Al Filreis convened a conversation with Amber Rose Johnson, Jacob Edmond, and Huda Fakhreddine about Kamau Brathwaite’s “Negus.” The poem was included in the book Islands, published by Oxford in 1969. “Negus” appears as part six of a section of the book titled “Rebellion” within Islands, and Islands, in turn, is part two of The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy, which includes Rights of Passage and Masks as the first and third volumes. Brathwaite’s PennSound page — which has been curated by one of our PoemTalkers, Jacob Edmond — features just one recording of Brathwaite performing this poem. On May 1, 2004, in his Segue Series reading at the Bowery Poetry Club in New York City, the poet chose to read “Negus” as a kind of prefatory piece to the whole forty-three-minute reading. It certainly seems to introduce several of Brathwaite’s major concerns.
When new acquaintances ask what I study, I often tell them, “poetry that doesn’t look like poetry.” Though my response might seem glib, the sentiment is sincere: I find myself drawn to poetry that unshackles that same term from its traditional denotation. The field of modern and contemporary poetry is full of language that doesn't behave: fixed forms are abandoned for open fields, words are rendered illegible, standardized grammar is disrupted, letters stray from counterparts that would give them meaning, the page is replaced by the screen, and nonsemantic sounds fill basement bars. So why do we still call it poetry? — Katie L. Price
Contents Introduction I I. Yang Lian and the FLlneur in Exile 15 2. Arkadii Dragomoshchenko and Poetic Correspondences 44 3. Lyn Hejinian and Russian Estrangement 72 4. Bei Dao and World Literature 95 5. Dmitri Prigov and Cross-Cultural Conceptualism 125 6. Charles Bernstein and Broken English 164 Conclusion 193
At the recent Short Takes on Long Poems symposium in Auckland (see Jack Ross's take here), Jacob Edmond, whose comic-serious talk concerned the literal weights and volumes of long poems, kept asking a single question of other speakers. “In what way is the work you're talking about local?” Or, in the case of my presentation, “Do you think your videos [of people in Hawai`i saying back lines of George Oppen's ‘Of Being Numerous’ as best they could] localize the poem in some way?” Jack Ross argues that the symposium would have been too international had it not included the work of Robert Sullivan and John Adams, writing the interstices between Maori and Pakeha in Aotearoa / New Zealand. This discussion felt like home to me, albeit set on a different stage and peopled by very different writers and critics than is the case in Hawai`i. But of course these distinctions are hard to keep or enforce when (like me) you can leave Auckland at 7 a.m. of a Monday morning and arrive in Honolulu at 7 a.m. the same morning. Yet Lucas Klein, a scholar and translator of Chinese poetry, quoted the Chinese poet, citizen of New Zealand, and resident of London, Yang Lian, as saying: “There is no international, only different locals.”