HARDBOILED HOLLYWOOD, Max Decharne (No Exit Press): with colored illustrations showcasing many of the books where the films were hatched and poster advertisements of the time. A behind the scene of the crime scenes knowledge and flair by a writer who draws from Little Caesar to LA Confidential and thankfully not missing In A Lonely Place (one of the better essays) and the cornball importance of Dillinger. A fine glossary of books to be read despite the films filling your head.
ROCKY SCHENCK, PHOTOGRAPHS (U of Texas Press) : a photographer whose interior shots could as well be exterior and vice versa, we never know quite where we are (except where he has us) ala dreamscape David Lynch focus to Schenck's photographs that just may send you. You could easily skip Lynch if you prefer and land squarely into the film wonder of The Third Man as well. With many of the full plate photographs laid out to the right and white space to the left, no text, no title captions. This photographer is as quietly confident as they come.
MERZ TO EMIGRE AND BEYOND, Steven Heller (Phaidon): avant-garde magazine design from the 20th century with the best of the cultural instigators around - international scoped from 1920s Merz through the Dadaists, Surrealists, View to The Oracle, Paul Krassner's The Realist, stripped down Punk, to Art Spiegelman's short-lived Raw and the digitally enhanced Emigre. Smart as a whip historical text and beautifully realized graphics make this a fine lap companion.
WATERFRONT, Phillip Lopate (Crown): this is Phillip Lopate's finest hour and book - after decades of so-so poetry, novels, ever bright enough collections of essays - in this gathering of well wrought Manhattan steeped reflections, it may be placed beside the bard Whitman, storyteller Joseph Mitchell and underground Alexander Trocchi and just the book Alfred Kazin wanted to write and never quite pulled it off. All of the writers mentioned make pinpoint to luxurious passages through this indigenous goodness of the city, it's bridges and life under bridges, Captain Kidd to Con Edison. There's nothing like a native son who can finally sing his song. Dedicated to New Yorkers everywhere.
MERCY, Lucille Clifton (BOA Editions): hands down Lucille Clifton is the finest poet I've heard read, and Ruth Stone is a close second. Just chalk it up to my own personal affection for poets that don't read per se, but speak, talk and accompany the audience, so the performance disappears to something, well, with us. Each of Clifton's books show the same strengths, most often with an immediacy that disarms the reader left with so little on the page while enchanting one's insides or else a militant humanism that hasn't been seen since dear Gwendolyn Brooks. Most white poets just don't seem to get as down and gritty and sweet as all this whether in spirit / or out of spirit / we don't know
Nor do most younger poets have the shine and syntactical jest of a Lisa Jarnot, BLACK DOG SONGS (Flood Editions): Flood continues to publish some of the more interesting new books of poetry that at least catch my eye long before I think,
"who published this?" Jarnot's picture perfect honed gems are everything the doctor ordered, just what Gertrude Stein had in mind about Language and just what many of the poets taking up that mantle have train wrecked into a psycho's rubix cube - run for the hills, where you will find Jarnot singing from branch to branch, much like I remember her reading and her presence once upon a time at a Milwaukee reading. The newest of the young poets just don't get much better than this. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld take heart, there are poems dedicated herein for you I'm going to ask you to transition into a new theme
Ah, imagine something as miraculous as this bubbling to the surface: A USEFUL ART, Louis Zukofsky (Wesleyan) : the poet's essays and radio scripts on American design. When hired by the Federal Arts Project (in the 1930s, at the seedling of his powers when LZ was a student in Ezra Pound "university") to map out a compendium of facts and descriptions on traditional American crafts. The mathematician mind was already playing haywire with the poetic idiom, now watch him with colonial ironwork that only budges one way, through kitchenware, tin smiths, quilters and carpenters of New Amsterdam. The radio script Zukofsky is as fine as recalling John Fahey once sharing the musical pleasures of Elizabeth Cotton or Bukka White. Tradition is essential all experimenters! and visa-versa. A foreword by John Taggart adds a bonus Two hand wrought iron nails from roofing boards of the old Derby Academy, Hingham, Massachusetts, built in 1784, were still good in 1930 after 145 years of use, and attest to the care spent by the early Americans in their houses.
WHITE PINE PRESS - Companions For the Journey Series - the first six volumes of the series and a very handsome handful they are:Wild Ways: zen poems of Ikkyu, There Is No Road/Antonio Machado, 10,000 Dawns: love poems of Yvan & Claire Goll, Heaven My Blanket, Earth My Pillow/ Yang Wan-li, Back Roads to Far Towns/Basho (Corman), A Zen Forest: Zen Sayings (w/ a foreword by Gary Snyder): they're all excellent, some reprints from earlier editions we all own (Basho mostso): the Goll translated by Thomas Rain Crowe and companion Nan Watkins, with Chagall drawings, certainly rivals the Corman with Basho for the heart's synchronicity - teaming the two intimate translators off lovers Yvan and Claire Goll. The Machado has some of his zenith short poems wonders written after the death of his wife, and who better than Ikkyu to set the stage of how not to contemplate - some 500 years before Richard Farina sang to us that his rebel artist did everything right except he couldn't grow a beard! - Ikkyu sayeth: After I'm gone, some of you will seclude yourselves in the forests and mountains to meditate, while others may drink rice wine and enjoy the company of women. Both kinds of Zen are fine, but if some become professional clerics, babbling about "Zen as the Way" they are my enemies. Could it be said any plainer? Ideal to read one book a day in the series, week after week after week.
When I'm alone
my friends are with me;
when I'm with them,
they seem so distant!
- Antonio Machado (trans. Dennis Maloney/Mary G. Berg )
MERRILL GILFILLAN is a writer I have been reading longer than I realize. Suddenly three or four books are separated in different rooms and in different parts of my library written by the same hombre and in poetry & prose. But with Gilfillan both thread together as the same; yes, he is that good. Natural. Very quietly coming into focus. One day, who knows when, I bought from the Collected Works Bookshop in Santa Fe his Magpie Rising. I'm sure I was later on a train with the book and windows of the train were the windows of each page - Gilfillan has an outdoor mind, as if each essay and poem were sketched out on note pad in the field and later torqued technically efficient but losing none of the weather off the page. Some years later I found, happenstance, Burnt House To Paw Paw (say what?!): Appalachian Notes which further thrilled me. Now arriving in the mail a gift of Gilfillan's most recent book of poems Small Weathers (Qua Books) which, if Zukofsky's child with Lorine Niedecker had become, it may have been this poet.
Poems / like irises / rise / to perpetuate their kind. I've a sneaky feeling Michael Gizzi may be the brains behind Pa bringing us more and more Gilfillan from two separate presses, and from Qua Books I've yet to read a boner. All champs - Ashbery, Berkson, Stanley, Gilfillan. I requested a review copy of the Bill Berkson and received the Gilfillan instead. Quite. All. Right.
A PASSION FOR TRAINS, the railroad photography of Richard Steinheimer, text Jeff Brouws (Norton): what I have always loved about Richard Steinheimer's photographs of trains and train life is that it is the same love I have for trains. For Steinheimer, it may have been a substitute for a lost father. One look and he has you, and you can think of hundreds of similar instances - workers in jeans with cuffs, night stillness cut in two by a phantom train, that billowing coal drag. His models are a combination of W. Eugene Smith for the bold drama and unique corner of the eye, mixed with an Anselm Adams concurrency of the western landscape, often exquisitely shaped with a human touch and not just the muscular iron - though that is there through deep snow country, the plains, piled trestle and snowsheds, and the cross rails of a storming steam age to a cleaner diesel. The era covered here is exactly Kerouac's time and the text by Brouws has a patience and reward to match the amount of freight passing through. Plate 1 & 2 alone could hold you for hours.
New & some older recordings: the same moment I was coming in to see my contact and to pickup the new Albert Ayler boxset of destiny, a fellow about my son's age was excitedly tearing off the wrapper and sharing for all to see the new Nirvana boxset with CDs and DVD. No one but my electrically eclectic son was able to look at the Nirvana and Ayler passing over the table at the same time - like ships passing through the night if there ever was a moment - but I did hear the young manager of the store quip: "A box of Excedrin to go with that Ayler?" Poor Albert, the noise-maker. The Holy Ghost, indeed. One of the many tormented or scorned or burning brights that leapt to their deaths into New York City waters - whether Spaulding Gray or Ray Johnson. Lew Welch hiked away with his rifle into the California Sierra, never to be found. Someone else jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge instead of Weldon Kees, one rumor goes. Kees later 'found' down in Mexico, of course! with B. Traven or Ambrose Bierce. The 20th century alone is made up of a whole disappearing act of literature & music. You could spend a lifetime chronicling a syllabus. The dynamos at Revenant believe in the afterlife and have now released a metal box library of Albert Ayler titled The Holy Ghost, complete with 9 CDs, cloth bound book and about anything you might need for that desert island which includes photographs, audio interviews and mucho playing of the tenor/alto/soprano sax maestro of rare and unissued recordings bleaching hot the years 1962-70. Remember, the sound is colors. For that jazz aficionado who snorts, "I've heard and own everything".
Other recordings on CD. plus one website: let's start with the website: aquariusrecords.org, a good'un, in San Francisco, and packed with logic by many music geniuses on vital-to-so-so recordings of modern rock, new folk & such. I like the Aquarius review of the new Nirvana boxset, since the reviewer grew up with the group. Even though I turned my son onto their first record when he was all of eight years old, he can sum-up today with a wink or a grin just what their music does for him, when I might take a rambling paragraph to do so. Like always, listen to the young. I played for my father John Wesley Harding in my time, now let some youngster turn your head to something different. I also liked the fact the Aquarius reviewer dumped boldly on those bedeviled groaners who snarl, "The Beatles Suck!" Please, put a cork in it. Long ago Emitt Rhodes to now Elliott Smith shows just what a Beatle influence can make, and besides, in these shoddy times, we need much less menstrual male bad moods administered from the likes of a Rumsfeld or some Superstar, and more of a Mississippi John Hurt heaven or Jimmy Scott sweetness. And enough of Tom Carson in the New York Times on Bob Dylan's book Chronicles. It's an upbeat and promising book, so get over it. Not everything hip has to read like it plowed through the coals of hell before it reached our pathetic shores. Besides, why can't we get used to the fact Bob Dylan might just want to set the record straight after 40 years playing mind games with the media and press and here's his chance to tell it like it is. For himself. The recent 60 Minutes interview with Dylan revealed he was about as ready to talk to the press as my dog is willing to take a bath. He admires Sinatra, John Wayne, wanted to attend West Point, and thinks Johnny Rivers did a crack-up great job on his song Positively 4th Street , and the hipsters just don't want to buy it. Their Idol has let them down. Gone Americana. So here's to Woody, Cisco & Leadbelly, too.
CDs: First note out of the chute, it's been well worth the eight years wait for: Iris DeMent's, Lifeline gorgeous through thirteen songs. Her best recording to date and she could have sung with The Carter Family. Another long wait - only 25 years - and only his second solo album in a long life: Cowboy Jack Clement, Guess Things Happen That Way: once a right hand man at Sun Records, he went on to produce landmark albums by Johnny Cash to Townes Van Zandt and now makes a killer all his own, bridging royal country tradition with a Fellini aura in cowboy hat. It's a miracle or a profound mistake to make something this relishing and still I find the CD in many used bins waiting weeks to be bought. Go find it. Hands down he does the truest version of "Dreaming My Dreams With You"- take it personally - it's as fine as the sparkling ukulele sounding "I'll See You In My Dreams" of Joe Brown. The Great Santa Barbara Oil Slick, John Fahey: great to see this turn up, packaged in soft cardboard as if miniature LP, and no doubt many good hands are keeping the dead troubadour's recordings coming, this one from two live shows at The Matrix in San Francisco late 60s of more trail busting finger picking, with occasional Fahey commentary and even nose blowing...some inspired soul had the all important tape rolling. Not new but new to me sent as gift and your answer to: "what is a poet performing?" Mikhail Horowitz, The Blues of the Birth with bits of music backup as hair-triggered as the poetry and a confirmation that flowing poesy rap and jazz may just have a bastard son. There is no way not to love the opening tune "Swingin' Cicadas", take it from there! I've also been listening to lots of early UK pop/rock & roll like Sandie Shaw (gutsy, soaring and years ahead of her time), Georgie Fame, moving it up to Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros (Global a Go-Go) - a whole day can be lost there. Much like seeing the return of Alice Coltrane, Translinear Light with son Ravi. So, it's over long - they're both worth it. Elliott Smith: From A Basement on the Hill only verifies our loss to his untimely death, so buy the hype. Yes, Yes, Yes: new Leonard Cohen, Dear Heather (LC speaketh & he hasn't lost his jaw harp), JSP boxsets (4 CDs for about the price of one) of: Blind Boy Fuller (a voice like tomorrow) and Masters of Memphis Blues: with full recordings by Furry Lewis, Robert Wilkins, Frank Stokes from a Memphis blues no longer there...literally torn to the ground for "progress": meaning, more cash in the pockets of fewer.
Back to books: go and find, and you'll know when you have it - it's a gilded two foot tall of a near Blakean Tintin - Gary Panter's, Jimbo in Purgatory (Fantagraphics): being a mis-recounting of Dante's Divine Comedy (all true) in black and white pictures with piled up footnotes showing the way through innumerable asides ranging from Ben Jonson, Milton, Spenser, Kesey, Yul Brynner's West World; not to mention "Thirty-three more best loved vinyl LP recordings" all drawn and annotated. Jimbo thrives amidst outlandish proverbs. And with this one, I definitely judge a book by its cover.
Jean Valentine can't even look up in her author's photograph for her new and collected poems (1965-2003) DOOR IN THE MOUNTAIN (Wesleyan), much like her poetry she would rather the poems taking care of themselves. Less is definitely more, and her work has only become further spare, intensified and attractively suspended on the page...somehow making the earlier poems, which I always was drawn hard to - book after slender book - now almost padded. The development has been a success and this is a life's worth you hold to. you / a breath on a coal
GOEST (Alice James) : a beautiful sound/title from Cole Swensen and the poems edge in sharp, tonal and such a sureness of movement line to line or page to page you become wrapped up and still free Green moves through the tops of trees and grows This is a poet who knows how to start and stop and leave a wake - and while so many poets try this and pound us with their theory - their Language, Swensen is reserved but allows us to walk through her rooms while she is away.
The First Lightbulb
a gate again
where the sky died
in a coin
- Cole Swensen
This is an excellent collection of less than 25 pages, doubled-up to 50 pages since it is a bilingual edition of American/Italian of the poet Duncan McNaughton who should be much better known outside poets' circles. His range can storm to cantos length, couplet masterpieces, the narrative, and a short poem dead ringer laced with a wicked deadpan humor. His long poems you get lost in like you get lost in the weather: it's part of you, meant for you, don't fight it. This is one master language maestro mother. The book is Clandestines (Josef Weiss Edizioni) translated in Italian by Cecilia Galiena & Anna Ruchat and may be purchased through Longhouse. Enough to know I'm cared for
Construction of the ideal domestic universe, anyone? See MY HOUSE, MY PARADISE, Gustau Gili Galfetti (Gingko) for the best results. Pages 154-159 are all devoted to Ian Hamilton Finlay's Little Sparta - all rock, boat, water, pathway, classicism surrounding culture and nature; preceded by Howard Finster's Paradise Garden out of Georgia where the artist bought a plot of land in 1961 for $1000 and proceeded to make it glow; Raymond Isidore's La Maison de Picassiette: a mosaic wonder, built out of the head with no architect's plans (many of these artists adore this lifestyle) blended with Italian villas, modern castles, a bottle built village and concluding with a bang at Das Paradise of Cornelius King in Austria: a compound of a sort that may be entered only after a required purification act. The sense of spatial isolation, that illusory characteristic of paradise, is only mediated by the views of the stables nearby, shown on video screens. High walls abound towards a natural environment of looking up at nearby mountains and sky. I think I'll stay home in this valley.
Once upon a time Dana Gioia was a student of Elizabeth Bishop's at Harvard. He was drawn to the poetry of Robert Lowell (and it's important to keep in mind he was not drawn to the poetry of John Wieners or Cid Corman, long Boston boys) and Bishop wisely recommended that Gioia get out from behind a book and go visit the monuments and buildings of the city mentioned in Lowell's poetry. Gioia found the idea "quaint" - until he followed Bishop's advice and saw that she was quite right. The world has much to teach us about poetry just as poetry can tell us much about the world. A hideously naive statement that can only arrive from someone stuck in the business world or upon an academic pedestal, and that's still no excuse. Plenty have worked in both and have a vigorous appetite for wonder and poetries. For the first time in his career, Gioia is actually stretching his wings. A native of California (Hawthorne), he seems to have had an inkling of a rebirth about poetry after two decades lodged on the east coast and returning to live on the west coast only to discover poets who had been working out there for decades: William Everson, Kenneth Rexroth and even little old Jack Spicer (there's the leap) are pretty darn good poets, in need of "rediscovery" (where'd they go?). And then comes the rub: not to misunderstand Dana Gioia - they're good but not that good! - and in fact, keep in mind, nearly all these poets are labeled by Gioia as "minor poets"; whatever the hell that is? Gioia feels comfortable amongst his kind and doesn't at all mind going to a party with wilderness John Haines, New Yorker chic Kay Ryan, "enfant terrible" James Tate (how terrible can he be after repeated prestigious awards?) his ladies: Elizabeth Bishop, Janet Lewis, Barbara Howes (not a Lorine Niedecker, Barbara Guest, Joanne Kyger within miles) and as a literary critic I'm supposed to think this guy is working? His most valuable piece in the book is from ground he knows the best - a soggy hay bale essay on Longfellow, who by the way was Ezra Pound's great uncle. Ever alert, Gioia is also narrow, partisan and not leaving us much. Like a good woman, which I'm not but have learned from, I wish to feel the earth shake. The book is called, appropriately, DISAPPEARING INK (Graywolf).
On the other hand - Benjamin Friedlander is a brat, he even admits he was as a youngster when hounding poets Pound, Zukofsky, Duncan - "I only picked on poets who meant a lot to me." - Oh, thanks a bunch! But I believe the brat in the adult is what made the mischief in this book and what a wunderkind it is bursting jelly donut style with all sorts of inventions: names made up ala literary personalities you may guess at-will riffed off in hyper satire style ala email correspondence, to grounded biographies of poets of this moment that he describes and explains as if anyone, except the 500 readers out there, could care less about. And that's just the nerve I like about all the book. It's gaseous, playful, blindly self-promotional, exploratory, nasty and sincere with left & right hands pounding the bongos and not at all a chump one-man-band. Friedlander is threatening because he has a passion for the goods and his chapter alone on "Literati of San Francisco" knocks the ball in the shape of Dana Gioia's head, right out of the park...remembering Gioia's one chapter from his book (above) "Fallen Western Star: the decline of San Francisco as a literary region." These Language Poets, and varied associates, plan to take over the world (they can have it) and rid us of the father figures (about time) with, naturally, new father figures (it's genetic) but I am hoping the women win out over the boys - since by my last count, on both hands, I came up with by far more poets with womens names that hit the target of poetry - soul, line theory and all that webbing, and what it means to be someone on earth. For well over 300 pages of SIMULCAST (U/Alabama), Friedlander will take you off the planet, into the bowels of poetry as the new machine, and I recommend the ride. Just get a ticket back into someone's arms.
Now to the poetry into someone's arms: death, love and liberty in the American ballad THE ROSE & THE BRIAR, ed. Sean Wilentz & Greil Marcus (Norton): edited by two Dylan freaks who must have loved receiving a solicited submission from R. Crumb (handwritten) where he stomps down with one of those big sole shoes he draws on his cartoon characters onto the editors heads and their proposal of ballads to use in this book (there is a companion CD but it doesn't come along with the book) - Crumb is beside himself at his hate for the group The Band and their most famous song, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". Never mind loathing other choices on the ballad-list, like Springsteen, Randy Newman, and to clinch it off, "I don't even like Bob Dylan!" Crumb wails. This letter from Crumb comes a third of the way into a book of pretty good stuff but one then backtracks to the list of ballads on the CD list and sure enough the old cartoonist - who correctly describes himself as a "moloy fig", while still being a signature artist for everything whacky about the 60s - seems to have kept The Band off the play list. That's power, or coincidence. It also reveals the mesmerizing labor of love that went into this collection. The contributors are ballad players themselves (Rennie Sparks of The Handsome Family), novelists (Joyce Carol Oates: from boxing to ballads), critics abound, poets, cultural mavericks (Steve Erickson, Luc Sante), illustrations, a gooey good glossary of books and songs, and then a dead giveaway of just how wholesome these editors are: they dedicate the whole ball of wax to Dave "Snaker" Ray, a mostly unknown white blues boy from the midwest north country who just wanted to sing and play guitar (well), whether with Koerner, Ray & Glover, or by himself, come what may. Despite an early death - he, and that dedication - shines on nearly every page.
- Bob Arnold
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL - STAY FESTIVE, MAKE SOMETHING & BUY USED!
Memorize your lines and don't bump into the furniture -Spencer Tracy
Who is out there? I can only imagine.
So let me make a list of many books read over the past many weeks. A little cold out here in Susan's studio where I work, kerosene heater on, the door was open awhile to bring along still a warmish October. A marvelous two months of foliage that only began to fall after a killer frost two days ago, otherwise we have been cutting firewood daily in the woodlot. The younger beech trees - our size - hold onto their lemony leaves, oaks all leathery; maples, cherry, ash, hickory and birch mostly all leaf shed. We've been tramping in them down the trail packing back firewood in canvas packs and satchels for the kitchen cookstove. Don't ask. It's an old way.
Let's look at books. I'm playing an old LP of Caetano Veloso over & over again. The 4th game of the World Series is tonight and the Red Sox have won seven games in a row through the Yankees and now the Cardinals. My Red Sox friends show absolutely no sign of relief - pestered buggers - after years of losses. On the back road drive to town I can find giant size "B" or "Go Sox" displays on garages, barn sides, and up in trees made from Christmas lights. Fanatical. Fans tell me, bar none, that every one wants this thing over in four games. Whereas I would revel in seven games, 12th inning on the final game and right up to a full-count and pitch,
just as long as Boston doesn't lose again with a trickle hit up the first baseline that goes through a poor guy's legs. Baseball would be wonderful right up to near election day and then allow Boston to win, and likewise let a Boston guy win, so we
can maybe get rid of a few nightmares. Get a few monkeys off our backs.
Here is something written in the 1950s that could just as well be scripted for today re Bush:
Buttressed by their belief that their God had entrusted the earth into their keeping, drunk with power and possibility, waxing rich through trade in commodities, human and nonhuman, with awesome naval and merchant marines at their disposal, their countries filled with human debris anxious for any adventures, psychologically armed with new facts, white Western Christian civilization during the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, hurled itself upon the sprawling masses of colored humanity in Asia and Africa." This is Richard Wright from White Man, Listen!(1957) He concludes this essay with: It can be said that the white man is at bay. Never have so few hated and feared so many. What I dread is that the Western white man, confronted with an implacably militant Communism on the one hand, and with a billion and a half colored people gripped by surging tides of nationalist fanaticism on the other,will feel that only a vengeful unleashing of atom and hydrogen bombs can make him feel secure. I dread that there will be an attempt at burning up millions of people to make the world safe for the "white man's" conception of existence, to make the ideas of Mill and Hume and Locke good for all people, at all times, everywhere...If the white West should attack the body of mankind in this fashion, it will not only sacrifice its own civilization, but will set off reactions of racial and religious hatreds that will last for generations. In trying in this manner to make the world safe for their own kind only, the white West will wipe out of men's minds the undoubtedly glorious contributions that it has made to human life on this earth." Paperback of high wisdom bought for a dime at the local Goodwill. Take it to the voting booth on Tuesday.
Followed up by Chain of Command by Seymour Hersh. Since his My Lai book, few in the mainstream press have held together such a tough and steady eye on the powers that be in Washington DC. Compliments should go to The New Yorker for publishing sections of this book and for Hersh himself who has appeared on television speaking of the coup this country has gone through since the bogus 2000 election and boosted valiantly by 911. Lie to yourself but this book doesn't lie. There is so much about this presidency that we don't know, and may never learn. Some of the most important questions are not even being asked. How did they do it? How did eight or nine neoconservatives who believed that a war in Iraq was the answer to international terrorism get their way? How did they redirect the government and rearrange long-standing American priorities and policies with so much ease? How did they overcome the bureaucracy, intimidate the press, mislead Congress, and dominate the military? Is our democracy fragile? I have tried in this book, to describe some of the mechanisms used by the White House-the stovepiping of intelligence, the reliance on Ahmad Chalabi, the refusal to hear dissenting opinions, the difficulty of getting straight talk about military operations gone bad, and the inability-or unwillingness-of the President and his senior aides to distinguish between Muslims who supported terrorism and those who abhorred it. A complete understanding of these last few years will be a challenge for journalists, political scientists, and historians. And out of all due respect, screw the professionals right now, it's living hell for most citizens to understand.
After Wright, then Hersh, I would recommend reading Eliot Weinberger's: Freedom is on the March. I had mine sent by email and it is making the rounds.
NOTHING LIKE THE HOMEMADE: out of the blue come these books, made by hand, whole cloth, stapled or sewn or folded expertly and glued: 5 Poems by Cid Corman (Hull Press, 301 N. Daniel, Springfield, IL 62702): someone took an awful lot of care & patience to make a text of simple pages and wrought iron poems under handmade cloth covers and design. I knew it was right as soon as I put my hand on it. Prose Poems by Kirpal Gordon (www.leapingdogpress.com). I know it sounds hip & cool but Gordon is the real deal: a jazz singer deep down drift prose writer with the cadence of Mose Allison or Georgie Fame. You will snap and crackle coming at these pages read aloud. The book is in printed form, I simply provide the web address for more, and there is much more, from Leaping Dog Press A Life To Live: Santoka by Scott Watson ([email protected]): Watson is a poet, American, teacher in Japan, generally fine rabble rouser on all things academic - which he also is, of a sort - but how deliciously he likes to slam & bang around the academics in this collection with his versions of Santoka's poetry, complete with strident essay, many loosey-goose poems and a mysterious photograph of an enlightened one with back to camera, walking stick, treasured bonnet and a pause on the well worn path peckers/and/pussies/a hot/bath/over-/flowing
Santoka to Robert Sund is a dovetail. Poems From Ish River Country (Shoemaker & Hoard) will finally be out in December of this year. This volume will gather up all the poems by long time resident and rower of its waters in the Pacific Northwest. His earlier books of poems Bunch Grass and Ish River have long been heralded by poets, and those that searched out the poet's paintings and calligraphy (often accompanying his scarce chapbooks) have a little secret that comes along with a poet too long out of print. Hats off to Jack Shoemaker and his associates long in the tooth publishing and persisting all these decades to nail out one little masterpiece after another despite the odds, the monstrous junk of the marketplace, and to listen to some good folks in the field, barely known, who are the heirs & poets of such like Sund. He learned from Roethke, who we all know. Many of those that read their Roethke though, missed Sund, who died in 2001. Now don't make the mistake to miss those poets who have been living in and out of Sund's rainshadow: Tim McNulty (who offers a companionable afterword for this book), Mike O'Conner, Finn Wilcox, BillYake and many more. This collection is 250 pages of take-me-to-a-desert-island quality. In one book. One man. Somewhere in this ink bottle / there is a starry sky.
CORRECTION: the publication Poets & Writers has done yeoman work over many years now and deserve our helping hand, anyway we can, but should be corrected in one of their recent issues about the The Top Ten Independent Presses currently working in this country. I fall right into line like a kitty cat and purr at the mere mention of these presses and read their books and even write many reviews and moreso launch the books before others when they visit our home as to a "great read, don't forget". Priceless stuff. But most of the presses mentioned are not independent. As young editors and presses they may have been -in the wilds of the late 60s and fertile 70s-but since then they have become grant junkies and foundation muckers and very skilled bureaucrats in the system. I marvel at their vision with design, scope of authors and chain of commitment but it is a far cry from the many presses still in this country that are truly independent, rough shod ground breakers with writers found, and might first cut off something before admitting to the sleaze-tease that follows these fellowships, foundations and scurrilous grants. It better be said and awarded that the likes of Copper Canyon Press et al., are not at all independent but in fact prime movers & shakers of what mainstream publishing should be. They are now up with the big boys and have earned their way magnificently. But independent is still: two mules and a plow.
I'm just finishing up Windblown World by Jack Kerouac (Viking) one more of the many issued post death Kerouac volumes finding the light of day through the sometime auspices of good minds like Douglas Brinkley who has edited this book from Kerouac's journals kept between the years 1947-54. In it comes the backwaters to Kerouac's first book The Town and the City - the true life characters like Huncke, Ginsberg, Holmes, Carr, Cassady etc., coming to us from ground level as pals . The struggle with the first book requirements, and, glowingly, even in these doctored pages, the genesis for On the Road. If you love your Kerouac - the at home with Ma brooding alone at the kitchen table slugging out 1500 words through the wee hours of the night trance - then this is your book I really travel because I'm loveless
Blows Like A Horn by Preston Whaley, Jr. (Harvard) beat writing, jazz, style and
markets in the transformation of U.S. Culture. First off, and I loved seeing them gleaned up for study, but I didn't buy anything this writer had on ruth weiss and Bob Kaufman. It reads manipulative, and as if one has gone to the ends of the earth to find two beat writers no one else has done much on but coming up with none of the goods. The whole book should have been a biography of these two poets and what world of beatnik, underworld and tribal context that could be expansively described. The finest chapters in the book are on poets and jazz (Ready for Breakfast/Howl of Love) where Whaley really gets whipped up, finally, on the flow of composition..which also assists his own. What improvisation retains by way of form, by way of control, and by way of medium proscribes its freedom.
It's been a few weeks since I read Bob Dylan's Chronicles, volume one (Simon & Schuster) a lousy titled and equally lousy designed book but what a gorgeous
yarn. A knock your socks off quality from start to finish. I have a friend in UK who mentioned he couldn't put the book down and gulped it up in one-sitting. How in the world? I thought, after my 40 years following the likes of Tarantula, mysterious jekyll & hyde interviews, elusive appearances on television and screen; but then don't forget the down & dirty sermons from the stage, the out of nowhere spun magical cloth of folk songs repartee, the present look part Edgar Allen Poe /part Hank Williams, string-tie grin. This is an American boy like few have been able to retain, and for once in his life, in print, he sets his story down. For those that lived through the early 60s folk years and all of a sudden it was: All Bob Dylan: will now have you shaken to read how graciously and devotedly this master of song remembers who came before him, helped him, and page after page he sets their names in stone. That's a big deal when you're folk. The hike out to Woody Guthrie's house was a wrong-turn route in swamp up to his knees and the Oklahoman wasn't there (in the hospital) and the drover left back through the swamp. The aura and tone of youthfulness is invigorating from start to finish, and the pure decency of an all American boy comes through in Dylan's sketches ala homage to the likes of Archibald MacLeish, Pete Maravich and Roger Maris, a fellow Minnesotan. Some have been waiting for Dylan's best album since Blood on the Tracks - this book is some of the best writing Dylan has ever made, period, pen to paper. Song or text. And for all those radicals made from Masters of War on the one hand, and Highway 61 on the other, the author at one time wanted to enroll at West Point, studies Clausewitz and without a doubt has got your number on how to maneuver and still stay real. Not quite an autobiography but a storyteller's fest. And I didn't even go into the chapter on recording Oh Mercy and the side bar tramps around the New Orleans countryside.
Chris Drury builds cairns and so do I so I sure wanted his book on Found Moments In Time And Space (Abrams) one of the finest books I own on the pickup-off-the- trail-and-build-as-you-go-along method. Cairn maker, stone and wood hut structures in the wilds, delicate found each day off the trail pieces for a weaving, woven baskets or towers from sticks and seeds. I immediately trusted
this builder, loved the layout and photographs of the whole book. Earthier than Goldsworthy and much less pronounced. The true touch of stone and wood is here. I like the way that a shelter has an interior as well as an exterior. They feel different but are connected. I like the way this interior space draws you inside yourself, enclosing, protecting, just as mountains pull you outside yourself, pushing mind and body beyond their usual confines
Montaigne who once wrote that our peculiar condition is that we are made as much to be laughed at as to laugh - one of the many engaging passages from the book Bartleby & Co by Enrique Vila-Matas (New Directions) which has been labeled a novel, and if it is (not) I would push aside every novel I was told to read and indeed read all this year for more of this delicious and steeped literary gruel. Taken from Melville's Bartleby, the scrivener who "would prefer not to" Vila-Matas takes us on a tour of "artists of refusal" like Oscar Wilde who stopped writing the last two years of his life to discover other pleasures (imagine!). That wise delight of doing 'nothing', devoting himself to sheer laziness and absinthe. Or like Kafka, he produced a compendium of unfinished texts, sketches and plans for books he never published. Along with Dylan's Chronicles, this book has surprise and a beautiful dogleg route down each page, both cherishing a certain abandon and landing squarely on both feet in rhythm and content On the shelf, set it beside Gravity's Rainbow.
It's all about her persistence that I love about Ruth Stone's poetry - now almost blind, or at least having a time with it, she is writing some of the best poetry of her life and at least two handsome books have come in the last few years. In the Dark (Copper Canyon) is the latest. It may be a little too long with a few poems sounding alike but just as I say this to myself I find most of Stone's strength is her involvement that involves you. Whoever edited the book knew to put this gem smack in the middle of the collection just when your mind and eye might be tiring -
Like the radiator that sits
in the kitchen passing gas;
like the mop with its head
on the floor, weeping;
or the poinsettia that pretends
its leaves are flowers;
the cheap paint peels
off the steamed walls.
When you have nothing to say,
the sadness of things
speaks for you,
There are a million literary tricks of pun, image, forced metaphor, alliteration
and this poet forever and again tosses it all and keeps it all maintained by a
sincerity to die for -
WALTER, UPON LOOKING AROUND
"Men are getting extinct,"
says my grandson, Walter.
"Look how little I am;
and I'm the only boy in the family.
I hardly ever see a boy,"
he says, warming to his subject.
Like Robert Sund, Ruth Stone is one of our best kept secrets. Best shared.
Here is something quite remarkable that came through the mail - a deluxe copy of Bone/Hueso, the illustrated booklet featuring the bilingual poetry of Howard McCord. The creator of such is one Adrian Tio Diaz, illustrator extraordinaire (cut linoleum block prints) from Hare of the Dog Press (www.haredogpress.com) who has elegantly matched McCord's own poems that he has written in both English and Spanish. Of course precious few were made, masterpiece built as it is, but enough to sell: the first 26 copies (A to Z) come as a lettered deluxe format in hand structured box that will keep you involved admiring it long before you slide out the books. The remaining numbers of the total 80 made (27-80) contain one book inside a more modest slipcase. But knowing this outfit, expect to be dazzled. Rare Book Collections seem to be sweeping them up; if you are of that ilk (a chosen), go immediately past Go and inquire. A must for McCord readers. Ditto small press, touchy-feely lovely papers finicky colophon sweeping reader geeks. Of which, I am often one.
My back's starting to act up. Kerosene going down in the heater. Woodstoves are inside the house awful warm (I just fetched an apple & more water), and the 4th World Series game is on in an hour - let me note, with pleasure, one more book: I much enjoyed volume one but volume two of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams 1946-1957 (New Directions) takes the reader on a cruise through probably the highest intensity of the writer's career: Streetcar, The Rose Tattoo, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Baby Doll sort of intensity. The gentlemanly scholarship of Williams has always been attractive, combined with an underworld in the conservative 1950s where he remains one of the champs left standing. He says it best: Here is my program: have a complete change this summer, go to Japan and Hong-Kongand so forth. In the Fall, take up residence again in New Orleans, and start analysis there if I still feel I need it and there is a good analyst there. Try to kick the liquor habit or cut down on it. I'm not an alcoholic, I almost never get drunk, but I do drink too much and my working hours in the morning are affected by resulting hang-overs and depression. Cultivate a cooler, more objective attitude toward my work, and recapture some of my earlier warmth and openness in relation to people, which began to go when I began to be famous.
An honest man. Deserves another -
August 9, 2004 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Walden
In 1854, when Walden was first published, the book was largely ignored. It took five years to sell out the first printing of two thousand copies. It was not until 1862, the year of Thoreau's death, that the book was brought back into print. Since then it has never been out of print, and it has been published in hundreds of editions and translated into virtually every modern language. for more, contact The Walden Woods Project (www.walden.org)
- Bob Arnold
nothing matters but the quality
of the affection
- Ezra Pound
WOODBURNERS WE RECOMMEND - AUTUMN EQUINOX 2004
A leap - and my mind is whole - Osip Mandelstam
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something - Robert Frost
To write means to construct language, not to explain it - Max Bense
Traditional music is too unreal to die - songs about roses growing out of
people's brains and lovers who are geese and swans who turn into angels -Bob Dylan
- in memory of all of us -
axis: making a connection to another by way of the reading text
I walked up to a brakeman
to give him a line of talk,
he says if you've got the money
I'll see that you don't walk.
- Jimmie Rodgers
Both Jim (Koller) and I make a living working with our hands - building and landscape work - and we also write poems and have edited literary magazines. It's no big deal. Others have done it. Speaking for myself, writing poems and hand labor are both one, they work off one another, and combining the editing of a poetry journal are the things I love to do. The hand labor earns a pay check, but moreso it earns the poems I write, and the editing derives from a literary enjoyment of gathering poets into the same pages, no matter their poetic landscape; the poems simply have to be good. Not just good to me, but good for poetry. Like when you hear a Woody Guthrie song, that's good. Bad is easy to smell. It's the same idea Whitman lit into our heads when he wrote "who touches this book touches a man" - we've heard it a hundred times, but how many have you read? How many even get published? I try to find these poems built into such a book, and when I find them I want to put them into other hands.
Robert Frost wrote good poems in his early years, they were poems that felt lived-in, and curiously read as if they were written before Frost knew what he was doing - which doesn't mean he was ignorant - rather what Olson said, "we do what we know before we know what we do." Later, when the world ate him up and gave him 4 Pulitzer prizes the poems have already suffered from too much pollination; they had become only poems, down right expected of him. That treatment would kill anything that bleeds. My point is that his early poems talked a real talk, made a poem sing/made the reader sing, brightened the eyes to a connection of life and words. And to find these words you have to hunt, become a reader - a doer - and one good book will always steer you to at least one more good book, and finally to the man Whitman knows you can touch. In these essays when I write of the outsider I'm thinking of the writer with no easy definition or identity, call him what you want. It is Montaigne who is always reminding me, "The reader who is not willing to give an hour is not willing to give anything." What isn't explained in these essays is yours to find - it's out the door, the tip of an ear to a sound, and how much you really do want to find. Don't kid yourself.
...Poets put into poems what they do. My feeling is that the less they do, the more literary tricks show up - gumballs, forced language, because they're-poets-and-they-must-write-a-poem! Spare us.
I have a photograph near my desk of Van Wyck Brooks and Jaime de Angulo, it's a favorite of mine. Brooks is wearing a sweater, tie, and suitcoat standing proud into the eyes of the camera. de Angulo is on horseback in a ragged shirt looking sideways from the camera. What a meeting of the minds! eastern establishment shaking hands with western soil, reminds me of Emerson seeking out John Muir in the Sierra. Like Emerson, Van Wyck Brooks had a generous mind; it was a mind that stayed open, hung on the lip of vulnerability, took chances, and because of that nerve both achieved more than most American literary historians in finding the gist and flesh of our literature. Brooks went looking for Jaime de Angulo because he knew de Angulo -like any good writer - must first live away from the pages of his writing. I first read Jim Koller as a teenager, looked him up and published him in my twenties...we've been visiting, working, talking, sharing things ever since.
I wrote the above - taken from a much longer essay called A Line of Talk - nearly 20 years ago and I wouldn't change a word, shift my tone, nor move from my position one iota. It was all part of a conversation between Jim Koller and me and we're still having this conversation, and I'm sure whoever leaves the earth first I guarantee the conversation between us will continue. Jim's new book of poems Snows Gone By, new & uncollected poems 1964-2002 (La Alameda Press) is filled with a certain passion, Koller style - not gushy, not even worded all that much, but an explicable aura of never surrender. Ghosts of loved ones stay with the ghosts of those alive, there just is no difference, and each poem is made as if by a hand-tool motion. If you are used to your poetry all gussied up with complete formation then be prepared to work, because half the time after a Koller poem you are left with just yourself - not the doctorate self, the educated self or the public self; rather the private, hidden, squirreled into a ball self which is forever begging just to be set free. Well here is your chance. Come meet poems said to children (the poet's may as well be yours), hooted back to birds and fur beasts (some of his best friends), blessed over plains and prairies (where the poet was born) washed out with the Pacific and Atlantic tides (been his homes) and just imagine a poet in this day and age having the audacity and perseverance, at nearly the age of 70, collecting 38 years of his poetry - and his last major collection was 30 years ago - all into a book a bit over 100 pages long. So much, so much left on the floor and on the road. I'm telling you, you don't want to live without this book. The day it arrived I spent just the first day looking at the tiniest and blurred photograph of a coyote tucked down and trotting through on the very last page. The poems would wait. We took the road up as far as it went
axis: Bill Brown
Gary Snyder's new book of poems has a photograph, of a sort, that sums up much of his dominion and place these last 50 years in poetry: the blown roof top of Mount St. Helens, heavy with snow, and not at all the same mountain the poet snapped in his own photograph way back in 1945 : a pleated ridge, August snow-deep wonder. There is a selection from the Snyder text chosen by the publisher of Danger On Peaks (Shoemaker & Hoard) for the full back cover of the book that I hadn't noticed or cared to read but did notice after my reading it was the very same paragraph I circled from my reading as one of the many highlights of the book - Snyder at 15 years of age, the first atomic bombs in any age had been dropped on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki and the young poet is in the backcountry hiking and oblivious to it. The first photographs of the bombs after-world didn't reach the Portland Oregonian until a few days later, and when hiking out of the woods to a lodge to catch up on news from the community bulletin board it seems the poet, rebel, teacher, patriot Gary Snyder was born: The morning sun on my shoulders, the fir forest smell and the big tree shadows; feet in thin moccasins feeling the ground, and my heart still one with the snowpeak mountain at my back. Horrified, blaming scientists and politicians and the government of the world, I swore a vow to myself, something like :By the purity and beauty and permanence of Mt. St. Helens, I will fight against this cruel destructive power and those who would seek to use it, for all my life." And god dammit, wouldn't you know he'd live up to that pledge. For anyone coming to Snyder for the first time you can start with any book, he's that consistent; like 5 shovels on a wall. Grab one. For seasoned readers, this book will act like a hodgepodge of a sort but we all know better - there's grit of muscle and intelligence - and no matter that he has never been too convincing to me trying his hand at the very short poem - he just can't help himself at being too wordy, too preachy, and a little too wooded where he means to be floating. His roommates once upon a time from Reed College (Welch and Whalen) were much finer hands at it, though this remains Snyder's best book at letting his hair down. The haibun passages are quite elegant, the reflective journal-poetry-hiking pages spanning decades are fully companionable, and many of the later poems of life hold forth a lovely tenderness about often 'nothing' at all, to the fast close-up death of a loved one. In Snyder he means for you to feel every inch. And, of course, the 'nothing' is merely another word for everything. I can't think of very many poets from the woods since Thoreau who just know how to make you all at once feel that sunshine on the back, the presence of the mountain, and your feet touching the earth through those thin sole moccasins. The reader is in the care of a woodsman who drinks his coffee at Carls Jr., and like Jim Koller (old friends) has prepared a life: part self-made-mythic /and made-mythic: by a civilization gone wacky out of touch with the human soul. These two poets are fierce believers of Really the real. And I know, for a fact, they were both close to their mothers.
axis: Nanao Sakaki
Hayden Carruth: Koller of the Midwest birth gone wild seed blown all four directions, Snyder of the high Sierra west, and Carruth like locust split logs made for fencing all purpose New England...and I don't care if he has lived the last 20 years or so in New York state, he knows as well as any of us he left in Vermont, he is from Vermont. His best poems were written here. The farmers and halfwits he sincerely loved came from here, and he salvaged years of madness before-hand by making a quiet home on a lopsided hill with a likable brook that ran by, and just imagine he wrote his poems and bucked out many book reviews and hack work from a studio he renovated from an old cow shed. He worked in there all night and came to sleep at dawn and all I remember best when I went to visit him in there was a well used box Herald woodstove and a postcard photograph of Ezra Pound tacked on the wall. The creamy lighting and cave wall of books are now a blur. To the photographer who took the author's photograph of Hayden in his new book Letters To Jane (Ausable Press / www.ausablepress.org) my compliments, for catching just the sweetness, as well as the long yard of pain and heartache of the man's demeanor and in the eyes, because this clutch of a book is going to give the reader a boatload of the same. "Jane," of the letters, is Jane Kenyon, who to a whole other league of readers is better know than Hayden Carruth for her lyrical poetry and translations of Anna Akhmatova. Except Hayden wrote these letters and only Hayden would think to write these letters - massively devotional and skilled at writing both a day-book entry and treasured nougat love poem. Kenyon is slowly dying and at the same hour the poet's only daughter is being treated for her own cancer (which will take her) and Carruth is never silly to worry is he being mixed up as friend, father, neighbor or lover...he comes as a whole. For younger readers, and a moment of perspective, if Jack Kerouac were alive today he would be one year younger than Hayden Carruth. A poet who has spanned from parts of the greatest era of American poetry (HD, Pound, Williams, Zukofsky) and been muddied up himself in so many cross currents of relationships of poets - he seems to make his pals between woods hermits to citylight starlets in the trade - but after all seems the happiest being at home, tending to his yard, the comfort of a loved one as woman or dog and cat, any straggler, and having his computer keyboard plunked down on his lap where he keeps office and composes these johnny appleseed robust wonders called letters. But they're really all-poem. Written to one-and-only-one woman who is dying way too young, and how it is killing Hayden, will kill you too. Hang on, my dear. We have need of thee.
axis: George Dennison
Jonathan Greene: now we come to Kentucky, by way of a city boy childhood (NYC) and cutting one's teeth from Bard College to California where connections are made very young for this poet with other printers, poets, typographers of the 1960s -a wild spirit growing in the air - to a solid grounding with Renaissance types Victor and Carolyn Hammer back in Kentucky where this bird would decide to settle. On the Banks of Monk's Pond (www.broadstonebooks.com) is a little jewelry box of a book, less than 60 pages, that details patiently one young poet's sojourn into the Kentucky wilderness of poets, writers, book designers but particularly Greene's young ways and wisdom and instinct tap to work with Thomas Merton in the last year or so of the monk's life when he was wanting to edit Monk's Pond (four issues and four issues only) gathering up some of the roughage from a very feisty American and international poetry scene ranging widely from the serene (Wendell Berry) to the experimental (Robert Lax). Greene seems to think many of these poets and such were "an outlet for Merton's enthusiasms" in exploratory writing and photography. No doubt about it viewing Merton's poetry and photography during these last years where he was holed up in a cinder block hermitage preparing for his Asian journey, keeping to his monastery duties, and upholding what is now known as a monster literary and religious discipline. He still was able to steal away some time at the hermitage and listen to Pharaoh Sanders with young Jonathan and fiddle together plans for their journal. It is everlasting if you can get your hands on any copies of what was basically sent around free, or from the compendium that published all four issues and maybe something more, I haven't looked at it for years. This is the correspondence, tiny flash in the pan, between two that put their heads together. A wallet size assembly of photographs by both Merton and Lax seed the text. Also from the same publisher in the same year comes Fault Lines, poems by Greene revealing a consistency now 40 years since his step into Kentucky. If anything, his poetry has become pared down and cleaner, more trusting of the line and suspension, gladly painting himself into a corner and allowing his ever wit and language strokes to get him places.
Buried my mother
under a maple -
the maple died.
Cut it out and planted
a tulip poplar,
which also died.
Today mowing this pasture,
a healthy bald cypress
now shades her bones.
Has earth come to terms
with this permanent guest?
I wrote Jonathan that while reading this excellent new book, no dips, I fell into a sound sleep midway through. Summer day, loft, windows cross-breezed and only trees as my company. It was meant as an absolute compliment. Sure-footed poems this sound and intriguing do it to me every time. The trials were hidden
axis: William Bronk
I've no idea what to tell you about Open Eye by Marcia Roberts except it was sent to me out of the blue by Skanky Possum (2925 Higgins St.,Austin, Texas 78722) which is a high octane press run by two poets and companions Dale Smith and Hoa Nguyen and while there is a rather clumsy to my ears introduction by Tom Clark referring to all things literary and historical and a quite credible overview to the poems....in this case I was happiest just taking the poems as they came to me: electric, scant, visual, remarkably inventive in my hands as if heard that moment by the poet reading aloud, earthy, found, abbreviated, dreaming blue and needing no introduction. As Whitney Balliett once called jazz the sound of surprise, so is every page of this book.
axis: certainly Ed Dorn but I'm going with Barbara Moraff
Let's take a moment - a few weeks ago an order came through the bookshop for Gael Turnbull's A Trampoline. Only one copy left - and going to a good home - I let it go but not before reading it again and coming upon this poem I always liked. And I'll like it a third time for your benefit.
FOR A FRIEND
I fell asleep
reading your new book
at ease in the sun
by a mountain stream
listening to the current
as to your words :
the currency of the phrases,
the concurrence of the thought.
It's one of life's pleasures
to be able to doze off,
to read your poems,
to hear your voice,
to sleep when tired,
to wake refreshed.
- Gael Turnbull from A Trampoline poems 1952-1964 (Cape Goliard)
John Martone is the editor and publisher of tel-let ([email protected]) as well as the forester for the world of Frank Samperi's poetry, and good gardener of his own many and many more small books of poems. I can easily count 24 books and probably a few others tucked into another shelf here but these 24 have now been gathered under one roof in the book dogwood & honeysuckle ([email protected]) and so if you have missed the limited print run of these little numbers, today is your lucky day -
no telling daughters
As always, it's up to the reader to prepare. These are poems spun.
axis: yes, Samperi
a correction from the last W'burner:
Gleanings & Fragments: heads-up (thank you, Dale) to a monthly wrap-up of books, films, music and all things interesting from Kim Dorman 1508 A Woodlawn, Austin, TX. 78703 who has recently returned to the United States after some years in India with his family and finding hidden poets of Austin, sleeper films and music and a general keen eye to what makes his month tick, tick, tick. I love it all..
Howlin' Wolf: Moanin' At Midnight, the life and times of Howlin' Wolf by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman (Pantheon) - like approaching any wolf, look around first. Notice the back cover blurb by longtime Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin states in full "Things folks have done in the dark are going to come out in the light. Nobody else has ever dug up what these guys have found - and it's right." This is the same guitarist who had been stomped on by Howlin' Wolf, left to play with Muddy Waters and always came back for more, and the more is what Sam Phillips described as "where the soul of man never dies", the actual sound of Howlin Wolf when he sang, if that's what it was. Standing 6' 5" at 260 pounds, with blue eyes and "black velvety skin. It looked like it would ripple if you blow on it" as described by bluesman Johnny Shines. One of the many things going right for this outstanding biography is the story and personality are powerful, the writers are skilled, and the Rolling Stones don't make it into the book until 2/3rds of the way in. For once, the "undergrowth," as Wolf may have called it, is all Black. Rural Mississippi, Charlie Patton's guiding shadow, poverty and crushing hardships, killing another man with a cotton hoe, brutal segregation - in fact it was called lynching, throughout his youth - and speaking his life story and thus music further out of the south, hard scrabble farming and up the chute from the Delta to Chicago. At the age of 55, Wolf would make the first network tv appearance for any Chicago blues star, fronted by the Rolling Stones. They insisted he be there, as they insisted his songs (and Muddy Waters) be on their albums, which put one rendition of Chicago blues in millions of white homes worldwide thanks to their teenage children. Known as the bluesman who would not quit. Listen to Dylan and he is there, PJ Harvey and he is there, Megadeth he is there. But listen to Howlin Wolf (it can overpower any music at anytime in any music store play list) and it's no surprise Chester Burnett would have been named after a president of the United States.
axis: Can't Be Satisfied, the life and times of Muddy Waters by Robert Gordon
It's always by chance I find a Richard Meltzer book and each time after I have forgotten about him for some years and then there is another book, looking somehow odd, and maybe just because of the association of his name on the spine, I can't get used to seeing what I know is in store for the reader looking all tame and properly shelved. This man belongs in a cage. His writings should be on audio tape and drilled into the brains of our enemies and we may watch all wars subside (the enemy may kill himself). Autumn Rhythm (Da Capo) just might be his best book and that only works after reading every one of his other books trailing out a firestorm and coming to this conclusion in the twilight of his so-called career. He's had a zillion wannabes try to write like him with no success, and he has likewise probably had to listen to way too many tell him he just might be the next Bukowski. Poor devil. Why be anything but a Meltzer since he does it so well? Who else but Meltzer, when paging through the book and landing on the sexy stuff, it happens to be a frenzied fantasy the writer is having with his own mother. Of course she is at a certain age, she is wearing just the right clothes, hair, walk...and then no surprise near the end of the book the author interviews his elderly ma now living in Woodstock, NY., with all the candor and care of the best bedside manner. The freaks like him because he is a wild man, limiting his audience, whereas I find his appeal in his heartless heartfelt wonder - just read his essay on the impending death of his cat. Eliot would have loved it. Buk, Burroughs, Kerouac all cat people too, would have been charmed. I know of no writer today who can burn you, drown you and revive you in the same instant. If F. Scott Fitzgerald didn't go to Princeton and instead landed wild-eyed in the 60s, thankfully survived and became a geezer to write his Crack-up, this book would be it. Scholars take note. Past / Imagine not having one.
axis: maybe Lenny Bruce's best act; Lord Buckley meets Albert Camus? Hate to pin-down. Last of Fitzgerald.
Now what a pickle we are in. We have an absolute idiot for a president, spawned by a glucose of company men and one battleax, who quite easily duped the whole country into his shanghaiing this highest office, and if that wasn't enough duped us all again with something called 9/11 which was one of the more spotless "terrorist" acts in histiory: buildings fall-down, clean 'em up, mainly non-executives die and every one but everyone eats it up like shortnin' bread because who else on earth could have done such a thing? that is, if you don't use your imagination and pay attention to who received the best advantages afterwards: an idiot now resides as commander & chief, a rat mayor becomes a hero, a bodybuilder is falling-in next in line...media bought, democrats dead in the water having hustled right into the gas chamber of yes-war and yes-patriot-act aligning up with the fierce country's loyalty fueled on fear, prejudice and the polls...don't forget the polls...the media big business feeds there, so you do. Bless yourself. Turn off the tv and open a book of poetry. Put on some music. Help a hurricane victim; it's about the closest you are ever going to get to helping someone as the news spools for days on end a storm surge blown up the streets of Mobile Alabama in the same media context that could really show you, for the same length of time, 20,000 dead from around the world in Iraq. None of us any longer belong to anything. You're either rich, or you're fantasizing. If there is impending death in your life or family, you're busy. We're looking miserable. Real books used to be really written and really published and really reviewed, and supported. Now poets complain no one knows they are alive. Poets that seem to think they are alive form little governments and run in a pack and all that they ask is that you absolutely never ever never criticize their work, in fact it is best that you write like them. Familiar is essential. Not making sense is imperative. Soon the poets, politicians, media, music and big-business goons will all be the same. Those riding bicycles, using hand-saws, greeting you with good manners, tuning a banjo, will be easily kicked aside. And to think at one time we were divided over war and peace and should have learned our lesson. What is worse, the very same fuckers that did it then are doing it again after we tried to rebuild this land is your land this land is my land and knew that hard work and an open mind and a freedom for all was of course the very cornerstone of a good people and land. It wasn't any name calling "liberal" or "conservative", it was lusciously called human. Why make it impossible? Why let the fuckers win?
...so that's how I think when I stand in a bookstore, and okay, I have most what I can afford and want anymore from the poetry section but I know for a fact there is so much more out there and then I see it...the spine is different...there's something spacious and unique and warming, homing me toward it. A Tall, Serious Girl by George Stanley (Qua Books, 211 Conanicus Ave., Jamestown, RI. 02835) for someone who has read quite a bit of poetry this book is an absolute goldmine. George Stanley...George Stanley?... wasn't he connected with Spicer and Robert Duncan once upon a time? You bet. American moved to Canada long ago (1965)? Yes, but I think he is Canadian. Well, now he is, but he started out born in San Francisco slumming with that wonderful bohemian tide of once upon a time, he didn't quite click and scooted to Canada (bohemians there too), became a citizen, taught, wrote, published lovely books not seen so readily in the states (I always saw Purdy, Bowering, Persky even, and Blaser of course, more than Stanley) and then he kept things interesting and became a citizen of Ireland as well. Like it took the Rolling Stones (or Charlie Musselwhite and Mike Bloomfield depending on your version) to find Howlin Wolf; it took the team of editors Kevin Davies and Larry Fagin, plus the editors of this press - Michael Gizzi and Craig Watson - all Jagger &Richards - to make this splendid book. By far the finest selected poems (1957-2000) that I've read in years. Of a poet who is brilliantly kicking out the jams with some sort of eternal energy and grace. Each page (each page!) tickles with the run of a chipmunk that makes my dog run and run. This is what it was like the first time I read Niedecker and Pound. First love, welcome back. The print run is only 1,000 in cloth. The last poem of the book "Veracruz" (but don't cheat and rush to it, come to it like you should) is worth more than the price of money. The book is to die-for; honor any bookseller who has the good sense to stock it.
Now, to be a person like anyone else / terrifies me
axis: The Granite Pail, Lorine Niedecker
- B o b A r n o l d
Almost a year ago, on the second anniversary of 9/11, I predicted "an ugly, bitter campaign - probably the nastiest of modern American history." The reasons I gave then still apply. President Bush has no positive achievements to run on. Yet his inner circle cannot afford to see him lose: if he does, the shroud of secrecy will be lifted, and the public will learn the truth about cooked intelligence, profiteering, politicization of homeland security and more.
- Paul Krugman on The Rambo Coalition NYTimes 29 Aug 04
Built By Hand by Bill Steen, Athena Steen & Eiko Komatsu with photographs by Yoshio Komatsu (Gibbs Smith 2003): here is a shrimped-down size art book - but only in height - with a whole lot of gimmie. Starting off how one can roll oneself up into a sleeping ball under the shade of a tree-as shelter-this book follows around the world some of the finest examples of shelters made by hand with simple tools, local materials, personal and varied touches according to custom and often modest lifestyles. Homes made by homesteaders that are as rocked down rooted, as movable. A full reading and view of this book and one can't but know what possibilities structure and harmony may have. Some of my favorite locations are stone houses built within or between rocks in Monsanto, Portugal. Some of the largest wooden houses built in the world from Indonesia formed with mythic joinery, lime wash decorations on structures from Yemen and Slovakia, an entire village in Spain tucked under the natural protection of a cliff with an orchard of trees swept above it all. Beauty on every page.
Jimi Hendrix: A pity we're alive to listen to him, and he's not. Electric Ladyland by John Perry (Continuum/www.continuumbooks.com) if you already have three Hendrix recordings (or 300) and are moving to buy a fourth, take the $10 instead and pick up this nutshell book of how his third studio album was made, by guitarist/writer Perry who lives in London and whose head seems screwed on pretty tight - he neither wanted to fuck Hendrix or compete with him, just love him. As stated, in the four years Hendrix's star burned and a legacy made, in the hands of his contemporaries it brings Dylan to Highway 61 (not a bad spot), The Beatles to Revolver, The Rolling Stones to about Aftermath, whereas Hendrix is about complete. He didn't need to play with Miles Davis, being music row he simply stole the trumpeter's young wife for awhile. Like other self-taught Americans - Frost, Pound come to mind - Hendrix had to travel to England to be appreciated even after serving in the 101st Airborne in Vietnam after being picked up in 1961 in a stolen car as a teen in Seattle. Thought of as a freak in Harlem in the early 60s, one can hear Hendrix today on backup Isley Brothers and Don Covay (Mercy,Mercy) standards, and midway reading this little book you're going to be pulling off the shelf Paris 1966 Olympia Theater live recordings, if you know what's good for you, and play it loud. It's outrageous to think that Robert Christgau at the time of Hendrix's appearance at Monterey Pop (1967) wrote, "He was terrible" when watched then (and now on crystal clear restored dvd) he stole all the shows except for Ravi Shankar. His two favorite guitar slingers were Buddy Guy and Albert King and the scat singing tempo and torching bursts of the latter we all bow our heads to. This is the best capsulized 100 or so pages ever written on the late & great "Jimmy James".
I keep the Hendrix rolling - better than watching the Olympics, with as many tv commercials as events - and opened up Art Burn by guerrilla poster artist Robbie Conal (RDV Books/www.akashicbooks.com) who professes "there are too many bad guys and much too little time" but in 1997 he was given space in LA Weekly once a month to slop down his brutal talents of making creeps look creepier, or as Kurt Vonnegut likes to call them "psychopathic personalities". Crayon in hand, Conal brings forth his poster street art credentials to full nasty flower. It's a toss-up whether his Monica or John Rocker hits the best mark but his Cheney is truly edifying. Required reading from now until November. The publisher has supplied a newsprint fore edge where you swear your fingers have to be inked up when done thumbing through. If you want to understand why you're feeling so poorly, look no further. Done in large-size format, some in color, all spooky.
While we're down in the muck (& moving on the turntable to Jimmy Rushing's, Every Day I Have the Blues) : Hunter S. Thompson's, Hey Rube (Simon & Schuster) He's never going to write another Hell's Angels or Las Vegas masterpiece, so forget it, but these sports articles of a sort from 2000-2003 are like eating so many animal crackers all at once so I recommend reading bits & pieces each night, say before bedtime as I have, and sleep like a lion. Dividing his energies between NFL blood sport and the Bush doctrine he attempts with all Duke reserve to fight against the Churchillian, "The first casualty of War is always the Truth." Correct 99% of the time post 9-11, but not here. Snap it up. The best 'sports book' since Doug Peacock's Grizzly Years.
I don't know much about Ministers of Fun at National Poetry Slams but Gary Mex Glazner is supposed to be one and before that he was a florist for 18 years in California until one of his flowers (honestly) told him to sell the business since he wanted to be a poet, anyway. With the money he gave himself "a grant" (good man) and with his wife traveled the world over 34,229 miles to find out what makes poets tick. The front cover of Ears on Fire (La Alameda) will pull you in - it's a photograph of our minister of fun in front of Paris's enfant terrible bookshop Shakespeare and Company buried in a soaking color of real books. Basically the book starts in the far east and keeps you there awhile, as it did the earliest adventurers. I fell for the guy's sincerity, the publisher's wonderful layout of poems and illustrations, and the overwhelming unSlamlike gloss for a farmer in the Himalayas knowing with a wave from his field work the ever popular Nepal poet Devkota, or that while in Vietnam the oral tradition of blind men singing poems at ferry crossings or in markets is still very much alive. We have our own here if we care to listen. I like any florist who by the end of the book should realize he was always a poet, amongst the good earth. Come and meet his world survivors. sandal maker poets: (Stavros) Melissinos had sold sandals to everyone from the Beatles to Sophia Loren. When his children asked why he didn't get the Beatles autographs, he said, "Why should I ?They come to see me."
I had other new books but had to return them to either a library or owners: on Fellini (about himself and his films and world), Cindy Sherman (some of her self photographs in wigs and costume from hotels and deserts were made by her father, back when she would travel with her parents...I sort of like the image) describing many of her locations; a gorgeous retrospective on Gerhardt Richter and his vast range of paintings from abstract explorations to breath caught realism...his area of locating privacy is uncanny; to wanting the new Howlin Wolf biography, to not yet finding the Gary Snyder Danger On Peaks (no luck in two university towns) but being notified through the grapevine that it is indeed out...and not wanting to substitute it for the wall of MFA crap that bloats too many once fine poetry sections of bookstores. Who are the buyers for these stores? Teach them a lesson - good poetry is right under their noses. Buy local, there's almost always an intriguing unknown poet in every town. And what is your own local, may be another region's star.
Another goodie from La Alameda, a press in New Mexico I have long cherished but have recently heard may be pulling up stakes. The quickest letters to my Woodburners are detractors so if there is an update, and hopefully better news about this very attractive press, I should hear shortly. On the plus side, books designed this fine and with splendid authors will be around in stores and used shops and in our libraries for generations. Count on it. I had picked up Trilogy by the Finn poet Pentti Saarikoski (La Alameda) in the newish Tattered Cover Bookstore across from the Union Station train yard in Denver while waiting for a train one evening, probably the best waiting-room in the country - three floors, comfortable chairs, every new book bubbling to the surface and maybe a reading is going on in their almost devotional small auditorium for such where photographs of many poets who have appeared are on the walls. I began sitting down with Saarikoski, rinsed with a rainwater translation by Anselm Hollo who has been doing this sort of thing for generations now - often digging up the very best of poetries around the world for us (thank you). Saarikoski was one of those Europeans as big as life it seems - married four times, a radical spokesman for the Generation of '68, he left behind at his death twenty years ago, twenty-two books of poems, radio plays, a handful of prose books and seventy books translated into Finnish from classical Greek, European and English wonders. He was dead by age 45. At the time he wrote Trilogy, which is made up of three separate books ranging from 1977-1983, the author had withdrawn from a very active public lifestyle in the cultural/political swim of things to an old house on an island off the west coast of Sweden, with his wife and a landscape as described by Hollo, "cultivated his own backyard in a typically troll-like way, superimposing the rich and various, wild and woolly landscape of his mind on the surrounding countryside with its low mountain ridges, petroglyphs, caves, and harbors." This best describes the dailiness of Saarikoski's walking-talking mind. Pure poetry. The dead have a name / the living a face and ten fingers
Better for the lithographs by Jan Peter Tripp, plus the two essays by W.G. Sebald and Andrea Kohler, the poems by Sebald are a disappointment and seem quite slight compared to his other writings, or poets who are much sharper and natural at this sort of thing - Bronk, Corman, Samperi, Taggart - we seem caught up in a manipulation of anything-Sebald still fresh from his traffic accident early death and surge of popularity. Unrecounted (New Directions) can be read, though, as a unique ensemble between two long held friends since childhood, visuals & voice. At the end / only so many will / remain as / can sit round / a drum
Another small press to think good tidings for is Fence Books (www.fencebooks.com)
who openly declare they are on a mission to support young writers & unknowns who might otherwise be left out in the cold because their work doesn't form to a certain school or clique, popular form of experimentation or the god awful mainstream...which this accepted experimentation seems to be becoming. I wrote away for six books and all six books were freely sent and I so freely have returned publications from Longhouse in the old tradition of a cup of sugar neighborly borrowed. I can't say I was thrilled by all six books - pieces of many certainly - all of Elizabeth Robinson's Apprehend, a very tidy, imaginative and balanced made poetry, plus the diverse jump and snap imagery of The Real Moon of Poetry and Other Poems by Tina Brown Celona, some of the best tiny outrages since Bill Knott are here. Each Fence Book is a flat 12 dollars, handsomely designed gatefold softcover, begging to be read. What is bitter and what is / finally caught in the same sentence (ER)
Another wonderful small press and long in the tooth and memorable for the fact it is still kicking strong - Limberlost Press (www.LimberLostpress.com) who have kindly traded books with me since the early 70s and if I remember correctly it was first a thin book of poems by mutual friend John Clellon Holmes. Times may change but this fraternity hasn't and in the small press world, or small-anything- world, without this you ain't doing it right. You may be famous, you may be cheered and talk only about yourself but it's all plainly bad manners. So even though its tale ran through me like water, Waltzing With the Captain: remembering Richard Brautigan by Greg Keeler (Limberlost) got to me straight away in the author's introduction where he wisely acknowledges many readers and fans of Brautigan's work are possessive about their own impressions of the author and aren't about to come willingly into a memoir written by a drinking buddy from Montana who became the designated driver for a cultural icon who was falling to pieces, at best, when they met in 1978. By 1984, gun-happy Brautigan would put a bullet into himself, depressing legions of friends and poets who at least were always trying to root for him. A far cry from his early days of the latter Beat era when the young poet was publishing his own poems on seed packets, rising to the rank of popular Hesse books found in backpacks of the late 60s with Brautigan's unique looking book jackets of the author with various women friends, collectible at this very moment. By the time Keeler meets our hero, Keeler's wife wants nothing to do with this new friend -she knows a pest when she sees one - and the relish of the tale is bouncing around with these two guys, one dying on the vine from pure American extravagance meets neglect, and the other is smart enough to tell the tale like it is. He knows Brautigan's daughter Ianthe wrote a better memoir, so did his old friend Keith Abbot, and William Hjortsberg is presently writing the official biography. But don't miss this clubhouse tale, sad as it is. With family album style photographs. I'm distracted by how he (RB) and Aki would follow his favorite high school girls' basketball team around the small towns of Montana.
DVD: Roots of Tex-Mex Music: Chulas Fronteras & Del Mero Corazon two films by Les Blank and Chris Strachwitz (Arhoolie www.arhoolie.com) little masterpieces from the right hands who know the field, people and music of this border culture and more. Featuring Flaco Jimenez (in his prime), Lydia Mendoza, Conjunto Tamaulipas plus further footage and music from concerts, festivals and family gatherings. At this point Arhoolie Records should be cited as a national treasure for ground-breaking skills well over 40 years. Les Blank, too. Two classics right under our noses.
BACK TO THE LANDS: kudos to Ted Kooser for his appointment as US Poet Laureate - it's about time the Plains rose up again.
In Praise of Fertile Land edited by Claudia Mauro (Whit Press, [email protected])
a poetry anthology in partnership between the land and the reader - all royalties from the sale of the book feed directly into programs that preserve our remaining farmlands. The anthology has already been a contributor in saving a 174 acre farm in Washington State. Contributors include Wendell Berry, William Stafford, Lucille Clifton, Maxine Kumin, Bob Arnold, David Budbill & others.
Stanford University Libraries has just issued a stunning collection of writings from the golden age of Yosemite climbing (1933-1974) Ordeal By Piton edited by Steve Roper bundled rope tight with photographs and illustrations and selected by a climber brings a readership through the eyes of David Brower, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt, Warren Harding and many more blending personal humor, climbing grace and timing through their in-the-field reports. Sibylle Hechtel offers her essay "Walls Without Balls" on the first all-female ascent of El Capitan in 1973 with her team member Bev Johnson. Hands-on and hanging for dear life if ever there was a book.
Grand storyteller and poet Andy Clausen's Trek to the Top of the World (Zeitgeist Press) is Part I to a two or three part long poem collection composed on & about the Solu Khumbu (Everest) trail to Gokyo-Ri. Starting with a long haul poem "The Toughest Bus Ride of My Life", followed through porters, sherpas, and Clausen's ever eagle-eye to things balanced and off-balanced. This is poetry written with its boots on, a cutter of suave path & figure.
Ah, my find of the summer, and pointed out to my true love who wondered what I might like for a birthday gift, and this is it - Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia (Steidl/Fuel) photographs, drawings and text are all part of a personal collection of over 3,000 tattoos gathered up over a lifetime by prison attendant Danzig Baldaev who worked the tattoos secret world as his map and entry into recording personalities, tribal languages and rituals of a Russian closed society. Printed in Germany, Russians all behind it, and affordable in cloth edition.
Gleanings & Fragments: heads-up (thank you, Dale) to a monthly wrap-up of books, films, music and all things interesting from Kim Densmore 1508 A Woodlawn, Austin, TX. 78703 who has recently returned to the United States after some years in India with his family and finding hidden poets of Austin, sleeper films and music and a general keen eye to what makes his month tick, tick, tick.
I love it all.
- Bob Arnold
BEGGED BORROWED & GIFTED -----------------
Here are, quickly noted, highwater marks for this season of reading. Many have been borrowed from libraries so should be accessible by most anyone. Precious few are affordable in this modern age of books costing the same price as a hammer (or two) which can go on to build not only your own house but your childrens homes and they may inherit the hammer and never mind this hammer can build bookcases for many thousands of books and a roof to house everyone nicely. Catch my drift. So I have also begged for copies of books and certainly a gift of some book seems to make it into our home nearly every day.
Frank Conroy is the author of Stop Time, one of the best of the Holden Caulfield ripoffs and a nearly forgotten book of stories called Midair but he has a thing for Nantucket in Time & Tide - and he should- he met and fell in love with his second wife there and managed to squirrel out a living of sorts from playing in a jazz band to raising a barn with local long hairs but mostly it is indeed a walk through Nantucket at a personal pace that is most gratifying in this pleasurable read. A slim volume as part of the "Crown Journeys" that includes Ishmael Reed on a walk in Oakland, Michael Cunningham walking in Provincetown, and I'm intrigued by Edwidge Danticat's walk through carnival in Haiti, which I plan to go look for next.
Back on the mainland Kevin Mc Dermott can take you on a guided tour from your lap and pages turning through Elephant House or, The Home of Edward Gorey.
Gorey being a one time resident of Yarmouthport, Cape Cod - old, side shingled, brambled hidden small mansion of a sort filled with Gorey's beloved cats; rock, book, record, doll and elephant collections, plus his 'television room' where every episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" had been videotaped and stored, much of this while the famous author sewed Figbash dolls. McDermott is up to the task edging in both a photographic portrait and a wise textural eye. After I put the book down, everyone in my family went on to read it.
John Lee Anderson's biography of Che Guevara has been well noted, and others came before and after, but Che was much too dynamic by photographs not to believe this is the best way to know the man you'll never know. The Che Handbook by Hilda Barrio & Gareth Jenkins - chock full of photographs from baby Che to youngster to rebel leader/doctor to shaved an undercover spy to murdered and forever immortal - much of the text in Guevara's own words or by unique time-line by both authors, plus interviews with comrades 50 years later who fought by his side. One of my favorite photographs is Che representing Cuba in 1964 in the XIX Assembly of the United Nations - nonchalantly leaning against a wall waiting his turn. Tieless, in pressed uniform, smoking a cigar (which helped his asthma) and being completely oblivious to a square shouldered and furrowed-brow guard at his side. Ultimate cool.
In less than 60 small pages I believe Susan Thackery has written the best book one might want to read on the poetry and function of one George Oppen. George Oppen: A Radical Practice offers excellent selections from the poems and a cut glass appraisal, making skilled draughts into the works of Cezanne, Heidegger and Oppen's contemporaries without ever losing sight and dimension to these handcrafted poems. Rather than divulging any answers, secrets, insights and full MFA malarkey that will choke a horse, one only wants more poetry when done reading this book that was given as a lecture at San Francisco State University. I also don't believe Martin Heidegger has ever been quite so well shown for his currency in Oppen's work. In the modern world, he says, a human being is "the rational animal who is the subject for his objects" - rather than being open to the "things" the beings, of this world. The lived moment has disappeared. This also means humankind, trees, prairies, animal matter, bird songs and earth - also missing from the poetry of many who believe they have taken up the cause of "language" but not the gristle, landscape and the blood of Lorca that Oppen also knew. He could whistle while he worked.
More visuals and done perfectly as a pint size text overseeing 200 years of an often brutal history lesson: Black Images in the Comics as capsulized by the Scandinavian Fredrik Stromberg...taking us, once again, by the hand through a racist land. Thank our lucky stars we've had the foreign artists of Lang, Renoir, Genet, Godard, Herzog, Wenders, Beltrametti, Ali G and now Stromberg to show us, partly, what they love and hate about us.
All of us have seen and been aware of The Art of Romare Bearden (1911-88) more than we may realize - mostso the masterfully and socially charged collages infused with an African American music and coloring with bold strokes of either ancient ritual or topical injustice. The stuff is all memorable and now hardened as classic, or will be, after more of it is seen. Culled from many private collections this volume offers a rare sighting of a rare bird recently shown at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. Clear-eyed text by Ruth Fine with helpful contributors.
Miracle in the Scrap Heap, the sculpture of Richard Stankiewicz by Emmie Donadio & others, working in a backwoods junkyard the last few weeks I've been tempted to want to show what potential is to the owners of this small town eye-sore as we load on vintage and smashed truck fenders, dinged hubcaps and other heavy hardware...the very ingredients to artist Stankiewicz's 1950s own world makings. This book offers the first true showcase of this junk sculpturist's work, along with bibliography, grand full page photographs and a narrative chronology. It's been said the young Stankiewicz found his art by digging up ground for a garden and finding iron parts from an earlier time and tossing these to one side. The rest is history. Not as refined and monumental as David Smith but plumb workman basic and boldly a junkman's dream.
"Janey" is Sacagawea's Nickname by Larry McMurtry but I'm not giving any thing away. The story behind Captain William Clarks' affection for the Indian guide (actually brought along on the Lewis & Clark expedition because she could speak Shoshone) is a better yarn along with the varied and quite personal essays on the American west by this Texas native, blockbusting author and roving bookseller. Where else would one find an appreciation on Janet Lewis banked against one on Zane Grey, and how the west was invented instead of won? He might like Bill Clinton's autobiography but he also knows how to distill what is good western reading byway Aldo Leopold, John Graves, Edward Abbey; I just don't agree with him on his put-down of Wright Morris's fiction, the short stories remain masterpieces. But here's a line of scrumptious summation: The narrative writing about the West that came before Lewis and Clark seems fragmentary and slight; what came after them seems insipid and slight, lacking both the scale and the force of those "Journals". One would hope that he might venture further from his Stanford alma matra (ie., Yvor Winters and Janet Lewis) and sometime in an essay gain respect for the outer reaches of some western poets Jeffers, Everson, Rexroth, Snyder, Sund and many more, currently at work, along and at the end of the Oregon Trail.
Bravo! someone has finally gone after and hogtied something like four wondrous
decades of Peter & Elka Schumann and their drama prankster crew of merriment from The Bread & Puppet Theater and made a photographic and essays marvel titled Rehearsing With Gods by the puppet participatory team of Ronald T. Simon (photographer) and Marc Estrin (author). Grace Paley kicks in a foreword to help things along since she is also a long time member of whatever it is theater, music, political statement taken to the streets (of four continents) or high mown fields of northern Vermont. Once seen, never forgotten. It's the sort of theater kids can scream and laugh and play and join and make noise in, and grow up with. That's culture.
Don't fret long-time Ted Kooser readers - the opening chapter of the four in his new book of poems Delights & Shadows is a bit thin and disappointing. No longer the wry sense of humor or old barn leaning poems of an earlier Kooser; by the second chapter "The China Painters" everything of a wiser poet, a loving son and relative, a nostalgia of pure storytelling comes into play so that longer narrative and short poem one-shot resonance begins to work its magic. You'll want to read on. I like it that a poet can still be likened to Williams and Frost - what's wrong with wide open branched and leafed yard trees? or that out of pure spite and meanness/sometimes they peed in the creamed corn
Lord I'm getting sick of yet one more book on the art and craft in the "heartland" of New England as Made By Hand with of course a cover illustration by Barry Moser and next to nobody in the book a true hillbilly. A true find. A true native. At least Carol Blinn is included - long time printer, designer, paper decorator and binder from Warwick Press of Easthampton, Massachusetts. And there's a hardworking potter and his crew with a ramshackle outdoor kiln splitting wood by hand and firing it up. But where are the chainsaw bears, sculptured stone monuments, colossal indigenous habitats, musical backwoods freakish marvels? I've seen and heard and stepped into and around a bunch all my life here. Does heartland in New England now and forever mean expensive goods made for expensive and deep pockets? Are we to believe city folk are truly going to get their way when they move up here into Martha Stewart homes, kitchens , SUVs and arrogance? They took Northampton but we shouldn't let them take Brattleboro. One would hope author Jeanne Braham and photographer Mary Schjeldahl will make another book some day that tells the country folks tale. Used materials made into something better than new.
We're all still close to it, in fact we're all in the middle of it - the death of the American Dream - brilliantly told by Mitch Epstein in Family Business, his personal story and photographs on the rise and fall of Holyoke, Massachusetts Epstein Furniture store, a landmark business up until the 1980s which faced a nightmare when two teenage boys in the city, on a windy August night in 1999, broke into an abandoned apartment building owned by the photographer's father and just for jollies set the place ablaze. They had tried unsuccessfully months earlier and returned the second time to get it right. The fire swept up a 19th century Catholic church before turning on an entire city block. The book is a collage of four chapters: store, property, town, home and a universal story (parallels to my own family and lumber business in the same region are eerily haunting) of the oldest son returning home to help put the pieces together by painstakenly revealing and attempting to mend not only the rise and fall from grace of an industrial New England town into the pits of drug-dealing hell, but tracing what led up to the liquidation of a Jewish immigrant business dynasty, by squirreling into the family, neighborhood, customers and coworkers by camera, video and a shot to the head text. All that everything that was.
Since when did all the experimenters move south? It says so here, and many of the poets I have been reading for years, and now their biographies read southern in Another South, experimental writing in the south edited by Bill Lavender an important addition to the never ending cycle of unread anthologies that proliferate from university presses. Thank the University of Alabama for sponsoring this one, otherwise the majority of the poets involved will be a mean search party to even find one of their individual books. I own a bunch, stapled wraps and handmade fixtures when not folded blazingly visual rituals that can't help but turn your eye. I just happen to much like the majority of the poets herein, barely dabblers but hardpressed purists in syntactical disjunctions, whether Jim Leftwich, Bob Grumman and now even Thomas Meyer is thought of as one of the included. The series advisory board for the press is celebrity gilded and though the asking price for the paperback is steep, I found mine in an ivy league New England bookshop going out of business, with books slashed by 50% and this one about all that was left in the poetry section as one diamond in the rough. The introduction by Hank Lazer "Poetry Scouting Mission: at the intersection of southern and experimental" could be the modern day equivalent of Davy Crockett shooing us forth through the Cumberland Gap. Shouldn't Jonathan Williams be part of this bunch just for his sharp local ear and old timer's sake?
Play guitar? then this is your book, maybe bible: C.F. Martin and His Guitars 1796-1873 by Philip F. Gura elegantly designed and published from the University of North Carolina Press where the author teaches and made possible to access the treasure trove of archives through the Martin family and business. One more unique success story from nineteenth-century America via a German immigrant so that Eric Clapton can hold one of his many Martin guitars today. Gura follows the chord from the physical development of the guitar while detailing a portrait of a craftsman balancing quality workmanship, industrialization and a marketing savvy
that has continued to prosper into its sixth-generation. The color plates are mouth watering and the author's pace for a historical story holds its own appeal.
Lifted up with two hands, the foredge paper to this tome is rainbow colored - either designed that way or just the way it happened but Grateful Dead, The Illustrated Trip is the absolute must for any Deadhead and those that still want to be ( didn't it happen for most in 1967 by putting the band's first album on in a room alone and finding one's life forever changed, sparkled? ) and for all those that want to believe this group, of any American musicians, were a troupe, a tribe, a happening, a cause, or as their chief lyricist Robert Hunter and cult figure all his own states, "If there had been no Grateful Dead it would have been necessary to invent one". Inventing is too static, I believe this group was simply spawned from
its Cold War to sixties majestic/rebellious time which begins as a long rope time-line through the heart of the book, starting in 1940 when bassist Phil Lesh was born in Berkeley, California and was transformed by age 4 when he first heard Brahms' First Symphony to Hunter's birth the following year and Jerry Garcia a half year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The production of the book is in the care of Grateful Dead Productions which in its heyday rivaled the generating powers of the US Congress so by page two in the time-line they get it just right by duly noting both Kenneth Rexroth and Muddy Waters. Full force portraits of each band member are the only interruption to a massive attack kandy kolored streamlined visual mind & nostalgia trip that I guarantee will exhaust anyone willing to ride a two-day, 12 hour each day, reading and spritzing marathon. But that's about the best and only way to grab the buzz. It's way too much -but possible! - and that was always the point.
Now to the real dead. But something the Dead and Woody Guthrie and John Fahey could play to Ghosts in the Wilderness, abandoned America by Tony and Eva Worobiec a married photographic team like no other, combining their travelogue
portraits (in black & white:he/color:she) through a mainly ghost town and plains of Montana, North and South Dakotas, Nebraska and corners of Colorado and Wyoming. Inspired by Terrence Malik's film Badlands and being Europeans and coming to the States wide-eyed (even The Beatles did), the Worobiecs glean a America barely past 1965 in texture through the caught images of barns, railroads, houses, vehicles, appliances and a wide skyward aura that is just right. Even the people met along the way are the devoted and take a timeless photograph. Wright Morris was a native midwesterner who came home once upon a time to take his own photographs that were made into an instant classic all its own by his indigenous feel for things. No one could quite photograph an abandoned farm like a boy who grew up in one but the Worobiecs have paid attention and come mighty close. Their commentary throughout tells a tale of wide open spaces and why that is (I've many times ridden a train through eastern Montana where I'm told "nothing is out there"), and stalwart sections that have hung on simply because of certain individuals and church communities. This land is your land, this land is my land.
- Bob Arnold
And by this we are carried into the incalculable - George Oppen
This from the poet George Evans this morning in the mailbox states it elegantly enough:
A sad note to let you know, if you have not already heard, that Carl
Rakosi died Thursday evening, June 24, after 100 1/2 years of energy.
C a r l R a k o s i 1903 - 2004
Learn the grandiose manner
and the unending Orphic line.
Midpassage: I'm 100 pages into Christopher Rick's book on Bob Dylan and finding it almost heavenly monotonous. Meaning, I'm sorry for that but I can't help myself. The text reads like the cake you should be eating and instead you're eating the box the cake came in. Or, as if Dame Edith Sitwell circa 1965 in our wildest imagination was speaking about the "boys" in The Rolling Stones and shouldn't we all be taking these lads more seriously? Nobody has ever spoken finer about Bob Dylan than Bob Dylan himself, and he knew that instinctively from Woody Guthrie. A true tradition is hard to break. But if we are going to have a book on Dylan - and already we have had excellent examples from Paul Williams and Greil Marcus - why not let an Oxford don sweep it into the academy once and for all? Like all lecturers he's mainly running into his cobwebbed intelligence and we sit in the audience amused as he swats his way free. He pinpoints his examples though often with a deft hand - reaching from Song to Woody over into the murkily brilliant The Basement Tapes and for the very first time we actually have someone aligning Dylan with Tennyson correctly and not forgetting Blind Willie McTell. It's an important book; and I wouldn't imagine Ricks minding that while reading, playing the songs right alongside. (Dylan's Visions of Sin, Christopher Ricks, Ecco 2004)
In the meantime: I share a little exchange (the complete text), call it a found-poem, that happenstanced last week from a disgruntled reader/listener wishing to visit our family with an unkind note addressed to Carson about his music columns over the last few years. I would have stood back and been ignorant mainly to the affair except the bugger had to include me (aw, hell) and Carson's mother who happens to be not only my better half, but the whole halves. It's as another friend described as a Punch & Judy moment. But this, dear reader is what it all has come down to. The disgruntled one is a fine musician I am sure but like all those in the experimental field - whether music, painting, poetry etc - they believe anything they do is at least fascinating. Which is as fascistic as the conservative party telling me they know what's good for me, and you, and just buckle down and do it. But I still hold to: if it ain't got that swing/it don't mean a gosh darn thing. Practitioners from Gertrude Stein to Sun Ra practiced that. I don't know this reader from adam but that didn't seem to want to stop him from coming in the house swinging. Here is, supposedly, what MTV could be replaced by - foul mannered and unholy disciplined "experimenters".
I'm going to get right to the point.
You are, in my opinion, the single worst "critic" I've ever encountered.
Your writing is incomprehensible.
Please return to whatever "home schooled" hole you crawled out of, listen to your Oasis CD, and don't worry......everything that you trash because your narrow mind can't understand it, will continue to thrive.
Oh, yeah.......you may not want to use your father's "poetry" as a template. It, too, is pathetic. (and your mom is probably fat)
You hit the nail right on the head.
Not only "fat", but lazy.
Rave on John Donne!
She/He is lazy.
If either one of them "taught" you basic English usage, they would have realized, through your writing, that their techniques were failing and would not have let you publish anything until you actually learned something..........come to think of it, doesn't your father publish his own crap? I guess that would explain his beaming pride in your sub-bob self-righteous reviews.
Sorry charlie, you just have to do your own homework. The "crap" that has been published is 30 books or better and most have been published by other publishers around the world. That means mucho territory, contacts and support. "Beaming" is what you lack. "Technique" is for
those minus talent. And learning something depends on what's to learn. There is nothing wrong, bad, sloppy, or misguided in any of the reviews...you just don't like them. Turn the page.
Seeing as you are answering for the kid, why don't you pass this along to
A talentless 19 year-old has no right to pass judgement on people who have
made music their lives.
Your son has a long history of making enemies among people who are trying to
expand the palette of music past the limits of what a talentless 19 year-old
appreciates (or even understands). Tell him to stick to what he knows
(metallica, oasis, avril levign....mainstream crap catering to 13 yr-olds
too stupid to even know that the shit is being forced down their throats by
suits) and stop pretending that he's some wise musicologist.
The "kid" is much too smart to answer someone so angry. Terming someone "talentless" after he has issued 100 issues by single hand on every subject from John Hurt to Static X pisses your credibility down a very very narrow hole. Think on that a moment. It's also impossible to have a "long history" - since he's only a "kid" - at making any serious enemies . He hasn't cast any stone, just a shadow, with an independent streak at seeing what works and what doesn't. If he's such a punk, what's got you shaking? I also shouldn't have to remind you, old man, how many 19 year olds once ruled the music and poetry worlds. And will again. I'm defending nothing here except independence: you keep yours. You're a total mess with character assassinations that can't be backed up; but like I said, you keep yours. If the "kid's" anything like I think he is, it will only have him kick in the octane one step deeper.
Keep it rolling: Strong reports are returning about Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11. A survey from this neck of the woods and as the crow flies is that theaters have been sold-out from almost the first hour of showcasing the film. It's in the dummy multiplexes and nothing could be better. The same mind that built these monstrosities (and the war machine) are having to show a film that they know is making money and maybe kids under age of the R-rating are sneaking in. Maybe it will get into the craw of those not part of the choir (people handing out antiBush leaflets at independent theaters), the magic is admirable but one has to now buy a ticket for your conservative friend and take them along. This is grass-roots activism and for a change we have a film, a performance, that is happening right now as we live. It's not an aftermath film as the remarkable Hearts and Minds was for the Vietnam War, coming as Nixon and Vietnam were falling at once (1974). Farenheit is in office at this very second (Sometimes the President of the United States must stand naked) and if you need to be shown a golden lyrical moment, here it is.
Lay down the book
and match your wits
against this bird
when day breaks.
- Carl Rakosi
~ Bob Arnold
A Woodburners Letter re: Michael Moore's film Farenheit 9/11
I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to join the throngs for the 'best-seller'. It comes from wanting our dignity and independence, and mostso for many artists, a place where they have been put. We work from an isolation and often need to create from one. Seeing a film like this one, one wants to feel discovery! And how to feel discovery among the minnows squirming into the multiplex of all places, to see and hear the truth be told. The irony is biting. But it is exactly how we did it yesterday - though, I admit, we drove for the first showing anywhere in the area. Matinee at 11AM, amidst the crappiest of stores in the mall, the putrid fast food drecked in the lobby or whatever they call such places. Where old men congregate at a squished up table and shoot the shit. Where two fools in a middle aisle actually spend the day hawking the merits of the latest cell-phone. You must have one! Where Carson sees for the first time that you can actually go to the dentist now in a mall...and when you walk out from a drilling, run smack into an island of gumballs and candy machines. We are ruined. Just don't tell anybody.
But what is good is that throngs are milling to the multiplexes and seeing this film. And even better we all are part of it, and even better yet that you feel a union, an anti-polarization, a gathering amongst like minds, or simply minds and what are these tears in your eyes when the film has only just begun? We've all been hurt horribly, trounced on, ignored and pistol whipped by mongrels that have pissed on everything green and growing and fruit bearing for way too long. We've lost fathers and best friends and old pets and landscapes to these bastards and the world can't quite get a grip around that fact. We've been abused and watched others be cruelly shamed and murdered all for the gain of a precious crap induced few. When you reach the lone black woman early in the film speak, and I mean with sincerity rarely seen and experienced today, and she speaks of loss (at the true 9-11) it will be yours with mine and the woman sitting two seats to the left of Susan. I know they both have tears in their eyes as well, I don't have to ask. Asking is not knowing. And at the same time a sickening will depress the body, the soul, the heart, the vision as the story known already so well unfolds.
It's a masterpiece and over zealous well educated sorts like (Christopher) Hitchens are worthless at this point. I've already read my Orwell. This film requires a messenger more organic and wise. It slams at things, it's muckraking of a Steffens sort but with that twist of Twain, it has its ducks all neatly in a row. Call it opinion but the facts are there. I say let the opponents show their "facts" but we know all they have, and always have had, is a self gratuitous evilness now spun in whole cloth through our neighborhoods, workplaces, and families. They've bleached the landscape. What 'voice' that once was there, back in the days of foot movement and a postage stamp, has been blown to pieces by a mecurial Reich. It's been years since I've applauded a film at its end with a crowd that also couldn't help itself. That reflex is a spark, the one we need right about now.
You bet I'm damn proud it was Cheney who told Vermont (Leahy) to "Fuck" off. Let it now be known, Lee Iacocca of all people, has now stated we need "a new CEO and a new president".
Drive on driver.
~ Bob Arnold June 26, 2004
Everyone should attend a Patti Smith concert - afterwards, I haven't slept as well for months.
You all should have been with us June 3rd - we celebrated Allen Ginsberg's birthday with Patti Smith, and 400 others ! as she put on a packed two and one half hour show, with no-stops, and kicked off her "Trampin" tour for the next two months. She had a full screen backdrop while reading one of AGs 'holy'poems for his birthday and there was AG on the screen holding court. I saw Dylan do this for AG right after his death at another concert. His friends always know how to throw in for him. And Smith has this uncanny ability - like Ginsberg in the late 60s appearing on Mike Douglas's afternoon talk-shows and talking calm as a daisy about CIA infiltrated drug wars in Southeast Asia - to show up on the dullest of talk shows and speak like a loving daughter about her loving mother and sing a song to match. And this concert was a powerhouse. Smith has a terrific band still with veterans Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty and she is one of the very few left who can both attach to a free-feel and sound, and still make a whalloping political statement... whether to the American Indian, human rights, Iraq, war mongers or Gandhi. And there isn't a wasted second in any of the show. Even at the tail end when almost all the band have finally walked off, drummer Daugherty drags his jacket against left off instruments to generate a thrum of feedback as he likewise tosses what is left of his sticks to the front of the crowd. My son could have grabbed at any of these but instead he enjoyed watching the young girls that did. Patti Smith had left behind her magic in one young man.
The concert got off on a late start. Doors didn't open like they were posted, so while we all waited in spring showers one could see it was a Patti crowd - music lovers of all stripes and only one loud mouth telling us how his body's been tattooed floor to ceiling. The band also came on late, but they never let up. Their encore - "Gloria" mostso - killed the place well over two hours later. Two young guys to the right of Smith, and Kaye steady as he rode to her left and almost all members switch guitars, so when Kaye isn't leading he's on bass, the bass player then is on keyboard, the drummer was a spike driven down the center. All regular guys. Smith in her torn coat and slumped ease has that way of harmonizing a woman's approach to rock and roll that I don't think I have ever quite seen like this before. There is a nurturing, a motherhood, a punk, and a dead set down the groove rocker. It is a show not to miss. She played at Pearl Street in Northampton for us, Boston the next night, your town tomorrow night and the two month tour plans to stretch to Edinburgh; so friends in U.K. take notice. Take young people to these concerts - they're weren't nearly enough high school aged attending and Patti Smith should be required listening at that age. It's all about hope.
AS IF I AM JUST TALKING TO YOU ABOUT SOME RECENT BOOKS I READ AND LOVED SO LET'S PRETEND I AM:
From the Meadow, Peter Everwine (U/Pitts, 2004): Peter Everwine has always been a rare breed, quietly skilled like a Jean Valentine and a few of Bert Myers poems. So quiet that I thought he was long gone and then shows up this new and selected collection of poems from nearly five decades, including chosen gems of his translations from the Hebrew and Nahuatl and it all runs in under 100 pages. Remarkable restraint in these times. Where do I pin the medal? This evening, coming back to my room
To be saved I must dear Frank Samperi, Spiritual Necessity (Station Hill, 2003) as edited by a brotherly spirit John Martone may as well shiver as if human in your hands since one poet gifted is choosing another and selecting from its own world of 20 books where one very short poem is its own world could pass as a book. As yours. Discovered by Zukofsky and Corman, Samperi ever remains to be discovered.
Guillaume Apollinaire, The Self-Dismembered Man (Wesleyan 2004) just when you thought you had read this old WWI casualty and French marvel under your belt, comes this clean as a whistle edition of later poems as translated by poet Donald Revell. Fresh stuff, spacey, blasting language, before the television was invented. The ballroom spins in eternity
Hans Faverey, Against the Forgetting (New Directions 2004) first the slap-face clarity of Gennady Aygi, now Faverey. "Hand it to New Directions", goes my refrain - James Laughlin may have been a wealthy man but he was also a clever foreman to leave his ranch with such skilled editors who continue to pop off one new book after another with dexterity and range. These days: parlor made poems of Muriel Spark to the body being drained white by a clutch of Faverey poems, it's your choice. What is of fire falls to no other share
Now to the clincher of little howls Aleksandar Ristovic, Devil's Lunch (Faber 1999) It's still a wonder moment to find a book of this sort, translated from the Serbian by Charles Simic and naturally fully possessed. I believe Simic would give his eye teeth to write his own poems this well, and as brisk and haunting. Second best is still just as good when the collection is as harrowing and seductive and dream pictured. I see small coaches passing between the trees. If this isn't your cup of tea you even need it more than you think you don't. O where haven't I and when didn't I do it!
Time to really cook. Open up, any page - and it's a big book - Dick Waterman's Between Midnight and Day (Thunder's Mouth Press 2003) and expect to be pulled in, even if you don't sing the Blues. Waterman is the long heralded founder of Avalon Productions, the first agency to exclusively promote and manage blues musicians in the USA. The early 1960s, a time when it took another white man, Red Auerbach, to represent a black genius basketball player and mind, Bill Russell...Waterman in 1964 rediscovered Son House and never seemed to stop. Companion, surrogate, manager to many blues musicians Waterman also photographed as he lived and each photograph here, designed large, comes big bad and beautiful into our presence. Hardly ever is the commentary to blues photographs nearly as good as the sights - in this case, the text by Waterman is by a guy who has learned the hard away - amongst the best - to talk straight. Luther Allison on page 103 could be Hendrix. Tough to put down.
Long Shot, Beat Bush Issue! guest edited by Eliot Katz (P.O. Box 6238, Hoboken, NJ. 07030) Bush: meaning the punk in the White House., and edited by one of the better poets and now editor for this issue who has absolutely no axe to grind,
except to throw out the trash. Poets range from legends to complete nobodies, my kinda people. It's like one long march with nearly 100 poets and artists built to work. No crybabies. Singing at the top of their lungs.
Louise Landis Levi, Avenue A & 9th Street (Shivastan Publishing [email protected]) one who should have been in the Beat Bush Issue! with her compatriots but you can't be everywhere at once. Well noted translator of Michaux, Daumal, and Sanskrit classics , Louise Landis Levi like fellow travelers Franco Beltrametti, Ira Cohen and the unnamed, writes unique landscape compositions . Her line breaks are hardly breaks, purely continuance, and as poetry should be. From an interesting publisher issuing limited editions with a stable of poets as Janine Pommy Vega, Ed Sanders, Andy Clausen, Rene Ricard. I drank the nectar, as says Louise.
Ross Feld, Guston In Time (Counterpoint 2003) of all the books out remembering the artist Philip Guston - and so many poets did theirs, and maybe more to come - this one seems the finest. Stretching over two decades and loaded with such sincere heart in both commentary and letters between two friends and creators. Or it could be that Ross Feld was so well known by writers for his four novels and one pocket size book of poems Plum Poems, a title straight off the WCW tree but all his own, and still so little read, and worse - dead too young - that this posthumous book comes, somehow, with even a greater calling, alertness and masterful storytelling.
Theodore Enslin, Nine (National Poetry Foundation 2004) let me go out on a limb here of the 'American Tree' and say the Lang Gang might learn a thing or two if they read more Enslin - and not just any Enslin, but be my guest - he has about 100 books - but mostso this latest Enslin of nine books published between 1993 to 2003 by some of the smallest presses imaginable and made into one crystallized volume. From a musician, which Enslin is, they would learn yes "composition of theme-and-variation sequences, exploring the musical permutations of a limited cluster of words" but it is also a model that a life comes from somewhere, and to be attentive to it and what it may also surround. NINE surrounds with magnificence. By chance in a bookshop and paging, take a breather and enter Enslin's "Scripturals." Before the moment is another moment
Thomas A. Clark's world is another I love, and poets this good, make worlds. In Clark's world it is language and landscape entwined, meant to be both read and heard - and at best - hiking with poems in hand on a trail to the sea floating sweet grass / sweet floating grass and coming to terms fully with the mind and body makes, baby, harmony. For decades now Clark has published countless books, pamphlets, cards, sweeties, wee things, print happy handed masterpieces from his Moschatel Press now from Scotland. The packet arrives in my woods of Vermont like the best pen pal I've had since Beatlemania, all gorgeously hand-made folded ingenuity booklets that are saved like a dessert, or else read right on the spot as rhythm of breath. Everything is essential. floating sweet grass (2004) floats as language and printed structure. Gorse River Sequence (2004) is a sequence of 4 line poems attached, or not, but it will make up its own mind with you lingering under alders and each poem etched with an utmost care. Sealevel (October Foundation 2003) is twenty-four fiddle tunes but the reader provides the tune-in-mind after the notion of a tune is set in place with the briefest of words the four mile stone / give me your hand / scatter the mud, etc. It's a very clever mind and so evenly sure of its materials.
This just in: from Gary Lawless, a poetry site we advocate and share, pass the word -
"I have begun a poetry blog for poets and poetry from countries embargoed by the united states."
to reach the blog go to:
Cid Corman, The Famous Blue Aerogrammes (Longhouse 2004) choosing Cid's poems sent as mail-art of a sort on each of his aerogrammes from Kyoto since 1990. Part: he couldn't help himself: everything was poetry / and always wishing to elicit a "response". I once watched him patiently speak with a parrot in a zoo who wasn't talkative that day. We sat around until the poor bird finally croaked a word. That determination to exist, was all Cid. Forget that I edited the poems down from many hundreds to about 100. It was easy as pie. And some of his best. Life is poetry
Rodrigo Rey Rosa, The Good Cripple (New Directions 2004) translated by Esther Allen and one more cut to the bone tale from the master of the restraint and part fictitous-real world storytelling. In this novel of layered focusing a young man is kidnapped in Guatemala City, his wealthy father is yet to respond, a toe is cut off and sent....in time Paul Bowles emerges in the text as if this literary form just can't help itself and never once does the author lose his step, or authority. A revenge thriller steeped in allegory, where each knife thrown at the door sticks.
Yet one more from New Directions due in your local bookstores in September will be Nicanor Parra's Anti-Poems: How To Look Better & Feel Great (New Directions 2004) decades ago when this publisher first published the Chilean poets "Antipoems" it was a great gimmick in a time of fuller rebellion - before the Internet, before Reagan, even before Pinochet - when a gag could run the streets. Translator Liz Werner takes this all in spirit and presents her "antitranslations" of these antipoems since Parra insists that nothing can be translated and only "re-written", and that the best thing would be for the reader to learn Spanish. This bilingual edition provides you the way. As a teacher of mathematics and professor of physics Parra's edge is understanding both the line and the letter, or as he states
In antipoetry, it is poetry thtat is sought, not eloquence. Roll up your sleeves.
-- Bob Arnold
Earlier Woodburner Reviews from 2002