Books, Poetry, Literature, Politics/Philosophy :
- Tenaya Nasser-Frederick, Lavender Cats, 1080 Press, http://www.1080press.net/
Q: I asked: How do you read this work aloud if you do? Or how should the reader?
A: Tenaya Nasser-Frederick: “…about how Lavender Cats opens, [my friend] said ‘surface interference’. I like that for the sense of constant variation it imbues on the page. In an ideal sense the text works kinda like a setup to be interpreted by a body, so that the event of the text occurs in its being read, in that activity (not its composition). I was thinking about musicians using contact mics in their setups. The surface interference comes through in how the reader chooses to view or read the letters of the text, in however they want to slur or smooth through it, skip it or get close to it and all the errata is only to make the reader’s role as mediator more explicit. If I were just writing for poets I wouldn’t have done any of that, but I think I was more immediately surrounded by everyone else, who I hoped would feel less alienated if I could at least demonstrate that I had no idea what I was doing in the poetry any more than they did.”
” zombie Kamala
gives a walking tour to a resurrected Obama, who has died suddenly a week ago. Mauve and grey shine in his cheeks. He cannot smile anymore, and the people they pass by weep because he cannot smile. But Kamala is reanimated. She parts the crowd like Moses did the sea, so the people cheer for Kamala but weep for Obama. She lost her hands in Iran due to marijuana-related offenses but Mike Pompeo donates his hands to the reanimation of her corpse. The hands have not taken and are swollen to three times their normal size, just huge. She points with long creamy fingers. Her hair is pinned up, and it shows off her long slender neck and jiggly throat. She is nakedly a device in my narrative but I am trying to hear. Young and so rehearsed, her preparedness showing like a tag poking out a collar: “—supreme court is a beautiful monument to a government founded on the highest of human ideals. The beauty of the architecture and spirit of design left a lasting impression – the straight lines in the building represent the immutable nature of truth, while the curved glass and walls were built to represent the fluid nature of finding justice.” From hearing her talk like this, I’m turned on, Obama’s turned on, everybody’s horny. But Obama’d stopped. He groans, trying to force open his lip. Kamala turns and flashes him a look of warning, which does not dissolve, it just stays on her face and becomes a moment. Obama’s groan continues as rich and sonorous as his voice ever was. And finally he speaks: “the ‘straight lines’ of truth have bent reality, morality and history right out of shape.” The people have stopped weeping, but do not seem shocked. They always knew it about him. A blackhooded monk excusing himself through the crowd takes Obama by the elbow. I think it is Kerry because I can only see his chin. They exit amidst confusion and I follow under cover of authorship. He leads Obama to the resting place whence he emerged, but the former President does not want to return to his former state. John Kerry offers to go in his stead and enters the hole, rolling the stone back over himself. Meanwhile, the crowd has arrived, pulling Kamala, tied at the torso to the nozzle of a centurion tank situated upon a tinder-fire pagoda on wheels. Mike Pompeo’s hands, having unstitched themselves, are dancing in a birdcage dancing off a string from the mouth of the tank, so while Kamala freely flails her stumps she cannot untie her torso or legs from the nozzle. The crowd props a compliant Obama on the pyre on top of Kamala. She twists a glance at him with very raised eyebrows. Looking over her eyebrows, he can see antiquity in the many furrows of her forehead, ancient Palestine and the ebb and flow of empires. He turns away his face from her and says to no one, though perhaps looking for me:
“I’m not living on a distant planet, nor in some distant future. I tried to consider the external reasons for war: economics, religion, ideologies, etc. But I couldn’t even remain with these thoughts. I had to return to the reality of the war. History lacks perspective; nothing comes early or late. This is the way it is: The world loves small countries, fighting for their existence against big, powerful, nations. But they don’t want them to win. Such a victory would go against the grain of history. It would break the accepted law of nature, that the gazelle can never get away from the lion. The world doesn’t like it when you try to break the laws of history. That is what happened to Finland, for instance. And when the Jewish people are trying to go against the laws of history — it is even worse. The idea of God is an anti-historical concept; the Bible is full of stories about the weak who won in the end, of the last and the smallest who became king. This is also the original conception of Christianity, of Jesus.
“It is easy to be a true prophet. The true prophets were the ones who followed their pessimistic-realistic instincts and knew that the tranquility of the present could not last, that things were going to get worse. And when they prophecised good events, they were always located in the unreal, end-of-the-world, future. It was easy, the enemy was always looming concrete in the background, and outside of the case of Isaiah and Sanhareb, the enemy was always willing to prove the truth of the prophecies.”
Obama breaks off and turns his face upward. In a bloodcurdling way, he screams, “I’m reaching the present.” His head sinks back down and he sighs. He tells me that a poet should remain in reality in his images and descriptions, his parables and embellishments. “Anyone who stops writing reality and using it (and there are many realities) will turn his writing into mechanized print.” He goes on to tell me an anecdote I didn’t understand about an Arab poet he once knew, a good poet, he says, and the wise criticism he, Obama, had given him, about why his poetry wasn’t that good at all. I start to feel that Obama lays it on kinda thick, patting himself on the back too much. It’s getting late and the crowd is doing many circles of a Debka in layers, each circle alternating direction. I guide my baby boy body by bird’s-eye-view through a teeming mandala, getting out under people’s locked arms while dirty feet swing at my face. Kamala interjects into Obama’s speech—“During the war we lost a lot of machines and a lot of spiritual machines.” She watches him not give her any room to speak then starts to chant—END OF QUOTE! END OF SPEECH! Much of the crowd joins her chant. I almost run into the pit. The orchestra of Israel is playing Somebody I Used To Know. The next day the atmosphere in Jerusalem is very changed, but I’m not sure why. I see a paper while I sit at a cafe. It says that John Kerry and Ban Ki Moon had rolled back the stone in ambush and peppered the crowd with automatic rifles. I see Obama with an inverted skull pass by the cafe, a child in a flowing blue dress over flowing blue pants by his side. His skull has condensed into a brilliant marble ball over which his cloudy brains and tendons stretch like a kite.”
— Tenaya Nasser-Frederick
- Terrence Arjoon, 36 Dreams, 1080 Press
- Galina Rymbu, Life In Space, Russian trans. by Joan Brooks, Ugly Duckling Presse, Brooklyn
- Galina Rymbu, Eugene Ostashevsky and Ainsley Morse, ed.(s): F Letter: New Russian Feminist Poetry, Isolarii. Anthology. Includes Lida Yusupova, Daria Serenko, Lolita Agamalova, Elena Kostyleva, Egana Djabbarova, Oksana Vasyakina, Elena Georgievskaya, Stanislava Mogileva, Ekaterina Simonova, Nastya Denisova, Yulia Podlubnova
NOTE: the anthology is the gathering place and evidence locker of many years of different authors working in a variety of forms.
*literal, in some cases, poetics or documentary
or if the art of them (some of these poems) is that of the art of life itself, how is it more political, the gesture, in this context, Russia, it hits differently, is symbolic, it may be in this case partially a subversive affirmation of the persistence of the globalizing surveillance state and big data’s trying to hold us all hostage? open the anthology, some might say abrasive for 100 pages, some charisma is always lost in translation, a utilitarian compromise, However, this is a real anthology, and there is a multiplicity of voices, other different voices crop up, with a different kind of tone that is more sparse and abstract
a snapshot in time, panorama grey
it would be unfair to cast any critical judgement regarding the poetics exhibited here by any particular single author in this collection,
because an anthology does not allow for any one poet to have much breadth, but regardless of authorship there are always certain dominant styles
that other bunch of poets whose names can also be found in the index.
in the introduction: it is written about, the political coercion and violence of Russia and a “prominent feminist trend of poetics of traumatic sincerity”
As the intro also in a sense begins to allude, lucky spoiled privileged us, USA creative writing programs are as Artaud might say essentially like pig farms, where students are bred for slaughter. Or still some others may be lucky enough to become one of the slaughterers themselves, provided that they agree to forfeit their true dignity, they must run the rat race
E. Ostashevsky: “Please learn to read in two foreign languages at least”
American poetry, bloated, greedy, self-serving, tends towards a wasteland and would be officially pronounced D.O.A without the primal, vital influx from the South/Central Americas and therefore by extension the whole Spanish world, and french to the north somewhat, and how certain coastal metropoli have truck with the rest of the world too, including Russia.
what is actually radical is the publishing effort and international collaboration form that books like these take.
the style can be a response to something else too. to a certain almost ecological concern perhaps regarding the overwhelming amount of content that already exists, a thing may seem to have a value because it is unique because it comes from one person’s subjectivity
but the idea of inevitable overcrowding
poets therefore implicitly called upon to justify more than ever, that…it, and they, should exist,
Suggesting there is too much poetry already, which may be true, endows the poet with something like original sin.
However, might there still be some ideal alignment of circumstances of subject, medium, technique, location, economy, “ecosystem” etc. that brings about a truly meaningful work in such a debased form, proving that in the end sinful forms of writing (or filmmaking.doc) are indeed the only form that this particular content should take?
the “cancel culture” some face is actually real, it is the authoritarian state where real cancellations happens, lives cancelled right out of reality
“based on a true story”
and alternatively as if some kind of autarky of american poetics is sustainable, thinks the MFA world.
*For words, nothing left but skeletons /
Now every day is halloween
“Just the same bourgeois property logic”
“it will be your story, in my text…”
like music in supermarkets or casinos: whatever speeds things along so the house always wins, nothing usually comes back to reinforce the community out of which the poems probably originated in most cases
- Gabriel Kruis, Acid Virga, Archway Editions, Brooklyn
NOTE: I want to say more about this one and those to follow, but, also, a lot has already been said! And WordPress crashed, losing much of my shit. This book has an Xmas-tree’s-worth of blurbs from many remarkable poets on its’ back cover.
An excerpt from the book immediately below here, and some press/etceteras (not my words) regarding Acid Virga:
in el mal pais,
leaned out on mucinex,
mixing dexy cocktails
in the haloed pharmacy
of the car…” – G.K.
‘An unusually assured debut, Acid Virga is a memoir in verse cutting between a vivid Southwest upbringing and modern O’Hara hustle in New York City, deeply and seriously reckoning with the psychedelic heritage of religion and the psychological clarity of chemical consciousness. It is both thrillingly propulsive and dense enough to read again and again, always offering up something new. Language is boundlessly specific, evocative of states internal and external, reading at times like a melancholy memoir stuck between stations, an epic poem or even a philosophical tract, always a true and important record of our American lives as lived now—an endless and reliable ticker tape of the soul.’ – Anon
- Andrew Durbin, Skyland, Nightboat Books, Brooklyn
NOTE: The raw fact of Andrew’s writer-ly composing these short novels effectively two years in a row now (or, year after year anyway; am I forgetting? was it two/three years ago: MacArthur Park?) is compelling/remarkable in itself…here’s hoping for ten more of them. Maybe it could be said they verge on a new millennial kind of ‘automatic writing’ in prose? It was a quick read, as it was maybe also a quick write, for Andrew? Speed does seem to be one of this book’s qualities, something Italo Calvino might admire about it if he were still among its potential readership. The climax of this novel essentially is a dual one: involving the “discovery” of an obscure painting and the experience of racist policing in modern-day Greece. Or anyway that’s how I read it.
- Paul Legault, The Tower, Coach House Books, Toronto
Canadian. Makes use of appropriation, particularly, and a sense of re-writing or a writing into, William Butler Yeats. I had a lot on this one that got erased thanks to WordPress.
- Jean Genet, The Criminal Child: Selected Essays, trans. from French by Charlotte Mandell and Jeffrey Zuckerman, New York Review Books, New York
Anything this guy wrote is worth reading…some of these essays had been hard to find previously in English translation. I’m also a fan of his films.
- Mathias Svalina & Jon Pack, The Depression, The Accomplices: A Civil Coping Mechanisms Book
I dunno from what state this book came, though it felt like a welcome change from the NYC-centric stuff I’m usuallly inundated with (not that I’m complaining about it, either). Prose and photographs. #greyscale. Harry Callahan called, Lee Freidlander…I dunno why more poetry book don’t incorporate more photography. I used to be a very obsessive darkroom printer/developer old-fashioned-film-photography kinda guy, so this one resonated with me on that level.
- Ish Klein, The New Sun Time, Canarium Books, New York City, Marfa, Atlanta
Nice review of this one here: https://hkrbooks.com/2020/05/31/the-new-sun-time/
- Lonely Christopher, In A January Would, Roof Books, New York
Link to my review of Lonely Christopher’s previous poetry collection RESIGNATION from Roof, at Hyperallergic, via the Poetry Foundation’s “Harriet” site: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2019/02/ben-tripp-reviews-lonely-christophers-resignation
Transcription of some notes I scribbled about this new one just this past March/April:
p. 61 Christmas Day [must’ve been my favorite poem?]
“…Regions of the dead and newly birthed
petting out portions in retribution for some long abandoned slight
saying finally there is nothing to confront, just me.
I’ve struck my pen against a rock
held a baby and, in awe of his ponderous face, been gentle.
Let this city carve hollows of damage through our coursing souls
let the maniacs keep their historic appointments.”
Not (as I first thought) apartments, like as with the title, you might think, world. The poem becomes more personal? While it is also more abstract or allegorical…but who are these pronouns?
a trove of LC’s
Some are more terse than
others, all contain
lurid details presumably autobiographical there exists a certain virtuosity within these works,
a sense of casualness
the industry of the poet
- Sparrow, Abraham: A Novel, Autonomedia, Brooklyn
If you don’t know Sparrow, please start with one of the books he wrote about running for president, they are quite rare but worth the journey. This Wikipedia entry is useful too:
but, suffice it to say that the 2001 Soft Skull book is a real gem. I don’t recall how I came to possess a copy a few years back, but I had one, read it, loved it, lent it to a friend, and the rest is history (for my owning the book, I mean) I think the book is in Europe now under lockdown
Inpatient Press also is on-the-case: https://inpatientpress.bigcartel.com/product/on-certain-nights-everyone-in-the-usa-has-the-same-dream-by-sparrow
So in this novel (I had to post a picture so you would know it is about Lincoln) Sparrow has effectively transcribed the diary of a different person who was obsessed with the former president, FYI!
Nature, appropriation, conceptualisms, family/raising children, Upstate NY, more nature, history of Abe Lincoln, diary writing.
- McKenzie Wark, Sensoria: Thinkers for the Twenty-First Century, Verso Books, London, New York
Another new essay of Wark’s I liked recently, on the concept of literary suffering: https://www.thewhitereview.org/feature/girls-like-us/
I reviewed a different recent books of Wark’s: Capital is Dead […] https://hyperallergic.com/535383/capital-is-dead-is-this-something-worse-by-mckenzie-wark/
- John Nichols, The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace’s Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist Politics, Verso Books
NOTE: Not actually mentioned in the above book, but, according to James Laughlin, former publisher of New Directions, Henry Wallace was one of the only (or perhaps the one and only) high-level American politician(s) who actually met with Ezra Pound stateside during WWII circa 1939. This would have been presumably the poet’s last visit to America from Italy before his incarceration for treason. It was only a brief meeting, as the poet was aspiring to his peak madness & obsession with economic theory. He, Pound, of course, made the journey hoping to speak with President Roosevelt (Wallace = vice-prez) but was most likely swiftly denied that opportunity.
In this documentary below, which has been made available on YouTube in its entirety, you can hear Laughlin speak about it. They also interview one of the American soldiers who worked as a prison guard in Pisa during Pound’s imprisonment.
Laughlin: “I believe [Pound] did get to see Henry Wallace, for about ten minutes…but it was just ‘You’re a great man, nice to meet you, goodbye.’ Pound really thought his ideas on economics should be heard. He left despondent, hurt…that people would not take him seriously as an economic and political thinker.”
Laughlin: 33:37 minute mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yCgRANLzQ0]