Reviews - May 2016

Poetry at the axis of nothing

A review of 'u&i'

Writing about nothing, a pursuit, nothing that connects and builds. Around that axis, meaning and association are relentless, relationships between positioned and counterpositioned nothingness construct a matrix of their own. Such a matrix of relationships are the basis for philosophically complex investigations of social interaction. The preeminent example of such arrangements is community. Community as an inevitable result of nothing, nothing as it is articulated and distilled for its craft and quality.


how one might roam. how two might meander. (v)

Poetry as connection: historically, finding kindred spirits and laying claim to literary lineages, while maintaining a critical posture, as a necessary practice of writing under the sign(s) of self and community. The literary as the deeply personal.


Attention paid

R. F. Langley

The forty-eight poems collected in this volume are the sum total completed by R. F. Langley during his seventy-two-year lifespan, but they contain an outsize vibrancy that intensifies on rereading. They are not well known on this side of the Atlantic, but hopefully this book will start to change that. Their range is not wide — indeed, it is consciously circumscribed (recurring subjects include insects and arachnids, Italian Renaissance art, the Suffolk countryside, church interiors, looking, and writing about looking) — but the attention and thinking they condense is considerable.

The lives that include us

A review of 'Trickster' by Randall Potts
Photo of Randall Potts (left) by Emily Dulla.

Our review-dialogue grew out of a conversation on Randall Potts’s work. After sharing topics of interest with each other — including Trickster’s treatment of animal imagery, the preservation of the natural world, Buddhist precepts, and the place of incantation or song in Potts’s imaginary — we developed our conversation into a book review. Although we covered many more topics than there is room to include in this space, we hope that this collaboration begins a larger discussion of Potts’s visionary work.

Translating difficulty

On Ouyang Jianghe

Ouyang Jianghe’s poetry presents to any translator the difficult decision of whether or not to pursue his work as a language artifact to be translated as close to literally as possible, or whether to amplify its implicit beliefs, and its abstractions — through a historical lens, or otherwise. But since he is said by translator Austin Woerner to be known as the “most hermetic of the Chinese hermetic poets,” we can expect a pronounced “cryptic language” that doesn’t easily yield access to, as Woerner describes it, “the poem’s mystery.”[2] In such a case, translating in a straightforward manner may be an unproductive task. So, in Woerner’s case, he decides to “show only enough [of the original] to tempt the imagination, inviting the reader to see in it what she wishes,” using the poem as “a tool for contemplation, a mandala or maze among whose many turnings the reader can pick her own path” (23).

[I]f there are strong ambiguities in the original poem, there’s no need to select only one possible sense and then translate that: instead, translate one ambiguity into another! Don’t try to solve the problem: translate it! — J. H. Prynne[1]