Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Lyrical Ballad Machine

Check out the most recent American Letters and Commentary it features excerpts from Joyelle's and mine Lyrical Ballad Machine, which we wrote while exhausted because Sinead was 2 weeks old. The issue also features a splendid piece collaborative created by John Woods and Kristen Iskandrian, a comics piece.

Monday, February 25, 2008

From my essay on Aase Berg

So I've been working on this essay on Aase Berg for a book on international women poets. Here are a couple of early paragraphs. It's basically about D+G's "BWO", the grotesque, and Per Backstrom's notion (developed in a book on Michaux) of "the language grotesque." If anybody has any advice etc, please feel free to let me know. I'm kind of in the middle of writing it feverishly:

“I become nauseous and almost seasick when I read her texts. It is as if there was no sorting over-I in the poems,” writes Swedish critic Åsa Beckman in her essay “The Shimmering Insides of Tunnels – Aase Berg and the Horrors of Motherhood.” In this paper I will analyze the source of that nausea and sea-sickness in Berg’s poetry. But rather than find “horror” I will find subversive ecstasy in the “tunnels” that run through her poems, through bodies and underground spaces. In this essay, I will show how Berg’s poems enact crises; events in which, or through which, the ontological order, traditional subjectivities and standardized language break down, allowing new figurations of the body and language. I will analyze these breakdown, refigurations and permutations of language and bodies by bringing together Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s concept of “minor literature” with the concept of the grotesque. In the grotesque bodies – as in Mikhail Bakthin’s “grotesque realism” - Berg finds a state of “becoming,” an unfinished, nomadic state of flux. Berg is constantly undermining or “minoritizing’ the stable notion of language, resulting is something close to what Per Bäckström has called “språkgrotesk” (“language grotesque”). Rather than the ontologically stable subject, Berg creates bodies that are connected to the world, something closer to Deleuze and Guattari’s “Body without Organs,” a body crisscrossed by a flux of forces and lines of flight. That which is supposed to be outside, become inside, that which is natural becomes unnatural. Berg’s poems take place in breakdowns and wreckages, moments when order gives way to confusion; thus, the speakers of the poems – in the sense that they at all can be called “speakers” in the traditional sense – speak from positions of confusion. This is not a poetry of mastery but mishap, a poetry that resists those important hallmarks of a national (and monoglossic) literature – the stable I and the stable language.


If the grotesque body breaks against the compulsory ablebodiedness of modern society, the grotesque language breaks against the compulsory closure of the monoglossic notion of language. In his study of French poet Henri Michaux, Swedish scholar Per Bäckström merges Bakthin’s with Wolfgang Kayser’s concept of the grotesque. Like Bakhtin, Kayser saw in the grotesque the destruction of borders, but Kayser felt this was a result of an alienation in a scary world. Joining these two theories, Bäckström comes up with an idea of the grotesque which includes: the distortion of commonly held views of reality (through the so-called “alogical” merging of images), the splintering of the I into a multiplicity, and the fragmented/unfinished nature of the texts. Bäckström points out that the grotesque has often been viewed as the opposite of poetry; while the grotesque has served as a critique of interiority, poetry has upheld this idealized notion of self. Applying the grotesque to poetry, Bäckström proposes a “language-grotesque,” “the aggressive hacking apart of the language-body and the upside-down-turning of the lingual hegemony” (75). However, he revises this claim slightly a few pages later, widening this designation to include Octavio Paz’s description of Michaux’s aesthetics: “Dissolvings, connectings, fragmentations, reunitings. Brokeapart words, spellingconnections, meaning intercourse. The destruction of language” (79).

My Oscars (cont.)

I also give a special Oscar to Omar and "the stick-up boys" (and more importantly, girls) from The Wire. If the woman with the machine-gun-leg is the best woman character, Omar is the best male character(s).

Cultural Differences/Neo-Avant-Garde

Due to recent discussions here and Per Backstrom's essay on the latest issue of Action, Yes, I came to think about my Fahlstrom research in Stockholm this past summer. While looking through the archives at the Modern Museum, I found letters that Fahlstrom had written to Pontus Hulten complaining at how apolitical the big artists in NY were. In one letter he talks about how he was at some dinner with Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and when Fahlstrom complained about the injustices of US society, the Americans kept saying, "But here everyone is free to make money" and "The US is the land of opportunity, everyone can get rich here." Fahlstrom appears to have been pretty angry about it.

On the other hand, Fahlstrom appears to have absolutely loved all the little guerilla theaters, presses and political action groups in New York. In one essay about the time/space period, he says something like, "The first thing I learned from New York was that I could do things for myself." The Living Theater, guerilla arts happenings and things like that. That's also part of the neo-avant-garde.

Interesting that both sides of the neo-a-g should have been reborn in contemporary US poetry right now. On one hand the ethics of collectivity and small-press publishing, but also the Warhol/Johns attitude.

[Also, I highly recommend Ugly Duckling's new reproduction of 0-9, a literary journal from NYC in the late 1960s. John Giorno's stuff in there is super.]

Sweden makes two really intersting contributions to the neo-avant-garde: Fahlstrom and his brand of concretism (which is much more varied than the Swiss or Brazilian varities, and which involves a lot more LSD - and an interest in the Internet!), as well as that which ended Concretism - a progressive movement of musicians, poets, actors and playwrights who created a genuinely populist artistic movement, putting on big class-consciousness-raising spectacles that only the Cubo-Futurists could have dreamed of. (I have fond memories of these Communist puppet theaters, anti-nuclear sculpture gardens, children's records decrying the ills of capitalism etc; but not really all that interesting when removed from its cultural context.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I"m about to fall asleep but I'm watching the Oscars and I don't know any of these films. But if I were to pick the winners they would include: Inland Empire (duh), I'm Not There (and I would give a big Oscar to Cate Blanchett for Bob Dylan), Grindhouse (especially the woman with the machine-gun leg, she was the best, the best, just super, the rest of the film... well I would rather watch the real thing), I Know Who Killed Me, Zodiac... Didn't Almodovar make a movie this year? Give that man a Johannes-Oscar anyway.

Last night I saw Summer of 1960, a very important French New Wave film (without it no Masculine Feminine etc). Give it a Johannes-Oscar as well.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Now on sale from SPD:


Author: Goransson, Johannes
Pub Date: 01 Feb 2008
Publisher: Fairy Tale Review Press
ISBN: 978-0-9799954-1-5
Price: $12.00

Poetry. PILOT ("JOHANN THE CAROUSEL HORSE") is an assemblage, a book of nursery rhymes gone wrong in translation. Its strange characters, abandoned from other texts, include Lilja, the Pearls of Stockholm and assorted imperiled girls. Here, in Johannes Goransson's glittering exocity, they find a new and beautifully stitched home. Goransson was born and raised in Skane, Sweden, but has lived in the US for many years. He is co-editor of Action Books and has translated the work of Aase Berg, Henry Parland, Ann Jaderlund and other Swedish and Finland Swedish poets. Goransson is also the author of A NEW QUARANTINE WILL TAKE MY PLACE, published by Apostrophe Books in late 2007.

Number Troubles (cont)

It seems this Numbers Trouble essay actually is causing some useful discussion.

Anyway, Gary Sullivan has a good entry on it (as well as on comics):

Lawrence King

That's the saddest thing I've read in a long time. Saddest and most infuriating. And he seemed like a really awesome, super kid.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Aase Berg on Language

"Language is a living being. I think that language came before humans, not the other way around. The language’s cells hovered around the earth searching for a host body. They tried to inhabit dinosaurs and fish, but neither worked, because they were too stupid and the muscles in their possible speaking-organs were not evolved enough. Then came humans. The invisible, potential language attacked her, like mosquitoes that know they need blood and have waited for thousands of years for the first mammals do develop."

(This is from the essay "On Language and Madness" from the crosscultural anthology "Swinging With the Neighbors", which features Russian, Scandinavian and Finnish writers)


Avant-Garde vs High Modernism

One of my pet-peeves is the way the term "avant-garde" is used interchangeably with "high modernism." For example in the recent "post avant" debate.

Charles Olson was not avant-garde. TS Eliot was not avant-garde. Ezra was not a-g. (Not that they weren't influenced by a-g ideas and techniques). They are high modernists.

Of course, there is no cut-and-dry difference, but one important one (which Backstrom discusses in the essay in the recent Action, Yes) is an attitude toward mass culture. And like Backstrom, I think Andreas Huyssen's After the Great Divide makes this distinction pretty clear. The historical a-g was all about reconfiguring the attitude between high and low culture. You can see it in Apollinaire's use of talk from the cafe, Breton's use of advertising fonts, Henry Parland's use of film and photography and fashion and jazz (or all of Dada's identification with jazz).

In his book on Henri Michaux, Backstrom calls attention to the connection between the historical avant-garde and Bakhtin's idea of the grotesque. I think this is really important (which is why I'm including the idea in the paper I am currently writing about Aase Berg). I think you can see this very well in Alice Notley's work.

That is why I found it so wrong when on Silliman's blog Simon D. and some others speculated that the difference between "true surrealism" and "soft surrealism" was that real surrealism had an antagonistic attitude toward mass culture. This is a total 2008-American-"post-avant" re-reading of the historical avant-garde (simplistic, reductive, describing our own poetry rather than the aesthetics of the 1910s and 20s). This is also why most poets who today claim or invite comparison to the "avant-garde" strike me more as descendants of high modernism.

Ron for example seems extremely high modernist to me. His distinctions between genres seem positively greeenbergian. Perhaps the best classification would be "high postmodernist."

If classification is your deal. Do I contradict myself? So what, I contain multitudes.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Upcoming Readings

It's The Alma Mater Reading Tour:

In Iowa City:

Joyelle McSweeny & Johannes Goransson Poetry & Prose
7:00 p.m. Prairie Lights

Tuesday, March 4
Joyelle McSweeny & Johannes Goransson
Talk on starting and running a small press and a literary magazine
11:00 a.m. Frank Conroy Reading Room

In Minneapolis:

Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney
Friday, March 7, 7:30 pm
Rogue Buddha Gallery
357 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

I'm strangely over-excited about reading in my hometown of Minneapolis and I've been inviting old pals and profs.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I have to admit that I often fall into the antological trap - as when I call for American poets to read foreign literature, as if that kind of demand will somehow change the situation. Just as the woman must become woman, foreigners like myself must become foreigner (and woman, infant etc).

Francois I noticed made a good note on his blog - next to Deleuze & Guattari's becoming minor, the concept of "the avant-garde" seems awefully linear, teleological.

Joyelle, Number Troubles

I guess I should clarify why Joyelle's statement about numbers trouble is so important. Deleuze and Guattari maintain the importance that women not just try to become Man, majoritiarian - which is what Spahr's and Young's "anthological thinking"does. Rather, Deleuze and Guattari advocates becoming-woman, becoming minor:

“The only becoming is a minority one. Women, regardless of their number, are a minority, definable as a state or sub-set; but they only create by rendering possible a becoming, of which they do not have the ownership, into which they themselves must enter, a becoming-woman which concerns all of mankind, men and women included.”

(Thousand Plateaus)

[I should admit that the reason I'm posting so many entries today is that I'm writing a an essay that uses D&G to read Aase Berg's work. But I keep getting distracted.]

Deleuze and Guattari

“The minimal real Unity is not the word, the idea, or the concept, nor the signifier, but the arrangement, the configuration. It is always an arrangement that produces utterances… The utterance is a product of arrangement, always collective, which puts into play, in us and outside of us, populations, multiplicities, territories, becomings, affects, events.”

New Quarantine Youtube

Here's a montage/video piece based on my book A New Quarantine Will Take My Place:

Peter Strange Yumi made it.


"Third Way" seems largely an attempt to control, to reduce to style, to name, a very interesting moment in American poetry, when new media and critiques of institutions of publishing have indeed created something much less controllable/nameable.

One interesting thing I noticed about the AWP was how boring all the panels and official programs were, but when walking around the bookfair I saw all these little presses sewing up chapbooks at their tables, people talking to each other, coming up with strange new projects. That part of the AWP was very exciting. I learned a lot. Was very inspired by my discussions with various people.

Of course, in a way langpo can be seen as instigators of this move to change publishing practices, and in that way I will perhaps have to reverse my previous pronouncement that langpo failed.

But mostly I think this comes out of frustration with the restrictions of the establishment + new media making it possible to have presses and to make contacts with foreign poets in cyberspace, with blogs and internet journals.

Post-Avant and multitudes

Read Joyelle's re-directing of the Ashton Debate to "anthological thinking".

The piece is important in that it finds a new way to phrase that debate which seemed so strangely deadlocked to begin with.

It also applies to the "post-avant" debate. What I find frustrating about that debate is the seemingly pervasive concept that there is a Quietist Poetry and and Avant-Garde Poetry. I have written on here in the past about how this cold-war-like dichotomy establishment is almost as repressive as a single poetry establishment. Proof of how stultifying it is can be seen in all these anthologies and terminologies that suggest the only way to come up with something new is to compromise langpo and quietism. This is evident in Reginald's post, but also in Claudia Rankine's anthology "Where lyric meets language" (it's a good anthology, but it's the framework I object to).

As I've written in the past, this "conflict" is woefully static. It's really a conflict without the conflict: the quietists like a simple strawman they can attack in that terrible journal I get in my mailbox at school; the langpo crowd (and I see them rather more broadly to include Buffalo graduates etc) likes to be attacked for being too theory, too radical (but get very defensive when critiqued for not being radical enough).

As I've also written on here at some point, I think of this as a failure of language poetry. They created a counter-hegenomy when they should have striven to make poetry into multiplicity. There should be no "inside" to poetry , but there still is a very strong inside (well , two insides).

An interesting case study for this would be the whole chap book dynamo over at Buffalo. I think that was a great idea when Bernstein got all that funding into the students making chapbooks. With its revision of traditional publishing practices, this did promise to move poetry toward multiplicity. But while I've read a lot of interesting chapbooks from Buffalo (see Mike Cross's/Atticus Finch's recent "Lo, Bittern" by CJ Martin), this seems too like an oddly insular community. Has anybody ever seen those students publishing books by foreign authors in translation, for example? I could be wrong, but that's my impression.

Susan Schultz's Tin Fish is here - as I've written - a wonderful example of a press that seems shot through with various fluxes and aesthetics, without claiming to be a "way."

Of course there is a Third Way (if that's what you want). It's not Fence (despite its unfortunate name), which has published some of the most dynamic and fascinating poetry of the past ten years (Joyelle, Cathy Wagner, Ariana Reines etc etc). But for me this attitude can be seen in various anthologies and also Omnidawn Press, which publishes Marxist Lynn Hejinian with reactionary Donald Revell (all we need is "attention" - that 19th century means of social control - see Jonathan Crary's "Suspension of Perception"). I'm not interested in compromised poetics.

New Action, Yes

[I just posted this on the international blog, so here it is for the rest of you:]


There is a new issue of our online journal Action, Yes now up.

Among other things it features poems and translations by Rosa Alcala, Ray Bianchi, Rocio Ceron, Lara Glenum, Sergio Medeiros, Gabriel & Marcel Piqueray, Lila Zemborain and many others. It also includes the documentation of a multimedia performance by Daniel Tiffany, Andrea Loselle, Daniel Rothman, Theodore Mook.

Perhaps most interesting for this blog, the issue features Swedish scholar Lars Bäckström's analysis of how issues of translation have influenced discussions of theories of the avant-garde.

We would be interested in running response-essays in the next issues. If you are interested, please contact me johannesgoransson [at-symbol] gmail [dot] com.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Reminder - Chicago - Saturday

A friendly reminder for this Saturday's reading with Brenda Cardenas, Roberto Harrison, and Johannes Göransson......Please spread the word.

Brown Triangle Presents: A Reading on Saturday February 16th at 7 p.m.

The Brown Triangle is located at 2214 W. 21st in Pilsen. Ring the bell on the side door.

from The East Bay Express (Berkley)

Berkeley-based Small Press Distribution, which handles oodles of titles we might never know about otherwise, has issued its recommendations to start off the new year. Among them are Mommy Must Be a Mountain of Feathers (Action, $14), by Korean poet Kim Hyesoon, in which "horror is packed inside cuteness, cuteness inside horror." Excerpt: "Have you ever turned on the light inside your intestine? ... When the light is switched on inside my darkness, I buzz like a beetle pinned down, bung, bung, bung, bung, and shake my head wildly, my muzzle holding onto a black string." SPD also touts Johannes Göransson's poetry of "private genocide," A New Quarantine Will Take My Place (Apostrophe, $14). Excerpt: "Will you sooth my scarlet, will you wool my tool? ... did you maybe dream of babies who wheeze strangely? ... The Queen of Pork."

[Maybe because my favorite move in basketball is the East Bay Funk, a slam dunk created by Isiah JR Rider in the early 90s - it involved a shirt over the head while spinning around, putting the ball through his own legs, pretty much the kitchen sink]

the post-avant debate

is too annoying for me to even get involved with.

The New Critics claimed to be post-avant as well.

But the thing I find totally perplexing is this idea that there is not "outside" and no "inside". I don't see how that's possible. That's really not how poetry works.

Also, that everybody is a stylist/formalist. If that's the way you read poetry, then that's what you're going to find.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aase Berg

Here's a link to an interview with Aase Berg. It was conducted because she was just nominated for Dagens Nyheter's Cultural Prize for her most recent book Loss. Mostly the article is funny because the photographs show a bit of Aase's totally retro house (an old farmhouse). I slept in the barn when I visited.


For those in need of some thoughts on the concepts of avant-garde, the new issu eof Action, Yes features a fine essay by Swedish- Norwegian scholar Per Bäckström:

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Lots of BS to slog through from the debate about post-avant over on the Harriet Blog.

As anyone who's ever read this blog knows, I'm very interested in aspects of the historical avant-garde: the permutational/cosmopolitan aesthetics, the attempt to invoke mass culture (in difference to practically all contemporary American poets who tend to take a puritanical, elitist attitude) etc.

But clearly I realize that I am talking about a historical time and place different from my own. Lots of proponents seem to have forgotten this. One guy for example argues that Breton, if alive today, would write like Andrew Joron. A ridiculous notion, as Breton is from a totally different situation.

But for me it sums up so much about American discussions about avant-garde: most of all the nauseating concept that Breton would be an American (of course, welcome to the EPcot Center of the World!).

I am annoyed at the way "avant-garde" is used in a lot of these conversations - to restrict poetry. What is the true avant-garde? There never was one avant-garde. Both Fence and Krupskaya have the right to exist, which doesn't mean that everyone has to like both of them.

Update from Stockholm Surrrealists

[Received an interesting document from Mattias Forshage about the current stand of the Surrealist Group of Stockholm. It includes the following note about Aase Berg, who quit the group some 10 years ago.]

Missing persons dept:

Simply for your knowledge, without wanting to make a big issue out of it, we take this opportunity to state the nature of the detachment of a few individuals that several of you know and have been in contact with as group representatives or for personal reasons or otherwise. Bruno Jacobs maintains, as several of you know, his quest for true poetic disturbances and keeps in contact with surrealist comrades without being part of the swedish group. Aase Berg and Carl-Michael Edenborg, the two people that got absorbed into publicity during the Stora Saltet phase and neither wanted to nor could partake in collective surrealist activity afterwards, today appear as each others diametrical opposites in relation to surrealism: AB as an antisurrealist for surrealism and CME as a prosurrealist against surrealism. AB, who always proudly and self-allegedly has been a person of contradictions and theoretical ignorance, has publicly taken stands against her surrealist past because she is now interested in reality. While working as the editor of sweden’s leading official literary magazine BLM she remains one of the very finest surrealist poets in this language and publishes her poems regularly with wide acclamation among the literary critics.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Q & A

[A person writing about my translations has been asking me questions. Here is one of my longer replies:]

Translating Parland and Berg are indeed somewhat different. The quickest answer is that Parland is easier - it's pretty straightforward. Sometimes it's awkward yet strangely snappy. It's part "translatese" and part advertising speak. The trick to get in Parland is somewhat different than Berg - things like word order, snappiness, quickness become more important. Sometimes the difficult is finding the meaning of words that are not used in Swedish (but Finland Sweden) or words that are archaic. But mostly it's a matter of keeping it snappy.

Perhaps the single most difficult translation choice was in what to call the book. Idealrealization - I've seen it translated as "The Sale of Ideals" elsewhere. But "realization" is more than a sale - it's a sale in which the store has to get rid of the stock. Perhaps a more "literal" translation would be "The Clearance Sale of Ideals," but then you don't have the snappiness of the original. Also, I like "clearance" being slightly ambiguous because because there is a sense of "realization" in the Swedish word as well. A sense that getting rid of Western culture is a kind of "clearing" or understanding.

People always talk about how hard it must be to translate Berg. Her work is of course "untranslatable" in the old paradigm of poetry - the one that holds that there is an original text that is then translated into a new - always inferior, because plagiarized - text. People still follow this idea, despite poststructuralism etc telling us that texts are not "wellwrought urns", not autonomous and isolated.

What makes Berg "easy" (or maybe "fun") is that Berg doesn't write with that concept of poetry; she writes in a translation-based idea of poetry. It's all about permutations and connectivity. My translation is part of a series of processes that begin in her work, which is largely based on translations and permutations of language and texts (sci-fi novels, zombie movies, science texts etc). So in many ways translating her work is very liberating - it's about connecting these permutational processes to the English language. And that is really fun! Translating her really helped me see translation in a new way, much less anxious about "the original" etc. And that has had a big effect not just on my translation practices, but also on my own poetry writing and scholarly attitudes.

Parland and Aase are connected in that they both have their roots in the historical avant-garde. Part of that 1920s-Dada-aesthetic is that it's not supposed to be elegant; they got rid of that Romantic interiority that is often "lost in translation". You see the same thing in Picabia, Huelsenbeck or Srecko Kosovel etc. I agree to a large extent with Raymond Williams who in his books on Modernism noted that the avant-garde of the 10s and 20s comes largely out of "translation" in a broad sense - that is, those writers were all emigrants, exiles and generally displaced, speaking and writing in second and third (and in Parland's case 4th) languages.

Aase first got into poetry as a young member of the notorious Stockholm Surrealist Group. She didn't really write poetry for many years - rather she participated in various kinds of Surrealist experiments. But things soured between her and the group when she started writing poetry that gained quite a bit of acclaims/ridicule/controversy. Plus she grew older and became critical of what she saw as a kind of sexism in Surrealism (Breton's Nadja being a prime example). Nevertheless I think her mentorship with the Surrealists taught her this idea that the poem was not an isolated object but experiments.

Well, that was a very long answer. It also perhaps tells you a bit about the philosophy behind Action Books. My wife Joyelle McSweeney and I started Action Books in 2005. Perhaps the biggest reason was that I couldn't get anybody to publish my Berg-book, we looked around and saw this as part of a bigger problem, unwillingness or inability to engage with literature in translation (most likely both). We are particularly interested in the historical avant-garde, which as I wrote above has a very translation-ish/permutational approach to writing. So we decided to publish books in translation and books by American writers that were engaged with similar ideas.

Many American poets seem to want to be translated and want to be cosmopolitan but they won't do anything to publish or read foreign poetry in translation.

As for the other Parland texts - I've already translated the entire poetic ouevre (most of it was posthumous), but I haven't published a lot beyond Ideals Clearance. Somebody else has translated his novel. I thought briefly I would help that person get it published in the US but then I ran out of time (I'm always behind on everything). So I'm not sure where that project is at. I know the novel has recently been published in several European countries (Russia, Germany, France etc). And scholars in Germany and Italy have written significant books about Parland.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Yet another SPD bestseller list

1. Sleeping and Waking Michael O'brien (Flood Editions)

2. You Are a Little Bit Happier Than I Am Tao Lin (Action Books)

3. The Transformation Juliana Spahr (Atelos)

4. Ballad of Jamie Allan Tom Pickard (Flood Editions)

5. Somebody Blew Up America Amiri Baraka (House of Nehesi)

6. Incubation: A Space for Monsters Bhanu Kapil (Leon Works)

7. Necessary Stranger Graham Foust (Flood Editions)

8. Mommy Must be a Mountain of Feathers Kim Hyesoon, trans. by Don Mee Choi (Action Books)

9. In the Absent Everyday Tsering Wangmo Dhompa (Apogee Books)

10. Figures for a Darkroom Voice Noah E. Gordon, Joshua M. Wilkinson (Tarpaulin Sky Press)


21. Port Trakl Jaime Luis Huenan trans. by Daniel Borzutzky (Action Books)

24. A New Quarantine Will Take My Place Johannes Goransson (Apostrophe Books)

(Well, I got beaten by some pretty good books.)


I am interested to read all these blog entries criticizing the AWP. Yes, it's backwards and almost all of the panels were probably useless. But I went to an inspiring panel on Latin American poetry in translation - I came out of that with electricity sparkling in my brain.

That was the only panel I went to, but I had a lot of very interesting and inspiring exchanges with various poets and translators. I saw Abe Smith read, I talked with Sergio Bessa and a guy named Siddharta about Brazilian poetry, I talked with William Howe about performance and teaching performance, I talked to Steve Bradbury about Taiwanese poetry. Etc. It was a wonderful learning/artistic experience that way.

And at the book fair I was able to talk to people I had never met about Dadaism and Swedish poetry and Finland Swedish Modernism etc. I hatched tons of plans and collaboration-conspiracies. I sold tons of books to people I don't think even know about our books, people who would not have found out about our books without the AWP.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Reading in Chicago

Dear Friends and Writers and Readers of Poetry:

I am writing with an invitation and an announcement. In the coming months, I will be curating some readings at the Brown Triangle, an apartment-gallery in an attic in a residential building in Pilsen. The first reading will take place on Saturday February 16th at 7 p.m., and it will feature Brenda Cardenas, Johannes Göransson, and Roberto Harrison. Our second event will be on March 15th and our readers will be Amina Cain and Paul Martinez Pompa.

The Brown Triangle is located at 2214 W. 21st in Pilsen. Ring the bell on the side door.

Wine, Poetry, and art in an attic. Please come, and please spread the word to others who might be interested.

Many thanks, and hope to see you at the Brown Triangle.

Daniel Borzutzky

Apostrophe Books website up


Everybody who reads this should ask their departments etc to carry Raintaxi. It's only 100 bucks for an entire department.

It is obvious to most people that the way to combat the mindlessness of the status quo is to have vigorous public discussion, and Raintaxi is a place where people are actually reading books and writing about them in (mostly) intelligent ways.

It becomes especially obvious to someone who publishes books that it is hard to get the word out on books unless you're some kind of fancy press (and they mostly publish crap). That is why Raintaxi is so important.

So please support it, write for it and read it.

Bad news from the AWP

It appears that the two most exciting print journals are history, at least for the moment. It appears that Catherine Taylor was booted from the New Ohio Review editorship for publishing genre-bending texts and that Soft Targets ran out of funding due to all its spectacular art reproductions.

The Catherine Taylor case is really disturbing and it points out once again the narrow-mindedness and defensiveness of those in charge of things. Because, despite what Reginald Shepherd (whom I met at the AWP and who related some of the "best" Iowa stories I've ever heard) believes, there are still people in charge of things.

Nevertheless, Joyelle and I have an exciting essay/manifesto about translation in the next NOR.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I wrote a longer entry but then I revoked it. So here's my abbreviated AWP entry.

Most importantly: I ate Middle Eastern food in Williamsburg, Korean food in Korean Town and at my favorite lowbrow Italian restaurant Max's in the Lower Eastside, a place where I used to go as often as my wallet allowed.

I didn't get a chance to go to my other favorite restaurant, Casimir, where my brother and I would frequently go and eat steak tartar and get our euro-trash tastes for raw meat satisfied.

Joyelle buys way too many books at the bookfair. Totally out of control. "Check out this boo! Look at this broadside. And I don't keven know where I got it!"

I went to one panel: an absolutely inspiring panel on Latin American poetry in translation, which included Rosa Alcalay and Cecilia Vicuna.

Our reading with Elexir Press and Apostrophe went great. The next morning we immediately sold out all of Abe Smith's Whim man mammon. He's such a terrific reader. Even though he was hit by a van on the way over to the gallery.

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Action Books books

**Two New Poetry Titles from Action Books**

Smith, Abraham
$14.00 / PA / 80pp.
ISBN: 978-0-9765692-8-2
Action Books 2007
Poetry. "If Frank Stanford got up from the dead to slam (and slammed
to win), what he would say might well resemble the poems in WHIM MAN
MAMMON. That said, Abe Smith's got his own lizard thing going on
here: No resurrection required. This is deft work--and hefty work (as
in big and as in bag)--that squeezes gallon after gallon of the 21st
century's natural and cultural detritus into one marvelous sack of
song. To my mind, it's the most useful writing from a Wisconsinite
since Joe Garden's window signs at Badger Liquor. There is no higher
compliment"--Graham Foust.

Hendricks, Brent
$14.00 / PA / 80pp.
ISBN: 978-0-9765692-9-9
Action Books 2007
Poetry. At once a debut collection of poetry and a gripping literary
game, THAUMATROPE fascinates like a supermarket tabloid and like a
dazzling gem. These fifty-two poems are laid out as a shuffled deck
of cards, with each suit and number tracing a different mood, tone,
lyric problem and narrative or characterological thread. Thumbing
through the random order, the reader must build her own conceptual
house of cards, plotting connections and alliances between the
Jokers, junkies and other mundane and mystical protagonists who haunt
the royal parks and seedy bars, lofty towers and run-down clinics of
this dense and various book. With illustrations by collageuse Lisa

The Morning Line

Heres' an intersting site, a kind of clearing house of reviews of poesy.

Dolores Dorantes and Translation

I'm glad to see that Ron is continuing his forays into the foreign with a review of Dolores Dorantes.

For a very fine essay on this very fine book, see Mark Tursi's review in Raintaxi.

Some of Ron's commentator reveals what I think is a pretty important aspect of the threat/anxiety about translation: How can we possible be asked to master another canon from a totally different culture? Of course you can't, but you can't master the US canon either. In fact there is no US canon (you can't have the US 20th century without Marinetti, Breton etc).

This is an important part of engaging with foreign literature - such illusions are lost. You cannot "master" literature.

Another wrinkle on this: Dolores Dorantes herself has translated and published translations of Paul Celan in her broadsheet journal.

Reading literature in translation is important not just because one reads texts one would not otherwise be able to read (though this is certainly true), but also because the act of engaging with foreign language changes one's perspective on texts. That is why Raymond Williams so perceptively noted that the avant-garde comes out of a bunch of artists and writers who were displaced or emigrants/exiles.

Speaking of crosscultural exchanges, I'm working on a project for Raintaxi that will involve Jen Hofer, Dolores and Aase Berg.