Commentaries - February 2019

Muhammad al-Maghut's poetics of nonchalance

Muhammad al-Maghut

The Syrian poet Muhammad al-Maghut (1934–2006) embraced the persona of the outsider, the loiterer, the hobo. He performed it in his life and in his poetry. This marginal posture guides and supplements the reading of his work and the perceived achievement of his poetic project.  

The story goes that he joined the Baʿth party because its office happened to be closer to his house than that of the rival political party. Moreover, the Baʿth had the added advantage of a fireplace in the winter. And so, by accident, he ended up as a political prisoner in the Mezzeh prison outside of Damascus where he began writing on cigarette boxes. It didn’t occur to him that his writings were poetry until he showed them to his cellmate (none other than the poet Adunis) who said they might very well be. This is how al-Maghut himself likes to portray the beginning of his poetic career and his politcal invovlement, a funny coincidence.*

Mei-mei Berseenbrugge: recordings of poems from 'Four Year Old Girl'

From Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s PennSound page, here are audio recordings (from various readings over the years) of poems published in the book Four Year Old Girl:

Irises: MP3
Daughter: MP3 in three parts: 1 | 2 | 3
Health: MP3
Pollen: MP3
Kali: MP3 (part 3 only)

Nick Montfort's hard west turn

Arriving on my desk this week — the result, apparently, of a quick visit to Philadelphia by Nick Montfort — is a remarkable excerpt from Montfort's 2018 work, Hard West Turn. This No Press pamphlet takes pages 213 through 216 from the work. Go here to find out how to acquire this or any of Nick's work. No Press is the wonderful ongoing creation of Derek Beaulieu of Calgary (now, precisely, of Banff). Hard West Turn was computer generated using text from the English Wikipedia and the Simple English Wikipedia. Information about the book can be found here.  Information about No Press can be found here. Another recent work by Nick Montfort: “Leaflet of Eden,” a sheet folded twice, printed by Nick himself, in Cambridge, on a dot matrix printer.

Irakli Qolbaia: 'Healing Poem'

An example of the geographic and cultural range of English-language writing, this one a recent work from the Georgian poet and translator Irakli Qolbaia.

[An example of the geographic and cultural range of English-language writing, this one a recent work from the Georgian poet and translator Irakli Qolbaia.