October 26, 2005

Georges Bataille, The Impossible, trans. Robert Hurley (San Francisco: City Lights, 1992). 164 pages. $12.95.
Bataille originally called this The Hatred of Poetry, but as readers seemed to have misunderstood the title he opted for the current one. This work spells out Bataille's approach to poetry and philosophy (very Neitzschean): "If I did not exceed nature, in a leap beyond 'the static and the given,' I would be defined by laws" (157).
"A poet doesn't justify -- he doesn't accept -- nature completely. True poetry is outside laws. But poetry ultimately accepts poetry" (158).
"Poetry was simply a detour: through it I escaped the world of discourse, which had become the natural world for me; with poetry I entered a kind of grave where the inifinity of the possible was born from the death of the logical world" (163).
But even poetry, a mere "middle term," fails in the quest to attain the impossible (164).



October 21, 2005

Richard Brautigan, Listening to Richard Brautigan, CD: Collector's Choice Music, 2005.

The liner notes do a fair job of explaining the history behind the project: it was supposed to come out on Zapple Records (the avant-Beatle label back in the day) but didn't. When that venture folded after only two Beatle-related projects, Listening was salvaged and came out istead on EMI Harvest in 1970 as a US only release.
Brautigan oddly enough sounds a lot like he looks in those pictures of him and his girlfriends on all his books; although before hearing the CD, I heard him much differently in my head than the voice that came out of my speakers. That is, I pictured him sounding differently without the aid of a mental picture, as it was all sonic and mental.
There are tracks that seem more Fluxus than you can shake a stick at: a discussion to decide what to buy at Safeway for dinner (steak and corn), a seemingly real phone call, and other environmental recordings of his life in 1969 San Francisco. It's so bathetic as to border on the boring, but at least in my initial listening, I was glad that these tracks were there deviating from the usual "reading" recording structures of the time. Imagine Ezra Pound on the Cadmus recordings talking about meal preparations. No, the humanization here is definitely good and seems fitting with Brautigan.
Of course, the core of the album is Brautigan reading his work. Like many writers, he might not be the best reader of his material. Track three, "Love Poem", explores this by having 18 different people read the same short poem. The effect is powerful and a highlight of these tapings.
A good re-issue, but for fans only. This album shouldn't replace the lazy weekend reading of In Watermelon Sugar or The Pill Versus the Springhill Mining Disaster.



October 15, 2005

Georges Bataille, Collected Poems, trans. Mark Spitzer (Chester Springs, PA: Dufour, 1999).

Full of blood, madness, erections, death, so much so that when Bataille writes "there's nothing I don't dream / there's nothing I don't scream", the reader should have already accepted this statement as a truism (76).

Bataille's writing is pared down to a skeletal core, and much edgier than a lot of his contemporaries (1897-1962):

to love is to agonize
to love is to love dying
monkeys reek as they die

enough I wish I were dead
I am too limp for that
enough I am tired (79)

Being kicked out of Surrealism by Breton with the Second Surrealist Manfesto did little to damage his reputation as a writer and thinker.

Spitzer's translation seems fluid enough and readable.



October 11, 2005

Both Both (October 2005)

This came in the mail for Stephanie and Stephanie, thankfully, left it on my desk for me to flip through. Both Both has all the fun of split 7 inch indie singles: two poets, one issue, a flipside.

This particular issue features Paul Hoover and Alli Warren. I was going to write about how Hoover's poems seemed tighter and more controlled in juxtaposition to Warren's more looslely constructed poems; that is, until I noticed that the lines of Warren's fifth stanza on what would be page 7 if paginated contain not only the same number of syllables, but that line 20 repeats the same vowels found in line 19:

Floodgates bulge
people float up

So I'm not going to say that. Instead, I will say that Both Both is a good poetry zine edited by John Sakkis.



October 9, 2005

Ernest Fenollosa, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, ed. Ezra Pound (1936; repr. SF: City Lights, 2001). 45 pages. $9.95.
Nearly most of what Fenellosa writes regarding Chinese grammar and writing has since been seriously called into question, but some of his observations regarding language, translation and Chinese characters are still worth considering:
"A late stage of decay is arrested and embalmed in the dictionary.
Only scholars and poets feel painfully back along the thread of our etymologies and piece together our diction, as best they may, from forgotten fragments. This anaemia of modern speech is only too well encouraged by the feeble cohesive force of our phonetic symbols. There is little or nothing in a phonetic word to exhibit the embryonic stages of its growth. It does not bear its metaphor on its face. We forget that personality once meant, not the soul, but the soul's mask. This is the sort of thing one can not possibly forget in using the Chinese symbols.
In this Chinese shows its advantage. Its etymology is constantly visible" (24-5).



October 6, 2005

Carlota Caulfield, The Book of Giulio Camillo (Oakland, CA: Eboli, 2003).
_____, Angel Dust (Madrid: Betania, 1990).
Trilingual editions. I never really considered the possibility until I picked these two books up over the weekend. The solution presented to the marketing of translation problem is interesting, and like most solutions to old problems, poses new problems in their stead.
Of course, putting a book out in three languages as oppossed to two [like her At the Paper Gates with Burning Desire (Eboli, 2001)] or one [34th Street (Eboli, 1987)] immediately makes the book 1/3rd or 2/3rds more accessible (read marketable). And anything that helps push a small press product to move units off bookstore and warehouse shelves into the hands of readers is generally a step in the right direction: for the store, for the press, and for the poet.
However, Caulfield's Book of Giulio, as interesting a premise as it has, is chapbook length, weighing in at 14 pages of poetry in English but is presented in a 100 page tome.
The trilingual editions address the multi-national nature of Caulfield's core reading audience, but the budgetary/page limitations of most small presses make trilingual editions of full-length works unviable.



October 2, 2005

Gerhard Richter, The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings 1962-1993 (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1995).

"Happenings, pictures, objects: the lay person has and makes all these in a way that puts every artist to shame. Have artists ever made objects remotely as large and as good as a lay person's garden?" (22).

"Theory has nothing to do with a work of art. Pictures which are interpretable, and which contain a meaning, are bad pictures" (35).

"The reason why a pyramid was built is one thing, and how we see it now is quite another" (60).

"For an artist there must be no names: not table for table, not house for house, no Christmas Eve for 24 December, not even 24 December for 24 December. We have no business knowing such nonsense" (39).