Commentaries

The Fales Library Angel Hair archive

Angel Hair 1 Cover

It feels both hugely restorative and humbling, in our age of digital media, to visit an archive and hold a fifty year-old literary magazine, carefully made and preserved, yet still fleetingly physical, in your hand. Anne Waldman, co-editor (with Lewish Warsh) of the small magazine Angel Hair, describes the significance of that experience in this quote from her introductory essay to the 2002 Angel Hair feature in Jacket: “...so-called ephemera, lovingly and painstakingly produced, have tremendous power. They signify meticulous human attention and intelligence, like the outline of a hand in a Cro-Magnon cave.”

Scott Ezell: ISHI, from “Songs from a Yahi Bow”

The 100th anniversary of Ishi’s death brings to mind the publication several years ago of a small book, Songs from a Yahi Bow – really a mini-anthology of writings on Ishi – assembled by Scott Ezell & including poems by Ezell, Yusef Komunyakaa, & Mike O’Connor, along with Thomas Merton’s 1968 essay “Ishi: A Meditation.”  Ishi (the Yahi word means “man” or “human”) is well known through the writings of Theodora & Alfred L. Kroeber as the last known survivor of a small Indian community that suffered displacement & genocide during the final European conquest of America.  That memory of course is a warning of dangers & holocausts to come, and much of Ezell’s work is concerned with a range of non-state cultures & a chronicling thereby of globally diverse crises & survivals.

for the hundredth year anniversary of ishi’s death

 

Die into what the earth requires of you.

A Sulfur Anthology: Clayton Eshleman, ed.

Clayton Eshleman started his first magazine, Caterpillar, in New York City in the fall of 1967 — the very same moment I moved from Europe to the US. It wasn't until some time in late 1968 that the magazine was brought to my attention, either by Robert Kelly, with whom I was working on Paul Celan translations at Bard College, or by Thomas Meyer, a student like me at Bard. Caterpillar very quickly became the essential and most useful magazine for me in the process of absorbing American poetry and tentatively taking steps toward formulating a poetics of my own.

Imagined cartographies: Madeleine Campbell in Saint Lucia

Brain Coral photographed by Madeleine Campbell
Brain Coral photographed by Madeleine Campbell

Some waves originate deep in space; others arrive with the wind, cresting the ocean's surface. At low tide, a traveler might walk a long stretch of shore, shifting boundary between land and sea. She might lift spiraled shell to ear, listen for a sound that began in a neighboring galaxy, named after an explorer intent on sailing the globe. She might hear history. “It might sound like this: in the salt chuckle of rocks / with their sea pools, there was the sound /like a rumour without any echo / of History, really beginning.” Such does Derek Walcott locate history's source in a tidepool made of words. Writing in Poetic Intention, Édouard Glissant uses the same materials of construction: “I build my language out of rocks, I write, indeed, with the feeling of some scribe. . . .” In the tides between history and language: poetry, an island that breaks away from the main.

Some waves originate deep in space; others arrive with the wind, cresting the ocean's surface. At low tide, a traveler might walk a long stretch of shore, shifting boundary between land and sea. She might lift spiraled shell to ear, listen for a sound that began in a neighboring galaxy, named after an explorer intent on sailing the globe.

She might hear history.

It might sound like this:

in the salt chuckle of rocks

with their sea pools, there was the sound

like a rumour without any echo

Antin's 'Notes for an Ultimate Prosody' Revisited

Most discussions of prosody begin and end with metrics, but the contribution of meter to the sound structure of all poetry that was neither sung nor intended for musical accompaniment, when it has been at all specific, has been trivial. Yet because most writers on prosody would probably dispute this, and since some recent poets have worked out sound structures on the basis of implicit defects in metrical theory, it's probably worth taking a look at the metrical background.  Almost all writers on metrics agree that meter is a compositional constraint. In this theory a particular meter is a pattern of distribution of some phonological feature over stretches of language.  A particularly simple example is iso-syllabic verse.

[NOTE, FOR THE RECORD. Originally published in George Quasha’s magazine Stony Brook (number one, December 1968), Antin’s essay on prosody was accompanied by the following note from the editor: “Mr. Antin wrote these Notes as a paper, originally, which was not amended for publication. I persuaded him to publish it, though he is not happy with the presentation, because I believe it raises crucial questions. It is coherent if not thorough, and it may succeed in bringing about some relevant discussion, hopefully in future issues of STONY BROOK.