some poetry, politics & what have you

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It's probably common knowledge that reading online & reading hardcopy are two entirely different things. This is amply illustrated when confronted with Ars Interpres, edited in Stockholm by Alexander Deriev. The Two Skies issue (number 4/5) arrived in my mail recently (a contributor's copy, so it would be inappropriate to read this as a review). First off, as is often the case the design differs radically between the online & print versions. Secondly most, but not all the contents of the print issue was previously published online. Thirdly, the texts, mostly poems, appear different between the two versions. Some work better online, some work better in print. The prime example of that is my reaction to the three poems by Leonard Schwartz, where the first two poems didn't seem to me to work at all online, but the third one worked really well. Reading the same three poems in print, I get the opposite reaction to them. That probably means I like all three of them fairly well. Some poems that were published online, even by authors whose work I usually enjoy, I didn't even notice until reading the print version, most notably that of the wonderful dutch (mostly) poet Hans C. ten Berge. That said, there is a variety of work in these 320 pages, some art, which I cannot really comment on, essays - one interesting one by Zhang Er, who also has some of the finest poems in the issue, reviews & interviews with Seamus Heaney & Les Murray on their relationships to Joseph Brodsky. John Kinsella is represented both on earth & in heaven (the issue is divided into the two parts The Raw Earth & Unified is Heaven) but it's his earthly poems that strike me. They are extracted from something, a future book maybe, called America or Glow. This is simultaneously an inside & outside view of contemporary US, done with a beautifully balanced mix of almost langpo & narrative stances that I have come to think may be Kinsellas main claim to fame. A poem that would stand out just about anywhere is Lars Ahlströms brilliant, & nearly perfect, translation of the poem Klondike by Petter Lindgren, a poem which when I first read the original virtually assaulted me. I must also make note of the two poems from Texture Notes by the unrelentingly imaginative Sawako Nakayasu & the beautiful mostly travel poems by Michael Speier. Ars Interpres is an almost absurdly ambitious international journal of poetry, translation & art, & this double issue is the most ambitious one so far. & yes, it's well worth getting lost in


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