Wednesday, October 29, 2003
I am so turned off by the vitriol with which Peck trashes his peers that I can't bring myself to read one of his novels. But it sure does get him noticed, don't it?
Lots of great publishers at the fair, as well as individual authors and zinesters. Autonomedia drove their bookmobile full of great stuff into the exhibition space, Pinball Publishing brought Eye Rhyme, we sat next to Brenda from FC2, met the zinester girl from San Francisco who does Inky, and fondled the handmade books and book art of the artists from Babylon Lexicon. The Contemporary Arts Center was also open during the fair, which was cool. A few logistical complaints: there was no lounge area for visitors to sit and look at their purchases so everybody ended up sitting on the floor or the sidewalk outside. Also, the booths were pretty crowded together. We were in the middle of a row against a wall, so we had to crawl under our table to get in and out. Minor. Hope to go back next year.
Stopped by Faulkner House and John Bigeunet happened to be there, and was recognized and asked to sign a copy of The Torturer's Apprentice for one delighted woman and her husband. Also visited Octavia Books where we met the owners Tom & Judith (we've sent authors there for Soft Skull, so I wanted to say hello) and Beaucoup Books off Magazine Street (no site). Both really nice independent stores. Didn't make it to Maple Street Books--next time. The big bookstore that used to be in the "French Market Mall" bit the dust, it seems. It was a subchain of some kind--maybe a Book Star? The used bookstores like Kaboom (mentioned previously), Librairie Bookshop, the other two used/antiquarian shops whose names I forget were all dutifully browsed. I scored a the two-volume Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams in paperback--like new--for half price.
And of course the food! Went back to Mother's for po-boys, Napoleon House (mentioned previously--where we got married upstairs in the "Emperor's Appartments") for lunch and Pimm's Cups, Marisol (our consistent favorite), Bayona on the last night (our first visit and I found it good, but overrated--just as I did Herbsaint last time), and we picked up muffalettas and Zapp's Jalepeno Chips from Central Grocery. Walked everywhere--enough not to rack up the calories with too much worry.
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Chamber Music by James Joyce: Own this already, but not in this slim pocket-sized green paperback from Grossman Publishers/Cape Editions.
Contemporary German Poetry translated by Eswald Osers: A bright orange saddle-stapled chap from Oleander Modern Poets series, 1976. Contains lots of new-to-me names.
Théo, or the New Era by Robert Pinget, translated by Barbara Wright. I just really dig this guy, but haven't read this one.
Relics: Poems by Elton Glaser. Wesleyan University Press, New Poets Series, 1984. His first book?
Blues Words by Roger Manning. A handwritten blue chap from 1993.
And best of all, Now See Here, Homes by Horace Mungin. The author subtitles the black typewritten stock-covered 1969 chap with the following: "The second book of black contemporary poetry." Here's a lil poem:
Down Home Blues Comes Up Home
Funky, Funky, Funky
Feel like a dirty
Funky, Funky, Funky
treated like a dirty
Lord, each time I
try to take a part
they put broomsticks
through my heart.
Now ain't that Funky.
Funky, Funky, Funky
Feel like a dirty
One 'these days
I'm gonna rise
take their fingers
out my eye
and see whose been
We're off to the bookfair this morning, as soon as we shake the late-night outta our heads and roll outta bed.
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
New York: the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church series is getting very high marks. One performer remarked, "My favorite is The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church. I got treated well and even got paid." Also recommended are The KGB poetry series, and Karaoke + Poetry = Fun at the Bowery Poetry Club curated by Daniel Nester. And the Bowery Poetry Club is winning in the best venue in NYC category.
Most missed: Flying Saucer Series curated by Nada & Alan, Poetry City Series at Teachers & Writers curated by Jordan & Anne.
Chicago: Discrete Series by Kerri Sonnenberg & Jesse Seldess, Danny's Series, Chicago Poetry Project at Harold Washington Library
Buffalo: Wed@4 Series at Univeristy of Buffalo
Ithaca: Jane Sprague's West End Poetry Series at Gimme Coffee. (Also check out her Palm Press.)
Providence: Missing: Mairéad Byrne's series at RISD.
Oakland: 21 Grand, described as "largely youngish-people based, and seems to have a wider range than a lot of the other venues here. From a lot of Mills grad students (or ex-grad students) who call themselves the New Brutalists...to more funky group readings with fiction writers and performance poets. Daphne Gottleib for instance, who you're publishing, read there. I've also seen rock bands there."
Portland, OR: Spare Room "because it is the only series in Portland devoted to presenting consistently challenging work. Do come."
Camden, NJ: "A favorite of mine was the Walt Whitman Center's Notable Poets and Writers series in Camden, NJ."
Philadelphia, PA: "I am also fond of La Tazza, Kelly Writers House and the Temple Univ. series....all in Philadelphia."
And one respondent has even nominated the readings he does for himself in his office, comfy chair, or bed just before sleep.
See the comment box below for more recommendations. Keep 'em coming, via comment box or backchannel email. Thanks!
Saturday, October 18, 2003
I work in that great web of intrigue
It's called the sky & I the pilot
But I'll give free rides, I ain't no mean sky
I want my head bald with long flowing hair
For you lonely earthlings to climb up & hide
I want to be a boy & a girl, a dog & a cat
When I grow up & I want also to be a pie
Just for you to dig into when yr heart grows hungry
Dark American nights & the lost moon she's weeping
A kitten in my hand, a puppy in my pants
We'll paint our furniture gaudy with colorful memories
I want to be smart enough to know there's no answer
But to study kindness humility no war no more Sir please
I want to be that big book you read, puts you to sleep
(Bill's reading tomorrow at Frequency from his just-released book In the Hairy Arms of Whitman and also great new work!)
Thursday, October 16, 2003
On the train this morning: a man reading Ulysses while simultaneous flirting with a baby.
Tuesday, walking to the train from the New School: an elderly gentlewoman in furs, wheelchair cradled, being pushed along by a well-dressed friend or relative, much younger. Both were singing at the top of their lungs, Wild Irish Rose.
Best of both worlds: about two weeks ago, walking around Gramercy Park park, I noted the last of the summer greens as they mingled with steam from a basement laundry vent. What's better than laundry-warmed air and leaf-rustled gusts?
A marquee on a neighborhood church: The word relieves stress. Actually, I think Word was capitalized, but in the lower-cased sense, amen.
From a recent E-VERSE RADIO...
A reader writes in: "As a junior high school teacher, I had to field numerous calls from parents who were appalled about the books in our school library. While I think that each and every caller was a half-wit, I can verify that Bridge To Terabithia is one of your more offensive books as judged by fundamentalist Christians. The creation of the land of Terabithia is the part judged to be occult, and some people interpret the young girl's character as a lesbian. Oh the horror. Do you remember the kiss? Rampant sexuality! I believe the objectionable language is the frequent use of the word 'damn'. The book that caused the most controversy was the first Harry Potter novel. Parents came to our school to sit in on classes and monitor the teachers. If we picked up a Harry Potter book to read aloud, the kids and parent would stage a walkout. At the high school, the biggest controversy was when a teacher had her students read from Romeo and Juliet. The majority of the class walked out and there was a prayer vigil by the front of the school for the rest of the day. Romeo and Juliet are sexually active outside of marriage, and the students had been instructed by their church leaders that listening to such a tale is a sin. Man, I miss the 80s. When did the USA get lobotomized?"
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
I remember best (and most gratefully) the classes of teachers who were demonstrably excited to be introducing us to books and poems they loved, and were also genuinely interested in our reactions to it. (Joseph Duemer's said a bit on this topic, too.) Woe to those students who have the misfortune to run into teachers who seem not to like anything--the subject and the students themselves not withstanding!
I recall (more often than I'd like) the professor who "taught" my 17th-century lit class in college. He openly derided the students and seemed bored with his own tenure-track expertise. Depite complaints on all sides, the University seemed content to let him poison sophomores year after year. It took me a long time to read John Donne with relish afterward, simply because the poems reminded me of that awful class.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Sunday, October 12, 2003
Saturday, October 11, 2003
Thursday, October 9, 2003
*Several Ghosts Hardly Worth Mentioning, a chapbook by David Cameron from Brenda Iijima's Portable Press, 2003.
*Sky Lounge by Mark Bibbins, published by Graywolf Press, 2003.
*Million Poems Journal by Jordan Davis, published by Faux Press, 2003.
*Poetical Dictionary by Lohren Green, published by Lyn Hejinian and Travis Ortiz's Atelos project, 2003.
I hope to be able to write about all of these here or elsewhere very soon!
Tuesday, October 7, 2003
In the meantime, use these temporary links to the archives for all your blog rollicious favorites.
Monday, October 6, 2003
Paul Lake says: The implications of this for literature and criticism are immense. If, for instance, while reading MobyDick we can mentally "see" the swelling ocean, great white whale, and harpoon-clutching crew, then it appears that, contrary to theory, signifiers do evoke the signified. The meaning of a text is not wholly indeterminate, but collapses into relatively clear, determinate pictures. Though the imagined details may vary somewhat from reader to reader, a moving drama unfolds inside our heads, above the level of decoding, like movie clips transmitted to our pc's.
And: The problem with much modern literature is that writers from Sterne to Silliman have deliberately concocted strategies to thwart the emergence of higher-level orders from lower ones. In "laying bare" the devices of fiction and calling attention to the "constructed" nature of their language, postmodern writers often frustrate a reader's attempt to imagine a story's characters and events.
And: The implications of this for literature are obvious. Somehow, writers pack four dimensions of space-time implicate with human meaning into two-dimensional strings of letters on a page, which readers must then unpack, using built-in procedures they share with the writer. A further complication is that in order for this process to work, the writer must first model the minds of prospective readers to predict how they'll respond. To satisfy and subvert reader expectation, he must continuously refer to his own internal model of the reader's mind and adjust the writing process to accommodate it. Because both writer and reader share a language, a culture, and certain universal human experiences, their mental maps of the world share similar patterns. The full context of any text must include this large, recursive mapping process.
And I say: True in one very broad sense: Melville writes "red" I "see" red. But jeez, readers are not automatons. They aren't reading "machines" that process "input" and react with "output." The writer is not a freaking programmer. How depressing.
He does talk a bit about "emotional memory" of the reader in part II (if you can get that far).
It's the memory explosions, linquistical ticklings, chance resonances and other messes touched off in a reader's mind that matter. This is what the reader brings to the book. This is what the author, supposedly, is happy to stir up--not create ex nihilo. This fellow allows no role for imagination on the readers part--unless in the simplistic sense of read red, imagine red.
And thanks for definining madeleine for us, Professor: "madeleine (tea cake)."
Perhaps I should choose poem and illustrate the various paths through to better explain what I mean. Finding one's way makes reader an active participant, not Hansel and Gretel the first two times back from the woods. We know where that got them. The third time, they learned to read creatively.
He also says: Despite modern critics who want to dispense with authors and treat texts as infinitely malleable globs of verbal clay, it makes far more sense to define texts in the terms of information theory as "messages" sent by authors to readers--as long as we keep in mind that these "messages" are complex systems of mind-boggling reflexivity and depth.>
And then he says: By systematically applying rules that increased redundancy and lowered the system's entropy, Bennett came closer and closer to producing a line of English blank verse. Paradoxically, it was by reducing the freedom of his imaginary monkeys that he liberated them to write something resembling human speech. Still, there are limits on the ability of low-level rules to produce a Hamlet. To generate the works of Shakespeare, we need a complex human culture, a literary tradition, and a poetic genius as well as chance. It took four billion years of an evolving Earth to produce the works of Shakespeare. Throwing off the rules that make such complexity possible produces only nonsense.
Again, if the "rules" and well-worn paths of the human mind are going to win out anyway, and the reader is going to struggle to find the meaning he craves, what's wrong with bending things a bit?
And whom does this critic suggest as an avant-garde poet who uses ONLY chance as a shaping principle (it's still a principle after all, and even chance adheres to patterns and syncronicities). I don't see a name, except "from Sterne to Silliman." And what's with lining the "academy" up with the avant-garde? Plenty of avant-garde traditions are defiantly anti-academic.