Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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Posts Tagged ‘Roberto Calasso

Attention Span 2009 – Michael Scharf

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Ange Mlinko | assorted reviews in The Nation

Best Seidel takedown ever.  Better than the Possum Pouch essay claiming Seidel for Flarf.

Douglas Rothschild | Theogony | subpress | 2009

Truer than Williams or Olson. Half a Hesiodic Janus-face (with Luoma’s Works & Days). The great book of turn-of-the-century New York.

Jane Dark’s sugarhigh! | October 1, 2008 thru June 13, 2009 |

Joshua Clover | poems read on May 13, 2008 at Princeton

Compiled the above set of entries into a PDF (minus a few things), resulting in le livre de la crise, a book of exquisite exposition. The poems, some written before Fall 2008, promise definitiveness of a different order.

Jeet Thayil, ed. | The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets | Bloodaxe | 2008

Great love and side-taking. Can sense many poems behind the choices even if I can’t see them, and can also catch sight of the social formations behind them (in a way that I haven’t for 20th C. Canada, Britain, Australia and related diasporim). Not the place to read Kolatkar and others for the first time, but for me the place, transformatively, to read Gopal Honnalgere for the first time.

John Ashbery | Collected Poems 1956-1987 | Library of America | 2008

The 12 poems of Rivers and Mountains take on a momentous scale and aspect, with “Clepsydra” and “The Skaters” as oeuvre prisms: light enters them in spectra, and leaves in lines (of what is to come). Double Dream as the best book of Fall 2008 (“Soonest Mended”; “Decoy”; “Definition of Blue”).

Jordan Davis | Reading at the Zinc Bar with George Stanley and Chris Nealon | May 15, 2009

This seemed to take place in bullet time.

Josef Kaplan | Our Heavies | chapbook | 2009

T-Pain presents The 1990s, a bildungsroman.

Juliana Spahr | “The Incinerator” | Lana Turner | 2008

Total destruction of the pathetic fallacy.

Kevin Killian | Action Kylie | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

She stands, at 5′ 1”, like Donatello’s David, hand on cocked hip, sword resting at waist, hat pulled low. Seconds until the voice comes in, on, over. Each death and loss adds to its saturate. It sings through (“spell it ‘galaxie'”) life, this unbearably beautiful book its form. Icon incarnations as multiply era-synechdochic; metamorphoses as mirror; close encounters as abrasions, as identifications, interstices, and interpellations (“the magnificent instability of the sign”). Attack, Sustain, Decay, Release.

Kunwar Narayan, trans. from Hindi by Apurva Narayan | No Other World: Selected Poems | Rupa | 2008

Xi Chuan, trans. from Mandarin by Arthur Sze | “On Wang Ximeng’s Blue and Green Horizontal Landscape Scroll, A Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains” | Boston Review 34.3 | May-June 2009

Hans Varghese Mathews | “Words and Picturables: Image and Perlocution in English Verse” | Phalanx 3 |

The Almost Island conference in Delhi this past February (curated by Bei Dao, Sharmistha Mohanty, and Vivek Narayanan) brought together poets from China and India for a multi-day set of dialogues, visits, and retreats. (Gist: movement, led by Ashis Nandy, toward some meanings for India and China as “civilizations,” in senses that avoided much that is either discursively co-opted or out-of-bounds.) Kunwar Narayan and Xi Chuan read together the first night. I’ve lent away my copies of No Other World, but Narayan is considered to be, and felt like, a Stevens-caliber figure, a poet whose subtlety matches the stakes of the Hindutva era. Xi Chuan, part of the circle of poets associated with Bei Dao’s journal Jintian (founded in 1978), read a selection of poems that included “Wang Ximeng”; the poem seemed a reply to “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” with society as self. I agreed with Hans Mathews, one of the respondents, that it seemed to destroy the framing of the event; Mathews’s own essay contains a phenomenal phenomenology of the poetic image.

Roberto Calasso | The Forty-Nine Steps | Minnesota | 2001

Brilliant on Nietzsche. Devastating on Brecht (while preserving the poems). Stirner, Schreber, Wedekind all also here, and Benjamin. The best possible antidote for George Steiner. Calasso’s Ka also a great restorative following unreadable translations of the Mahabharata.

More Michael Scharf here.

Attention Span – Jed Rasula

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Esther Leslie | Hollywood Flatlands | Verso | 2004

The cover image of Eisenstein shaking hands with Mickey Mouse sums it up. A smart and sassy book about the brief intersection of European avant-garde art and Tinsel City Toons.

Peter Wollen | Paris Manhattan: Writings on Art | Verso | 2004

The sheer brilliance of each essay overcomes the smorgasbord effect of a collection like this. Try “Tanks,” “Magritte and the Bowler Hat,” “The Myth of the West,” and the somewhat autobiographical “Fridamania.” Intimidatingly sensible.

Wolfgang Schivelbusch | The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century | California | 1986

All the lively anecdotes and tidbits you’d expect on such a subject, but presented with a quizzical intelligence similar to Walter Benjamin.

Roberto Calasso | K. | Knopf | 2005

Like a crosseyed attempt to read both columns of Ashbery’s “Litany” at the same time, this scrupulously informed and highly original foray into Kafka feels like a visionary recital by Ibn’Arabi as examined by Sherlock Holmes.

Kazuo Ishiguro | The Unconsoled | Vintage | 1996

The perfect read is like the proverbial perfect storm, and in this case involves parallel travels: mine to the old Flemish city of Ghent, the protagonist’s to an unnamed but eerily similar place for a piano recital. Harrowing and disorienting in an oneiric sense, it’s also very funny. A sleeper with a kick.

John Banville | The Untouchable | Vintage | 1998

Banville has a penchant for populating several books with the same characters—e.g. Eclipse and Shroud (which, by the way, is a roman à clef based on Paul de Man)—but not here, as The Untouchable is a barely veiled novel about Sir Anthony Blunt, the art historian revealed as a spy for the Soviets. Banville writes such juicy sentences I can’t help reading a lot of them twice in succession, so this 367 page book seemed, in memory, at least 600.

Vladimir Nabokov, read by Jeremy Irons | Lolita | Random House Audio | 2005

I think James Mason made a much better Humbert in Kubrick’s film than Jeremy Irons in the remake—in part because the subject matter helplessly evokes Irons’ creepy gynecologists in Dead Ringers—but as a performer of Nabokov’s full text, he’s really perfect, and perfectly insinuating. This rendering is so intriguing that it’s tempting to recommend it over the “original.”

Leonard Schwartz | A Message Back & Other Furors | Chax | 2008

I find I’ve been reading Schwartz with same rapt attentiveness I associate with reading Oppen back when he was still alive and writing. Both seem to have some preternatural access to words purged of casual or vernacular associations, yet bearing the weight of everyday usage. Accessible and esoteric at once. “Bewilderment / is the only ark.”


More Jed Rasula here.