Commentaries - June 2012

Zukofsky performs Stevens

On April 29, 1971, Louis Zukofsky gave a lecture on Wallace Stevens, and a reading of Stevens’s and his own poems in honor of Stevens, at the University of Connecticut. This recording has long been available through the Zukofsky PennSound page, and we are, as ever, grateful to Paul Zukofsky for giving us permission to use them for non-commercial, educational purposes (and, as stipulated by Paul, they cannot be used for any other reason). Recently Anna Zalokostas went carefully through the one-and-a-half hour presentation, listening for which poems by Stevens Zukofsky read on that occasion. I was delighted to hear that among these is a beautiful reading of “The Planet on a Table,” a Stevens poem of meta-poetic retrospection. Here are the five poems performed:

  1. reads Wallace Stevens’s “From the Misery of Don Joost” (1:42): MP3
  2. reads Stevens’s “Extraordinary References” (1:22): MP3
  3. reads Stevens’s “The Planet on the Table” (1:11): MP3
  4. reads Stevens’s “Puella Parvula” (1:40): MP3
  5. reads Stevens’s “Song of Fixed Accord” (1:03): MP3

Ten young poets

Drawing by Laura Erber, 2011
Drawing by Laura Erber, 2011

As I’ve smoothed back into U.S. life over the last few months, many people have asked me which “new” Brazilian poets I’d recommend reading. I love to introduce readers to poets such as Angélica Freitas, whose Rilke Shake I’m translating, Marília Garcia and Ricardo Aleixo, both of whom I’ve written about in these commentaries, among others. And I love to discover new poets to read. Luckily, just the other week, the books editor of the Porto Alegre newspaper Zero Hora selected ten poets in their 20s and 30s “destined to keep poetic creation alive in the Brazilian literary universe” (“Jovens poetas: Uma aposta contra o tempo” by Carlos André Moreira, Zero Hora, Cultura section, p4-5, 2 June 2012). A good half of them have at least a few poems translated into English.

Video portraits: Jerome and Diane Rothenberg

Jerome Rothenberg & the Burning Babe

Jerry and Diane come to our place for dinner. He had Susan had just collaborated on their fabulous Granary Book. The Burning Babe, so I asked Jerry about the central figure in the poem.

February 24, 2008
(mp4, 1 min. 36 sec., 18.2 mb)

Diane Rothenberg: Marshall Parkway & Other Figments of the Imagination

Diane grew up around Marshall Parkway in the Bronx. She talks about what's the same, what's different, and what is imagined.
February 24, 2008

From fugue to fugitive

David Herd's 'All Just'

While contemporary Canadian poetry remains the focus of this series of commentaries, I want today to shift to another neighbouring zone—contemporary British poetry—and look into David Herd’s recently released collection All Just (Carcanet 2012).

This is a book of mostly short lyric poems that at first glance seem largely observational explorations of the local—although something remains somewhat vague and indistinct about that “locale.” Contrast this with Herd’s sharp line breaks and compressed language, which recall William Carlos Williams, whose ghost is unmistakable in the poem “Fact”:

This is just to say—

when a detainee

from the Dover Immigration Removal Centre

applies for bail,

if he has a bail hearing—

which he is not entitled to attend—

though his lawyer is,

and the judge is,

and a representative of the Home Office is—

the bail hearing—


is officially un-


Jerome Rothenberg: A round of renshi & the poet as other, an experiment in poesis (part one)

Clockwise from top left: Tanikawa Shuntaro, Jeffrey Angles, Jerome Rothenberg, Ito Hiromi, Kaku Wakako, Yostsumoto Yasuhiro



           An experiment in time & spacehow much of my life was given to itto step

 out of where I first had found myself & come into an other, stranger world.

           I mean to say that we emerged from the second world war & knew that it

 was bigger than that. The world, I mean.

          The world as Europe was not the world the mind now knew.

          And something had happened that let the mind know many worlds — each

one of which was "other" to the mind.

          Europe was also "other."

          America was "other."

          What was exotic & what was near to hand were "other."

          You & I were "other" to ourselves, our minds.

          The mind the mind knew was a final otherness: a habitat of minds & worlds.

          (This emerged. The world emerged it.)

          What you know is what you are. What the mind can hold is what the mind


          Enough, the mind says. There is a politics in this & yet there is no politics.

          There is a knowledge here that mixes real & unreal, that opens.

          There is also the trembling headiness of a world in which, Rimbaud told


us, "I is an other."

          What did he mean by that?

          What do I mean?

          "I" is "other," is "an other," is "the other."

          (There is also "you.")

          If the mind shapes, configures the world it knows or holds, is there an

imperial/colonizing mind at work here, or is this mind as shaper & collager

still pursuing its old work: to make an image of the world from what appears to


          And what appears to it?

           The world.