Michael Heller is the author of nearly thirty volumes of poetry, essays, memoir and fiction. His collected poems, This Constellation Is A Name: Collected Poems 1965–2010, appeared in 2012. His poetry notwithstanding, Heller’s masterly essays have been a major influence on our arts and letters; his collections of criticism (especially on poetry and art) have been instrumental in shaping contemporary poetics.
Begin again: that was the advice of the Benedictine monk John Main, founder of the Christian silent meditation movement in the West, to those who found themselves floundering in their commitment to the daily task of meditating. It is an idea that is strangely comforting — to begin again — in all the contradictory impulses of that phrase, for a beginning is new in its never-been-here-before quality and resists the idea of repetition nestled at the heart of again. But that is what we must do in the face of the tsunami of the attacks bearing down on all those committed to a fair and equitable society — begin again and again and again
When the Soviet Union fell apart at the start of the 1990s, it seemed to many that social transformation and aesthetic revolution were in full synchronicity. What was left of the stuffy orthodoxy of Soviet culture and its official style of socialist realism was swept away, and the unofficial art and writing that had been developing for years in the underground and in alternative social spaces burst into public view.
In November 2014, a representative sample of Canada’s avant-garde gathered in St. Catharines, Ontario, at the Avant Canada: Artists, Prophets, Revolutionaries conference to map out the state of experimental writing today and for the future. A major focus of the event was Indigenous poetics and politics, including the keynote address by Stó:lõ First Nations elder, philosopher, and author Lee Maracle. Her apposite message to the future-oriented, mostly settler audience was to remember: remember how and why your families came to Canada, remember who was here to greet them, remember the violence of displacement and the violence of the passage across the Atlantic.
“Where New York poets and others … tended to hear a ‘cool,’ abstract, even cerebral, poetry,” writes Peter Boyle in the translator’s essay accompanying this feature, “in Latin America a more emotional, threatening, and visceral ‘magic’ surrealism developed.” Boyle places Cuban poet José Kozer’s work in this surrealist camp: time and reality become warped and subjective in Kozer’s neobaroque poems.