Commentaries

Bright arrogance #7

Death Metal Dante

“Hell is other people,” and that’s perhaps why Dante chose to write in the vernacular.  Mary Jo Bang posits Dante’s choice of demotic Italian over more academic Latin as crucial to her more “pop” approach to the Inferno, as if Dante, in descending the circles of Hell, were literally playing out a necessary descent from the purities of high-culture into the noisy substrata of the low.[1] But for a misreading of Benjamin, in which Bang posits his translational ethics as invested in “sharing what is common to all,” her approach partakes in Benjamin’s notion that, in the zombie “afterlife” of a text, one can only reanimate it through translation in ways that are impermanent and historical.

'In poetry all things seem to touch so they are.'

In what will be my last “a textile poetics” post, I return to some familiar themes or where I started: tactility and weaving and language. This time, I proceed by way of a weaving and writing workshop I lead in Kuwait, an essay by Tyrone Williams on ecopoetics, a brief consideration of Susan Howe’s work, and a mention of a lecture on exile by Costica Bradatan. Also on my thought horizon: a project I am working on called “last book” which is a drawing sequence accompanied by a book of random, highly excerpted entries from twelve years of notebooks. This book will be “published” with no cover art, title, author, other marks of publication, and will be made — printed locally — in an edition of 99.

Water, poetry, and the Transborder Immigrant Tool

Transborder Immigrant Tool on a Nokia Phone
Transborder Immigrant Tool on a Nokia Phone

Today, creators of the Transborder Immigrant Tool announced the release of their book containing the code and poems that power this inventive and potentially life-sustaining tool. Developed by the Electronic Disturbance Theatre while in residence at B.A.N.G. lab at University of California, San Diego, the Transborder Immigrant Tool is a mobile app developed for use on inexpensive phones that offer immigrants crossing the U.S./Mexico border on foot navigation to water stations in the desert using visual and sound cues. Once a traveler activates the app, the phone locates the nearest water cache using GPS and begins guiding the user towards the water using a compass and poems.

Translating André Breton: Robert Duncan & David Antin

[Going through some old files recently I came across two translations by Robert Duncan of poems by the Surrealist overlord & master-poet André Breton.  That brought me back too to a series of translations from Breton that David Antin composed & that I published sometime in the 1960s.  An old theme of mine – & ours – that I still cherish is the relation of the second great wave of American experimental poetry to antecedents not only “in the American grain” – as then widely promulgated – but in a direct line from forerunners in other languages & cultures.

John Yau talking to Penn students

photo: Charles Bernstein / PennSound

Just before his Kelly Writers House reading on Tuesday, April 21, 2015, John Yau spoke with the students in my New American Poetry class, English 288 at Penn. He spoke about a wide variety of topics, including discussion of Further Adventures in Monochrome  (first question) and other of his works, poetry and identity, white people playing Asians in Hollywood films, the allure of Humphrey Bogart, and  recent poetry convtroversies.