Commentaries

A brief history of Detroit experimentalism, by way of the Book Beat

Bordering Detroit to the northeast is the city of Oak Park. In the middle of Oak Park is Lincoln Shopping Center, a nondescript suburban strip mall, the kind that typically houses a Family Dollar, a liquor store, maybe a restaurant. Lincoln Center is also home to the Book Beat, an independent bookshop owned by Cary Loren.

Avant-garde, III: Situationist maps, take one

Debord and Jorn’s Guide Psychogeographique de Paris (1956)
Debord and Jorn’s Guide Psychogeographique de Paris (1956)

Embedded in the coterie journals, performances, exhibits, and spectacles that provided their contexts, Dada and Surrealist counter-maps were exemplary aesthetic documents, but their bold lettering, torqued scales, and attentiveness to contemporary events made them, at the same time, pedagogical and political.  In evoking the dynamics of nationalism, colonialism, and imperialism, Dada and Surrealist counter-maps worked to indict the attentive viewer.  Their effect, as Fredric Jameson put it in another context, was “to endow the individual subject with some new heightened sense of its place in the global system” (54). 

Jerome Rothenberg: 'Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Reminiscence,' with an addendum 2015

[The following short essay appeared as the terminal piece in the Library of America’s A Singer Album, 2004.]

 

It was through Isaac Bashevis Singer that I first saw an opening to what came to be, for a number of years at least, a central focus of my work as a poet. I met him only once, a year or so after the American publication of Satan in Goray in 1957, and it took me at least a decade to absorb that book and the books that followed into my own system of writing and thinking. Our meeting was arranged by Cecil Hemley, who was Singer’s editor at Noonday Books, with the mistaken idea that I might know enough Yiddish to take on some of the translation for what was coming to be a major Noonday project. Singer was only just getting to be known – outside of Yiddish circles anyway – but my own reading of Satan in Goray and the Gimpel the Fool stories was already working on my imagination with a sense of something new that might find a way into the poetry I was then learning to compose.

A short interview with Fred Wah

Fred Wah was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1939, but he grew up in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia. He studied music and English literature at the University of British Columbia in the early 1960s where he was one of the founding editors of the poetry newsletter TISH. After graduate work in literature and linguistics at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and the State University of New York at Buffalo, he returned to the Kootenays in the late 1960s where he taught at Selkirk College and was the founding coordinator of the writing program at David Thompson University Centre. He retired from the University of Calgary in 2003 and now lives in Vancouver. He has been editorially involved with a number of literary magazines over the years, such as Open Letter and West Coast Line.

Dead air

Sinéad Morrissey's 'Through the Square Window'

Fernand Braudel is a historian of globalization who works within and against a tradition of geography as the science of colonial and state power. Volume 1 of Braudel's The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, first published in 1949, begins, in a deliberate gesture of departure, not with the eponymous sea and the plains around it but with the snow on the mountains. "Here we are far from the Mediterranean where orange trees blossom" (27), he writes, conjuring the tropes and conventions of "landscapism" in history as much as in poetry. "To tell the truth," Braudel continues, "the historian is not unlike the traveler. He tends to linger over the plain, which is the setting for the leading actors of the day, and does not seem to approach the high mountains near by" (29).