Editors of deceased poets’ collections of papers, essays and letters usually inhabit the background of the material and can be overlooked in the reader's enthusiasm for the topic. These editors are often friends or close colleagues of their subject. I’m interested in what might prompt someone to undertake the laborious and meticulous work of assembling a poet’s writings. Poets and other readers are fascinated by the biographical elements and the intimacy of what were once the private communications of their favourite, influential poets. And of course there is also diverse reception for their critical thinking and opinions about things other than the poetry.
In 2005 Tony Frazer's UK-based press, Shearsman Books, published a selection of poems by Dirk Van Bastelaere. They were translated from Flemish by Willem Groenewegen, John Irons, and Francis R. Jones. Dirk Van Bastelaere is a postmodernist. I read the book, The Last to Leave,and found its polysemy and pace enthralling. To me these poems seemed made by an intertextualist in pursuit of the limit-experience. Here was a poet who was unfastened and fast. He was influenced by John Ashbery and by Gertrude Stein, and often referenced contemporary art and culture - films, pop songs, literature and so on - an aspect that apparently led to his being attacked for "intellectualism" by critics in Flanders.
In 2008 Dirk Van Bastelaere caused some controversy in the Flemish poetry scene with Hotel New Flanders, a large anthology of sixty years of Flemish poetry that he co-edited with Erwin Jans and Patrick Peeters. His poetry operates in flux and it seems that he sees anthologies similarly. He wrote in the introduction to Hotel New Flanders:
In early 2008 Jacket published two poets, Eugenia Ritz and Andrei Sen-Senkov translated from Russian by Peter Golub, and an interview with Dmitry Kuzmin that Peter conducted in Moscow in the summer of 2007. Dmitry Kuzmin is an editor, critic, poet and the creator of LitKarta, an online map of literary Russia.
Later that year Peter suggested that Jacket feature a selection of contemporary Russian poetry. This looked like a good proposal and we began work, building the feature from files as they arrived. It included work from sixty-seven poets, eighteen translators, several essays and an interview. It was one of the most extensive poetry features I worked on during my time with Jacket. I discovered much about new Russian poetry as I did so. The ideals, points of view and expectations of the group of “new” poets were distinctly different from those who published under the old Soviet Union regime. The writing was more candid and embraced innovation.
Peter Golub is a poet, translator, and scholar. He has published his work in various places including Circumference, PEN America, and Playboy. He has one book of poems published in Russia, My Imagined Funeral (ARGO-RISK, 2007). He's also the recipient of a PEN Translation Grant as well as a BILTC Fellowship. Peter is currently working toward his PhD at UC Berkeley and helps edit the St. Petersburg Review.
When I read Eileen Myles' book The Importance of Being Iceland in November 2010, I was stimulated by its breadth of sources and its kind of charged acuity. I decided to publish a review of it in Jacket. In the essays Eileen had written mostly about art and often about the circumstances of travelling, mainly to Iceland, to look at art. So I needed to find a critic on a similar wavelength to hers and one for whom the art she talked about might be familiar. It wasn't too hard - Ken Bolton was the obvious person. He is, like Eileen, both a poet and an art critic and his book of essays, Art Writing,was published around the same time as hers. (Ken also makes drawings, some of which will be published in a forthcoming instalment of the Australian poetry feature currently gearing up again in J2).