Douglas and I agreed to limit the discussion that follows on his poetry. His prodigious output in nearly every genre of writing imaginable is legendary. It would take an unimaginable amount of time to discuss it all in one interview; that discussion would take up a prohibitive amount of space in a journal to print.
That turns out to have been a very right decision, for, with that constraint, we are able to hone in on some complicated issues significant to the most prescient writing practices of our time. And Douglas Messerli is among those at the very forefront, re-imagining poetry in the most abundant of excitements imaginable. Having been a reader, and lover, of Douglas’ work over many years, I learned things, saw things – nuances – in his poetry I hadn’t previously noticed, which gave me a more intimate awareness of the scope of his work, increasing my appreciation for the impact it makes. ‘Twas a lovely experience of engaging with the spirit of Douglas Messerli – his mind of poetry, his “space of poetry,” his energetic commitment to opening up the challenging and rewarding art of poetry – for which I thank Douglas. An experience I’m glad to share. --Martin Nakell
Richard Foreman Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance)
The Public Theater, New York, the performance I attended was on Saturday, May 4, 2013.
After years and years of enigmatic and provocative plays, and after having announced that he was giving up playwriting for filmmaking, Richard Foreman has come back with a new play that at times almost appears to be a kind of film script, Old-Fashioned Prostitutes (A True Romance). Like most of his works, this play is set upon a stage decked out with numerous alphabetical configurations, portraits of “significant” people, numerous odd props, and the strings that outline the horizontal shell of the stage, a kind of mix between a metaphorical representation of string theory and an eruv, the defining territory of the traditional Jewish community that outlines the boundaries through which certain objects can be moved or carried on holy days.
The essay below will serve as the introduction to the Green Integer publication, due out in early 2007, of The PIP Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative Poetry in English 2005-2006. I felt that readers of Jacket might be interested in this introduction because of my comments on the current reception by the larger newspapers, awards, and prizes concerning what might be described as innovative or — I think a far better term — exploratory poetic and poetics. Obviously, most of the writers of the kind of poetry with which I am concerned have long ago recognized the absence of discussion and acceptance of their poetry in the venues I describe; but I think it is important to reiterate the increasing hostility of the national media and other self-proclaimed arbiters of contemporary poetry to the wide range of poetic writing today—not only in the US, but throughout the world in English. To me it still remains utterly shocking—particularly because it has been so longstanding — that publications such as The New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Critics Circle Award and numerous other places available for reviews and recognition of poetry remain so narrowly focused in their definitions of poetic expression.
David Antin Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011) (detail of cover pictured)
reviewed by Douglas Messerli
One of the first things anyone approaching David Antin's marvelous new collection of essays on art and literature will notice is the striking image on the book's cover, a photograph that depicts David Antin, looking perhaps a bit more Buddha-like than in does in real-life, walking toward another image of himself, this from the back side of the face. There is something arresting about this image, even a bit eerie, but I made little of it when I first saw it, except to register that it represented an image of the author, symbolically speaking, of 1966 coming towards his current being. A few friends, however, found that image quite disturbing, one suggesting he had to keep the book face down on his coffee table. Perhaps it was just the oddity of having a photograph, which we associate with the real world, representing something that we know cannot truly happen, one aspect of self meeting up with the other.