some poetry, politics & what have you

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The first issue of Fascicle, edited by Tony Tost & Kent Johnson is online now. If all the complaining poets would dare take a moment to look at it, they might find it contains some really good work by poets as diverse as Li Shangyin & Reina María Rodríguez. There's also a "special portfolio" (excerpted from a forthcoming book) of poems on poetry by hebrew poets from Spain & Provence (12th-15th c) translated by Peter Cole. Really captivating stuff

Monday, August 29, 2005

by Alberto Blanco (translated by Robert L Jones)

He doesn’t have the poverty of Christ
He doesn’t have the speed of zen
He doesn’t have the strength of yoga
He doesn’t have the compassion of buddhism
He doesn’t have the sophistication of tao
He doesn’t have the complexity of hinduism
He doesn’t have the solemnity of American Indians
He doesn’t have the sense of humor of the sufis

He does have the poverty of the bourgeois
He does have the speed that comes from anger
He does have the strength of a mechanic
He does have the compassion of a begged coin
He does have the sophistication of an actor
He does have the complexity of a newspaper
He does have the solemnity of a fifteen-year-old
He does have the sense of humor of a tractor

Alberto Blanco was born in Mexico City in 1951. Poet, musician, translator, artist & art-critic. Among those he's translated are W.S. Merwin, Philip Lamantia, Seamus Heaney & Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In 1995 City Lights published a bilingual selection of his poems titled Dawn of the Senses (ed. Juvenal Acosta) in their Pocket Poets series (this poem is from that book). He lives in Cuernavaca where he moved to escape the pollution of Mexico City. When he was in Malmö, some years back, he said that the translator (a few years dead) of the above poem was a really good poet in his own right. I have not been able to find any information about him other than the fact that he had a chapbook published in 1977. Also not one poem online, impressive. So if anyone reading this has any information regarding Robert L. Jones &, most importantly, where to find some poems by him, let me know. I'm curious

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Some litmags with new issues out or under public construction:

For the second year now Ars Interpres has two issues out simultaneously. The print versions of issues 4 & 5 will be released in october, but the majority of the content went online ten days ago. The issues will contain poems by among many others yours truly, Lasse Söderberg (translated by guess who), Hans C. ten Berge, Sawako Nakayasu, John Kinsella, Petter Lindgren, Michael Speier, Dmitrii Bavilsky, Seamus Heaney & a long Invitation (+ a couple of poems I find less interesting) by Leonard Scwartz

The october 2005 issue, the 28th, of Jacket seems just about complete. As usual it is a horn of plenty, including a feature on George Bowering edited, of course, by rob mclennan, interviews, criticism & poetry

In the 25th issue of Shampoo, which appears to be nearing completion, I found a new really cool poet I'd never even heard of before. The name is Sarah Trott & is to be remembered.

The fourth issue of Factorial is out now, it's one of those mags that seems like a genre unto itself. This new issue seems interesting, full of collaborations & translations, bilingual english/japanese - the previous issue was trilingual with a bit of french thrown in for good measure.

Oh, & Moria has a really worthwhile summer issue which I found rather recently. Also they're starting a series of e-books.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Well, sometimes you help your friends get the word out. This friend also happens to be a really good poet (& yes, another victim of my translation efforts, although none of that has been published yet in swedish). MTC Cronin. The word?

hi all

some book news if anyone's interested - or knows anyone who might be. have a new edition of talking to neruda's questions (which originally came out in 2001 in a limited run of 100 copies). it's from chile and is bilingual (spanish/english). shortly too i'll be receiving the italian/english bilingual edition which will also contain neruda's book of questions in italian/spanish (sorry not english!). and in next week or so too will get my new and selected - the ridiculous shape of longing - from macedonia (also bilingual, macedonian/english). after that will be getting my collection of prose poems from the usa irrigations (of the human heart. anyone like the sound of any of these. also still have copies of all the books listed below. happy to take orders! talk soon

luv margie
3 cedar grove court
australia, 4552

ph: 07 5435 2605
fax: 07 5435 2605 (ring first)
email: margie_cronin@hotmail.com

my lover's back ~ 79 love poems: $22 with postage ($25 overseas)
bestseller: $24 with postage ($27 overseas)
everything holy: $19 with postage ($22 overseas)
beautiful, unfinished: $24 with postage ($27 overseas)
1-100: $27 with postage ($30 overseas)
talking to neruda's questions (spanish/english edition): $24 with postage ($27 overseas)
talking to neruda's questions (italian/english edition including neruda's 'book of questions' in italian/spanish): $27 with postage ($30 overseas)
the ridiculous shape of longing - new & selected poems (macedonian/english): $25 with postage ($28 overseas)
irrigations (of the human heart) - fictional essays on the poetics of living, art & love: $25 with postage ($28 overseas)


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Jonathan Ball, publisher of Martian Press, who in november will publish on stealing lips (there is coincidentally a major South African publishing house called Jonathan Ball), reacted to the phrase "& since I abandoned swedish as a literary language this spring" in an email I sent to him on another (but related) topic on august 8. On august 9 he sent this barrage of questions, which took me far into barely charted territory & thus took some long & serious (well, for me anyway) thinking. First his questions:

"I'm curious as to why you would abandon swedish as a literary language. I don't speak any other languages (though I will soon have to learn one to complete my PhD) & I am interested in what makes one language more "fit" for poetry than another. Or perhaps it is simply a case of your poetic interests best served by another language? Perhaps swedish is too utilitarian a language? I often think english is well-suited to poetry due to its bizarre nature, many complex rules which can be broken & played with, and its affinity for multiple meanings & odd compound structures."

The long & short of it is that my change of languages has a very practical reason. Writing the things I do in swedish leaves me without a hope in Hell of finding a publisher &, seeing how extremely centralised swedish book distribution is, in effect without readers, except those I meet face to face. It also has the more poetic reason (which I will return to shortly) of writing in a language I know fairly well but will always look into (from the outside). That was the short, email sized, reply, slightly revised.

I might also add that it was a perfect example of theory following praxis. Sometime in mid-june it struck me that I hadn't written one line of original poetry in swedish since sometime around the beginning of april (which makes the phrase Jonathan reacted to factually wrong, because in sweden, even way "south", it's still winter through april). The decision then had to be made whether to force my way back into writing in swedish or not. I could, can, see no reasons to do so.

Although you can do different things in different languages, I think no language (even german) in & of itself is "unfit" for poetry. Nguyen Chi Trung, a vietnamese poet living in Stuttgart (germany), who visited Malmö in 2004 during the annual international poetry festival, said that when he wants to be scientific & exact he writes in german & when he wants to be emotional & lyrical he writes in vietnamese. Those languages are far enough removed from each other to function in that way, when it comes to swedish & english (my two languages) the differences are smaller. There are some. For one thing: in swedish one constructs long winding words out of what in english would either be hyphenated compound structures or two, or more, separate words. Another is that swedish is more concerned with the gender of words than english. The potential for playing around with the language is also slightly different. English is a wonderful language for all possible kinds of full, half or what have you, rhyming, swedish for removing essential parts of the grammatical structures to make wild elliptical rhythms. English is traditionally a rounder sounding, more gently swinging language than swedish - at least it was until I got my hands on it. Well, Dylan Thomas & Ezra Pound could make english sound quite edgy & the first time I heard scottish, from way up north in Thurso, spoken it was incomprehensible until I made out the almost exactly swedish melody of it. When, much later, I had begun to learn the craft of poetry, it merged with the scottish singing, Pound (irish, never sterling), Dylan Thomas & the incessant disruptions of diction of a poet like Charles Bernstein to add up to english as a language possible to write poetry in, a language that might be fun to write poetry in. & so it was. Fun, in part because maybe, just maybe, I can see it from another perspective than someone who has been raised inside it. Fun because I don't have the same linguistic taboos as someone who was raised inside it.

At the very beginning of her essay Keeping it sounding real (strange) in the duration:poetics anthology towards a foreign likeness bent (ed. Jerrold Shiroma, Duration Press, 2005) Sawako Nakayasu writes: "Translation makes poetry strange. Poetry makes language strange. I never set out to become a poet, but I was writing and it was strange and so it was poetry. Born in Japan, I was speaking Japanese and then moved to the U.S. and spoke English and was writing in English and it was strange." When I ended Houston (forthcoming from Furniture Press) with a man returning to his (hotel) room to become a character, I didn't then think of a written character. In the language from which I enter writing in english that meaning of the word (which exists differently spelled & only partly overlapping in meanings) is virtually non-existent. I just thought of that a few nights ago, & it was strange.

My poetic interests, apart from language in itself & the (de)construction of meaning & (non)sense, involve wanting to create in the reader joy & confusion. These external interests are obviously best served by having a reader to delight & confuse & that depends upon the distribution of the text & that, because I am a conservative person, I like being done through print. Hence the need for someone who concentrates on the distribution of text.

If this had formally been written as an essay (it may be one day) it could have been titled Do or Dog. That would roughly be the words you get if you invert God or Gud (the swedish name for the vicious bastard). Dug is the imperative form - be good enough(!) - of the word duga - to be good enough - & is never used.

Maybe someone will think this an answer to some or other of the questions, I'm not sure I do, but I'll post it as it stands for now

Sunday, August 21, 2005

a reminder

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Just a small post to tell that Furniture Press accepted my very small manuscript Houston. Don't yet know when it will be published

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

As a warm up for a post planned for tomorrow, this is the beginning of an unfinished sample column intended for an academic online journal that would actually offer symbolic pay for them, the working title was:

a choice of language

Writing in your mother tongue is for wimps. Unless you’re dyslectic, then just writing readably is a challenge. My first conscious literary (well, musical) experience of a person writing (singing) in his second language was of Cornelis Vreeswijk, a man who, twelve years old had persuaded his family to migrate from Holland to Sweden and later studied to become a journalist. Instead he found a guitar and a typewriter and began writing songs and poems. He ended up being, well deservedly, a modern swedish classic. He recorded one album in English (rumoured to be horrible), a few in Dutch (which are supposedly good) and about two dozen in swedish. In addition to that he authored a handful of poetry collections, wrote lyrics for others, translated songs and poems, acted a little, offended those who should be offended, won the hearts of almost everybody else and, in effect, drank himself to death in 1987, at age 50. More interesting, however, is how he treated his adopted language. At first he was frustrated about neither understanding nor being able to make himself understood. The solution? He studied like mad, crammed himself full of words hoping they would make sense to him some time, read – lots of comics – and talked constantly. So what was the result? By the time he recorded his first album he had a command of swedish like no one (except for Kjell Alinge, a radio-host who made strange Sunday morning shows during the second half of the eighties) else I have heard or read before or since. His vocabulary stretched in all directions of time, place and class. And he had relaxed into the language so thoroughly that he could, and did, use it with complete freedom.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

My first chapbook, on stealing lips, was just accepted for publication in november by the Martian Press, run by Jonathan Ball from his kitchen table in Winnipeg. This made today a good day