Commentaries

Hiromi Itō & Jeffrey Angles: “Birthing the World,” from The Kojiki

Author note: The Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters) is the oldest chronicle ever produced in Japan, compiled in the years 711-12 CE by the court noble Ō no Yasumaro at the request of the Empress Genmei, who reigned 707 to 715 CE. It begins with the creation of the world, describing the actions of the gods and goddesses as they create the earth and society, then it connects these myths to the earliest history of the Japanese nation.

Readership, responsibility, risk

A bit about Grigori Dashevsky

Handing out beauty salon fliers, Krasnoprudnaya Street

It’s February. The shortest month by the calendar, but by the senses’ tally the longest: across Moscow low liverish sky, damp chill. Snow is melting, disclosing the months’ accumulation of trash, giving the passerby a sense of return without the warmth of a homecoming. The worst of the cold gone, lone figures in a motley cast of costumes (mice, medieval European kings, rabbits, comic-book pharmacists being the most popular) take up their posts on the streets — handing out fliers for discount haircuts, free lawyers’ consultations, happy hour pelmeni at rock-bottom prices. Public spaces give off a new whiff of creatureliness, of steam, damp, the stock and store of dailiness.

A poem as a machine?

Nearly Baroque Machine Embroidery

William Carlos Williams wrote in his introduction to The Wedge (1944) that “[a] poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words”; or “poetry is the machine which drives it, pruned to a perfect economy. As in all machines, its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character.”[i] A poet and physician, Williams is most known for plums, the everyday, minimalistic, rhythmic meter and lineation.

On Lydia Davis's 'In the Train Station'

In 2017 I moderated an interview/conversation with Lydia Davis. At one point I asked her to read "In the Train Station," a prose poem or microstory I have admired and puzzled over. Then she and I discussed it. A video clip of that exchange is here, below. The transcription was done by Regina Salmons. The text of the piece can be read here. Here is a link to a video recording of an 18-minute discussion of this piece with Anna Strong Safford and erica kaufman (the video is inside the ModPo site; one must register to watch). And here is a 35-minute collaborative close reading (with 20 people) of the same piece which I hosted in San Francisco.

Imaging the voice

Notating poetic vocalization

Back cover image for 'Open Letter' (Sixth Series, no. 1: Spring 1985)

In the mid-1980s, Open Letter — Canada’s defunct and dearly missed journal of theory and poetics — dedicated five issues of the journal to notation for poetry and language. Each installment of this series contains a range of texts that intersect with the idea of notation to explore topics including reading, rhythm, composition, documentation, and performance. 

“Notation is a set

of instructions for

reading (in) the

future” (Robert Kroetsch)