Commentaries

Serge Pey: Three Poems from “Why I Crush Tomatoes”

Translated from French by Yasser Elhariry

Bright arrogance #8

Intersemiotic Dante and Expanded Translation

Diagram of The Malebolge (from Alexandre Masseron's 1947 French translation of the Divine Comedy)

In the last column, I speculated that Mary Jo Bang’s translation of the Inferno was initially seduced by but ultimately rejected the more corrosive qualities of Flarf. However, in the baroque-brut line of Henrik Drescher’s accompanying illustrations, there seems to be a corrective, drawing us into visceral mess of hell’s innards, albeit with high artisanal flare.[1] These illustratings seem to outdo (or undo) Gustave Doré's engravings from his popular Dante volumes of the 19th century, in that they are at once more terrifying and more cuddly — open to being in an loose relation with the text they accompany. In contrast, Doré's engravings are so aesthetically overpowering that, existing in volumes that were kept around the house more as a marker of status than for reading, the illustrator’s name is more commonly associated with this Divine Comedy than that of its proper translator (Henry Francis Cary, who for the longest time, because of a C with an overgrown serif, I thought was merely “Gary” — like some anonymous Cher or Prince of a forgotten poetry scene).

A digital Library of Babel

A wall of a hexagonal chamber in the digital Library of Babel
A wall of a hexagonal chamber in the digital Library of Babel

In his 1941 short story "The Library of Babel," Jorges Luis Borges depicts a series of hexagonal rooms, their walls lined with bookshelves. These shelves contain books comprised of every possible combination of letters, spaces, commas, and periods. Some books are filled with nonsense but within the collection lies every literary text ever written, along with multiple permutations of each of these texts. The library's collection comprises all knowledge that is known or will be known.

PATTERNS / CONTEXTS / TIME: A Symposium on Contemporary Poetry, ed. Phillip Foss and Charles Bernstein (1990)

free pdf

Twenty-five years ago Phillip Foss and I edited this issues Tyuonyi (6/7 1990), now available from the EPC Digital Library as a free pdf.  (236pp.)  

Phil introduced the issue this way:
This issue of Tyuonyi, Patterns / Contexts / Time: A Symposium on Contemporary Poetry, exists because of collective desire. Ninety-seven poets from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, England, and Australia felt the desire to respond. Their responses were to a series of questions devised by Charles Bernstein and myself. The questions were designed to be inclusive enough to address the issues which engaged us, but vague enough not to restrict the potential responses of the respondents. We wanted to create a forum wherein the real issues that compelled poets could be addressed without a felt adherence to any presuppositions. The volume of response was very gratifying and the range of response far beyond my expectation. 

THE QUESTIONS:
•What patterns, if any, do you see developing that are presently influencing habits of reading or readership within poetry?
•What are the values or limitations of these developing, or undeveloped, patterns?
•What context, if any, do you see your work as part of?
•What context, if any, do you see for the work of those contemporary poets whom you find most interesting?
•What's the most disturbing (or irritating) thing associated with poetry or your work as a poet?
•What sources do you find most useful in keeping informed about contemporary poetry?
•Do universities play any role for you in terms of your work as a poet?
•Do you ever think about what you will be doing in ten years? What? etc etc.

The Racial Imaginary: writers on race in the life of the mind, ed. Claudia Rankine, Max King Cap, & Beth Loffreda

 

Collected over the past four or five years, this forum offers a wide, and usefully conflicting, set of short essays, mostly by poets, on how race figures in their work. Max King Cap curates a set of images by visual artists that speak both directly and obliquely, to the issues at hand; Cap provides short commentaries for each image.