Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Knife

If you live in New York, go see one of my favorite Swedish bands play Webster Hall tomorrow night.

If you've never heard them, they're a very sleazy take on 80's synth pop. Also, it's a brother and sister dressed in hoodies; and they have clown makeup. You can't go wrong with that.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I'm cancelling my alumni donations

Minnesota Golden Gophers lost 44-0 to Ohio.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ann Jaderlund translations in Fairy Tale Review


The new issue of Kate Bernheimer's Fairy Tale Review is out. If you go to this web page you can read one of several of my translations of Ann Jäderlund which are in the issue.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Derek White (again)

I often mention Derek White on the blog because his Calamari Press does some of the most interesting work around. He just published his book "Poste Restante," which arrived in our mail today.

I haven't got the chance to read it yet, but the illustrations are amazing. The feeling I get from them is someone looking back at postcards, colonialism and exhibition culture (which all come together less knowingly in the NY Museum of Natural History) through the lense of Surrealism and the historical avant-garde.

One of the stories is in the most recent Action,Yes, but the collage style is not representative of the books as a whole.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Dear hoodlums,

The latest Action Books books - Tao Lin's "you are a little bit happier than i am" and Sandy Florian's "Telescope" - are now on sale on our home page (www.actionbooks.org).

Instead of the regular $14, these two new books are now $12.

We're also selling the previous books - "Remainland: Selected Poems of Aase Berg", Lara Glenum's "The Hounds of No" and Arielle Greenberg's "My Kafka Century" - are on sale at $10 (instead of $12).

We're selling the two new titles together for $20 and all five books for $45.

ALTA Conference

I got back from Seattle yesterday after spending a few days at the ALTA conference there. ALTA is the American Literary Translators' Association and their conference is a bit like the AWP except with translators and presses that publish translations.

I had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite poets, Kim Hyesoon from Korea, and getting to hear her read with her awesome translator Don Mee Choi. Also, she dedicated a poem to Joyelle (who unfortunately wasn't there!).

If you are curious about her poetry you can find some samples in the second issue of Action, Yes, the second issue of Circumference, and in an *amazing* chapbook from Tinfish.

And when you've read that you'll certainly want to get "Anxiety of Words," Don Mee's brilliant new book of three Korean women poets just out from Zephyr Press. If you get no other book this year, I would recommend this one. I'm buying copies for everyone I know.

I should also say that Don Mee's own poems are great too. And she's in the same issue of Action,Yes. Between her poetry and translations, I see Don Mee as one of the most interesting figures in American poetry right now.

I first read her translations in the Circumference issue. Joyelle and I were both so taken by the poems that we immediately sought out Don Mee and convinced her to translate a whole book for us. So we're publishing a selection of her Kim Hyesoon translations next fall.

I also enjoyed meeting the Circumference editors Jenny and Stefania (everybody need to subscribe to their journal), Steve Bradbury (his wonderful translations of modern contemporary Taiwanese poetry are published by Zephyr Press) and a host of other total crazies. Also hung out with Dwayne of Absinthe, a journal of contemporary European poetry. Everybody should subscribe to his journal as well.

I was on the contemporary Scandinavian literature panel and that was fun. Göran Malmqvist of the Swedish Academy (the people who give out the Nobel Prize) was in the audience (now I'm a shoe-in). He's quite amazing, having translated countless books of Chinese prose and poetry into Swedish, including all of Bei Dao's work. He's also translated tons of stuff into Chinese and helped Bei Dao translate Transtromer and Sodergran into Chinese.

He's actually a linguist. We talked after the panel and he immediately observed, "You must be from Lund." Which I am. He then proceeded to inform me that there are eight dialects in Skåne and I speak the Lund dialect.

I was also the "moderator" on the publisher's panel with editors from White Pines, Zephyr Press, UW Press and Copper Canyon. Fortunately nobody needed to be moderated. Mostly the audience members seemed concerned with the possible effects of print-on-demand.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Seattle Reading

Friday, October 20, 7 PM

University Book Store (U District Store), Café Fireside

4326 University Way N.E. - Seattle, Washington 98105

Steve Bradbury, Daniel Comiskey, Johannes Goransson, Joyelle McSweeney, and Deborah Woodard read from their latest works.

Steve Bradbury’s poems, translations, and essays have appeared in boundary 2, Jacket, Raritan and elsewhere. He has published three volumes of poetry in translation: Fusion Kitsch: Poems from the Chinese of Hsia Yü (Zephyr Press, 2001), Poems from the Prison Diary of Ho Chi Minh (Tinfish 2003), and Feelings Above Sea Level: Prose Poems from the Chinese of Shang Qin (Zephyr, 2006). He lives in Taiwan.

Daniel Comiskey lives and works in Seattle. With Kreg Hasegawa, he edited Monkey Puzzle, a magazine of poetry and prose. He has collaborated with other poets on a number of projects, the most recent of which is the long poem Crawlspace, written with C.E. Putnam and forthcoming from P.I.S.O.R. publications. His translations of Hu Xudong, produced in conjunction with Ying Qin, will appear later this year in the Talisman Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Poetry.

Johannes Goransson is PhD candidate at the University of Georgia and teach at the University of Notre Dame. He is the editor of Action Books and Action,Yes, and the translator of Remainland: Selected Poems of Aase Berg (Action Books, 2005) and Finland-Swedish Modernist Henry Parland's Idealrealisation (1930) (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2007).

Joyelle McSweeney is the author of The Red Bird and The Commandrine and
Other Poems, both from Fence. She is co-founder of the press Action Books
and the webquarterly Action, Yes, both dedicated to international writing
and hybrid forms. Her baroque noir novella, Nylund, the Sarcographer, is
forthcoming from Tarpaulin Sky Press. She recently joined the MFA faculty at Notre Dame.

Deborah Woodard’s poetry and translations have appeared in Artful Dodge, the Bellingham Review, Chelsea, Monkey Puzzle, the Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. She has published two chapbooks of poetry: The Orphan Conducts the Dovehouse Orchestra (Bear Star Press, 1999) and The Book of Riddles (Boxcar Press, 1998). A full-length collection, Plato’s Bad Horse, is forthcoming from Bear Star Press this November. Also a translator from Italian (in collaboration with Giuseppe Leporace), she is currently working on a selected poems of the distinguished modernist Italian poet Amelia Rosselli to be brought out by Chelsea Editions in 2007. Deborah teaches at The Richard Hugo House, a community writing center in Seattle.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

my favorite blog


Until I figure out how to set up the links column - This is one of my favorite blogs. Discussions about illustrations, from Bosch to Ernst.

Kulture Vulture

is recruiting its army from the ophanages: http://www.kulturevulture.org/

Some of my Pilot poems are in there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Clayton Eshleman

I got an inquiry from Noah Eli Gordon about a project he's working on and that got me to thinking about Clayton Eshleman. I think Clayton is writing the best poetry of his career right now. Some of the best poetry being written by anyone. So I just thought I would say that. You can see an example of what I'm talking about in the first issue of Action,Yes.

Now Clayton's translated the complete Vallejo. I think his translation work and the translations of Eliot Weinberger, Pierre Joris and Jerry Rothenberg will be incredibly important to the way things shake out. They have provided an important internationalizing force for a stagnantly national-oriented literature.

I was deeply influenced by his late-Artaud book when it came out in the mid-90s. I went to see him read at the Poetry House or whatever it's called and I was quite impressed, quite certain that he was nuts.

Gunvor Nelson Retrospective at MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art in New York presents an exhibition of work by Swedish film and video pioneer Gunvor Nelson on October 20-23.

The retrospective spans four decades and offers a rare opportunity to experience the accumulated impact of Nelson's artistic vision. Gunvor Nelson's poetically expansive life's work was created in both San Francisco, her home and workplace for over thirty years, and her native Sweden, where she resettled in the mid-1990s.

Following her debut in 1966 with the film "Schmeerguntz", Gunvor Nelson became a key figure in the avant-garde film movement that emerged in California in the 1960s. She has consistently, often courageously, privileged her subjective gaze and individual experience. Nelson relentlessly refuses predictability (and succeeds) in her search for a true relation between project and form.

Gunvor Nelson Retrospective: Personal Lens
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street
(between Fifth and Sixth Avenues)
October 20-23


The thing I most appreciate in poetry is precision.

As opposed to hazy Romanticism.

The greatest call for precision of course remains the work of Artaud's manifestoes and late poems.

Precision is cruelty (as opposed to violence).

One of the things I admire about Leslie Scalapino is her precision.

One thing I admire about Joyelle's poems is her precision. There is a great field of verbal energy, but at any one point you can zoom in: precision of words and syntax.

Duchamp's Large Glass is incredibly precise.

Michaux: "Already some painters have begun their torture operations."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Blog technicalities

How do I make the column on the right with the names of blogs I read?

Pamuk won Nobel Prize

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Sarabande Books is apparently putting out a chapbook by Robert Pinsky. Does that strike anybody else as very strange?

Nobel Prize

Tomorrow the Swedish Academy will announce who get the big bucks for this year. I actually can't remember who won the prize last year.

Anyway, here are some people mentioned as possible candidates for this year in various newspapers:

Inger Christensen
Amos Oz
Kyszard Kapuschinski
Orhan Pamuk
Philip Roth
Ko Un
Assia Dejabar
John Ashbery

I think fellow South-Bendian Bei Dao will win it. Not only has he written some damned fine poetry, he's also translated Swedish poetry into Chinese (Transtromer, Sodergran). And he's taught in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. That's the big one.

Jesper Svenbro

is the newest member of the Swedish Academy (the people who pick the Nobel Prize winners).

Seems like a reasonable choice.

I was actually reading one of his books last night when I got an e-mail from my neighbor, John Matthias (Svenbro's American translator). So I think I may have had something to do with it. Plus we're both from Skåne, the southern, not-quite-Swedish part of Sweden.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Collage/Montage and Action,Yes

For an interesting take on collage read James Pate's story in the most recent issue of Action,Yes.

This is one of my favorite stories of all time. I first read it back in the day when we were both at graduate school. James was my favorite fellow student in Iowa and he really inspired me, raised the bars. It is scandalous that so little of his writing has been published.

While the other bunch of fictioneers from grad school all have super contracts and drive fancy cars, James is studying African postcolonial literature at U of IL in Chicago.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But the man deserves a fancy car.

Web address: actionyes.org

Tony H (Continued) - heteroglossia

Another big problem I have with Tony H's article (and many other articles that analyze the "effect" of various modes of writing) is that collage and fragmentation are seen as interferences in the natural reading process - as if there was one perfect fluency to begin with and then the avant-garde techniques come in and muck things up ("fragment" Eliot's wonderland).

Could it be that there are many different ways of reading and Tony's conventionalizing poetry goes in an straight-jackets the reading processes?

At one point Hoaglund mistakes "heteroglossia" for a technique of having many speakers. This is in effect a reductive understanding of heteroglossia, turning a dialogic process into a stylistic device (with a stable "effect").

There is a much more profound kind of heteroglossia going on in Apollinaire and I think the concretism and collage aspects are part of that process.

I like to refer to Raymond Williams' claim that the avant-garde comes out of people of different backgrounds interacting in "cosmopolitan encounters." In effect, Apollinaire is writing with a cosmopolitan awareness of language (even though he was a collossal nationalist!) - ie he does not read/write with the Hoaglund's perfect reading that goes straight through the signifier to the signified.

Allen Grossman

I want to add that I really liked the Allen Grossman poem Hoaglund uses as his ultimate example.

(The example however is not enough to dismiss Apollinaire or other forms of experimentation, though no doubt that's Tony H's "desired effect - ie this is how it's done right.).

Grossman is on the whole a singular writer.

Further, he has been a supporter of Joyelle's work which makes him not only an interesting poet but also a great reader.

Comment I wrote on Josh Corey's page

This is the article I responded to: http://www.cortlandreview.com/issue/33/hoagland_e.html?ref=home

It's by Tony Hoaglund.

(Funny - my mom's maiden name is Haglund. Also the head of the Christian Democrats is Hägglund).


I disagree with your assessment of Hoagland's article. To begin with he approaching collage with a basic presumption that modes of writing either make sense (in a very narrow, conventional way pertaining to expression of the individual or "the age") or does not. He tames the sense-making modes (the first four) by using fairly conventional poetic examples and then he caricatures the last, (as he admits it himself) "catch-all" category of indeterminacy.

It is this last category that he reserves for criticism. The others he can recuperate for a conventional poetics of expression.

I also disagree with his assertion that unless a poem is an expression it has "indeterminacy" as the "desired effect." In many cases, people write poems that may seem indeterminate to Tony H, but certainly does not have that indeterminacy as "desired effect." Is it possible that there is poetry that is less concerned about this sense of final, closed-off, stable "effect".

I think he's right that a vague sense of indeterminacy has become a popular style. I've written about that elsewhere. The way some poets basically seem to recreate the de-politicized Keatsian negative capability as "indeterminacy". However, I think he's setting this up as a false straw-poet in order to dismiss a poetic practice that is not concerned with his ideas of expression. It's the same thing that happens when people criticize Ashbery for being too abstruse. It's not Ashbery they are attacking (he's quite beyond Tony Hoagland's reach), but any number of other poets who do not confirm to his simple notion of "desired effect."

Finally, I also find he uses a method I've seen used in a lot of places. He claims collage is experiencing a "renaissance" as if American poetry once embraced Apollinaire etc and then outgrew up. I remember Reginald Sheppherd used the same rhetoric when he debated you a year or two ago. Ie "This was done by some poets back in 1913, why repeat it? Lets go on writing dull poetry that suggests these people never wrote at all."

If you want to teach your students about collage there are much better texts. To begin with, the primary texts of Apollinaire, Tzara, Eisenstein and others. Perloff's essays in "Futurist Moment" are easy to read and do a better job of engaging with some of the other implications and scandals without (mostly) depending on "desired effect."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Best American Poetry

I'm changing my mind. Perhaps it's good to have a Best American Poetry anthology. But it's also important to be very critical of what is included. Maybe the greatest benefit of such a book is as a catalyst for discussion.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Leslie Scalapino

How brilliant is Leslie Scalapino? Absolutely brilliant. I'm reading "Considering how exagerated music is" tonight. This is like my new favorite book.

New American Writing

I can't remember if ever - on my old blog - I urged "you" to get the latest issue of New American Writing. It contains ten of my translations from Aase Berg's Forsla Fett (Transfer Fat) that are not in Remainland.

Also, Paul Hoover and Maxine Chernoff have long been doing a great job of publishing younger poets (though their taste don't always coincide with my own).


J.L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words:

“Suppose, for example, I see a vessel on the stocks, walk up and smash the bottle hung at the stem, proclaim ‘I name this ship the Mr. Stalin and for good measure kick away the chocks: but the trouble is, I was not the person chosen to name it (whether or not—an additional complication—Mr. Stalin was the destined name; perhaps in a way it is even more of a shame if it was). We can all agree (1) that the ship was not thereby named; (2) that it is an infernal shame. One could say that I ‘went through a form of’ naming the vessel but that my ‘action’ was ‘void’ or ‘without effect,’ because I was not a proper person, had not the ‘capacity’ to perform it; but one might also and alternatively say that, where there is not even a pretence of capacity or a colourable claim to it, then there is no accepted conventional procedure; it is a mockery, like a marriage with a monkey. Or again one could say that part of the procedure is getting oneself appointed.”

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nice going, Minnesota Twins