Commentaries - June 2014

Hemispheric history 101

Roberto Tejada's takedowns ...

Detroit and an engine of modernism

Roberto Tejada, Exposition Park (Wesleyan University Press, 2010), 68 pp. $22.99.  In After Translation Ignacio Infante attempts to disable national, linguistic and cultural borders in order to reposition modernism as a hemispheric, if not global, phenomenon. In doing so, he follows the paths of any number of writers and critics (the late Lorenzo Thomas, for example).  However, Infante places translation, in Walter Benjamin’s sense, at the center of this project. Going a step farther, Roberto Tejada torques Benjamin’s arcade, underscoring its curatorial facet. Thus Exposition Park is itself a kind of updated Harlem Gallery, teasing out the linguistic, political and cultural implications of Tolson’s magnum opus. Divided into seven sections which correspond directly or indirectly to public and museum art projects, exhibits and performances, this book dissects Anglo-American myth concerning the Americas and sutures a “new” history that emphasizes “In no beginning/ was there just one language.” (42) The central metaphors throughout are the various world expositions during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Two Occitan poets, Bernat Manciet & Marcela Delpastre, from an Assemblage in Progress

Translated with commentaries by Pierre Joris & Nicole Peyrafitte

Bernat Manciet & Marcela Delpastre
Bernat Manciet & Marcela Delpastre

[What follows is part of a new gathering of written & oral Occitan literatures, conceived  as a sixth volume of Poems for the Millennium under the title A Millennium of Occitan Writing.  The time span goes from the earliest surviving examples of Occitan poetry — that of the 11th century trobadors, the inventors of European lyric poetry — to the work of the current generation of Occitan writers, concerned with rehabilitating their language in both daily & literary modes in an epoch which one could describe as somewhat “post-colonial.” 

Half and a second ...

Another pink tie ...

Jared Schickling, The Pink (BlazeVox Books, 2012), 75 pp., unpriced

Unlike the Wittgenstein-inspired ruminations of Schlesinger’s book with the same title, Schickling’s exuberant derring-do refers explicitly to the German folktale (one of the ones collected by the Grimm brothers) called “The Pink, Or The Carnation.”  But Schickling’s book is more than just a masterful rewriting of the original gender-bending story. Its concerns with patrilineal and matrilineal tactics, pitting gods against humans, parents against siblings, servants against masters, and so forth becomes the launching pad for a bizarrely compelling mash-up of Joyce’s Portrait (“bee bay / yoo hoo”), L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz (“Power lines! lashed to boards bolted a species of limb snapping one night through gusting minor storms”) and Dante’s Inferno ( “B.” is our narrator’s spunky daughter, Beatrice). The mix-up/disappointment of the queen in the fairy tale (she is accused of murdering her son) occasions our narrator’s tale as a journey from childhood (“I was an accident”) to fatherhood. A dizzying display of different fonts, typefaces, prosaic and verse forms, The Pink ranges back and forth between the perspectives of children and parents, boys and girls, and mothers and fathers. In that sense it is truly a family tale as well as an intensely personalized autobiography. In other words, this is the kind of poetry only a parent or a child could "get," if not throughly appreciate,  though the rest of us can revel in its linguistic inventions and marvels. 

The periodic table of poetry

Pictures of the Periodic Table of Elements picnic table outside of the Chemistry
Pictures I took of the Periodic Table of Elements picnic table outside of the Chemistry Department at Wake Forest University.

In 1869, the first version of the Periodic Table of Elements was created by Dmitri Mendeleev to illustrate the known chemical elements of the time and predict new ones. Elements are distinguished by having a single type of atom, and as they are discovered by scientists, the table grows. But what of the elements classified and discovered by poets, elements not made of atoms but language? Is poetry a kind of periodic table of language where poets chart, predict, and make elements as alchemists? Perhaps the P.T.O.E. is itself a P.O.E.M. 

One under-acknowledged and yet groundbreaking phenomenon of our time is that, in addition to some poets responding to science as a way to think about language, poetry, and science in more novel ways, some poets are practicing science by making poetry and therefore making something else from practicing both science and poetry at the same time.

In audio practice XII

Practice audio in

Girassol studio (Frelinghuysen, NJ), 2003/2014
Girassol studio (Frelinghuysen, NJ), 2003/2014

The diagram presented in my previous post partially encapsulates my endeavors with audio as a whole: working with—and sometimes with connection between—processed sound, music, language, performance, and multimedia. The chart contains a few names of people I have worked with and is not a bad outline, though as a mapping of a live performance, it does not intersect with the documentary work I’ve done.

Thinking back over the span of years encapsulated in these commentaries about recording experiences (1986-2014), the place where my audio practice started—with a handheld cassette unit and cheap tapes—is so massively different from where we are today. Portable (and post-able) recording technology in one form or another is now practically ubiquitous. Along the way, I made do (owed dues) with what I had access to, acquiring and/or using cassette, 8-track reel, 4-track cassette, DAT, Minidisc, SD card recorders, and other hardware. Thanks to computers and software decent and affordable home-studio setups, suitable to produce new and old material, are within the general public’s reach — although as my wife contends, practice plays an important role (i.e., you need to know what you are doing and that only happens with familiarity over time).