Sunday, February 28, 2010

John Wieners

Consider this a collection of links, I guess, like the whole interwebs. I find myself periodically fascinated by John Wieners, enough so that I've tracked down a number of his books, most of them long out of print, but well worth the minor searching you'll have to do to find them. He died in 2002, and I much regret that I wasn't 'on the scene' back then because I would have loved to meet and talk with the man for just a few moments. He seems to have had very little regard for his poems toward the end of his life, furiously scribbling on paper bags, receipts, or anything else that came to hand, but his poetic legacy is relatively large--cult figure--and deserves all the attention and prominence it can get and more. Here are a few links to help you get a sense of the man and his work.

  • From Jacket, a biographical and historical piece by Pamela Petro.
  • his Wikipedia entry, which needs updating and deepening, certainly, given how little anyone but his friends knows about him
  • A poem from his seminal first chapbook, the Hotel Wentley Poems
  • An article from Jack Kimball, which I don't quite know how to describe, but is interesting nonetheless
  • Creeley on Wieners, audio lecture, parts I and II
  • Wieners papers at UConn
  • Audio from Pennsound
  • Tom Raworth
  • A Day in the Life, by Raymond Foye
  • Ron Silliman on A Book of Prophecies
Lastly, I'll point you to the most comprehensive (best, IMO) of his books:
What I find interesting in Wieners' books is the steady forward march of change; his late poems really don't resemble his early ones at all, and there are gems in both, unlike, say,  the later work of his friend (and obsession?) Robert Creeley. These poems, particularly the Wentley poems and much of the early work, ring clear with lyricism and the steadily observed sometimes unpoetic image, the agitated meditations on love.

Later, his work took on a bit of the surreal. He seemed in his personal life to have succumbed to inhabiting his own world. This may or may not have been a reaction based on his mental health at the time, which bio notes suggest was fairly extreme in its scope even by today's standards when every poet's mood disorder seems part and parcel of their identity as poets. Take some Paxil, make a poet. Urgh. I say that with all due respect to the mental health care industry, which does its best for me and many of my friends. I hope.

And let me not forget, somewhere in Cambridge is Pressed Wafer Press. I don't know if they still print books or not. I can find no editor info, and catalog info is sparse.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Issue of Down Dirty Word




Check out Corey Mesler's poems for sure, read the others, and if you get time, hit my poems up. They'd appreciate it.



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BBC Spiritual Journeys: Imtiaz Dharker


Imtiaz Dharker


My wife hipped me to this poet a couple days ago. I've been mulling over the BBC program and her poetry, and feeling parochial. I've reached the point where what I like is what I like, and while I'm pretty open, especially when it comes to poetry, there's nothing like getting a blast of perspective from another culture entirely to make you feel small and wan against the big body that is world poetry.
The poet, artist and film-maker Imtiaz Dharker was born a Muslim in Lahore, Pakistan and educated at a school with a strict Protestant ethic in Glasgow where her family moved to when she was a child.
When growing up she began to question and challenge the restrictions of her religion, particularly on women, and poetry was a place where she could do this.
The titles of some of her poetry collections reflect the issues she grapples with: Postcards from God, I Speak for the Devil, and The Terrorist at my Table.
In her recent collection Leaving Fingerprints, Imtiaz Dharker has been inspired by the Sufi poets and attracted by their belief in the continuous recreation of the self.
However, Imtiaz Dharker is far too earthy and sensual to want to be labelled as merely a 'spiritual writer'.
Presenter: Bidisha
Producer: Kate Howells


Here's a poem from her site. I tried to find the poem 'Honour Killing' online, as it seems her most well-known but couldn't locate it. Which means another book purchase. Meh (not really).


The Right Word

Outside the door,
lurking in the shadows,
is a terrorist.

Is that the wrong description?
Outside that door,
taking shelter in the shadows,
is a freedom fighter.

I haven't got this right .
Outside, waiting in the shadows,
is a hostile militant.

Are words no more
than waving, wavering flags?
Outside your door,
watchful in the shadows,
is a guerrilla warrior.

God help me.
Outside, defying every shadow,
stands a martyr.
I saw his face.
  
No words can help me now.
Just outside the door,
lost in shadows,
is a child who looks like mine.

One word for you.
Outside my door,
his hand too steady,
his eyes too hard
is a boy who looks like your son, too.

I open the door.
Come in, I say.
Come in and eat with us.

The child steps in
and carefully, at my door,
takes off his shoes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Frederick Seidel is Fun and Games for Everyone!

Copyright Mark Mahaney

If you don't know his work--and you should-- this article from Wyatt Mason is a good place to begin:



One night after Christmas last year, in a dark, well-upholstered restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the American poet Frederick Seidel, an elegant man of 73 with an uncommonly courtly manner, told me a story about poetry’s power to disturb. “It was years ago,” Seidel explained in his measured voice, “in the days when I had an answering machine. I’d left my apartment, briefly, to go outside to get something, and when I came back there was a message. When I played it, there was a woman’s voice, a young woman’s voice sounding deeply aroused, saying: ‘Frederick Seidel . . . Frederick Seidel . . . you think you’re going to live. You think you’re going to live. But you’re not. You’re not going to live. You’re not going to live. . . .’ All this extraordinary, suggestive heavy breathing, getting, in the tone of it, more and more intensely sexual, more gruesome, and then this sort of explosion of sound from this woman, and: ‘You’re . . . not . . . going . . . to . . . live.’ 
Seidel paused. The bright cries of a group of young women giving a baby shower in the adjoining booth rose and fell behind the bare crown of Seidel’s gray head. “So,” he continued, “the first thing I did was call a girlfriend. And the woman said, ‘I’m coming over.’ And did. And listened to this thing. And burst into tears. Because it really was horrific.” Another friend, a federal judge, also listened, insisting that Seidel call the police immediately and tell them he’d received a death threat. “They came by and they said: ‘It’s real. Have you published a book recently?’ I had. And that was it, really. Meaning nothing happened. But,” Seidel said, his large blue eyes brightening, “it was the most severe review I’ve ever received.” Read more.


 Or this one, by Michael Hofman:




Poems 1959–2009, by Frederick Seidel.
 Farrar, Straus and Giroux. $40.00.

Frederick Seidel has always been interested in taboos. Only no-no’s need apply. Everything in him is sex, politics, religion, race, and class. A gentle giant of a black doorman remembered from childhood—

He wore a visored cap
With a high Gestapo peak
On his impenetrably black marble.
Waits out there in the sun to open the car door.
My noble Negro statue’s name was Heinz,
My calmly grand George Washington. 

—is to him a full house by any other name. 
From the beginning, Seidel was always a bogeyman, a Bürgerschreck, anépateur—a carnivore if not a cannibal in the blandly vegan compound of contemporary poetry. He is a purveyor of picong, a Trinidadian term, “from the French piquant, meaning sharp or cutting, where the boundary between good and bad taste is deliberately blurred, and the listener is sent reeling.” (This, as good a description of Seidel as inadvertence or serendipity can come up with, is from The World Is What It Is, Patrick French’s outstanding new biography of V.S. Naipaul, and what a lot the authors of Ooga-Booga and A Bend in the River have in common: both of them Insider Outsiders, traveling compulsively on all five continents; sharing an unspeakably deep attraction to a sort of eighteenth-century squirearchy that may or may not be England; a fascination with Africa, with Joseph Conrad, with Islam; both are students of the remorseless spread of global capital and culture, the Gulf Stream of development and the countervailing El Niño of terror; both are equally at ease in fiction and non-fiction, and in a blurring of both; and last and far from least, both exhibit, and are proud of, an insouciant erotomania. Surely Seidel, never a professional poet, never a reviewer, reciter, promoter, or teacher of poetry, could put his name to Naipaul’s boast: “I have never had to work for hire; I made a vow at an early age never to work, never to become involved with people in that way. That has given me a freedom from people, from entanglements, from rivalries, from competition. I have no enemies, no rivals, no masters; I fear no one.” Both are barbed, solitary, aloof, alarming figures, becoming, if anything, less mellow with age, and more like their intrinsic fossil selves, jagged and serviceable, “sharp / And meek,” Seidel says somewhere—he does love his noses—“like the eyesight of the deaf.” Thomas Mann’s term Greisen-Avantgardismus—meaning something like “the experimental progressivism occasionally found in the very old”—suggests itself. We as readers are uneasily privileged to witness their bold, inflammatory, defamatory gestures—gestures we know there will never be time or second thought or pusillanimousness to take back.) Typically, Seidel’s splendid ketchup, piccalilli, and black Poems—its featly five hundred pages covering fifty years of writing—runs backwards, to that beginning, to the slim volumeFinal Solutions, which shared its author’s initials and was published to no little controversy in 1963 when Seidel was twenty-eight, and reasonably fresh out of Harvard. Now Final Solutions stands at the end of Poems 1959–2009, as if it was always going to be there. Read more.


There's not much of his poetry available online, but it seems to me his collected poems is well worth the hefty price tag, and there are other smaller volumes like Ooga-Booga that will give you a taste, too.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Radio Silence

I'd like to say the last three weeks of non-posting have been in service to great new ideas and a rush of writing great big hairy poems and other good things. Sadly, not the case. I am reading a lot, and will likely post some reading-related material here in the next week or so. In the meantime, it's not too early to look forward to NaPoWriMo. Check out the new website Maureen Thorson put up for the annual event she began.


For those of you who don't know, participants in NaPo agree to write a poem every day during April. That's it. Many of us post our drafts to our blogs or other writing communities, just for the heck of it, but many do not. Some of us--cough--often fall three to four days behind schedule and end up writing a frenzied 5-6 poems in a day or two to catch up. It's fun, is the bottom line, and it's collegial and it's humbling, to see what other poets can come up with in the wee hours. Try it. I'll be posting my drafts to this blog in April,and probably in a few other places as well.