Commentaries - May 2013

Outsider poems, a mini-anthology in progress (53): Daniel Paul Schreber (1842 – 1911), from 'Memoirs of My Nervous Illness'


The talking of all free flying birds has persisted without interruption in the past years in which I frequently changed my residence, and it persists to this day … I would now prefer to use the expression “talking bird” to “miraculously created bird” which is used in the text. Earlier on I thought I could not explain the talking of the birds other than by assuming that they were as such created by miracle, that is to say were created anew each time. After what I have observed meantime I consider it more likely that they were birds produced by natural reproduction, into whose bodies the remnants of the “forecourts of heaven,” that is to say erstwhile blessed human souls, had been inserted in some supernatural way or were inserted anew each time. But that these souls [nerves] were actually inside the bodies of these birds [perhaps in addition to the nerves which these birds naturally possess and in any case without awareness of their previous identity] remains as before without any doubt for me for reasons developed in the text.

Celia Dropkin: From 'In Her White Wake: The Selected Poems of Celia Dropkin'

Translated from Yiddish by Faith Jones, Jennifer Kronovet, and Samuel Solomon

[From the bilingual book forthcoming from Tebot Bach Press]



My hands, two little bits

of my body I'm never

ashamed to show. With fingers—

the branches of coral,

fingers—two nests

of white serpents,

Etel Adnan's 'Paris, When It’s Naked'

The poet's novel

A novel in which the subject is Paris.  A collage novel.  A list novel.  A novel of various forms of hopefulness and despair. 

“We’re moving towards something that does not exist.  The voyage is infinite. The passenger is not.” [1].

Where has Adnan taken the form of the novel, as a poet of many countries and languages?  She has chosen place for character. She has chosen Paris, all of Paris.  Her gaze penetrates the beauty and limitations.  She does not ignore Paris as “the heart of a lingering colonial power.”  She has taken the reader not only to the streets of Paris, but to the skies, and to the passing thoughts of the relocated Parisian who writes through circumstances, concerns, observations. 

“Some rare evenings, the glow is so strong that pink hue, an after hue, an illumination made of color and fire, seeps between the buildings, these evenings which are an illumination for the whole body, not only the eyes.”  [2].

That no other persons come into focus for more than a moment creates an experimental cinematic sense of the city.  We are lured toward  not merely a visual surface but a detailed map of luminosities and gravities

Gertrude Stein and the Marshal

Our Stein dossier on the war years has two new pieces: a detailed study by Vaclav Paris of Stein's aborted translations of Pétain, which ended about the time the FDR administration broke relations with Vichy, and a thoughtful response to the article by noted Stein scholar Leon Katz.