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tearing the rag off the bush again
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Uncensored Songs: A Sam Abrams Tribute, festschrift gathered by John Roche in honor of great rad friend/poet Sam Abrams. Contributors include Amiri Baraka, Tony Weinberger, and many others. We bow before Sam with delight & love.

Adriane Albertowicz, Salty and Haiku, Hawaii: from the author, somehow. One thing the Corpse is very good at, as the techne mega-gorilla keeps marching on, is paying attention to the handwritten, the smudged, the eccentrically set text. Around the mid-90s, manuscripts and books arriving in our offices, started looking mind-numbingly perfect. A nicotine-stained handwritten letter with a prison return-address got our attention a lot quicker than your pristinely spaced mss. produced by computer. The payoff was great: not only were the nonconformist mailings more reasuring (there are still humans in the world!), but the contents were better, too. It's as if the perfect machines also produced perfectly boring texts, and, by extension, turned writers into the perfectly boring people they were always meant to be (by their parents and schools). This process was rapid and we are now in an age when anyone can make a good-looking book and publish it, or, even better, just send herm URL around the world. All this is by way of introduction to two peachy fresh books of poetry written by a poet in her twenties who typed her poems, bound them in cheap cardboard, sewed them by hand, and sent them to me stll smelling of salty ocean from Hawaii. Adriane Albertowicz has an impeccable poetry pedigree, beginning in a chance encounter with the poetry of Jeffrey Miller, and being the daughter of a poet, but she has incorporated her lyric roots and is her own woman.  Salty has a crudely drawn seagull on the cover and Haiku has an acrylic hand-splashed crow on it, but beyond the lovely retro-look, her garage band performs like a master. From Haiku: "Everyday": When I walk home/ I count the crushed/ Green frogs/ Along the way. And from Salty: I dreamed//love meant/catching what goes free/The thought broke,//it frightened me awake. You can say that the verse is as raw as the production, but then you'd have to say the same about the ancient Chinese poets and many great observant Americans. There are love poems here that throb with the sentiments of nature, and one can smell the big waves.

Elisa Albo, Passage to America, march street press, greensboro, 2006, Cuban-born, American-raised, big heart beating (or fluttering?) over the water between Florida and the Island, this poet makes vivid her bivalval yearnings with precision and delicacy. "if I can't/ go home again to what I have never known/ with my flesh, how can I return to a place that/ lives in the liquid center of my imagination?" (Cuba: a Geobiography).

William Allegrezza, Otoliths. 8 Kennedy St, Rockhampton, QLD 4700, Australia. . Even if this poet didn’t use one of my lines to kick off his “otoliths,” I’d find his work as interesting as a jagged mountain range. These “otoliths” are forms with gaps, like sonnets with holes made in them by “the trickle of voices from across a field.” The word-expedition Allegrezza leads into this landscape of silences and questions is marine as well as alpine (“when tides cease/ when hands ask for life”), which is how one goes about the job these days when iffrits with bags full of commas stalk the poet through “a tracing of maps on a steel drum.” It’s good to see the page used well and to public utility.

Kostas Anagnopoulos
, Various Sex Acts,  printed in Brooklyn 2008, in an edition of 500 by the author, twenty-six copies lettered A-Z and signed (we don’t have one of those). Representative of micro-press product, this is a cogent discourse by a poet who’d like to speak Greek, or maybe does or maybe “changing languages mid-sentence/ Without translation or remedy. “ (he does not)

Radu Andriescu
, The Catalan Within, translated from Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin and Radu Andriescu. Fayetteville: Longleaf Press. Andriescu is a poet and carpenter: “I think about happiness/ as if it were a piece of lumber.” We used to think of it as a warm gun, but those days are gone.

j. reuben appelman, make loneliness, Otis Books/ seismicity editions, The Graduate Writing Program, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, 2008 ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ). This mysterious little book sits in its plain black covers like an accordeon packed tight with oedipal explosives. A series of prose texts structured as letters and brief passaged named culled (some actually "culled" from the longer letters) add up to a powerful engine of language with a sound both familiar and unfamiliar to these ears. Here is a letter, in its entirety: "At the kitchen table are corpses, and we hear the piccolos playing. A piccolo is now in fashion and you get one free when you buy a flute. There are people who can play with their lips. I have played a keyboard before and it was like playing fangs. I have tried to tell my children this but they were hanging from the trees. They are urinating. It's day and night with them. Soon I will build my boy a house in the onion patch, and he will forgive me for my dense-starred flag. O my daughter, child of the universe, I command you to awaken from this half-burned barn, this shadow over the limitless and awesome." I don't know what they put in the water at Otis, but all their publications are first-rate work,; the names of the writers are oddly unknown to us, but they impress us as full-grown oracles and inspired language-users.

Active Image Homero Aridjis translated by George McWhirter, Solar Poems, City Lights Books, The publication by City Lights of Homero Aridjis, translated by George McWhirter is an event. This Mexican poet is not well known in English, but his work stands with that of Octavio Paz as one of the great poetries of Mexico. I read it with delight and was going to review it, but Laura took it and fell in love with it. She read it every night, a poem at the time, and said that she’d give to everyone for Christmas. Great, except she kept it with her books, and I didn’t retrieve it until I got the message below from Stacey Lewis at City Lights Books, the publisher:

With the recent announcement that Mexico will dismantle its delegation to UNESCO--the United Nations branch dedicated to preserving cultural heritage and human rights--due to budget shortages, and daily reports of violence plaguing the country’s reputation, Homero Aridjis’s newest collection of poetry, Solar Poems, comes at a vital time.
 An activist, poet, and Mexico’s former Ambassador to UNESCO, Aridjis explores political consciousness as well as the psychological unconscious in Solar Poems, transcending the boundary between life and death as he explores his own past and Mexico's cultural heritage.

“The closure of the offices of Mexico to UNESCO is a regrettable extent, a blow to the Mexican culture and the international leadership role that the country should play in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa,” Aridjis told the Mexican newspaper Reforma. “This affects the country's image, especially at a time when there is a chronic spread of violence.”
During his diplomatic tenure, Aridjis and his team added three new sites to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites--including the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which was critical to the survival of the species--and oversaw safeguarding the traditions of the Otomí-Chichimecas people of Tolimán and other indigenous populations. With the closing of Mexico’s UNESCO office, many similar projects will be cancelled. Despite the discontinuation of his post, Aridjis continues his legacy of activism with the publication of Solar Poems, the first English translation of a single volume of his poems. He sees the task of the poet “to tell this planet's stories--and to articulate an ecological cosmology that does not separate nature from humanity.” A poet of worldwide renown, HOMERO ARIDJIS was born in Contepec, Michoacan, Mexico. He is the author of 36 books of poetry, fiction, drama, and children’s stories, many translated into a dozen languages. Aridjis has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and numerous awards, including the Global 500 Award from the United Nations Environment Program in 1987, and the Prix Roger Caillois from France for poetry and fiction in 1997. President Emeritus of International PEN and former Ambassador to the Netherlands and Switzerland, Aridjis was until recently Mexico's Ambassador to UNESCO.

That is all very sad, but the chief reason why we urge you to read this book is because the poems are great and the translation terrific. Publication date is March 2010, so we aren’t that late.


At the top of the steps
in the metro stop
a lout armed with a steel
faced with the death-dealing
flashes from my knife of light
beat a retreat

order here:

Louis Armand, editor, hidden agendas: UNREPORTED POETICS, Pargue: Litteraria Pagensia Books, 2010

There is trouble here, starting with the title: the lower case monicker, and the upper case subtitle. This is an anthology of essays and surveys of various figures and literary scenes plucked from the multitudes of poets and scenes operating in English in the second half of the 20th century. Subject to the vagaries of writers who actually contributed -- many were asked, but few responded-- this book is nonetheless true to its dubious title and subtitle. Are there purposefully hidden modern/postmodern/linguistic/ conceptual agendas? Hidden from whom? By whom? Why? Certainly not by poets, included or not included. The poets under consideration here have done their best to make their agendas public, or at least to get their work and their names before the public. The works may have been hiding the poets' bad habits or sexual histories from the poets' parents or other kin, but they were not shy in informing the public at large as to just what their agendas were. The best essays in here, for my money, are Louis Armand's preface and Jeremy M. Davies consideration of Gilbert Sorrentino's love/hate problem with writing, writers, and himself. Armand gives voice to the inevitable critical anxiety brought about by the internet. He worries that the internet archives are "unstable," while being so capacious as to absorb everything, including the careful distinctions poets have worked their entire lives to establish and make visible. It's a warranted anxiety these days when "archive" is the second-best known word in the English language, the first being its daddy, Google. This anxiety is felt by everyone in the book under various forms: fears of being forgotten and fears that what one writes will be forgotten no matter how much of it one writes. Most of the poets under scrutiny exhibit these fears themselves, though considerably less than their critics. The critics have subjects (the poets), while the (most interesting) poets had the whole world for a playhouse, and they were hardly worried at their peak about the eventual disposition of their oeuvre. The "most interesting" meaning precisely those poets who cared little about their posterity or their archives. They all cared somewhat, and, if they lived long enough, they did start caring when they got older, if only because some of their letters and manuscripts were occasionally worth some money. Another take on "hidden agendas" would be the reassuring malevolence of an "establishment" that hides literary work from public view on purpose, like the government does with "the truth." There is some validity here, because the government does hide the truth (see Wiki Leaks), and the literary establishments (such as they are, appendages of welfare states mostly) do hide outrages against language and propriety in order to not lose their funding. This latter kind of establishmentarian skin-saving is mostly a thing of the past four decades of the 20th century, when hopes for therapy through art were aided and abetted by audiences fooled (like any audiences, like the idea of audience itself) by the hope of miraculous cures. The poets served snake oil made from powedered alphabets and the witnesses walked away healed, leaving behind a pile of crutches (essays). In the case of the better-known "official" poets, the snake oil was fabricated with the aid of public-language machines already set in place by the "entertainment industry," a collaboration that was met with rightful indignation by practitioners of more honest writing that intended to be both critical, political, and esthetically distinct. The trade-off was that "collaborators" (with the machine, the prize/grant/job pie) were "hidden" by posterity, left to "mainstream critics" (also doomed by that special, discriminating "posterity"), while the practitioner of "poetics" threw their lot in with a critical posterity that is somewhat late in showing up. Some of the poets here (principally the "Language" crowd, exemplified by Bruce Andrews in this book) were aware of this possibility, so they did their best to include as many possible clues to their own work as their esthetics allowed. Others, who are the subject of painful cataloguing and tormented attempts at description of their work in the language known as Critiquese, didn't care so much because they had their own gangs, they were mini-pop stars who had a great time boozing, talking, smoking, staying up all night, and having girlfriends, wives, breakdowns, visions, and arrests, in short, lives. Either way, there are no "hidden agendas," per se; on the contrary, the figures here have self-exposure agendas. Not even the "high" modernists (Joyce, Beckett, Stein) had "hidden" agendas: they set up writing cults and invited everyone to "share" the mysteries, a task that proved way too daunting for non-members of the gang. The "high modern" mysteries were then made compulsory by the lesser gang members who became professors and assigned them. As compulsory reading, the rag was off the bush as quickly as you can say "Fiction 101." The inventors of "hidden" agendas are none others than their keepers, who must proclaim the esotericism and hiddenness of their subjects at the peril of losing tenure. This might sound cynical from the editor of "Exquisite Corpse," a journal that paid attention for many years to the very writers whose "hidden agendas" are discussed here, but the "Corpse" claimed only that it was dead from the very start: "exquisite" yes, like all dead things. Once dead, things can't talk back. That's exquisite, don't you think? One could look then at the "hidden" agenda of Exquisite Corpse as a mausoleum for those choosing to be entombed. The fact that the voluntary entombees were/are some of the liveliest humans around, made the mausoleum a great party pad for decades. We had fun. "Fun" is the chief "hidden agenda" missing from this book of "unreported poetics." I won't even go into the silliness of the notion of "unreported," which smacks of the school and the police. Jeremy M. Davies' esay is interesting because it deals with the paradox of Gil Sorrentino's reputation as a "comic genius," acquired somehow despite the fact that he is a bitter, uncomfortable, judgemental, nasty writer, whose best sentences make you feel like shit. Davies is good enough to distinguish Sorrentino's sociopathic despair from William H. Gass' equally despondent insights, but commits a sleight-of-hand in order to do so: he claims that Gass was affectionate toward the literature, while Sorrentino hated it. The problem is that Gass' "affection" is mostly his personal desire to be loved, hardly a genuine feeling of empathy, while Sorrentino (to his credit) doesn't give a fuck. The problem remains, of course: if he didn't give a fuck, why did he bother? One cannot answer that: he did give a fuck, he had to give a fuck, just like Robert Creeley, in his bitterest "love" lyrics does give a fuck, a lot of fuck (motly about not getting fucked). The weakness of this collection is not the palpable anxiety of its academic collaborators, but the lack of big, generous essays about writers who really matter: Tom Raworth is mentioned but his work is not, Anselm Hollo is mentioned, but his work is not. I learned a lot about the British poetry scene in the Sixties and Seventies, but none of the information is live. The beginning of the 21st century is the site of archival anxiety, and until it subsides there will be no relxed, extended appreciation of just how great the poetry scenes and their best figures were. Let's hope they make some special Xanax for the Humanities divisions before they are completely eliminated, so fine minds like the ones partially visible here, can get down to the work. Such as it is. Meaning that most of the "work" of the last decades of the last century was in its making, and that in talking about it one has to make more, not just translate it like forensic detectives. This is a cheerful prospect, actually, because the internet (since when was "stability" a value of any "poetics," "hidden" or not? allows for social projects with a participatory audience. What's dead, and has been dead since 1916 Zurich Dada, is the passive audience. In calling for an "audience," these critics are invoking "the hidden" as a (feint) lure to the unwary (students), but there hasn't been such a thing for a long time, and it's becoming obvious right now that there will never be.
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