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Tom Clark reviews "100 Multiple-Choice Questions" by John Ashbery

from Jacket #15 (December 2001)

100 Multiple-Choice Questions is

1. a vast electrical disturbance
2. a cut-up of student examination papers
3. tremendously funny
4. spanking new/old stuff just out & need-to-get
5. a work that travels at the velocity of glacial drift
6. more complex hygronomy from the author of A Kind of Waffle

When, in the obscure depths and glib surfaces of John Ashbery’s poetry, philosophy paints its gloomy picture of the present world, we see that a form of life has grown old. It cannot be rejuvenated, but only understood. Only when dusk starts to fall does the owl of Minerva spread its wings and fly... these words came to me in

1. the street
2. the form of gray tiles arranged as a rebus in a dream
3. a seizure of earnest talk with a young girl
4. a book
5. the spur of a moment of surprising apprehension
6. a fit of impatience after reading 100 Multiple-Choice Questions

Bill Lavender responds to a review of "Cyclones in High Northern Latitudes"

We are pleased to publish Bill Lavender’s response to Jacquilyn Weeks’s review, “Taking the concept of meaning-making by storm,” which we published on June 24, 2011:

There is a lot to argue with in this review. It’s weird how it approaches the real weaknesses of the poem and even analyzes individual points quite succinctly and yet, in the end, embraces the very banality it accuses the poem of.  In a review that counts the number of personal pronouns in the text, the final judgement boils down to “I didn’t like Cyclones.”

Anne Waldman on Lewis Warsh and the Angel Hair Anthology

from Jacket #16 (March 2002)

I met Lewis Warsh at the Berkeley Poetry Conference [in 1965] and will always forever after think we founded Angel Hair within that auspicious moment. Conflation of time triggered by romance adjacent to the glamorous history-making events of the conference seems a reasonable explanation. Perhaps Angel Hair was what we made together in our brief substantive marriage that lasted and had repercussions. And sped us on our way as writers. Aspirations to be a poet were rising, the ante grew higher at Berkeley surrounded by heroic figures of the New American Poetry. Here was a fellow New Yorker, same age, who had also written novels, was resolute, erudite about contemporary poetry. Mutual recognition lit us up. Don’t I know you?

Pam Brown on Philip Mead's book about Australian Poetry

from Jacket #37 (early 2009)

Philip Mead, Melbourne, 2008 [photo by John Tranter]

Refuting Critical Bewilderment in Twentieth Century Australian Poetries

Philip Mead’s Networked Language: Culture & History in Australian Poetry is a much needed, dynamic ingression in the tiny field of Australian poetics. Critical writing on poetry in Australia is incredibly scant considering the sizeable publication (and associated activities) of poetry. However, as tiresome as it is to note once more, in spite of its volume and vigour, poetry itself remains marginal to Australian culture.

Practising poets need to read poetics. My own bookshelves house many books of essays on poetry by contemporary North American poets and critics, some European and some from the UK, yet relatively few books on Australian poetics. Strategically, Australian poet-editors use their introductions to infrequent anthologies to gesture towards a poetics. So, Philip Mead is working in a disappointingly small world. In his introduction Mead discusses the dearth of critical writings on poetry and, in fact, of Australian literary theory in general.

Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain on British & Irish poetry since 1970

from Jacket #4 (1998)

Andrew Crozier (left) and Allen Fisher (photos by David James, 1998)

“A Fair Field Full of Folk”: OTHER British and Irish Poetry since 1970

The British Isles have long been, self-evidently, crowded, complex, and packed with chaotic overlays of cultures — local, imported or created — which develop and intermix constantly. Langland's fourteenth-century “fair field full of folk” was already an intensely plural society, where elements of Saxon, Norman and Cymric were evident alongside each other, with strong elements of Latinate church culture, and, never far away, mainland European culture jostling alongside the other elements of linguistic mix. Diverse cultures sometimes conflict violently, or sometimes make uneasy alliances, and sometimes, perhaps by chance, give rise to the creation of new forms or achievements. About the only thing which is not possible in such a pluralistic, fragmenting, evolving society is a unitary, closed-system approach to culture, an insistence on a single “great tradition” which can justify any degree of cultural domination. And yet at present the organs of this culture — from opera and literature to government — remain unshakably monolithic and centralised: to look at the central products of this culture is to be reminded just how assertive the “mainstream” has been, and how marginalised its alternatives have seemed at times.