[For the record & because I’m feeling some irritation following the recent PEN Center / Charlie Hebdo brouhaha, I’m posting these two pieces on today’s Poems and Poetics. Both Joris & Aridjis have been very close to me over the years, & their pieces, taken together, provide as strong a statement as needed in the present instance. My own sense of the issues goes back to forerunners like the Dada poet Richard Huelsenbeck who spoke out against the “misbelievers” of religion & in favor of the “dis
[My first memory of Serge Pey was in Paris, sometime in the early 1980s, when he woke us up in the apartment off Saint Germain that my wife & I were then borrowing. Our son had arrived a few hours before, traveling with a couple of friends across Europe and walking halfway across Paris on the morning of a Metro strike. The three of them were sacked out on the floor, across the room from us, but didn’t hear Serge’s heavy knocking on the door. We did and when we opened up for him he moved in quickly, holding with both hands a large, hollow, brightly painted rain stick, filled with beans or pebbles, which when upended made a gentle swooshing sound like rain or falling water. He told us he had come to serenade us – Aztec style – & walked out to the center of the rather large room, where the ritual began.
[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.