Commentaries - May 2011

Eliot Weinberger on Omar Cáceres

From Jacket #3 (April 1998)

Drawing by Antonio R.Romera, the only known portrait of Omar Cáceres, courtesy Eliot Weinberger

All the stories from the capitals have grown familiar, but where are the histories and accounts of modernism as it was lived and practiced in the provinces? Latin America, for example, in the first half of the century, has shelves of unwritten magical realist literary biographies: The Peruvian Martín Adán, whose first book made him famous at twenty, and who then checked himself into an insane asylum, where he lived for another sixty years, writing on scraps of paper he threw away that were dutifully collected by the orderlies and sent to his publisher. Jorge Cuesta, a poet and the leading Mexican critic of the 1930’s, who castrated and slowly fatally poisoned himself as part of his alchemical experiments. Carlos Oquendo de Amat, a Lima street kid who published one book, 5 Meters of Poems, on a folded sheet of paper five meters long, then gave up writing to join the Communist Party, and bounced in and out of jails and tuberculosis wards in a half-dozen countries before dying in Spain just before the civil war. Joaquin Pasos, a Nicaraguan who also died young, who wrote Poems of a Young Man Who Has Never Traveled about the places he hadn’t seen; Poems of a Young Man Who Has Never Been in Love, which are all love poems; and Poems of a Young Man Who Doesn’t Speak English, which were written in English. Felisberto Hernández, a writer of stories unlike any others, more associative than narrative, who lived with his mother and wrote in a windowless basement, who paid for the publication of his books by playing the piano in bars in the Uruguayan hinterland, and who died so fat the funeral home had to remove a window to get the coffin out.

And Omar Cáceres: A Chilean, born in 1906, who worked as a violinist in an all-blind orchestra, of which he was the only sighted member. In 1933, hearing that a group of young poets was meeting in a café‚ to put together an anthology of the new Chilean poetry, he walked in, waited until one of them was alone, gave him a poem, and left. The group wrote him, asking for more work, and he agreed to meet on a busy street corner. He handed over a manuscript and kept walking — a tall, thin figure with empty eyes and the ‘elegance of a ghost,’ as one of the poets, decades later, recalled.

[read more of this article from Jacket #3]

'Involuntary collages of the past'

A P.S. and a P.P.S.

Milton Rogovin, from "Storefront Churches"
Milton Rogovin, from "Storefront Churches"

“Involuntary collages of the past,” to borrow a phrase Hugo García Manríquez (here reading at an Achiote Press event to celebrate 40 years of Ethnic Studies at U.C. Berkeley) wrote me in a note. This P.S. is an update of the photos from my post titled “Excavations of Subsoil and Surface” with the actual photos Hugo intended to reference, which had somehow fused in his memory, into a single image of the pastor preaching while holding his baby. In fact, they were two separate images, though memory doesn’t always honor the separations that exist in reality, and perhaps in some way that’s for the best.

from Churches, Milton Rogovin

P.P.S. It seems that Canto Cardenche, too, participates in the pervasive and (I can’t help myself) sort of wonderful tradition in Latin music (elsewhere this tradition is less charming to me) of blaming a woman for whatever heartbreak might occur in the complexities of relationship. Here’s Los Cardencheros de Sapioriz, performing at the Poesía en Voz Alta festival in September 2010 (complete with cell phone ring mid-song, thus proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that indeed they were at a poetry festival). The song is called “Chaparrita, por tu culpa”—oh, how to translate the endearment “Chapparita”...¿¿??... Something like an affectionate feminine version of “Shorty”? Perhaps “Little One” or “Little Girl,” but without the sense that “girl” is young, necessarily—just small. I should be able to do better than that, and hopefully someone will respond to this post and a) take me to task, and b) propose a better alternative.  So anyway, “Chaparrita, Because of What You’ve Done”...

And finally, in the same vein emotionally, if not musically, “Sin ti” (“Without You”) by Very Be Careful, my favorite Angeleno cumbia vallenato band. Who knew it could sound so fantastic to be told “it’s all your fault...”?

WITH + STAND 5: Some notes on the reading & release party, and a poem, from Dan Thomas-Glass

(stacks o' WITH + STAND 5, Kristin Palm, Dan Thomas-Glass, crowd)

In the spirit of letters, of others letters, of talking with, in the spirit of response, and in the spirit of in case you missed it too, I'm posting a short and somewhat accidental, or initially private, report on the reading and release party for WITH + STAND 5. I was bummed to miss this event, held at a spot I've never been, Zughaus Gallery. I knew that Dan Thomas-Glass, editor and maker (along with others) of w + s, was writing a new poem for the occasion, as opening and invocation, and so I wrote to ask how did it go? and can I read the new poem? He sent it along and later gave me permission to post the poem here along with an excerpt from his email, all about the reading and party, and about last weekend in poetry, in general and in specific.

People, you can be a lifetime subscriber!

Um, also: I often think and talk about what it means that the Bay Area doesn't have a Belladonna. As I was nabbing photos from facebook to post along with Dan's writing, and looking at all these great photos of women reading, I thought about how we do have a Dan Thomas-Glass and some others like Dan, who, as a matter of course, pay attention in zir editorial work to all sorts of biodiversity. Can I get a little what what here for Dan? Like the poem says, I really need somebody. Are you that somebody. We all of we need more more of you.

Here is the poem Dan read at the beginning of the reading a week ago:

Insist: from Latin insistere ‘persist,’ from in- ‘upon’ + sistere ‘stand.’
(Are You That Somebody remix)

I insist
We insist
We insist we are here doors open
We are here reading
Going through the doors
Say yes or say no
Architecture of lungs expanding
We are here bodies near bodies together
I really need somebody

I insist
We insist
We insist this is possible
That the dichotomy between the individual and the group is basically a false one
This bodies together doors open
One of these days
Bodies lighting on galleries on benches on walls on money
Bodies here reading we invite you in bodies hyphenated & broken
Bodies carrying bodies
We invite you in here together reading
I don’t know if that’s good
We invite you in trains & ancestors & steel mills & bodies dead or working
We invite you in

I insist
We insist
We insist here the tracks stretch back as bodies touching bodies West Berkeley
History stretching back to Ocean View touching piling capital on capital
1860s 69 farmworkers 1880s Spenger’s fries fish
Is it my goal is it your goal?
Jacob’s Wharf the Pioneer Starch and Grist Mill 1855
Boy I gotta watch my body
Transcontinental manifest ‘America’ sea to shining
Secretary of War reports on several railroad explorations 1855
But this road does not lead directly to San Francisco
Shoreline Railroad 1876 gas mains 1877
1878 Ocean View incorporates into Berkeley
because both feared being annexed by Oakland
Fears of bodies bent to stretch steel marks of moments trees in the passage
We invite you in here reading trees like tracks mark passes
I probably shouldn’t tell it
The rope against our bark skin doors open we invite you in ancestors
Roped or tracked
Bodies burning bodies
Bodies moving bodies
Bodies loving bodies
Bodies carrying bodies histories
We invite you in doors open

I insist
We insist
We insist these are our bodies bent & working
These are our bodies dividing & dying
These are our bodies carrying bodies
These are our bodies these words this moment
These are our bodies poets orators singers musicians
I’m not just anybody
Bodies histories chains tracks ropes passages we invite you in
Ancestors trees trains mills we invite you in we breathe
You can’t tell nobody. I’m talking about nobody.
What is our new brood as we wheel about in darkness?
What do we prove & define?

I insist
We insist
We are here reading bodies bent to bodies histories doors open.
We are here ritual of breathing bent to exhale.
I really need somebody. Tell me are you that somebody.

I insist
We insist

               (Monica Peck, Erica Lewis, Jack Frost, Lauren Levin)

And here is Dan's report, that is, a pagraph from the email Dan sent before I realized I was going to ask if I could post an excerpt here:

"The reading was great—the space at Zughaus was awesome, welcoming and cozy but with plenty of room to spread out, watch the steel mill, talk. There were probably 50-60 people, somewhere in that range? There will be pictures up on FB soon—I'll post a note. The readings were aMAZing. Some highlights for me (cuz new readers to me, largely—) were Monica Peck (hilarious! best line, aside while reading about hair-combing and her grandfather—"wow, this is really confessional. I feel like I'm in the 70s") and Meg Day, whose mastery of phrases like 'glottal stop' in her poem swirling around deaf/asl poetics, was pretty breathtaking. Lauren Levin was great too, and Lara Durback, and Brian Ang—I mean, it was just rad. So many different approaches. Erin Wilson's quiet poems with a recurring "you you" address—I walked with you you etc.—alongside Jack Frost's Kazuo Ono obits, tied in bundles of floppy disks w pics of Ono on the reverse, a very big gestural work, not loud but kind of loud. It's just so cool to see all these ways of thinking in conversation with each other. An instantiation of the community that makes the work so meaningful. Then the next night, at David Brazil and Sara Larsen's A Muse Meant series, the contrast of Jennifer Karmin's (out from Chicago for the W+S event) aaaaaaaaaaalice project (which David, myself, Konrad Steiner, Gloria Frym (sp?), Hugh Behm-Steinberg, and Dana Teen Lomax helped perform as a kind of rotating chorus)—super big, bordering on poet's theater—set against David Meltzer's wry approach sitting in the corner (the gut-level importance of poetry-as-life, seeing an elder in all his elderliness), new issue of TRY, then the crowd back at chez Larsen/Brazil for drinks—it was a weekend for really appreciating where and who we are, whoever and wherever we are."

              (Meg Day, Brian Ang, Erin Wilson, Lara Durback , Barbara Claire Freeman, Jennifer Karmin)

Book party for "Attack of the Difficult Poems"

A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, June 11 4-6

Katie Couric
Katie Couric, photo by Lawrence Schwartzwald

just when you thought it was safe to go back to the poetry waters ....
the New York launch of

Attack of the Difficult Poems
Essays and Inventions

University of Chicago Press

Saturday, June 11, 2011
A.I.R. Gallery
111 Front Street #228
Dumbo, Brooklyn

short reading from the book at 5pm

Susan Bee exhibition at A.I.R.
through June 19

Alan Davies's Name

tr. into French by Martin Richet

d’Alan Davies
traduit Martin Richet
Editions Le clou dans le fer
collection expériences poétiques
96 pages
17 x 11,5 cm
ISBN 978 2 917824 6
16 euros
Une rencontre autour du livre sera improvisée demain, samedi 28 mai, à 16h30, au Marché de la Poésie, stand 609, occupé par les éditions Le clou dans le fer.
Alan Davies, né au Canada, a vécu plus de 35 ans à New York et écrit, entre autres livres, RAVE, NAME, CANDOR, SIGNAGE et une collaboration sans titre avec le photographe M. M. Winterford. Il a dirigé et publié les revues OCULIST WITNESSES et A HUNDRED POSTERS, ainsi que les éditions OTHER PUBLICATIONS. Nom est son premier livre en français.
Extraits :
Le syndrome de la personnalité
et il existe
s’avère une splendide
Non que nous ayons le temps
de patienter
ou d’agir
mais en chacun nous avons un autre.
Les dispositifs de correction
s’équilibrent dans notre
Les actes de contrition sont
des sphères de montage,
des sphères qui nous pénètrent.
Qui pénètrent ce nous.
Si les dispositifs échouent les stylos
tombent et se mettent à la récolte.
À cette récolte. Cette récolte,
élément du discours,
ouvre sur une autoroute,
élément d’un élément du discours.
moments je ne te vois
Cet inventaire
a une date d’expiration.
Il y a une date d’expédition et
une distribution nécessaire.
Il y a un modificateur de climat
et un torrivent, ainsi que
quatre ventilateurs d’armoire.
Jusque là nous n’avons parlé
que du
côté traitement d’air de
Une grosse couleur bleue nous
y envoie.
Et nous n’y parlons pas.
Nous commençons
à prendre dans nos veines
et dans nos têtes la
pensée et le sang.
Lorsque nous sortons la couverture
du placard au début
de l’hiver, nous
Dans cette pensée seule et
unique une défaillance à venir.