Commentaries - December 2012

from Table of Contensts, Journal of Artists Books #23, 2008

At the Zinc bar launch for All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems, Kenneth Goldsmith read "Lift Off"  – a poem he also write about in Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age. The poem, which was originally published in Poetic Justice (Baltimore: Pod Books, 1979),  is a transcription from the correction tape of an IBM Selectric typewriter.

Here is Kenny's script –– pdf
& here is Kenny's reading: (7:20):  MP3

Launch and Signing of All the Whiskey in Heaven, Zinc Bar, NY, March 28, 2010
a reading of Charles Bernstein's poetry by friends and poets
Photos and full reading at this linked page
readings by Goldsmith, Bernstein and Tan Lin, Dottie Lasky, Thom Donovan, Elizabeth Willis, and Peter Gizzi.

Cover image collage by Dave Brinks
Cover image collage by Dave Brinks

                                 This world is simply the curtain
                                       concealing the true mise-en-scène
                                               of the eternal spectacle

                                                          —Jean Arp

Slingshot of the Golden Loam
in collaboration with Andrei Codrescu

Dear Mister Saucy Pants (aka. God)

you shine like honey
                            and bed your lust
between us & the blood
of a thousand hungry sleep scrolls

where's your manners?

You let them fundamentaliss
  and comuniss
run your business for You
   when Your children here we are
      in our midnight milkmen suits
        do your work kaleidoscope-like &
           animated by so much love it hurts

                give us back our do-nothing prayers
                                              Your twisted sons

or a knife or a bottle or a club or a gun

just knowing You are hurtling
                             somewhere on this dark night
bad comedies in my head

around the bend I see astrophysicists
       leaving the convention hall to murder You
                with particle accelerators

We give you political asylum, Lord
          and honey to rub on your ontological weariness
                    and a bell to summon us when You are frightened

                    We come running innocent blobs of blood & faith
         too broken by years & thoughts You never told us
We live a ruin on busted street corners

shoving songs
                   in Your children's mouths
where laughter seems out of place
and the intention
             of the organism is to scream

                               but that coup de foudre look on their faces

is a wolf to our sheep
    we shed the fleece & go on eating the grass, nubby skulls

on hillsides, gypsies on beds of cana
                        ready to march this mother father land
laid end to end
quilt of lovebites crosshatched by scars
             we are the freckle hunters parachuted
                    behind the enemy lines
                                of the bean counters

                                         we drag our parachutes in front of us
                                                    through doors
into misplaced paradises
                                                   the head hangs
the hands
                                        handcuffed to bedposts
                     where sleep is perfect
and more terrible than air


Glomming the Crwth1
in collaboration with Anselm Hollo

dear hombre in the treetop hat


       & how it goes

       & should a dog read this at

some time in the future – c’est si bon

                to hocus the animals of pursuers

                              twinkling upon these oaken shelves

as the goddess stands

       in front of her cave

       blood on the saddle!

       tumbleweed to dream in

what goes where, here

                now to say (in zomboid)

                            wee terrible human, a love supreme

Mr. & Mrs. Houdini’s Treacherous Voyage
in collaboration with Bernadette Mayer

changing white wine to red wine
       shit-be-gone gift wrap
                     that unworried-look on your face
       when I said "no brakes!"
sorghum cooking frog(s)
       man-eating skunks
                     inchworm Xings
       Lucky-Bo-Diddly balcony seats
Humming Turtle Room dreamcasts
       beer-swapping foot massages on Algiers’ ferry
                     dastardly thunderstorm candlelit porch-a-thons
       giant puppet show Virgin Mary sightings
Cha Cha Malgooni’s (sic) lifetime achievement award
       resuscitation of peonies with hazmat suit [Daniel]
                     donut volcano appreciation hour [Amy]
       jedi mind tricks on police [Max]
many-headed pigeon vision quest [Sophia]
       strawberry rhubarb pie concierge [Marie]
                     taoist egg collector & flamingo safari [Zack]
       Evil Knieval stunt double [Hector]
auditory hallucinations speaking backward in Yodanese [Ted]
       earthworks & igloo sweat lodgings [Atticus]
                     backyard dessert eating bear competition [Grace]
       pork death pot [Phil]
Pot Pot Pot & The Lighthouse Philharmonic [John]
       high priestess of cephalopod [Sor Juana]
                     one of three evils [Harris]
       mythical beast witness protection program [Michael]
plymouth rock tosser & distinguished chair sitter [Simon]
       global poetry warmer [Brenda]
                     Arthurian round tableists [Peter & Liz]
       Apple Dumpling Gang leader [Tom]
deep water rescue team [Pierre, Nicole & Miles]
       flying lessons with Underwater Goosebill [Jamey]
                     Ed Teach & Mary Read [Tony & Lee Ann]
whatdya think the weather’s like in Buenas Aires? [Anonymous]

NOTE. In The Secret Brain Dave Brinks continues his primary work as poet, following his brilliant emergence three years ago with the publication by Black Widow Press of Caveat Onus, The Complete Poem Cycle. A new strategy here, as seen in the preceding, is his exploration of the art of collaboration & with that an idea of poetry, for all its idiosyncrasies, as a collective work – for our time & beyond. With all of that he remains a primary voice for his native place – New Orleans – born & raised there & dedicated to keeping alive the idea of a great New Orleans avant-garde, both past & present, for which he serves as a passionate researcher & patron spirit. For this his principal new outlet is Entrepôt , a literary periodical whose principal aim, he writes, “[is] to explore New Orleans cultural history as well as its ongoing foothold in the world of art and letters; by presenting new documents, scholarship, and documentation to restore the importance of New Orleans’ storied past in contemporary poetics and art.” As such it stands beside his other work as editor-in-chief of YAWP: A Journal of Poetry & Art, publisher of Trembling Pillow Press, director of 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series, founder of The New Orleans School for the Imagination, & literary editor of ArtVoices magazine. These make a combination of good works that are well nigh indispensable – for him & all of us. (J.R.)

Previous postings on Poems and Poetics appeared here & here.

Edited by Alan Gilbert and Daron Mueller

Anne Waldman, Berlin 2002 -- Photo by John Tranter
Anne Waldman, Berlin 2002 -- Photo by John Tranter

[»»] Introduction: by Alan Gilbert and Daron Mueller
From the Introduction:
The essays included in this Anne Waldman feature were selected from presentations given at a symposium honoring the University of Michigan Special Collections Library’s acquisition of Anne Waldman’s archive. Entitled “Makeup on Empty Space: A Celebration of Anne Waldman,” the symposium was held at the University of Michigan from March 13–15, 2002. It included over twenty poets, scholars, publishers, and artists participating in both panels and poetry readings. Andrei Codrescu’s “Who’s Afraid of Anne Waldman?” served as the keynote speech for the symposium.
[»»] Maria Damon: Making the World Safe for Poetry (or, How Is Anne Waldman Different from Woodrow Wilson?)
[»»] Rachel Blau DuPlessis: Anne Waldman: Standing Corporeally in One’s Time
[»»] Alan Gilbert: Anne Waldman Changing the Frequency

[»»] Lorenzo Thomas: Anne Waldman: Finding Poetry’s Public Voice
[»»] Anselm Hollo: Anne’s School
[»»] Akilah Oliver: Hold the Space: The Poetics of Anne Waldman
[»»] Laura Bardwell: Anne Waldman’s Buddhist “Both Both”
[»»] Kristin Prevallet: Navigating the New Chaos: Anne Waldman’s Collaborations with Visual Artists
[»»] Jena Osman: Tracking a Poem in Time: The Shifting States of Anne Waldman’s ‘Makeup on Empty Space’
[»»] Andrei Codrescu: Who’s Afraid of Anne Waldman?
[»»] Joanne Kyger: Anne Waldman: The Early Years... 1965—1970
[»»] Eleni Sikelianos: The Lefevre-Sikelianos-Waldman Tree and the Imaginative Utopian Attempt

John Tranter and Pam Brown, Berlin, 2001, photo by Jane Zemiro
John Tranter and Pam Brown, Berlin, 2001, Photo by Jane Zemiro

Wabowden mapping....

A bit further in Blanchot and his step outside time, I arrive at sentences that sound like the translator at work. At work, yes, inside the “I” or subjectivity of a writer who has already written in another language, a translator enters “in vain” that space where writing speaks to its interlocutor: “J'essaierai en vain de me le représenter, celui que je n'étais pas et qui, sans le vouloir, commençait d'écrire, écrivant (et alors le sachant) de telle manière que par là le pur produit de ne rien faire s'introduisait dans le monde et dans son monde.” (my emphasis, for the translator, to many, brings “nothing” into the world—the consequence of the common belief that the translated work is written by the original writer.

(Thus writers continue to write beyond the grave. And translators, alive, are thus always already dead to what they write. Zombie me!)

Here is Lycette Nelson in the published English : "I will try in vain to represent him to myself, he who I was not and who, without wanting to, began to write, writing (and knowing it then), in such a way that the pure product of doing nothing was introduced into the world and into his world."

Or as my mind wants to read it: “I’ll struggle to represent to myself this person who I was not and, and who, without wanting to, started writing, writing (and thus knew it then) in such a way that, through writing, the pure product of doing nothing introduced itself into the world, and into ‘my’ world.”

That interior world. Elefant. 

A sentence or two later, Blanchot evokes further the two-step of the “I” and the subject writing, or the writing subject and the subject writing: “La certitude qu'en écrivant il mettait précisément entre parenthèses cette certitude, y compris la certitude de lui-même comme sujet d'écrire, le conduisit lentement, cependant aussitôt, dans un espace vide dont le vide (le zéro barré, héraldique) n'empêchait nullement les tours et les détours d'un cheminement très long.”

In my English, departing from Nelson and reading Blanchot’s “writing” as “translating”, and–why not–admitting myself as gendered:  “The certainty that, in the act of translating, she put certainty between parentheses, including the certainty of herself as writing subject, drove her slowly, but directly, into a void whose emptiness (the zero barred, heraldic) did not foreshorten the turns and detours of a very long working process.”

Translating, writing, always suspend that "self"-certainty. It's an emptiness not really empty but already full of language's buzz and admixtures, just empty of the "I" that is the "I" so many wish to bar. It's not there, that one. No need to bar or disdain it, but to work in and through it: like a stitch.