After taking a bit of a hiatus from this column over the holidays, my encounter with this essay by Daniel Borzutsky, a Chicago-based poet and translator, has coaxed me back to work. Before reading the essay (I’m embarrassed to admit), I didn’t know Borzutsky’s work well, although I had read some excerpts and his statement of poetics in the wonderful new Counterpath anthology Angels of the Americlypse: New Latin@ Writing.
I was first attracted to Borzutzky’s essay because it opens with an incredible quote by Don Mee Choi, a friend of mine who is herself a poet and translator.
I donated my collection of literary magazine along with many chapbooks and monographas, to the Penn Rare Books library. These maerials have now been catalogued. (Soon to be added to the collection is the vast inventory Penn acquired from the Gotham Book Mart.) Here are some links:
[On September 23rd 43 students of the teacher's college in Ayotzinapa, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, were detained by the police on the way to a protest, and handed over to a local drug cartel. They were tortured and killed, their bodies dismembered, dumped in a pit and incinerated. Mexico has been in turmoil since.
David Huerta is one of Mexico's most important poets. This poem is his reaction. (M.W.)]
There seems to me no better way to begin this discussion than with an epistemological thought experiment (as is the case with most discussions). Consider what you heard in the “epiphone” to this essay, which is hiss from a digitization of recordings of Vachel Lindsay, originally made on aluminum records in 1931. It likely sounded like noise, and it is—to human auditory perception. But what if there is a pattern in this noise that is imperceptible to the human ear but recognizable to so-called machine listening? Consider the sample above from the Lindsay, alongside this sample of leading “noise” from digitizations of Harriet Monroe from the same series, alongside this one from the James Weldon Johnson recordings. I’ve been listening to several hours of audio from this series and have come to think that the noise from each of the recordings sounds similar, in the most impressionistic way possible.
Pearl Pirie has been one of the most active and engaged poets in Ottawa for at least a decade, from her enormous productivity as a writer, performer, reviewer, blogger, editor, radio host, workshop facilitator, food columnist and small press publisher, to irregularly hosting salon workshops and readings in the house she shares with her partner of twenty-three years, the designer Brian Pirie. Through her growing handful of books and chapbooks, what appeals about Pirie’s work is the way in which sound, mashed words and an unhindered sequence of meanings manage to propel across the page.