Commentaries - June 2014

First and a half

(With apologies to Brent Cunningham)

pink ties...

Kyle Schlesinger, The Pink (Kenning Editions, 2008), unpaginated, $7.50

As John Yau does in Exhibits, Schlesinger envelops social and cultural critiques in humorous retoolings of clichés. Schlesinger, however, deploys more traditional devices than Yau, especially enjambment, in order to draw attention to his broadly “ecological” concerns. As he puts it in the first poem, “Macrosemantic Liturgy,“ “There are plenty of rivers in the sea/ But you can’t step on the same fish twice.” Alliteration and opposition (“Light’s lofty//Turn towards/the quotidian”), internal rhyme and assonance (“In the beak to the/ Bleak passage say”), and repetition (“Which” is a leitmotif throughout the magnificent “Shedding”) cross-stitch these poems together at every level: syntactical, rhetorical and semantic.

Recipients of the Pew Fellowships (For Philadelphia-area artists)

I am pleased to see that among the 2014 recipients of Pew Fellowships are:
Laynie Browne
Browne explores and reinvents various poetic forms, including sonnets (Daily Sonnets, Counterpath, 2007) tales (The Scented Fox, Wave Books, 2007), and letters (The Desires of Letters, Counterpath, 2010).
Thomas Devaney
A native Philadelphian and author of the newly released Calamity Jane (Furniture Press, 2014), Devaney takes inspiration from music and visual art, writing for the ear as well as the eye.
J.C. Todd
Todd’s work complicates and contemporizes the longstanding tradition of war poetry, and investigates how war permeates human life and language.

Stephen Ratcliffe reads the entirety of one of his 1,000-page books

10-hour recording added to PennSound

C o n t i n u u m, written between January 5, 2011 and September 30, 2013, is the fourth book in Stephen Ratcliffe's ongoing series of 1,000-page books, each written in 1,000 consecutive days.

Listening to Ratcliffe reading the words of the day on the page as it turns from one day to the next, one hears the poem's acoustic 'shape': the length and pitch of its syllables and words (plus those silences between them) sounding the air. What one doesn't hear is its visual 'shape': words set in Courier, font of equivalent spacing; the nine lines on the page divided into four stanzas; first three lines all the same length, followed by two pairs of indented lines (both first lines the same length, both second lines six spaces shorter), followed by two final lines (back on the left margin, both lines also the same length) (see photo of "9.30", top right).

'Poems for the Millennium, Volume 5': A first announcement by Black Widow Press of the forthcoming publication

Adolf Wölfli: The Dragon Rock-Trimbach Railway Foot & Traffic Bridge (from From
Adolf Wölfli: The Dragon Rock-Trimbach Railway Foot & Traffic Bridge (from From the Cradle to the Graave [1909])

For release October 2014                                                                                                                                  

Black Widow Press                                                                                                                                                

ISBN: 978-0-9960079-9-3                                                                                                                              

650 pages. $35.00


POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM, VOLUME 5: Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Assemblage of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present

Edited with commentaries by Jerome Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman


Barbaric Vast & Wild is a continuation and a possible culmination of the project that began with Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred in 1968 and led to the first four volumes of Poems for the Millennium in the 1990s and 2000s. In this new and equally groundbreaking volume, Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman have assembled a wide-ranging gathering of poems and related language works, whose outside/outsider and subterranean/subversive positions challenge some of the boundaries to where poetry has been or may be practiced, as well as the form and substance of the poetry itself. It also extends the time frame of the preceding volumes in Poems for the Millennium, hoping to show that, in all places and times, what the dominant culture has taken as poetry has only been part of the story.

Notes away from a petite avant-garde

Toward elsewhere ...

John Yau, Exhibits (Letter Machine Editions, 2010), 22 pp. $10.00

Yau’s wry humor disguises these serious interrogations of reader expectations from, first and foremost, a “book.” The art gallery/museum noun of the title blurs with the verb, and what follows is   a series of punning, jokey, even hokey, takes on the text as monument, an issue taken up explicitly by C.J. Martin in his Two Books. This is, as it were, conceptual writing in a different register, not as appropriation a la Goldsmith and Place but rather, or closer to, Fitterman’s and Martin's more marked social and political broadsides. The erasure of any thematized beginnings or endings is only one of the “good reasons why a Table of Contents isn’t included in tonight’s menu,” (1) that pat nod to Barthes’ readerly consumer notwithstanding. In this text every one-liner rings with cultural critique, from the well-known Language Writing delimitation of the self (“I did not think for us all.”) to the “return” of formalism as “New” ("Shall we swirl up some spaghetti and fling it over the wall, hope that it lands on the heads of them all?”) (18). And yes, sometimes it can seem that the poetry wars barely amount to a hill of beans, or as Yau would have it, “It’s one thing to be blown off the face of the earth and another to have your face erased.” (14) Exhibits rights the scale, puuting things--aesthetics and politics--back into perspective.