Commentaries - December 2012

Montfort & Strickland, 'Sea and Spar Between'

From Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland comes this digital poem, “Sea and Spar Between” — a poetry generator which defines a space of language populated by a number of stanzas comparable to the number of fish in the sea, around 225 trillion. Each stanza is indicated by two coordinates, as with latitude and longitude. They range from 0 : 0 to 14992383 : 14992383. To operate the system, you may:

• move your mouse;
• press the spacebar to mark the stanza that is in the center of the screen of that moment, bringing its coordinates into the navigation box at the bottom in order to note them and return to this view;
• click your mouse at the right edge of the screen to move right to a new region of texts (to increase the first coordinate); click your mouse at the bottom, left, or top to move similarly in those directions;
• tap the arrow keys to move the visible lattice of stanzas up, right, down, or left by a single stanza;
• scroll the wheel on your mouse or tap the A and Z keys on the keyboard to zoom in and out;
• type a pair of coordinates into the navigation box at the bottom and press enter to move anywhere in the sea of text.

Click here for a description of the process and the sourcetext. Click here to read the poem.

Gerrit Lansing on Close Listening

photos and video by Ernesto Livon-Grosman

Program One:
Gerrit Lansing reads selections from his collected poems, The Heavenly Tree / Northern Earth (North Atlantic, 2009)
(26:40): MP3

Program Two:

(55:43): MP3
Gerrit Lansing talks with Charles Bernstein, and guest Susan Howe, at Lansing’s house in Gloucester, Mass. Lansing, a close friend of Charles Olson, discusses the wild of Gloucester, the relation of the magic (and the magical) and the occult to poetic practice, Nerval, queer politics and the poetics identity, New York in the immediate postwar period, parapsychology at Harvard in the late 1940s, Gnosticism versus neo-Platonism, Jewish mysticism, and his connections with Henry Murray, Harry Smith, Alan Watts, Aleister Crowley, Carl Jung, and John Ashbery.

'My Real Life': Leaping into it

Swagga Kid (Mikerson Stiverne) recording in Montreal-Nord

It was a request I couldn’t refuse last July… renowned Canadian documentary filmmaker Magnus Isacsson wrote me to ask if I would create an English version of the rap songs sung in French by young Mikerson “Swagga Kid” Stiverne in what was to be Isacsson’s final film, about young men creating lives for themselves where they could thrive, after rough childhoods and dropping out of school in the poor neighbourhood of Montréal-Nord—where young men of colour have endured a lot of misunderstanding (and even bullets) from the police: My Real Life

I worked with a  written transcript from the French soundtrack made by the production team, and spent a whole week dancing and singing beside my desk, watching the film over and over, letting the pride and tenacity of these young guys and their music and expression enter my spirit too, and feeling Magnus’s pride and tenacity as well.

Sometimes I feel I am sewing words into the fabric of lives when I translate. Noises out of silence that remains silence, for I remain silent even as I am speaking, for I speak the words of another, othered to another.

My favourite challenge was translating the repeated Swagga Kid phrase “pour mieux t’introduire” which is stitched into his song “My Real Life” (a plea to see his life from his view and not to judge him as the police do by his looks and location), and which closes the film in beautiful repetition… in French it reads as introduce/present yourself to new people, but also as “enter into life” to “put yourself in the picture”.

John Forbes

A feature in Jacket 3

John Forbes, Petersham, Sydney, 1980, photo (c) John Tranter
John Forbes, Petersham, Sydney, 1980, photo (c) John Tranter

Jacket 3, April 1998, is dedicated to the memory of the recently-dead Australian poet John Forbes. Born in 1950, John Forbes suffered a heart attack and died suddenly at his home in Melbourne on 23 January 1998. He was forty-seven.
He was a subtle, ironic and brilliant poet, wholly dedicated to his art. In this issue: some poems by John, some photos, Gig Ryan’s eulogy, a review of his last book, and some poems by his friends.  — J.T.
John Forbes — five poems:
— ‘Speed, A Pastoral
3 recent poems from Damaged Glamour
poem: ‘Dean Martin’s definition of happiness’
Gig Ryan — i.m. John Forbes (with ‘Love Poem’ by John Forbes)

Ken Bolton — ‘(Two Portraits)’
Carl Harrison-Ford on John Forbes and his last book of poems
Rae D.Jones, ‘grim reaper blues’
John Kinsella, ‘The Dam Busters’
Nigel Roberts, ‘Dialogue with John Forbes’
Tracy Ryan, poem