When T. S. Eliot died, Ezra Pound famously and bitterly quipped: “Who is there to share a joke with?”
I’ve been in a similar funk for some time now. This sense of acute isolation was recently aggravated by a friend’s lauding the sense of collaborative community she felt working with her publisher. Ironically, this same publisher recently despaired over getting any interesting conversations going given the hermetic nature of most social circles that are too often made up of like-minded, nodding heads.
That’s why it’s heart-warming and somewhat heartening to escape this dilemma and collaborate by chance. Yesterday, Bruce Rice, a poet I knew when I resided in Saskatchewan, posted a picture of a chickadee feeding from his hand at a writer’s retreat where he’s staying. The picture reminded me of a little ditty from March End Prill, which I shared with him. My lines, in turn, prompted him to compose a pantoum and put the picture, my poem, and his together as a spontaneous, e-broadsheet, which I share here, thankful for the ephemeral community that enabled the collaboration (including the chickadee!).
Today, I read on Facebook a friend rightfully take to task a new anthology of Canadian poetry for its lack of translations. Later, I read how one poet tweeted squibs over a retrograde and self-indulgent column that riled a friend of the columnist to snark back via his own blog while everyone ignores the column’s sentiment was preemptively taken down by happy synchronicity days before. A poet-publisher laments the roadblocks to conversation and posits turning his back on the futility of finding the like-minded to work it all out in private in his journal instead. Meanwhile, the work goes on, here, a translation, from English to French, of a fine, understated lyric, “Happy Hour”.
If you didn’t get your copy of March End Prill when it came out, here’s your chance to get it at nearly half price, as BookThug is Publisher of the Month at Small Press Distribution. BookThug is one eclectic publisher, so a quick browse of its list is likely to turn up other valuable discoveries, never mind the mindboggling offerings at SPD.
Truman Capote famously quipped regarding Kerouac’s writing, “That’s not writing, that’s typing!” Happily, thanks to the heightened serendipitous dimensions of cyberspace, I happened on a closer reader of Kerouac, Clark Coolidge. One can mouse around the links from the original Jacket2 posting, but what caught my attention was Ron Silliman’s remark that
One test of Coolidge as a critic – you can find some other non-Kerouac samples as well on his EPC web page – is that he gets the importance of Visions of Cody, not just as a central work in the Kerouac canon, but quite possibly the Great Novel of the past century, right up on a par with Ulysses & Gravity’s Rainbow & the best of Faulkner (who is not unlike Kerouac in that his best work often comes in passages, rather than entire books).
I’ve long admired Kerouac’s achievement in The Legend of Dulouz, his novels taken as one multivolume work, but I can’t recall having encountered anyone else who appreciated what happens when the novel taps into its original energies as the genre that is by definition novel, as “the genre that contains all other genres,” when the narrative becomes écriture and one doesn’t know what one is reading anymore, only that one is reading. I’m glad to have chanced on someone else who gets it.
Normally, I’m given to giving more thought to what I post here and developing that thought at greater length and depth, but, sometimes, maybe, a blog is a place to allow oneself to think out loud, to essay some positions, without the explication and footnoting a more rigorously writ out thesis would demand. To wit:
Reading a random piece of praise from Charles Bernstein for Ron Silliman’s latest addition to what amounts to his lifelong long poem, Revelator, I can’t help but think that the paratactic poetic of Silliman’s New Sentence is in a way the afterlife of Pound’s Ideogram, so trenchantly studied in what should be widely-known as the classic study by Laszlo Gefin. This insight, however true, helps articulate a growing discomfort and dissatisfaction with what passes for the contemporary avant garde in English-language poetry, which seems increasingly, to me, at any rate, as a dead end of that literary High Modernism that flourished in the first quarter of the Twentieth Century as that ghost of Romanticism that haunted the end of the Nineteenth Century was a faint echo of the Spirit of the first and second generations of British Romanticism about a century before it. However much our practice must be (never mind can’t help but be) “absolutely modern” (a modernity whose horizon, arguably, includes what is academically termed Romanticism, Modernism, and Postmodernism), said modernity is also always relative to its precursors, demanding, at times, a gesture for the sake of sheer differentiation, precisely what inspired Pound’s return to meter and rhyme in Hugh Selwyn Mauberly (1915!). That is to say, however pertinent parataxis might be said to be to our moment, as a poetic practice it has become, if not merely reflexive, at least de rigueur, which is to say as dogmatic as any compositional value in any school of poetry, another hollow idol for the hammer to sound.