Attention Span 2010 – Julie Carr
Nguyen Trai, trans. from Han and Nom by Paul Hoover and Nguyen Do | Beyond the Court Gate: Selected Poems of Nguyen Trai | Counterpath | 2010
Nguyen Trai lived in Vietnam from 1380-1422. The poems are direct depictions of daily life—intimate, immediate, funny, speaking of political turmoil, exile, competition, fear, desire, writing. “To a Friend”: “Your poverty and infirmity make me feel pity / Like me, you must be crazy. / Like me you’re exiled from your motherland / And have read only a few sentences out of books.” Trai is revered in Vietnam as one of the two greatest poets in the country’s history and is also known as a national hero for his role in helping to overthrow the Minh Dynasty, which had controlled Vietnam for centuries. That story is told in the shift from writing in Han to Nom.
Inger Christensen, trans. from the Danish by Susanna Nied | Alphabet | New Directions | 2001
A book-length abecedarian, structured according to the Fibonacci numerical sequence, the poem is a hymn to what is, to what “exists.” “Apricot trees exist. Apricot trees exist.” Or, for “c”: “Cicadas exist, chicory, chromium / citrus trees; cicadas exist / cicadas, citrus, cypresses, the cerebellum.” Deep engagement with the natural world does not preclude acknowledgment of (fear of) things human: loneliness exists, and “Icarus-children white as lambs / in greylight.” This is an incredible translation, which keeps the abecedarian always in view without allowing it to destroy meaning or music. The book was originally published in 1981 in Danish. It has a permanent home on my desk when it’s not in my bag or my hand.
Emily Dickinson, ed. R.W. Franklin | The Poems of Emily Dickinson | Belknap | 1999
Reading all the poems in the fascicles, in order, with a group of approximately fifteen other poets, writers, and scholars. Reading very slowly, very carefully. It should take at least a year and half.
Lisa Robertson | R’s Boat | California | 2010
Alongside The Weather this is my favorite of Robinsons’ books. I especially return to “Utopia”: “The crows are still cutting the sky in half with their freckling eastward wake.” Long lines work the sentence through a deeply lyrical intelligence. Aphoristic, enigmatic, musical, charged with a kind of desire that is never far from critique. “Money is ordinary and truly vernal.”
Matthew Cooperman | Still of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move | Counterpath | forthcoming
Language from everywhere: books, television, news, movies, web, songs, memory pulled together, thrown together, over-the-top mash-up, but with a serious reason to be. This is political work, personal work, a cultural encyclopedia driven by doubt and passion, barely under control. An amazing reading experience, feels visceral.
Anne Carson and Rashaun Mitchell | Nox (the dance) | Performed at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art | July 20, 2010
Carson read her text (or some of it) while dancer/choreographer Mitchell and the incredible Silas Riener performed an outrageously varied, spacious, and intense duet (both men dance for the Cunningham company, but the piece has none of the coolness or cerebral quality of Cunningham.) This dance allowed Carson’s text to become much more immediate and powerful than it is in the book itself, which is fascinating, but somewhat removed. Not so the dance.
Joseph Lease | Testify | Coffee House | forthcoming
Gorgeous book driven by a particular blend of disgust and compassion that only Lease can pull off. Repetition, direct statement, directed through a careful musical composition: “in my body, 4 a.m. in my body, breading and olives and cherries. Wait, it’s all rotten.” This book feels necessary, precise, demanding.
Tomaz Salamun, ed. Thomas Kane, trans. Thomas Kane et al. | There’s the Hand and There’s the Arid Chair | Counterpath | 2009
Reading Salumun is a very particular pleasure. Hearing him read is a revelation. Publishing this book meant that I read it many times over, and it still remains a mystery (or a series of mysteries), but one that is lodged permanently in my mind.
Apollinaire | Alcools
Re-Reading by translating with Jennifer Pap. In this sense, reading for the first time.
C.D. Wright | Rising, Falling, Hovering | Copper Canyon | 2008
For me Wright is central. This work in particular has a complexity (multiple voices, narratives, positions, locales) that nonetheless stays grounded and urgent. Again, the work’s rhythms support, drive and motivate its concerns.