Friday, January 26, 2007

Ben Friedlander sent a small chapbook book, a translation of a poem by Heinrich Heine called "To Set Your Mind at Rest" (Subpoetics Self-Publish or Perish 2007). it's a joking, satiric poem ("But if a Brutus should arise / Among us, he'd soon realize / He'll never find his Caesar here: / There are too many cookies near."). what I particularly like about this is its life as ephemera. I don't know from Heine except knowing that he ranks near Goethe as German Romantic Wunderkind. the front cover portrait shows Double H in profile, hand against cheek, with a Keatsian gaze towards some wonder of the moment. I assume this is a modest piece by the poet. and for Ben too. perhaps the poem just struck Ben, and the urge to translate. what I mean by ephemera centres on the lack of driven import. which isn't a slight. you have the experience of the translation and the original, put together in a neat printing. I'm reminded of the book by Aram Saroyan, The Beatles. a 4 page thing, each page consisting in the name of one Beatle. some New York poet (I mean I saw it in a New York anthology) answered Saroyan with The Rolling Stones. this consisted in the names of 3 Stones, and two pitchers for the Philadelphia Phillies. the Saroyan book belonged to Robert Grenier. I remember thinking, wow, you bothered to get this? I get the point now. perhaps the tangents I've just run make my point. Friedlander went to the trouble of producing this artifact. having read it a few times I will put it somewhere, possibly even the bookshelf. at some point it will fall into my grasp again (or I may even seek it), and I'll reread it. given that one can make a pretty decent effort using home options (I don't know if Ben went pro or not with this production), why the heck not make your own books. okay, this sort of thing doesn't count in Print or Die Land, but among the clear thinking, gems like this are to be desired.
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