Sometimes writing poems is too much for me. I’ll be in no mood for words or for thinking with any depth on a matter. I cut and glue pictures and patterns instead. Collage is how I shift gears. There is something peaceful about cutting along the edge of an image. I have books on magic and mysteries of the world and Jane Fonda’s workout routine and children’s illustrated history books and books about space and land and science. I have folders where images and landscapes wait for me to find a use for them. I can follow my amateur (nonexistent) visual sensibilities as I piece together the cut-out phrases and headless bodies and mollusk shells, and it brings me simple pleasure. There are no painstaking decisions to make or moments where I completely shut down and question every decision I ever made leading up to this point.
Sometimes writing poems is too much for me. I’ll be in no mood for words or for thinking with any depth on a matter. I cut and glue pictures and patterns instead. Collage is how I shift gears. There is something peaceful about cutting along the edge of an image. I have books on magic and mysteries of the world and Jane Fonda’s workout routine and children’s illustrated history books and books about space and land and science. I have folders where images and landscapes wait for me to find a use for them.
“Where New York poets and others … tended to hear a ‘cool,’ abstract, even cerebral, poetry,” writes Peter Boyle in the translator’s essay accompanying this feature, “in Latin America a more emotional, threatening, and visceral ‘magic’ surrealism developed.” Boyle places Cuban poet José Kozer’s work in this surrealist camp: time and reality become warped and subjective in Kozer’s neobaroque poems.
Across a long, extraordinarily prolific career, Cuban poet José Kozer (born in Havana, 1940) is remarkable for the consistency of his style. His work has been viewed as part of the Latin American neobaroque movement — a loose grouping of poets from the 1970s onwards who preferred a dense, multidimensional approach rather than the then-common plainspoken colloquial or conversational style — yet Kozer’s poetry is very much sui generis.
It was a place I might have dreamed if it hadn’t been real, this building slated for demolition located in a country far from home. The former site of an art college, the structure itself no longer stands, but one June evening in the early years of the twenty-first century, it hosted a party for the ages.
Each classroom transformed into an all-night gallery, filled with art by generations of students who had learned there how to see, how to listen, how to make. Studio after studio of imagination translated into reality. Outside, on the lawn: wine, feasting, revelry. The sharing of decades of memory. If you look closely, you can see gargoyles keeping watch over the festivities.
Sound/Chest begins with a find and a flood. In the basement of the University of Iowa library in 2008, Amish Trivedi discovered an old card catalog and was arrested by its remnant labels. Severed from the content they once organized, the paired words and numbers of the catalog have become the titles of poems that attempt to reanimate lost relationships of sense. The speaker of Sound/Chest feels their way around a disaster whose personal blur sometimes sharpens in a collective phrase, and then simple terms rise, like the storm water that filled the library basement later that summer, with displacing force.
Frank Stanford is an anachronism in late twentieth-century poetry. Like many of his southern contemporaries, much of his work is driven by a narrative impulse — his poems nearly always have stable, embodied speakers; they tend to use fairly normative syntax; they generally feel grounded in a particular geographic location; and they’re concerned with identity, memory, and depicting external action.
Note: It has been many years since he stood on Yonge Street in Toronto wearing a “Writer Going to Hell: Buy My Books” sign (he sold 7,000 of his books this way in the ’80s), but Stuart Ross (b. 1959) continues to be an active and influential presence in the Canadian small press.
The event was called “What Oozed Through the Staircase: A Winter Afternoon of Surrealist Writing and Music,” held in the middle of the surrealist exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday, January 26, 2014. Surprised that the event wasn't being recorded, I brought out my smart phone and captured the audio as best I could from the fourth row. I also made a video recording of the final performance — a surrealist game. All this is now available at a special PennSound page.
Sunday, January 26, 2014, starting at 2 PM, in the Special Exhibitions Gallery of the Perelman Building, Philadelphia Museum of Art (free after Museum admission). Kenneth Goldsmith, Tracie Morris, and Marina Rosenfeld.
For readers of Gatza who have already come to expect the unexpected; for those fascinated with emerging innovation in book-structured polygraphies, then House of Forgetting is yet another contribution to what is becoming a prodigious oeuvre.