[The following dialogue or auto-conversation was salvaged from Schwerner’s notebooks by Mark Weiss & previously unpublished. The most recent version of The Tablets, mentioned throughout this commentary, was published by the National Poetry Foundation, Orono, Maine, in 1999 – a necessary modern/postmodern work & still readily available.]
[The post-Holocaust fate of Yiddish writing is something that’s troubled my mind since the murders of the last century appeared to have decimated both language & culture. Avrom Sutzkever (1913-2010), who fought as a partisan during the years of the khurbn, was one of the outstanding survivors with many kudos & honors in his later years, but the secular mysticism & near surrealism/realism of some of his work wasn’t easy to grasp as he came over to us largely in that more ethnic context & in a translated language not his own. W
[The following is an excerpt from a long poem, “The Ganges,” which runs around a hundred pages & is itself a third of a giant book entitled The Combustion Cycle. The book contains two other poems, “Concerning The Henbane Bird,” & “On Solar Physiology,” the former in the voice of a hummingbird, the Andean Hillstar, & the latter spoken in the voice of an Angolan shaman. As for “The Ganges,” Alexander tells us, “it pours from the voice of an untouchable.” Of Alexander himself I’ve written elsewhere: “Will Alexander, more than any of our other American contemporaries, is the inheritor of an ecstatic surrealism derived from European sources, colored by factual & scientific particulars, & drawing with great intelligence & passion from an international avant-garde & from the negritude writings of Aimé Césaire & others, for whom he acts as a true successor.” His use here of historical & appropriated materials is also worth noting. (J.R.)]
[NOTE. Aridjis of course is a major Mexican poet & environmental activist, & his close account of the current border refugee crisis calls further attention to the longer & more difficult part of the journey that the refugees have undertaken.
[Part One of the Quartermain essay can be found here on Poems and Poetics. His complete view of Eye of Witness will appear early in 2015 in the twentieth issue of Lou Rowan’s Golden Handcuff’s Review, a major repository of poetry & poetics moving from one century & millennium to another.]