Monday, May 10, 2010

A letter from Paul Vangelisti

I was pleased and fascinated to receive this note from Paul Vangelisti, which is reproduced with his kind permission.

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Dear Don:

I would like to thank you for your recent comments on Adriano Spatola’s Toward a Total Poetry, to which Ray DiPalma drew my attention. As you suggest in your comments, Spatola’s book is an important theoretical text for the international avant-gardes, as well as being a quite lucid guide to these various post-War movements. Your final sentence concerning the American “language poets” also struck me as having its share of ironies.

Though, of course, Spatola’s text was unavailable in English during the rise of this movement in the late seventies and eighties, Spatola’s work was rather well-known to the various purveyors of this form of “innovative writing.” I’ve sent (to your Poetry address) two issues of the magazine Invisible City, which, with John McBride, we published from 1971-1982, along with several books by Spatola (two Red Hill Press publications, from 1978 &1981; and his more recent Collected Poems (2008), from Green Integer). The issues of Invisible City, clearly a forerunner to the current mag. OR, contain a good deal of Spatola’s work (including an interview with him), and were certainly known to many “Language poets.”

In the second to the last issue of IC, the “1980” issue, there also appear, along with Spatola’s work, poems by Ray DiPalma, Charles Bernstein and Bruce Andrews. One of the Spatola books, his groundbreaking collection of visual poetry, Zeroglyphics (originally published in 1966, U.S. ed. 1978), was, in fact, reviewed in a 1978 issue of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine. The other, Another You, is a 1981 collection of my work, in the middle of which is a documentation if a collaboration of visual & sound pieces Spotala, Giulia Niccolai & I did at the L.A. Louver Gallery here in Los Angeles in March 1978, during Spatola’s first trip to the U.S.

All of which to say that much of this work was familiar to the “English-language poetry world” and I, and others certainly, find it unfortunate that there has been a good deal of revisionism around the notions of “innovative” work then and now. History has certainly never been a strong suit of mainstream American writing, but one tends to expect more of poets, critics and movements who claim to be radical and groundbreaking in their approaches.

In any case, thanks for your interest in our publishing ventures. Hope all’s well & best… Paul

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I'm grateful to Paul for allowing me to post this letter, and as ever to Ray Di Palma.

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