Commentaries - August 2013

The principle of inclusion and exclusion

Ned Kelly’s Last Stand (2010). Arkady Gollings. Charcoal on paper. 21.0 x 29.7 cms.

In a discussion published recently in the Sydney Review of Books, the academic and writer Emmett Stinson argued that despite a number of recent assertions to the contrary, an Australian ‘cultural cringe’ persists. Although writers and academics such as Susan Johnson, Ken Gelder and Paul Salzman, and Nick Bryant have variously asserted that Australian culture is ‘enabled by cultural incorporation’ and is ‘punching above its weight in the arts and culture’, for Stinson, the only thing the new ‘literary internationalism’ has enabled is a situation in which the overseas reception of Australian fiction retroactively influences its Australian critical reception. The critical reception of such work, he argues, bears little relation to its literary worth. Of the two examples he mentions, ‘there is something deeply conservative about the aesthetics’.

White mischief IV


But it would seem that many critics have been up to just such mischief as Mott makes in his essay. At another meeting of the American Literature Association, as part of a panel sponsored by the Wallace Stevens Society, Notre Dame’s Jacqueline Brogan offered to, as she put it at the time, redeem Stevens from charges of racism. Her primary challenge in the short version of her work that she presented that day was to comments registered by Adrienne Rich, but, replicating a tendency seen in Mott’s presentation, Brogan did not bother to look past Rich’s immediate commentary to the critical sources that Rich herself had identified. Even in the far more thoroughly documented version of her essay that appears as the final chapter of her book “The Violence Within/The Violence Without: Wallace Stevens and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Poetics,” despite the fact that it is published by the same press as the earlier critical work referenced by Rich, Brogan shows a remarkable disinclination to consult the broad corpus of extant critical work on race and discourse.  

Outside & subterranean poems, a mini-anthology in progress (56): Some quatrains from 'Sidi Abderrahman el Mejdub' (Al Jadida, early 16C. – Meknes 1568)

Translation from Arabic by Abdelfetah Chenni & Pierre Joris

[As originally published in Joris & Tengour, Poems for the Millennium, volume 4: The University of California Book of North African Literature, 2012]

dirty and ugly they saw me there goes an empty head they said
in fact I am more like an open book        there’s much useful stuff
        inside this head


o my heart I burn you       and if you want I will do more
o my heart you shame me             because you like who doesn't
        like you.


neither think nor search too much        don’t always be
the planets are not fixed                and life’s not eternal


don't play with your best friend's feelings          & if people insult
        him, ease his mind
who loves you, love him more      but if he betrays you, don't ever 
        be his friend again


all I’ve had in life is one goat                    but I’ve written beautiful 
many are fulfilled through God’s favor              yet claim those favors as
        their own labors


travel and you’ll get to know people       and owe obedience to the
the fathead with the pot-belly      sell him for a dime


my heart’s between a hammer & an anvil        & that damned 
        blacksmith has no pity
he keeps hammering & when it cools     he kindles the fire
        with his bellows

2013 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation: Molly Weigel, The Shock of the Lenders & Other Poems by Jorge Santiago Perednik (Action Books)

Weigel read,ing at the book launch in New York, May 12, 2012. Photo: Charles Bernstein

Delighted to learn that Molly and Jorge have won this award. More info  from PEN here.

Jacket2, PennSound, and the EPC have extensive resources related to this book and to Perednik's work.

•Molly Weigel's introduction to  Shock of the Lenders

Perednik at PennSound includes links to two poem videos by Ernesto Livon-Grosman, a one hour radio show with Perednik, and Livon-Grosman's film with Jorge and me reading each other's poems; Jorge reads his translation of "Dear Mr. Fanelli" and I read Molly's translation.

Obit for Perednik

The Shock of the Lenders announcement

Edward Kegel: my Brooklyn roots

My mother's father, Edward Kegel, was a Brooklyn real estate developer in the 1910s and '20s.  He died of a streptococcus infection in 1927, when he was 39 and my mother. Sherry, was six. My grandmother, Birdie, who got married in 1916, never remarried. Both my mother's parents were born in Russia. My grandfather came to America when he was two.  Birdie came here when she was seven, after her mother died, making the precarious journey from Russian to New York on her own. She joimed the step-family of her father, who had abandoned her and her mother when he made the journey to the New World.