Commentaries - January 2009

poetry happens between speakers

Pierre Joris is working on a super-translation of Paul Celan's Meridian Speech, and he's releasing pieces of it on his blog, Nomadics. The speech is full of important ideas. One of them is the "site of poetry" (Ort der Dichtung). And he began there to outline what he called the "In-Between" (das Inzwischen) that happens between speakers in talk. The "site of poetry" and "In-Between" are related concepts. Knowingly or not, many contemporary poets assume the centrality of these notions: a second space outside the poetic subject, made through intersubjectivity. A poem is as much Other Minds as it is the writerly self out of which the words are written.

sound at an impasse

The forthcoming spring '09 issue of The Wallace Stevens Journal collects articles written about Stevens and the sound of poetry. I have a piece here, based on a talk I gave at MLA a few Decembers ago. The papers and other contributions have been expertly edited by Natalie Gerber.

the perfect gift

This bag is plated with solar cells. It generates enough power to charge a cell phone, iPod, or camera. It's the creation of Joe Hynek, a doctoral student in electrical engineering. It was his project in a class on experimental garment design. (Joe, if you're reading this, will you send me your prototype?)

Coover - Didion - Gordon

Kelly Writers House Fellows 2009 is both a seminar and a public program featuring three eminent writers. This spring we'll be visited by Robert Coover, Joan Didion, and Mary Gordon. I've put up the beginnings of the seminar site. Choosing four or five works by Coover and Didion each was very difficult, and I only hope I made good choices. Are my Coover selections too basic/easy? I just re-read The Universal Baseball Association of J. Henry Waugh, Esq. and realized once again what a fine introduction to experimental narrative it is. And Didion's The Book of Common Prayer! What sentences! And Miami, with its watery paragraphs. Florida itself! We'll read both of Mary Gordon's recent memoirs - her early '90s grappling with her father, he who wasn't really anything he had told her he was, a turn that threatens her own writing, the very writing we are reading. And, instead of reaching back to the well-known early novels (e.g. The Company of Women) I've decided that we should read Pearl, the novel that comes between the memoir of the father and the very recent memoir of the mother, Circling My Mother. The programs are free and open to the public. Check out the schedule and let us know if you want to attend: 215 573-9749.

poems are little machines made out of words

One of Tony Green's word sculptures. If you're intrigued, be sure to visit accumulations, a site I check often. Lately Tony's been adding "words that come to hand" more than his word-machines, but scroll back to earlier entries for various media. I happily own one of Tony's "sliding accumulations." I also recommend this flickr page with its nice photos of Tony's work. Below are some of Tony's word-smokes, which certainly confuse Jacques Lipshitz' famous dictum about why he makes sculptures - to avoid or deny death.