Commentaries - January 2016

Frank Lima's 'Plena' performed by Jake Marmer

Jake Marmer, improv klezmer poet and teacher, performs Frank Lima’s “Plena” in front of Palo Alto Creamery in Palo Alto, CA, January 16, 2016. Here is a link to the text of Lima's poem.

Move from that distance to intimacy

On Rickey Laurentiis’ “I Saw I Dreamt Two Men” and empathy

“Disembodiment is a kind of terrorism, and the threat of it alters the orbit of all our lives and, like terrorism, this distortion is intentional,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates. In Between the World and Me, Coates illustrates how disembodiment is both the catalyst and conclusion of racist acts; he writes to his son that America’s history of racism against its black citizens, including the figuring of these citizens as black in opposition to a white ruling class, means “first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.”


One of the most powerful poems I read last year is Rickey Laurentiis’s “I Saw I Dreamt Two Men,” and after having it running in the back of my head for months, I think I am starting to see how the poem responds to the terrorism of disembodiment, and how it asks its reader: And you? How does your body belong to, or participate in, this body politic?

Twenty-six items from Special Collections (i)

Exhibit 'I': Japanese.

Exhibit 'I': Japanese. (Masaoka Shiki, thirty-seven haiku, 1892–1902)

Bibliography: Masaoka Shiki: Selected Poems, translated by Burton Watson (Columbia University Press, 1997). ¶ A few words from Watson's Introduction: "The first poet to compose hokku of true depth and artistic stature was Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694), who is regarded by many as the greatest haiku poet of all time. [ . . . ] Two other poets in the years following who wrote haiku of outstanding quality were Yosa Buson (1716–1783) and Kobayashi Issa (1763–1827). These three, along with Masaoka Shiki, make up the four masters of the form...."

From Technicians of the Sacred (expanded): “Worawora Woman,” from Paddy Roe’s Gularabulu, talk poem with commentary

WORAWORA WOMAN                          
        (by Paddy Roe) 

Well this man proper man had two woman in camp  -

an' he's a strong man that fella well I mean he can feed that two woman -

Twenty-six items from Special Collections (g)

Exhibit 'G': Polish.

Exhibit 'G': Polish. (Zbigniew Herbert, five prose poems, 1950s and 60s)

Bibliography: Zbigniew Herbert: Selected Poems, translated by Czesław Miłosz and Peter Dale Scott (originally published as part of Penguin Modern European Poets, 1968; reprinted by Ecco Press, 1986).