Thursday, December 22, 2005


Fallen into holiday silence. But a few things worth noting:

- Cathy Park Hong, author of Translating Mo'um, a strange, sly book of poems, some of which I got to hear at the PSA reading last spring (check out this terribly sad fable of otherness, Ontology of Chang and Eng, the Original Siamese Twins), has written a manifesto announcing, "I think poetry could be a bit more fabulous" and urging poets to return to the ear in the new American Letters & Commentary (I'm providing a link but it's the old issue), "Fabula Poetics." Finding Language poetry and the MFA-version of it that's becoming more prevalent to be exhausted, Hong holds up Christian Bok, Harryette Mullen, and Eugene Ostashevsky (aka MC Squared, aka DJ Spinoza) as models for poets who "are more aligned with the world." It's an invigorating essay and I'm frustrated it's not available on the Web; when it comes to manifestoes, I no longer believe print is where it's at. But the issue is well worth reading (Hong's piece is part of a feature called "Wedding the World & the Word" that includes work and thinking-out-loud by Charles Bernstein, Marjorie Perloff (finally coming clean about politics in poetry! and in a word, she too dislikes it), Mary Jo Bang, Linh Dinh, Kamau Brathwaite's desperate Cowpastor letter, plus there's plenty of terrific poetry), so go ahead and subscribe already.

- Avid poetry reader and writer/teacher of creative nonfiction Catherine Taylor stopped by, bought some excellent books, and chatted. If she reads this... hi, Catherine!

- It looks like the post-avants have almost completely assimilated Poets & Writers. Not only has Daniel Nester established a firm beachhead there, but this issue includes an article on poets' theater that mentions the names of Kevin Killian, Camille Roy, Leslie Scalpino, Gary Sullivan, and K. Silem Mohammed; a small press feature on Joyelle McSweeney and Johannes Goransson's new press, Action Books; a piece by David Hollander with the mild-mannered title "Imperative: Finding Community Outside of Academia" that is actually both a savage attack on conformism and consensus-thinking in MFA programs and a litany of praise for postmodernist prose (I like this indie band-style note he imagines: "Fiction writer seeks to form small workshop with like-minded individuals. Influences include Italo Calvino, Lydia Davis, Ben Marcus..."); a piece by Arnold Weinstein called "A Novel Lesson: The Value of the Modernist Gambit" that's considerably more turgid than Hollander's but ends up, after what seems to be a more genteel Dale Peck/Jonathan Franzen style lament for the breach of faith between fiction writer and audience, praising modernism as fervently as Hollander praises postmodernism; a medium-clever non-interview with David Foster Wallace; and a profile of a Scottish fiction writer named Ali Smith who looks more than a little like the actress Cherry Jones whose prose appears to be more than a little influenced by Gertrude Stein. Okay, there's a fair amount of the usual boring stuff too, but it looks like Hong is basically correct to see that the most popular veins of experimental writing have become perfectly mainstream. Not necessarily a cause for lamentation, but not something to ignore, either.

- Check out the new issue of Tarpaulin Sky. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered.

Okay, back to bed.

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