Commentaries - May 2012

Susan Bee, Photogram (1978)

EPC Digital Library Edition

EPC digital edition of full book
: pdf lower res | higher res

Molly Weigel: Introduction to The Shock of the Lenders & Other Poems by Jorge Santiago Perednik

from Action Books (2012)

Weigel reading at the book launch in New York, May 12, 2012
Weigel reading at the book launch in New York, May 12, 2012

Jorge Santiago Perednik's long poem The Shock of the Lenders has been published in sections in English over a period of years, starting with "The Main Fragment," which first appeared in Sulfur in 1992, and was subsequently reprinted in The XUL Reader (Roof Books, 1997) and The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry (2009).  The other sections, or fragments, of the poem, meanwhile, appeared only recently, in S/N:  New World Poetics in 2010.  In the present volume the poem in English appears for the first time in its entirety.  This new wholeness, presented with a generous sampling of other Perednik poems from different periods, provides a new context for the work in English, and an opportunity to explore some other contexts that can help to deepen a reading of these translations and to resist an easy consumption of them as "experimental" poetry independent of language or culture. 

'There are so many silences to be broken'

Teaching Audre Lorde (part 1)

Audre Lorde, Meridel Lesueur, Adrienne Rich (1980)
Audre Lorde, Meridel Lesueur, Adrienne Rich (1980)

Most semesters, I offer the class a final paper where the assignment is to “find a poem that you LOVE and then create both a research paper and ‘digital essay’ that represent the questions and ideas the poem urges you to explore.” I offer the students a number of different links to sites where they can read a lot of different kinds of poetry (, The Poetry Foundation, PennSound, and others), along with a wide variety of discrete poems that we investigate in class. But, most students choose not to work with a poem that was “assigned,” which means that each semester I find myself wondering how they found the poems they chose to work with.

Poetry vs oil: Round one

The Enpipe Line

Canada’s Tar Sands has a problem (irony alert: there are no end of problems with this nasty stuff)—it’s not easy to get out of the ground and out of the country to the “world market.” Right now, one major pipeline carries the goop to Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, where it is loaded onto supertankers tourists can wave at from scenic Stanley Park. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, south, to Texas, has been (temporarily, perhaps) blocked. So now there are plans for a “Northern Gateway” pipeline to carry massive amounts of crude over 1,170 kilometers of forested and river-crisscrossed Northern BC—to the still largely undeveloped coast of the Great Bear Rainforest. Charming.

Into the fray steps a poetry anthology—The Enpipe Line (Creekstone Press 2012)—edited by a diverse collective that includes poet/activist and project founder Christine Leclerc (full disclosure: I am a contributor). Originally conceived as a 1,170 kilometer long line of collaborative poetry (matching the proposed pipeline’s length), the project eventually grew to over 70,000km.

State-of-the-Nation poems (2)

James K. Baxter, ‘Ode to Auckland’ (1972)

Rangitoto from North Head
"the song of Tangaroa on a thousand beaches" - Rangitoto from North Head

If the Allen Curnow poem I talked about in my latest post looks back on the fifties, that whole post-war “You’ve never had it so good” period, then it seems logical to go on to discuss further “state-of-the-nation” poems commenting successively on the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, and (finally) the twenty-tens.

This is the list I’ve come up with. Not all the dates fit perfectly, but at least it provides some sort of a coverage of styles, ideas, voices and views, over the last fifty years of New Zealand poetry. Each one of them will take a fair amount of contextualising and unpacking, but it’s the only way I can think of to give you a reasonable overview of where we’ve been and where (possibly) we might be going.