This corner of the Diaspora (PoemTalk #121)

Jerome Rothenberg, 'Galician Nights' from 'Poland/1931'

From left to right: Al Filreis, Jake Marmer, Maria Damon, Frank London.

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One Sunday afternoon at Kelly Writers House, Jake Marmer, Frank London, Al Filreis, and Maria Damon ducked into the Wexler Studio to talk about Jerome Rothenberg's Poland/1931. The group chose to focus on the section of that book entitled “Galician Nights, or a Novel in Progress” — on, in particular, a 2002 performance in which Rothenberg chanted the text while backed by the Klezmatics (the band including one of our interlocutors, the Hasidic New Wave eminence Frank London, on trumpet). The recording — which lasts six minutes and twenty-six seconds — can be found at Rothenberg’s extensive PennSound page

Alterity, Misogyny & the Agonistic Feminine

Hieronymus Bosch, 'Garden of Earthly Delights' (detail).
Above: Hieronymus Bosch, 'Garden of Earthly Delights' (detail), via Wikimedia Commons.

This essay is conjectural and conversational. Conversational with other texts, other minds; but also among the importantly divergent logics of poetry and discourse, discourse and exploratory essay. Decades ago, skeptical about the force of a strictly woman-centered feminist theory whose reactive stance seemed to corroborate the secondary status of the feminine in the age-old M/F binary, I was struck — in a sense, saved — by the realization of a gender and genre transgressive experimental feminine rooted in embodied female experience but integral to all struggles (personal, sociopolitical, ethical, and aesthetic) with the cultural coercions of an ubermasculine hegemony. At the time I was in the process of writing “Rethinking Literary Feminism: Three Essays onto Shaky Grounds” in response to an invitation from scholars Lynn Keller and Cristanne Miller for their collection Feminist Measures: Soundings in Poetry and Theory.

 

Antigone: I stand convicted of impiety,
the evidence, my pious duty done …
Chorus: The same tempest of mind
as ever, controls the girl.[1]

Despite the fact that gender identities are in increasingly complex conversation with biology and cultural construction the reductive force of patriarchy, with its sidekick misogyny, remains the catastrophic constant. — S. M. Quant[2]

Words that bleed music

Postbop jazz in the poetry of Amiri Baraka and Nathaniel Mackey

Left: Nathaniel Mackey at Vision Festival, New York, 2015, courtesy of Nathaniel Mackey. Right: Amiri Baraka at the Malcom X Festival, San Antonio Park, Oakland, California, May 2007. Photo by David Sasaki via Wikimedia Commons.

In his preface to Blue Fasa (2015), Nathaniel Mackey reflects on what is arguably the key preoccupation in his oeuvre: the relationship between music and language. Mackey’s comments emerge out of a sense of disquiet with the way the two modes of communication are often presumed remote from the other by today’s artists and scholars.

Haven't worked out the particulars

On instructions, position papers, and finding our way

Photo of Andrea Lawlor (right) by Steve Dillon.

Like so many of us who feel most at home in books, I’ve turned to books in Trump times. The one morning ritual that has stuck with me since November 9 is finding a poem over coffee that I can cling to for the rest of the day. I make it my guiding light, looking back on it throughout the day and receiving its text as instructions.

'Spastic messiah / erotic daughter'

On Petra Kuppers's 'PearlStitch'

Photo at left courtesy of Petra Kuppers.

“Initiate, I greet you. / Claim back the beloved’s bodies, for ourselves,”[1] Petra Kuppers writes in PearlStitch, her sensual, rhizomatic new book.[2] “We stand, and sit, and lie down my hand resting on your foot your hand in mine / head on shoulder” (51). Kuppers’s second full-length book of poems — which combines queer, crip, anticapitalist, anticolonial, and eco- poetics — intertwines ritual with epic, eros with documentation, and speculation with life writing. 

“Initiate, I greet you. / Claim back the beloved’s bodies, for ourselves,”[1] Petra Kuppers writes in PearlStitch, her sensuous, rhizomatic new book.[2] “We stand, and sit, and lie down my hand resting on your foot your hand in mine / head on shoulder” (51).

The transatlantic axis of 'Alembic'

An interview with editors Ken Edwards and Robert Hampson

Above: the covers of 'Alembic' numbers 1 through 8.

Note: Alembic was an internationally minded little magazine, edited by Peter Barry, Ken Edwards, and Robert Hampson out of London between 1973 and 1979. Emerging from, and explicitly engaging with, a tradition of modernist, late-modernist, Dadaist, and Surrealist poetries, Alembic published contemporary British poets alongside North American and Australian poets, as well as prose, interviews, and visual material.

'Like a postponed present'

Reading reality in Mandelstam's 'Voronezh Notebooks'

Osip Mandelstam’s mugshot after his second arrest by the NKVD, 1938. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In describing life under the Stalinist regime in Russia, Nadezhda Mandelstam writes in her celebrated memoir, “To lose one’s memory — provided it was an honest one — is to lose touch with reality.”[1] These words are especially profound from a woman famous for saving her partner’s words, the poems of Osip Mandelstam, by committing them to memory. And today, as we grapple with what it means to understand reality, Nadezhda Mandelstam’s words come to mind when not only memory ebbs, but facts themselves seem elusive.

In describing life under the Stalinist regime in Russia, Nadezhda Mandelstam writes in her celebrated memoir, “To lose one’s memory — provided it was an honest one — is to lose touch with reality.”[1] These words are especially profound from a woman famous for saving her partner’s words, the poems of Osip Mandelstam, by committing them to memory.

From legalese into nothingness

A review of Hugo García Manríquez's 'Anti-Humboldt'

Photo of Hugo García Manríquez (right) courtesy of García Manríquez.

As a bilingual and bicultural individual, I have learned that the vectors that constitute my identity pull me sometimes in different directions depending on which side of the border I’m standing. I embody the challenging experience of engaging in conversation and producing works of literature in my second language. This perspective is always present in my writing; the effects of the binational polarization coming from the imminence of the border are unescapable. When it comes to literature that is written precisely at or in tension with the US/Mexico border, how far do the ripples go?

As a bilingual and bicultural individual, I have learned that the vectors that constitute my identity pull me sometimes in different directions depending on which side of the border I’m standing. I embody the challenging experience of engaging in conversation and producing works of literature in my second language. This perspective is always present in my writing; the effects of the binational polarization coming from the imminence of the border are unescapable.