Saturday, September 27, 2008

of course, I am proud to be an American...
one further book, which just indicates how lax I have been in writing this marvelous and useful blog, to wit:

The Complete Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus translated by Ryan Gallagher, published by Bootstrap Press. he is one of the proprietors of the press. I have, or perhaps had--maybe I deep-sixed it--a wretched translation of Catullus. I do not recall the translator but his crime was his choice to bring Catullus' slang to the present age. I think the translator's sense of the present age's slang was archaic or anachronistic, and certainly the ear was not good. the effect was merely goofy.

I am no Latin scholar so I can only read the poems for their sense of freshness. they seem like poems not exercises, which is always the first endeavour in translation, at least in readership's view. Gallagher includes an extensive and useful afterward about his process. he cites the Catullus that the Zukofskys produced. now, Gallaghher, does not attempt a homophonic translation, but I can see how he placed the lines in his head and worked them into poetry. he makes the translation process a very present one, with the sense of writing rather than rewriting. I get that sense out of Paul Blackburn's translations. or let me say, I do NOT get that sense from the army of translators who have latched onto Neruda, Bly et al., who seem relentless in producing what even I, barely voiced in Spanish, can see is mangled versions of the originals. Gallagher's translations are unlaboured, respect the language into which they have been translated, and live. the Latin originals are placed at the back of the book. I would prefer seeing them en face, the better to compare, but that's a choice. buy the book, support the press that wants to live in Lowell.
I have, as well, Eileen Tabios's latest, of which there are an impressive steady flow: The Blind Chatelaine's Keys, from BlazeVox. the subtitle is: Her Biography Through Your Poetics. the book is credited thus:

Begun by Eileen R. Tabios
Completed by Others"

all of which is telling.

Eileen gathers commentary on her work (blogetics), a considerable mound, and, somehow, makes it all her own. this might sound self-consumed, but if Eileen is a black hole, she is a generous one. that is to say, she emits light. she is not, therefore, a black hole, just a heck of a presence. indeed (doesn't the use of that word give a poncy lift to the writing here?), Eileen Tabios is a positive force in our poetic world, promoting poetry itself as a beneficial energy. this book is evidence of that benefit, as people take to her work and engage in a larger conversation. tho conversation is a flat word to describe the nature of the gift. I have a couple of pages worth of words in this book, starting p29, which illustrate the casual tics of my blog as much as anything. when Eileen asked permission to use my postings, I replied okay but isn't what I wrote more about me than you? but that was just what Eileen wanted, that personal engagement. when I read Harold Bloom, I get oppressed by the academic torture of the work in hand. what got me about his lecture that I have mentioned listening to, was his enjoyment and personal revelation of the work. he speaks lovingly, I think that's the right word, about Stevens, and Crane, and Bishop. I have not read Keys yet, altho p 29-31 interest me greatly, but I can easily offer it to thee, Dear Reader, as a fascinating involvement. I speak to the choir, no doubt.

Friday, September 26, 2008

I have had the six recent chaps from Faux Press since spring, and reading them, but have yet to marshal the time to write about them. I will start with some comments on Stacy Szymaszek's contribution, she of the six being the least known to me, Orizaba: A Voyage with Hart Crane. the title piece begins in a way that made me think I read the introduction, all too ready to explicate and delineate. the opening quote, from Crane, proves telling:

In all the argosy of your bright hair I dreamed
nothing so flagless as this piracy

arr, piracy (unavoidable Robert Newton allusion), 'tis the essence here, for Szymaszek. the piece is partly about her fascination with Crane. she delivers a fair chunk of biography, tho I am not Crane scholar enough to know how much might be invented (possibly none, I am just indicating that potential). the piece also contends with issues of sexual identity. she quotes Crane again: "Then in front of Orizaba everything suddenly begins to change." she describes and pioneers with her own awakening sexual identity by writing about Crane and her interest in him. Crane indeed is a wonderful possibility, romantic yet hard-edged, modern yet stalled. Bloom, I might add, in his Stevens lecture, declares more fully for Crane as 'the best' tho of course Crane's work was curtailed compared with Stevens et al. Bloom makes the point that Crane unfolded rashly (the adverb is mine) whereas all the other modernists of note had yet to write much of real interest by the age that Crane leaped.

I did not mention that this is all written in straightforward prose. the reverberations of Crane are heartfelt, made me want to get his poems out (too many books in boxes just now),and I have not read a full biography of him. Szymaszek connects with his disorder as well as his bloom.

balanced with this direct consultation with the reader are The Eustace Poems, which being a selection from a work called Hyperglossia. here, Szymaszek writes in jolting short lines. words are spread across the page in various layouts. the effect is punchy, which contrasts nicely with the meditative extension of Orizaba. here Szymaszek performs further identification, closer to home, perhaps. she produces an image of Eustace, the boy, which one must assume is, in some way, her. I have seen enough poetry LANGUAGEd across the page to be wary of 2nd rate explorers inventing what they have seen before. I have given myself largely to prose for reasons of this issue (and other reasons besides). Szymaszek rattled my prejudice because the words on the page look so thoughtfully presented. making me think of Mary Rising Higgins, which we all should do, poems wrought so carefully. these Eustace Poems are riveting and rhythmic, and play neatly against the self-examination of Orizaba.

I would like to deepen into this work but for now am content to leave these just notes* behind, since my intention here at Tributary is to coax interest and instigate engagement. the hard work is left to you, Dear Reader.

these Faux Chaps are well-presented. design is similar among them all and each bears a head shot of the author on front and back cover. this makes one want to read them as a single entity. they were not written that way, but it works somehow, six poets of the city. I shan't further that point but would recommend all six chaps. and I hope that I have made an engaging point about Orizaba: A Voyage with Hart Crane.

* I hope Gentle Reader recognizes that I meant to write just these notes. I leave it as I wrote it because it looks just funny, or funny just.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

the enormous international audience that I have accrued may not all find it convenient to attend this event, but for those who can find Maynard, Massachusetts,(simply use one of those online map sites and go opposite to the directions given), the library in that town will be having a discussion of Elizabeth Bishop, led by Lloyd Schwartz, who edited the Everyman book about her. DATE: November 18. audience gets to read aloud. I have not read much Bishop, as it happens, just one of those holes in my reading. I think I have (unjustly) equated her with that crowd surrounding Lowell (who, I must keep reminding myself, Grenier studied under), a group I never cottoned to. Bishop has connection with Worcester, MA, as do Charles O and Frank O, so there is that. anyway, it is nice to see an event such as this at a suburban library. years ago I saw Margaret Atwood read in similar circs, well before her novel success. a decent turn out but an overly airy room, with a bluestocking ambiance that to me, let alone Atwood, seemed oppressive. it was the idea that a modicum of culture was available without too much effort. that reading of British poets that I attended at Harvard last year April 07, you could look it up): wood-paneled room, sofas, wine and cheese, that's the polar opposite of the Atwood reading, so lushly exquisite was everything, including the audience (even me!). I am reminded of being in a used bookstore. a woman was explaining to the shop owner that her family never watched television. which caused her young son to pipe up, yes we do mom, we watch all the time. anyway, book your flights now.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

returned to the pow wow today. Erin brought camera and tripod. the and tripod part brought someone over to say that pictures should not be taken during the 1st 4 songs. I had a camera with me yesterday, but I only took pictures during obviously less sacred times, like the candy dance, during which children dance, and when the music stops they scramble for candy scattered on the ground. which is okay, according to the people we spoke with. I get that sense of sacred and of the soul at risk. I mean, why not? there were 4 songs/dances that were not to be photographed, being sacred. the 1st was the grass dance. the 2 brothers that I have noted danced it. the point was to create a place for the festivities. the dancers stomp down the grass (which, in this case, needed no stomping), as well as snakes, again, not literally necessary. I feel like I come from a failed tribe, without going into detail, so I felt envious and sad, ocean deep, to see these brothers creating there for the further dancing. I am not sure which dance followed but one of them was a procession of veterans. the war(s) now, hello, are the job of the disenfranchised and poor, so native Americans are big in that. which is a hard thing to stare at, and hard not to. it is why (mostly) I did not enter the dance circle. I was stepping in place, that 2 tap step (toe then heel, then the other foot), and someone said, you can join the dance, you know. I acknowledge the open welcome but felt like anglo guy had to think it pretty purely to do so. which is a sad eff up on my part but hard to deny. so far as I know, my heritage is completely English. there is no pride in that, especially as a family rupture makes the whole structure fata morganna for me. I feel like I am starting over, with no useful family line to point to. so the sense of tribe amongst the participants at the pow wow was intense and saddening for me. it was heartening to see the elders dancing alongside the young ones. and how cool, gracefully cool, so many looked in their expression, the dance. only a few danced the crow dance. I do not know if crow meant the bird or the tribe. probably the former, since there was a crow-like hop to the step of the dancers. the females kicked out like majorettes, their shoulders back, and skipping in a graceful, gaily pleasing way. the males hunched forward but attained a similar exhilarating lift in their hop. the drum is a strong attraction for me. it is roughly the size of a bass drum, and I could not think of it as aught but sacred, which surely is how the the groups regard it. in one dance, an older man caught my eye. the pow wow was on the grounds of a VA hospital. adjacent to the field on which the pow wow occurred was a golf course, part of the VA. this guy looked like he came from the golf course, wearing polyester pants and that type of shirt. he walked stiffly, gingerly, and mimed hand to hand combat. I thought with a bear but perhaps with a person. swinging and jutting his arm. he came close to a child and I wondered if he would not notice, but he did. some dances are narrative so his story did not seem strange, except that he seemed overly committed. as he left the circle, he looked like he was still there. I do not know if this is so, this is only my impression. the singing was wonderful. and the drumming, I would love to be in that beat. a couple of times, the drummers did a gallimaufry wherein they all banged away randomly, as if channeling Keith Moon. and the singing was thrilling. when the women sang along, falsetto, it sounded like ouds or whatever reed instrument I mean, it sounded Arabic. I am sure I have more to say, but anon.