poet & translator? (“Nimrod,” 121)
The writings writers write about writing have been curiously misread.
Battling the impossibility of being their own readers, writers are drawn to fuzzy logic when it comes to thinking and externalizing their thinking about the purpose, activity, outcomes, and future of writing that results in text that can be unstable in a variety of ways, and is sometimes difficult to read.
On December 3, 2013, Pierre Joris discussed Paul Celan’s poetry, with special focus on his response to the genocide of Europe’s Jews and others during World War II. Now PennSound podcasts presents a 20-minute excerpt of the hour-plus-long program. The video recording of the entire event is here, and the whole audio recording is here. The Kelly Writers House web calendar entry for the event can be found here. This episode is #36 in the PennSound podcasts series.
On December 3, 2013, Pierre Joris discussed Paul Celan’s poetry, with special focus on his response to the genocide of Europe’s Jews and others during World War II. The session, which I moderated, featured close readings of passages of “Death Fugue” and “Stretto.” Joris played an audio recording of Celan reading the first section of “Death Fugue,” and a newly discovered video recording made from Celan’s appearance on German television.
When not long ago Pierre Joris joined host Leonard Schwartz for an episode of Cross Cultural Poetics (episode #253, entitled “Celan/Bronk”), I was all ears. Much of the discussion was about “The Meridian,” which is, for me, a crucial text. The audio recording of the program, which is aired live on a radio station in the state of Washington, has been brought over to PennSound. Now, as of today, it has been segmented (by Anna Zalokostas).
The conversation began with Joris’s account of the special difficulty of translating Celan’s famous speech (10:26): MP3. Then Joris described the sense of discovery and encounter in Celan’s work — and the “enlightening” experience of translating and making The Meridian: Final Version-Drafts-Materials (5:49): MP3. Joris also discussed “tremors and hints” of the compositional process, the transparency of Celan’s writing practice, and his aphoristic tendencies (4:53): MP3.
Joris has a striking way of describing Celan as a concentration camp survivor and his vexed and, one might say, traumatic relationship to the German language, and thus how careful he was when he wrote his response to having received the Buchner prize (5:05): MP3. Then, to my delight, Joris read some new translations of Celan’s aphorisms (0:46): MP3; and reminded us again of the richness of phrasing in The Meridian and concluded with a note on the daily work of poetry (2:14): MP3.
PoemTalk travelled to Bard College, where we gathered with Charles Bernstein, Pierre Joris, and Bard’s own Joan Retallack to talk about Jackson Mac Low's Words nd Ends from Ez (1989). The project was composed in ten parts, one part each for sections (sometimes called “decades”) of Ezra Pound’s lifework, The Cantos. We chose to discuss the penultimate part of Mac Low's diastic written-through work, a poem based on phrases, words, and letters drawn from — and in some sense about — Pound's near-final cantos, Drafts & Fragments of Cantos CX-CXVII. Mac Low’s constraint, for which he preferred the term “quasi-intentional” to the term “chance,” involved the letters forming the name E Z R A P O U N D. Words, phrases, and letters were extracted from the original cantos based on those letters and on their placement within words. Charles, Pierre, Joan, and Al Filreis explain this in detail, although we cannot quite agree as to whether Mac Low was being absolutely strict in the application of the diastic method. As Bernstein notes several times, this particular procedure is one of the more complex Mac Low used. Nonetheless, it’s the sense of the group that when semantic meaning seems to be created, it has about it, as Pierre Joris happily notes, the special pleasure of serendipity, and means all the more.