My short article “The Poetry of Non-Poetry: On Alan Bigelow’s ‘This Is Not A Poem’” was published today in Goddard College’s BFA in Creative Writing Blog. “This Is Not A Poem” is a fantastic appropriation of Joyce Kilmer’s famous poem “Trees.” It’s a digital poem that’s well worth interacting with and performs a creative critique of–for better or worse–one of the most well-known poems in American literature.
Amy Catanzano has a very interesting piece in Jacket 2 called “The Periodic Table of Poetry,” which is part of her series called “Quantum Poetics,” in which she “will write as a ’pataphysical correspondent, speculative documentarian, and poetry informant, reporting on largely under-acknowledged questions about literature and science and drawing from quantum poetics.”
Catanzano discusses Cutting Time with a Knife in the context of quantum electrodynamics:
In contrast to classical electromagnetism, a branch of theoretical physics that relies on the outdated ideas of Isaac Newton’s classical mechanics, which, using Leong’s language, operates as an “economics of only and also,” Robert Feynman’s quantum electrodynamics, the quantum mechanical version of classical electromagnetism, describes how electrically charged particles interact by exchanging photons. Poetry is also an exchange between the text and thinker, and Cutting Time With a Knife, so named after Burroughs’ statement that “If you cut into the present, the future leaks out,” creates an exchange between poetry and science; in these ways and others, I see Leong’s project having a mechanics that is more quantum than classical.
Catanzano ends by mentioning a work-in-progress by Adam Dickinson that sounds extremely cool–Anatomic: Biosemiotic Bodies and Chemical Environments. Dickinson explains, “This is a research-creation project that involves biomonitoring and microbiome testing to produce a book of poetry that reframes the body (my body) as a being overwritten by toxic chemicals yet constantly subject (in necessary ways) to the biosemiotic interference of other microbial lifeforms. My objective is to combine innovative trends in contemporary poetics with science and environmental ethics by researching and writing poetry that will emerge (in terms of themes and methodological approaches) from a toxicological and symbiotic map of my own body.”
My review of Chris Tysh’s creative translation Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic (Les Figues, 2013) was published today in Hyperallergic Weekend.
Here are two excerpted paragraphs:
In an online interview about her conceptual trilogy Hotel des Archives, of which Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic is the second installment (her rendering of Beckett into verse tercets, Molloy: The Flip Side, appeared in 2012), Tysh said, “I extend the concept of translation toward what we might call a transcreation, or a transcultural dialogue….In this type of relational poetics, I try to maintain the narrative spaces and affects, while finding a new set of porous networks – lyrical trajectories that pass through various signposts of the text.” Tysh’s “transcreation,” in the words of Les Figues’ press release, entails a “compressing” of Genet’s text into “cuttingly charged verse.”
Our Lady of the Flowers, Echoic is an “exercise in style” in the strongest, Queneauian sense of the phrase; Raymond Queneau’s Exercices de style [Exercises in Style] (1947 / 1958) retells the same short anecdote 99 different times in such styles as “litotes,” “metaphorically,” “couplets,” “cockney,” and “sonnet.” In Queneau’s work, the original story seems epiphenomenal to the production of its proliferating versions (Barbara Wright, Queneau’s English translator, remarks that “the story as such doesn’t matter.”) But Tysh’s choice of Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers for her restyling is not arbitrary: it is a text that, like its protagonist, tends toward “being multiple.” Indeed, in Our Lady of the Flowers, Genet writes of a “hundred Jean Genets,” and Tysh has given us a provocative glimpse of one of them through her bold, kaleidoscopic verse. Once complete, Tysh’s Hotel des Archives will no doubt constitute one of the most significant exercises in style of the early twenty-first century.
I own four poetry books by the always provocative Linh Dinh; but not willing to pay an inflated price for the out-of-print American Tatts (“Vault Media,” a seller on Amazon, is, for example, asking $782.60 + $3.99 shipping for a new copy), I checked out the copy at the Mid-Manhattan Library. I was amused to find this little note by a previous user above.
Dinh, indeed, can elicit a strong reaction and that, I think, is one of his virtues. In a way, it seems that this example of vernacular lit crit by way of graffitied marginalia is fitting since “What’s At Franks?” – a poem from American Tatts – ends by quoting a bathroom graffito: “‘Full pelvic undulation will help to dissolve / All neurotic personal armor,’ someone has written / With a Magic Marker over the broken sink.”
Having to return the book now, I’ve decided to make my own little intervention.
There’s a somewhat mixed review, written by C.L. Bledsoe, of my chapbook Midnight’s Marsupium (Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2010) in the current issue of Prick of the Spindle:
The book…never quite manages to delve deep enough below the surface of its playfulness to really connect with the reader in a meaningful way, I felt. Leong is a clever wordsmith, though, and I’d be interested in reading more of his work.
The issue regarding readerly connection is fair enough. And, interestingly, Prick of the Spindle ran a review (it was an interesting and well-thought one) of my first book, e.s.p., that made a similar point:
With any experimental poetics, though, the risk is that to proceed by such unproven methods is to court failure: after all, for every light bulb that goes off in the head, any Edison has hundreds of botched trials and burnt-out filaments. Hence, for every polished Oulipo-like loop-de-loop, Leong has another poem that seems too clever by half, by failing to meet its reader halfway.
But whenever I read critiques in this vein I always think of John Ashbery’s famous comment that his poems are “accessible, for those who care to access them.” I think making the reader work is as important as meeting him or her “halfway.” I also think it’s interesting that the most prevalent metaphors regarding readerly connection are so thoroughly conditioned by a Whitmanian poetics: “Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, / Missing me one place search another, / I stop somewhere waiting for you.”
My favorite sentence of Bledsoe’s review is the first one:
This brief collection is interspersed with pictures of collage poems that look like those refrigerator magnets arranged into poems, except they contain words I’ve never seen in any set of magnets.
Actually–I composed all of the visual poems using magneticpoetry.com, which allows you to play with virtual magnets online. There are a variety of sets (“Original Kit,” “Love Kit,” “Poet”); I think I used the kit called “Geek” (or perhaps some kit involving office diction) to make the piece above. In any case, I’m thankful that Bledsoe took the time to review an older title.
The poetry team at Hyperallergic Weekend (Albert Mobilio, Barry Schwabsky, John Yau, and myself) put together a list of some of our favorite books from 2013. I chose LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs’ TwERK (Belladonna), Andy Mister’s Liner Notes (Station Hill), and Stephanie Strickland’s Dragon Logic (Ahsahta). See the full list here.