Commentaries - February 2014

Discovering Coolidge (part one)

Ezra PoundGertrude SteinIn my last post I posed the question: how did I discover and engage with Clark Coolidge's poetry in the first place? Every reader will have her own story to tell in this regard; here's my story. As is I suspect the case for most English Majors graduating from U.S. undergraduate programs in the early 1990s--and perhaps still today? more preservers of tradition than innovators, universities and their English departments in particular are notoriously inept at addressing the contemporary--Anglo-American poetry in my formal education ended with Pound and Eliot. (Gertrude Stein I had to discover on my own, though my own avant-garde eanings in the late 1980s also led me to Kerouac, Burroughs and Artaud).

A winter afternoon of surrealist writing and music

Tracie Morris, Kenneth Goldsmith, and Marina Rosenfeld

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.

  1. introduction (3:51): MP3
  2. Kenneth Goldsmith: Hans Bellmar, from “What Oozed Through the Staircase” (1:48): MP3
  3. Kenneth Goldsmith: Andre Breton, from “Manifesto of Surrealism” (2:35): MP3
  4. Kenneth Goldsmith: Robert Desnos, “Awakenings” and “Ideal Mistress” (3:21): MP3
  5. Marina Rosenfeld: Mise en scene en scene #1 (Daily Bul, etc.) (4:51): MP3
  6. Kenneth Goldsmith: Joyce Mansour, “Poemshots” (1:57): MP3
  7. Kenneth Goldsmith: Salvador Dali, “The Great Masturbator” (1:46): MP3
  8. Kenneth Goldsmith: Mina Loy, “Auto-Facial-Construction” (4:14): MP3

Frank Sherlock named Philadelphia's Poet Laureate

At the appointment ceremony, from left to right: Siduri Beckman, Youth Poet Laureate; Beth Brandt, chairperson of the Mayor's Poet Laureate Governing Board; Frank Sherlock; Mayor Michael Nutter

On January 31, 2014, Frank Sherlock's appointment as Philadelphia's second Poet Laureate was announced by Mayor Michael Nutter at a ceremony at City Hall. The laureate was selected by the Mayor's Poet Laureate Governing Board. “I am honored and excited to appoint Frank Sherlock as Philadelphia’s second Poet Laureate,” said Mayor Nutter. “Frank is a native Philadelphian and a 2013 Pew Fellow in the Arts for Literature. He is one of Philadelphia’s most talented homegrown artists. I am confident that Frank will represent Philadelphia well during his term as Poet Laureate.”  “How lucky I am to be a poet in my favorite city in the world? This city raised me, beat the hell out of me a few times, and still reveals the magic of Philadelphia Brotherly Love,” said Sherlock.

Where to begin even?

Clark Coolidge, Flag Flutter & U.S. ElectricWhen first encountering the work of a prolific author with a fifty-year career, timing is everything. The end pages of Clark Coolidge's  A Book Beginning What And Ending Away, his mammoth prose performance work from the 1970s never before published in its entirety until Fence Books brought it out last year, list 41 other published books of poetry dating back to 1966's Flag Flutter & U.S. Electric, along with a jaw-dropping 29 other unpublished collections.

Where to begin even? In many ways the answer is pre-determined: many readers will start with whatever collections happen to be in print and available at any given time. For Coolidge as with any prolific author, this poses a challenge: with the exception of his early collection Space (Harper & Row 1970), virtually all of Coolidge's books have been published by small presses in print runs of under 1000 copies (often fewer). Save the occasional reprint, once such books (often quickly) go out of print they risk being eclipsed by whatever newer publications emerge.

Mikhl Likht: 'Processions' II, translation from Yiddish by Ariel Resnikoff & Stephen Ross

"Protsesiyes" illustration by Evelyn Likht in Monatlakher zshurnal far literatur
"Protsesiyes" illustration by Evelyn Likht in Monatlakher zshurnal far literatur [Monthly Journal for Literature], 1925

[NOTE. The following marks the continuation of the recovery & translation into English of the experimental modernist masterwork Protsesiye (Processions) by the great & all but forgotten Yiddish poet Mikhl Likht, who was a younger contemporary of Pound and Williams & in some ways the forerunner of Zukofsky & other “Objectivist” & projectivist poets.