Attention Span 2010 – Sarah Riggs
I realize that this is a bit chatty, laced with biography and autobiography—I’m trying to find my way back into a critical reviewer mode I learned long ago, but that may be gone for good . . . well, no apologies, here are some philosophy, novels, along with of course poetry—that’s always been the trio, in intersection film and visual arts—and I see here, a near-decade of living also in and around French. As an aside, It would be nice also to review the wilderness, I should like to give a report on Jenny Lake in Wyoming.
Julia Strachey | Cheerful Weather for the Wedding | Hogarth | 1932
Lytton Strachey’s niece wrote this novel, and it’s brilliant in the way that Douglas Sirk films are, bitingly ironic in the brightest most vivid of British aristocratic settings. I never would have read it with such a title, but that I found it on my bedside table, simply because Keith Waldrop mentioned it to Jacques Roubaud who mentioned it to Marie Anne Guérin who mentioned it to Omar Berrada, who left it on that table. Apparently that’s more or less all she wrote. Dommage.
Gemma Corradi Fiumara | The Other Side of Language: A Philosophy of Listening | Routledge | 1990
Basically the notion, repeated in infinite ways, in an Italian-turned-English philosophic density and delicatesse is this: the west does not listen, we speak. And since the west is becoming everywhere, it’s getting very noisy. I loved listening to this repeated, the philosopher’s form of the Zen embrace of silence. And further the possibility of the profundity of listening as the other side of how to live, would that we receive it.
Virginia Woolf, trans. Anne Wicke | Au Phare | Stock | 2009
Reputedly an excellent new translation of To the Lighthouse (1927), and since I’ve read English versions of it for the last many summers running, and accidentally forgot it during the lighthouse holiday this time, had the idea to try it in French. The movement of the mind across, and in, and through landscapes & people is what’s been nudging me toward making a film poem based on two novels—this one and The Waves, the latter of which was the basis for Vita Sackville-West comment that VW was a poet writing in prose. Woolf’s essays on “Cinema,” “On Being Ill,” and the portraits of her in Joan Russell Noble, Recollections of Virginia Woolf, William Morrow & Company, 1972, and the recent collection from the Smith College 2010 exposition are among the jewels sparkling the brightest in the Woolf/Bloomsbury constellation.
Peter Gizzi | Artificial Heart | Burning Deck | 1998
Sometimes you’re drowning in a surfeit of poetry books, where nothing speaks to you, it’s just words turning, twisting, far away from you, obligations to their authors whom are awaiting keen responses. This is where listening to actual poets, Penn Sound, or UBU web come in. I fell in love with a poem, and turned to its book. It’s not your conversion experience, it’s mine: all these years of atheism, I’m now . . . agnostic! It’s sounds like nothing, but it’s a lot for a poetry book. The heart beats, without artifice sometimes, à force de l’entendre.
Liliane Giraudon | La Poétesse | P.O.L. | 2009
Spunky, multi-styled book of French poetry, one of the best I’ve read lately. As usual with poetry, hard to tell you exactly what it’s about, here perhaps sequences of attitudes. This late-career Marseille-based poet is phenomenal, trying everything since surviving a cancer diagnosis a few years ago, including collaborations with film, photo, music, trying her hand at drawing, collage. She lives with two poets, Jean-Jacques Viton and Henri Deluy, a sort of Marseille-Paris threesome on the move, she’s putting the “esse”nce back in poétry, now working with theater on a theme of Amazons.
Stéphane Bouquet | Nos Amériques | Champ Vallon | 2010
Follows the brilliant Un Peuple which Cole Swensen and I are currently translating by an unusual dictation swapping technique that seems to be working at first go, and gives us the sense of being at times the amazing writer himself!! Bouquet is mid-career, has worked in and around film, dance (with Mathilde Monnier), also for many years as a film critic, currently a translator of Creeley and Blackburn. Whereas A People acts like a poetic meditative encyclopedia of artists who reappear in astonishing mimetic bouquets—Keats, Whitman, Woolf, Pasolini, others—this latest follows his earlier five-part sequences, philosophic manqué sexy pondscapes and I’m still trying to figure out what.
Pier Paolo Pasolini | Tal cour di un frut | Actes Sud | 1953
The facing page French translations plus my glancing knowledge of Italian, and the Latinate roots of Friulian dialect, mean I get to invent my own English versions, which suits me better than reading English translations of these tiny, fiercely adolescent poems. For all that Pasolini did in lifetime—living as if there were no walls—what came first was writing poems in his maternal dialect, already a political act. I love how this was the movement that led into all the others.
Stéphane Mallarmé, trans. Henry Weinfield | Collected Poems | California | 1996
I chose this edition of Mallarmé for my NYU-in-France students because it was treated with such reverence back when I was getting my doctorate at U. of Michigan. It is a beautiful large-format book to finger and caress, with much beige margin space, the mellifluous, scant rhymes often impressive, sometimes disappointing, but the missing gutter, which is to say the choice to do facing page French-English instead of keeping the arrangement of words across the fold as Mallarmé had chosen, does not survive the translator’s apology in the postface. I am now on the lookout for other translations of Mallarmé.
Steve Evans | Attention Span | Third Factory | 2003- 2010++
Curators who invent forms are creators, and the results are strangely shaped, semi-intangible at times. Examples include the Parisian salons of Stein, Mallarmé, the Hogarth Press of the Woolf’s, Burning Deck of the Waldrop’s, Naropa of mostly Anne Waldman of long late, Pierre Joris & other bloggers of zest and wide knowledge. America has always been a creative place for bringing people together, also because the distances are so great. Evans here finds a way to make the virtual distances great ones in the great sense.
Doris Lessing | Prisons We Choose to Live Inside | Anasi | 1991
Watch out, this book is dangerous. It suggests there’s no independent thinking. And that the information we need to live well we already have, but we ignore most of it. In the form of university lectures, but it makes you feel as if you’re in the room with her. Which is perhaps what made me want to go to London to meet her, though this hasn’t happened. It’s a book I feel at present I cannot live without.