On the evening of October 28th, 2015, Rosa Alcalá, Carmen Giménez Smith, Roberto Tejada, and Rodrigo Toscano gave a collaborative performance of their work in the Eck Visitors Center at the University of Notre Dame. The reading was part of a two-day program, “Angels of the Americlypse: readings and colloquia — new Latin@ poetries and literary translation” organized by Letras Latinas, the literary initiative (directed by Francisco Aragón) of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, in collaboration with Notre Dame’s Creative Writing Program.
Todd Fredson's award-winning poetry collection, The Crucifix-Blocks, offers an epigraph by Cecília Meireles: "And Babel's workmen, dead by suicide." It's a line from Meireles' poem: "Speech," and it's been much in mind not only because of Todd's gorgeous and generous dispatch, but because I was recently in an airplane, peering out a small oval window into high-altitude blue over clouds, imagining what that fabled city might have looked like completed.
Would a person be able to spot its heavenward tower from a window seat at 500 miles per hour? Would its collaborative architecture be recognizable — spiral, terraced, trapezoidal? Would the clang of weights and pulleys ring from its walls?
Maybe such a structure can be perceived only by listening for a shared language buried inside a collective rubble of memory.
Yesterday Charles Bernstein and I interviewed the radical poet Naomi Replansky, now 98 years old. The interview will soon be available as an episode of Charles's "Close Listening" series. Naomi corresponded with Harriet Monroe in 1934 (I have copies of those letters from the POETRY archive) and published 3 poems in POETRY soon after. In the late 1940s and early 50s she published in the communist magazine "Masses & Mainstream." Her book "Ring Song" came out in 1952 and was nominated for a National Book Award. During our talk yesterday she recited the title poem "Ring Song" and several other poems—magnificently. She attended Gertrude Stein's lecture in New York in 1934. She was a friend of Bertolt Brecht in Los Angeles, where she also befriend the group of poets around the magazine "California Quarterly." Her Selected Poems was published in 2012.