Commentaries - May 2011

Norman Fischer on Attack of the Difficult Poems

  "attack of the difficult poems" … is a great book!  you must read this book!  it will provide you with an education about what is happening, has been happening, in the world of post modern poetry and why it is important for everyone to pay attention to it, important socially, personally, religiously.  also very funny (the book is funny) and brilliant and a pleasure to read.  i was sad when i finished it, but well, isn't this always what happens. …

From there to here

Recently received for review

Among the joys of working as the reviews editor for a poetry magazine that has international readers and writers: packages of books you probably won't find in any domestic bookstore. Since the beginnning of May, Jacket2 has received new titles from presses including Shearsman (UK), Fremantle Press (AU), Brick Books (CA) and Reality Street (UK):

David Antin, Marjorie Perloff, Charles Bernstein

Two photos by Alan Thomas, June 15, 2011, Los Angeles





Douglas Messerli on David Antin's new essay collection

Fractures of the self: a review of "Radical Coherency"

David Antin Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011)
(detail of cover pictured)

reviewed by Douglas Messerli

One of the first things anyone approaching David Antin's marvelous new collection of essays on art and literature will notice is the striking image on the book's cover, a photograph that depicts David Antin, looking perhaps a bit more Buddha-like than in does in real-life, walking toward another image of himself, this from the back side of the face. There is something arresting about this image, even a bit eerie, but I made little of it when I first saw it, except to register that it represented an image of the author, symbolically speaking, of 1966 coming towards his current being. A few friends, however, found that image quite disturbing, one suggesting he had to keep the book face down on his coffee table. Perhaps it was just the oddity of having a photograph, which we associate with the real world, representing something that we know cannot truly happen, one aspect of self meeting up with the other.

What is a question?

Image by Eric Baus

This playlist is comprised of recordings related to questions. Bhanu Kapil, in her recent post on Harriet, Notes on Mutation, asks: “What is a question? How do questions work in your writing?  What do they perform?  What happens when you ask them?”  Today’s commentary might be considered an appendix to Kapil’s post, paying particular attention to the relationship between composition strategies, recording technology, and public performance. I’m also interested in grouping these recordings together in a playlist so that the questions from one piece might circulate through the others.

I’ll begin by quoting more from Kapil’s notes: “A question: Literally, it’s a way of gathering information but not of processing it.  As a mode of enquiry that’s also, linguistically, founded on doubt, on not having the words for what happens at the end of a relationship, the question seals space*.” I have excerpted a portion of Kapil’s comments contextualizing her own book of questions, The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, from her Kelsey Street Press audio page. At one point in her discussion, Kapil describes the weaving together of the disparate material she has gathered from interviews as well as from her own answers to her questions as “a shared space for voices.”  On PennSound, you can listen to an excerpt from The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers recorded in 1999 at the Left Hand reading series in Boulder.