Friday, October 31, 2008


I'm coming up with the booklist for my "poetry writing for majors" for the spring. And I just found Joyelle's graduate poetics class, which has a more interesting list than mine! I want to take this class!

This is her list:
Deleuze and Guattari
Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Hannah Weiner
Paul Virilio
Kathy Acker
Ariana Reines
Claudia Rankine
Gins and Arakawa
Guy Maddin
Kara Walker
Kenneth Anger

My daughter Sinead has one item on her reading list: Elmo.
It's all about Elmo.
She gets into a trance. It's kind of disturbing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Some responses to responses - New Euro etc

Sorry to be so slow to respond to the responses to my response to the New European Poets. I'm buried in work (and then there's the whole Obama obsession/neurosis).

Let me say first something that must be apparent to most people who read my blogs: I have many contradictory thoughts about translation (the act, the treason, the object), many of which have come out in my reactions to this anthology. I don't for a second pretend I am not carrying many contradictory ideas; I think it's fine to have this kind of attitude toward a complex issue like translation (or poetry, or anthologies).

I am not opposed to this anthology. That is, I don't think it shouldn't exist! I have spent much time reading it and found plenty of interesting stuff.

However, I think there are problems with it (as all anthologies). And I think it's important to think about those problems.

One of the reasons I raised these problems at Alta was I felt a strange muteness about these problems when the area editors spoke. They almost entirely spoke about the problems of representing a country in such a short number of pages. As if you could ever represent a country - or to think that that would be a valuable activity. I thought they might have done better to discuss the problem of representing a national literature, and a continent.

I guess this anthology could act as a "gateway drug" (as a commentator wrote below); but the problem with that is that there is few more advanced "drugs" available. That is most of the people in this anthology do not have any books in English. So then you're left with just the little excerpts.

(Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer are not to blame for this situation. I know Wayne translated a fine book of Albanian poetry and Kevin edits, Pleiades, one of the finest sources of reviews around. We need more of this kind of stuff.). The reason for this lack of "advanced drugs" is that we have a literary culture that is, yes, "insular" (or whatever metaphor you want to use - certainly we're not holding the heat in).

A quibble: something lacking about the book is that there is not framework for interpreting the poems. The introduction includes a political history but very little in the way of an introduction to the multiple movements etc that have influenced the poems in the book.

Another quibble: Roger Greenwald even said on his panel that he chose not to include any prose poetry because he didn't like prose poetry. Well, a lot of Danish and Norwegian poetry is prose poetry. He has all these (very old-fashioned American) preconceptions of what a good poem is - no wonder his idea of Norwegian poetry is odd from a Scandinavian perspective. Most people I know (me included) think that Gunnar Varnaess is one of the most interesting Norwegian poets today (though he lives in Skåne), and he's not in the book. A shame.

Likewise, it's unfathomable to me that someone would have a selection of contemporary Swedish and Finland Swedish poetry without including Aase Berg and Eva Stina Byggmästar.
I could go on about what's been left out but I don't think it's a fruitful discussion. I think Rika Lesser did a decent job with the Swedish poetry but she doesn't include any younger poets who started publishing after the 80s. She did include Hakan Sandell who is generally seen as a new formalist joke (though not by Poetry Magazine who published one of his poems a while back).

Francois is right that there could be an element of colonialism in translation. But only if we get take the translated text to wholly replace the original poem; or if we take the anthology to replace the nation/continent. The "loss" of translation is not a terrible thing. It doesn't make the translated text useless, it merely reminds us that we do not master texts/literatures.

I sometimes go off on reveries of interlingual, intercultural collaborations etc. Sometimes my views of this are naive. For me this has been the only way to survive in an American poetry that has not been particularly interested in the things I've been interested. But clearly there are issues involved that need to be taken into consideration. For example, America is powerful.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama + Indiana

Apparently it's on. The Obama campaign thinks if he wins Indiana he wins the election. They have a really extensive, amazingly well-organized get-out-the-vote. And internal polls show dead even. So if you're in the neighborhood, get involved. They have tons of volunteers, but need more.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New European Poets - response to response

- I am not opposed to anthologies (or this one in particular). I am opposed to anthological thinking.

- I am opposed to anthologies that claim to represent a country or a language (I am opposed to such notions of country and language) because they make literature/nation much too static.

- In Wayne's and Kevin's anthology, the emphasis on proportional representation is a problem because it is based on the 19th-century idea of a "population."

- But I think anthologies can be great. They can provide a framework for reading poems, for showing connections between poets.

- I can't see how someone would argue inclusion/exclusion about Lara's and Arielle's upcoming "Gurlesque" anthology. There is no pressure to "correctly represent", since they are exploring and building a framework, not representing a national literature.

- Mostly at Alta I was opposed to the discussion of "New Euro Poets." Every area-editor bemoaned the short number of pages alloted them without discussing the problems of this kind of representation (which always lead to moans of inclusion and exclusion). Nobody wanted to discuss what Europe is. For example, Scandinavian lit has a lot more in common with American lit than it has with Greek lit.

- I absolutely dislike JD McClatchy's anthology of world lit. It's about controlling what is foreign. The foreign is a threat that we have to keep out or control.

- I liked a lot of the poems in New Euro anthology. For example the Ukrainean section is really interesting for example. That stood out to me.

- I don't see Wayne and Kevin as "gatekeepers." That's the wrong metaphor. They're not keeping anybody out. Besides it's not the gatekeepers that are the problem in poetry, it's the fence builders.

- Must go. More later.

Some somewhat disconnected thoughts

Hello. Just got back from NYC. Don't have time to write much before my daughter wakes up, but I thought I would write down a few things.

- The pervasive monoglossic notion of language and poetry: poetry is both "high" (you need a good education to write well) and strangely natural (native, unalieanted, unforeign etc). This misconception defines an anti-sensibility as strangely both raw (pure spontaneity, hurling feces, wild stuff) and un-natural/artificial.

- The concept of the foreigner/stranger/homosexual as both unnatural and dangerous, both artifice and spontaneity.

-Dada: for so many people who've never even read/heard any Dada stuff, the word Dada represents a simplistic notion of chaos, lack of order. The word is a constantly translating term. After you've performed a Hugo Ball sound poem, you realize how artificial the "natural" language is. Dada is both too "raw" and unnatural, foreignizing. Noth ethnic literature exactly, but as one scholar called it the aesthetics of "homelessness", always foreign.

- David Lynch (here we go again) allegorizes the situation of the foreigner: it is art/artifice/unnatural that brings out the demons, that takes Jeffrey to the wrong side of the tracks, where Frank wears lipstick, wears ornate clothing, hangs out with trannies, speaks in weird poetic quotes, is violent, arrangest corpses artistically like an installation project. It is the strange artifice of video that seems to produce "Bob" in Twin Peaks. Leland artistically wraps Laura Palmer in plastic. When she is unwound, she looks like a model in a photo shoot, glitter on her skin and in her hair.

- Frank is a fantasy the suburban American family has about itself.

- Of course in Freud the Unconscious is contorted into language.

- After Joyelle's panel at Alta, Orlando Menes told me how he had stood in front of the mirror as a young immigrant practicing so that he could get rid of his accent, the bodily remainder of his foreigness. The Mirror Stage of the Immigrant: to see one's language as shit and physically try to expel it in order to become an imaginary whole ("American").

- I made a mistake when in my discussion of the collusion of homosexuality and foreigness focused on violence against me. That's the kind of focus on symptoms that always get in the way of understanding the systemic violence, the systemic xenophobia of our culture. I am not a foreigner because some people attack me.

- Zizek talks about "chocolate laxatives" as a paradigm for our current moment. Just like that, in poetry we want foreign poetry without the foreigness.

McCain and Corporate Pharmaceutical Industry

One interesting tidbit I learned on my trip to NYC (more commentary to follow) was from my sister in law, who works for a big pharmaceutical company. Apparently these companies are organizing their own get-out-the-vote operations for McCain. I knew that these big corporations were Republican, but the extent of this organization is somewhat surprising. For example, my sister in law is somehow in charge of getting the word to employees in the factory in Indiana.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


I had a pretty good trip to Minneapolis.

Thanks to the people who came out to hear me read (for a few minutes) in the big Zephyr Press translation reading. It was an interesting reading. Also, thanks to Thomas Cook for teaching my book. I ended up in a class at the U of M discussing my own book with an undergraduate class.

I have an ambivalent relationship to Alta (American Literary Translators Association). Obviously I translate, publish translations, write about translation, and I'm clearly all around in favor of changing the rhetoric surrounding translation, to change American Literature's relationship to the rest of the world.

Also, the people I meet at Alta are really great. Oddballs who spend their lives translating poets and writers they love. Usually I see these people just this one time per year (though they sometimes reappear at AWP).

But I have some qualms about Alta. The biggest one is that Alta perpetuates the idea that translated literature is a coherent literature ("world literature" or some such notion) that exists outside of American literature. That is of course doubly false - it's in communication with the US by the mere fact that we're in the US doing the translating (and more complexly in other ways). And of course, there are tons of different literatures, even within national borders.

There is also the sense in the way translation is discussed that translated literature is ethical but weak, that America is ignorant and so we must help Americans become more cosmopolitan (really in some ways the Horace Engdahl argument fits in with this worldview) by bringing them as much foreign lit as possible.

I think translation is a very powerful concept/practice in American poetry. Like I repeatedly point out, the most famous definition of poetry in America is Frost's claim that it is what is "lost in translation." Recently I wrote about homosexuality and my experience of being attacked by people who see all foreigness as homosexuality. When I first came to the US and was constantly attacked for my perceived homosexuality, my reaction was: how powerful these gay people are! All these kids and teachers are so scared of them!

Well, I think of translation the same way.

Further, I think it's a detriment to have this idea that we have to like all works in translation and that they are all somehow similar. Rather than strive to give representative overviews of national literatures, I believe in seeking out poetry that interests and challenges me (to put it simply). One problem with the alta view of poetry I find is that it often has an aesthetic basis in the work Bly and Co translated in the 1960s.

These ideas came to a point for me in the discussion of Kevin Prufer's anthology, The New European Poets. Or rather the lack of discussion. I will write more about this book and its premise (and the poems I like, because there are some good ones - Romania) later. But for now I'll just note that I wanted to raise the discussion about the reason for 1) having an anthology of European poetry (why an anthology? Why "European"?) 2) the attempt to be "representative" based on population sizes 3) some editors' selection process. But some of the panelists (notably not Prufer) got very defensive and treated my questions as attacks on translation. We were back to the concept of translated lit as this weak but necessary/healthy thing that needs to be spoonfed to ignorant American readers.

OK, I'll write more about this anthology and the whole conference later today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


I'll be in Minneapolis over the weekend at the ALTA conference at my old school, U of MN.

I'll participate in a reading at Open Book Center in downtown tomorrow night at 7 pm.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vito Acconci Reading in the Bronx

Dear friends
join us for this unique event: this is the first time Vito will read his poetry in a long while (and please pass the word out)

"Read This Word"

An Interview with Vito Acconci

Photo by Richard Kern


3:00 pm

North Building - 2nd Floor

Admission: $5.00, free for Bronx Museum members

In an interview with writer and poet Craig Dworkin, editor of Language to Cover a PageThe Early Writings of Vito Acconci (MIT, 2006), Vito Acconci will discuss his early poetry and how it influenced the future phases in his rich career.

INteresting quote

Brian, I don’t care for irony in fiction, and so much popular alternative writing is loaded with irony. It’s all about safety and taking the position of being superior to your subject matter. Lots of experimental writing is linked to intellectualism, which can be very alienating, very anti-body and anti-emotion. It seems to me this is the defining difference between straight experimental fiction and queer experimental fiction. The queers who do weird stuff with words very much engage the body and emotion, and they like to push their material into places that don’t feel safe. For my writing to work, I need to go into areas where I don’t feel safe. I always start with what I want to say and then try to figure out a form that can get at it, rather than begin with form.

As far as people in general’s fear of experimental writing, beyond an obvious concern that it’s going to be boring, I think it’s a fear of chaos. We use words to organize the world, and the world is a very scary place. I think people are afraid that if they enter into a space where words don’t behave themselves, that they’ll be plunged into chaos. And in a sense, they’re right. I’m all for mucking up cultural categories and pulling the ground out from under the reader.

(Dodie Bellamy interviewed here.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

NYC Readings


Thanks to a generous grant from the Swedish Arts Council, poets Fredrik Nyberg and Johannes Göransson will be coming to New York from Sweden and Indiana, respectively, for four days of Swedish poetry in translation, published by Brooklyn's own Ugly Duckling Presse.

The events will feature Fredrik Nyberg reading from his poetry collection A Different Practice as well as more recent projects, with Brooklyn-based translator Jennifer Hayashida reading his work in translation. Johannes Göransson will read from his translation of Henry Parland's Ideals Clearance.

Thursday, October 23
Sarah Lawrence College
Slonim House Living Room
Bronxville, NY

Friday, October 24
Unnameable Books
456 Bergen Street (Park Slope)
Brooklyn NY

Saturday, October 25
Stain of Poetry Reading Series
766 Grand Street (Williamsburg)
Brooklyn NY

Sunday, October 26
Zinc Talk/Reading Series
90 West Houston (b/w LaGuardia & Thompson)
New York, NY
(Please note that this event will not feature Johannes Göransson.)

About the authors & translators:

Johannes Göransson is the co-editor of the press Action Books and the online journal Action, Yes. He is the translator of Remainland: Selected Poems of Aase Berg and Ideals Clearance by Henry Parland, as well as the upcoming With Deer by Aase Berg and Collobert Orbital by Johan Jonsson. His own books include: A New Quarantine Will Take My Place, Pilot and Dear Ra.

Fredrik Nyberg is a Swedish poet currently living in Göteborg; he is the author of five collections of poetry, including Clockwork of Flowers - Explanations and Poems (2000), The Years (2002), and It won’t be fair just because both shut their eyes (2006). In 2007, Ugly Duckling Presse published a translation of his début collection, A Different Practice. His introduction to Erik Beckman’s Collected Poems was published in January of 2007, as was the children’s book Pandi and the Camel Meet the Meerkats, a collaboration with Lotta Magnusson Nyberg. Nyberg serves on the editorial board of the Swedish literary publication OEI, and is one half (composer/musician Lars Carlsson is the other) of the text/sound duo MonoMono. A new collection - Nio, nine, nein, neuf - was published by Norstedts in the fall of 2008.

Brooklyn-based writer and translator Jennifer Hayashida was born in Oakland, CA, and grew up in the suburbs of Stockholm and San Francisco. She is the recipient of a 2008-2009 LMCC Workspace Residency, a 2007 PEN Translation Fund Grant, a Witter Bynner Poetry Translator Residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, and has been a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony. She is the translator of Fredrik Nyberg’s A Different Practice (UDP, 2007) and Eva Sjödin’s Inner China (Litmus Press, 2005). Her poems and translations have appeared in a number of journals; text-based work has been included in group exhibitions at The Vera List Center for Art and Politics and Artists Space.

Links to information about books, authors & translators:

A Different Practice (UDP)

Ideals Clearance (UDP)

Action, Yes

Litmus Press

LMCC Workspace Residency

The Swedish Arts Council

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I passed my dissertation defense.

I had never met Ronald Bogue before (only communicated over email), even though I was at UGA for a couple of years and though I've read a lot of what he has written about Deleuze and Guattari. He was very cool. It's strange how departments keep people (not just languages) apart. So many people in the English department don't know that we have one of the premier Deleuzian scholars in our very own university, only not in the English department.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Hey all

I'm reading in Athens, GA tomorrow and in Atlanta on Saturday. I don't quite have the info but I'll post it as soon as I do.

Some basic clarifications

I really don't have time for this discussion since I'm leaving for athens tomorrow to defend my dissertation, but I think I should have thought about that before I started this discussion. Here then are some basic clarifications:

• I don't agree with Engdahl about a host of things. I don't believe in the model of a great literature that moves across borders. Or that if you don't participate in this debate you are provincial. That's a very old Humanist model for Major Literature.

• Interestingly, this model in fact undoes the interesting part about translation by rendering it totally invisible. Things happen to languages in translation; I find those reactions interesting. Essentially this attitude is the Deleuzian idea of minor literature (vs Engdahl's major literature). Kafka uses yiddish to deterritorialize Prague German. The violence becomes key.

• I absolutely abhor Engdahl's comment that the literary center of the universe is Europe, because I am not interested in centers, I'm interesting in more dynamic models of language and literature.

• However, I believe American Literature is driven by a similarly centrist idea. The proof is in the pudding. Not just in the hysteria about Engdahl's comments (he dares to suggest that we're not the center of the universe! He must be stupid!) but even on this blog in Max's statements that Europeans are just jealous of us, or that we don't need translation because our writing is so good (correct me if I'm wrong).

• For me the proof in the pudding above all is Max's claim that I shouldn't be so combative (this coming from Mr Combat!). This would be funny if it didn't echo countless (literally) exchanges I've had since emigrating to the US, in which people basically tell me not to be an uppity immigrant. I should behave. Or: detention.

• Major literature tends to be created out of awards, such as the Nobel, the Pulitzer all the way down to poetry prizes (the Walt Whitman Award, the Bru-ha-ha Prize etc). I'm not interested in that idea of writing.

• I do think translation and reading in foreign languages alter our interaction with language. One effect of the highly monolingual, monoglossic etc American culture has been the persistence of the illusion of poetry as unalienated language, as somehow more true etc... *untranslatable* (as in poetry is what is lost in). Also: so so hierarchical (in every camp this is true).

• Also, I think reading works from foreign cultures teaches us to read more adventurously - to read for possibilities not compliance.

• There is a political dimension to America's lack of interest in translation - the Empire Clause. This is the problem of Empire. American holds a very important, powerful role in today's world and our culture has ridden on the wings of that eagle. Sometimes in very overt ways: as when the US gov't actually sponsored Jackson Pollock exhibitions around the world to stoke the idea that he was the first great American Painter, who had moved the center of art from Europe to the US. Or when they funded a literary journal in Sweden after the war. But mostly it happens in less obvious ways.

• Academia does not necessarily have to distinguish between English and American Lit and other lits. It does because it has a monoglossic idea of literature. Translation is a scandal here as well. It's not accidental.

• I don't think of translation as an act of colonization; if anything I see it as a possibility for counter-colonization.

• While I don't agree with the idyllic notion of Cosmopolitan often put forward (it doesn't acknowledge the violence of hybridity), it is certainly not all wrong. Max, there is a difference between cosmopolitanism and globalism. They're not the same thing. Though related.

• For me a key discussion is: Minor literature vs cosmpolitanism.

• OK I've got to go, but I hope I haven't muddled this more than I used to.

Quote of the Day

"Those absent from the stadium are always right."

(Garrison Keiler)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

One more thing - departments

The fact that English and American lit is separated off from other literatures is already an anti-cosmopolitan feature of American lit - as if it's fundamentally a different entity.

And NO you can't take lit from other countries. Mostly classes in other departments are taught in foreign languages. And more importantly, there aren't departments of all foreign cultures.

For example, there are I think 4 Scandinavian Studies depts in the entire country: U of MN, U of WI, Berkley and U of Washington. The U of M dept isn't even a Scand dept anymore, but a subset of the German Linguistics program or something like that.

Response to Alan A.'s comment

The discussion about the American hysterical response to Horace Engdahl's comments about American insularity could not have received a better case study than the comments written by "Alan A." in the comment field below.

This is what he wrote in the comment section below:

"You seem to be just as unaware of what is happening in modern American literature, and what is available to the public, as Engdahl is. In the same way that people see a McDonalds and don't acknowledge that the finest gourmet and international cuisine is ALSO available in every major American city, you seem to be unaware that American literature has a range from regional/provincial to undeniably universal. As a nation built on immigration, it is impossible not to."

This is a perfect case example because Alan does not want to even discuss the possibility of whether or not American Lit is un-cosmpolitan; he assumes Engdahl and I are ignorant of American literature. We just don't know it. And what is worse, we're part of a mindless overarching anti-americanism.

This is very typical of the general response. The fact is Engdahl is a very knowledgeable critic and my guess is he knows quite a bit about American literature. I graduate summa cum laude in American Literature and on Friday I'm defending my PhD in, yes, English and American Literature. I even have a press that publishes a lot of American Literature. Could it be that I think American lit is insular because, not in spite of, my background?

Like many of the responses, Alan's response typifies a common attitude of American Exceptionalism - which can be seen in Sara Palin's speeches and in this comment about America having the greatest restaurants in the world. This is precisely the kind of attitude that keeps American insular. I've had to deal with it every day of my life since I came here in the 80s. Xenophobia and Exceptionalism. I am not allowed to criticize the US or American lit. It always leads to shrill hysteric attacks or dismissals - whether overt or hidden. Why is this? That's something to be discussed.

Further, I've heard a lot of people make this claim about immigration as being the key to American cosmpolitanism (All European countries are now also countries of immigration by the way). More importantly, there is not a direct effect of having immigrants and allowing/encouraging immigrants to publish/write. As an immigrant, my experience has been that I've been very much discouraged from writing unless I fit into a little preconceived idea of what immigrant literature should be. Look at journals, look at books, look at what's taught in classes, look at what's reviewed etc: How many American books are written by immigrants? How many by White Americans who have been to fancy schools?

The real question, as I note in my comment field below, is not whether American literature is insular (it is, proof's in the pudding); it's whether we want literature to be part of Engdahl's notion of the Great Literary International Discussion? And whether we want our literature to be insulare? (Those are two separate questions. We can be open to the foreign without participating in his idea of a high-culture, politically-conscious literature. Obviously that's my view.)

Engdahl's comments are clearly meant to provoke. I think that's good. I think it may start a discussion we need to have in this country. I've been trying to have it for years.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Two More Things

1. Swedes are very well informed about American literature. And they translate tons of American literature - high and low. And even if they don't translate it, Swedes read it in the English original.

2. I do think American lit is changing, but it's not coming from top down, but from trickle up. Thanks to small presses like Burning Deck, Ugly Duckling, Dalkey Archives and Open Letter etc. When I first started translating Aase Berg's work, nobody wanted to publish it. Now I get requests and Black Ocean is publishing her entire first book and several presses have expressed interest in her other books. All kinds of journals have asked me to edit Swedish special features. Etc. This comes directly out of the proliferation of small presses and journals. Certainly U of Iowa Press isn't going to publish translations all of a sudden.

Horace Engdahl

So there's been much ado about Horace Engdahl's comments about American Literature being insular. So much of it has been so infuriating and xenophobic that I can't stand to even comment on it.

For example, the moron Adam Kirsch writes that "The Swedes Have No Clue About American Literature."

Perhaps it would help to get a few things straight. Nobody has noted it seems that Horace Engdahl is a very important critic in his own right, one of the key critics to bring poststructuralist theory to Sweden. He has written about a wide range of subjects. He's not some halfwit like Kirsch.

Secondly, I don't think it's possible to claim that American LIterature is not insular. It is. Just look at how few books are published in translation. Look at the entire discipline of English and American Literature taught in colleges (generally foreign lit is not even allowed to be taught in such classes). Look at an American publishing industry, which seems increasingly to just want to publish lame bildungs romans by preppy rich kids (if they publish novels at all) and nonfiction. How many Swedish novelists have you read?

There are many reasons for this. But the biggest one is likely the fact of Empire. We have been so powerful that we don't feel we need to read works from the rest of the world. This is true of smalltime poetry world as well. There are other reasons as well, going back further, to anti-intellectualism and chips on american shoulders.

These chipped shoulders have come front and center in this debate. I like the fact that all this antipathy toward Sweden comes out in every discussion: Swedes don't know anything (a variation on the racial slur "dumb Swede" from 19th century Minnesota - the very word "Swede" is frequently used comically in American culture); Swedes aren't great novelists because we can't name a single one (that's the best evidence of Engdahl's argument), Sweden is so small, they're the ones that are "isolated"; the academy have missed so many great authors that they've proven themselves to be ignorant (yes, but they've also awarded tons of people whose work weren't wellknown before the award, especially as of late); Swedes are "anti-american" (this one sounds an awful lot like Republicans attacking Democrats for being anti-american); Etc.

Most annoying of all is the underlying assumption that America deserves a Nobel Prize - Toni Morrison got one 15 years ago. There are many wonderful and important authors on all the continents, but the fact that Kirsch etc assume that Philip Roth somehow deserver the award ahead of them shows just how provincial Kirsch is. And that's the interesting paradox of American Literature as a whole: the most powerful country is highly provincial precisely because it's power has allowed it to become provincial.

Having said that, there's a pretty annoying idea behind Engdahl's notion of a Great Literary Dialogue. This is a very European notion of cosmopolitanism and it's of course problematic itself. But I'll save that for some other time. I have to take care of my daughter.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bob Dylan

Go to the NPR website and listen to the new "bootleg series" CD. I'm listening to it right now as I am typing in Swedish originals for the Aase Berg book.

It's stuff from the past 20 years. So it's pretty good stuff. Particularly a very striking live version of the Charlie Patton song in which Dylan sounds possessed the way he sounded possessed in some of those bootlegs from the Rolling Thunder Revue (especially while snarling "Idiot Wind" to his wife Sara). Same guitar mayhem. Also a version of Robert Johnson's "32-20" (but of course doesn't quite measure up to the Johnson version). And as usual, his alternative takes tend to be better than what he actually ended up putting on the CDs (this has been true since his very first album).

I very much like the work he's done over the past 20 years. When I was in high school I went to about 7 or 8 shows in the Never Ending Tour, which ended in the mid-90s. Those were good shows. And as someone who loves old blues and hillbilly music (not to mention odd 1950s rockabilly and carnival crooning), I appreciate the turn his work took in this time.

But as much as I like the past couple of albums, it is sadly true that nothing measures up to the mid-60s stuff. Having said that, isn't it about time that they issued "The Wild Thin Mercury Sound" as an official CD? That's the outtakes from Blonde on Blonde. My favorite is of course the fast-paced version of "Visions of Johanna." Not to mention the Hollywood Bowl concert in 1965.

The later Dylan has revised himself (and even worse, allowed/encouraged others) as a true old-fashioned all-American singer. The 60s stuff is so full of contradictions and various influences - Carter Family plays Rimbaud, a tranvestite Elmer James, Richard Huelsenbeck with a Fred McDowell's slide guitar etc: a Jewish boy in northern Minnesota picks up strange signals on the radio and goes to the carnival to watch George Washington in blackface operate the ferris wheel - that make them so fantastic.

I got this email from Joe Biden today

Johannes --

I'll bet you know someone in Indiana who isn't registered to vote.

And unless they register by tomorrow, they won't be able to participate in this historic election.

If you want four more years of the Bush-McCain policies that devastated our economy, ignore this message.

But if you're ready for change, forward this email to everyone you know.

Tell your friends, family, and neighbors to register to vote today. They can check their registration status at

No one can afford to sit this one out.

Make your voice heard -- and make sure everyone you know can cast their vote for the change we need.



Friday, October 03, 2008

Chain links.

This is one of the more interesting projects going around. I had not known the Danes, but I have the book Ida Börjel's pieces are from.

From the SPD Catalog:

Cultural Writing. Translation. BORDERS [CHAINLINKS] is the second volume in a series called Chain Links, a spinoff project of the journal Chain, edited by Jena Osman and Juliana Spahr. The goal of this new series is to produce books that might change people's minds, might agitate for (thought) reform, and might shift perspectives. This project also continues Chain's desire to provide space for work that slips through genre cracks and falls outside of disciplinary boundaries. This particular edition was edited by Susanne Christensen and Audun Lindholm. Christensen, born 1969 in Copenhagen, Denmark, is co-editor of the literary review Vagant, co-arranger of the poetry festival Audiatur, previously co-editor of the small press Gasspedal, and critic in the Norwegian daily Klassekampen. Lindholm, Born 1980 in Olso, runs the small press Gasspedal, is chief editor of Vagant, and is co-arranger of Audiatur.