Commentaries - November 2012

Eight million natures

Seagulls feed on the Hackensack dump
Seagulls feed on the Hackensack dump

Today I took a bike ride along the East River to the Brooklyn Bridge where there’s a small beach--perhaps the only one in lower Manhattan (and by “lower,” I suspect there may be another beach somewhere or nowhere above the George Washington Bridge). There I watched a drama peculiar to urban ecologies. Several seagulls fought over what looked like a cupcake wrapper, with one finally grasping it in its beak and flying around to escape (without any luck) the other seagulls trying to snatch it back. I wondered how the seagull was going to enjoy his booty when he began gulping the wrapper down, one crinkle at a time, paper along with crumbs. 

Back in the ground action, another seagull busied itself dragging empty plastic bags out of the surf and defending these useless bits of garbage against other seagulls, puffing its feathers up and hunching down. It finally found a bag that had two oranges in it and pecked a bit, but seemed to find the defensive act much more interesting. I looked at the surf to see what else the seagull would find, but I only saw what appeared to be the disintegrated pieces of an entire newspaper floating in and out on the small waves. Of course, in the city, you are never the only witness--a man stood a few feet away from me, snapping photo after photo (he was there when I arrived and stayed after I left) of the scene. (I should mention here that the poet Brenda Coultas once made an amazing film of seagulls eating french fries.)

Yankee go home (PoemTalk #59)

Paul Blackburn, "7th Game: 1960 Series"

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Paul Blackburn performed his poem “7th Game : 1960 Series,” which had been written in 1960, on or near the first day of the 1971 baseball season, during a reading he gave at SUNY Cortland. The poem was later republished in Blackburn’s Collected Poems (here is a PDF copy). The New York Yankees (Blackburn’s team) were heavy favorites in their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and vastly outscored the underdogs in the seven games. But the Pirates won on a home run by a light-hitting second baseman in the final at-bat of the final game (what we now call a “walk off”). As Blackburn introduces the poem, the Cortland audience laughs; listeners to the audio-only recording now might be confused by this, but we think you can safely guess that Blackburn had just put on his Yankee cap.

Hugh Sykes Davies

'A lioness in the sidecar'

Hugh Sykes Davies
Hugh Sykes Davies


In the special Cambridge UK issue of Jacket, number 20

"He had done so many things and played so many parts that you never felt you had come to the end of him. Some knew Hugh Sykes Davies as a wit, some as a lover, some as a teacher; and there were those who read his novels and even his poems. He also married a good deal. He had many wives, four of them his own; taught at Cambridge for nearly half a century — a communist for half the time; was a surrealist in the Paris of the mid-1930s; and finally, as faith and dogma ran dry, a structural linguist. He was once to have been a candidate for the House of Commons too, in 1940, in an election canceled because of invasion fears..... Lowry’s «Under the Volcano», when it finally appeared in 1947, meant nothing to Hugh. It was alcoholic fiction, he declared, though near the end of his life he was persuaded by Canadian television to make a program; and he did it on the symbolic condition they supplied a bottle of brandy in a Cambridge UK pub during the interview. That put him in a high good humor. As he walked home late he came upon a lonely policeman standing outside King’s College and approached him unsteadily. ‘Have there been any interesting fires in the colleges this evening, constable?’"

Not the patriarchal voice of the poet alone: A dialogue between Paal Bjelke Andersen (Norway), Marco Antonio Huerta (Mexico), and Robert Fitterman (United States)

21 November 2012

International Women's Day (Iran)

The following is an occassional dialogue composed for this occassion. Paal Bjelke Andersen, Marco Antonio Huerta, and Robert Fitterman entertain points of commonality and divergence. This is part four of the series.

Paal Bjelke Andersen  Vanessa asked me to suggest someone to write to, I immediately thought of you two: Marco because of what you read when we meet in Paris—an elaboration of some accidents in Mexico's contemporary history—and where you are living, at the crossroad of the US and Mexico, in Tamaulipas; Robert because of your fascination for the surface of the American cities—a fascination I never have really understood until I went to Los Angeles in August and saw the eclectic series of private homes, one building looking as if the owner wanted to live in a house from a Brother Grimms fairytale, while the neighboring house looked like a miniature Mexican hacienda (at least to my Norwegian eyes). I the context of “Global conseptualism” thought it could be interesting to pair this with the place I come from: a social democratic, post-war optimistic, homogeneous Norway where the welfare state now is consequently reduced to a neo-liberal society.

Revolution with a twist

Kamau Brathwaite

Kamau Brathwaite (Photo credit: Beverly Brathwaite)

In this commentary, I will explore what I term the “iterative turn” in contemporary poetry. I take iteration to encompass a range of poetic practices, including repetition, sampling, performance, versioning, plagiarism, copying, translation, and reiterations across multiple media. I will focus here especially on how iterative poetry engages forms of political, economic, linguistic authority and their intertwinement with questions of media. The iterative turn in poetry can be understood not just as a shift in rhetorical form but also as an ethical and political response to the crisis in authority engendered by the rise of new technologies of reproduction and the increasing pace of globalization since the late 1980s. In the posts that follow, I will map out just a few of the many forms that this response takes under four broad headings: revolution, copyright, translation, and the book.