Reviews

Cry criers

Jordan Scott's 'Night & Ox' and Andrew Joron's 'The Absolute Letter'

In his previous book, Blert, Jordan Scott gave us his autobiographical stutterer’s poetics. Casting the stutterer as “a threat to coherence,” as a rebel against standardized, disciplined, regulatory language, Blert challenges linguistic (and by easy extension, political) hegemony. For Scott, this stuttering poetry is “an inchoate moan edging toward song,” the beginning of a redemptive lament.

In his previous book, Blert, Jordan Scott gave us his autobiographical stutterer’s poetics. Casting the stutterer as “a threat to coherence,” as a rebel against standardized, disciplined, regulatory language, Blert challenges linguistic (and by easy extension, political) hegemony.[1] For Scott, this stuttering poetry is “an inchoate moan edging toward song,” the beginning of a redemptive lament.[2]

'The Emptiness You Seek Also Takes Time'

'Go On' by Ethel Rackin

Jueds: “[T]he emptiness you seek also takes time,”[1] the speaker of Ethel Rackin’s strange, magical, and luminous second book tells us at the end of the title poem. The poems in Go On are mostly small — the briefest a single line — and yet they do take time, deep, mysterious, and wide-ranging as they are, to truly enter: they are enormous within their brevity. And, following from Rackin’s Buddhist sensibility, the poems do seek some sort of “emptiness,” which could also be defined as spirit or holiness or divinity. Rooted in the tactile and quotidian, they leap from their contemplation of birds, trees, and tract houses to the deep interior world of the speaker which, at the same time, reaches through and beyond to an enormous otherness.

Jueds: “[T]he emptiness you seek also takes time,”[1] the speaker of Ethel Rackin’s strange, magical, and luminous second book tells us at the end of the title poem. The poems in Go On are mostly small — the briefest a single line — and yet they do take time, deep, mysterious, and wide-ranging as they are, to truly enter: they are enormous within their brevity. And, following from Rackin’s Buddhist sensibility, the poems do seek some sort of “emptiness,” which could also be defined as spirit or holiness or divinity.

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.

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]