Commentaries

A reading at the Woodward Line

My first encounter with a Detroit poetry institution was the Woodward Line Poetry series, a monthly reading at the Scarab Club in Midtown curated by James Hart III and Kim Hunter. The series has been running for over 10 years, featuring poets from within and beyond Detroit.  I first attended the Woodward Line back in September, when Nathaniel Mackey opened the 2014-15 series.

Avant-Garde, II: Surrealist Map of the World

surrealist map world
Anon., Le Monde au Temps des Surrealistes (The Surrealist Map of the World) (Variétés, Brussels 1929)

By the early 1920s, many of the Dadaists had moved on from their former centers of activity in Zurich, New York, Berlin, and elsewhere, while Paris had once again become a hotbed of artistic activity. The Surrealist Map of the World first appeared in a special issue of the Belgian periodical Variétés in 1929.  “Le Surréalisme en 1929” featured works by René Crevel, Paul Éluard, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, and André Breton alongside Belgian writers and artists Paul Nougé, E. L. T. Mesens, and others.  

And yet we must live in these times

Poetry against austerity

The latest metonym for austerity is, in Ireland, water. Since the fall, the Irish have prepared for the imposition of new charges on water usage (long included as part of general taxation). The projected annual costs range from 60 euros to 160 euros per family. Protests against the “semi-state company” Irish Water have drawn allies from Detroit; thousands marched last weekend against the arrest of five protestors in Dublin; two of the jailed protestors are on hunter strike. Galvanized by Syriza's victory in Greece, Ireland, which pays an extraordinary percentage of the total European banking debt, is one of the fronts on which the new international battle against neoliberalism is being waged.  

I spoke to the Galway poet, activist, and teacher Sarah Clancy last week about Irish Water, among other things. Sarah will be appearing again in these pages. But for now I want to draw attention to a poem she read at a recent protest. Here's the video (linked in case the embedded one doesn't work).

Colectivo CASAGRANDE

Poems not bombs

On March 23, 2001, in the middle of the first international poetry festival known as “Chile Poesía” celebrated in Santiago (featuring important writers such as Ernesto Cardenal, Juan Gelman, Antonio Cisneros, Adrienne Rich, Rita Dove, Yevgueni Yevtushenko, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Nicanor Parra, and Raúl Zurita, among others), three members of the local collective CASAGRANDE performed the very first of a series of “site-specific interventions” that are now worldwide known as “Bombardeo de Poemas” (“Poetry bombings” or “Rain of poems”). The idea was pretty simple, at least in the paper: the collective would bomb the crowd attending the last reading of “Chile Poesía” with poems. The poems would be thrown in the form of bookmarks, and the dropping would be done from a helicopter or small aircraft.

Tom Devaney teaches Williams's 'The Last Words of My English Grandmother' to high-school students


I invited Tom Devaney to teach a poem to a group of high-school juniors back in 2010. He brought with him William Carlos Williams's poem “The Last Words of My English Grandmother” because, as he told the students, he likes to hear voices in a poem and also likes to quote his own grandmother in his poems. The first nine minutes of the video are taken up with preliminaries, so if you want to skip to the discussion, move the time dial to 8:50. To watch the video, click here or anywhere on the image above. Click here to visit the PennSound page that includes all twelve of these videos — two sets of six poets each teaching one poem to high school students.