Jake Marmer (in his new book, Cosmic Diaspora) tells us a story about his realization that art in performance must permit and include intrusions. This statement is a preface to a section of poems that are verbal score-like “transcriptions” of music he’s never heard but imagines, in some cases. In others, the poems are the effects of writings made while the writer listened to live improvised music. But again, also while he was “thinking about music’s reverberations.” And what, we might ask, is the distinction between those states? That’s the point. Marmer quotes Baraka in this prefatory statement: “Thought has a self. That self is music.”One bit of such self-expression is in Transcription #22 (p. 65): “not sound but sound’s / peel / a vector / trumpet’s footprint.” On the bottom of that printed page in the new book, one finds a QR code. Hold up the phone’s camera to it and get taken to a YouTube clip recording one of Marmer’s performances of the poem. Now back to the “holler” from outside.
Jake Marmer (in his new book, Cosmic Diaspora) tells us a story about his realization that art in performance must permit and include intrusions. This statement is a preface to a section of poems that are verbal score-like “transcriptions” of music he’s never heard but imagines, in some cases. In others, the poems are the effects of writings made while the writer listened to live improvised music. But again, also while he was “thinking about music's reverberations.” And what, we might ask, is the distinction between those states? That’s the point.
Poet Eve Merriam did her final two years of undergraduate education at Penn in the mid-1930s. Later, someone writing a Masters thesis wrote about her experience at Penn: here is a page from that. I’m grateful to Merriam’s son, Dee Michel, who shared the document with me.
Douglas Kearney is a vitally important poet, critic, and performer — and, given the significance of his massive open online course, “Sharpened Visions,” public teacher too. As a poet and as a critic-essayist — in both genres of thinking-through/while-writing — Kearney evinces an intense interest in micro-glossaries, socially invented argots, the ironic political possibilities of cant, the language-y side of folktales, the dense musicality of Black speech, the naunced differing registers of the ways people say what they say. He averts falling into the (as he once put it) “vortex of self-reflexive word play,” but he comes riskily and thrillingly right up to the edge of it.
Christie Williamson, a Shetlander poet who resides in Glasgow, has published a new book with LuathPress in Edinburgh. Its title is Doors tae Naewye. Many of the poems are accompanied (as notes) by English translations. Some are a mix of English and Shetlandic. One poem, “St. Catherine’s,” is in part a response to William Carlos Williams's “Nantucket.” My own copy of the book, sent to me as a gift by Williamson, includes little handwritten notes, in pencil, slipped into various pages. The perfect treasure hunt for the reader-critic-fan, which is what I am with respect to this verse. The note, reproduced above, reads: “Written on arrival on my first of many visits to my cousin's second home/holiday let in Scalloway — the house is called St. Catherine’s and I’d been contemplating William Carlos Williams's ‘Nantucket’ for Essay (two? three?)” The reference here to “Essay (two? three?)” is to ModPo, the open online course with which Christie Williamson has a long association. Participants were asked in a recent season of ModPo to write (in the second of four essays, in fact) about “Nantucket,” with its window-framed “optics” (Williamson’s word) “changed by white curtains” (Williams’s phrase).
Poems about the poems themselves, such as “Gender,” tempt us to underestimate or even to dismiss metapoetical claims: “I write poems about boobs and dicks.” This is of course deceptive, a misdirection, because ultimately, in every Lasky poem, the words (and overall the voicings of ecstatic, troubled experience) come as a remedy for language’s absence as otherwise the expected state. “I write poems about boobs and dicks,” yes, “But my anger comes not from this / But from being silenced / So that I hate what they like / Not listening to me / So that I could go on and on.”
Coming after a long literary history of poetry meant to idealize solutions to human problems and concerns — even if such fixes are only to be imagined — poets such as Hannah Weiner, John Wieners, Bernadette Mayer, Laynie Browne, Lee Ann Brown, and Dorothea Lasky explore the seemingly hopeless, seemingly “low” (or at least "daily") underside. The strength of their work as a poetics has derived from explorations of emotional detritus, (masks of) self-loathing, sexual frankness, etc.