Friday, May 14, 2004

Sticky and hot today. Enjoying a romp through the somewhat diffidently titled An Anthology of New (American) Poets, edited by Lisa Jarnot, Leonard Schwartz, and Chris Stroffolino. In some ways it already feels a bit dated, only because in the present emergency I find myself searching for poems that speak to it. But any war residue in the book must belong to Gulf War Vol. 1, as it was published in 1998. Still, vital poetry here by poets both already familiar to me (Lee Ann Brown, Brenda Coultas, Jordan Davis, Drew Gardner, Peter Gizzi, Renee Gladman, Jennifer Moxley, Hoa Nguyen, Eleni Sikelianos, Juliana Spahr (her great "spiderwasp" poem/essay), Chris Stroffolino, and Elizabeth Willis) as well as some poets who I've only encountered glancingly and a few I've never heard of at all. Particularly struck by the free translations of Sappho and other Greeks by Bill Luoma; "The New Gate" by Garrett Kalleberg (of The Transcendental Friend), a poem of inaugural substance whose movement reminds me of a darker "Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow"; Renee Gladman's "Arlem," which reads like a brief, oblique novel; the seriously silly poems of Jeffrey McDaniel, a poet new to me; Kimberly Lyons' wonderful longish "Eon"; and many other delights. Favorite title, by another poet I'm reading for the first time, Candace Kaucher: "There Is Only So Much Space in Time or Oh Boy! Transference". It's like a really good issue of some magazine or other, with all of the poets happening to be more or less under forty at the time it was published.

Reading this in part for guidance on an anthology I've been thinking of editing; I still haven't gotten over the baroque, absurdist, blankly mythological imagery of Barney's Cremaster Cycle, and I think an anthology of poems responding to or in some way interacting with his vision would constitute an exciting occasion. I already know of a few folks, most notably Deborah, have already written poems inspired by the films. Some of the Severance Songs I've been producing have a Barney-esque quality to them, particularly a series-within-the-series I've been doing of songs that use the end-words from Keats' sonnets. In some ways my model for this project would inevitably be Involuntary Visions, though I haven't actually read that anthology; nor am I interested in coalescing the poems around a particularly region, school, or movement. Bigger, odder, and certainly funnier than Kurosawa's Dreams (which I don't mean to disparage; it's a great film), The Cremaster Cycle could inspire all manner of fascinating reactions and rejections, precisely because its cries for interpretation are as overdetermining as its actual symbology remains stubbornly indeterminate. There are ideas if one wants them, particularly concering masculinity, patriarchy, anti-phallogocentrism, what have you; there are suggestive uses of language; fragments of narrative and character abound (Houdini, Gary Gilmore, Mormon history, etc.) and above all there is imagery as compelling as it is mysterious.

Of course I still haven't got the much smaller Aubergine prankthology rolling yet. But I do know I could get help printing and publishing a Cremaster anthology (whether I'd need or want permission from Barney is another question). If folks are interested, I'd be interested in seeing poems, though I can't promise I'll do anything with them for quite a while. There is that pesky dissertation to deal with, after all.

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