Shots fired

Image at left courtesy of Mike Lala.

If in Act 1 you have a pistol hanging from the wall, then it must fire in the last act. — Anton Chekhov[1

'North of the Equator'

'A TransPacific Poetics'

Photo from cover of 'A TransPacific Poetics.'

Coedited by Lisa Samuels and Sawako Nakayasu, A TransPacific Poetics is a unique anthology of essays and experimental poetry by sixteen writers who live in or between different Pacific Rim countries. As the “trans” in the collection’s title suggests, this is a regional trans-Pacific anthology — the first of its kind — that privileges the work of writers defined by the Pacific Ocean. To take a few examples: author and translator Don Mee Choi was born in Korea, moved to the US via Hong Kong, and now lives in Seattle.

Inside Philip Whalen

During his lifetime Philip Whalen (1923–2002) authored some twenty collections of verse, more than twenty broadsides, two novels, a huge assemblage of autobiographical literary journals, nine or ten experimental prose works, and dozens of critical essays, lectures, commentaries, introductions, prefaces, and interviews. He is remembered primarily as a Zen Buddhist poet-monk of the San Francisco Renaissance and Beat generation who read his work at the famous October 1955 Six Gallery reading organized by Allen Ginsberg and emceed by Kenneth Rexroth. Whalen is highly regarded by contemporary scholars and poets in part for his idiosyncratic poetics, arrived at through a complex hermeneutical project of Buddhist phenomenology, the East Asian poetics of Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa, a deconstruction of language and space influenced by Gertrude Stein and W.C. Williams, and a lifelong devotion to eighteenth-century British satirists Jonathan Swift, Laurence Sterne, et al. Whalen’s practice of Sōtō Zen meditation, discursive and deeply philosophical, was the unifying principle for these disparate literary influences, as well as his soteriological path as a clergyman. 

What began as a series of loosely organized readings, publications,
and meetings has been read as a unified narrative of the literary and
artistic life of the San Francisco Bay Area during the late 1950s and
early 1960s … an emphasis on the creative imagination, enthusiasm,
and transcendence to the exclusion of more problematic areas of
skepticism, irony, and existential despair …
 — Michael Davidson[1]

Distances quickly crossed

A review of Larry Eigner's 'Calligraphy Typewriters'

Photo of Larry Eigner © Alastair Johnston.

In 2010, Stanford University Press published The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner and the book’s faithful editors, Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier, had every right to expect both showers of attention and hosannas of praise. Though Eigner did not win any awards in his lifetime, he enjoyed a remarkable succes d’estime, first amongst the Black Mountain poets and then with the Language school.

'Do it like this'

Lisa Robertson's '3 Summers'

In her 2012 book of prose essays, Nilling, Lisa Robertson cites Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind at length. Robertson says, “for Arendt, thinking resembles tracking, a kind of place ‘beaten by the activity of thought,’ which turns to ploddingly follow a course towards a pause.”[3] Robertson’s book also addresses the possibility of recess: “I want pause in vocation,” begins a passage from “On Physical Real Being and What Happens Next,” where the pause represents a space that deep thinking can take (43).

One must swim in language and sink, as though lost, in its noise, if a proof or a poem that is dense is to be born. — Michel Serres[1

I want pause in vocation. Venus
chatoyant in the formal dream
please tranquilize efficient Mars and his
efficient interests. Do it like this: — Lisa Robertson[2]