Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Aase reviews

Here's a good review of Loss by Amelie Björck in Goteborgs Posten:

She calls Aase's motherhood trilogy of Forsla Fett,Upland and Loss the most interesting poetic project of the 2000s. I agree.

Here's a review of the book in DN by Asa Beckman, a prominent critic who also wrote about Aase in her book on postmodern women poets.She says, "This trilogy will be read for a long time."


I passed my orals today.

Also found out from one friend that another friend is afraid of being associated with me because a certain group of people consider me "their enemy". The poetry world can be so ridiculous. And paranoid.

Friday, April 20, 2007


Here's a review of Aase Berg's latest book "Loss" in Expressen.

It's funny to think of a book of poetry on the front page of the USA Today Arts section.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Imperiet, "Århundradets Brott"

This is one of my favorite songs by Imperiet, the band Thåström founded after disbanding Ebba Grön (see "Staten och Kapitalet" below) in the early 80s. The song ("Crime of the Century") is a kind of surreal take on Thåström's time in jail (for refusing the mandatory military service). A lot of the images from that song has stuck with me - the two decapitated are coughing out the dust from a sleepless night for example.

You may not a rather big change from Ebba Grön not just in terms of music (keyboards etc) but also image - Imperiet (which means "The Empire") played around with a lot of cold war imagery, performed songs by Brecht/Weil, perfromed shows in Nicaragua to show support for the Sandinista, were allaround brilliantly/irritatingly pretentious.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Alta blog

Alta has ablog and it mentions Jen Hofer's translation of "lip wolf" (which will be released in July), Action Books' manifesto and even me (though it's got the information wrong - I'm not going to be talking about translation at the Scandinavian Depts annual conference, I'm going to be talking about Henry Parland.)

People sometimes ask me how to get more translations into their journals. If you're having difficulty in this regard you may want to contact this blog.

Mayhew on Translation and My Reply

Jonathan Mayhew, someone I basically disagree with about everything except Bruce Andrews, wrote the following on his blog:

"I've resolved the problem of translation. It's about time someone did. Here's my solution.

Regard translation as a perfectly legitimate method of producing poems. Stop thinking of translation as way of reproducing some other text. Once you do that, all the problems magically disappear.

All translations of the same original might be grouped together as the same genre of poem and compared against one another, but never against the original."

To which I replied:


Actually you haven't solved the problem of translation - the problem of translation cannot be "solved" until the problem of the poem is "solved".

The idea of the translation as an autonomous poem has been issued many times in the past - I think it's a way of solving precisely what makes us so uncomfortable about translation - that it problematizes our notion of the isolated poem (not just the translation) - the poem becomes something more unstable, less "urn"-like to invoke New Criticism.

One solution to maintain the urn-like quality of the text is to say - hey the translation is just another separate urn. But they are connected to the original! They are translations of the original!

And if we group the translations together (I think that's a very interesting activity), doesn't the "original" haunt this group in an interesting way that suggest that they are not autonomous?

I think we should let translations continue to trouble our notion of poems. Poetry is not what's lost in translation - a certain idea of the poem as an isolated artificat (and frankly, I think the subtext of that statement is that Frost thought poetry has to be written in Englis, but that's another story) is lost. Nor is poetry what's gained in translation - a certain kind of poem perhaps (an aesthetic that may be related to Dada and its various incarnations around Europe in the 1910s and 20s).

The Cow

I thought a really good insight into what we talk about when we talk about poetry was when Josh Corey, trying to understand why he liked Ariana Reines' "The Cow", called it "nakedly angry." In other words, he fell back on the old binary of the raw vs the cooked.

In her review of "The Cow" in Raintaxi, Lara Glenum gets closer when she says that the book is about the way culture teaches us how to desire. (As Zizek is always pointing out, there is nothing spontaneous about desire. He would have a field day with this book.) Though the thing about Lara's review that I would quibble over is the way she emphasizes "struggle" in the writing process. This can be misread as a return to the old raw-vs-cooked binary, to the expressionist subject.

Like I wrote to Ariana, mostly her book reminds me of various video art. I think in particular of one piece I once saw at the Walker: distanced camera-stare at a bunch of poor teenagers reenacting professional wrestling. It's boring and violent and quite brilliant.

Though perhaps Josh is right about the "naked" in another sense. The book also has something to do with the exquisitely unsexy boredom of pornography. How such films reveal the artificiality of nudity.

Perhaps it has something to do with Kiki Sera's work: (That's a piece called "Phantom Fuck").

Another example of people falling back into this binary are the blurbs to Anna Moschovakis' book "I Have Not Been Able to Get Through to Everyone." As I alluded to in the entry below, her style is the result of very conscious process of impoverishing - a very artificial act (like all art). Yet the blurbs say that the book is "stripped of artifice" (Ammiel Alcalay), that they display an "absence of artifice" (Lewis Warsh), and (Ann Lauterbach) that Plato "would have loved them" (I thought he only liked poetry that glorified war).

The critics/blurbers I've included in this post all like these pieces. But more frequently these binaries are used to dismiss work, or at least to compartmentalize.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Two New Books Definitely Worth Reading

**New Poetry from Green Integer**

Scalapino, Leslie
$17.95 / paper / 205pp.
Green Integer 2007
Poetry. DAY OCEAN STATE OF STARS' NIGHT, a collection of eight years of Leslie Scalapino's poetry, represents one of the most important of her works to date. Alice Notley commented on the long poem, ‘It's go in/quiet illumined grass/land’: "An enlightened work singing of death, physical pain, social fearfulness, and where when or whether one is. The intricate variable stanza, almost danced (like a Greek strophe) sounds one of Scalapino's favorite themes: inside and outside, the cruelty outside and the illumination also there, as in here, in space and in time. The stanza leads one through the space and time of the poem word by word. You can't stop." Robert Crelley has written about Leslie Scalapino's writing: "I hesititate to introduce any such term as ‘meditation’ or ‘reflection’ because this work is not apart from its thinking and/or composition, so to speak, and that, among other things, constitutes its exceptional value. I find the whole work to be a deeply engaging preoccupation with, and articulation of, what life might be said, factually, to be. But not as a defined subject, nor even a defining one- but as one being one. That is an heroic undertaking, or rather, place in which to work/write/live. Its formal authority is as brilliant as any I know."

**New Poetry from Kenning Editions**

Weiner, Hannah
$14.95 / paper / 178pp.
Kenning Editions 2006
Poetry. "HANNAH WEINER'S OPEN HOUSE beckons us into a realm of poetry that bends consciousness in order to open the doors of perception. Weiner is one of the great American linguistic inventors of the last thirty years of the 20th century. She created an alchemical poetry that transforms the materials of everyday life into a dimension beyond sensory perception. The pieces collected here are as much conceptual art as sprung prose, experimental mysticism as social realism, autobiography as egoless alyric. Patrick Durgin has brought together touchstone works, some familiar and some never before published. HANNAH WEINER'S OPEN HOUSE provides the only single volume introduction to the full range of Weiner's vibrant, enthralling, and unique contribution to the poetry of the Americas"—Charles Bernstein.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Finished the last of my written comps yesterday, so today I feel pretty elated. First two and a half days went fine. I did a fine job on the avant-garde and modern american comps and the first half of the theory comps. I sort of ran out of steam in the second half of my theory comps. For the first question I wrote a good essay using Zizek and Jameson to critique the way Marxists have interpreted Hegel's idea of the estrangement. But then a bit into my Derrida essay I just hit the brick wall, so that essay was a bit thin. And then my final essay I used Bakhtin to critique Adorno's ideas of autonomy and Culture Industry and that shouldn't have been the easiest to write but I was kind of sluggish and ran out of time. Nonethelelss I'm sure I passed and I'm pretty psyched to be done with it.

Maybe when all is said and done I'll post some of the essays here. It was funny, I got so coffe-ied up and hyped that my brain started cranking out all kind of information I hadn't tought about for a long time. For example, in the modern american section I wrote an essay about the epic on the 20th century American poetry and all this stuff from Auerbach's "Mimesis" popped into my head (I ended up arguing for O'Hara as the great postmodern epicist/epicurean). All in all it was a good time. I take my orals in a couple of weeks, but that should be much less exhausting.

Unfortunately I still have a whole bunch of things to do. First of all I have to translate a pretty massive essay on Modernism for a museum show in Stockholm. Then I have to write this essay on Parland and Benjamin for the Scandinavianists' annual conference and then I have a bunch of Action to do. Actually, it's not so unfortunate because it's mostly pretty fun.

But I want to put the finishing touches on Pilot and my translation of Johan Jönsson's brilliant "Collobert Orbital" - and try to get it published by some press. It's in the Bruce Andrews vein of things, but taken to such an extreme of impotent disgust that it may be difficult for Americans to handle. When I was having dinner with the Ugly Ducklings, Anna Moschovakis discussed her theories of "slumming" - I'm pretty sure she called it "the voluntary impoverishment of language" (though she now doesn't remember using that phrase). Johan is extreme slumming, extreme impoverishment. The impotent subject of the transnational flows of Capital.

Also, we've got the new Action,Yes almost up and running. It's amazingly great. By far the best one we've put together yet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I can't believe there is another "Flavor of Love" spin-off coming on TV - "Charm School".

Fortunately my TV broke.

Mostly I think Reality TV is incredibly boring, but those shows are all quite great.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Message for people in Athens, GA

I got this announcement:

UGA's Green Party hosts Athens Mayor Heidi Davison on Monday April 9th, 5:30 PM, SLC 248. Come hear Mayor Davison talk about issues affecting the Athens community. Mayor Davison's talk will be followed by a Q & A session. Campus Green leaders will also talk about ways to get involved in progressive activism on campus and in the broader community. This will be a great opportunity to find out more about the activities that our young student activists and political leaders are engaging, and to raise any pressing questions we might have.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


If you watch the Zizek clips below (or the entire movie), one thing that may strike you is his involvement with spectacles. Hitchcock and Lynch are the main figures in his cultural analysis.

I am tired of the watered-down Situationist cliché of "the spectacle" being something to avoid - the idea that being a spectator is somehow equal to being entirely passive, a consumer (though I'm not saying that that is never the case!). As Zizek proves, spectacles are on the contrary often quite intense moments of exploration of the Symbolic Order, of the stuff that creates our subjectivities.

I think the idea of the "spectacle" has proven very succesful in American poetry because it has give the prevalent aesthetics of quietude (roughly speaking, with this I also include a lot of post-language types etc) and aura of ethical correctness. Repression, monoglossia, moderation - they have never sounded as Marxist as in the anti-spectacle rhetoric.

I would rather watch Hitchcock (Thanks Dane! "Poison" is indeed the episode I've been talking about for years!) than read these ethical poems.

This reminds me of a couple of reviews of The Hounds of No. In one the reviewer admitted she felt guilty about liking the book because it was so flashy. In another, the reviewer complained that it didn't make a statement, an argument, that it was too much spectacle. But the interesting thing is that reviewers seldom actually develop analyses of arguments - thus it's not the lack of an argument, but the appearance of an argument that the book lacks. And of course this charge comes from a very limited way of reading, as Jasper Bernes showed in his insightful review of the book in Jacket Magazine.

I think this has something to do with why Plath is now considered so gauche. Despite the fact that a lot of Ariel is about spectacleness in a way Stevens never/seldom manages to be.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Knife

Here's one of my favorite songs by my favorite Swedish band. It's a great video - a kind of commentary on Swedish national imagery. The timberhouse suggests Swedish National Romanticism, usually a source of racism, the idea of natural culture. Here the fake blonde (kareokeing no less) bring about a kind of multicultural feelgood moment:

Hell on Wheels

The funny part about this Swedish group (frequently described as "the Yo La Tengo of Sweden") is that they look suspiciously like three people who may have been pulled from the Typo/Octopus/Forklift AWP-table (plus a skimpily-clad Swedish woman for the video, well maybe she was at the table when I wasn't looking).

I kind of like this song.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


This is a funny book:

Fellow poets-

You may or may not have heard that I have been put in charge of poetry. It
is a temporary measure, just until we can come up with a solution to some of
the challenges poetry currently faces. I want you to know that I know what
an incredible responsibility this is, and I will do my best to account for
the variety of opinions and aesthetics represented among poets. In fact, I
would like to think of the recipients of this message as a sort of
cabinet--an inner circle, if you will--advising me on how best to govern
poetry during my tenure.

Obviously we will need a manual to reference while we work together in this
vast undertaking, a sort of common starting point, and I have decided, at
least for the time being, to assign THE BIRD HOVERER, which can be ordered
here: Now the notion of using a book of
original poems as the official manual for poetry might strike some as odd;
indeed, a case might be made that a traditional reference volume, or an
annotated anthology, might suit our purpose more effectively. However, THE
BIRD HOVERER is *my* book, representing my own unique aesthetic priorities,
and as such it would seem to be mandatory reading to prepare all of us for
what lies ahead.

Again, I know that my executive role was not assigned lightly. I will do my
best to respect the office and to keep in mind the concerns of my
constituency. Toward that end, I will employ an "open door" policy, fielding
correspondence from anyone who needs my opinion on matters of policy and
governance. All I require in return is that all of you immediately
familiarize yourselves with the manual so that our discussions will reflect
unity--or at least an aspiration toward unity--rather than the clamor and
chaos that characterized the previous administration.

In closing, I salute each one of you: your implicit hopefulness, your
immeasurable talent, and the revolutionary spirit you bring to
poetry-related tasks on a daily basis are what makes poetry *poetry*. What I
want more than anything else is to function as a catalyst for what you are
already doing. The present is bright. Let's work together to make the future
even brighter.

My best wishes,

Aaron Belz


"I think flowers should be forbidden to children."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Staten och Kapitalet" by Ebba Gron

I believe this is from "Ebba - The Movie." The footage is probably from 1978. The song is, not surprisingly, about collusion between "the state" and "the capital."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Zizek on Hitchcock (#2)

Zizek on Lynch


Sigh of relief. Our Björling book, "You go the words" (translated by Fredrik Hertzberg) is finally at the printer. It took a long time because of spacing issues and other things (such as us having Sinead etc).

Here is a translation of the title poem:

You go the
and where
were you, it was
I know not and
that to your ear
and with the eye
just with finger

His method was an extreme form of what is now fashionable called "erasure." More about this later.

Here are the blurbs:

Gunnar Björling’s singular and independent language and rhythm has influenced generations of Swedish poets. These are overjoyous, unnatural and crazed poems. To read Björling is to eat language. - Aase Berg

Fredrik Hertzberg's revelatory translations make palpable the syntactically sprung, emotion-rent verse of one of the great Scandinavian Modernist poets. Hovering in an aesthetic space somewhere between Dickinson and Celan, Oppen and Creeley, Gunnar Björling is a poet of the everyday and its words, as if the abyss between souls could ever be ordinary or ever anything else. – Charles Bernstein

Du går de ord, the last collection of poems by the great Finland-Swedish Modernist poet Gunnar Björling, here superbly translated and introduced by Fredrik Hertzberg, is a milestone in the annals of experimental poetics produced in our century. Björling’s lyric is one of extreme reduction and syntactic dislocation: “Cut out, cut/you, your word/cut our your/contour, that you cannot/explain,” wrote this poet in 1938, insisting that every word, indeed every morpheme and letter count in a densely Heideggerian poetry of being. Like his American counterparts George Oppen and Robert Creeley, Björling prefers the “small words” – if, and, as, that, like you, the, it–; like theirs, his “minimalism” is conceptually and erotically charged. Reading You go the words is a great pleasure. – Marjorie Perloff

Required Reading

The Sublime Object of Ideology by Slavoj Zizek.

Fittingly the final book on my theory comps list. Definitely my favorite of the bunch.

It has totally changed two papers I've been keeping on the backburner for the last couple of months (though I need to put them on the front burner soon as I'm giving one of them this month). I guess I just never got Lacan before (though I lived with Cal, who's got a PhD in Lacan from Buffalo, for two years in Athens).

For some utter enjoyment - check out the clip from "perverts' guide to cinema" on youtube. Zizek sits on a couch in Dorothy Valens apartment as Frank attacks her, analyzing what goes down.

Can't wait to see the rest of this movie as it naturally turns out that he talks about all my favorite movies - The Birds, Vertigo, The Conversation, Blue Velvet, Psycho etc.

I should figure out how to post youtube things on the blog.