Monday, October 29, 2007

Memoir: Boston Red Sox

Good they did it. My McSweeney branch of my family are all overjoyed.

And maybe now my wife will stop refer to my daughter as "the rally monkey" (as in "We need some hits, go get the rally monkey").

Another entry I left on Silliman's blog

Simon, Curtis etc,

You are certainly right that there is a different aim behind many of these contemporary Surrealist-influenced writers than the Surrealism of the 1920s - they don’t have the sweeping political goals of Breton & Co.

While that may be lamentable, calling them "soft" is part of a reductive rhetoric that I don't agree with - most certainly gendered - going back to Modernism. That is why I wanted to call attention to that.

To say that Simic & Co merely want to "entertain" is just more name-calling, it's not getting at their project at all. Certainly someone like Edson (who I think of as the big influence on a lot of the Tate/Simic school of writing, and who I think is pretty much the most interesting of the bunch) can be deeply unsettling. His goal may not be the total liberation of the mind, but his goal is certainly beyond mere "entertain." At his best, I think he is far more "unsettling" than a lot of Breton's pretty love poetry etc.

As for advertising, this has actually been the subject of a great deal of scholarship. "A Boatload of Madmen" comes to mind. This book discusses the importance of Man Ray and Dali to the development of advertising. What is interesting about Ian comparison to it is that advertising has *much* more to do with Breton (though Dali and Man Ray more so) and the Surrealism of the 1920s than it has to do with Tate &Co. Tate couldn't sell pure gold if his life dependend on it!

This is true of the avant-garde as a whole. The use of collage and a lot of core practices of the avant-garde were in large part influenced by advertising, the movies and other mass culture. So advertising both influences and is influenced by the avant-garde.

What I'm trying to suggest is that these things don't break down as neatly as some of you seem to want them to. It is quite possible that a certain kind of Surrealish attitude is central to both advertising and Breton's politically liberatory project.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jon Leon

One strange thing about Stan Apps' entry was the critique of Dan Hoy. Soft Targets, Dan's journal, to me is the most inventive - very "cosmopolitan" - and adventurous around. I got to thinking about this so I reread issue #2. There are a bunch of poems by Jon Leon that are fascinating, including this one:

French Cuff

Scene rock Parisienne Second Sex look mildly forward. They are wearing garage type jackets and perfect fit pants. One boy has on white church shoes with black laces. They look like most people these days and really quite dull. I can't describe the boredom in this picture it is so hospitalesque. I would not drink a single beer with this quartet. Photo by Habbah.

That last sentences might be the best last sentence of a poem I've read in years.

Here are some other of his poems.


Dear Crawlspacelings,

About two years ago, in a wine shop at an undisclosed location in Seattle, a
poem known as Crawlspace first manifested itself--in its larval stage--as part
of an evening of collaborative work in the monthly Leg To Stand On reading

Its authors, presumed miscreants both, subsequently retreated to their hidden
volcano barn on a nameless atoll somewhere in the Pacific, and there with
arcane art further distilled the ectoplasmic emanations of that unspeakable

And now, just when you thought it was safe to attend orderly readings again,
Crawlspace is back to kick out the jams in book form! This limited edition
package includes 3-D glasses (a must for digging the cover art) and that most
trusty of sidekicks, the Crawlspace Audio Companion CD. This new breed packs a
relentless wallop--and seriously.

Please mark your calendars and save the date for:

Crawlspace Book Launch Reading & CD Release Party
Sunday, December 2, 2007 -- 7:30 pm
Rendezvous JewelBox Theater
2322 2nd Ave. -- Seattle, WA

(Check the nifty promotional file attachment for lots more thrills)

There'll be no apron strings or Ouija boards between you and the action.

Sea urchins by the jar!
Got 'em.
Walt Whitman found in spider hole!

Heidegger's hand skewers tiger!
Douglas Fairbanks pop quiz!

And yes, the Hollerin' Champ finally revealed!

It's all comin' down, people.

More information for the event and book project at:

Check it!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Stan Apps

has stirred up some debate on his blog. What has most people seem to dislike is his aversion to tradition. I don't have a problem with that. Of course it isn't logically etc true, but so what, we're poets, we don't have to be logical. Most of the best writers have been kooks. I'm more worried about the other ones.

One thing that I don't agree with is his claim that Dan Hoy is a rear-gardist and that because Dan wrote an essay that was somewhat critical of flarf, he somehow wants to "control" "the avant-garde".

Since when did writing an essay become trying to "control" "the avant-garde" (which I don't believe exists in the USA, 2007 - more about that later)?

Most importantly, I think Stan's paradigm of the avant-garde vs the rear-garde avoids /eludes real discussion. If we just say this is good/avant-garde and that isn't, we're just avoiding discussion of the actual poems, in favor of categorization/conventions. This is not that much different than just saying poems are "good" and "bad." I think we should have more discussion of contemporary poetry, not less.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

from Publishers' Weekly

[I like "defy understanding" - I'm going for Soft Surrealist Who Defy Understanding]

Joyelle McSweeney. Fence (UPNE, dist.), $15 paper (134p) ISBN 978-1-934200-07-0

Poet McSweeney (The Commandrine and Other Poems) enters the realm of speculative fiction with this debut novel, with spotty success. Years after "E-Day"—a bioterrorist version of 9/11, aimed at what survivors now remember as "Old Capitol"—a new version of the U.S. has reconstituted itself along familiar near-future lines: fake food, curtailed travel and Internet, government-controlled TV. The heroine, Flet, is a top aide to Sub-Secretary Lonnie Otis, a mid-level bureaucrat and icy Hillary Clinton type. Flet cherishes a few trinkets left behind by the decontaminators, junky fossils of a life before everything became dirty, and finds diversion with Mick, a reality TV "filetape" editor contracted to the government's Education Media. In the days leading up to a memorial "Re-Enactment," Flet comes to believe that the government has distorted the real events of the emergency, and that Otis is an agent of the coverup. The Devil Wears Prada elements of the setup make for some workplace sparks, and the 9/11 parallels are nicely turned. McSweeney's descriptive writing can be precise and energetic, and the dialogue of her young people amusing and real. But the narrative, chopped into short, titled chapters, is too often freighted with impressionistic passages that defy understanding. (Dec.)

Will Alexander event

For those around New York, there will be a benefit reading for Will at the Bowery Poetry Club, Thursday November 1, 6-8 pm. (308 Bowery / F to 2nd Ave, or 6 to Bleecker. $10 suggested donation, more if you can). Friends will gather and read Will’s work as well as poems for Will.

ELIOT WEINBERGER (and more tba)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Will Alexander

[Will Alexander is a truly interesting poet and his relative obscurity is enough proof of the failure of Quietism. I first read his poems in the California journal Caliban back when I was in college in the early 90s]

A note from Eliot Weinberger

As you may have heard, Will Alexander is quite ill with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. He's spent his life largely off the poetry grid, taking on odd jobs, and has no financial support or, needless to say, health insurance.

The San Francisco organization Poets in Need is coordinating efforts to raise money for him. You can make a (tax-deductible) contribution to them, earmarked for Will, and send it to:

Poets in Need
PO Box 5411
Berkeley CA 94705

For those around New York, there will be a benefit reading for Will at the Bowery Poetry Club, Thursday November 1, 6-8 pm (readers to be announced).

Many thanks –


Catherine Meng's "Tonight's the Night"

Joyelle has a new review of Catherine Meng's intriguing book Tonight's the Night.

Soft Surrealism

From now on when people ask me what kind of poetry I write, I'm going to say "Soft Surrealism." It sounds unnerving. Once at a reading for the Starcherone anthology "PP/FF"one of the other referred to me and Joyelle as "Beatniks." I thought that was great too. Maybe I'll be a "soft beatnik." I like Öyvind Fahlström's idea of the poet as a "kneader."

My response to Silliman's Simic piece

[I know, I 've written things critical about Simic on this blog before. Nonetheless, this is a critique of Silliman's critique of Simic:]

About "the trace of Other" in Simic: I find it peculiar for Ron to claim that Simic effaces it, as Ron noted himself, this is poetry with strong ties to Vasko Popa, so Ron himself has found in Simic a gateway to a non-american poetry lineage. That is hardly effacing the other. If anything, it seems to me Ron tries too hard to efface Simic's otherness by asserting his "quietism." I think Simic has had a very large effect on American poetry precisely by bringing in a certain kind of foreigness (though now that foreigness has become "foreigness" in some sense, a stable exotica).

As far as removing otherness from language - basically what Ron seems to be arguing is that Simic doesn't bring the "otherness" into his language the way a bunch of American poets would want that Otherness to show up. Seems a bit problematic for several reasons, not the least that that would in some ways efface otherness. Why would this be the correct way for the languages to interact? Would Ron be able to recognize every way in which Serbian could influence Simic's use of American English?

I think this is a key passage in Ron's entry:

"Simic struck me as a man with an accent that would have been fabulous to process through the careful oral annotation that was at the heart of Charles Olson’s projective methodology"

That is, it would not be fabulous to listen to this foreigner's ideas about poetry; it would be great to use him as a kind of test subject (who does the "processing" in this sentence? Seems, it's Ron &Co). Would the result even be poetry?

I too want to know what is "hard" Surrealism. The "soft surrealism" label seems to reek of American macho culture. Though I think in fact "soft surrealism" seems more interesting than hard surrealism. I think of Claes Oldenberg. Who wants to be Hard Surrealism?

Other than that, this seems like a perfectly reasonable critique of Simic's essay.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Memoir 6

[This is actually part of an essay that is coming out in a book soon]

I grew up in Skåne, the southernmost province of Sweden, consisting mainly of farm land. In many of the fields there are burial mounds from the bronze age (10-15 feet tall). My grade-school class used to go to play at one of these mounds in a field just outside of Håstad, the small town where the school was located. This particular mound was unusual: there was a large gash in the side of it. The farmer who owned the field had tried to get rid of the mound in order to make his farming more efficient. However, he only got in one day’s work. For that night he was awakened by a terrible din. When he ran outside he saw that his animal barn was on fire. The clamor of his horses and pigs screaming and trying to break out of the burning barn shocked his entire body. Since that day he was paralyzed in one side of his body and half blind.

The farmer was married to my grade-school teacher, a kindly but stern and devout lady. I would see him around town dragging his bad leg around. He had an intriguingly pathetic air about him in his filthy overalls and wrinkled face. Perhaps this makes it a folk tale instead of a fairy tale. Perhaps it makes it gossip. In Sweden they just referred to such stories as “sagor,” or tales, but this is not the kind of tale you will find in any anthologies. There is no official version, no original text. For all I know I may have made it up myself. I am one of a very limited number of people to know about it (there can’t be more than 100 people living in Håstad, and certainly the farmer and his devout wife are both dead by now.).

However, the story is by no means unique. The style and the theme are recognizable from other, more official tales. There is for example the story of Odin’s Eye, a perfectly round, bottomless lake in Skåne. According to the old Viking myth, Odin threw an eye into a well and this allowed him to see the future. But that’s not the tale I’m thinking of. The one I’m thinking of I was told as a child: As modern civilization was taking over the country, measuring and explaining with scientific method, the magical creatures who used to inhabit the countryside fled down into the bottomless lake. When scientists heard about the lake they were naturally curious to measure its depth, since there is no such thing as a bottomless lake. They brought their measuring device and lowered it down in the water. They kept lowering and lowering it down but it never seemed to reach a bottom. Finally it caught. But when they pulled up the instrument they did not find soil in the instrument. Rather the skeleton of a whole bull was clamped to it. This was a sign for the scientists and, by implication, all modern people, to stay away from the lake. The trolls and fairies may had given up the world, but they were still dangerous, threatening.

In both stories, there is a conflict between modern society and the old superstitions. The modern world has more or less taken over the world, but the old superstitions are not to be disrespected. They allegorize the intersection of modernity and superstition, but the kind of knowledge that comes out of the stories is not explanatory in the way natural science, sociology or even literary interpretations are explanatory; they are explanatory as obfuscation, anti-explanation.

What interests me most of all with both stories is the violent, allegorical-seeming imagery of the story. Why is the barn burned down, rather than the house? Why is the farmer struck blind (as opposed to killed)? Why the cattle skeleton? In myths the logic of such details are available to the audience. These stories use the vehicle of code but without the tenor. The morals are obvious and simplistic in both stories, but the visual imagery overwhelms the morals.

Following the lead of the German Romantics, Samuel Coleridge famously defined the “symbol” as superior to “allegory.” Coleridge opposed the allegory as “a translation of abstract notions into a picture language, which is nothing but an abstraction from the objects of the senses.” He opposed this “counterfeit” rhetorical tool with the symbol, which “partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part of the unity of which it is representative.” Coleridge felt that the symbol organically explained itself, while the allegory was artificial in that you needed a key to unlock its riddle.

These sagor resemble the allegory in that they do not explain themselves. However, the key has been thrown away. I find the lack of code liberating: unable to transform the images into meaning, I can revel in the ruins. So much of critical work on stories focus on how to interpret them, as if the interpretation was a way of solving a problem; a way for a culture uncomfortable with the unknown. Even “realism” has to be interpreted as mimesis. The tales let things remain intensively strange.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Memoir 5

One of early and important art experience: watching Truffaut's "Jules and Jim"with my mom when I was 8 or 9. I kept asking her why they were acting so weird (driving off cliffs etc) and my mom tried to explain, but finally she said, "some things are not easy to explain." This made the movie seem very profound to me, and for years I carried around that memory.

When I was in college I asked my mom, if she remembered watching a movie about a lover's triangle in which the woman drives one of the men off a cliff at the end. She said, "that sounds like Truffaut's "Jules and Jim"." So I watched the movie but it was a disappointment. For years I had remembered that confusing/thrilling experience of watching it as a child; watching it as an adult ruined that memory. It could be explained.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Memoir 4

When I was 3 my family went to Rome. My brother threw me into the wall in the hotel and I passed out. Impact: Blacked out.

Then I had an amazing vision: my dad, wearing a flowing white gown carried me in his arms through the woods.

When I was about 10 I was involved in a severe sinus infection. My face swelled up and I had to be operated on. When they put me under I had a similar dream, but this time there were computers everywhere and men with iron masks smashed the screens with sledge hammers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Memoir 3

I was living in Queens back in around 1997 when the first edition of Clayton Eshleman's "Watchfiends and Rack Screams" was published. I didn't used to do poetry-related activities, in large part because I didn't know anyone and I didn't like much of the poetry I was reading (including my own, when I began college I wrote poetry constantly, but somewhere toward the end I felt I wasn't able to write what I wanted). Once I went to a Segue Reading, which wasn't very impressive, but I saw Charles Bernstein there, which I thought was very special.

Anyway, I ended up going to Clayton's reading at some kind of poetry foundation. And it was amazing, he channeled Artaud and read the Momo piece, nonsense/concrete outbursts and all. That book is still one of my all-time favorites. Up there with Clayton's Trilce.

Here's one of the truest bits of the book (from To Have Done With The Judgment of God):

The fact is I was being pressed
right up to my body
and right up to the body

and it is then
that I shattered everything
because my body
is never to be touched

The Exit Skeleton

Memoir 2

Many of the contemporary Swedish poets I like the most (Aase Berg, Johan Jönsson etc) were influenced by the early poetry of Lars Noren. He set out as a teenage poet in the 1960s writing what he called "schizo poetry." In the 1980s-1990s he became an internationally acclaimed dramatist, but I like the poetry. Books like "Revolver," are lyrical and surreal but with much more at stake than those two terms suggest. A more interesting counter-point to the kind of political art I described in the memoir yesterday. Here's an excerpt (in a sloppy translation):

Just as there
can be no pure disease
there can be no pure poetry: we are
all shaped by our America.
There is a sore in us
which is created out of horror
and tainted
until the end


It is the cops from
the 1930s that are handling
the men who have
bleeding sickness in the snow

And the dream
about Roosevelt
naked midst
Bessie Smith's
hungry snakes

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Memoir #1

[I'm going to write a memoir because I've been feeling very nostalgic and backwards looking as of late.]

There is a lot of talk in the US about whether or not poetry should be political (For example Reginald Sheppherd). This was never an issue for me, I've always seen art as political, and I think this is largely due to the cultural climate in which I grew up.

In the 1970s, all art in Sweden was highly political and didactic. This was the era when many artists, poets and actors gathered into prog rock bands, which in Sweden means didactic political music. The best example of this is probably Nationalteatern, a band of shifting membership which also put on plays for children. Performances and plays were meant to raise class consciousness. I have wonderful memories of political puppet theaters and anti-nuclear power games etc.

There was a big blue-and-yellow penis-sculpture in my hometown (Lund; the town is still there, but I don't know about the penis). I asked my mom: "Why is there a big penis in that yard?" She said, "It's art and it's making a connection between nationalism and sexism."

My dad was a journalist and we went to a lot of events and parties that involved the cultural elite (people are never above hypocracy) of Skane, the province where we lived. This scene included a bunch of prog-rockers who'd become folk singers (Bjorn Afzelius and Mikael Wiehe) and artists of various sorts. I remember one guy who had built his house chaotically around trees and rocks etc. A bit like the Situationist architecture. In fact Jorgen Nash, the brother of Asgar Jorn, and his crew of renegade Situationists built a commune in Skane (it's still there, but now it's fancy).

I have a very wonderful memory of Mikael Wiehe singing folk songs on a backporch. Here he is at some kind of recent tribute concert for himself playing with Thastrom, the idol of my teenage years:

Those parties were great, though I always got in trouble for beating up some famous artist's kid. My family didn't really fit in.

I'm not particularly in love with the prog rock, but it is an interesting phenomena. It was not just the songs that were explicitly political, but the whole package. On the record sleeves, the band appears rather like a family than a rock band - men, women and children, dressed casually. The songs are not particularly virtuosic or original. For example, Nationalteatern's most famous song "Barn av var tid" ("Children of our Age") is a blatant rip-off of "All Along the Watchtower." THe politics matter; originality is not so important.

When I was really young my dad used to bike down to the beach with me in a little seat on the back of the bike and together we would sing "The International" the whole way.

An anarchist named Hakan lived in our backyard. He wrote a poem about me called "The Little Anarchist" which was published somewhere. My parents let us dress ourselves so I would always get my clothes wrong (I still do). Plus I was very badly behaved. I think that's why I was the natural, ideal "anarchist" according to Hakan.

Once Hakan had a party and somebody stole my mom's copy of "Velvet Underground & Nico." That would be worth somethign these days - the removable banana etc.

My family was involved in a kind of left-wing scene, but my dad was quite famously right-wing in his beliefs. In the 1970s he was Swedish Television's correspondent in Eastern Europe and he was very critical of the communist regimes. For this he was frequently put in jail. Jail radicalized him even more. I remember once after he'd been in jail in Poland for a few months, he came back (bringing awesome cheap eastern european toys)and told me about a riot in G'Dansk. He said he'd been in jail with mothers who had been beaten to pulp. He ended up becoming a bit too involved with the anti-communist underground (the Croatian underground met in our living room) and Swedish TV moved him to Germany in the 1980s.

I have many fond memories of Eastern Europe. The people were so much nicer than the Swedes. Everywhere I went, people were giving me cheap toys. I loved "Bolek and Lolek", a friendly, commie children's cartoon. But I disliked the food. Once Lech Walesa bought me somethign that translated as "fairytale soup." I refused to eat it. My dad was very embarassed.

Contest #2

Simon makes the point below that everyone think they are geniuses that should be published. This example bring us to the sad truth and that is that poetry is a community, which establishes rules for what is good and bad (and ludicrous etc). Therefore it's important to look at that criteria.

In large part Joyelle and I started Action Books because we didn't like the criteria and wanted to expand it. We were horrified that poetry at that moment in America did not see it fit to publish my translations of Aase Berg or Lara's book. Among other things.

Of course the criteria is not just monoglossic elegance, but also social; ie certain kinds of behavior are rewarded (not threatening, submissive).

Monday, October 15, 2007


Simon is carrying on a discussion about contests and Action Books etc here.

Action Books no longer runs a contest. There are many reasons for this.

Let me first say that we did run one contest a couple of years ago, which Tao Lin won with "you are a little bit happier than i am." The reason we ran it was in large part to fund the publishing of the books. This worked OK (but you don't make all that much).

As an added benefit we came in contact with many fine poets we have since collaborated with in various ways. In fact it was because we received so many manuscript we liked that we first decided to set up Action, Yes (where we've included a lot of these poets, for example Crystal Curry and Jason Appleman).

However, we decided that there were too many downsides with the contests. The first one was that we were forced to read in a way we didn't feel comfortable with - I like to read poetry more generously. A contest forces the editors to be very critical.

In part this type of reading - looking for errors rather than for interesting attributes - is in line with the common workshop method, and it is in part to blame for the abundance of unadventurous but perfectly manicured poetry.

This not how I like to read poems.

Simon touches on another problem with the contest (related to my point above): the publication becomes a method of validation. Almost all contests say " we're just looking for the best manuscript, independent of style." This is total B.S. You always have a taste, and that will determine which manuscript you pick. Contests ("this is the best") seem to have replaced critical discourse. Something is good because it's published, not because people like it and discuss it.

I much prefer running across work I love, by someone I may not know - like Sandy Florian's work (at a conference in Denver) - and deciding to publish it without the whole contest apparatus.

However, I don't want to sound too pious about this. Some presses need money, therefore they have contests. I'm OK with that.

Also, it takes too much time to read entries. That's why we dont' accept open submissions - to either AY or AB. Maybe if we were Wave Books and had a fortune, we would do that, but we have to make our living outside of the press (teaching) and we simply don't have time for that kind of engagement. That would be ideal, but we simply don't have the time.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Review of Nylund the Sarcophager

There's a review of Joyelle's novel "Nylund the Sarcophager" up at Bookslut.
Here's an excerpt:

"Enter Joyelle McSweeney. Part poet (see: The Commandrine and Other Poems and The Red Bird, both from Fence Books), part professor (see: University of Alabama turned University of Notre Dame), part co-founder and co-editor of Action Books, a poetry and translation press, and Action, Yes!, a web-quarterly for international writing and hybrid forms. In the past half decade her name has become synonymous with interesting. And now, luckily for us, she is poised to majorly crossover into the land of prose, with the publication of this novella and the upcoming sci-fi book, Flet, slated to drop in 2008."


"Other than the incomparable Ben Marcus, I’m not sure anyone in contemporary letters can compete with the voracity of ingenuity, complexity, and beauty of McSweeney’s usage. Each sentence is carefully crafted to upend your expectations in such a way as to make you giddy with anticipation. Call me strange, but I seriously felt a rush of adrenaline from the sheer excitement over what might come next. Seriously, I did. I’m not kidding."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

New books from Tarpaulin Sky

Dear Readers & Friends,

Now available from Tarpaulin Sky Press:

FIGURES FOR A DARKROOM VOICE, by Noah Eli Gordon & Joshua Marie Wilkinson,
with images by Noah Saterstrom

by Joyelle McSweeney
Fiction. 5"x7", 132 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9779019-4-4

NYLUND, THE SARCOGRAPHER, McSweeney's first full-length work of fiction, is
a baroque noir. Its eponymous protagonist is a loner who tries to comprehend
everything from the outside, like a sarcophagus, and with analogously ornate
results. The method by which the book was written, and by which Nylund
experiences the world, is thus called sarcography. Sarcography is like
negative capability on steroids; this ultra-susceptibility entangles Nylund
in both a murder plot and a plot regarding his missing sister, Daisy. As the
murder plot places Nylund in increasing physical danger, his sensuous
memories become more present than the present itself.

"If Vladimir Nabokov wanted to seduce Nancy Drew, he'd read her NYLUND one
dark afternoon over teacups of whiskey. Welcome to fiction's new femme
fatale, Joyelle McSweeney." -Kate Bernheimer, editor of Fairy Tale Review
and the author of The Complete Tales of Ketzia Gold and The Complete Tales
of Merry Gold

"If Wallace Stevens had written a novel it might have come close to Joyelle
McSweeney's NYLUND, THE SARCOGRAPHER. But any imagined effort of Mr. Stevens
would pale next to Nylund's journey through the butterflied joinery of
syntax, the jerry-rigged joy of this tour de joist. And you thought you knew
your own language. This book hands it back to you on a platter and includes
the instructional manual for its further use." -Michael Martone, author of
Michael Martone

Joyelle McSweeney is the author of The Red Bird and The Commandrine and
Other Poems, both from Fence. She is a co-founder and co-editor of Action
Books and Action, Yes, a press and web quarterly for international writing
and hybrid forms. She writes regular reviews for Rain Taxi, The Constant
Critic, and other venues and teaches in the MFA Program at Notre Dame. Her
next book will be the science fiction novel Flet, forthcoming from Fence in
late 2007.

by Noah Eli Gordon & Joshua Marie Wilkinson
with images by Noah Saterstrom
ISBN: 978-0-9779019-5-1
Poetry. 5.5" x 7", 94 pages

In FIGURES FOR A DARKROOM VOICE the rhetorical twisting of Noah Eli Gordon's
abstractions meld with the ominous narratives of Joshua Marie Wilkinson's
fragments, turning Wallace Steven's notion of a supreme fiction toward a
supreme friction, one where the work of these two poets is fused into a
voice as singular as it is sinister. Imagine a gallery in which Cornell
boxes talk back, a Maya Deren film in which the audience dissolves into
projector light, a Philip Glass composition played exclusively on medieval
weaponry, such are the compelling results of this collaborative work.

In prose poems, syntactically elusive sonnets, and haunting, haiku-like
fragments illuminated by the ink drawings of Noah Saterstrom, one encounters
a recurring cast of logically-skewed images, inauspicious yet arresting
aphorisms, and characters rendered fully bizarre in the lightest of
brushstrokes. Here, the slippage and disruptions of textually investigative
work collides with the mind-expanding project of conjuring paradox, while
never quite leaving linearity behind. When these poets write, "I am trying
to draw you a simple picture of explanation," one realizes the monumental
nature of such a task. And this task is made more complex, and ultimately
more rewarding, by the inclusion of Noah Saterstrom's dynamic images. "Who,"
Gordon and Wilkinson ask, "operates the levers in this darkroom dress-shop?"
Who, indeed! The rich history of literary collaboration just got richer.

These two guys tell us,
"There is nothing that summer can do to us
That we could not ourselves develop in the basement"
so we know
"the sleepwalkers enter a swimming pool
With their haggings& black dresses,"
"raising private horses"
Therefore it's true
"What mammal wouldn't want its own vibrant egg?"
They glitter. This book glitters.

-Tomaz Salamun

NOAH ELI GORDON is the author of Novel Pictorial Noise (Harper Perennial,
2007; selected by John for the National Poetry Series), A Fiddle Pulled
from the Throat of a Sparrow (New Issues, 2007), Inbox (BlazeVOX, 2006), The
Area of Sound Called the Subtone (Ahsahta, 2004), and The Frequencies
(Tougher Disguises, 2003), as well as numerous chapbooks, including That We
Come to a Consensus (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2005; in collaboration with Sara

NOAH SATERSTROM has exhibited paintings, drawings, projects, and
installations nationally and internationally. The recipient of grants and
residencies, he also does numerous collaborations with writers and
musicians. Recent publications include The Denver Quarterly and Tarpaulin
Sky. With Selah Saterstrom he curates Slab Projects, a series of ongoing
investigations which generate public works in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast

JOSHUA MARIE WILKINSON is the author of Suspension of a Secret in Abandoned
Rooms (Pinball, 2005), Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk (U of
Iowa, 2006), and The Book of Whispering in the Projection Booth (forthcoming
from Tupelo Press). He holds a PhD from University of Denver and lives in
Chicago where he teaches at Loyola University. His first film, Made a
Machine by Describing the Landscape, is due out next year.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Another interesting translation theoriest

is Antoine Berman, who argues that we should use translations to "radically denaturalize the mother tongue." He writes this in a book on German Romanticism, which quite obviously is the big influence. The problem with this is perhaps that the translated text becomes kind of tool for the target language.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Swedish poetry at UDP

Ugly Duckling Presse is excited to announce the publication of two new translations of Swedish poetry. Henry Parland's Ideals Clearance (translated by Johannes Goransson) and Fredrik Nyberg's A Different Practice (translated by Jennifer Hayashida).

If you are interested in hosting a reading for one or both of the translators of these books please contact me. I have included short bios about the authors and translators below. If you would like more information please let me know, or check them out on our web site:

Thanks for your consideration,
Maddy (


Henry Parland(1908-1930) was a key figure of Helsinki Dada. Ideals Clearance is the first English translation of a cornerstone of Swedish avant-garde poetry. Eliot Weinberger writes: “Just when you thought there were no more discoveries to be made in modernist poetry, along comes a Finno-Swedish Russian German Lithuanian teen prodigy from the 1920's, Henry Parland, in Johannes Goransson’s zippy translation. Did anyone ever pack so much delightful weirdness into so few lines?”

Johannes Goransson is the translator of Aase Berg's Remainland: Selected Poems. He is the co-editor of Action Books and the online quarterly Action, Yes and was a guest editor of the 2006 Swedish issue of Typo.

Fredrik Nyberg, a graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Gothenburg, is the author of four books of poetry. A Different Practice is the first book of his poetry to appear in English. Translations of his work have appeared in The Literary Review, Circumference and Action, Yes.

Jennifer Hayashida, a poet and translator, has published work in The Literary Review, Insurance, The Asian Pacific American Journal, and Action, Yes. She is the translator of Eva Sjodin's Inner China (Litmus Press, 2005). She is the recipient of the 2007 PEN Translation Fund Grant and a Witter Bynner Poetry Translator Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute.

Lawrence Venuti on prominence of Anglo-American writing

“By routinely translating large number of the most varied English-language books, foreign publishers have exploited the global drift toward American political and economic hegemony in the postwar period, actively supporting the international expansion of Anglo-American culture. This trend has been reinforced by English-language book imports….”

“British and American publishing, in turn, has reaped the financial benefits of successfully imposing Anglo-American cultural values on a vast foreign readership, while producing cultures in the United Kingdom and United States that are aggressively monolingual, unreceptive to the foreign, accustomed to fluent translations that invisibly inscribe foreign texts with English-language values and provide readers with the narcissistic experience of recognizing their own culture in a cultural other.”

“The translator’s invisibility is symptomatic of a complacency in Anglo-American relations with cultural others, a complacency that can be described – without too much exaggeration – as imperialistic abroad and xenophobic at home.”

I disagree with Venuti about a lot of things, but about this he's very insightful. Right on the money.