A review of Leonard Schwartz's 'If'
In the fifteenth century, François Villon claimed the subjunctive mood for his vagabond verse with Si j’etais roi. In his book-length poem If, Leonard Schwartz returns to this conditional world of the subjunctive with a series of wise, vivid, and vulnerable questions, which the poet poses and then leaves unanswered — at least, apparently. More so than most poems, If invites readers to participate actively in its seemingly hypothetical world, underscored by the poet’s frequent invocation of we, our collective selves. In this deeply philosophical work, ontology and epistemology are made as human as hope and fear, and as necessary as wheelbarrows.
Pierre Joris talks about Paul Celan and 'The Meridian'
When not long ago Pierre Joris joined host Leonard Schwartz for an episode of Cross Cultural Poetics (episode #253, entitled “Celan/Bronk”), I was all ears. Much of the discussion was about “The Meridian,” which is, for me, a crucial text. The audio recording of the program, which is aired live on a radio station in the state of Washington, has been brought over to PennSound. Now, as of today, it has been segmented (by Anna Zalokostas).
The conversation began with Joris’s account of the special difficulty of translating Celan’s famous speech (10:26): MP3. Then Joris described the sense of discovery and encounter in Celan’s work — and the “enlightening” experience of translating and making The Meridian: Final Version-Drafts-Materials (5:49): MP3. Joris also discussed “tremors and hints” of the compositional process, the transparency of Celan’s writing practice, and his aphoristic tendencies (4:53): MP3.
Joris has a striking way of describing Celan as a concentration camp survivor and his vexed and, one might say, traumatic relationship to the German language, and thus how careful he was when he wrote his response to having received the Buchner prize (5:05): MP3. Then, to my delight, Joris read some new translations of Celan’s aphorisms (0:46): MP3; and reminded us again of the richness of phrasing in The Meridian and concluded with a note on the daily work of poetry (2:14): MP3.