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Gabeba Baderoon, The Dream in the Next Body, and A Hundred Silences, Cape Town, South Africa: Kwela Books. www.gabeba.com. This South African poet’s books are winners of the Daimler-Chrysler Award for South African Poetry, which reminds the editor that he too is the winner of the GE Younger Poets Award, and leads us all to wonder something-something. Rolex also puts out a lot of dough for poets. Good. Gabeba is a sensual poet who uses blackbirds, salt, and sea waves.

Tetra Balestri, Cheap Imitations, New York: Green Zone, 66 George Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206. These are cheap imitations of many poets, including Jim Brodey, Anselm Hollo, and Anne Porter.

Gordon Ball, Scenes from East Hill Farm, Seasons with Allen Ginsberg, Coventry, England: Nr. 13 in The Beat Scene, www.beatscene.com. Gordon Ball, a good friend of Allen and eminent photographer of Allen’s circle, spent time in the poet’s putative paradise at East Hill Farm, and writes about it with warmth and humor. “”by midsummer we were surrounded by a burgeoning animal population – African geese, Muscovy ducks, Polish hens and other chickens, a jersey cow, a fast horse, milk goats, two dogs, morning doves, cats.” He was also there when Allen received the tragic call telling him that Jack Kerouac had died. Dark Music, Cityful Press, Longmont, 2006. These prose-poem like flashbacks and meditations are Gordon Ball’s language photographs. They are quick, gripping, true, earnest.

Eric Basso, Decompositions, Essays on Art & Literature, 1973-1989, and Revagations: A Book of Dreams, Volume I, 1966-1974, Raleigh: Asylum Arts, PO Box 90473, Raleigh, NC 27675. The prolific author we have happily published in past Exquisite Corpses, is what the French call an homme-de-lettres, a man of letters, a speciae of rara avis these days when writers specialise strenuously (and tediously). Among Eric Basso's meditations in "Decompositions," a title reminiscent of E.M. Cioran's "Un precis de decomposition," are considerations of Alfred Jarry, Flaubert, and Kafka. "Revagations" is a book of surreal-real dreams collected over time like water in barrels in the Sonora desert.

Ruth Behar, An Island Called Home, Returning to Jewish Cuba, photographs by Humberto Mayol. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. This is a lovely memoir of a search for lost roots in a country that seems at first to have erased that part of its history. Not so. Ruth Behar finds people and places that have stubbornly refused to fade away.

Bill Berkson, Fugue State, poems, Cambridge, Massachussetts: Zoland Books. Our Friends Will Pass Among You Silently, poems, Woodacre, California: Owl Press, www.theowlpress.com. Sudden Address, Selected Lectures 1981-2006, SPD, Cuneiform Press, www.cuneiformpress.com. What's Your Idea of a Good Time? (with Bernadette Meyer), SPD, Tuumba Press, www.spdbooks.org . This cornucopia of Bill Berkson books came to us thanks to an appearance by the poet himself in New Orleans, thanks to Dave Brinks. Berkson gave a spectacular reading at the Gold Mine Saloon, that demonstrated a number of things: 1. the Gold Mine has created a sophisticated audience that can hear with the best of them at St. Marks' Poetry Project or at Intersection, 2. so well can this audience hear, the usually reticent poet bounced forth for an encore, like other astonished greats this year, Ron Padgett, for example, 3. there is a new way to read Berkson after hearing him. I have been a long-time reader and appreciator of the intelligence, music, care, and humor of Bill Berkson's poetry, but this reading gave me new access to his verse. There was always something of a mythical aura about Berkson, the collaborator of Frank O'Hara and one of the chiefs of the New York School whose friends included painters as well as poets. The cover of Fugue State is by Yvonne Jacquette, that of Sudden Address by Philip Guston. Sudden Address, a selection of essays on poetry and painting is a manual for hearing and seeing the works of Philip Guston, Alex Katz, Yvonne Jacquette, Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and Kenneth Koch, among many others. Berkson's constellation of friendships led to profound and useful reflections on their work and constitute, in this book and elsewhere in his work, a solid bridge between the two arts and an enlightening guide to the New York School and, in effect, to the modern proposals of these arts in the last half of the 20th century. The delightful What's Your Idea of a Good Time? is a spacious and joyful collaboration with Bernadette Meyer on the title question. In his dedication to me, Bill asks, "Dear André, What's the worst thing you've ever done? (see p 51) Love, Bill." On p. 51, we find a number of the worst things Bill Berkson has ever done, including: "I was incredibly mean to Frank O'Hara one time: I shouted at him for liking the sound of his own voice too much." Now, anyone who's ever been told that by a dear one, has permission to smile, and that smile will get wider as the implications begin to dawn: Frank O'Hara, the poet who was all about voice is being told by his friend to pipe down. How alive is that? And how much more alive does that make Frank O'Hara, dead now four plus decades? It's not the worst thing Bill has ever done (this bit is No.2 of the worst things), but it's one with cosmic reverb. Berkson's own poetry is subtle and demonstratively abstract in the manner of, let's say, DeKooning: it has an imagistic hardness and lushness that sweeps aside whatever you might have been thinking before you got to: "as if pins were/ to be pushed dimly/ inches downward from/ a manila star." And speaking of pins, the name is Andrei, Bill, not Andrè, it's Romanian not French. That's rude, but not the worst thing I've ever done. Berkson is one of our greatest contemporaries, and shouting at him over a lost letter and a misplaced accent makes me feel great. The new way of reading Berkson's poetry that hearing him granted me, was to regain an intimacy with the work. When distance intervenes, years or miles, one tends to lose one's ear. Hearing him was a joy, and the grace of reconnecting to the page a real jolt & gift. In the mail now, The Sweet Singer of Modernism & Other Art Writigs 1985-2003, qua books, 2003, www.quabooks.com. Berkson wrote art criticism most of his adult life, and he is among that select circle of poet-critics, along with Frank O'Hara, Edwin Denby, John Ashbery, and Carter Ratcliff,  who have made contemporary American art both a cause and an occasion. As a cause, it was a tough sell, as the art world developed its own critical languages and the art market kept close watch over them; as an occasion, it was a much better deal, giving poets license to make language-art of their own. In the interesting preface-defense of art-critical writing, Berkson quotes Carter Ratcliff saying, "language in the vicinity of what it's talking about," and this makes reading his essays a matter of reading pleasure. As for the art, the critic ranges widely and freely, quite joyfully t first, when the pieces are about Hans Hoffman, Franz Kline, De Kooning Wayne Thiebaud, Alex Katz, or Ed Ruscha, artists accessible to the eye and generally familiar even to the occasional museum-goer; things get a bit rougher with the conceptualists and minimalists of the Eighties and Nineties, like for instance, David Ireland, to whom Berkson brings a whole philosophical arsenal in order to give him a coherence the artist neither pursues nor recognizes. These occasional pieces are quite brilliant and they shine best when the poet is on the familiar ground of his own artistic and cultural modernist education.

Florin Bican, Cantice Marlanesti, Humanitas Educational, 2007. If one read these poems in Romanian, the language they were intended to be read in, one might think them untranslateable; they rhyme, they are full of local reality and slang, and they are funny-tragic. The poet is, however, a consummate writer of English, as evidenced by his Ballad of Arabella, that we published in both languages. We hope he writes a book in American English, as musical and potent as these "uncouth songs."

Debra Di Blasi,
The Jiri Chronicles and Other Fictions, FC2, University of Alabama Press. This is a multi-faceted collection of totally fun and sexy stories and art from a fertile and wild imagination. From choruses to collages, the story of Jiri resonates like a new Good Soldier Sweik.

Gunnar Björling, Du Gar de örd, translated from Swedish by Fredrik Hertzberg, Action Books, www.actionbooks.com. This Finland-Swedish modernist is a musical poet whose words look great in the original on the left-hand page, and work well with the English on the right. The term finlandsvensk is a politically charged description of the language and movement of Modernist Finns who wrote in Swedish after the first World War.

Roberto Bolano, Night in Chile, Amulet, Nazi Literature in the Americas, The Savage Detectives, Last Evenings on Earth, New York: New Directions. www.ndpublishing.com. This great Chilean novelist wrote six amazing novels before dying young. He has taken us past the lovely seduction of magical-realism into a new writerly freedom that mixes the breezy elegance of the New York School of poetry with the poetry-steeped souls of Chile and Mexico City. Buy the stuff, it gets you high.

Marlena Braester
, oublier en avant/ uitarea dinainte, Bucharest: Editura Vinea, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . This is a bi-lingual (French & Romanian) book of an Israeli-French-Romanian poet whose specialty is listening to silence and discerning its nuances and depths. “în inima pietrii/ cea mai densã obscuritate/ au coeur de la pierre/ la plus dense obscurité.” (At the heart of stone/ the thickest darkness.) Vinea is Romania’s foremost publisher of avantgarde and contemporary poetry. The editor, Nicolae Tzone, is himself a poet, and he takes extraordinary care with his books, which are always a visual treat.

Joe Brainard,
Active Image The Nancy Book by Joe Brainard, Los Angeles, Siglio Press, 2008
If... by Joe Brainard, Los Angeles, Siglio Press, 2008
www.sigliopress.com

Joe Brainard was both a great artist and a great writer, a rara avis, in the best of times. His epic I Remember, is one of the literary accomplishments of the late 20th century, a long poem in which every line begins with the words “I remember,” and then goes on to recall everything that Joe Brainard’s memory was able to recall, from his earliest childhood to the moment of writing. The swift and witty practice of memory in I Remember is an exercise in truth and accuracy, a manual of American culture, pop and not, and a psychoanalytical tour-de-force directed not just at specific and personal neuroses, but at the incurable and painfully amusing maladies of a whole society. Joe Brainard, like his New York School friends and contemporaries, Kenward Elmslie, John Ashbery, Bill Berkson, Ron Padgett, and Ted Berrigan among them, managed to ride with verve the zeitgeist of an age rich in creative stimulation and ready-made for revolution. Joe was a Pop artist, in the sense that his art, like his writing, blew out the frames of genre and the conventions of the medium, and partook with pleasure and energy from the demotic. “The Nancy Book” chronicles the adventures of the comic-book character Nancy in Joe’s own world, in collaboration with Bill Berkson, Ted Berrigan, Robert Creeley, Frank Lima, Frank O’Hara, Ron Padgett and James Schuyler. This beautifully produced edition comes also with essays by Ann Lauterbach and Ron Padgett. “If...” is a series of postcards presenting Nancy in a variety of “if” situations (see below). The reprinting of these extremely rare works by Joe Brainard is an event for at least two reasons: 1. “The Nancy Book” is a masterwork of collaboration from the age of collaboration between artists and writers, a practice of instantly communicable delight that occured only twice in the 20th century: the dada-surrealist age, 1915-1935, and the New York School, 1957-1973, and 2. while comix have become “acceptable” for both “high” art and commercial translation (into movies), they have never attained the freshness and impertinence of being recast for the first time with such vigurous insouciance. Joe Brainard was a genius who had the good luck of living at the right time and having genius friends. Snap up these books, people, you never know when another epoch of public misery and artistic glory will sweep us away. When it does, you’ll have guides.

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