The earth is currently operating in a no-analog state. In the center of the grid is a glass water pitcher. The pink lightning was branched — I think I mean forked. Instead of these, I was given an insect, a peculiar prehistoric creature, part lobster, part spider, part bell-ringer, part son of a fallen star, something like an armored dog. But of course a
name means nothing to a place
place-names are necessary relations
a name recovered returns the claims of human affection for a place
the cuckoo is a pretty bird, she warbles as she flies The cuckoo is a - BANG -
In this episode of Clocktower Radio's Close Listening, ko ko thett talks to me about his decision to write in English; his 19 years in exile and the experience of returning home; the political situation in Burma at the time of his exile compared to the present; his sense of the futility of the student protests; and the international context of the poets he anthologized in Bones Will Crow. In the course of the show ko ko thett reads a recent poem in Burmese and offers a spontaneous translation. Recorded before a live audience at the Kelly Writers House on January 23, 2017. ko ko thett's reading immediately preceded the Close Listening show.
ko ko thett's Kelly Writers House poetry reading (29:18): mp3 ko ko thett in conversation with Charles Bernsien on Close Listening (38:36): mp3
For three decades I have been presenting my students with two versions of William Carlos Williams’s “Young Woman at a Window.” How was the poem revised? Do the versions disclose the method of revision? Does one version better befit Williams’s apparent aims at condensation, action rather than explication? And what and where is the poem’s subject position? I sometimes have led a discussion by asking others to decide which of the two versions they prefer, assuming they prefer modern poems to do in themselves, as writing, what they say. There is of course no need to prefer one version of this or any poem to another, but the preferential exercise decenters the teacher-presenter in ways I have found very productive.
The memory of Kenneth Rexroth goes back into my distant past. I had been aware of him since the 1940s but with renewed interest during the 1950s and the emergence of the San Francisco Renaissance and that early Beat Generation for which he was an older spokesman. With David Antin and others, circa 1958, I was coming into contact with poets outside of our immediate neighborhood and, as with Kenneth, outside of our own generation.
I think our first meeting with him was under the pretext of doing an interview for Chelsea Review, during its early period, when Robert Kelly and George Economou were among the cofounders and editors.
When I last wrote about the Black Writers Museum, I discussed how its unique mission was embroidered in every aspect of its physicality. When I returned to delve into the archive itself and bring forward some of its collection, I realized the best way to describe it was to offer it up in its collaged, multivalent reality. It’s a lot like being in a poem — an intense, challenging poem. There’s a sense of the disjointed collecting itself into something more powerful than its constituent words, lines, or images. Like poetry, the museum evokes a strong emotional response along with, or sometimes in conflict with, the intellectual response it simultaneously offers. Here is a small experience of wandering its shelves, a sample track lifted from the archive’s poems, newspaper headlines, magazines, pamphlets, books, vinyl records, and ephemera. Here, its hum, its dance, its moan.
“It all seemed, and seems still, like a brilliant dream … The meeting was held in a beautiful grove, a live-oak grove, adjoining the camp … As I sat on the ground and looked around on the various groups I thought I had never seen a sight so beautiful. There were the black soldiers in their blue coats and scarlet pants. The officers of this and other regiments in their handsome uniforms and crowds of lookers-on, men and women and children grouped in various attitudes under the trees. The faces of all wore a happy, eager, expectant look.”
When I last wrote about the Black Writers Museum, I discussed how its unique mission was embroidered in every aspect of its physicality. When I returned to delve into the archive itself and bring forward some of its collection, I realized the best way to describe it was to offer it up in its collaged, multivalent reality. It’s a lot like being in a poem — an intense, challenging poem. There’s a sense of the disjointed collecting itself into something more powerful than its constituent words, lines, or images.