Friday, March 16, 2007

James Tate

James Tate's second full book was Oblivion Ha-Ha, published in 1970 by Little Brown. It has an orange and blue dust jacket with a picture of kite flyers. The back cover is a full page photograph of the romantic young author.
The book is most famous for three poems, "The Blue Booby," "Little Yellow Leaf," and "The Wheelchair Butterfly ('Beware a velvet tabernacle')." At first glance the book is full of funny surrealist poems, the song of a manic whipporwill. Its all of the same sequined cloth. However, just below the surface of so many of the poems there is a sad and lovely melancholy. The words which appear most are Orange, black, dark and darkness. The poems are in the same category as and somewhere in between Ashbery and Simic. In these poems bread sighs, a "rollerskate collides with a lunch pail," " the dark is an available religion," and "chameleons can walk around a small room." These are tall skinny poems of delight and despair. I particularly liked the following poems:

1. Poem, which starts of the volume, is terrific:
"He did the handkerchief dance all alone
O Desire! it is the beautiful dress

for which the proper occasion
never arises.

O the wedding cake and the good cigar!"

There's a little Kenneth Koch there too.

2. "Prose Poem," which is of course lineated and racous [raw cuss].

3. "The Tryst," in which the word 'baleful' is perfectly used.

4. The manic, maniac "Shadowboxing," sweet and lonely.

5. "Twilight Sustenance Hiatus" in which the colon is well placed:

" There is so little news fit to print:
Yesterday a moth caught fire."

6. When Kabir Died," " Failed Tribute to the Stonemason of Tor House, Robinson Jeffers," "Conjuring Roethke," "No End to Fall River," and the long last poem "Bennington."

"Hello again, mad turnip,"

Monday, February 19, 2007

Zuk on exams

"'Exams' on principle are offensive to the intellect, that must proceed from--- not towards---what it knows...might ask stew dunces: A. WHAT DON'T YOU KNOW? AND B. WHAT ARE YOU ALMOST SURE YOU KNOW WRONG. WAKE'EM UP
Louis Zukfosky

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ashbery quote

"For the most dissonant night charms us, even after death.
This after all, may be happiness: tuba notes awash on
the great flood, ruptures of xylophone, violins, limpets,
grace-notes, the musical instrument called serpent,
viola da gambas, Aeolian harps, clvicles, pinball ma-
chines, electric drills, que said-je encore!
John Ashbery "The Skaters"

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Another Selection from Davenport

". . . how do I know the things I know. . . If she means history and geographical detail, the answer is books, travel and stealing. If she means psychology and the behaviour of people, I make it up. . . . I describe an alternate reality allowed for by nature but not by Janet Reno.
The formula is: an image or idea to go with. Walt and Sam were two very sophisticated French boys at the Brasserie Georges V. It was a lovely late afternoon. . . . I remarked and BJ agreed, that the boys were from Gide--too brainy (they had satchels and books) for De Montherlant, too pure an innocent to be from Proust.
. . . then, back home a year of so later, I made up the rest of it."
Letter to James Laughlin.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Guy Davenport to James Laughlin

I can highly recomend the new collection of letters between Guy Davenport and James Laughlin, published by New Directions, just. It is one in a series of such letters by various writers to Laughlin. Both men are charming and easy, voluble and loquacious. Especially Davenport, who is nicely all over the place. My friend Cathy Henderson of the HRC in Austin appears: "Cathy Henderson has sen me a pebble from Kafka's grave." The various comments by Davenport about various people are hysterical (on Susan Howe: "She has read entriely too much Olson.") He pokes a little fun at Anne Carson too, which is very salutary, given the slight overexposure of said writer. He calls her "St. Anne" and "La Carson." He apparently watercolored a facsimile copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer! He had this to say about originality:

"Printer's ink isn't ever going to duplicate an artist's colors, and color film isn't ever going to get them right. A CD is not a symphony orchestra and the eye has never seen what a camera catches. I've always llived in the something-better-than-nothing compromise." smart.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

An Anthology

Don't Ask Me What I Mean, edited by Clare Brown and Don Paterson is a collection of author's statements (actually excerpts from the back issues of the Poetry Book Society's Bulletin). Each author talks about the background for his or her book (e.g. Geoffrey Hill on King Log, Mercian Hymns, etc., or U. A. Fanthorpe on Neck Verse). Not overlong, the selections are usually to the point and specific. Included are "Almost all the major poets published in the U.K. in the last 50 years." There are in factr 120 poets from Betjeman to Fred D'Aguiar, but "the postmoderns will gripe at the ommission of thier stars." Indeed, but this is the only weakness of an otherwise fine and varied collection. For some reason a half dozen Americans are also included (Charles Simic, C. K. WIlliams, Merwin, Mark Doty and a few others). Why is there apicture of a Joshua Tree on the cover of this very and mostly English anthology.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Phrases from Finnegans Wake

met him pike hoses

Humptydump Dublin's grandada of all rogues

Tuck up your sleeves and loosen your talktapes.
and don't butt me-hike!---when you bend

muy malinchily malchick

Monday, January 22, 2007

Variegated Garments

" A frank, open exposition of herself is distasteful to Nature, who, just as she has withheld an understanding of herself from the uncouth senses of men by enveloping herself in variegated garments, has also desired to have her secrets handled by more prudent individuals through fabulous narratives. Accordingly, her secret rites are veiled in mysterious representations so that she may not have to show herself even to initiates."

Macrobius. Commentary on the Dream of Scipio (C.E. 1150)