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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Confirming Reality (on Douglas Messerli's play, The Confirmation)

A scene from The Confirmation
Kirk Jackson as Blanche in The Confirmation
The cast, director (Mollie O'Mara, first figure in the back row) and playwright after the performance of
The Confirmation

Kier Peters The Confirmation (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1993)
Kier Peters The Confirmation Vineyard Theatre (as part of the T.W.E.E.D. New Works Festival) /April 6 and 7, 1994

Almost from the moment in September 1991 when we returned to Jerry Fox’s condominium after the memorial ceremony for Howard’s mother Rose, I took out pen and paper and began to write the play The Confirmation.

Obviously, Rose’s death—I was close to both of Howard’s parents—triggered something in me about mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and sons—although the Midwestern women of the play could not be more different, in their language and mannerisms, than the Baltimore-raised Rose Fox. The character’s language, in its aphoristic repetitions, bore traces, however, of another Baltimorean, Gertrude Stein.

From the moment Mother commanded Grandma to “sit down there nicely and be out of the way!” (something, given the current situation, I might have commanded of myself), the women of my play took control of my head and hand, leading me through a series of incidents over which I seemed to have little control. Whenever I even attempted to think out some element of plot, the voices forced me in other directions, so that page after page of the original manuscript was torn up, lines crossed out.

“What are you doing?” asked Jerry, observing me writing in a seemingly uncomfortable position at the dining room windowsill.

“Writing,” was all I could mutter, as words tumbled through my fingers to the little notebook before me. It seemed I could not write fast enough, and by the time we had returned to Los Angeles a couple of days later, I had completed a rough draft. Never had I produced a work so painlessly. The only things that needed alteration, so it appeared, were instances where I had gotten ahead of my characters’ words and acts.

As I do with all my plays—or, at least, as Kier does—I sent a typed copy to playwright friend Mac Wellman, who read it with great enthusiasm, ultimately suggesting its inclusion in the 1994 T.W.E.E.D New York Festival.

Mac also arranged, at an earlier date, a reading at Richard Caliban’s Cucaracha Theater in New York, a production overseen by Richard’s wife, Mollie O’Mara, who later directed the Festival production. The wonderful actress/teacher Nora Dunfee performed in that original reading (there may have been others of the later cast in the first reading, but I have no memory of who else performed). I do know that playwrights Wellman, Len Jenkin, and Matthew Maguire, along with my editor, actress Diana Daves (upon whom I had based, in part, the character of Mother) were in attendance. The reading went splendidly, creating a much more absurdly comic effect than the later Festival production.

I had titled the play The Confirmation because the work concerned a group of figures who were all attempting to confirm their various visions of reality—visions each at odds with one another. The outsider to this dysfunctional family, Carmelita, was also attempting to confirm her position as a member of the family (yes, Carson McCullers had come to mind in the writing) and to confirm a reality different from what family members were willing to admit. During the final revision, moreover, I was watching on television the horrific circus of the confirmation hearings in October 1991 of Judge Clarence Thomas, accused by his former co-worker Anita Hill of inappropriate sexual conversations covering everything from gang rape, the size of porn star Long Dong Silver’s penis, to sexual intercourse with animals! Who could have made up such a bizarre scenario? To me, Hill’s painful testimony could be nothing but the truth, and to this day I am convinced of the incompetence of the conservative Justice of the Supreme Court.

Accordingly, I began my play with a quote, representing the two opposing visions of truth represented by those hearings: Anita Hill’s statement “I felt that I had to tell the truth,” as against Thomas’s summary of events, “I have never, in all my life, felt such hurt, such pain, such agony.” To me it seemed to sum up the idea of truth and consequence. My Sun & Moon Press published the play in 1993.

When I came to New York in early April 1994 to observe rehearsals for the Festival production, I discovered that O’Mara had read the work somewhat differently from what I had, particularly in connection with anti-war statements. It wasn’t that she was incorrect in her interpretations—indeed much was said in this family about military service, whose men, in war after war, had died—but the fact that she and costume designer Carol Brys had decided to literalize those issues, dressing Carmelita, the lesbian nun living in a relationship with Sister, in a military-like costume, came as a surprise. The other major change in the play was Mollie’s decision to cast the estranged sister, Blanche, whom the family believes speaks only Norwegian, but, in fact, speaks only Yiddish, with the wonderful actor Kirk Jackson, dressing in drag and speaking English in a heavy Yiddish accent. When she was at her best, Nora Dunfee, a beloved acting teacher (and the elderly Southern woman on the park bench in the film, Forrest Gump), was a perfect Grandma, but throughout rehearsals she was having difficulty memorizing her lines, and the day before the premiere we were forced to embed the script in a magazine, laying open upon the table in front of the backyard “couch.”

None of these “changes” really upset me, since I have always felt that one of the wonders of theater is the possibility of various interpretations of a work which directors and actors can provide. With that in mind, I write only minimal stage directions, and prefer to leave the set—in this case highly stylized, with large cardboard tubes suggesting the trees of the backyard—an abstraction. What I wasn’t prepared for was the utter stubbornness of some actors. The woman playing Carmelita, in particular, was constantly asking me about her motivations. Since I have never written from of a psychologically-based perspective, I simply could not answer her. “Clearly she just wants to be part of the family, wants to be part of something!” I declared. But again and again, Cate Woodruff was pulling the work into a kind of bog of conditions, reasons, explanations, and the more O’Mara and I tried to float the play as the slightly nostalgic comedic work I had imagined it, she flatly pulled it down into a thwarted drama of small-town lives.

Fortunately, lighting director Richard Schaefer and the composer Tom Burnett had captured the spirit of the work, and, along with Jackson’s slightly campy portrayal of Blanche, which completely pulled the play away from any sense of realism, often succeeded in restoring the work’s sense of bemused acceptance of the darker horrors of family life.

Howard attended the two performances on April 6 and 7 at the famed Vineyard Theatre, along with, once again, many of my playwright friends, Charles Bernstein and Susan Bee, Hannah Weiner, and other poets and artists. Howard, however, did not feel the play succeeded, suggesting that I was straddling absurdity and realism, maintaining that what I had really attempted to do was to write a fully developed realist play—something that couldn’t be further from my mind. Besides, I had no control over the situation, I tried to explain; the characters wrote the play, not I.


A few weeks after this production, Nora Dunfee fell to a New York street, dead from brain cancer. Clearly her lack of memory throughout the production had been a product of her illness!

Some years later, a Los Angeles theater company decided to produce The Confirmation for one night. I suggested I might attend the rehearsals, but they seemed to question the need for that. Nonetheless, I did drop by, where I was obviously seen as an intruder even more dangerous than Carmelita. After the rehearsal, the director introduced me to the cast as the publisher of the play, and suddenly I realized why I had gotten such a cold shoulder. “And I might add, I am also the playwright himself; I write under the pseudonym of Kier Peters.” Suddenly several cast members came forward filled with questions.

That production was what I can only describe as a disaster. The company had been famous for, at one time, producing plays by Ionesco—which explained, perhaps, the continual manipulation throughout the play of various pieces of furniture, particularly the movement of chairs! Of close friends, I think only Martin Nakell attended—thank heaven! And today, so he tells me, he has forgotten the event.

Los Angeles, May 3, 2008

To order The Confirmation send an e-mail to: douglasmesserli@gmail.com

Monday, November 24, 2008

Nine Nearly Forgotten Nights in Our Nation's Capital: The 4th Night (One's Enemies)


Alison Cheek celebration communion at the Church of St. Stephen and the Incaration in Washington, D.C., November 1974

Throughout our years in Washington, D.C., Howard and I—primarily through his role as an art curator—were invited to numerous embassy parties. At some point in the early 1970s, for example, we were invited to several events at the Australian and New Zealand embassies. Occasionally those invitations were even extended to the personal residences of the ambassadors of those countries.

The Aussies, I remember, were somewhat like American frontiersmen, a bit fearful of “high cultural” events. At one particular occasion, the evening began with a concert, whereat the wives of the various embassy officials sat dutifully attentive, while the men rambled about in an adjoining room, drinks in hand, impatiently awaiting the concert’s completion.

The New Zealanders, on the other hand, although completely unpretentious, were highly interested in culture. I recall a long discussion with the Ambassador’s wife one evening about the writer Janet Frame, whom she described as a “dear friend.” The food, which consisted of platters of slightly greasy lamb chops, may have been somewhat unsophisticated, but the conversation was another thing.

I don’t recall to which ambassadorial home we had been invited in December 1974 to a Christmas party, but it was one of those Washington, D.C. townhouses where such parties were celebrated downstairs, in what normally might have described as a basement, but had been so redecorated that no one could hardly think of it as such.

There I met the representative of the Federated States of Micronesia and another Oceania leader. Howard and I spoke with both gentlemen for some time.

But gradually, as one does at such events, we broke off into other groups, I noticed a gathering of individuals standing around a plain-looking but friendly woman. I joined them, listening in upon the conversation. Clearly, this woman had just received some high accolade, and the women surrounding her were curious about how she had reached this position. Gradually, I began to understand that she was somehow involved with religion, and few seconds later I realized who she was. At the very moment, Howard came up to the group, standing next to me, hoping, I presume, for an introduction.

The woman continued to speak intensely about how she achieved her position, using, over and over again, terms such as “those against change” and “one’s enemies.” At one point, she began a short diatribe against “one’s enemies,” chastising those, apparently, who refused to accept change.

Howard is a born diplomat, a careful but easy conversationalist, unlikely to say anything that might offend. But perhaps because he had still to be introduced to this slightly garrulous individual, or just out of an uncontrollable urge, he suddenly blurted out: “One’s enemies can go straight to Hell.” Suddenly all faces turned to him in apparent shock, and he quickly recognized that he had said something out of turn. He smiled and quickly fled the little clique, as its members turned back to continue their discussion.

I gradually shifted away from the group, cornering Howard alone. “What was that all about?” he innocently asked.

I began to laugh. “Well, Howard, I don’t think you could have chosen a more ill-suited phrase! Do you know who that is?”

“No.”

“It’s Alison Cheek, the Anglican priest, the first woman to celebrate communion in an Episcopal church.” In January 1975, Time magazine chose her as the Person of the Year.

At the party, we returned to the conversations about Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia, safer ground on which to talk.

Los Angeles, September 27, 2001

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Dance of Death (on Strauss' Salome)


Richard Strauss Salome / Metropolitan Opera's "Live in HD Series," / Bridge Theater, Los Angeles on Saturday, October 11, 2008

Howard and I attended the high definition live performance of Strauss's opera Salome in late 2008; but its appropriateness for inclusion in the 2002 volume became immediately apparent. This opera is, after all, almost an inverted paean to the subjects of love, death, and transfiguration—although no one in this work—except perhaps for the necrophilic Salomé—can be said to be in love or spiritually exalted at its end.

Strauss's libretto, based on Oscar Wilde's French play, is almost painful to endure, moreover, because of its characters' confusion of love with lust, death with power, and transfiguration with insanity. Each of its major characters is doomed from the outset by his or her perverse behavior through which each desperately strives to attain something that cannot be given.

The Syrian Captain of the Guard, Narraboth, desires the untouchable Salomé, destroying himself when he witnesses her mad acts.

Herodias, Herod Antipas's niece and the former wife of his brother, Herod Philip, has married her uncle/brother-in-law to the outrage of many in Judea, receiving widespread damnation by Jochanaan (John the Baptist), whom Herod has, accordingly, arrested and imprisoned. The historical Herodias also wanted power and ultimately forced her husband to demand he be named King of the Judea provinces which he controlled; but in Strauss's version she primarily seeks the restoration of her "good name."

The historical Herod also sought further power, but in the opera is seen primarily lusting after his sixteen-year-old daughter, willing to promise anything if she will reveal herself in her legendary "Dance of the Seven Veils."

Once Salomé has witnessed the man behind the outraged voice in the chambers below the great terrace to where she has escaped from the dinnertime leers of her father, she desires to sexually control the prophet, who emphatically rejects her.

Jochanaan obviously seeks his freedom, but is even more committed to the damnation and redemption of the entire family. If their desires emanate from the lusts of self and body, his stems from an equally perversely unforgiving faith.

In order that this unhappy family and guests might obtain what they desire, each also gives up something that will end in self-destruction. As I have already reported, Narraboth gives up his life. Herodias sacrifices her own daughter to her husband for the possibility of destroying Jochanaan, and, in so doing, further dooms her "good name." Herod will be forced to give up his protection of the holy man, Jochanaan, resulting in the wrath of the Sanhedrin and his Jewish subjects and perhaps in the loss of his kingdom (in fact, soon after John's and Christ's death, Herod Antipas was banished by Caligula to Gaul). Through her dance, Salomé gives up, symbolically speaking, her chastity, and through her murder of Jochanaan, loses her sanity and ultimately her life (the historical Salomé did not die, but was wedded to Herod Philip, her mother's former husband). For his faith, condemnations, and disdain of Salomé Jochanaan sacrifices his head.

Salomé's frenzied dance, accordingly, can be understood as a ghastly dance of death, an abandonment of all things honorable that love, faith, and freedom might represent. It is both a sexual tease and a prelude to the sexual frenzy she later plays out when she is served the head of Jochanaan on a platter. But it is not only Jochanaan's and her own death for which she dances, but for the end of her world, the destruction—so often symbolically sought (and occasionally accomplished) by the younger generation against the old—of her parents and their world.

The Metropolitan Opera productions on screen are almost as good as being at the opera itself, and the close-up perspective is perhaps even better than witnessing the stage in the cavernous space. In this particular production, however, the censors felt it necessary to save the "home" audiences from witnessing Karita Mattila's breasts. But given the limitations of her dance, performed in what The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini aptly described as "Dietrichian drag," perhaps we were thoughtfully spared the spectacle. Although Mattila has a lovely face, and is able to vocally and physically convince the audience of her sexual energy, the very size of her body renders her performance to be more like that of an agile ox rather than a lithe teen. And it is hard to imagine Juha Uusitalo's Jochanaan as eliciting Salomé's intoxication with his eyes, lips, and hair. But then suspension of belief is often a requirement of opera productions, and the performances as a whole were riveting, particularly in Kim Begley's Herod and Ildkó Komlósi's Herodias.

Los Angeles, November 16, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Flying (on Ece Ayhan A Blind Cat Black and Orthodoxies)




Ece Ayhan The Blind Cat Black and Orthodoxies (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1997)

In 1994 or 1995 poet and translator Murat Nemet-Nejat sent me a manuscript of his translation of the Turkish poet, Ece Ayhan. If Nemet-Nejat is to be believed, he had attempted to get this manuscript published for more than 10 years. I immediately was drawn to it, and in 1995 I gave him a contract which, through a series of underground figures, was passed on in Turkey to Ayhan, apparently in hiding from his government for failure to pay taxes or some other infraction, who signed and dated it 14.12.1995.

The manuscript Murat had given me seemed to me to have many similarities to the American poet John Wieners, who, like Ayhan, was a gay writer who had begun his early life at the edges of academic and socially responsible behavior—Wieners began his education at Boston College, later enrolling in Black Mountain College to study with Charles Olson and Robert Duncan before working as an actor and stage manager at the Poet’s Theatre in Cambridge; Ayhan graduated from the school of Political Sciences in Ankara before serving as a civil servant—while later gradually moving out into the underground and sexual fringes of society.

According to Nemet-Nejat, by the time of Ayhan’s third major collection of poetry, Orthodoxies (1968), he had moved to the streets of Istanbul’s Galata section: “historically both its red light district—of transvestites, girl and boy prostitutes, tattooed roughs, heroin merchants, that is, the unnamed or ‘euphemized’ outcasts of Turkish culture—and the district where minorities—Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Russians, etc—lived.”

The two works that made up the Sun & Moon book, ultimately published in 1997, A Blind Cat Black (which I inexplicably published as >The Blind Cat Black) and Orthodoxies, reveal Ayhan’s spiral out of the social center.

Nemet-Nejat describes the first work as a story of exile “masquerading as an adventure sea romance.” “One has a fairy tale with pirates, treasures, a la Peter Pan, whose child hero does not fly home at the end, but joins the secret and street society of homosexuals: a fairy tale, a misadventure of trauma, shame, torture and rape in deep sea.” Nearly all these elements, for example, are represented in the title poem:

An absent-minded tightrope walker comes. From the sea
of late hours. Blows out a lamp. Lies down next to my weeping
side, for the sake of the prophet. A blind woman downstairs.
Family. She raves in a language I don’t know. On her chest a
heavy butterfly, broken drawers in it. My Aunt Sadness drinks
alcohol in the attic, embroiders. Expelled from many schools.
A blind cat passes in the black street. In its sack a child just
dead. His wings don’t fit, too big. The Old Hawker cries. A
pirate ship. Has entered the port.

Already in this section “the wings don’t fit,” and by the end of the poem the author-hero’s inability to fly away ends in no longer caring, the narrator of the poem hiding “himself in dust with apoplectic kicks.” In a sense, Ayhan seems to be suggesting that it is impossible to be gay, to be a fairy, without the magic possibility of flight:

You don’t understand. Being without wings. And it gets
dark, weeping in the sea of a sea. A child waiting. The sail
boat.

By the time of Orthodoxies, the translator argues, Ayhan was no longer was interested in presenting a center against which his figures were judged, but focused on the word, particularly puns and slang, that made clear that language itself, “part of history, is a trap/tomb, a cribdeath, where the peripheral is buried,” which needed itself to be rejuvenated before the misfit might escape.

In the strange night world of Orthodoxies, even the perpetual sufferer Jonah has escaped the whale only to himself become a dolphin. While he may symbolize, however, a joyful aspect of the community (joy and community both connected with the image of the dolphin), this Jonah is, as Ayhan jests, “A sight. Cruising. Bedecked with holsters, stirrup, harness.” This horsey leather queen combs “his hair in cum water. Then is treated to flowers. A garland of braids. From time to time blinking, with vast hanging earrings.” In this work devoted to questioning notions of “orthodoxy,” (the translator points out that in Turkish the word means not only the holy, pious or virtuous, but also in Turkish slang suggests “whore, homosexual, pederast, betrayer, etc.”) Ayhan asks:

What is an Orthodox lad doing at Maidos? Banged about by
agitation which is after the knowledge of knives.

Along with Gallipoli, Maidos a nearby city to the South, was heavily damaged in the World War I battle of Gallipoli, the Allied assault on the Ottoman Empire—the last great battle of that Empire before being transformed into the Turkish Republic under Atatürk, himself a commander at Gallipoli—which resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 people. The horse imagery associated with this new Jonah is appropriate given that one of the major attacks on the Turks occurred at the Battle of the Nek when The Third Australian Light Horse Brigade futilely attacked, a battle depicted in Peter Wier’s film Gallopoli.

In short, the poet seems to take pleasure in the paradox that out of the Ottoman battle to save the Dardenelles from invasion another being, capable of creating a new world, had been spewn own, like Jonah out of the whale: a preposterous “dolphin,” a sea mammal associated for centuries by sailors with Christ. Accordingly, in Orthodoxies, Ayhan’s figures at least regain, through language, their wings, even if they are only artificial, sad and silver:

She cannot cover the sadness of her silver wings, the Greek
Hag….

Drunk, her world reversed (“Boots in hand and parasol on her feet”), Ayhan’s outcast has , at least, the potential to fly away, to be forgiven or, if nothing else, to pray to be forgiven: “But she does know how to cross herself efficiently with index and third fingers.”

It was with great sadness that I learned of Ece Ayhan Çağlar’s death on July 13th, and I soon after determined to reprint these moving books in my Green Integer series.


Los Angeles, August 15, 2002

Friday, November 14, 2008

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Table of Contents)

The Green Integer Review
Issues Nos. 11-16


Poetry and Fiction
Interviews
Essays and Reviews



The Green Integer Review
Nos. 11-16 (January-December 2008)

Contents


Cyprian Norwid (Poland) [translated by Danuta Borchardt]
Nerves
Larva
The Sphinx


Nick Piombino and Toni Simon (USA)
Three Collages (Simon)
from Contradicta (Piombino)

Ranjit Hoskoté (India)
The Secret Agent
Portrait of an Unknown Master
The Strange Case of Mr Narrative's Reluctance
Platform Directions
The Empire of Lights
The Randomiser's Survival Guide
Still Life


Bruce Andrews (USA)
Dang Me 1
Dang Me 2


Jules Michelet (France) [translated by Katia Sainson]
The Sea as Viewed from Shore from The Sea

Christopher Barnes (Scotland)
Pratfalls of a Lover
Prick-Kicking
Prison Song


Susan Bee (USA)
Four Recent Paintings
Eye of the Storm
Après le Déluge
Happy Anniversary
Blue Ladies


John Wilkinson (England)
Unicorn Bait
Pure Cotton Buds
Bent Double
Dredge Spoils

Dagmar Nick (Germany) [translated by Jim Barnes]
Wild Ride
Realization
Hunting Season
Loss of Sight
What Remains


Douglas Messerli (USA)
You Know What I Mean (on Pina Bausch's Ten Chi and Richard Foreman's
Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland)

Richard Foreman (USA)
Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland

Domício Coutinho (Brazil)
from Duke the Dog Priest

Frances Presley (England)
from Alphabet for Alina
a
f
Lake near Balcombe


Charles Bernstein (USA)
Leaking Truth: British Poetry in the ‘90s

Aida Tsunao [Japan] (translated to Hiro Sato)
As an Experience
Stolen Goods
Andrea

Alistair Noon (England/lives Germany)
The Stop Before the Border
The Lakefarers
The Tin Islands
Filling the Triangle


Ger Killeen (Ireland/lives USA)
Erebus and Terror

Douglas Messerli (USA)
Unusual Appearances in Unexpected Places (on the art show Phantom Sightings)



Important Copyright Note: Please note that the material is this web-site magazine is protected by copyright by the authors and Green Integer. Readers may download material for their private reading purposes only. All material is protected by copyright. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved here, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without permission of both the copyright owners and Green Integer publishers. For further information, please write Green Integer, 6022 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 200A, Los Angeles, California, 90036. Or e-mail me, Douglas Messerli, at douglasmesserli@gmail.com









Friday, November 7, 2008

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Cyprian Norwid)


Cyprian Norwid

XCV
NERWY


Bylem wczora w miejscu, gdzie mra z glodu –
Trumienne izb ogladalem wnetrze;
Noga powinela mi sie u schodu,
Na nieobrachowanym pietrze!

Musial to byc cud – cud to byl,
Ze chwycilem sie belki sprochnialej...
(A gwozdz w niej tkwil,
Jak w ramionach krzyza!...) – uszedlem
caly! -
Lecz unioslem, pol serca – nie wiecej -
Wesolosci?... zaledwo slad!
Pominalem tlum, jak targ bydlecy;
Obmierzl mi swiat...

Musze dzis pojsc do Pani Baronowej,
Ktora przyjmuje bardzo pieknie,
Siedzac na kanapce atlasowej –
Coz? powiem jej...

... Zwierciadlo peknie,
Kandelabry sie skrzywia na realizm,
I wymalowane papugi
Na plafonie – jak dlugi –
Z dzioba w dzob zawolaja: „Socjalizm!”

Dlatego usiade z kapeluszem
W reku –- a potem go postawie
I wroce milczacym faryzeuszem
- Po zabawie.






XCV
NERVES


Yesterday I went to a place where they die of hunger –
Coffin-like chambers to behold;
My foot tripped over a stair,
On an unaccounted floor.

It had to be a miracle – a miracle indeed,
That I grabbed a rotten beam…
(A nail was there, like in the arms
Of the cross…) – I escaped unharmed! -

But I carried off, half a heart – no more -
Of mirth?... merely a trace!
I by-passed, like a cattle mart, a horde;
I’m sick of world’s disgrace…

Today I must visit the Baroness,
Who beautifully entertains,
Sitting on a satin chaise longue -
What? I’ll tell her…
… A mirror will crack,
Candelabras make a wry face at realism,
And painted parrots
On the plafond – as it is long –
From beak to beak will cry: “Socialism!”

Therefore – I’ll sit, hat in hand
Then set it down – and home return
Like a taciturn Pharisee
- When the party’s done.


-trans. Danuta Borchardt







XIII
LARWA


Na sliskim bruku w Londynie,
W mgle - podksiezycowej, bialej -
Niejedna postac cie minie,
Lecz ty ja wspomnisz, struchlaly.

Czolo ma w cierniu? czy w brudzie?
Rozeznac tego nie mozna;
Poszepty z Niebem o cudzie
W wargach... czy? piana bezbozna!...

Rzeklbys, ze to Biblii ksiega
Zataczajaca sie w blocie -
Po ktora nikt juz nie siega,
Iz nie czas myslec o cnocie!...

Rozpacz i pieniadz – dwa slowa –
Lyskaja bielmem jej zrenic.
Skad idzie?... sobie to chowa.
Gdzie idzie?... zapewne - gdzie nic!

Takiej to podobna jedzy
Ludzkosc, co placze dzis i drwi;
- Jak historia?... wie tylko: „krwi!...”
Jak spolecznosc?... - tylko: „pieniedzy!...”

Londyn 1854



XIII
LARVA*


On slippery London pavement
In fog, sub-lunar, white -
Many a creature will pass by,
You’ll remember her, terrified.

Her brow in thorns? or filth?
With certainty one cannot tell:
Are these whispers of miracles
On her lips… or? spume from hell?...

You’d say, that book’s the Bible
Rolling thus in slime -
No one ever reaches for it,
Nor is it - virtue’s time!...

Despair and money - two words -
Flash in her web-covered eyes,
Whence comes she?... only she knows,
Where goes she?... where nothing is!

Such is Mankind - a witch-like crud
That weeps today and finds things funny;
-Its history?... knows only: “blood!...”
Its institutions?... only: “money!...”

London, 1854
-Trans. by Danuta Borchardt


*This relates to larva in Latin: specter, mask, but also to something evolving as in biological larva.

Born in 1821, Norwid is considered one of the major Polish poets of the 19th century, a poet of the second generation of Romantics. After a tragic life, he died in Paris in 1883.

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Nick Piombino and Toni Simon)







Nick Piombino and Toni Simon
from Contradicta


Acceptance of uncertainty won't banish every qualm but unreasonable demands for certitude will make doubt a steady companion.

&

Not all information is beneficial. Cultivating a taste for not knowing some things may make for a better day

*

Worries are daydreams without legs, or, worry is the caterpillar, daydream the butterfly.

&

Joy is the giant, sadness the shadow


*

What writing begins only commitment to a point of view completes.

&

Talk opens a possibility to listening, listening to understanding, understanding to insight, insight to change. But anywhere along the line the chain might break.

*
Strength is as important for love as kindness since it is as crucial to challenge the neglect of those whose love we want as it is to challenge our own neglect of those who want our love.

&

Perhaps before photography, prior to the omnipresence of the pose, people looked—and therefore felt—more like themselves.




Look back—it's always the same. One more moment and you would have found it.

&

If you haven't asked a question, you haven't said anything.


____
Copyright ©2008 by Nick Piombino

Author of Poems, The Boundary of Blur, and fait accompli, Nick Piombino lives in Brooklyn, N. Y. Green Integer will publish his and Toni Simon's Contradicta in early 2009.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

GREEN INTEGER REVIEW, NOS. 11-16 (Bruce Andrews)

Bruce Andrews / Photo by Larry Bremner

Bruce Andrews

Dang Me

1.


Memories don’t even need language to be false. Luna park astro density — a deflatulent neighborly cranial busride, an abridged jitney, a swerve shocks skeezier sublunar underkill dose wobble gato muttonskin chrysalis monks on acid: vocational turtle-like dissonance. True-to-life means: let somebody else deal with it. Windowless cubicle silencing the spoiled & soft — pompano, glamour fish? — dizzier medfly tutus for trogs, penny diapers, sunset divas, intimate afterburners — fractal but late. Hypnosis victims impersonating our police — archeo- eerie calm lagniappe podunk saltlick mambo daikon gee-gaw slod — who loves the crude puffed-up ephemera.
Prehabiliation. Stereopticon valuepak, merrier & merrier demerits. Eventually it stains little boyblue with smack-sights, a real bowwow browser semi-human rocks on victorian lava flow atop the steak, diving for gravy. Partygoers at trough axis lava plug itinerary mudpies’ acumen fragrance despondent per flower bot — replace little smudge with big smudge. The dismantling species, a groove makes it stick an endless flow of kid stuff; zero oomph, zero charisma, swallow it. A variorum skyscape missing telemetry, gooier & stuck on decalomanic hornet, dervish belief in ceilings.
POV shit syringe immaculata, genetic halftrack matter doubles back oldies’ shiner run-off; whirligig axis tussle ogling purses naughty rubdown puckering the solstice — exo-perp iconage, a hydraheaded vishnu of unfocus teledeportation losing my semblance gazebo, you silly goose. Exhale astrophysically, overfund a secondary eruption. What’s fucking of its opaque dazzle me on & off again, impetuous as whiplash divinity with a driver’s license.




Dang Me
2.


The only formal values are gothic spy rape imp text apology. EDITRIAGE — can we retard some lettering, adjectivally yak dung sling mike flapping your squishy pre-paradigm wings to be blownup the dashes. Ipso vario touché tips televisory supra- as ever — dizzy meditative bitterness, a little scarier, post-sub stead fast transactional spewing the bother whose doubts you’re pushing so better things are misunderstood. Incommensurate common sense mergered prehab scab entitlement — no, honey, narrative — verbs stack up, shimmy oblong bounce on stats that holler duelling thanatoids’ pocketbook. Microscuzzy, an impromptu crispier victory the literate sell upwind to render fat a workable skillset bobbing for affables. Checkpoint pindrop sense eases off suggestive beehive lessons to thug what webs would completely brazenly dubious not quite so & so in trouble completely... logic, that stoolie alert con rehab. Chilly me, acetylene [torch] that thought. Fetishize the splay proof goggles.
Unorthodox silly jelly boggle swathe a million toxic outtakes whose kicking around got the paradox jitters. Muzzle the re-unthought murky creativity think about diffidence quote like flapjack differently: the rational really got hammered. Just to bend it far back enough, infidels’ perforation gone mad scours the kiss-off a little more kick pops up — compulsive secrets all bunched up smuggling the catfight. Plutopraxis another follow-spot on your shadow buddy remy pap smear on classroom overhead projector. The church of not looking out nothing, that constructed fuck; here we go again — an airless abstractness qualm assay grizzly transience shook me bagging your mental groceries. Vampire plays breath organ waltz into lack of meaning, rack-mounted subliminal messages ascend to pre-op, the contempo prevaricaters boffing the dictionate entitlement with a thank you note. Lemon-squeezing daddy, syllables get up & jitterbug. How much are the unsubliminal message units... are they cheaper?


___

Copyright ©2008 by Bruce Andrews
As well as a number of essays, Andrews has published about forty books of poetry, either on his own or in collaboration with other writers. These include I Don't Have Any Paper So Shut Up (Or, Social Romanticism) (1992) and Ex Why Zee: Performance Texts, Collaborations with Sally Silvers, Word Maps, Bricolage & Improvisation (1995). Designated Heartbeat (Salt Publishing) and Swoon Noir (Chax Press, 2007) brings Andrews well into the 21st century. Also of note, recent projects (and e-reprints of earlier publications) are also appearing on-line.

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Jules Michelet)


Jules Michelet
The Sea as Viewed from Shore / from
The Sea

A brave Dutch sailor, a steady and cool observer, who has spent his life on the sea, says firmly that the first impression that one has of it, is one of fear. For any terrestrial being, water is the unbreathable, asphyxiating element. It is the fatal and eternal barrier, which irreversibly separates two worlds. It should come as no surprise that the enormous mass of water that we call the sea, whose profound depth remains unknown and obscure, has always appeared formidable to the human imagination.


Orientals see it as none other than a bitter chasm—the Night of the Abyss. In all the ancient languages, in those of India and of Ireland, the term for sea is synonymous or analogous to the desert and the night.

It is with great sorrow that every night we see the sun—the world’s joy and father of all life—sink into and be engulfed by the waves. The world and especially the West mourn it daily. And although we see this spectacle every day, it holds the same power over us; it has the same melancholic effect.

When diving into the sea to a certain depth, one is quickly deprived of light and enters a twilight where only a single color persists—a sinister red. Then, even that disappears and total darkness descends. It is absolute darkness, except perhaps for certain extraordinary phosphorescent phenomena. Immense in its expanse, enormous in its depth, this mass, which extends over the majority of the globe, seems a world of obscurity. Above all, this is what unnerved and intimidated the earliest men. It was believed that life ceased where there was an absence of light and that with the exception of its surface layers, the rest of the sea’s unfathomable depths, its bottom (if an abyss has a bottom), was a black lonely expanse. There, lay only arid sand and stones, along with bones and debris, so many lost goods that this miserly element is constantly taking and never returns, and which are jealously hidden in the deep treasury of shipwrecks.

Seawater does not offer a reassuring transparency. Unlike the engaging nymph of springs or of crystal-clear fountains, this water is dark and heavy. It strikes hard. To venture into the sea is to feel strongly transported. It is true that seawater helps the swimmer but it also controls him, he feels like a weak child, cradled by a powerful hand that could just as well crush him.

Once a boat is adrift, who knows where a sudden wind and an irresistible current can carry it? Thus, northern fishermen, in spite of themselves, found polar America and returned with terror-filled accounts about a mournful Greenland. Every nation has its stories, its tales about the sea. Homer and The Arabian Nights preserve for us much of this frightening lore: the reefs and storms; doldrums that are no less deadly where one dies of thirst while surrounded by water; man-eaters; sea-monsters; leviathans; krakens and great sea serpents. “The land of fear,” as the desert is known, could have also been used to designate the great maritime desert. The boldest of sailors, the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, the conquering Arabs who wanted to annex the world, enticed by stories about the land of the Hesperides with all its gold, went beyond the Mediterranean, set off on the great sea, but soon they stopped. The dark line eternally shrouded in clouds, which they encountered before reaching the equator, filled them with awe. They stopped. They said: “This is the Sea of Darkness.” And they returned home. “It would be impious to violate this sanctuary. Woe to anyone who follows his sacrilegious curiosity! On the last islands, we saw a giant, a menacing figure who said: Don’t go any further.”

These rather childlike fears of the old world are no different than the obvious emotions of a neophyte or a simple person who having come from the interior suddenly catches sight of the sea. Anyone, who has had this sudden unexpected surprise, feels the same way. Animals are visibly disturbed by it. Horses are uneasy even at ebb tide, when the water, which is weary and weak, drags sluggishly along the shore. They shudder and often refuse to walk through the languid waves. Dogs back away and bark, in their own way reviling the waves that they fear. They never make peace with this dubious and seemingly hostile element. According to one traveler, the dogs of the Kamchatka peninsula who are used to this spectacle are nonetheless frightened and irritated by it. In large packs by the thousands, over long nights, they howl at the roaring waves furiously fighting to the bitter end with this northern sea.

The melancholic course of the rivers of northwest France, the vast sands of the Midi, or the heaths of Brittany, act as the Ocean’s vestibule, a natural introduction that prepares us for its impact. This intermediate region that heralds the sea strikes anyone approaching by these routes. Along these rivers, is an infinite wasteland of bulrushes, willows and other plants, which with the intermingling of increasingly brackish water, eventually become marine plants. Before reaching the sea, the heath is a preliminary sea of low rough grasses, ferns and heather. At a distance of one or two leagues, you notice scrawny, sickly, grimacing trees that herald by their bearing—I am tempted to say by their strange gestures—the proximity of the great tyrant and its oppressive breath. If their roots didn’t hold them down, it is obvious that they would flee. They look down at the ground and turn their back to the enemy. On the verge of retreat, they seem disconcerted and frenzied. They bend down, bowing to the ground, and for lack of a better solution, as they stand fixed there, they contort themselves in the stormy winds. Still elsewhere, tree trunks becomes small and they endlessly extend their branches horizontally. On the beaches, trees are overcome and engulfed by the fine dust given off by fragmented shells. Their pores close up. They lack air. They suffocate but conserve their form and remain there as trees of stone, as ghosts of trees, as gloomy ever-present shadows, as captives even in death.

Well before catching sight of the sea, one hears her and therefore begins to imagine this formidable character. At first, it is a far off sound, muted and unchanging. Then little by little all other noises yield to her and are subsumed. Soon, one notices the solemn alternating and unvarying return of the same loud and deep note that increasingly rumbles and roars. The oscillation of a clock’s pendulum measuring out time is not as regular in comparison. And yet, there is nothing monotonously mechanical about this pendulum. In the case of the sea, we feel or we believe that we feel the vibrant intonations of life. In fact, at high tide when one wave—immense and electric—rises above another, the sound of shells and of thousands of diverse creatures brought in with the tide mixes with the stormy rumble of the waters. A murmur at ebb tide makes it clear that long with the sands, the waves are reclaiming a world of loyal tribes that the sea gathers to her breast.

And the sea has still other voices! When she is emotional, the sea’s moan and deep sighs contrast with the silence of the mournful shore. In fact, the shore seems to be quietly meditating, in order better to hear the threats coming from the one who just yesterday was flattering it with a caressing wave. What will the sea be telling the shore next? I do not want to predict. I do not want to speak here of the frightful concerts that the sea may give, of her duets with the rocks, of the basses and the muffled thunder that she produces deep inside the caves, nor the astonishing cries in which one thinks one hears: “Rescue me!”… No, let’s examine the sea in her so solemn days, when she is strong but not violent. It should come as no surprise that, when confronting this sphinx, both children and ignoramuses have always exhibited a stunned admiration—not so much pleasure but fear. As for the rest of us, from many perspectives, the sea is still a great enigma.

What is her true size? It is greater than that of the earth, we are certain of that. On the surface of the globe, water is the rule land is the exception. But what is their relative proportion? Water makes up four-fifths of the globe. This is the most probably theory. Others have suggested two-thirds or three-fourths. It is difficult to say for certain. Landmass increases and decreases. It is a work in progress. This part rises and that one sinks down. Certain polar lands that have been discovered and mapped by one sailor can no longer be found on a later trip. Elsewhere, countless islands, immense reefs of madrepores and coral are formed, rise up and upset our sense of geography.

The depth of the sea is even more of an unknown than her area. The first few soundings, which have only recently been attempted, have proved unreliable.

The small and daring liberties that we take on the surface of this indomitable element—our boldness in sailing over this deep unknown—do not amount too much, and can do nothing to diminish the sea’s rightful pride. In fact, she remains inscrutable and impenetrable. We are just now beginning to learn for certain about what we imagine is a prodigious world, filled with life, war, love and varied works moving within her. But the moment we penetrate the sea, we can hardly wait to get out of this foreign element. If we need the sea, she has no need for us. She manages perfectly well without Man. Nature does not seem to care to have us as a witness. This is God’s exclusive domain.

This element, which we perceive as fluid, ever moving, and capricious, does not really change. It is the embodiment of regularity. Man is the one who is constantly changing. Tomorrow, man’s body—which, according to Berzelius, is four-fifths water—will have evaporated. In the presence of the great immutable powers of nature, this ephemeral apparition has every reason to dream. No matter his well-founded hope that his immortal soul will live in eternity, Man is nonetheless saddened by his frequent deaths and by the crises which break at each moment of life. The sea seems to prevail over him. Each time that we approach the sea, it seems that she says from the depth of her immutability: “Tomorrow you pass away but I never will. Your bones will be in the ground, and, over the centuries, they will decompose. Majestic and indifferent, I will continue the great, perfectly-balanced life which hour after hour, reconciles me harmoniously with the life of far away worlds.”

On the violent beaches where the sea, twice daily, snatches stones away from the cliffs, then throws them back, dragging them along with a sinister sound like a ball and chain, this humiliating contrast is exposed in a deeply distressing and scornful way. At first, every young imagination pictures the sea as a war or a battle, and is frightened. But then, having observed that this fury has limits beyond which it may not venture, the reassured child feels hate rather than fear for this wild and seemingly resentful entity. And, in turn, the child throws stones at this great roaring enemy.

I observed this duel in Le Havre in July 1831. A young girl that I had brought there in the presence of the sea summoned up her young courage, becoming indignant at such defiance. She met the sea head on. This lopsided struggle between the delicate hand of a fragile creature and the frightful force that hardly noticed her made one smile. But the laughter did not last, when one realized what a short life this beloved child would have and when contemplating her ephemeral weakness, in the presence of this tireless eternity that will recapture us all. This was one of my first times gazing at the seas. There were my reveries that were marred by the all-too accurate omen that this struggle between the sea, which I am gazing upon again today, and that child whom I can no longer behold, inspired.

—Translated from the French by Katia Sainson



___
English language Copyright ©2008 by Katia Saison. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.

Refusing to swear allegiance to the regime of Emperor Louis Napoleon, the great French naturalist Jules Michelet (1798–1874) turned his attention to a study of the natural world, which he published in several volumes. La Mer (The Sea), one of the best of these, is part prose poem, travelogue, and autobiography, which influenced such notables as Jules Verne and was the subject of studies by Roland Barthes and others. Green Integer will publish The Sea in early 2009).

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Christopher Barnes)


Christopher Barnes

Praftfalls of a Lover

He clots under my snuggling, squirms,
False light on dazed feet.

He’s a hobby-horse to twitter
Wagnerian bravura
With an at-a-loss voice
In a beer garden shut off into details
By slogan-crusted screens;
Conceit fills the bill
Of the illusionist.

Instead, a rodent-rash beard chafes
In the vacancy of a thunder-clap gallery.



Prick-kicking


Trotting out in postures (oh love!)
We were reptiles before the storm.
In stop-gaps our clucks mood-fluxed.
(Oh hate!) We’re still antipodes
To unserviceable hogwash.

With tight outness of front,
Stupefying apple pie order,
You ringleadered hissing counterplots,
The breath of revenge.

Heart-grates, head-gnaws,
Cramps in the throat.
“Throttle him!”



Prison Song


After making love
To me
Write luffing notes
To your wife,
Hum, caged bird.

Rephrasing lyrics
Tune evaporates
In its own heat
Touchless as wind.

Lost now
Tinkling murk for clues
A trumpet-eared Miles Davis
Of the sky.

Time’s insomnia,
Rugged cell.
Beat its declaration
Loosing moments,
Oxygen.


____
Copyright ©2008 by Christopher Barnes

Christopher Barnes is a British poet, born in Scotland, who in 1998 won a Northern Arts writers award. He has published extensively, including the publication of a book, Lovebites, and has poems recorded by the South Bank Centre in London. Each year he participates in Proudwords lesbian and gay festival. In 2003 he read at the Edinburgh Festival as a Per Verse poet.

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Susan Bee, Four Recent Paintings)

Eye of the Storm, 2007, 48 x 51", oil on linen.
Après le Deluge (2006, 48 x 60") (detail)

Happy Anniversary (2006, 16 x 12")


Blue Ladies (2006, 11 x 14")


___
Paintings copyright ©2008 by Susan Bee

Susan Bee is a painter, editor, and book artist living in NYC. Bee has had four solo shows at A.I.R. Gallery in NYC. She is co-editor of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists Writings, Theory, and Criticism (Duke, 2000) and co-edits M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online. Granary Books has published six of her artist's books, including The Burning Babe and Other Poems by Jerome Rothenberg, A Girl’s Life with Johanna Drucker, Little Orphan Anagram with Charles Bernstein, and Bed Hangings with Susan Howe. She teaches in the School of Visual Arts MFA in Art Criticism and Writing program. Her website is:
http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/bee

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (John Wilkinson)


John Wilkinson
UNICORN BAIT


There is no I except the I I will allow.
You will not hide your face except I hide it. I
know you want to spill what you withhold.
I & you will make a team, triumphant team,
I hold your truths –

team unicorn.
Except I hide your face it will not hide.
I hold your truths, a team you want to spill,
except what you withhold, triumphant I
you made. I will allow I know there is no I

but in her lap this cornet,
this burning weapon.

There is no I except the lapping I-face.









PURE COTTON BUDS



Over this channel, sharp pain
crosses & retreats
[opening the channel.
[And again.
Then painlessly the channel silts & binds.
Pain rages back,
unbinds earth by drilling wormways,
[opening the channel.
Yes I hear you

spreading out this murk to desiccate
on hot sheets.
Mud-flats would be thin but apt to clarify,
mud-flats would bind like silicate,
[glistering,
pathways are exposed across the trellis,
earth’s blade-shuttled breast
[yields
what might soothe, if pilotless –
I know your voice.
[I see the condensation.
I was thought to have been condensed.
Stretching, it feels, could be my specific.
[Anchor off. Reverse in.






BENT DOUBLE



‘Sometimes I feel my shadow’s casting me’
[an excruciated stick
bent double.
Or would shadow cast its body backwards,
[improvise
the past for form’s sake, back-story cast ahead
shuttered eyeball
[snapped a bench, a waiting room,
disassembling the cross-bar, leant it parallel,
[elbow hinge
jutting through the window,
[a braceleted one ankle,
one stuck out his neck, he wrote blood-hyphens
from his nipple to their biopsy,
evidence adds up,
time to collapse it like a white stick. Maybe
what befell him
[needs this load-bearing bracket,
so we launch
Plan B to cover every angle, like the one
splayed submissively,
[shook the flimsy
door stove in, worked a towering rage,
[else careened
through every group of the lobed for the mislaid
piece that cannot be restored
[even when correct
in every lesion, every nick. The template
shakes himself then more aggressively shakes apart.
Needs must take it on,
[needs must,
in wreckage of such nullity, damage
of denial. Small growers seal confederacy,
corn harvest hurries,
[drowned villas bob
& iron wings flap torridly on sidewalks;
a lens pulls one together but his monstrous wings
tug prosaically at his lapels,
letting him down to earth in bloody chunks.
[Speech casts its speaker
forward: Kick the traces over!
Though in his previous form, which must be under-
played, dot dot dot, a flying toilet
smashed the roof,
[gaped the frontage. Wipe
that stupid character off your face,
move your hand away.
[Your big foot
crushed Versailles, the Petit Trianon.
[Locked gardens
possibly flourish
[in your forward lee. You’re pissing away
the ice cap. Set your stamp.
[The hungry cars couple, couple...
What rides on each outing?
Puts away each shot glass?
Tugs at these lips?
[Diminutive arrows sew them, they smart,
a cloak is cast off the stand & I re-occupy it.















DREDGE SPOILS


O brother detainee. Within his middle nest
extremities, its soft régime does it not spool
surreptitious thread from a cinched
O, plucked & drawn with due diligence,

the mortal truth. No clue beyond the cell’s
walls, what you wrest springs back on
glugging reels. Pipe-work festoons
round a hingeless mouth then floods

O, with what you need to know
pumped back & forth, words volunteer
their transcript, cell to cell,
floating sticky webs play out.
How the downy nest’s hissing startles,
snaps at morsels
snaps at catechisers
caught amidst blowflies,
O, the tainted middle
yields to the touch,
sockets that disgorge will not stop at this,
it is the mortal truth flows dying.





Please note: Since blog pages generally bring all lines quad left, I have noted
tabs with the brackets sign. If someone, well acquainted with HTML codes might help me enter tabs in these poems, please do contact Douglas Messerli.
_____
Copyright ©2008 by John Wilkinson

Born in London in 1953, John Wilkinson grew up on the Cornish coast on Dartmoor and endured a number of boarding schools. He read English at Cambridge, followed by graduate work at Cambridge and Harvard Universities. Among his several books of poetry are Proud Flesh, Bones of Contention, Stages Along the Lichway, The Nile, Flung Clear, Sarn Helen, Effigies Against the Light, Signs of an Intruder, Iphigenia, and Lake Shore Drive. In 2005 he moved to the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, as Poet in Residence at the Keough Institute for Irish Studies, and teaches both literature and creative writing for the English Department.

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Dagmar Nick)

Dagmar Nick
Dagmar Nick
Wild Ride

With Cybele’s tamed lions
I run away,
a torch at our backs, perhaps
a town of ashes,
forgotten names.
Deserts sink behind us,
ships sink in the gulf
and the human sacrifices
on the shores, where long ago
the Levite—I hear it still—
challenged
the indivisible God.

Centuries old
Finally I can afford to give
full rein, throwing myself
out into full gallop,
until in the distance the mountains
burst open before me,
and let me through to that place
where none questions me
about the passage, about the future,
about myself.






Realization

No veto against love.
Under the sun
the battlefields rest
in beds of flowers, bulwarks
and weapons buried
as though we had
never suffered a scratch.
What shall happen to us
even now when
autumn already
settles brown flecks
down on our hands? Time
is not enough for defeat.
We will accept a few gashes:
but they scarcely
will heal.



Hunting Season

Now in November,
when my house leaves me,
my tousled bedding
hangs on the branches;
when my books,
written upon cobwebs,
are blown away and my neighbors,
goldfinch and chiffchaff,
are migrating, now
in the glittering nights
when you all believe I am freezing,
I heat up my heart and go
hunting,
hunting under the shield of Orion.
I borrow from him
a starry eye and his sword
and let the winter
leap over the blade
in one bound.




Loss of Sight

You place seeds of the poppy
on my eyes. The black
stamins take root
in my optic nerve. Why then,
my God, while I
love the brightness
and the blackness
only in the high-pitched flash
of the swift,
unattainable in the light, why
this darkness
without sleep?



What Remains

So what if not all
of you from top to toe—

a small part of your
brightness I will keep,
just enough that
the shadowy walls of morning
become transparent, a
door of light springs open
behind which I see you:
your head inclined
to the side, motionless,
diaphanous,
an epiphany. My love.


—Translated from the German by Jim Barnes

____
German language copyright ©Dagmar Nick; English language translations ©2008 by Jim Barnes

Dagmar Nick is a Munich writer who is widely known in Europe. Her books of poetry include Summons and Sign and Numbered Days (Truman State University Press), both translated by Jim Barnes. The former won The Translation Prize from the Translation Center (Columbia University). The poems included here are from her book Im Stillstand der Stunden (Hours at Standstill).
Jim Barnes' latest book of poetry is Visiting Picasso (University of Illinois Press).

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Messerli on Bausch and Foreman)

from Pina Bausch's "Ten Chi"
from Pina Bausch's "Ten Chi"

scene from Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland


Douglas Messerli
You Know What I Mean

Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal Ten Chi, Royce Hall, UCLA / the performance I
saw was on Sunday, November 11, 2007
Richard Foreman Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland, The Ontological-Hysteric
Theater, St. Marks Church, New York / the performance I saw was opening night,
January 23, 2008


Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater’s “Ten Chi,” begins promisingly enough, the stage featuring a sculptural con-ception of what appears to be a frozen whale or, at least, a whale frozen in space half in and half out of white ocean. For the first half of the work, Bausch’s dancers alternate with graceful lifts—in which the women performers such as Azusa Seyama, held parallel to the stage, appear to swim along with the whale—and dreamlike movements and verbal skits, including Metchild Grossman’s comic query of the front-row audience members whether or not they snore. The alternating currents of water-and-wave-like movements and the dream-like occurrences—including a shower of seemingly never-ending snow—create what appears to be a significant context for Chi, the metaphysical life forces which are promised as “exercises” in the second act.



Yet gradually, what might have been interwoven into a moving testament to contrary cultural experiences increasingly comes to be represented in cabaret-like sketches: the usurpation of a corner of woman’s dress as a male’s napkin, a man cavorting in a long evening gown. And differing cultural experiences grow into more like “Saturday Night Live” satires of Japanese stereotypes: a woman teaches others how to properly bow, another gives a rendering of standardized Western images of Japan through a comic extension of the consonants of words such as Mount Fuji, samurai, sushi, etc. Another skit satirizes the Japanese love of the camera; as on-line reviewer Paul Ben-Itzak commented on The Dance Insider: “Do we really need another comic riff on the snapshot-crazy Japanese…?” A dancer of Asian heritage attempts to tell the audience they are now free to leave since the performance is over; as the audience remains frozen in place, she repeatedly returns, with Geisha-like graciousness, to convey the seriousness of her statements: “Oh, I so sorry, very sorry. I understand,” she reports, “you think I joking with you, you think when I say you may go now, I am really saying you should stay…”—and in other words to that effect.



Instead of gradually attempting to unveil the mysteries of the life-forces of things, Bausch’s dancers turn what began as a cultural exchange on its head, ultimately reverting to all things European rather than Asian. Finally, as these skits gasp into increasingly unfunny comic routines and movements (a dancer punching a miked pillow, three men with Eraserhead hair dancing steps similar to those of street-dancing and hip-hop) the entire performance seems to collapse. Almost as if to redeem the utterly disconnected movements of “Chi,” Bausch pulls out the stops, forcing her talented company, one by one, to repeatedly run from every corner of the stage and nearby doors as they dance a maddened frenzy of athletic (and one must admit, often quite joyfully engaging) movements. Perhaps that is enough: certainly the audience at UCLA’s Royce Hall thought it sufficient to give a long and rousing ovation, not one of the usually hurried California audience members dashing from the theater to claim his car!



What most irritated me about Bausch’s (and her dancer’s work, since her theater is a collaborative affair) was that while the work suggested it might attend to one of the most substantial differences between the East and West, focusing on the Asian idea that each thing in the world has its own energy and life-force, “Ten Chi” seemed to indicate that any “superficial differences” the cultures experience are merely something at which to laugh: what we know, they know, and any seeming incomprehension is unimportant.



Perhaps Bausch might have done well to attend the premier, as I did, of Richard Foreman’s stunningly complex new play, “Deep Trance Behavior in Potatoland.” Foreman also works closely with his company in creating the work. But as in his many previous plays, what may seem funny or what might have been transformed to shtick instead becomes representative of the profound differences between all of us, between what you mean by enacting any of the thousand of ritualistic movements you daily employ and those I enact.



Working, like Bausch, through a grant from Japan (and, in this case, England) Foreman this time around incorporated film along with the myriad of ritualistic actions of his on-stage cast. While his actors engage in rites that readily mix the proceedings of a Masonic meeting with those of a highly traditional Jewish ceremony, a troupe of piano playing magicians with the bizarre visions of mediums in mid-séance (a number of the images from the Metropolitan Museum of Art show “The Imperfect Medium [a show I reviewed in My Year 2005] line the walls of the stage set), the figures upon screen take us through equally obscure rituals of behavior in Japanese and English schools.



Just as Bausch’s title suggests an engagement with Japanese culture, so too does Foreman’s film, beginning with its first image: the words “GO TO JAPAN.” Indeed, throughout the film we are engaged with various scenes from Japan and England; yet while the Japanese speak English, the English girls say very little and do a great many strange things. At one point the English women all wear paper hats, another English girl wears an eyepatch, several girls pretend to sneeze, “Kachoo.” At one point a male voice sings “Me and my shadow,” while the words on screen proclaim: “English people are afraid.”



The English-speaking Japanese figures, however, are even more perplexing. Again and again, in heavy and occasionally almost impenetrable Japanese accents, the students of Japan proclaim their ability to be understood by the New York audience:

Japanese Man: “you understand me immediately when I say, everything is a
Reminding. Knock, knock, knock

A short while later:

Japanese Woman: “I understand you immediately when I say”

(in letters) “resonance inside this…..
…..personal belief system”

A few minutes later:

Japanese Man: “I understand immediately when you say I too”

A short time after that:

Japanese boy: “you understand me immediately when I say this real speaking,
i.e. What, not what.”

A final example:

Japanese girl: “I understand you immediately, when I say tick tock. I am here,
Tick Tock. Proof. Tick Tock.”




Time and again in Foreman’s world, while we do somewhat comprehend or we get glimmers, at least, of meaning, we very much do not understand what the other precisely means; we recognize that we are leaping to conclusions, desperately attempting to link words and acts that, in truth, do not provide easy access.



But while we may often laugh or smile at those nearly incomprehensible words and acts, at no time do we perceive these as anything but serious attempts to communicate arising from real—if private or hermetic—systems of belief. Foreman’s scenes are not skits, but references to the impossibility of truly connecting, as the film says, what’s on the screen and what’s on the stage (at one point a male voice declares: “No relationship exists between what happens on stage and what is happening on the illuminated screen….”). Yet any intelligent playgoer/filmgoer can only try to link things, a phenomenon Foreman clearly celebrates: “No relationship exists…but suddenly click….and a profound relationship does now exist click.”



Rather than the kind of superficial internationalism given voice in Bausch’s work, Foreman’s complex interweaving of American, English, and Japanese experiences reveals the wonderful element of the unknowable, that which even as we attempt to comprehend, remains inscrutable—the hidden relationships of culture and self. As the words on his screen indicate:

ONLY BEING
A TOURIST
CAN ONE
EXPERIENCE
A PLACE


—words which might be easily morphed into another aphorism: “Only being a tourist can one experience another.”



Instead of laughing at cultural or personal differences, all those immutable separations between one another, Foreman encompasses them, joyfully celebrating these differences while enjoining us still to attempt the connect: click! –Not the sound of a camera, in this case, but of the mind coming to terms with the world about.

Los Angeles, Easter day 2008

THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Frances Presley)


Frances Presley


a

apple a pull a tree a lina
leans her aap pull an apple an
ape sun ap rise across a cross be
tween cox and box her sunset keep
her kept such red to last such red to read


a tart start heart wood this year
the sun gone set or unripe apples
for supermarkets not my favourite
checks to come and live in caravans
pays less than factory work leaf eaters


whose apples who eats this
apple do not snow white do not
white out my reading burst let her
breathe let her choose between apple
and mirror of the apple her s/own character




f

foot is her fooolling falter
and halter the nymph made heifer
traced with her hoof the two letters
formed her name IO she has the gift an
alphabet a voice in figures found her father

my initials always to be found
in footpaths forget to think in feet
the farmer his monosyllabic Fergus son
accused of being footloose this is my ped
ometer the foot will always find its rhythm

not the trailing heifer but
the blind horse Bayard’s fleet
leap between one and two which
Ford traverses so slowly a measure of
verge the grass hidden hoof indecipherable



from Alphabet for Alina




Lake Near Balcombe


My my geese goose steps known partial harvester pacified endless landing strips broken off into the water I am into the water halter divides following the herd makes staged landing into the forgetfulness the protest new landings new arrivals machine combing the harvest arriving sense turning the harvest supper they do not want no idea of the harvest no connection with the lands

looking out to ducks the leading flotilla sucked out across the lake there is no harvest to be brought in except with machine and she was expected to stay and help out in the school and sitting on benches which were too hard are too hard hold hard shard of delivery cow slope slip black and white do not disturb the reflection he said do not disturb this perfect description of a duck mirrored on a perfect lake and it could be any machine any machine noise behind the trees what is left to take? There are sheep which cannot be moved even to slaughter at 7 a.m. they are used to eating grass on Romney Marsh they are not used to hay little spider descending – did I brush too hard

the hay is not used to descending descending ducks descending engine roost peacefully cannot be taken even to slaughter they have to go west we are talking of a million sheep

they are circling blue tongue brown tongue it’s midges this is global this is warming the insect busy on the page blow it off more easily

3 October 2007

_____
Copyright ©2008 by Frances Presley

Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire in 1952, of English and Dutch-Indonesian parents, Frances Presley spent her childhood in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and finally in Somerset. She studied poetry for a year in the US at Franklin & Marshall College, and received her M.A. from the University of Sussex. In 1980 she moved to London to work as a librarian, later specializing in research and information for community development and women’s issues. She now works part time for the national Poetry Library. Among her books of poetry are The Sex of Art, Hula Hoop, Linocut, Automatic Cross Stitch, Paravane: New and Selected Poems 1996-2003, and Myne: new and selected poems and prose 1976-2005
, published by Shearsman.



THE GREEN INTEGER REVIEW Nos. 11-16 (Charles Bernstein on British Poetry)


Charles Bernstein
Leaking Truth: British Poetry in the 90s


I wrote this note in the early 1990s for Sulfur, where it was first published (#35, 1994). While the information is fundamentally outdated, the poets discussed, and the fault lines noted, may remain of current interest.



Can you do no better than recite
what is heaped from old endeavor?
I would be there if language
had not split me, if salesmen
had not drawn me, self-clutching
on a pedestal imparadised, a mile
from the floor of workday seams.
It, they, set my breasts too high
and I bully you, a corner of worship
in my heart, unable to trust the lyric voice
as other than headed notepaper,
clangily portentous like the brass flock
on Assurance Hill. How I yearn,
in amnesia almost, for the landed age
which accompanies the label,
for strong-lined verses
that are more than tropes, less than gush.
— Gavin Selerie, from Roxy (in 10 British Poets)


Robert von Hallberg is probably right that mainstream poetry in the U.S can be characterized as a "suburban" poetry of accommodation and adjustment. Recently, reading over dozens of mostly little press books and magazines from the U.K., I was struck, as I have been many times before, by the tenacity and resourcefulness of so much contemporary British poetry outside the mainstream in resisting both accommodation and adjustment. — Some of these "alternative" poetries seem to desire nothing less than a new aestheticism achieved by means of a newly forming eloquence. Others of these poetries are resisting, with great energy and immense formal brilliance, the very aesthetic categories through which English poetry has traditionally been valued.

Information about the alternative directions in contemporary U.K. poetry is difficult to come by. For a number of years, I compiled a list of new U.K. poetry publications for the now discontinued Segue Distributing catalog and in this way was able to keep in touch with some of the currents in the work. On a recent trip to England I was able to pick up additional material, only to realize how much more I had missed — how much the intense cultural differences between the U.S. and the U.K make it easy, despite shared words and formal concerns, to miss crucial social and class contexts as well as unstated assumptions. Types of class antagonisms and gender prerogatives are played out in the alternative poetry scenes in the U.K. in ways that are more marked, and dispiriting, than in the U.S. (where class and "society" values nonetheless play a crucial legitimating function for official verse culture). Certainly it is striking how many current collections and anthologies of alternative British poetry include few or virtually no women. At the same time, a particular range of aesthetic procedures seems to be propped up by a patrician decorum and Oxbridge authoritativeness that barely covers over the thematic renunciation of these values.

Indeed, the margins, in the U.K. and in the U.S., are cohabited by quite disparate (and often desperate!) factions — not only poets committed to open and new forms but also those with a tenacious commitment to an unobtainable lyric, a sort of sprung voice that takes on a religious quality at times. This may help to explain why some poets, ostensibly dedicated to alternative poetics, display a corrosive dismissiveness toward exploratory works that are radically skeptical of the rhetorical grounding of both sprung and traditional lyricism. In Britain, one senses that a struggle for the right to poetry is taking place far outside the corridors of official verse culture and, indeed, that all parties to this struggle are subject to a level of establishment abuse well beyond that experienced in the U.S. Mandarins at the margins can produce poetry that is quite poignant in its eloquent straining, but it becomes delusory when this straining achieves a monopoly on value — when the partiality of this, as any, poetic project is refused in deference to a belief in the truth of what is no more than the work's own self-imploding (or self-creating) diction. — In this context, the range and power such poets as Maggie O'Sullivan, Tom Raworth, Allen Fisher, Denise Riley, Tom Leonard, and Bill Griffiths seems all the more remarkable and compelling.



The New British Poetry: 1968-88, ed. Gillian Allnutt, Fred D'Aguir, Ken Edwards, and Eric Mottram (Paladin, 1988) is the best introduction available to contemporary U.K. poetry. Mottram's section of the anthology consists of poets who began writing in what Mottram describes as "The British Poetry Revival", working in traditions related to Bunting, MacDiarmid and Jones, and includes Thomas A. Clark, Bob Cobbing, Allen Fisher, Griffiths, Lee Harwood, Barry MacSweeney, Wendy Mulford, Tom Pickard, Raworth, and Iain Sinclair. D'Aguiar's section focusses on "Black British Poetry" and includes explosive work in nonstandard and "dialect" forms by John Agard, Jean Binta Breeze, Valerie Bloom, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Merle Collins, and Grace Nichols among others. Allnutt's "Quote Feminist Poetry Unquote" presented works in more narrative styles by Eavan Boland, Alison Fell, Frances Horovitz, and others. Edwards's section consists of formally innovative poets born in the immediate postwar years including Richard Caddel, Cris Cheek, Ulli Freer, Glenda George, Geraldine Monk, Maggie O'Sullivan, Elaine Randell, Gavin Selerie, and Robert Sheppard.

A Various Art, ed. Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville (Carcanet, 1987) provides a fuller context for one tendency represented in the Mottram section of The New British Poetry, a tendency that has been particularly influential for its renovations (or refashionings) of lyrical and pastoral (or postpastoral) forms. Seventeen poets are presented, including Anthony Barnett, John James, J.H. Prynne, Peter Riley, and Iain Sinclair, many of whom are loosely associated "Cambridge" and most of whom began publishing in the late 60s and early 70s. The only woman in the anthology, and among the youngest contributors as far as I can tell, is Veronica Forrest-Thomson, who died in 1975 at the age of 27.

In sharp contrast, Floating Capital: New Poets from London, edited by Adrian Clarke and Robert Sheppard and published in the U.S. (Potes & Poets, 1991; distr. SPD, Berkeley) features the work of 14 poets, mostly younger, working in "linguistically innovative" and performative directions, with some debt to Fisher and Cobbing, who lead off the collection; the poets include Gilbert Adair, Cheek, Adrian Clarke, Kelvin Corcoran, Edwards, Virginia Firnberg, O'Sullivan, and the Australian poet Hazel Smith. Floating Capital is a fundamental resource for understanding British poetry in the 90s.


What follows is a brief sketch of some current work in the wake of these anthologies.



"I leak truth like a wound," writes Barry MacSweeney ("The Shells Her Auburn Hair Did Show") in the first issue of the welcome new Scottish magazine Object Permanence (1/94; #2: 5/94; 121 Menock Road, Glasgow G44 5SD). The magazine is usefully committed to including a fair number of contemporary U.S. poets in the company of the most innovative contemporary U.K. poets, allowing for the possibility of a shared cultural space that seems encouraging for all involved; even if we leak "our" truths differently on the other side of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, in London, Bob Cobbing (who recently celebrated his 70th birthday) and Adrian Clarke have revived the ever-lively And (#7, 2/94), following the publication of the Writers Forum's 500th publication, a 320-page collection of 112 poets, VerbiVisiVoco, that seems the antithesis of the "high-seriousness" often associated with the practice of verse in the U.S. as well as the U.K. Writers Forum has been going since 1963, publishing books and supporting alternative writing practices through its frequent workshops. The anthology, coedited by Cobbing and Bill Griffiths, which has an international line-up, emphasizes performance, sound, visual and conceptual poetry. The result is an exuberant, uneven collection featuring a welcome variety of typographical and visual display, made possible in part by the fact that many of the pages are photocopied from the original Writers Forum books, including some early mimeo works. Also from Writers Forum, and highly recommended, is ExcLa, a new "berserk" "supernuminous" collaboration between Maggie O'Sullivan and Bruce Andrews, filled with "whistling ablutions", "lemony innuendo", and "Unfixed Palettes." (Writers Forum: 89a Petherton Road, London N5 2QT.)

One of the great literary events in Britain in the past few years is surely the 1992 publication of Future Exiles: 3 London Poets by Paladin, a trade press now owned by HarperCollins. The three poets — Allen Fisher (b. 1944), Bill Griffiths (b. 1948), and Brian Catling (b. 1948) — have each included 150-page selections from their work. Griffiths has organized his "Selected Poems, 1969-1989" alphabetically by title. Griffith's use of "prison talk, biker talk, dialect, literal translation, ancient English, phonetic spellings, obscure nicknames, opaque references, playfully and violently rearranged [syntax]" (to appropriate Jeff Nuttall's introduction), within poems that are sonically saturated and often madcap, make him one of the premier exponents of what I call ideolectical poetry. Griffiths is also a superb translator of Old English; see, for example, his translation of The Battle of Maldon (Pinner, Middlesex: Anglo-Saxon Books, 1991). Fisher's ambitious projects, most particularly a thorough refiguring of the complex of relations among information systems, theories of knowledge, and poetic processes, are represented here mostly by inclusion of work from the 80s that demonstrates how a "multiplicity of attentions" leads to a poetics of "informed intuition". Stepping Out (Pig Press, 1989; distr. SPD, Berkeley) is Fisher's most recent title readily available in the U.S.; I highly recommend it.

Aaron Williamson, who is deaf, has been called one of the best young performance artists in Britain. His new book, A Holythroat Symposium (Creation Press, 1993; dist. Inland, East Haven, CT) is a collection of texts based on his performances that explores deafness through language, sound and gesture: "The central design .../ was to fortify the conjunction / between / a sense of identity / evolving from out of the physical situation .../ of deafness / and the ongoing exertion... / of engendering texts. / That is, to oscillate between / what has become congested / into a state of anatomy / and the mechanical synopsis of its trace / thereby / diminishing the distance / of its seesawing / to this end. // The primary source of identification / the body / as residue / conducting fulgurative interrogations / of the phonic / in and around language / yet to one side of its drag...// I wanted to suggest / the sanctity of vocalization / as anatomical process / within an environment / that is usually normalizing it / into an activity that is granted." Williamson's writing is vivid and unexpected, with a striking range of tone and velocity of syntax:


An artery awash
impart of tide lines
evince map-rings
pith-strung and held
inside quartz
wheeling down nerves
lifts
a bracelet of mists
grazing the panic bolt's
arterial latrine of push petals


Peter Larkin (b. 1946) has been publishing a remarkable series of books and pamphlets since Enclosures in 1983. Larkin's extension of a Zukofskian sense of word order, indeed his uncompromising commitment to the pleasure of sight, sound and intellect, is evident in his sequence, "Care of the Retract", in Ten British Poets, ed. Paul Green (Spectacular Diseases, 1993; 83B London Road, Peterborough, Cambs. PE2 9BS). As "Care of the Retract" is a study of the word retract, so Scarce Norm Scarcer Mean (Prest Roots Press, 1992; 34 Alpine Court, Kenilworth, Warwickshire) is a set of variations on the poetic economy of scarcity: "The entered order enterprised / whole manners of nature in un- / spent fresco, but would their ventro- / pollutions sing no probal rites / slung to rest idiotypic of all / too much companionate salvage". Larkin's press, Prest Roots, has also published A Comparative Daimon (1990), a diaphonously obleak sequence by Paul Green: "... A madder, vaster, standard is ascension's; the / pasts are tesserae, and / flash, or / rise, too bleakly for their / time's amount. The / light dies, as if an / application of it meaned a fabric to be torn." I also recommended from Spectacular Diseases: Ulli Freer's "darting" "kicking" "magnetic" collection Stepping Space (1990). (Paul Green's Spectacular Diseases is also an excellent source for obtaining U.K. "little press" materials.)

Two of the best recent books from British poets have been published in the U.S.: Tom Raworth's Eternal Sections (Sun & Moon, 1993) and Ken Edwards's Good Science (Roof, 1992). In Good Science, Edwards (b. 1950), who edited the galvanizing magazine Reality Studios in the 70s and 80s, moves through a variety of forms, showing a moral imagination and generosity of engagements that make his book, to quote the "Preface", "agitational, molecular, powerful, disparate, innumerable, blank, necessary, accurate, conscious, communal, conservative." The sheer social force of Raworth's resolutely ongoing work produces resonating concatenations that extend beyond the borders of the book. Raworth (b. 1938), whose work is extensively published in the U.S., including Tottering State: Selected and New Poems 1963-1983 (The Figures, 1994; distrb. SPD) and Visible Shivers (O Books, 1987; distr. SPD), also has two chapbooks in the Equipage series (see below): Blue Screen (1992) and Survival (1994). Emptily, a book-length work by Raworth, is featured in Talus #7 (1992), an excellent journal out of London (English Dept., King's College, Strand, WC2R 2LS).

Also in the U.S., Abacus #81 (4/94; distr. SPD) features Upstate Stoic by Floating Capital poet Gilbert Adair: a vibrant foray into hyperreality (e.g. "accelerated motion" at "60-noise-proof"). Floating Capital's editor Adrian Clarke is the author of Obscure Disasters (Writers Forum, 1993), a work that is acrobatically infectious in a way that brings to ear both O'Sullivan and Raworth. Clarke's poetry is dizzying in its momentum, constantly shifting linguistic focus with a stream of constant attention to contour (line) as outer edge of a probing, probational activity ("fixed pattern arraying idiolect / in a standardized exchange / letters for meaning what / you won't again borders / protect the field blocked / to centre misnomers on / scattered leaves heard right"). Clarke is the subject of the first of 12 single-author "resource" issues focussing on "linguistically innovative poetries" (bibliographies, commentary, new work) of Robert Sheppard's newly revived magazine Pages (239 Lessington Avenue, London SW17).

Rod Mengham, a poet and critic of the immediate postwar generation, who teaches at Cambridge University, is editing a determined series of chapbooks under the Equipage imprint (Mengham, Jesus College, Cambridge CB5 8BL). About 20 have appeared so far. While some of this work, but more generally some of the poetic tendencies often associated with "Cambridge", get bogged down in a decorous solemnity that pulls back from the "wild" sonic and formal risks sometimes gestured at, there is certainly an enormous commitment, not to say devotion, evident. Still, the virtually reified rhetorical surface of the sprung lyric — "the voice belongs in the words and not to a speaker", in J.H. Prynne's words — can seem more a house style than a ticket to a "true" poetry that "wrings the heart", more a "vehement theology of the Word" than a participatory democracy of language. Isn't the jeopardy, indeed, "false assuagement", clinging to the vestiges of the old music as if it were the only music, the old truths as if they were the only truths? In any case, much admirable work is being published by this press. Michael Haslam's Four Poems (Equipage, 1993), continuing in the direction of his earlier Aleethia and especially his amazing Continual Song, is the most over-the-top in wildly lyric, Blakean excess; while a younger poet, D.S. Marriott (b. 1963), often seems to glide giddily on the affective musical surfaces of self-eviscerating lyrics, making his poems attractively difficult to pin down in their nonetheless manifest allegiances and resistances (see Airs & Ligatures [Prest Roots, 1990] as well as Lative [Equipage, 1992]. Prynne's Her Weasels Wild Returning (1994), while as dense as ever, seems almost nostalgic, in a biting sort of way, for the gender narrative of the somewhat-less-than wild lyric tradition — though note the literally equivocating ("weasling"!) title of this Equipage edition. Peter Riley's Equipage title, Lecture (1993) suggests another way of framing the problem: it is notable for its foregrounded reworking of lyric and liturgical forms. Riley publishes a fine series of letterpress pamphlets under Poetical Histories imprint — 31 have been issued since 1985; Riley, as bookseller, is also a good source for small press work (27 Sturton Street, Cambridge CB1 2QU).

Denise Riley has included her Equipage chapbook, Stair Spirit, in Mop Mop Georgette: New and Selected Poems: 1986-1993 (Reality Street, 1993; distr. SPD), an engaging multiplicitously self-reflective and self-refractive collection (from "Lyric": "Take up a pleat in this awful / process and then fold me flat / inside it so that I don't see / where I was already knotted in.") Also new from Reality Street/Studios is Wendy Mulford's The Bay of Naples.

The New British Poetries: The Scope of the Possible, ed. Robert Hampson and Peter Barry (Manchester University Press, 1993; distr. St Martin's, NY, for an outrageous $70) is one of the few substantial collections of essays on the topic and is a good companion to The New British Poetry. It features useful summaries of recent poetic history by Mottram ("The British Poetry Revival, 1960-75"), D'Aguir ("Black poetry in Britain"), Roger Ellis (little magazines); Peter Middleton ("The Politics of Subjectivity"), Hampson ("Language and Ideology"), Helen Kidd ("Women, Writing, and Experience"), as well as Barry on Fisher, David Miller on Gael Turnbull and Sheppard on Lee Harwood. Commentary on the new British Poetry, along with much poetry, can also be found in fragmente (8, Hertford Street, Oxford OX4 3AJ), which has published 5 issues since 1990, focussing on such topics as "women and (post)modernism", "language writing" and "pastoral".

Considering how unhospitable the alternative British poetry scenes appear to be for women, Peter Middleton's remarkable new study, The Inward Gaze: Masculinty and Subjectivity in Modern Culture (Routledge, 1993) is not only necessary medicine, it is a pioneering work in how we can understand what is often regarded as gender neutral as indeed examples of the work of "men poets". Middleton, a poet and professor at the University of Southampton, insists that we bring the maleness of supposedly neutral writing by men out of the closet of its imaginary invisibility. See also his essay "Silent Inscriptions of Gender: Recent Men's Poetry" in fragmente #4.


&, finally, before I return to my senses, or wherever it is I am returning to, let me recommend just a few more books: Uncertain Time by Richard Caddel (Galloping Dog, 1990; 45 Salisbury Gardens, Newcastle upon Tyme NE2 1HP); The Sway of Precious Demons: Selected Poems by Geraldine Monk (North and South, 1992; distr. SPD); Tom Pickard's Tiepin Eros: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 1994); and a three-book set of Anthony Barnett's Little Stars and Straw Breasts, his Zanzotto translations, and a collection about his work, from which I have quoted Prynne above (Allardyce; distr. SPD). Some of these books will be available by mail from Compendium Bookshop, 234 Camden High Street, London NW1 8QS.

____
Copyright ©1994 by Charles Bernstein