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tearing the rag off the bush again
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Adrian Sângeorzan, Over the Lifeline, New York: Spuyten Duyvil Press, www.spuytendyvil.com. This New York obstetrician and gynecologist writes fiction, memoir and poetry with equal ease in Romanian and English. New and noted from Sangeorzan, a thriller set in the heart of Russian Mafia Queens: Vitali, Bucharest: Curtea Veche, www.curteaveche.com.

Valentina Saracini, Dreaming Escape, translated from the Albanian by Erica Weitzman with Flora Ismaili and Radini Jasini, Ugly Duckling Presse (uglyducklingpresse.org). This is number 19 is UDP's Eastern European Poets Series, and my first Albanian poet in English. (My prose first, and last come to think of it,  is Ismail Kadare). Valentina Saracini was born in Skopje, Macedonia and kives in Prishtina, Kosovo, so those bare facts alone speak volumes, as do her translators: Erica Weitzman worked for an NGO in Kosovo, Flora Ismaili work for the U.N. in Albania, and Rudina Jasini worked for the U.N. Criminal Tribunal at the Hague. Therefore, there is nothing provincial about either Saracini, whose poetry is displayed elegantly in facing texts in Albanian and English, and looks spare, modern, and awake to every word. The poems dwell in a familiar near-abstract region of a just-below-the-surface sensibility outraged by time and circumstance, without naming anything or anybody as culpable; we know who the culprits are, or at least we think we know: they are Ares, Psyche, Chronos, and, probably, the Serbs. I say "probably" because there is no mention of Serbs: there is only room for winter, summer, fog, rain, being born, dying, and love. Now, I don't mean to sound in the least bit snide about my first Albanian poet, but she sounds like a contemporary French poet or, dare I say it, a E.U. poet, which may be entirely the work of the translators. I don't know what kind of resonance "Not to depend on dreams/ When the seasons get tangled" has in Albanian, but in English it sounds just like any middle-aged poet's lament at the loss of youthful idealism. The poetry is pleasant to english-processing ears, tended by the melancholy we require of poets, but I am wondering (and this has nothing to do with the praiseworthy efforts of her traducers to bring macedonian Albanian verse to the anglophone light) whether "tangled seasons" in the native lingo doesn't refer to some unknown fairy tale of import to people who lived in the shadow of Enver Hoxha, Tito, and dragons, until the U.N. galloped to the rescue (in English).

Satana
, Liturgia Infernale, Rome: Societa Edittrice Il Ponte Vecchio. This is Satan’s own text for the use of the prose-impaired.

Michael Scarf, For Kid Rock / Total Freedom, Spectacular Books. A political meditation on power and freedom in verse and in acronyms.

Aaron Simon, Periodical Days, New York: Green Zone, 66 George Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206. We suspect that Green Zone is a poetry sweatshop run without proper fire insurance by Larry Fagin.

Dan Sociu, Urbancolia. Bucharest: Editura Polirom, 2008. Just after we declared ourselves fans of Sociu's poetry, here comes this young Romanian writer's novel. We barely finished reading it when we declared ourselves fans also of his prose (in an e-mail to Romanian literary critic Cosmin Ciotlos), and just as we so declared, there arrived an e-mail from Sociu with an attached chapter in English translation (mirculously, a very good translation!) requesting an opinion geared to possible American publication, so we wrote: "After commmunism fell, or was pushed, or dissolved, American publishers quit promoting novels from the prolapsed red empire. Milan Kundera, whose books were both funny and sexy, were also instructive about the true nature of communism, which had become absurd and funny in its last gasp, as well as mentally crippling and scary. His characters took different paths that, somehow, ended up being equally depressing: they escaped to the west where they radiated the bored inhabitants with unleashed sexual freedom, or they stayed in their dreary countries to make subversive art while experiencing sexual suffocation. Readers of Kundera’s novels reognised in their smart protagonists a lot more than late Cold War politics: they connected his concerns with those of other comic Czech geniuses like Hasek and Kafka, and they followed closely his arguments about life, sex, culture, and moraes east and west. In other words, he did what great writers always did: he pulled up the curtain on the human comedy. After the prolapse of the kafkaesque dictatorships in the east, the human comedy unfolding there became even funnier, sexier, and more complex. Writers coming of age in the post-communist era were the children of Kundera’s characters, their parents were their history, while they were very much like their contemporaries everywhere, steeped in American pop culture, globe-circling music, movies, and the internet. A live, young generation of writers, among whom Dan Sociu is one of the most brilliant, took up the challenge of complexity and started writing breath-takingly fresh literature about the new people of the newest “capitalist” countries, people who were not just deeply human and hilariously flawed in the classic manner, but were very much like their own hilariously flawed contemporaries in the west. Dan Sociu’s writing is “hip,” so to speak, in the same way that Dave Eggers’ is, not only because they share a certain hard-bitten irony, but because, as writers, they understand something profound about story-telling, namely that it is both useless and transcendent, tonic and ridiculous. Sociu is a captivating story teller: you can’t wait to hear what he says next, and because his characters are fresh, he can afford to let them have a past, the exact one we were reading so eagerly about only a few minutes (18 years?) ago, which makes his perspective the natural sequel to all those Kundera novels we were sorry to see end." All of it true.

Dan Sociu, cîntece excesive, (with enclosed CD of poet reading his poems). Bucharest: Cartea Româneasca. www.cartearomaneasca.ro. We love Sociu’s (b. 1978) visceral verse. “Un fel de vierme intestinal/ne împarte formulare.” (A kind of tapeworm/ is distributing forms to fill). We know that tapeworm: it’s the State.


Dan Sociu, Fratele Pãduche, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , is another handsome book from this publisher, and establishes Dan Sociu as the foremost spokesperson for things like worms, fleas, and bed bugs. We don’t have poets like this in English: our tongue stopped somewhere around Ted Hughes’ bestiary. Stopped dead, I mean. We have good cat poets, such as Anselm Hollo, and, if I’m not mistaken, William Pitt Root has written well about his dogs, but that’s it, critter-wise.

Mark Spitzer, Riding the Unit: Selected Nonfiction 1994-2004. Pittsburgh: Six Gallery Press. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . The feisty, nay savage, former Corpse Assistant Editor, is in top form here. The huge brou-ha-ha about Ed Dorn that first appeared in Exquisite Corpse is included in here, as well as a lovely memoir of days spent in Paris working, sleeping (a little), and loving at Shakespeare & Company in Paris in the 90s.

Sarah Katherine Stengle, Coffee Rings, Instructions Included, Stengle 2008. Designed, written,  and printed by the author in a limited edition, this is a chronological record of one woman-s quest fot the perfect coffee cup ring. The instructions help the student in search of this goal. “do not get discouraged if your initial results are somewhat unexceptional, mastery takes time.”
 
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Chris Toll, Life on Earth, Fell Swoop #120, 2012 (Fell Swoop, PO Box 70174) My marvelous friend, Chris Toll, passed away in his sleep and left life on earth, just as this collection of his poetry appeared. I don't know if Joel Dailey, the editor of Fell Swoop, had a chance to present Chris with his final collection of poetry, but whether he did or not, it's a great gathering of the late poet's recent work, with a beautiful Surrealist, wonder-filled cover collage by the poet. I knew Chris in Baltimore, and loved him like everyone who knew him: he was all about poetry. He was the world's greatest Bob Dylan fan, and we argued every new Dylan album: it usually took me three months to like new Dylan works, but Chris was right there, every time. Baltimore was going through a golden age of poetry in the early 1980s, and Chris Toll's VW bug was my chief means of transport to and from poetry readings, its bubble as important as the Mt. Royal Tavern or Second Story Books. There was  innocence and sweetness in Chris, born possibly of his refusal to allow bummers like bad experiences and ageing get in the way of his faith in a benevolent and radiant universe. Chris was funny in a non-mean way, and his poems were always a pleasure to listen to, and are a pleasure to read. Here is one, from Section 2 WHY IS ART IN EARTH?:

Possess Nothing

The moon is no ghostly galleon,
Ann hunts her grave through a cloud of smoke,
and I am besotted with liberty.
Why is easy in queasy?
A boy is running a meth lab,
a girl has $80,000 in her backpack,
and an ambulance takes a time machine to City Hall.
Why is a cat in cathedral?
Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Buddha
gather for a poker game.
Buddha sits on the back of a hawk,
Jesus sits on a mushroom,
and Mary Magdalene sits on a spiral galaxy.
We were born to be together.

True to the admonition of his title, Chris didn't possess much in the way of material goods, and when he asks, as he often does, in wonder at the mystery of language, why the names of certain apparently unrelated things can be found inside other things, you wonder, too. Why is there a "cat" in cathedral? Because, if I may be so bold, Chris Toll was himself a cat in a cathedral: he saw himself with true humility as a bit of something in something greater. The saints in his poems were real to him: he believed in all of them, though he probably liked Mary the best. The little scene of the holy ones playing poker is pure Bob Dylan. The news makes an appearance too, a part of the ongoing wonder of it all. And the last line is truth, pure and simple, like Chris Toll.

Mike Topp
, Shorts Are Wrong. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 2008. Mike Topp is one of ours: if we hadn't invented him he'da had to do it himself. We started publishing Topp in the old paper Exquisite Corpse because his poems fit exactly into those widowed spaces that were the despair of layout in the olden days. Soon thereafter, a Topp cult arose. Today he's blurbed by everyone, including myself. I called him the "Andy Warhol and Ralph Nader of literature." This book has every kind of poem in it, including a Zen parable that begins: "A handsome young Zen monk came to Bankei and complained: "Master, I have an uncontrollable boner. How can I master it?"

Wyatt Townley,
The Afterlives of Trees, Woodley Press, www.WyattTownley.com Trees are big these days because there are less of them. They used to be a lot bigger when we didn't live in wood houses, and even bigger when we (the people) weren't around. The remaining trees are lovingly considered, observed, and noted, from roots to crown, by this splendid poet of the forest. "Down goes the sun/ up comes the owl." (The Other Side). Townley doesn't write about trees, but like Emily Dickinson and Robert Creeley, there is always something abrupt and woodsy about her philosophical-lyrical search. There are a lot of great photos of trees between the poems, however, by Michael Johnson. As one (me) who is currently working with tree roots (or "witches," or "persephones" -- phones to the undertheground) I appreciate both po & pic.

Tristan Tzara
, Chansons Dada, Selected Poems, translated by Lee Harwood, Boston: Black Widow Press, www.blackwidowpress.com. Our man! Long live Dada! Long out of print, this translation reappears at a critical junction in history: leninism is dead except for one or two places, but the Dada spirit flourishes as never before. Now it’s time for someone with great chops to take on the rest of Tzara’s fabulous poetry and boat it over. Tzara’s Dada fame eclipsed the genius of his poetry. Even the French don’t know what they’ve got, since the Oeuvres Complétes is mostly unavailable in France.

Dumitru Tsepeneag, Art of the Fugue, translation from Romanian by Patrick Camiller, Champaign, IL, Dalkey Archive, www.dalkeyarchive.com. Interlocking mysterious tales by the Romanian-French fictioneer whose work is well-known in Europe. This is his first American publication.

Nicolae Tzone, capodopera maxima, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . Another gorgeously produced book that is visually and textually a sensual feast. The poet is also the publisher of Vinea books, and as this work shows, quality of writing, visual acuity, and splendid craft, can all bloom in one guy.

 
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