Others on me…

[still very much under construction… ralentir travaux… please be patient…]

A new review by Tyrone Williams of volume one of Poems for the Millennium has just come out in the Bengali Kaurab magazine. Here are the opening paragraphs. You can read the rest online, here.

Poems for the Millennium, Volume One: From Fin-de-Siècle to Negritude, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris (University of California Press, 1995).

The impossible task of the international anthologist, like that of the encyclopediast, depends, in part, on the objectivity of an idealized scientist and the aesthetic breadth, however subjective, of the cosmopolitan. How to render encyclopedic breadth, even within the delimited parameters of periodization and aesthetic-political movements, when “taste,” however worldly, must intervene? The traditional response of anthologists has been to acknowledge the inevitable limitations, shortcuts and outright omissions in the introduction. Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, as capable internationalists as we have in the United States of America, are eminently qualified to attempt the impossible. Both are renowned translators, anthologists and poets. They tackle the immense problems they faced assembling this anthology head-on, and though Poems of the Millennium: Volume One is indeed exceptional in its breadth and historical contextualizations, one of the very best of its kind, part of the pleasure of reading slowly and carefully through an anthology like this is not only rediscovering old pleasures (Apollinaire, Mallarme, Césaire, Damas, Trakl, Radnoti, etc.) while discovering new ones (Dario, Huidobro, Benn, Glatshteyn, etc.), but also in weighing the consequences of choices forced upon, or decided by, the editors.

For example, the decision to include only a brief note on, as opposed to an excerpt from The Waste Land, might strike the casual reader as curious. Even if one agrees that this poem is “[m]uch anthologized” and “readily available…in many representative anthologies of American modernism,” its omission is still problematic in an anthology devoted to international modernism. The introduction makes it clear what is at stake in this anthology: in situating Negritude, “along with the ‘Objectivist’ line of Williams, Pound and Zukofsky as our culminating movement,” Rothenberg and Joris have consciously tried to correct or balance the Anglo-Saxon biases of the Norton anthology tradition. For those well versed in modern poetry and poetics this particular reorientation of how we imagine or conceive of modernism makes perfect sense. But if we think of this anthology as a way to introduce undergraduate (or, sadly, graduate) students to modern poetry, it is clear that the conscientious pedagogue fares no better with this anthology than she would if she were armed with a more or less comprehensive Norton or other trade market anthology. The resourceful teacher would need to do what she has learned to do well—create a course-pack, though with publishers and heirs enforcing stringent or, in a few cases, non-existent, copyright laws, the course-pack as such may well be an endangered species. More curious, at least initially, is a note regarding the omission of work by the little-known British modernist poet David Jones. The only hint regarding the basis for its exclusion is given in the opening “introduction” to the commentary on Jones’s work: “The reader’s attention is called to David Jones’s In Parenthesis (1937) & to his The Anathemata: Fragments of an Attempted Writing (1952), both published by Faber & Faber.” (599) Assuming that “the works’ difficulty & gnarledness” cannot possibly be the reason for its exclusion from a volume that features a healthy selection of Dadaist, Futurist and Surrealist writing and art, one may surmise that the apparently superfluous reference to the publisher is not only a helpful citation but also, perhaps, a hint that Faber & Faber’s copyright fees for republication were prohibitively high. Of course, Rothenberg and Joris acknowledge this problem in general in their introduction when, referring to certain omissions from the anthology, they note that “the economics of republication have forced the elimination of work to which we can only refer (if at all) by way of commentary.” (13)

* * *

— Robert Kelly on Poasis.—



And then there is the midground, the space where the poet stands, voice aliquantulum elata, “a little lifted up,” as it used to say in the Mass, talking to you, but only only to tell you where he’s been and what he’s seen. And this is where Joris’s work is most distinctive. If Creeley talks to you in bed, Joris talks to you at the teahouse, in the café. This is the great possibility he identifies, it seems to me, when he speaks of the Nomad and the nomadic as exemplars of a poetics. The nomad carries his world with him, and travels through ours.

And of course that’s what Olson, especially the Herodotus Olson of the early Maximus and The Distances, was after– someone speaking from where he has been, and from whom he has been while there.

* * *

— Michel Deguy on Pierre Joris—


Pierre Joris: Improv-American Nomad
Michel Deguy

There is something felicitous in Pierre Joris’ writing. At the speed of soliloquy, but before others, for others, he rediscovers what was once called the stance of improvisation–of inspired improvisation.

Once? And recently, too: the musicians (the real musicians, that is–us, we may be musical, musaic, but we are not musicians) improvised, and did it together. Sax, bass, drums…

Inspired? Inspiration has been given a bad name. So let us speak of respiration, transpiration, of spiration: the interrupted whole, the apparatus of interruption, to the degree to which it is constitutive of thought. Thought thinks (with caesuras, enjambments; it runs out of breath, accelerates, slows down; it moves with precipitation, restraint, suspense, glissandos, drops, ostinatos, stoppings) with rhythm. It is axiomatic that rhythm is not exterior to thought. Rhythm doesn’t simply prop thought up, it configures thought.

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2 opinions on “Others on me…”

  1. In Paris in 1966, I wrote that P. Joris was “brilliant” and a “great poet.” I have spent the intervening years being wrong about far too many things. It is comforting to know that I was right on both counts.

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