Commentaries - September 2007

a poetics must be devised to rise above scream & silence

Jerome Rothenberg's statement for Contemporary Poets (5th edition, 1991, pp. 827-28] is a beautiful summary of his life-work as a poet and global citizen. The enormity of mass destruction and genocide, during Rothenberg's youth, "created a crisis of expression...for which a poetics must be devised if we were to rise, again, beyond the level of a scream or of a silence more terrible than any scream."

Rothenberg will be here in February '08.

artblog goes to new PMA building

Libby Rosof and Roberta Fallon, a few years back, decided it was time to go wholly into the work they loved - reviewing art and advocating for local artists and arts organizations. They created "artblog" and it thrives.

Their most recent entries have to do with the new addition to the Philadelphia Museum of Art - the new Perelman Building, which is located across a section of the Ben Franklin Parkway circle connecting BFP to Kelly Drive.

the genocide Olympics

China is the most influential nation allowing the Sudanese government to perpetrate genocide in Darfur. As Beijing prepares to host the 2008 Olympics, join us in demanding that China use its leverage with Sudan to secure a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur.

From "China's Gold Medal Spin Doctors" in Business Weekly, August 17, 2007: "Earlier this year, when activists tagged Beijing 2008 the "genocide Olympics," pressuring China to intervene in Sudan's civil war, Beijing listened and sent a senior official to refugee camps there. In May, a Chinese military engineering unit was dispatched to the region, underlining China's resolve to deal with the issue."

From "China's Healing Power," Time, August 2, 2007: "A tiny shift in China's Africa policy might just lead to peace in Darfur...Why has China's stance changed? [One] reason for the shift is that China desperately wants the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing to go smoothly."

China, please: bring the Olympic dream to Darfur.

The photo above shows the torch relay - starting in the Darfur region of Sudan in August 2007. It will end in Beijing.

A former student of my Holocaust course at Penn, Karen Rutzick, has helped to create a powerful new web site: voicesfromdarfur.org.

good breakfast wine needed

"He was, for me, the most passionate of the scholars who pushed me to look beyond the easy and simple reading of literature. With cigarette ash always long on the cigarette and cascading down the front of his shirt, he thought more about the fire of words than that ash. I thought he was wonderful and stimulating and brilliant -- he was everything I loved about learning at Penn."--Elsie Sterling Howard

Bob Lucid died suddenly last December and I can't say I've gotten over it in any sense. In the weeks after Bob's passing, I spent a few minutes of free time here and there making a memorial web page for Bob. I pulled together some audio and video and gathered remembrances from students and colleagues.

This note from a former student stands in well for many others:

"My favorite memory of Bob Lucid is from when he led the summer in London program in 1985 that I attended. He turned up one morning for class, seemingly drunk, and announced, 'What the world really needs is a good breakfast wine!'"--Ilona Koren-Deutsch

Bob's not-quite-finished biography of Norman Mailer is being edited into a final typescript by a friend and colleague in the world of Mailer scholars.

We'll be celebrating Bob's life and legacy on Friday, October 19, 2007, at the Writers House. For more information about that event, click here.

1960, self-satisfaction and dread

I'm increasingly interested in the year 1960, and am toying with the idea of writing at length about it — the year generally (if such a thing is possible) and the year in American poetry & poetics more specifically. Certainly a turning-point year in the larger context, and probably in the latter somewhat more narrow context as well. Take a look at my 1960 blog.

I'm intrigued by the photo here. It's a shot of someone's father, a man named Phil — or "papa" according to the scant explanation I found randomly on someone's blog. The man's expression is, to me at least, completely ambivalent. It says self-satisfaction and it says major dread, both somehow. (Dread in the limit of the smile, the way the tie is tied or, rather, the posture of the neck, and in the way the left hand is tucked under the right in the pose.) The inscription on the back reads: Pop Je ne sais pas l’annee. The photo was taken February 1960, as marked.