Commentaries

You don't have to think of it as poetry: Joanne Kyger's 'Descartes' and 'Bird Books'

Why start a series on ruptures and dissimilarity in poetic practice with Joanne Kyger, whose books of poetry seem to be very steady, a daily practice of poetry as journaling, a kind of non-narrative, time-specific work of being, a concern carefully announced by the titles of her books: Going On, Trip Out and Fall Back, On Time?

Toward a poetry and poetics of the Americas (11): from the Popol Vuh (Mayan)

The Popol Vuh, literally “the book of the community” (or “commonhouse” or “council”), was preserved by Indians in Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, Guatemala, and in the eighteenth century given to Father Francisco Ximénez who transcribed it in roman letters and put it into Spanish; vanished again and rediscovered in the 1850s by Carl Scherzer and Abbé Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg.

Translation from the Mayan by Dennis Tedlock

 

this is the beginning of the ancient word,

here in this place called k’iche’

 

Here we shall inscribe,

               we shall implant the Ancient Word,

Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar'

The Bell Jar (Faber & Faber)
The Bell Jar (Faber & Faber)

Sylvia Plath spent the summer of 1953 in New York working for Mademoiselle magazine. In the first sentence of The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood, Plath’s narrator, tells us “I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” Esther’s inability to know — to know what she was doing and whether her life was worth it — is contextualized by the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Their execution is everywhere she turns. “The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers — goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway.” Despite being the one who is free and alive, Esther feels impossibly trapped. When execution is all there is to read about, it is also all one can write about.

Sylvia Plath spent the summer of 1953 in New York working for Mademoiselle magazine. In the first sentence of The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood, Plath’s narrator, tells us “I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” Esther’s inability to know — to know what she was doing and whether her life was worth it — is contextualized by the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Stanley Cavell (1926–2018)

Cavell at home, April 9, 2014. © Charles Bernstein

I met Stanley Cavell almost fifty years ago and he and his work have been constant companions since that time. I am grateful for his friendship and that of Cathleen Cavell, over all these years.

Heriberto Yépez: What Are the United States and Why Are There So Many of Them (Work in Progress)

Originally published in S/N New World Poetics, a publication edited by Charles Bernstein and Eduardo Espina. Copyright © 2012. All Rights Reserved.