Meanderings & mawqifs of poetry, poetics, translations y mas. Travelogue too.

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Happy 80th, Jürgen Ploog!

January 11th, 2015 · Celebration, Literature, Writing

juergen-ploogJürgen Ploog, maybe the best & most adventurous of the German cut-up & collage writers — with Carl Weissner (1940-2012) — turned 80 on Friday. For 33 years a long-distance pilot for Lufthansa (I remember a photo of him with typewriter in cockpit), he has been a cosmonaut of inner & outer space for even longer and his books, from Cola Hinterland (1969) to Unterwegssein ist alles (2011) have been consistent mappings of mental, sexual, cultural & criminal areas where few dare to tread. For the occasion of his 80th, his Nächte in Amnesia, a sequence of  fragmentary fictions including Ploog’s own collages was republished (Moloko Print, Schönebeck 2014). By this time what I have in another context called the seam/seem writing of collage/montage has become so smooth & elegant that most of the sharp edges of cut-up montage have just about disappeared. But beware, reader: it is exactly in those invisible folds that you will be sucked in & under, it is in these hidden syntactic cracks & fault lines that you’ll lose you footing to disappear into this or that parallel noir world, and no “Beam me up, Scotty” will save your ass. For more on Ploog check articles here (in German) & here (in English). At the bottom of this post a video of Ploog reading.

Partial list of Ploog’s writings:

  • Cola-Hinterland (Darmstadt: Melzer Verlag 1969)
  • Die Fickmaschine. Ein Beitrag zur kybernetischen Erotik (Göttingen: Expanded Media Editions 1970)
  • Sternzeit 23 (Göttingen: Shark Editions/Verlag Udo Breger 1975)
  • RadarOrient (Berlin: Verlag Jakobsohn 1976)
  • Pacific Boulevard (Bonn: Expanded Media Editions 1977)
  • Nächte in Amnesien. Stories (Basel: Sphinx Verlag 1980)
  • Strassen des Zufalls. Über William S. Burroughs & für eine Literatur der 80er Jahre (Bern: Lichtspuren 1983)
  • Facts of Fiction. Essays zur Gegenwartsliteratur (Frankfurt: Paria Verlag 1991)
  • Der Raumagent. Erzählungen (Berlin: Druckhaus Galrev 1993)
  • Rückkehr ins Coca & Cola-Hinterland (Ostheim: Verlag Peter Engstler 1995)
  • Tanker. Texte von & zu Jürgen Ploog. Herausgegeben von Florian Vetsch. (Herdecke: Rohstoff Verlag 2004)
  • Undercover. Episodenroman (Wolfenbüttel: GP German Publishing 2005)
  • Unterwegssein ist alles – Tagebuch Berlin-New York (Aachen/Zürich: [SIC] – Literaturverlag 2011)
  • Word is Virus – Essays. 100 Jahre WSB (Luzern: Der Kollaboratör 2014)

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Paul Celan’s “Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry”: Pierre Joris & Paul Auster @ Deutsches House NYU

January 10th, 2015 · Book Launch, Translation

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I am Charlie

January 8th, 2015 · Freedom of Speech


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One Year Without Charges: Poet Ashraf Fayadh

January 8th, 2015 · Arab Culture, Freedom of Speech, Human rights, Intellectuals

Via the always excellent Arab Literature (in English):

Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh was arrested by Saudi authorities on January 1, 2014 — charged with “insulting the Godly self and having long hair” — and has yet to face trial:

ashrafFor the last year, Fayadh has been detained in the Saudi city of Abha without clear legal charges beyond having “ideas that do not suit the Saudi society,” based on a reader’s complaint about Fayadh’s 2008 poetry collection, Instructions Within.

The poet was also detained in the summer of 2013 after a Saudi citizen filed a complaint with the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, accusing Fayadh of having “misguided and misguiding thoughts.” At that time, Fayadh was released. But then, on New Year’s Day, he was re-arrested.

Last February, a hundred Arab writers and thinkers signed a petition condemning “these acts of intimidation targeting Ashraf Fayadh as part of a wider campaign inciting hate against writers and using Islam to justify oppression and to crush free speech.”

Many Saudis and others expressed solidarity on Twitter.

But after an initial hubbub around Fayadh’s arrest, there has largely been silence. In an effort to raise the volume again, activist-scholar Mona Kareem has started a translation movement. Emirati commentator Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi has translated the first section, “Asylum” from Fayadh’s Instructions Within:

Asylum: To stand at the end of a queue..

To be given a morsel of bread.

To stand!: Something your grandfather used to do.. Without knowing the reason why.

The Morsel?: You.

The homeland: A card to put in your wallet.

Money: Papers that carry images of Leaders.

The Photo: Your substitution pending your return.

And the Return: A mythological creature … from your grandmother’s tales.

End of the first lesson.

اللجوء: أن تقف في آخر الصف..

كي تحصل على كسرة وطن.

الوقوف: شيء كان يفعله جدك.. دون معرفة السبب!

والكسرة: أنت.

الوطن: بطاقة توضع في محفظة النقود.

النقود: أوراق ترسم عليها صور الزعماء.

الصورة: تنوب عنك ريثما تعود.

والعودة: كائن أسطوري.. ورد في حكايات الجدة.

انتهى الدرس الأول.

If you’re interested in participating in any way, join the Facebook group Freedom for Ashraf Fayadh.


Watch an interview with Fayadh’s father on France 24

Mona Kareem’s Global Voices report on Fayadh’s detention

Catalogue of exhibition Ashraf Fayyadh co-curated at the 55th Venice biennale in 2013 

Petition for Fayadh’s release, on Jadaliyya 

The poem “Frida Kahlo’s Moustache” (Arabic)

In Vice: “The Saudi Arabian Artist in Jail For Having Long Hair

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Review of Barzakh

January 7th, 2015 · Book Review, Uncategorized

by Don Wellman  on Immanent Occasions; opening paras follow — read the full review here.

Barzakh: Poems 2000-2012, Pierre Joris, Black Widow: Boston 2014

Barzakh is largely constructed from the poet’s work over the first decade of the new millennium, much of it biographical in nature. Like Louis Zukofsky, Pierre Joris interrogates “the overtly complex semantic unit we call ‘life.’’ I am following Mark Scroggins in this phrasing. Several structural conceptual elements shape the collection, among them the notion of ‘barzakh’ (from the Arabic, an isthmus, also associated with limbo).  As used in the teachings of Ibn Arabi, ‘barzakh’ is an in-between space that both separates corporeal from incorporeal realms of existence and allows communication through the barrier or limbo like margin that separates the two. ‘Barzakh’ both articulates the two realms and instantiates the possibility of their parallel if partially overlapping existence. When I read “margin” in this context I think of Derrida’s use of the term. Joris’s use of the term also reminds me of Victor Turner’s concept of liminality. Ritual, language and ecology are recurring, complementary themes throughout his text. The everyday touches the spiritual in many of the most “lyrical” moments in the collection: “love is / what tenses / across the/ space between. // Love this / morning is / me writing / at Friendly’s” (210). Concern with for aesthetic structure manifests itself from insanely perceptive rhyming couplets like that of “is” and “tenses” to the macro level of the architecture of the whole.

Barzakh culminates with a multivocal, polyphonic libretto to human agency with respect to environmental degradation, “The Gulf.” The trigger to this recitation is, of course the Deep Water Horizon Disaster of April 20, 2010. “The Gulf”, with its hymn-like elements, is not only capstone of the collection, but an unfurling of concerns that form the moral fiber of poetry and its social responsibilities. “The Gulf” in its first and second sections is a loose trans-creation of the first truly modernist poem, Mallarme’s, “A Throw of the Dice.” The second element of “The Gulf” is also made from found materials that serve as solo and choral testimony to the destruction wrought by the oil spill. The final section includes a mantra-like recitation of the various etymological meanings of “gulf,” bringing it through chasms and swallowings to a near synonymy that is also an antimony with “barzakh.” The complex of interwoven allusions and references pulses with a beautiful energy. The poet’s mindfulness addresses language and poetry, the root material of our shared reality. These concerns are embedded throughout and announced from the first pages of the poem, where we find a bilingual ode, largely in French, addressed to Jack Kerouac, a necessary gesture in the direction of America’s multi-lingual and immigrant heritage. The poem acknowledges the forces the propel travel across landscapes, a central concept of Joris’s ‘nomad’ poetics. In Joris’s case both his adopted home and American citizenry, combined with his European heritage as a native Luxembourg, have impelled global, multinational travels, most notably his engagement the literature of the Maghreb.


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PEN Survey — Global Chilling:

January 6th, 2015 · Uncategorized

 The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers

Global Chilling: The Impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers is a new report demonstrating the damaging impact of surveillance by the United States and other governments on free expression and creative freedom around the world.

The report’s revelations, based on a survey of nearly 800 writers worldwide, are alarming. Concern about surveillance is now nearly as high among writers living in democracies (75%) as among those living in non-democracies (80%). The levels of self-censorship reported by writers living in democratic countries are approaching the levels reported by writers living in authoritarian or semi-democratic countries. And writers around the world think that mass surveillance has significantly damaged U.S. credibility as a global champion of free expression for the long term.

On the basis of the survey findings, PEN urges the newly seated U.S. Congress to put reform of mass surveillance programs that violate constitutional and international human rights at the top of its to-do list.


- See more here.

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James Koller (1936-2014)

January 5th, 2015 · Obituaries, Poet

koller hatScreen Shot 2015-01-05 at 8.38.43 AM

For Jim Koller

the Great
Barzakh, the




that’s all
we have
when it


I see

on the other
side of
the river

as are
so many

of our friends
as we will
be all

Check out the following site for more news & memorials.

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Antonio Gramsci “I Hate the New Year”

January 3rd, 2015 · Whatever

GramsciThis text was first pub­lished in Avanti!, Turin edi­tion, from his col­umn “Sotto la Mole,” Jan­u­ary 1, 1916.

Every morn­ing, when I wake again under the pall of the sky, I feel that for me it is New Year’s day.

That’s why I hate these New Year’s that fall like fixed matu­ri­ties, which turn life and human spirit into a com­mer­cial con­cern with its neat final bal­ance, its out­stand­ing amounts, its bud­get for the new man­age­ment. They make us lose the con­ti­nu­ity of life and spirit. You end up seri­ously think­ing that between one year and the next there is a break, that a new his­tory is begin­ning; you make res­o­lu­tions, and you regret your irres­o­lu­tion, and so on, and so forth. This is gen­er­ally what’s wrong with dates.

They say that chronol­ogy is the back­bone of his­tory. Fine. But we also need to accept that there are four or five fun­da­men­tal dates that every good per­son keeps lodged in their brain, which have played bad tricks on his­tory. They too are New Years’. The New Year’s of Roman his­tory, or of the Mid­dle Ages, or of the mod­ern age.

And they have become so inva­sive and fos­sil­is­ing that we some­times catch our­selves think­ing that life in Italy began in 752, and that 1490 or 1492 are like moun­tains that human­ity vaulted over, sud­denly find­ing itself in a new world, com­ing into a new life. So the date becomes an obsta­cle, a para­pet that stops us from see­ing that his­tory con­tin­ues to unfold along the same fun­da­men­tal unchang­ing line, with­out abrupt stops, like when at the cin­ema the film rips and there is an inter­val of daz­zling light.

That’s why I hate New Year’s. I want every morn­ing to be a new year’s for me. Every day I want to reckon with myself, and every day I want to renew myself. No day set aside for rest. I choose my pauses myself, when I feel drunk with the inten­sity of life and I want to plunge into ani­mal­ity to draw from it new vigour.

No spir­i­tual time-serving. I would like every hour of my life to be new, though con­nected to the ones that have passed. No day of cel­e­bra­tion with its manda­tory col­lec­tive rhythms, to share with all the strangers I don’t care about. Because our grand­fa­thers’ grand­fa­thers, and so on, cel­e­brated, we too should feel the urge to cel­e­brate. That is nauseating.

I await social­ism for this rea­son too. Because it will hurl into the trash all of these dates which have no res­o­nance in our spirit and, if it cre­ates oth­ers, they will at least be our own, and not the ones we have to accept with­out reser­va­tions from our silly ancestors.

– Trans­lated by Alberto Toscano

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Bonne Année!

January 1st, 2015 · Uncategorized


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Chicago Tribune Review of “Breathturn into Timestead”

December 31st, 2014 · Book Review

  • The last five poetry volumes of Paul Celan are collected in “Breathturn Into Timestead” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

The poem, Paul Celan once said, “is lonely,” and in its loneliness it reaches outward, “intends another … goes toward it.” In this way, Celan went on to explain, the poem creates the possibility for an encounter with the reader, for being heard and understood. One of the most revered and prolific European poets of the 20th century, Celan, born Paul Antschel in 1920 in Czernowitz, held out hope for that possibility of meaningful contact and communication through poetry.

“Breathturn Into Timestead,” a bilingual compilation of the poet’s five final volumes with translation and commentary by Pierre Joris, shows how Celan’s later, more obscure poetry continues to engender that kind of hope for connection, even while recognizing the very limits of poetry, of the German language, of words themselves.

In his illuminating introduction Joris points to an untitled poem, which begins: “Line the wordcaves / with panther skins” and suggests that the word, like the cave, is “hollow … a formation with its own internal complexities and crevasses,” and thus must be toyed with, reworked, reimagined, if it is to be meaningful at all. Put differently, and in Celan’s own language, poetry must be subjected to the “radical putting-into-question of art.”

(… ctd. here)

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