Commentaries

50 poets on 50 poems

A book to be published in 2020

Anna Strong Safford & I are editing a book, to be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2020, in which we present 50 poets writing 1,000 words each in response to 50 poems. Fred Wah on Creeley's "I Know a Man." Rachel Blau DuPlessis on H.D's "Sea Rose." Tyrone Williams on Baraka's "Incident." And also Mónica de la Torre on Erica Baum's "Déjà vu." Reproduced above is Baum's piece (from "Card Catalogues").

Ōoka Makoto: from 'What Is Poetry?'

In 'Beneath the Sleepless Tossing of the Planets: Selected Poems'

Translation from Japanese by Janine Beichman

 

Bassam Hajjar: poetry, a reading of silence

Magritte’s “Not to Be Reproduced” on the cover of Hajjar’s ‘You Shall Survive Me,’ 2001 (a collection of works).
The Lebanese Bassam Hajjar (1955–2009) is a poet and a translator of silence. His poetry reminds us of George Steiner’s famous statement, “when the poet’s word ceases, a great light begins.” Perhaps because he was a dedicated translator, he hesitated and listened well for the charged silence in what he wrote and what he translated.

Carolee Schneemann on Hannah Weiner

Carolee Schneemann (2007) by Emma Bee Bernstein; Hannah Weiner and and Kitella (1967) by Schneemann

In late January of 2016, I phoned Carolee Schneemann and we talked for an hour or so. I had invited her to share her memories and impressions of Hannah Weiner, part of an oral history I have been compiling. What follows is a selective transcript of her remarks, with some clarifications in parentheses and interpellations in brackets. When I learned that Schneemann had passed away last week, I went back to the recording. She was generous, spirited, and finally thankful that I was working to raise awareness about Hannah Weiner’s work. I gathered from the conversation that she felt a strong kinship with Weiner. Those who have studied Weiner’s career know that its continuities are sometimes overlooked and that she dearly sought to be understood, as much as her work was in some sense a process of understanding. I think Carolee understood it. After all, she was there. 
— Patrick Durgin, 3/11/19

Fighting back

Lillian Allen's poetry of speech, song, and social justice

In 1984, following a tremendously successful year of touring and performing for large audiences across Canada in support of an album entitled De Dub Poets (1983), Lillian Allen, Clifton Joseph, and Devin Haughton sought membership with The League of Canadian Poets. The League is a Canadian literary organization whose mission it is “to nurture the advancement of poetry in Canada” and to promote “the interests of poets.”[1] As Allen recounts in Toronto-based This magazine, their membership applications were denied at a meeting in Regina, Saskatchewan that same year because the League did not recognize them as poets. Instead, they were distinguished as performers. “Are we all supposed to get up and do that?” one League member reportedly quipped.[2] In her poem on the Regina Affair, Allen refers to the League’s decision as an effort to maintain the Board’s firm grasp on literary power and what it meant to be a poet in Canada at that time.[3]