Commentaries - September 2012

What Is a Poet? Meeting Louis Simpson in 1984

Bernstein, Vendler, Jay, Perloff, Altieri, Stern, Ignatow, Simpson, Lazer, Levertov, Burke

In 1984, Hank Lazer convened this group for “What Is a Poet?” Lots more (and higher-res) photos and a pdf, newly OCR’d and hi-res, along with Lazer’s intro, is at EPC Library.
full res photo above.

Redell Olsen, “Not, A Conceptual Art Poetics”

Redell Olsen will appear in Paris at Poets & Critics, Paris, Sept. 27 and 28. 

“Not, A Conceptual Art Poetics”  from  I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing By Women. Eds. Caroline Bergvall, Laynie Browne, Teresa Carmody and Vanessa Place (Les Figues: Los Angeles, 2012):

'Chain' interview (pt. 1) and statement for OEI

Chain Letter icon, Chain no. 1, designed by AnJanette Brush
Chain Letter icon, Chain no. 1, designed by AnJanette Brush

Opening an email conversation on Chain with editors Spahr and Osman, I sent the following two introductory questions:

1) In the final issue of Chain, you note that the intellectual (and actual) climate in Buffalo prompted you to begin the magazine. The first issue — one of only three edited while you were both in Buffalo — presents a brilliant response. Originally slated to publish writing by women, Chain no. 1 features an editorial forum on editing magazines, a transcription of a panel on the ethics of small press publishing, and a series of poems composed via chain letters. Perhaps we can begin with a conversation on your plans for this first issue. What role did you see Chain performing in the poetics community at the time, in Buffalo and further afield?

2) The editorial forum in the first issue is particularly illuminating — offering a fascinating survey of female editors on gender and the work of editing. You interrogate the format of Chain itself in a following section entitled “Editors' Notes: Frameworks,” writing:

It is impossible to make a frameless frame (although that is the vision from which this project derived). We have instead begun the journal with a forum that takes a look at how and why journals are created and in what ways questions of gender have informed those decisions. It sounds absurd to edit a journal that's about the editing of journals — a nightmare of self-reflexivity — and yet it is a way of creating a body that shows its own skeleton.

How do the preliminary editorial statements from the first issue read to you now? Opening with this intensive self-reflexivity, in what ways did surveying experienced editors inform your own editorial position(s)?

In response, I was cheered to learn that these questions in particular were addressed in a short statement the editors penned for OEI magazine. We've decided to reproduce that document in full here. The statment can be read as a retrospective introduction to Chain from the persepective of 2008, resurfacing along with the magazine online today.

In this world of four months

Park at Fresh Kills

I’ve been reading Joseph Ceravolo’s The Green Lake is Awake, in anticipation of his Collected Poems due out in December, and have been comparing his elliptical and always surprising approach to natural things to, for some reason, Paul Blackburn’s hyper-urban odes. I’m a late arrival to Ceravolo, and was an early arrival to Blackburn, so perhaps they create convenient sort of mental bookends.

Ceravolo is more lyric than Blackburn, but less obvious, yet still immediate in his language, which makes it clear that how the poem is composed aesthetically always comes first, ahead of any “likeness” to nature. A line I jotted down, for its sheer shocking originality that unfolds into multiplicity of potentials: “I speak as a wife to the capsizing.” Then his sense of sound, even in a title such as “spring in this world of poor mutts,” which was recommended to me, and which I misheard as “spring in this world of four months,” which made just enough un-sense to keep me thinking about it (lines that are perfectly resolved in both sound and sense are easily forgotten).

Of note

'Pataphysics: A Useless Guide
Andrew Hugill
MIT Press: just published
’Pataphysics: A Useless Guide is a richly informative critical overview of the wide-ranging influence of (and influences on) ’pataphysics, from Groucho to Deleuze, OuLiPo, Borges, Bõk, Situationisism, SciFi, Raymond Roussel, and a wildly creative crew of fellow travelers, diviners, alchemists, and literary and theatrical pioneers. Andrew Hugill’s encyclopedic tribute shows how, for more than a century, Alfred Jarry’s precocious mind theater has remained exhilaratingly exceptional and exceptionally exhilarating.”

Reconsider the plan to empty the Berlin Gemäldegalerie of Old Masters