Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nurse Lovechild's Legacy

As I've commented before, one can spend much of the day and night reading uselessly corrosive poetry blogs and come away with the despairing (and false) idea that there's a poetry world, a po-biz, a po-pecking order, a dominant po-caste, and on and on. I suppose this is what is meant by those who say ours is a culture of complaint, and it's predicated upon great affluence, faux ideology, and misplaced ideals. And cynicism, ultimately. Welcome to the post-fact world.

Why don't we open our eyes, or at least open them a little wider?

Here's what I see on my desk and in my bookcase just now: W.S. Graham's really complete poems; Pierre Martory's The Landscapist in John Ashbery's ravishing translations; a new collection of Nabokov's translations of three centuries of Russian poetry - Verses and Versions; a real selected poems of Janet Frame, Storms Will Tell; perfect editions from the Library of America of Ashbery, Crane, Frost, and Bishop; Niedecker's collected poems and now a collection of essays on her work, Radical Vernacular; a reissue of Erdman's Blake; huge selections of letters by Bishop and Lowell, James Wright, Ted Hughes; twin volumes of Robin Blaser; beautiful Flood Editions books by Tom Pickard; Oppen's daybooks; A Helen Adam Reader; the big Ronald Johnson life & work tome from the NPF; all the Creeley and Whalen and Jackson Mac Low you could wish for; a great big bio of Zukofsky and A. David Moody's fine new one of Pound; new translations of Camoes, Mistral, De Rerum Natura (Stallings' formal and Slavitt's learned), Gongora & Quevedo - and Holderlin x 2; Jane Reichhold's Basho - the first complete translation into English, amazingly; Eshleman's Vallejo; Paterson's Rilke; two new versions of key works by Lorca; a Mayakovsky compendium; and who'da thunk - newly edited collections of Spicer and Bunting are in the works... and that's just the canonical stuff.

I've been enjoying new books by Juan Felipe Herrera, and Peter Ramos's delightful Please Do Not Feed the Ghost; Victoria Chang's Salvinia Molesta; Forrest Gander's Coral Bracho; competing translations of Pura López-Colomé; Kevin Young's new one; duelling versions of Gennady Aygi; David Huerta's selected poems; Elena Shvarts in Sasha Dugdale's diligent translation; and Steve McCaffery's new Left of Thinking.

Bill Knott gives his poems and work drafts (and rejection slips) away for free. See his poem, up today, "Problem," of which a sample here:

"I belong whether I like it to the the School of

the Genre of
the Age of
that categorical, that cognomen—

Each of my acts bears as an adverb THEIR NAME with an esque
on the end... "

And there's a Frank Stanford literary festival, which does a Mid-Southerner's heart good: I never thought I'd see the day... one of my all-time greatest poetry heroes!

At Harriet this fall we'll have Lavinia Greenlaw, Forrest Gander, Olena Kalytiak Davis, Javier Huerta, Wanda Coleman, and Cathy Park Hong.

So: I don't see the point of squabbling about dubious schools and kinds of poetry. Our times are, like all times, deeply unjust and perilous to too many, but reflecting this and in spite of this there is good poetry all around us, and never before in the history of humanity has it been so easy to find, at least in our overindulgent land. You can get all the above for less than the cost of an iPhone, so what's keeping you?

(Disclaimer: I certainly see a lot of books at work, but I BUY books, and every year since I worked in my thirties as a busboy & could ill-afford them, I've spent more annually on them than clothes, personal electronics, haircare, and shoes put together. I made a promise to myself that I'd never be without books. Consequently, my duds are out of style, I don't own winter boots and you'll never see me with store-bought coffee, but I have the latest in poetry books: I keep up!)



"In a revolutionary age like the present, the greatest threat to freedom is not dogmas but the reluctance to define them precisely, for in times of danger, if no one knows what is essential and what is unessential, the unessential is vested with religious importance (to dislike ice cream becomes a proof of heresy), so the liberal who is so frightened by the idea of dogma that he blindly opposes any kind, instead of seeing that nothing is made an article of faith that need not be so, is promoting the very state of tyranny and witch-hunting that he desires to prevent."


DIONISIO D. MARTÍNEZ, "Rest Before You Sleep":

We're the only creatures that claim to be anything
then build a house of facts around the claim.


End of the foregoing. Let me now introduce you to Nurse Lovechild's Legacy.


Francisco Aragón said...

Who's David Huerta? Am interested to learn more.

Yes, Ramos' book is wonderful. It merits getting reviewed...


Don Share said...

Huerta is a Mexican poet, son of the poet Efrain Huerta - he's won the Xavier Villaurrutia Prize & is a political columnist for Proceso. He has about 19 books out; the new U.S. collection Before Saying Any of the Great Words was translated by Mark Schafer, who's translated quite a few Latin American writers including Gloria Gervitz (her epic poem Migraciones).

Yes, someone should review Ramos' book!