The Sackner Archive (of Miami) and UbuWeb. Two treasures in the world of concrete, sound, and visual poetries. They've come together now, as Matthew Abess has curated an anthology of sound recordings from Ruth and Marvin Sackner's collection and Kenny Goldsmith at Ubu has made digital space for them and added the list to Ubu's site. It's all semi-rare to rare, great and strange stuff. Have a listen.
In his liner notes, Matt Abess writes (in part):
The work presented here comprises a portion of the Sackner's tremendous compendium of sonic works. The range of geographic origins runs the circumference of the globe. The time span is nearly a century. It witnesses histories: of poetry, literature, music, visual art, technology, politics, religion, theoretical contentions and practical abstention. It indicates and permits divergent lines of flight. It is an ensemble of dramatic personalities and the social narratives that they informed. It chronicles and enacts the persistent deformation and reformation of the flow of language, intending the same towards the order of things in the world.
It is the story of a charming pair - Ruth and Marvin Sackner - whose permissive attitude invites us to navigate the wordy, worldy present; to co-operatively investigate that eminently human technology, language. The Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry is a tactile space of verbal, vocal and visual collision. As each deflection inflects, so collisions coalesce: the Archive makes spaces where the interface of body and language might take place on planes patterned by our movement across them. The works here evidence the enormous range of possible iterations. Ruth and Marvin Sackner invite us to join in the play.
As a Penn guy, I'm especially proud of this. The Sackners are both alumni, Matt is our student and close affiliate of Writers House and CPCW, and Kenny teaches "Uncreative Writing" and his CPCW/ICA seminar here.
Have you been following the fracas over at Harriet, the Poetry Foundation blog (named after founding Poetry editor Harriet Monroe)? Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young began it by showing and analyzing "the numbers" on women poets published in avant-garde magazines. Is the experimental poetics community particularly sexist? In the middle of this discussion, Ange Mlinko suggested that the avant-garde may be more sexist than mainstream literature because the avant-garde has often renounced the lyric. And on and on it has gone.
If you're looking for a way into the middle of the discussion (that might be the best entry-point), I suggest starting with one of Christian Bok's rejoinders. You should be able to link your way around from there. And/or read Ange Mlinko's main commentary on the matter.
Earlier this autumn I wrote about the late David DeLaura, a Victorianist and long-time activist citizen of the University of Texas and of Penn - a super-energetic and hyper-sympathetic person whose sanity was Arnoldian and whose sentiment was The Man of Feeling. Now we'd done a Kelly Writers House podcast that features a 22-minute excerpt from the program we held at the House in '05 to remember him. Please have a listen. Be sure to hear Wendy Steiner tell about her dream of David and Roger Abrahams describing their heady faculty-centric politicking at UT.
I'm reading an essay-roundup of then-current poetry in the September 1960 issue of the Atlantic. Peter Davison, Harvard '49 and editor at Harvard University Press, wrote the piece. He covers several new books and begins with four paragraps about Donald Allen's New American Poetry. Davison disdains the new Americans and suggests that the term "recent" would be apter than "new."
Words Davison uses about NAP: "subcommanders," "exclusive" (as in intolerant), "confusing," "verbose," "perverse," "inability," "marchers."
"Subcommanders"? Davison doesn't hide his trope: these inarticulate new Americans are an army of partisans--ideologists. Although other poetry under review took up social and political themes, it was Allen's strange collection of young poets of whom the reviewer had never heard that were "sociological." NAP of course marked a return to poetics from the thematic emphasis of mainstream verse of the 50s but here: "I am afraid that this collection as a whole has more sociological than poetic interest about it."
And "marchers"? This dismissal has about it the usual worry about rude political force. Funny how in 1960 still, so late into the anti-ideological era, rebukes of the avant-garde use a political rhetoric. "Coterie" = subversive cell. Yet what was it that mainstream critics were commending if not a different coterie, and was not this critical gesture itself "exclusive" in its willful avoidance of Pound-Williams poetics (Davison identifies it as such) as an aesthetic?
Photo above right: Peter Davison. B. 1928. Served in various editorial capacities at Atlantic for 50 years. Son of English poet Edward Davison. His first book of poems was published in 1963.
Below and at right: Albert Maignan's "Green Muse" (1895) shows a poet succumbing to the green fairy.
Edward Rothstein of course writes on art for the Times. Today's column is unusual - a seemingly real essayistic venture, and the topic is absinthe. Art that's been made under the influence of absinthe. And the green magic has long been associated with bohemianism and the avant-garde.
There are only two things that recommend this piece in particular.
First, a great line from Oscar Wilde quoted here: "After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world."
Before we get to the second reason for my interest, let me quote the opening of the piece so you have a sense of its approach:
"Dear reader! Should this column impress you as being more than usually lyrical, recalling perhaps the imagery and elegance of poetry by Baudelaire or Verlaine; should it seem a bit decadent, redolent of Oscar Wilde’s withering hauteur; should it have a touch of madness or perversity, combining, say, the tastes of Toulouse-Lautrec with the passions of van Gogh; should it simply sound direct and forceful and knowing like one of Ernest Hemingway’s characters; should it do any or all of that, let me credit something that each of these figures fervently paid tribute to: the green fairy, the green goddess, the green muse, the glaucous witch, the queen of poisons."
Okay, then, second: Rothstein's listy, flowy style itself. It's a bit of a dare, this piece--although just a bit (and that's my point). He admits that "[t]his column was conceived under the influence of a green-colored high-proof herbal liquor that was illegal in the United States for more than 95 years." Note: conceived; not written. Indeed, I wish the piece had actually been written under the influence, or in an unconducive-to-newspaper-sense mood engendered by other means; as it is, though, its waywardness and parallelisms ("the green fairy, the green goddess, the green muse, the glaucous witch, the queen of poisons") are fake drunken-loose writing. Recollection of flow after the fact. The list has green, green, green, glaucous (I like that substitution) and then queen. Green/queen rights the metrical rhyming ship of that otherwise teetering sentence. Too easy. Let it really get off the rails, and then Edward Rothstein would have been doing something new in the Times Arts page.
The piece set itself up for a fall with its indication of experimentalist standards: for the fact is its writing doesn't "recall[...] the imagery and elegance of poetry by Baudelaire or Verlaine." The opening paragraph is just an irony, even an (unintended) mock at writers who really go off.
Oh, why can't journalistic writing ever even once really do in its form what it does in content? Why must its excitement always be in the meaning of the sentences' sense and never in itself the means by which the piece is written? I'm asking a silly question, of course, for this is the paper of record....but here (blog) is a space where like others I tilt at stylebook windmills, messing with media of which I truly