At the recent Short Takes on Long Poems symposium in Auckland (see Jack Ross's take here), Jacob Edmond, whose comic-serious talk concerned the literal weights and volumes of long poems, kept asking a single question of other speakers. “In what way is the work you're talking about local?” Or, in the case of my presentation, “Do you think your videos [of people in Hawai`i saying back lines of George Oppen's ‘Of Being Numerous’ as best they could] localize the poem in some way?” Jack Ross argues that the symposium would have been too international had it not included the work of Robert Sullivan and John Adams, writing the interstices between Maori and Pakeha in Aotearoa / New Zealand. This discussion felt like home to me, albeit set on a different stage and peopled by very different writers and critics than is the case in Hawai`i. But of course these distinctions are hard to keep or enforce when (like me) you can leave Auckland at 7 a.m. of a Monday morning and arrive in Honolulu at 7 a.m. the same morning. Yet Lucas Klein, a scholar and translator of Chinese poetry, quoted the Chinese poet, citizen of New Zealand, and resident of London, Yang Lian, as saying: “There is no international, only different locals.”
It’s only Wednesday, and so far, it’s been a pretty good week as far as poetry and comics are concerned. On Monday, Sommer Browning’s first full-length book of poems (with some comics), Either Way I’m Celebrating, came in the mail direct from Birds, LLC. The press is based in Austin, Minneapolis, New York, and Raleigh. So far Birds, LLC has put out half a dozen books and uphold the opinion that ‘great books are a collaboration between editors and authors.’ I couldn’t agree more—and this is a great book. When I opened it, the first thing I noticed was that Browning has published over twenty books between 1985 and now, but only two are associated with small presses, the others simply identified by date and title on the ‘also by’ page opposite the title page. Where have I been all my life? How could I have missed all of these? My best guess is that those that are not are not associated with a press are self published and/or unique works of art. Either way, Either Way I’m Celebrating was the first book by Browning I’ve read, and yet, by the time I was a third of the way through, I felt like I had known Browning’s work for years, in that funny way that every now and then you encounter a stranger in a strange place, and suddenly there’s nothing strange about the place or the person.
I first read about Mina Loy in 1987, in Shari Benstock's book about twenty-odd women artists and writers living and working in Paris in the decades 1900 until 1940 - Women of the Left Bank (University of Texas Press, 1986). Of course Gertrude Stein was the prominent or most-known figure in this community. It took many years for some of her less widely read contemporaries to gain notice. London-born Mina Loy was a painter, poet, essayist, sculptor, collagist and a member of the prestigious Salon d'Automne in early twentieth-century Paris. She was in a relationship with the proto-Dadaist poet and pugilist, Arthur Cravan until he disappeared, mysteriously, possibly into the ocean, off the coast of Mexico in 1918. She became involved in the Italian Futurist movement but soon became disillusioned by it and began to write satirically about Futurists' attitudes towards women. Her poetry was praised in journals by T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and, later, by Kenneth Rexroth. She lived for three decades in France and Italy moving, in 1936, to Lower Manhattan and the Bowery in the United States of America.