30 jun 2006

Here's a little quiz. Match up the writer with the work. To make it a little harder there may be a few "orphans," poems with no authors, or authors with no works on the list. Obviously anyone could figure these out fast with a little googling. The point is to see how much you know just off the top of your head. (I was inspired by Ron's quiz he gives to his ignorant students.)

Pablo Neruda
Claudio Rodríguez
César Vallejo
José Lezama Lima
St. John-Perse
Pere Gimferrer
Pedro Martínez
André Breton
Robert Juarroz
David Jones
Antonio Machado
René Char
Victor Hugo
Nicanor Parra
Antonio Gamoneda
María Victoria Atencia

Poems and Antipoems
The Leaves of Hypnos
Gift of Drunkenness
The Book of Poisons
Waiting for the Barbarians
The Art of Being a Grandfather
Vertical Poetry
One Hundred Sonnets of Love
Most of the Time
Fields of Castile
Raúl's Sister
Marta & María
Eating Gorillas
The Drunken Boat
Death of Narcissus

29 jun 2006

While in Spain I looked at this book by Luis Racionero, who I take to be a semirightwing Spanish journalist, called "Los complejos de la derecha" in a bookstore. In the introduction, he describes living in the US in the 60s and being exposed to a whole host of thinkers and writers. What was comical was that Every Single Name was grossly misspelled. Not just off by one or two letters, but something along the lines of "Alain Ginzburg, Thimoty Leery, Jaques Keruack..." It was truly flarf-worthy. Unfortunately, I didn't want to spring for 25 euros to buy the thing, so I can't reproduce the list. I noticed this first when reading Spanish poetry of the 1970s: every French reference was impeccable, but nearly every English reference was mangled.


Halliday is partially right about Vendler's thesis about Ashbery. The example she chooses, John's address to the "you" in "Self-Portrait," is not that typical of his work. He rarely does that sustained apostrophe thing. It is maybe a weak plank to prove her overall thesis about Ashbery's relation to the reader. Yet Vendler's overall thesis is in fact correct. Ashbery does indeed establish a direct line to the reader in a particularly intimate way. Thus Vendler is in fact more correct than Halliday, who is too close (for my comfort) to the "Philistine" reading of Ashbery.

28 jun 2006

What is this conspiracy to make poetry into a dull thing? Don't we deserve a poetry at least as interesting as a Murakami novel read in translation?

In Murakami there is this constant presence of classic Japanese literature. In Kafka on the Shore, for example, the most significant space is a library devoted to classic haiku and tanka poetry. There is also a Noh-like structure of repetitive memory, ghosts appearing from the past. (Libraries also appear significantly in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.) I'm sure if I knew more Japanese literature I would see even more connections. The Japanese elements feel like the sub-stratum, whereas the Western elements often feel like *references*, allusions to something else. Of course, that may be a distorted reading, in that I may be judging the two sets of references by different standards. It's impossible to tell. I don't even know how useful the Western vs. Japanese binary is in this case.

The Oedipal structure of Kafka is perhaps its least interesting aspect. Obviously "thematic" moments in fiction tend to embarrass me anyway. The way a novelist will set aside a paragraph to tell you what it all is supposed to mean. I would *get* it anyway, so why do I need to be told?

26 jun 2006

Ritual bashing of new poet laureate

Ronald Johnson, Robert Duncan, Frank O'Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Creeley, Barbara Guest, James Schuyler, Ammons, John Ashbery, W.S. Merwin, Kenneth Koch, James Merrill, Gustav Sobin...

Surely poets born in the 1920s consitute the most significant group of poets in recent memory. The question: how far down the list would you have to get before you arrived at the name of DONALD HALL? How does one become a distinguished poet by not being, ever, distinguished, but not being a better poet than anyone else at any time, in any dimension of the poetic art? Mediocrity does not admit to degrees. You can't be the MOST mediocre. But if you could, if there was a such a thing as occupying the exact poetic mean (exactly as many poets better and worse than you?), Hall would be this emblematic figure, the paragon of mediocrity.

Famous for being a famous poet, but without ever having written a memorable line. He made his name as a basher of interesting poetry in the 1950s, then gradually drifted over to a dull position half-way between the Academic and the New American poetry--without ever getting there.

This is poetry for a culture that hates poetry, where everyone can be above average just by hanging on long enough. Woe-Be-Gone indeed.

24 jun 2006

I've become entranced by a particular rhythm. It's all over Góngora and Claudio Rodríguez, and many other poets as well.

Era del año la estación florida

De muchas tardes, para siempre juntas

Miro la espuma, su delicadeza...

It's an 11-syllable line with accents on 4, 8, and 10, that divides up into two phrases of 5 and 6 syllables.

. . . * . / . . * . * . It's got a wonderfully "swinging" quality to it because of the way in which these two phrases are rhythmically so distinct, asymmetrical, yet form a single line of basically alternating binary stresses. (That is, the stresses all fall on even-numbered syllables.) I've been collecting examples.

Especially effective when varied with the more regular sounding pattern of 2,6,10. It's felt as a displacement of that more evenly spaced pattern (accents come every four syllables.)

. * . . . *. . . * .

La lengua de los ásperos sajones

Maybe I'm mildly insane.

23 jun 2006

People usually point to the Western influences on Murakami's fiction, but I hear a lot of resonance from Soseki and Kawabata. I think some readers don't look past the references to jazz and rock. Murakami is constantly alluding to certain Soseki novels in his own fiction. Sometimes the reference is direct, sometimes it is only the evocation of a similar scene or incident.


A fantastically good Spanish poet is Olvido García Valdés. I'd read her before, but I met the person herself, heard her read her work (on this latest trip to Madrid) and delved a little deeper. I really liked her and her husband, Miguel Casado, also a poet and one of the best critics around. They are high-school teachers in Toledo.


Don't send me anything at my home address. I am moving in about a month. I'll be announcing my new address to the appropriate people when the time comes.

21 jun 2006

I'll soon retrun to full blogger form, more brilliant and insightful than ever. Right now the jet lag and the St. Louis heat are killing me.

16 jun 2006

What´s weird about the Eliot Weinberger anthology of the poets listed below, you might ask. Nothing at all. That is, it seems an admirable project, yet there seems no particular reason to privilege this particular tradition in this particular point in time for the Spanish reader. Maybe, though, it fills the gap between Ginsberg and Asbhery, on the one hand, and Williams and Eliot, on the other. Aullido is in the bookstores for all to see, along with Autorretrato en el espejo convexo, La tierra baldia, etc...


Still in Madrid, but missing you so had to start blogging again.
An interesting presentation of a translation of Bunting into Spanish last night. The guy who translated it, Aurelio Major, is doing an anthology of poetry translated into Spanish, Olson, Duncan, Niedecker, Zukofsky, Rexroth, Oppen, with Eliot Weinberger. Wonderful but a little strange. The criterion is poets born between 1910 and 1920.

Bunting is really good in Spanish, it turns out.

14 jun 2006

What, I leave the country for two weeks and you make Donald Hall the poet laureate? You will have much to answer for when I return.

1 jun 2006

This will be last post until mid to late June. I'm going to Spain on Monday.