Commentaries - November 2014

Rafael Alberti (1902 – 1999): 'Buster Keaton Searches the Woods for his Sweetheart a Genu-ine Cow'

[Translation from Spanish by Jerome Rothenberg, first published here & dedicated to Heriberto Yépez, who originally showed me the experimental, almost Dadaist range of Alberti’s early poetry.]

 

1, 2, 3 & 4.

These four footprints don’t match my shoes.

If these four footprints don’t match my shoes,

whose four footprints can these footprints be?

Modernists and feminists

Multilingualism has long been a key characteristic, even a central tenet of literary experimentation. So maybe it seems a bit weird that after all these commentaries I still haven’t found anything to say about the various streams of modernist literature that drew upon other languages. Why haven’t I addressed T. S. Eliot's attempted reconstitution of the “mind of Europe”? What about Ezra Pound's (also attempted) translation of Chinese written characters? Or what about the less well known but no less multilingual Zurich Dada “nonsense” poems that drew upon anthropological works, using fragments and phrases from world Indigenous languages to inform their experiments in non-meaning?

Analyses of avant-garde or experimental poetry typically understand multilingualism as a part of the modernist dream of breaking with the past in order to prefigure an unforeseen but possible future.

Nicanor Parra's 100

The great Nicanor Parra turned one-hundred years old last September. Obviously, nobody has wanted to miss the opportunity to celebrate and honor the world-renowned anti-poet. Local and foreign media have been publishing extensive biographies, reviews, and special notes on Parra’s life and work (some examples here, here, here, and here). Also different institutions in Chile have organized activities such as exhibitions and collective readings. The Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center (GAM) installed a photo exhibit labeled as his “first visual biography,” organized an international seminar about anti-poetry, and launched the book “Nicanor Parra or the art of demolition” by the British poet and scholar, Niall Binns. The National Council for Culture and Arts organized a collective reading called “National Parra-phrase” where people were invited to simultaneously read the poem “The Imaginary Man” (watch a video here), and Diego Portales University put together a remarkable exhibition of his visual work, installations, and his famous “Artifacts.”

Rochelle Owens: 'Hermaphropoetics' / 'Brown Dust'

[What follows is the sixth installment of Rochelle Owens’ Hermaphropoetics, a work in progress that continues the poetic & mythopoetic reach of her oeuvre as it has come to us since the 1960s.  For me she remains, as she was when we first came to know her, a poet who bends the resources of language toward the revelation & creation of a new & always startling vision of the real & more-than-real.  As I wrote of her back then: “There is a voice in Owens’ work … like a fierce and unrelenting force of nature. Sharp and visual, she combines a landscape with a poetics, the domestic with the mythic, machines with the organic living world from which arises a construct and a fused vision: poetry and life.”  The photo image of the field on Mars that accompanies “Brown Dust” is a good example of what her work makes possible. (J.R.)]