Archive for September, 2011

Patti Smith on Cy Twombly's Treatise on the Veil (1970)

by on Sep.30, 2011

“To be confronted with a masterpiece is to be infused with new blood. I witnessed this breathtaking painting at the Guggenheim in Bilbao. The monumental work functions as the veil and the veiled simultaneously. At first one is confronted by a cast chalkboard. But in the changing light, the canvas gathers the illusion of shimmering color, like the mutable expanse of water lilies wrapping the walls of a room at the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris.”

(Patti Smith, in the Art Forum I got in the mail today)

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The Echo of the Face in Raúl Zurita and Fever Ray

by on Sep.30, 2011

Coincidentally, I’ve also been interfacing with our beloved Zurita.  Until someone sends me his 745-page opus published in Chile this year, or until he shows up at the local glassy poetry complex, I’m rereading INRI (trans. William Rowe, Marick Press).  The book–titled after the inscription on Jesus’ crucifix–begins with a preface recalling President Ricardo Lagos’ absurd acknowledgment in as late as 2001 of the bodies disappeared during Chile’s dictatorship.  Describing his shame in witnessing this on TV, Zurita writes:

No, it wasn’t ‘moral outrage’ or any other high-sounding phrase, it was something much more concrete and unspoken:  it was like a screech I couldn’t get away from, that I may never be able to pull myself away from.  The book was called INRI, and it came out of the image of a man who was uttering strange words on the TV.  I don’t know if what I am saying about the screech makes sense:  it was called innrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiii.

As a “concrete and unspoken” event, the screech that Zurita intuits in the televisual image echoes beyond language as we ‘know’ it.  Both gasping void and stuttering, overwhelming flow, the screech is a religious, multisensory intensity that the book materializes when it offers passages in Braille to be touched rather than seen.  INRI thus disorients us into a blindness once brutally experienced by Chileans:  “There was also a detail, another fact about that crucifixion:  one of the reports tells how before killing their victims the military personnel gouged out their eyes with hooks…”

Because it handicaps itself, leading us through Chilean landscapes as if they were unrecognizable to the eye, Zurita’s poetry reminds me of the much-discussed appearance by Karin Dreijer Andersson, aka Fever Ray, at a Swedish awards show: (continue reading…)

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Necropastoral Translations: Exoticism, Illegitimate Meetings, Blacked-Out Spaces

by on Sep.29, 2011

It seems that the most interesting stuff being written about translation right now (Joyelle McSweeney, Don Mee Choi, Christian Hawkey) are all suggesting a more mobile idea not just of translations but of all of literature: something more like an illegitimate “meeting” in a zone of art, a zone one might call a necropastoral, or a crypt, or a translation zone, or Art.

Here’s Joyelle on the Necropastoral meetings:

A key factor of the necropastoral for me is not just the way it manifests the infectiousness, anxiety, and contagion occultly present in the hygienic borders of the classical pastoral— ie the most celebrity resident of Arcadia is Death—but also its activity, its networking, its paradoxical proliferation, its self-digestive activity, its eructations, its necroticness, its hunger and its hole making, which configures a burgeoning textual tissue defined by holes, a tissue thus as absent as it is present, and therefore not absent, not present—protoplasmic, spectral. In the next couple posts I want to look at three phenomena: Wilfred Owen’s War Poetry, Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, and WikiLeaks– to try to think about how the necropastoral stages networks and ‘strange meetings’.
(continue reading…)

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Poets involved in the Wall Street Protest

by on Sep.29, 2011

Feliz Molina has written an article about poets participating in the Wall Street protests:

On Facebook, poet extraordinaire and teacher CAConrad stated he was heading to Occupy Wall Street. CAConrad is the author of The Book Of Frank and forthcoming A Beautiful Marsupial (both from Wave Books). He also hosts the poetry video blog Jupiter88. From Wall Street while in transit to teach a poetry workshop in Baltimore, he offers a glimpse of the occupation there. The poet Travis Holloway and others also created the FB page Poetry@OccupyWallStreet.


I went to NYC for the Creative Time Summit, which is thousands of socially and politically engaged artists sharing their work. The summit started on the sixth day of the Wall Street occupation. Everyone went down, all of us, more than once. There was a small part of me that hoped the police — at least a few of them — would be as angry at the people of Wall Street as the rest of us, considering the fact that cops are working class. If any of them share our working class outrage they’re hiding it well. t’s important to point out that not only is Creative Time Summit happening, along with the exhibition of 100 different works of art challenging the madness of consumer-driven politics, but the documentary BLACK POWER MIXTAPE is also showing. This new documentary is a study in police brutality. It was awful to see that film, go to Wall Street, see the police, and hear the stories of people being maced, beaten and dragged off to jail for little more than chanting anti-Wall Street chants….

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Protest at the Poetry Foundation: A Report from Brooks Johnson

by on Sep.29, 2011

[Brooks Johnson, son of Kent Johnson, sent Montevidayo the follow report from a protest held during Montevidayo-favorite Raul Zurita’s reading at the Poetry Foundation last night. I have not fact-checked any of these remarks and if somebody – from the Poetry Foundation or not – want to add their view to this discussion, I welcome it.]

A group of about a half dozen of us attended the Raúl Zurita reading at the Poetry Foundation last night. Even though my Spanish is horrible and I had to rely mostly on his translator for the text of the poems, he gave one of the most powerful readings I think I’ve ever seen. After he read, during the question and answer session, my friends and I went into the Library, which is visible from the reading room and dropped two banners. One said “What Would Have Happened if Emily Dickinson Had Been Prescribed Prozac?” The other said “VIVA CADA”. [For the Chilean Colectivo de Acción de Arte; Zurita was one of its founders and leaders during the 1970s and 80s. More on this below.]
(continue reading…)

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Lucas Klein ("the other Lucas"/"Irregular Lucas") Has A Blog

by on Sep.27, 2011

Lucas Klein has started a blog, “Notes on the Mosquito”:

He sent around this email to announce it:


To promote my forthcoming translations of the poetry of Xi Chuan 西川, Notes on the Mosquito (New Directions, 2012), I have set up the following blog:

The most recent announcement is the schedule of his US reading tour, in promotion of the new anthology Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China, with more to follow soon—such as details on a chapbook published by Tinfish press, which should be available at his US readings!

Enjoy, and please send me links you think I’ve missed!


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PJ Harvey

by on Sep.27, 2011

Congratulations to PJ Harvey for winning the Mercury Award and also my award for best record in ages (and for best headgear at an awards ceremony):

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Report from Tokyo 4: My Supplement Sister, Takako Arai (now with Links!)

by on Sep.26, 2011

In Tokyo I met  my supplement sister, Takako Arai.

Takako Arai is one of the residing poet-dynamos of Tokyo, writing and performing  dismaying and visionary poems and heroically running her independent Mi’Te Press in the face of a fearsome and expensive official publishing culture which made Johannes and me comparatively thankful for the aggravating state of American publishing.

Takako Arai also translated a number of my poems (no easy task, I’m sure, as about 25% of the words are neologisms) and performed alongside me at the Festival; I have to admit, she made my poems sound awesome.  Her Japanese versions, so fast, so nimble, so aggressive, so lovely, so full of syllables!–sounded like a shredded  insane glamorous shamanness-drag queen played by Jack Smith rattling an amber pillbottle holding his last two amphetamine pills like teeth over the heads of people waiting on a subway platform at eight a.m. for a train that won’t come—exactly the effect I am going for in my work!

Takako Arai’s own work is available in English on Action Yes and at Octopus and was featured in Belladonna’s Four from Japan which Sawako Nakayasu edited and translated in 2006. After the festival,  Takako-san very kindly gave me her volume of poems, Soul Dance, translated by Jeffrey Angles and Sawako,and published by her own Mi’Te press.

As I read through the poems, I was amazed by how similar our sensibility and structural rhythms were. For example, here is an excerpt from her poem, “ Supplements” (trans. Jeffrey):

Potassium and calcium, magnesium and germanium

Glucosamine and glycogen, taurine and tumeric,

Cat’s claw, chitosan, eye drops made of maple, melatonin

A scond bowlful of supplements

And still nothing for my skin


Here the speaker is skinless, wears a skin of nothing, whilst the ever ramifying syllables of the supplements form a kind of pharmeceutical skin for the poem itself, an alternative DNA chain coming into riddle her mitochondria. (continue reading…)

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Pablo de Rokha IN ENGLISH – the Inteverview with his translator – URAYOÁN NOEL!

by on Sep.26, 2011

Pablo de Rokha photographed with his friend Salvador Allende

Urayoán Noel, stateless poet, professor, polemicist and performer, has recently translated a  terrific, fabulous, historically important, and wondrous book entitled U by the great Chilean poet Pablo de Rokha, whom it appears has yet to have a book translated into English.  And it doesn’t appear that there are many translations of individual poems by de Rokha out there as well.  There are a few in The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry (translated by Molly Weigel), but I can’t find much else that’s currently available.

This (U!) is an exciting, momentous event, and to mark the occasion I thought I’d ask Urayoán some questions about his work with de Rokha, and in the process it’s my hope to draw some attention to Urá ‘s great project and to get some folks here in US poetry land aware of and interested in this great Chilean writer.  It’s also important to mention that Pablo de Rokha’s wife/collaborator/co-conspirator–Winétt de Rokha is also a fascinating writer whose work is badly in need of some translating.  So hopefully some of her work will soon appear in English as well.  We dream big here on Montevidayo.
(continue reading…)

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Gene Tanta on Mircea Ivănescu

by on Sep.26, 2011

a poet’s poet’s poet: a review of lines, poems, poetry by Mircea Ivănescu translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu

by Gene Tanta

By translating and culling Mircea Ivănescu’s lines, poems, poetry (University of Plymouth Press, 2009), Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu produce for English readers a major contemporary Romanian poet’s reflections and symbology. Ivănescu (b. 1931) is the Romanian John Berryman; his Mopete is Berryman’s Henry. Of course this is a grotesque comparison between two writers; the way translation itself can make two beautiful but different monsters of experience. His lower-case writing signals the linguistic resistance of e.e. cummings and bell hooks. His social justice concerns run more inward toward a Sartrean nausea, but for all that, run no less political than the concerns of contemporaneous American writers. Berryman did not cause Ivănescu to write as he does just as the US’s service oriented society did not cause Romania’s largely agrarian society to remain agrarian. Differences between Ivănescu and Berryman’s poems remain evident even though translator Adam J. Sorkin informs us in the helpful introduction that Ivănescu read ten anthologized poems from Berryman’s Dream Songs.


If indeed Ivănescu’s Mopete is informed by Berryman’s Henry, such parallel persona-work is bound to differ, if for no other reason, because 1970s Romania differed so drastically from 1970s United States. For example, Romanian is a mostly Romance language while English is mostly West Germanic; Romanians lived with a sense of relative independence under Ceausescu before he visited North Korea, China, and North Vietnam in 1971 while in America the 1960s saw spectacular public assassinations and social protests; the persecutions of minority groups like the Roma were and are still difficult to document in Romania for a variety of reasons while in America African-Americans gained the right to vote in 1966 which led to the Black Power Movement and its aesthetic sister movement, the Black Arts Movement (1965-1975). Though beyond the scope of this essay, we should consider the history of the minstrel in pre-Renaissance Europe as court poet (and how this tradition morphed into the minstrel show in nineteenth century America using blackface to stereotype blacks in service of racist ideals) because it renders even more difficult our ability to compare Romanian and American cultural spaces.

Adam Sorkin, translator

(continue reading…)

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Give the Diva Her $5, B*tches; or, the Dark Glittery Corner Where Art Meets $$

by on Sep.23, 2011


Last week here in Mishawaka we saw a handwritten note on cardboard on the corner where the panhandlers like to stand but were mysteriously absent. The sign said,




In the spirit of that fond address, I’d like to bring your attention to an interesting project deserving of support from the Montevidayo community. Tim Jones-Yelvington is raising contributions to support a new transmedia project/lifekunst, “Lit Diva Extraordinaire‘.

LIT DIVA EXTRAORDINAIRE is a multi-disciplinary performance piece that poses the question: What does it mean to materialize as a literary “pop star?”


Because “indie lit” needs more:
* Glamour
* Glitter
* Fashion
* Fame
* Literary theory performed through dance pop.
…Also sequins.
Tim is raising money on Indiegogo now on the link above. I think this is actually kind of an awesome and thrilling way to divert the flow of capital away from its normal coffers and into Art’s hot slippery fur-lined pockets.  I like the idea of we artists trying to help each other out with projects rather than going to insitutions for futile attempts at grant getting when we know this kind of Art is not what they support. As Tim notes, if each of his friends donated $5, he’d be $5,000 above his goal.
Why not toss Tim $5 and see what he can make of it! The entrepreneurial spirit is what makes America America.


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Tokyo Report (2 or 3?): Orientalism, Kitsch and Modern Art

by on Sep.21, 2011

I usually don’t love museums because everything seems so hygienic and stabilized, but I loved the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art exactly because it didn’t give the canonically stable view of Modern Art. The museum tended to juxtapose modern Japanese art with modern western art, as if to show that Japanese artists were part of modernity, were participating in modern art. But the results were much more interesting (and perhaps this is indeed what the curators meant to accomplish), as the modern Japanese art not only of course was influenced by modern art from Europe but also the traditional japanese art that had influenced the modern european art. And modern art, which – back to Greenberg, Adorno etc – is supposed to be our defender against kitsch; but orientalism is at the heart of kitsch. So those are a few of the things I thought about when I walked through the beautiful Tokyo Museum of Modern Art. But mostly I just loved the art.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

Harada Naojiri’s “Bodhisattva Riding the Dragon”:

And Fujit Tsuguharu’s “Five Nudes” (fascinating how the cat seems to be the “punctum” of this picture, while the women seem like overexposed photographs):

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"Pretty" and "Enchanting" Poetry & Heather Christle

by on Sep.21, 2011

Tim Jones-Yelvington’s review of my book, which I posted about here yesterday, is from the web site Lit Pub. It’s full of reviews of contemporary, small-press books so I read through a bunch of the reviews.

Of particular note for Montevidayo might be Elizabeth Taddonio’s review of Heather Christle’s The Trees The Trees (Octopus Books). I don’t have this book, but I have read some chapbooks by Christle and I like them. Anyway, I think the rhetoric of this review is interesting. Taddonio argues that Christle’s books are “pretty” and “enchanting” and that, though these terms have become insults in modern poetry, she likes that and in fact wants to be “in” the poems:

That’s another thing. Christle’s writing is pretty — really pretty — and the images are surreal and often sweet, but they are also so vivid and genuine that you almost wish you could be in them.

I thought this was interesting because it’s similar to the argument I’ve been making: How the “hard” and “authentic” rhetoric of people from way back to Pound, who wanted to rid poetry of the “corpse language” of pretty/gothic Victorian poetry, up to Silliman’s rejection of “soft surrealism” and Tony Hoagland’s rejection of “manneristic” and “skittery” poetry “of the moment.” Further, it’s so “enchanting” that the reviewer loses track of her “critical distance” and wants to enter into the poem, become friends with the author.

I love the word “enchanting.”

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