Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stanzas in Meditation

Here, to meditate upon, is John Ashbery, writing in the July 1957 issue of Poetry, from a review of a recently-published edition of Gertrude Stein's Stanzas in Meditation:

There is certainly plenty of monotony in the 150-page title poem which forms the first half of this volume, but it is the fertile kind, which generates excitement as water monotonously flowing over a dam generates electrical power. These austere "stanzas" are made up almost entirely of colorless connecting words such as "where," "which," "these," "of," "not," "have," "about," and so on, though now and then Miss Stein throws in an orange, a lilac, or an Albert to remind us that it really is the world, our world, that she has been talking about. The result is like certain monochrome de Kooning paintings in which isolated strokes of color take on a deliciousness they never could have had out of context, or a piece of music by Webern in which a single note on the celesta suddenly irrigates a whole desert of dry, scratchy sounds in the strings... Like people, Miss Stein's lines are comforting or annoying or brilliant or tedious. Like people, they sometimes make no sense and sometimes make perfect sense; or they stop short in the middle of a sentence and wander away, leaving us alone for a while in the physical world, that collection of thoughts, flowers, weather, and proper names. And just as with people, there is no real escape from them... Sometimes the story has the logic of a dream... while at other times it becomes startlingly clear for a moment, as though a change in the wind had suddenly enabled us to hear a conversation that was taking place some distance away... The poem is a hymn to possibility; a celebration of the fact that the world exists, that things can happen.

Thomas Bernhard, on translation, stupidity, & publishers:

... a translation is a different book. It has nothing to do with the original at all. It's a book by the person who translated it. I write in the German language. You get sent a copy of these books and either you like them or you don't. If they have awful covers then they're just annoying. And you flip through and that's it. It has nothing in common with your own work, apart from the weirdly different title. Right? Because translation is impossible. A piece of music is played the same the world over, using the written notes, but a book would always have to be played in German, in my case. With my orchestra!

Urbanity is a quality you have to possess from within. It has nothing to do with the exterior. No. Nothing but stupid notions. But humanity has only ever existed in stupid notions, there's no helping it. There's no cure for stupidity. That's a fact.

What is that, a publisher? I could put the question to you: What is a publisher (Verleger)? A bedside rug (Bettvorleger), there's no doubt what that is. But a publisher, without the bed, that's harder to answer. Someone who misplaces (verlegen) things, a muddled person, who misplaces things and can't find them anymore. That's the definition of a publisher, someone who misplaces things. A publisher, he misplaces things and manuscripts which he accepts and then he can't find them anymore. Either because he no longer likes them or because he's muddled, either way they're gone. Misplaced. For all eternity. All the publishers I know are like that. None of them is so great as not to be the kind who misplaces things. Who publishes something and then it's either ruined or impossible to find.

Ray Bradbury, on the internet:

The Internet is a big distraction. Yahoo called me eight weeks ago. They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? "To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet." It’s distracting. It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.

Chris Hamilton-Emery, on publishing poetry:

It was not the emergence of a single global poetry community, but the sewing together of highly disparate often communities, each with their own commitment to a discrete part of our list, whether that be short stories, or the US avant-garde, or British mainstream writing or indigenous writing, the JustOneBook campaign is about breadth: breadth of publishing, the diversity of our editorial vision (good books and no camps), eclecticism, and the aggregation of these vital areas of writing all of which has led to a broad, uncannily broad, reception.

Aldon Lynn Nielsen and Lauri Ramey, in their introduction to Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans:

Every new reading requires a break from the established disciplinary modes, a break from regnant pecking orders, and a breakthrough.

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