Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span 2011 | Jeffrey Pethybridge

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Jaime Saenz, trans. Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson | The Night | Princeton | 2007

Somewhere there must be a list or book full of permanent poems on permanent things like the ocean or the night, and sometimes you say to yourself: man, I want to write one of those poems, but how? “And then a very odd thing happens: // at a certain moment you begin to see the other side of the night, // and you realize with a start it is already inside you. // But this, of course happens only with the great drunks.”

Walt Whitman, ed. Edward F. Grier | Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts: Volume II Washington | NYU | 1984

Focused reading on the hospital diaries, which in the context of documentary poetics read like a serial poem and all the more powerful for how it’s notational music plays against the eloquent prose of Specimen Days. The diaries might be a perfect test case for Spicer assertion that the poet has to be tricked into writing a serial poem. Interesting also how certain impressions or images––notably the capitol dome statue––stay with him and move from the notebooks to letters, sometimes to poems and how they change in each textual appearance.

Anthony Madrid | The 580 Strophes | manuscript

Crackling thru or under all the verve, humor, élan and wit of the Madrid persona is something else, a form of (momentary) liberty, maybe, yeah that’s it, and isn’t that one of the things Wilde said about masks. “You see, Horatio, I find it easy enough to play both parts in this comedy. / Like every self-righteous rebel, I have internalized the seminal tyrant.”

Kristin Ross | The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune | Verso | 2008

After reading this I dreamt I started distributing a free text––partly a collage partly not––entitled “The Right to Laziness” all thru Austin.

Arthur Rimbaud, trans. John Ashbery | Illuminations | Norton | 2011
Arthur Rimbaud, trans. Donald Revell | Illuminations | Omnidawn | 2009
Arthur Rimbaud, trans. Donald Revell | A Season in Hell | Omnidawn | 2007

Every time I read Rimbaud (in translation) I feel like I’m reading his poems for the first time: it’s full of surprises and that sense of the new, but I don’t feel my reading takes hold or deepens. No other reading experience has ever been elusive in precisely this way. The Ashbery is a great addition to the composite of Rimbaud in English.

Michael Cross | Haeccities | Cuneiform | 2010

Limned by their epigraphs, more even so than their titles, the poems make a terrific music that is at once specifically sensuous and generally allusive, and the result is a powerful form of the lyric. Or rather, maybe it’s better to hear these poems as issuing from that obscurer tradition––devolved from the epic––of wandering philosophers with their strange and beautiful hexameters: “in Pisa say, for Twombly, the frame maintains its course of shape / the frame-abyss, Apollo in the woods, lake-red for sacrifice and use.”

Karen J. Greenberg and Joshua L. Dratel, eds. | The Torture Papers | Cambridge | 2005

Since the crimes detailed in these papers (and in subsequent documents) will never come before a court or a truth commission, what then? Can what we call cultural forms such as history or poetry embody an alternative, albeit lesser, form of accountability, and if so what will that reckoning look like? For me the start of the answer to this question has been to see within the torture memos the epic poem of American empire at the start of the 21st century.

Walter Benjamin, trans Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin | The Arcades Project | Harvard | 1999

Rereading this for the pleasure of wandering and it’s flashing methodology.

Hoa Nguyen | As Long As Trees Last | manuscript

Note-taking rhythms and syntax prevail, but are punctuated by a kind of cinematic image, and all of it is highly condensed and tuned to the mixture of textures (familial, economic, environmental) of daily living: “What can’t stay / late in the month: // dolphin fetus not birds / washing up in numbers.”

Robert J. Bertholf and Albert Gelpi, eds. | The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov | Stanford | 2004

Of all the letters of poets that poets read, these should be first on the list, sorry Keats.

§

More Jeffrey Pethybridge here.

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