I took the pleasure recently of re-reading nearly everything published in the first 17 issues of Jacket magazine. Then I went back through quickly, identifying eight poet/critic-on-poet profiles that I found most impressive and memorable. Many of these I recalled from the first time I’d read them in the magazine. For what it's worth, here are — to me — the eight best essay-profiles published in the first five years of the magazine:
1. Eliot Weinberger on James Laughlin (#2; 1998) 2. Rob Wilson on Jack Spicer (#7; 1999) 3. Lytle Shaw on Frank O’Hara (#10; 1999) 4. Stephen Vincent on Joanne Kyger (#11; 2000) 5. Tom Orange on Clark Coolidge (#13; 2001) 6. Brian Kim Stefans on Ian Hamilton Finlay (#15, 2001) 7. Ann Waldman on Kenneth Koch (#15; 2001) 8. Catherine Daly on Marjorie Allen Seiffert (#17; 2002)
In 1978, Tom Leonard recorded “Three Texts for Tape” at his home in Glasgow using his Teac A-3340S tape recorder. One of these three “texts for tape” was a performance piece, a chanting of another poet’s verses — a multiple reading of a half canto of Percy Shelley’s “The Revolt of Islam” in many voices. Here is that recording (with thanks to the Archive of the Now): MP3 (4:37).
1. "All human cultures are creole," John M. Bennett writes. Our language and our world view are hybrid, influenced by and adapting influences from the global village and our post-global home. They are inevitably syncretic and creole.
Absolutely. But Bennett’s use of the term ‘creole’ brings to mind the other meaning of creole. Creole as in the ‘creolisation’ of languages. How the language of a colonizing or dominant culture devolves into a pidgin and then develops into a creole, a rich communication tool with its own grammar, form and traditions, though often with a vocabulary based on the dominant language. So: Haitian Creole and its relationship to French.
Laynie Browne: Recently a show at the Morgan Library in New York City celebrated the 1913 publication of the first of the seven volumes of Swan’s Way. Here one could see some of Proust’s original handwritten manuscripts and notebooks, some of which have never left Paris. In one notebook, considering his book in progress he writes: “Should it be a novel, a philosophical essay, am I a novelist?”
In your novel The Mandarin, the question is potently raised in various ways, who is a novelist? What is a novel? I wonder if you could comment on this. Do you think of yourself as a poet and novelist? Are the categories important or useful to you? When you set out to write The Mandarin, what were some of your initial impulses or inspirations for the project? Do you recall what turned you toward prose? Were you interested in questioning any conventional notions of the novel?
Aaron Kunin: Isn’t it strange that Proust, who is definitely a novelist, asks himself, “Am I a novelist?” If he doesn’t know, how can anyone be sure?