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

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“An American is a Complex of occasions:” Charles Olson Reads

April 2nd, 2014 · Poet, Poetry readings

A dream last night of a largish figure hurrying along a rock outcropping at a seashore — can only be Charles Olson, methought. A bit puzzled as Olson, whom I never met, has never, as far as I remember, shown up in my dreams. The dream may be a footnote to a conversation I had earlier last night with Ammiel Alcalay on his excellent A Little History book, as we wondered through the chapbook exhibition at Poets House which had copies of some Olsonia, & after hearing/watching Kyle Waugh’s presentation on chapbooks. At any rate, this morning, post-dream a desire to hear Olson’s voice, & so googled him & found these, here now, to share:

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Lost & Found Series IV Launch

April 1st, 2014 · Book Launch, Literature, Poetry, Poetry Festival


Thursday, April 3, 4pm

Lost & Found Series IV Launch

Ammiel Alcalay, Iemanjá Brown, Emily Claman, Stefania Heim, erica kaufman,
Bradley Lubin, Kate Tarlow Morgan, Kristin Moriah, Conor Tomás Reed,
Talia Shalev, Wendy Tronrud, Kyle Waugh

Room C198

Join us for a celebration of the publication of Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative Series IV, an award-winning, internationally recognized publication of original research and extra-poetic work edited by Graduate Center students and faculty. Editors will read, perform, present multimedia, and discuss their projects, which include the Pauline Kael and Robert Duncancorrespondence; a film script by Ed Dorn intended for Stan Brakhage;Adrienne Rich’s CUNY teaching materials from the early years of Open Admissions; Before Gloucester, portraying poet Vincent Ferrini’s years as a factory worker, and After the Harlem Renaissance, the later poems of Helene JohnsonLost & Found Series IV will be available for pre-publication purchase.Cosponsored by the PhD Program in English. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Free and open to the public. All events take place at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Ave btwn 34th & 35th. The building and the venues are fully accessible. For more information please click here, call 212.817.2005 or e-mail

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Octavio Paz, b. 100 Years ago today…

March 31st, 2014 · Essays, Intellectuals, Poetry, Translation


01-Octavio-Paz-gob.jpg-854x440… on March 31, & left eso mundo in April 1998. A day, thus, on which to take time to reread a few of Paz’s poems in Eliot Weinberger’s excellent translations, & probably an essay or so. On the day of his passing I was in Berkeley & wrote the following poem, in memoriam:

6:30 am on terrace of the French Hotel in
Berkeley, reading the New York Times
obituary for Octavio Paz while

across the street just
to the right of Chez Panisse
a pale watery sun

sits locked in-
to the criss-cross webbing
of a tall dark fir —

as if his going had
for a moment stopped
Sol in it’s tracks —

the world a bit colder
after the heat of Paz,
a bit older, less bold,

his ashes raining
now over
Mexican earth.

A light wind shifts
twigs, the sun it
seems to

move in-
crementally higher —
it all does go on

while you now sit with Benito
Juarez & Pancho Villa
& introduce them

to some yankee poetas
Blackburn, say, and Olson still
mumbling “the wheels of the sun

must be unstuck”
& you argue for a

of the imagination &
we say, Octavio,
gracias for

releasing that sun!

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“Writing translation / translating writing” Master Class

March 30th, 2014 · Poetics, Poetry, Translation

MasterclassMaster Class with Pierre Joris

Class Date: Saturday, April 26, 2014
Time: 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. CST
Duration: 1 day (class meets once, for 3 hrs.)
Instructor: Pierre Joris
Location: Online

Description: Study with poet Pierre Joris in this one-day online class. “Writing translation / translating writing” inverts the traditional relationship of original text & translated copy & reinscribes the activity of translation as core process of the act of writing. Students will be simultaneously involved with writing & with translation from a language of their choice into English in a range of forms proposed by their own practice & cultural.

The class runs for 3 hours and will be held in our online, video-conferenced classroom, so you can attend from your own home, from anywhere in the world. Our students attend class from all over the world, including recently from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Morocco, the Philippines, Singapore, Scotland, and, of course, the United States.

Class size is limited to 10 students. Only a few seats left! SIGN UP NOW, HERE!

Please note: after registering you will receive an email with instructions on how to log into the virtual classroom.

Details,  here.

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Happy Hundredth Hrabal!

March 28th, 2014 · Book Launch, Book Review, Europe, Novel, Translation

A king without a country, but with a vast realm of imagination. – The writer Bohumil Hrabal, Prag 1993. (Picture: Miroslav Zajic / Corbis / Dukas)

A king without a country, but with a vast realm of imagination. – The writer Bohumil Hrabal, Prag 1993. (Picture: Miroslav Zajic / Corbis / Dukas)

Today is the 100th B-day of the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal (1914-1997) &, by a quirk Hrabal would have approved of, yesterday the post man brought Hrabal’s Harlequin’s Millions, translated by Stacey Knecht & published by that ever excellent press, Archipelago Books. One of the most subversive figures of Czech — actually of East European, & even plainly of European mi-century literature — Hrabal is the ultimate gabber, or, the Germans would say, Bafler. Interesting word, this “bafeln: it’s Yiddish roots – באפעלן \ba-FEL-en\  link the original meaning to a sequence that etymologically derives from Middle High German “bevelhen,” from Old High German “bifelahan, bifelhan,” itself from Proto-Germanic *felhanan (to conceal, hide, bury, trust, intrude) and the Proto-Indo-European root *pele(w)- (to hide) before it. Cognates include Middle English “felen,” Modern English “feal,” New High German “befehlen.”  Thus to command, order, convey, communicate. But turned on its head, bafeln has become derision of authority, just talking, gabbing, joking, telling tall tales, etc. — not as the commanders do, but as the little people do, those to whom Hrabal lends his voice, his humor, his vision, undermining successfully the reinforced concrete cathedral of social realism (as Alena Wagnerová put it today in the NZZ). As Hrabal says elsewhere, “A respectable book isn’t meant to help the reader fall sleep more easily, but should make him jump out of bed in his his long johns to deliver a few smacks to the writer’s head.”

Treat yourselves & get Harlequin’s Millions, which is, as the publisher’s site accurately says, “a beautiful novel peopled with eccentric, unforgettable inhabitants of a home for the elderly who reminisce about their lives and their changing country. Poised on the threshold between joy and melancholy, this novel allows us into the mind of a woman coming to terms with the passing of time.” Ivan Vladislavić’s blurb reads

Hrabal is a master at using the roles, rules and atmospheres of a particular place – the railway station of Closely Observed Trains, the hotel dining rooms of I Served the King of England – to explore a world of human experience. In Harlequin’s Millions, the setting is a castle on the edge of a “town where time stood still,” formerly the seat of Count Špork, now a retirement home for the district’s pensioners. In this apparently confined space, he unfolds an expansive drama of old age and death, the fragile beauty of memory, and the persistence of desire. The book is infused with the memory of “old times” and a melancholy awareness of lost youth and faded beauty. Time does not stand still, it flows on relentlessly, and we carry the past with us only in stories. Hrabal’s light, cascading prose, with its resistant undercurrents of pauses, diversions and repetitions, is perfectly suited to his themes. He carries you along on a sensuous rush of detail, and then suddenly bumps you against the bedrock of history. This is a mesmerizing novel, beautifully translated


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Homage to Juan Gelman

March 27th, 2014 · Essays, Homage, Poetry, Translation

gelman-juan-243x329The L.A. Review of Books just published a superb homage to recently deceased poet Juan Gelman by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez &Katherine M. Hedeen. Opening paras below — for the whole essay, click here.

Juan Gelman or “about a truth that didn’t believe in death.”

March 23rd, 2014

The Spanish language edition of this article is available immediately below the English. We also present selections of Juan Gelman’s poetry below, in both Spanish and English, translated courtesy of  Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez. 

WHEN WE LAST SAW Juan Gelman, on the morning of January 12, just 48 hours before his passing, it didn’t seem like death was near. He was noticeably frail, but he also enthusiastically rang a tiny bell to call his nurse. He spoke in whispers, but with precision and clarity. In his wheelchair, a poncho covering his shoulders, a blanket covering his legs, he was dignity personified.  He gave us a solemn report on his health: the relentless anemia, the beginnings of lung cancer. He explained his decision to hold out from home, to not go through with chemotherapy. He was well aware of everything, including our translation projects. The conversation never once slipped through his fingers, and as always, his great wit was present. He even spoke of Cervantes, one of the captivity narratives, where he’d found some excellent verses. He offered us coffee, served in lovely china cups, and we gladly accepted. The Mexico City winter light filtered through every cranny of his apartment in Colonia Condesa. We were sure of his determination to fight for his life.

Juan Gelman is the most read, most influential Spanish-language poet of our times. With 30 books published, he is the winner of the Cervantes Prize (2007), the top literary honor in Spanish-language literature. He worked as a journalist and translator, spent many years exiled in Europe and Latin America, and remained an ardent critic of Argentina’s military dictatorship throughout his life. He was above all faithful to poetry as a transformative act — as the quest for a more humane society, and a way to broaden our understanding of the world through universal dialogue. The Argentine novelist Julio Cortázar said that Gelman’s work must be read “by remaining open, allowing meaning to enter other doorways than those of syntactical structure,” for “only in this way can the reader discover the reality of the poems, which is none other than the exact and literal reality of the horror and death, but also the hope, that define Argentina.” (Gelman, Unthinkable4).  His death marks not just the end of an era in poetry written in Spanish, but also the passing of a man who never forgot he was part of a family of Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine — an Argentine underdog until the very end.

[ctd. here]



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March 26th, 2014 · Poetry readings, Translation

In Modernist Revolutions.Paradigms of the New and Circulations of the Word in American Poetry: Journées d’études internationales organisées par Clément Oudart dans le cadre de “Poéthiques” (laboratoire Cultures Anglo-Saxonnes, axe 5), Université Toulouse II-Le Mirail, 16-17 janvier 2014.

Lectures de poésies américaines et françaises contemporaines :
- extraits de “A Prank of Georges” (2010) de Abigail Lange et Thalia Field, lus par Abigail Lang, Elizabeth Willis et Pascal Poyet,
- poèmes choisis extraits de “8 Haricots” (2013) de Abigail Lang, lus par Abigail Lang,
- Brouillon 104, extrait de “Pitch: Drafts 77-95″ (2010) de Rachel Blau DuPlessis / “Brouillons” (2013), lu par Rachel Blau DuPlessis, traduit et lu par Jean-Paul Auxeméry.

* Illustration : The Rose (II) de Cy Twombly (2008) © Cy Twombly Foundation.

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Michael Speier: D.C. Reading

March 25th, 2014 · Live Reading, Poetry, Translation

Last week I posted a poem of Michael Speier’s & a note on his work. Check it out here. Below a second poem I translated — & if you are in the DC area you can hear Michael read these & other poems, tomorrow, Wednesday:

Georgetown University
Department of German

You are cordially invited to a

Poetry Reading 

with Michael Speier

when: Wednesday, March 26, 5:00-6:30 pm,

where: ICC 450



THEY BARELY throw shadows, black angels
passing by the window (addresses, private numbers)
they come down with a landing impact noise
parachutes that don’t parade — one gets coffee
one checks her make-up pulls up her slip
one speaks little into his cellphone one dictates
one ogles the pretty secretary one
makes dumb jokes replaces batteries
goes home from the cleaning — fire
from fire split into two, their wash
what they wore, now in the museum( wash
washed, now in the museum)

become homey the absent heimisch, on
split open floors, girder unbearable, what
grew down to dust, unlike frenetic
stone waves sink down these
boxes, hover, blow kisses
of cloud-flour, add to it the rattle of
the closing & closing again doors
of the empty elevators (of the empty airs)

of people who go for walks in invisible
buildings, a tree-&-lawn-lobby, as if they
were on vacation from themselves, from a life, at
image’s edge the water, the grief- & water-hole, [memorial-basin
where the souls, always again pumped up, scoured out
by the new


Prof. Michael Speier is a Berlin-based poet, translator, and literary scholar and the German Department’s Max Kade writer-in-residence this semester. In addition to having published a number of anthologies and translated modern English, French, and Italian poetry, he is the founding editor of the Paul-Celan-Jahrbuch (since 1987) and the literary magazine Park (since 1976).

His primary scholarly interests include symbolism, expressionistic prose, translation theory and practice, the image of the city in literature, and modern poetry, especially Paul Celan. His teaching interests also include creative writing. The author of numerous articles and reviews, he has written or edited the following books: Die Ästhetik Jean Pauls in der Dichtung des deutschen Symbolismus (1979), Kehr um im Bild (with Dieter Straub, 1983); Im Übersetzen leben (with Klaus Berger, 1986); Berlin!Berlin! Eine Großstadt im Gedicht (1987); Poesie der Metropole (1990); Berlin mit deinen frechen Feuern (1998); Interpretationen—Gedichte von Paul Celan (2002), Berlin, du bist die Stadt (2011).

His own poetry has appeared in nine volumes and over 40 anthologies and has been translated into twelve languages. In 2007 he received the Schiller Award. He was awarded the “Literaturpreis der A und A Kulturstiftung” in Spring 2011.

RSVP to NLT March 21.

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Rachel Blau DuPlessis on Long Poem

March 24th, 2014 · Poet, Poetics, Talk

Long Poems in our Time: Numbers, Genres, Encounters -with emphasis on the work of H. D. / Rachel Blau Duplessis. In Modernist Revolutions. Paradigms of the New and Circulations of the Word in American Poetry, journées d’études internationales organisées par Clément Oudart dans le cadre de “Poéthiques” (laboratoire Cultures Anglo-Saxonnes, axe 5), Université Toulouse II-Le Mirail, 16-17 janvier 2014.

The purpose of this conference is to revisit poetic modernism and its vicissitudes throughout a century of writing. Indeed from the New York Armory Show and the publication, arranged from London by Ezra Pound, of the first Imagist poems in Chicago’s Poetry magazine in 1913 to Rachel Blau DuPlessis’s “surge into twenty-first century poetry and poetics,” her latest installment in an open-ended 26-year project in 2013 (Surge: Drafts 96-114), the writing of innovative verse has gone through a bewildering sequence of movements, breaks, manifestoes and revolutions. To such an extent that one may wonder if the word revolution should not be understood literally, thus pointing to a global poetics spinning on itself at an angle, its inherent obliquity failing to prevent the perpetual return of the same, and the paradoxical establishment of a tradition of the new.
Such debate about radical change is unavoidably haunted by Eugene Jolas and his “Revolution of the Word” transition issue of 1929, with his much-quoted essay fostering the literary craftsman’s use of a dismantled syntax, along with his disintegration of pre-existing words and fashioning of a new, multilingual tongue—the literary means, in his view, for an intercontinental revolution. The participants will tackle the double bind of innovative writing, the transnational circulations of revolutionary claims, and the migratory forms of the new in American poetry from H.D. to DuPlessis.

* Illustration : The Rose (II) de Cy Twombly (2008) © Cy Twombly Foundation.

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In Support of Omar Hazek

March 23rd, 2014 · Arab Culture, Censorship, Egypt, Poet, Poetry

via Arab Literature (in English):

BY  on 


PEN International, which has investigated Hazek’s case,also came out last week with an action appeal on Hazek’s behalf.

In a statement, the organization said:

PEN International protests the two-year prison sentence handed down to Egyptian poet Omar Hazek, who has been held in custody since his arrest in early December 2013 for taking part in a protest. Omar Hazek was held in Hadra prison in Alexandria until 21 February 2014 when he was moved to Burj Al-Arab prison also in Alexandria, where he remains held. PEN International believes that the poet Omar Hazek is imprisoned for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly, and therefore calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Hazek has won several poetry awards and has also, as a former employee of the Biblioteca Alexandrina and as a private citizen, stood against corruption. He was on “Prince of Poets” show, reciting his poem “I Close My Eyes,” and there won the title of “Poet of Romance.”

Hazek also took first prize at the “Love, Justice, and Peace in the World” festival and won the Abdullah Bashrahil Award for Youth Creativity in 2005.

Supporter Zahraa Abd Al Aziz translated one of Hazek’s poems, “As If I Love You”:

As If I Love You

I so much love talking
For silently in it I remain,
Leaving my heart to speak…
I listen from afar to my language, bleeding on the sidewalk
Over it step the passengers on the road,
Cautious…lest this sentence of mine leave them in a coma
Or choke them with smoke.

I listen from afar, and my night drools down on me…
As if I love you
But back then when I was a child, I stood to sing
Trusting that my heart was as translucent as the sadness of a butterfly
But my voice faltered, like “brakes” when they bite the road
Girls long laughed at me,
I walked, the letters of my words barking behind me
Pardon me my friend… my silence is dance and song.

As if I love you
But I am arid like the cussword among thieves
Alone, alone like an abandoned canopy,
When from beneath it two lovers walk away.

Pardon me my friend; do not pick the rose,
And buy me a new pair of shoes when the holiday feast comes along
Perhaps then, I would fall in love with my footsteps slowly, slowly,
Perhaps I shall walk and hear the gentle singing of the earth beneath me
I walk and bask in joy. . . I have colored feet.

I so much love talking
And I forgive the words that sneakily escape my mouth whenever I’ve thought that I love you

I thought: What would I do had you been one of my harem
I wonder, would I have washed your dress if it was wet by our child?
Would I have held your palm if it were attacked by wrinkles?
Here is the “East” running within me like a despicable coward mouse,
And I thought, will I feel your heart miserably escape far away from me
Because your flowers were touched by blood this morning
How will I have mercy on this hurt insulted beauty?

I so love talking,
I love you,
But it is the East that like an oil spot spreads on the sea in my dream
And the gulls fall from me, fluttering in the sand
I want your arm to sleep on
And get out of myself for a while, leaving, for some shelter of safety.

August 2010

Photos from a meeting of authors to support Omar Hazek

A letter from prison 

Italian petition

Free OMAR HAZEK – Libertà per Omar Hazek. European page.

German PEN action request

Note that although these appeals sometimes seem frustrating (especially as Mohammed Fahmy has lost partial use of his arm while tens of thousands protest his imprisonment), they can have an effect. As novelist Ahdaf Soueif reports about her nephew Alaa Abdel Fattah (via Mona Seif), “noise” at least got Alaa out of solitary, although it’s a heartbreakingly small victory. (UPDATE: Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Abdel Rahman have been released on bail.)

PEN suggests sending appeals to:

Interim president Adly Mansour
Supreme Constitutional Court
Kournish El-Nile El-Maddi
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: +202-795-8048

Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Egypt
Colonel General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi
23 July Street.,
AlKobba Bridge,
Arab Republic of Egypt
Fax: + 20-22916227

If possible please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Egypt in your country. You could also translate his poetry, write about him on social media, read his book — well, I’m sure you have better ideas.

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