Saturday, July 28, 2007

New Translation Titles from Action Books


We are thrilled to announce the arrival of two new Action Books, with
a third on the way. These books are full of strange shapes and new
inflections for you to bend your ear and mind around. They are
available at SPDBooks and for a special price at

*You go the words* by Gunnar Björling (1887-1960), translated by
Fredrik Hertzberg: "A milestone in the annals of experimental
poetics."—Marjorie Perloff. "Fredrik Hertzberg's revelatory
translations make palpable the syntactically sprung, emotion-rent
verse of one of the great Scandinavian Modernist poets."—Charles
Bernstein. Explore the linguistically radical work of the poet known
as the "Gertrude Stein of Scandinavia" and "Europe's last Dadaist."

*lip wolf* by Laura Solórzano (b.1961), translated by Jen Hofer: This
linguistically and emotionally charged volume is contemporary Mexican
poet Laura Solórzano's first English-language collection. Jen Hofer's
translation conducts the frisson and friction of the original into
English while tempting us out onto the fitful, outermost limbs of
language. With an introduction by Dolores Dorantes. Of lip wolf,
Monica de La Torre warns: "Readers, beware: You are about to go into
the lion's den."

Coming next month: Anselm Hollo's translation of *The Edge of Europe*
by Finnish Modernist Pennti Saarikoski. Watch this space for more


from *You go the words*:

You go the
and where
were you, it was
I know not and
that to your ear
and with eye
just with finger

from *lip wolf*:

To call you thing, cement, swan cistern ascended to the remains
the grass forges in your phobia, frontal and indifferent,
desolate and subdivided in a certain acidity, I have you
anesthetized, dwelling somnambulist of dryness of severe
insufficiency, filthy and injected.
Your slipping toward form. To call you beautiful thing in the slip-cover.
To call you, tuber tearing the cooked rice to shreds
in the radish of insecure salsa, you tauten,
you twist, you inter cement of cistern of thing
scraping itself pallid and light.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sylva Plath's "Confessions"

By now Rosenthal's arugment that Plath was a "confessionalist" have pretty much been scrapped.

In her briliant study of Plath, Sylvia Plath and the Theatre of Mourning, Christina Britzolakis includes this note of Plath's that she found in the Plath archives in Smith College:

“Friday I got an idear. I am now in the midst of writing the biggest true Confession I have ever written, all for the remote possibility of gaignigh (that word the lady said is gaining, as in weight) filthy lucer, a contest in True Story is in the offing, with all sorts of Big Money prizes, being a most mercenary individual, because money can buy trip to europe, theaters, chop-houses, and other ill Famed what-nots. I am trying out for it, all you have to do, the blurb ways is write the story of your life or somebody else’s life from the heart. and a sexy old heart it is. grammar and spelling mistakes won’t count in the judging, says the rules , only it must be written in English, and not on onion skin paper or in pencil… anyhow, Sylvia just finished the roughdraft of a whopping True Confession of over 40 (you can count them) pages, trying to capture the style, and let me tell you, my supercilious attitude about the people who write Confessions has diminished, it takes a good tight plot and a slick ease that are not picked up overnight like a cheap whore. so tomorrow, I rewrite the monstrosity I have just illegitimately (everything gets done amid great conflict) delivered.”

I think that puts a pretty interesting spin on the whole "confessional" business. It also bring in the conflict of art as a birthing process, which when done for money (prostitution) becomes illegitimate and monstrous. This trope that has been used since way back - even Mary Shelley talks about Frankenstein in these terms. What makes that comparison relevant is the Gothic element of Plath's work.

There is also the whole idea of pop cuylture as feminine and fleshy (I love the gaining weight comment) that return in Plath's poetry.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

lip wolf review

From Publishers Weekly:

In her first collection available to English-language readers, rising Mexican poet Laura Solórzano explores the risks and obstacles of communication through startling juxtapositions of images, dizzying word play and a masterful command of direct language. As the literal translation of the Spanish title suggests, Solórzano journeys into the wolf's mouth, where communication is risky and difficult. Written in the first person, these poems make demands of their addressees and engage in complex verbal stunts: Serve yourself when you sense or say lilies in the city./ Lilies I've fixed to you, fireflies of lacteal lips. Body parts, including lips, cornea, tongue, molar and tendon, appear throughout and often perform the impossible (to oppress the melody in the musician's molar). The tightly constructed 12-part sequence that opensthe book deals with food, tasting and cooking: dough lifts the debt, fornication continues until the saucepan shatters and nibbles have motives. These layered, playful and sorrowful poems reward repeated readings.

[It's already on sale on amazon, soon also on SPD and on our homepage. I will post the official announcement soon.]


Paul de Man, “The Rhetoric of Temporality”: “When we speak, then, of irony originating at the cost of the empirical self, the statement has to be taken seriously enough to be carried to the extreme: absolute irony is a consciousness of madness, itself the end of all consciousness; it is a consciousness of non-consciousness, a reflection on madness from the inside of madness itself. But this reflection is made possible only by the double structure of ironic language: the ironist invents a form of himself that is ‘mad’ but that does not know its own madness; he then proceeds to reflect on his madness thus objectified.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fredrik Ljunberg

Speaking of John Wilkinson and soccer, Wilkinson's favorite team West Ham just bought everybody's favorite Swedish underwear-modeling national team captain Fredrik "Freddy" Ljungberg.

Italy-Brazil 1982

In response to the bad US soccer I've watched recently, I thought I'd post a summary of one of the greatest games in World Cup history. Paolo Rossi led Italy in a stunner against Brazil 3-2 in the quarterfinals of Spain 1982. I cried. The Brazilian team was technically speaking unmatched in history with Zico and Socrates. They were a pure joy to watch. However, their defense was a bit dubious to say the least. Nowadays people talk about Brazil this and Brazil that, but that's a bunch of BS. now they're a good team but they just play regular soccer. Back then they were playing something else.

Monday, July 23, 2007

James Tate

I read another review of Zach's Man Suit on the web site Coldfront. And it struck me as interesting that he - like me when I reviewed the book here a while back - should feel the need to emphasize the Tate influence. Were I to review one of the endless array of "quietist" books of poetry I wouldn't know where to begin to talk about influence - other than "the workshop."

So this is I guess both an argument for and against Silliman's quietude idea. One is that it is still so prevalent - though permutating based on the outside influences of the day - but also that I don't think quietude includes someone like Tate, whose work actually does stick out, not merely competent.

The nature of this "sticking out" can of course be up for some discussion.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

John Wilkinson

Here's Joyelle's review of John Wilkinson's fantastic book Lake Shore Drive:

Here's Michael Peverett's review of the same book (& referencing Joyelle's review):

Here is John's brilliant poem "Beatbox (for Aase Berg)" in the most recent Action,Yes:

Michael Strunge

The UK book publisher Arc has published a book of selected poetry by Michael Strunge, a Danish poet who won great acclaim in the 1980s as a very young man (killed himself at age 26 I think). As for what this poetry is like, well, he's got poems dedicated to the Joy Division singer who killed himself and he had a Rimbaud-complex. A lot of it is very interesting in a hallucinatory, decadent way.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Conversation

It's interesting how many movies reference/pay homage to the great blow-up scene in Antonioni's "The Blow Up" - where the photographer starts blowing up a seemingly innocent photograph from the park only to uncover a nasty gun, which leads him into a murder case he can't solve.

Coppola's "The Conversation" is perhaps the most overt remake. Or DePalma's "The Blow Out".

Also seems like an intereing counterpoint to Sontag's claim about how photography has ruined our idea of knowledge, turning it into a a collection of images (instead of true knowledge, whatever that may be). The shocking thing about photography (and mechanical recording devices) has always been that it can detail so much more than the human eye. So if we look closely enough, we may just find the smoking gun. But it's still looking (or listening).


Here's my review of Tomas Transtromer's collected poems (as I point out in the review, that's not entirely true).

It's kind of an unfocused review, but it does provide some background to his career, which is missing from most discussions of his work here in the US (For example the review in Boston Review recently).

Same issue also includes Joyelle's review of John Wilkinson's "Lake Shore Drive."

from Steve Bradbury, Taiwan

The Summer 2007 issue of Full Tilt: a journal of East-Asian poetry, translation, and the arts is finally online at the following website:

In addition to eight interviews with poets, translators, artists and others working in and out of the major East Asian languages (among them veteran translators John Nathan, Hiroaki Sato, Howard Goldblatt, and Bruce Fulton), this second issue of Full Tilt includes prose poems by the overseas Chinese poet Shoo Tao, a vintage flash fiction by Korea's master of the short story Hwang Sun-wŏn, audio/video recordings from China's burgeoning culture of performance poetry, graffiti art by Taiwan's controversial Bbrother, and a choice audioclip from Michael Berry's interview of Chinese auteur director Jia Zhangke.

I hope you enjoy the issue, and would appreciate your forward this announcement to other people who may share your interest in East-Asian poetry, translation, and the arts.

If you wish to add someone to this list or remove yourself from it, please send me an email to that effect at

Best wishes,

Steve Bradbury
Full Tilt editor

Friday, July 20, 2007

School of Quietude

I wanted to post a comment on Ron's site, but for some reason I can't.

My basic point was this: I think Ron's "quietude" vs "past-avant" is an OK start for talking about the "anthology wars" of the late 1950s and the 1960s in the US - how certain poetics were attached to certain institutional situations. This somewhat reductive binary is useful as a way to begin to discuss these historical forces.

However, sometimes Ron seems to want the same conflict to be some kind of trans-geographic model for understanding all western poetry, and that's when he runs into problems. For example, he tried to apply it to Brodsky and Mayakovsky. I don't think it's useful when broadened like this because its strength is that it describes a specific historical situation. If we want it to apply everwhere we must make it so general that it ceases to have any meaning.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Again there's a discussion of teaching on Josh Coreys' blog. I put in my two cents.

It is amazing how people use the idea of a "tradition" when talking about teaching - "it's important that you teach the students the rules before they break them." I've heard this statement a million times. But as Michael Martone once said during a conversation in Alabama, does that convention include Poe?

What people talk about when they talk about the tradition seems rather narrow to me, an anti-modernist construction of the reactionary New Critics as remolded over the past few decades of workshops. The antipathy toward a perceived degeneracy of modernity and mass culture seems one of the main principles (at least when I went to Iowa it was).

It's interesting: This tradition claims to be centered on Lowell, but in its watered-down traditionalism, I wonder if Lowell himself would feel at home in it. Of course, this becoms a matter of pedagogy - how the poems are read, followed.

Another observation: Lots of talk about what to teach, but few people seem to want to discuss the role of the teacher. Contrary to most contemporary theories of pedagogy, most of the poetry crowd seems to still believe that teaching entails the teacher imparting a set of information to their students.

Jean Epstein

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I absolutely recommend all to watch Jean Epstein's 1928 cinematic adaptation of "The Fall of the House of Usher." In its use of montage, this film, which featured the assistant Louis Bunuel, seems to contain the seeds of The Andalusian Dog. It's also an allaround fantastic film.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


From Eugene Ostashevsky:

The Russian conceptualist poet, performance and visual artist Dmitry Prigov
died last night in Moscow. Prigov has been in a coma after suffering a
massive heart attack on July 6.

Born in 1940, Prigov was one of the two poles of Russian poetry of his
generation, the other being his cultural antipode Joseph Brodsky, born the
same year. As a twentieth-century avant-gardist, Prigov was a figure on the
level of Kurt Schwitters, with similar inventiveness, humor,
interdisciplinarity, astonishing performance skills and the ability to find
beauty and truth in garbage.

Prigov became a major fixture in the Moscow art underground in the 1970s,
and is recognized under the ironic title of “The Father of Moscow
Conceptualism.” A faint taste of his performance style might be had at, where he recites the first
lines of “Eugene Onegin.” Although not a dissident, Prigov managed to get
himself interned in a psychiatric institution for handing out his poems to
passersby on the street in 1986. His first book to be published in Russia
came out in 1990; it was followed by international fame and numerous awards.

I had the good luck to work with him in Italy in 1998. He was a kind, funny,
engaging person and will be greatly missed.


The Cinematic Body

Here's a quote from Steven Shaviro's brilliant book "The Cinematic Body", a Deleuzian repudiation of iconophobic film criticism. I think much of it hold true of all forms of art, not the least poetry:

“Beneath its claims to methodological rigor and political correctness, it manifests a barely contained panic at the prospect (or is it the memory?) of being affected and moved by visual forms. It is as if there were something degrading and dangerous about giving way to images, and so easily falling under their power. Theory thus seeks to ward off the cinema’s dangerous allure, to refuse the suspect pleasures that it offers, to dissipate its effects by articulating its hidden but intelligible structure. Behind all these supposedly materialist attacks on the ideological illusions built into the cinematic apparatus, should be not rather see the opposite, an idealist’s fear of the ontological instability of the image, and of the materiality of affect and sensation?”

I'm not talking about the old bash theory kind of thinking, but I am thinking about that strain of thinking about poetry that must necessarily eliminate pleasure, affect, the image.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I'm even more excited about this DVD release

Kenneth Anger is amazing and Sinead prefers it to Baby Einstein.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

El Topo

This trailer is really funny - "It is a mystical film. El Topo is bloody" - but the funniests thing of all is that none of the shots in the trailer seem to be from the same film. The film is so disjunctive, the trailer seems to be taken from a film that may be days long.

Anyway, great film. It's "more than a spectacle." I love this film.

Thought the trailer doesn't include my favorite moment: "I've been expecting you, my rabbits have been dying for days."

"terrible thing and beautiful thing go together"

I have written some disparaging things about Jodorowski on this blog in the past but I for one am very psyched that his hallucinatory western "El Topo" has now beed DVD-ed.

Get it here:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bob Dylan and Gothic

The juxtaposition below of my mom's show and my own shows is not "random." Now Bob Dylan has revised his persona so that he's a man of the people, a retro musician steeped in hillbilly music and blues. But at his peak (shown below) Dylan was a Rimbaud-reading, gender-bending, dandy and Gothic singer (in fact connecting The Cure with hillbilly music in an intersting way) luxuriating in the artificiality and aestheticism. That is why the Bob Dylan of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde is so much more interesting than the Bob Dylan of Basement Tapes or anything after.

(Though I think it's pretty much all brilliant, especially the show I caught in Alabama last summer, which in some ways seemed to be a return to mid-60s sensibilities - synth pop carousel music.).

My mom went to this show in 1966

Random facts about me

This morning I'm feeling nostalgic looking up old music. So Francois, here are some random facts about me.

I went to this concert (but in Lund, not in Hamburg) back in 1984:

It was an immense experience. All these apocalyptic cold war people with black suits and orange haircuts. An aesthetic I now associate with German Expressionism and its use of notions of "degeneracy" (leading to the movement getting its own exhibit organized by Hitler - the Degenerate Art Exhibit in 1937).

I saw this show in Minneapolis in 1987:

It had an amazing opening film - a closeup of two lipstick-smeared lips making noises - that I now realize was an homage to "Flaming Creatures" (in fact, the whole Cure getup is I think an homage to Jack Smith, whose less famous films from the 1960s feature people with faux-arabic garbs and strange haircuts like Robert Smith's). That's just an aweful song. Ahrg. Good heavens. I can't believe I ever liked this band, but around 1986-87 it was just about all I listened to. That and the Smiths, a band that has aged better I think.

I went to this exact show in 1992:

I was thrown around by the crowd the entire show until the end when I was tossed down on the ground and some big biker guy pissed on me. This made me angry so I left the show before it was over and went to a side-tent and watched the guy from Talking Heads.

Though really the show that was the most important (if it's OK to use such an important word when talking about these random facts) was probably a show by the Minneapolis band Blackie in the basement of the Steamboat Gallery (?) in St Paul. Blackie was about 8-10 people who never rehearsed an only played together on special occasions. Some of them knew how to play the instrument and some didn't. The lead singer was this flamboyantly gay guy with a baseball hat. While the others produced mayhem he rolled around on the ground, video-ing himself while shouing "We're in Spokane." At first I was almost stunned with revulsion, but then I realized how powerful that revulsion was or could be.

All these instances deal in various ways with the Gothic interest in degenecracy and spectacle, things that have remained interesting to me (even though I don't go to shows anymore and when I go I'm bored.