Commentaries - October 2012
Okay, I take it all back.
New iBooks, 2012: I have criticised the iBooks app (application) for its retarded concept of what to do with the first chapter in a paragraph. But I take it all back. In a recent review on MacWorld, a contributor (Lex Friedman, Senior Writer, Macworld Follow @lexfri) says:
Other core iBooks features remain unchanged, but still impressive: It offers an excellent selection of crisp, superb fonts; it offers black-on-white, white-on-black, and sepia-toned text/background pairings; it has in-app brightness controls. Its in-book search is quick and accurate. And its support for ragged-right text (as opposed to the Kindle app’s unchangeable, awkward forced justification) is much appreciated.
All of those improvements are useful, and some of them are wonderful: the support for ragged-right text is a huge leap of the imagination, and I'm grateful for it. Apple: thank you!
We should remember that it took half a century after the invention of printing for editors and publishers to realise that it would be a good idea for pages to have numbers, and for books to have a Contents Page. Fifty years! So we can hope that e-books will reach a plateau of perfect utility in fifteen to twenty years' time.
Outsider Poems, a Mini-Anthology in Progress (47): Jonathan Williams on “Howard Finster, Man of Visions”
[Reprinted from the Jargon Society web site at http://jargonbooks.com/index.html]
The first time I ever heard of Howard Finster was in the pages of Missing Pieces (Georgia Folk Art 1770-1976), that useful catalogue in honor of the American Bi-Centennial issued by the Georgia Council for the Arts and Humanities. I made a note to visit Pennville and see the “Paradise Garden,” which I persisted in calling the “New Improved Garden of Eden,” just to be ornery. It is not my custom to have too much truck with country preachers.
Before getting there, I discussed it all with that bodacious bad-ass, Eddie Owens Martin, St. EOM of the “Land of Pasaquan”— “the Big Injun,” as Howard called him. The Big Injun claimed he said things like: “I mean, I just love to tempt men of the cloth.” He’d get on the phone and say: “Reverend Finster, yessir, good buddy-roe, I’d sure like to get into your pants!” (This is one of those telephone conversations you doubt ever got made.) No matter. The Rev. Finster, a righteous Baptist of northwest Georgia persuasion, talked about “queery boys,” as one might expect. No matter. I never heard him speak unkindly of his great contemporary, Eddie Owens Martin.
Tom Patterson and I got up to eldritch Pennville about 1978 or 1979. A word about Tom. He has transcribed and written two of the best ever as-told-to autobiographies: St. EOM in the Land of Pasaquan, Jargon Society, Highlands, NC, 1987; and Howard Finster-- Stranger from Another World, Abbeville Press, New York, 1991. Required reading for those wanting to explore Southern Outsider Art. Today, Tom Patterson is Director of The Nerve Museum. I have no idea what that is. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
From that first day in Pennville, Howard continued to say astonishing, beautiful things to Tom and me:
“So it come to me to build a paradise and decorate it with the Bible. I went to the dump and started picking up glass and moulding brick... I just saved everything but money. The Lord’d give me a picture of a night what to do the next day... When I started on it, I wasn’t expecting to excite the whole world... I wanted to put every verse in the Bible in this park. It’s about two acres. I write what I feel God’s word says ... If I have to write it on a refrigerator or down on the walk out of marbles, I write it.”
He is consistent and very clear: “I started going to the dump and collecting old broken dishes and moulding brick. I’d go to the dump and find some of the prettiest things you’ve ever seen. Sometimes twenty-two karat gold dishes would be broke and thrown in there. Most of the stuff here in the garden is junk and not worth anything, and if it is worth anything, I damage it to where it ain’t worth anything ...”
“Whatever you are, that’s what you are. I don’t try to change people around. I don’t try to make my black cat into a white cat. I don’t try to turn my bulldog into a hound.”
“... the longer I live on this planet, the less I can adapt to it ... here on this world there’s nothin’ for me except just a little scatterin’ly joy and fellowship, talkin’ to my friends. And the rest of it is, ‘Howard, your old friend died last night ... They killed 250 of our soldiers ... They put glass in the babies’ food ... They put poison in the sick people’s medicine ...’ They’re talkin’ about World War Three. The world is just an awful place, when you get to studyin’ about it ...”
“... I’m a happy ol’ codger that’s livin’ in a dangerous world.”
“My story is facts and reality, my story is from God, and my story is plain to people who are not plum’ stupid. When I talk to people and they can’t understand me, I figure they’re mentally, no matter who they are, professors or whatever.”
“I reckon I’ve spoken millions of words in my life — billions of ’em. A normal bronchial tube couldn’t never stand all the preachin’ and talkin’ and singin’ and makin’ tapes and everthing that I done.” (I remember Andy Nasisse, sculptor of Athens, Georgia, telling me that one time in Florida he shared a motel room with Howard and that the Man of Visions talked in his sleep all night long! Lawdamercy!)
“Nobody’s ever come to the planet and stayed here.”
Primitive Baptist preachers usually scare me to death, yet the Reverend Howard Finster tickled me to death.
Nothing, of course, is perfect, even in a Paradise Garden. I can’t forget that when Tom Patterson and I were first escorted in the display room to look for something to buy, Howard picked up a piece of melted tv-glass that he had transformed into Noah’s Ark, and he announced fervently: “Now, boys, that’s a piece of what your art expert fellers call your genuine folk art.” Well, to be fair, it cost $75.00 instead of $40.00. It’s not a big deal, but meant that art-snakes were already slithering around, even back there in the days of Jimmy Carter. Nowadays, one hears of aesthetic jungles in which Finsters fetch over $30,000. Genuine folk art, one guesses. He made nearly 40,000 pieces of art-- all of it genuine. But some’s bettern others. Even when it comes to Vermeer.
I remember way back, Howard asked the fatal question: “Brother Williams, just what do you all do?” I had to reply: “Well, Howard, I do a little publishing, but mostly I just make up poems.” It’s like telling a man that you work for the IRS or have terminal leprosy. Anyway, he was nice about it. “Poetry, well I swan, I don’t know much about such as that. But maybe, sometime, you’ll write me one. Make it real easy to understand, and put plenty of rhymes in it so I’ll know where I am.” For his birthday on November 12, 1983, I did just that. Ten lines, and they all rhyme like mad— the same damn rhyme all the way. He seemed to like it:
A RHYME FOR HOWARD FINSTER,
ABOUT HOW IT ALL BEGAN IN THE COUNTRY NEAR LOOKOUT
I thought at first of swarms of bees...
but, sure enough, it was God Who was shooting the breeze,
looking about in this here grove of red trees,
Who said to Howard (down there on his knees),
“Howard, your warm arm, please,
what we need down here is a man who ‘sees’
the glory stored in breeze and trees
and what art there is in words to bring folks ease.”
Swarm for the Lord like bees!
Sing like honey on its knees!
Howard, I don’t know the name of the planet you came from. But, when you go back, I sure hope it offers Classic Coke, red-eye gravy, and okra fried just right by the Duck Woman of Orpliss. You deserve the best!
Howard Finster, visionary artist and preacher, born Valley Head, Alabama, 2 December 1915, died Rome, Georgia, 22 October 2001.
Jonathan Williams, visionary American poet & folklorist, founder of The Jargon Society and Jargon Press, born Asheville, North Carolina, 8 March 1929, died Highlands, North Carolina, 16 March 2008.
one from each side of the Atlantic!
Tess Somervell reviews The Salt Book of Younger Poets here.
A well-researched and rather dry look at the crop of bright new things in Britain:
There is not a poem among the three or four by each of the fifty poets in this anthology which is not in some way intelligent; dominant, however, is a specific type of intelligence, an intellectual self-indulgence of an almost metaphysical character. The grand abstract concept is less the order of the day than the local image stretched to its figurative limit, a brief moment teased out to fill a poem.
Only the British could reinvent metaphysical self-indulgence for the twenty-first century.
And someone should review the second edition of Paul Hoover’s immensely useful Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology.
As Norton says, this book
galvanized attention on its publication in 1994, making “the avant-garde accessible” (Chicago Tribune) and filling “an enormous gap in the publication annals of contemporary poetry” (Marjorie Perloff). Now, two decades later, Paul Hoover returns to suggest what postmodernism means in the twenty-first century. This revised and expanded edition features 114 poets, 557 poems, and 15 poetics essays, addressing important recent movements such as Newlipo, conceptual poetry, and Flarf. Bringing together foundational postmodern poets like Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, and Allen Ginsberg with new voices like Christian Bok, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Katie Dengentesh, this edition of Postmodern American Poetry is the essential collection for a new generation of readers.
When Paul was compiling the first edition, I asked him why he hadn't included Dorn's Vaquero. No real answer. Now maybe someone can tell me why he needed to give a fresh tank of oxygen to that gasbag Goldsmith.
Paris in 1968
Structuralism and linguistics
Jacket 35: Émile Benveniste in conversation with Pierre Daix, 1968, translated by Matt Reeck.
Les événements — the “events”. Students dissatisfied with the policies of the De Gaulle government took to the streets in May 1968 in what are now referred to as the “events.” These protests shook the French government from the laissez faire policies of the previous thirty years. They mark the turning point of an intellectual ferment whose noteworthy members include the vanguard of post-structuralist, Feminist, psychoanalytic, and deconstructive thought — an intellectual renaissance that continues to define our era.
Read the rest of the interview in Jacket 35
Émile Benveniste (1902–76) is among the most important French linguists of the twentieth century. His theory of enunciation — the “énoncé” and “énonciation” — argues persuasively that language is a social process. Also a pre-eminent historical linguist of Indo-European, he was elected to the Collège de France (the most prestigious intellectual post in France) in 1937 where he stayed until his retirement in 1969. You can read his work in Indo-European Language and Society (Faber and Faber, 1963) and in Problems in General Linguistics (University of Miami Press, 1971).
Pierre Daix: You have lived through, over these last thirty or even forty years, not only the transformation of linguistics, but also its rise to a central position in the humanities, a “guiding discipline,” as it were.
I want to ask you how you would characterize this evolution, this transformation, from a linguistic perspective. But, maybe, to begin with, to contextualize things, I would like to ask you a personal question, similar to a question that we earlier asked Jakobson here. How did you get interested in linguistics?
Émile Benveniste: I had the opportunity to begin a scientific career when I was very young and in large part due to the influence of a very great linguist, a man who contributed greatly to training linguists and to defining linguistics during, you could say, the first ten or twenty years of this century — that is to say, my teacher, Antoine Meillet.
It was because I met him while still early on during my studies at the Sorbonne, and because I was clearly much more inclined to research than teaching, that our meeting proved decisive for me. He taught comparative grammar exclusively. But, to be clear, the students of Meillet were in part absorbing the teaching of Ferdinand de Saussure, such as it existed during his time in Paris. This is very important for anyone who writes the biography of French linguistics, even though the Saussure who taught for ten years at the École des Hautes Études wasn’t Saussure as he is universally known today.
He was in some way a comparativist.
He was strictly a comparativist, extremely young and precocious, who had been discovered and adopted by a man who knew what makes a great man, Michel Bréal. We come here to the real beginning of linguistics in France. Bréal saw what Saussure might become, what he already was. He had had a true genius for comparative linguistics and brought new methods to the reconstitution of Indo-European.
That happened when?
That happened in 1878. Saussure joined the École des Hautes Études when he was twenty-four, and he taught there from 1881 to 1891. Then, forced somewhat by circumstances, he returned to Geneva when he was thirty-four, abandoning the beginnings of a brilliant career in Paris, which Bréal would certainly have helped him develop further.
plus big new web archive & video portrait
We'd just come to the party after Anne and Tonya's reading. Bruce'd just turned 60 on April 1. ... The Iraq war was five years old.
April 12, 2009
video portrait by Charles Bernstein
POSTPONED DUE TO SANDY
Friday December 7, 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
South Lounge, Lincoln Center Campus
113 W. 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
Charles Bernstein (moderator), Michael Golston, Laura Hinton, Peter Nicholls, Bob Perelman, and Paul Stephens.
After the 90-minute panel and a short reception, Andrews will read from his work.
The Fordham Web page includes new web version of work
Andrews, including these new on-line items:
"L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E”: forthcoming in The Little Magazine in America
“Reader Repo,” Talk from Rethinking Poetics Conference, pp 94-97 + Talk PDF
Q & A, after U.C. Berkeley Reading, at 1 hr. 16’
“Meaning, Method, Motive: Empire & so-called Language Writing” + Talk in Convolutions
“Reading Lines Linear How to Mean” in A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line
“Hearing Ends in Darkness” (essay as liner notes for Jarrod Fowler's 2008 album, "'Percussion' as Percussion")
“Constructivism Mystery” in Vertov from Z to A, ed. Ahwesh & Sanborn
“What’s the Word” for Zukofsky Conference
“Brechtian V-Effect Updated: Implications for Poetic Praxis”