Commentaries - May 2011
Since I started work as reviews editor in February 2010, the office I share with Writers House director and Jacket2 associate publisher Jessica Lowenthal has been transformed into a library of recently published poetry books and chapbooks. With the help of Jacket2 editorial assistants, including Emily Orrson and Sarah Arkebauer, 500 presses were contacted, more than 4,000 emails were exchanged, and nearly 750 books and chapbooks have been received, catalogued, and shelved. Sometimes it feels like Borges’ Library of Babel in here, and other times, like when the middle bookshelf broke in half and books by poets from Barbara Henning to Erín Moure tumbled onto the floor, it feels more like Richard Brautigan’s constantly expanding library in The Abortion.
The Jacket2 review copy library includes titles from 1913 Press to Zone 3 Press, from Adventures in Poetry to Publishing Genius, from Narrowhouse to Mummuu House. Parcels stamped “media mail” arrive daily from locales as far as East Sussex, England, and Chiang Mai, Thailand.
More than 150 reviews have been written and submitted, so if you’re a reviewer, or an author of a book that has been reviewed, thank you for your patience as our editorial team reads and responds to your work. New reviews will be posted once or twice a week.
And, you can check here, on the Jacket2 Commentaries page, for updates about recently received titles.
This particular week begins with a package from Kenning Editions containing two spring 2011 titles, and one of the best of 2006:
Left Having by Jesse Seldess; Ambient Parking Lot by Pamela Lu; Hannah Weiner's Open House by Hannah Weiner
Note: for more on Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller's installation The Dark Pool, visit their homepage. And, in issue 2 of Horizon Review (Salt Publishing), check out Kathryn Brown's piece: "The House of Book Has No Windows: Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller"
— Michelle Taransky, Reviews Editor
Readers here might remember that I've admired Tony Green's poem-object "Big Mug Vodka Maker" from afar - from Philly to Auckland, to be specific. And as I've also mentioned here, Tony Green visited Philly, the first time in 20 years, and gave a presentation at the Writers House. We did an interview for the PennSound podcast series. He read some poems, and he also read several of his poem-objects. He bought along the one I especially admired and gave it to me. It now sits prominently on display in my office at the Writers House. Best of all, we now have for our archive a video of Tony showing this object and reading it/reading from it.
Caroline Bergvall, Christian Bök and I will be reading in Copenhagen and Oslo in the next weeks.We will be in Copenhagen for "Literature in the Expanded Field," University Of Copenhagen, Institute of Arts and Cultural Studies, Karen Blixens Vej 1, 21.5.54.
May 6 and May 7: Students' conference and Readings by Stiudents from The Danish Academy of Creative Writing. Dramasalen 21.5.54
13:45-13.55 Welcome and introduction/ Tania Ørum
13.55-14.25 Charles Lock ”Anne Blonstein: words and letters / the measure of space.”
14.25-14.55 Tania Ørum ”Danish Writers in the Expanded Field”
15.30-16.30 Charles Bernstein, "The Present of the Word"
READINGS Gyldendal, Klareboderne 3, København K.
Welcome / Tania Ørum
Ursula Andkjær Olsen
12:00-12.05 - Welcome and introduction/ Tania Ørum
12.10-12.40 - Martin Glaz Serup "Documentary and pseudo-documentary in contemporary postproductive witness literature"
12.40-13.10 - Marianne Ping Huang Radiophonic space/place inprint/voice: on Charles Bernstein's "I'm speaking to you from Provincetown, Massachusetts" and Pia Juul's Radioteatret (2010)
13.10-13.30 - Martin Larsen "Zoom into the Butterfly Valley – Notes on the Sigma
14.00-15.00 - Caroline Bergvall "G/hosting practices: excavations, encounters, the role of writing today"
15.00-16.00 - Christian Bök "The Xenotext" presentation of ongoing work with genetically engineered poem
STOCKHOM, 6:30pm, May 10, at the Weld Gallery <via OEI>
Stephen Ross on All the Whiskey in Heaven in "The Wolf"
'Don't use such an expression as "dim lands of peace". It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer's not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol. Go in fear of abstractions.' - Ezra Pound, 'A Few Don'ts' (1913)
'Go in search of abstractions', Pound might have written had he really had his finger on the American pulse. For over a century now, a major strain of American poetry has flourished precisely by ignoring Pound's directive; in fact, by doing its opposite. Turning to specific practitioners, one thinks of John Ashbery, who throughout his career has found his 'dim land of peace' in places like 'the mooring of starting out' and 'the delta of living into everything'. Or T.S. Eliot, who wrote so stirringly in his youth of 'the conscience of a blackened street/ Impatient to assume the world'. Or Wallace Stevens, with his 'complacencies of the peignoir’ and ‘green freedom of a cockatoo'. One could play this sort of trick with almost any American poet. The apparition of these faces?
Which is not to sell short the clinching astuteness of Pound's avant-guerre pronouncements on the dos and don’ts of modern poetry. After all, every student of modernism knows why the disgraced phrase 'dim lands of peace' is weak. But how many know where it comes from? In fact, it comes from the pen of Pound's sometime mentor, Ford Madox Ford:
Past all the windings of these grey, forgotten valleys,
To west, past clouds that close on one dim rift
The golden plains; the infinite, glimpsing distances,
The eternal silences; dim lands of peace.
Like all true doggerel, these lines from ‘On a Marsh Road (Winter Nightfall)’ might be forgotten but their spirit lingers on. Charles Bernstein, for one, has made a career of mining the experimental potential embedded in this kind of bad writing. Indeed, Ford’s much-maligned ‘dim lands of peace’ offer a handy organizing conceit for a study of Bernstein, the undisputed master of atmospheric doggerel. . . .