Tony Hoagland: for Dean Young, poet, an appeal

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 4:51 AM 0 comments
Dear Friends,

If you are reading this, you are probably a friend of Dean Young and/or a friend of poetry. And you may have heard that our friend is in a precarious position. Dean needs a heart transplant now. He also needs your assistance now.

Over the past 10 or 15 years, Dean has lived with a degenerative heart condition--congestive heart failure due to idiopathic hypotropic cardiomyopathy. After periods of more-or-less remission, in which his heart was stabilized and improved with the help of medications, the function of his heart has worsened. Now, radically.

For the last two years he has had periods in which he cannot walk a block without resting. Medications which once worked have lost their efficacy. He is in and out of the hospital, unable to breathe without discomfort, etc. Currently, Dean's heart is pumping at an estimated 8% of normal volume.

In the past, doctors have been impressed with his ability to function in this condition. But now things are getting quickly worse. Dean has been placed on the transplant list at Seton Medical Center Austin, and has just been upgraded to a very critical category. He's got to get a heart soon, or go to intermediate drastic measures like a mechanical external pump.

Whatever the scenario, the financial expenses, both direct and collateral, will be massive. Yes, he has sound health insurance, but even so, he will have enormous bills not covered by insurance--which is where you can help, with your financial support.

If you know Dean, you know that his non-anatomical heart, though hardly normal, is not malfunctioning, but great in scope, affectionate and loyal. And you know that his poetry is what the Elizabethans would have called "one of the ornaments of our era"--hilarious, heartbreaking, courageous, brilliant and already a part of the American canon.

His 10-plus books, his long career of passionate and brilliant teaching, most recently as William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas at Austin; his instruction and mentorship of hundreds of younger poets; his many friendships; his high, reckless and uncompromised vision of what art is: all these are reasons for us to gather together now in his defense and support.

Joe Di Prisco, one of Dean's oldest friends, is chairing a fundraising campaign conducted through the National Foundation for Transplants (NFT). NFT is a nonprofit organization that has been assisting transplant patients with advocacy and fundraising support since 1983.

If you have any questions about NFT, feel free to contact the staff at 800-489-3863. You may also contact Joe personally at

On behalf of Dean, myself, and the principle of all our friendships in art, I ask you to give all you can. Thanks, my friends.


Tony Hoagland

You can help.

To make a donation to NFT in honor of Dean, click the link here. If you'd prefer to send your gift by mail, please send it to the NFT Texas Heart Fund, 5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430, Memphis, TN 38119. Please be sure to write "in honor of Dean Young" on the memo line.

Thank you for your generosity!

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[An excerpt from the forthcoming Cartographies of the In-Between, a festschrift for Pierre Joris, edited by Peter Cockelbergh for Litteraria Pragensia in Prague.]

It is astonishing to me how Pierre Joris, whom I’ve known going back into his jeunesse (& almost into mine) has emerged as an exemplar of a total poetics, at the heart of which is that nomadic poetics which he’s been delivering to us over the last two or three decades with such singular force. During that time it has been my good luck to work with him on a number of collaborative projects: Schwitters’ & Picasso’s collected writings & the two massive volumes of Poems for the Millennium (1995 & 1998), along with poems & poetics happily conceived & shared between us. Several years ago, in an interview on collaborations for Robert Archambeau’s Samizdat magazine, I was asked, particularly with regard to Poems for the Millennium, “to say something about working with Pierre & how that collaboration has lasted so long.” A part of my answer follows, in the form pretty much in which it recently appeared in my Poetics & Polemics 1980-2005, in the University of Alabama’s Modern & Contemporary Poetics series. That book is also – & rightly – dedicated to Joris as “nomad & fellow traveler.”

Collaboration & publication work together in my mind, although I've hardly been as persistent with these things as I had started out to be. The context that I imagined -- that "we" imagined, I would like to say – was one in which poets took over the means of production for their works – a network of books & journals, broadsheets & painted images, set in type or written by hand, then printed & bound by whatever means available. By the late 1950s, when I first got started, some of us had learned the finer arts of book production, while for others like myself the postwar allowed the luxury of printing cheaply overseas, or, absent that, a change in attitude made even the humblest processes – mimeo or ditto, say – adequate for the task of putting work in multiples & ready to be placed in circulation. The actual distribution of course was trickier, but by the time I got to it, there was already a small network in place – bookstores & other outlets dotting the country & with growing connections overseas. And public readings had grown up simultaneously, in places often as casual as the books themselves.

I've written about this elsewhere – most notably in the pre-face to A Secret Location on the Lower East Side (a history of American little presses from the fifties through the seventies) – so I don't think I have to go into it now in any detail. The main thrust here was that from Blake & Whitman on, poets had often been their own best presenters – not only operating from outside the commercial publishing nexus but often placing themselves there deliberately & with good reason. I tried to point out further that this favoring of independent publication – not only in the States but throughout the world – was itself a principal mark of the avant-garde in poetry & art. And to bring it still closer to what I’m talking about here, it should be noted that most of these independent works of editing & publication were characterized by the working together of numerous poets & the formation, while it lasted, of a network of collaboratively generated publications & presses.

The later work with Pierre Joris is, as I see it, a culmination for me of what came before & an indication of how fruitful collaboration can be in the kind of world we share. For all of that I’m a little hard pressed to remember the steps by which we came to work together. I had known Pierre since the late 1960s, when he was a student at Bard College & was living in New York City for a year or two after graduation. After he moved back to Europe we saw each other on & off in London & Paris, & in 1986, when I started a brief tenure at SUNY-Binghamton, we got the bright idea of bringing him over as a graduate student. I had already floated a proposal for a big twentieth-century book but was very uncertain about it as a one-man proposition. Once into conversation with Pierre, however, it became clear that we were both close enough & different enough to consider this as, simultaneously, a singular & dual venture. The key in fact was in the interplay that it allowed us – the possibility, as with other collaborations, of opening it up beyond what either of us was capable of doing on his own. And right from the start – & over the years that followed – the work proceeded, minus all acrimony, as a process that energized us in the work at hand & in our other workings.

Both of us had made anthologies before & both of us were devoted to the idea of the anthology as a kind of manifesto. We were also, both of us, devoted to the idea of poetry – the kind of poetry we needed – as a radical enterprise that cut across nations & cultures, & we both felt the absence of a gathering reflecting the history of modern (& “post”modern) poetry as we knew it. Over the years we had been engaged in acts of translation, & Poems for the Millennium, we knew, would be heavily dependent on translation. And when Larry Venuti, in affiliation with Temple University Press, raised the possibility of commissioning a work of translation in a new series he was starting, we sensed the chance to create a selected writings of the German artist & poet Kurt Schwitters. The Schwitters project – later published as PPPPPP: Poems Performance Pieces Proses Plays Poetics – became a kind of testing ground for the collaboration, & a work also that we felt long overdue in English. It was to be followed – as a work with a similar range – by another large gathering of Picasso’s assembled writings – The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, & Other Poems – but by then the first two volumes of Poems for the Millennium had already been published. And since I’m speaking here of collaboration, it should be noted that in our work as translators of Picasso we were joined by another dozen poets, each of whom contributed a number of translations, to give our reading of Picasso the variety & range we thought it needed.
. . . . . . .

Joris’s background & intentions, then, were in most ways very similar to my own. At the very least we felt a kinship as poets that made the work of collaboration a consistently meaningful process & reinforced a sense that our dual input strengthened our ability to create an image of poetic worlds more diverse (& therefore “truer”) than what either of us might have done in isolation. We could also call on a significant number of others to add to that diversity & to the necessary sense of creating a big work in common. In doing this we were aware that the immediate model for what we were doing was the otherwise debased form of the university anthology. We willingly accepted the subtitle “The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry” as a kind of riposte to Oxford- & Harvard-sponsored compendia (among others) that perpetuated a tediously canonical poetry & poetics of which we (a larger “we” than just the two of us) no longer chose to be a part. We supplied commentaries – sometimes as mini-manifestos – in much the way I had done in the earlier assemblages (themselves a send-up on academic practices), & we enlisted a distinguished board of “advisors”[1] that spoke to our overriding sense of kinships & alliances. We were careful in doing so that such a board would be dominated by poets rather than academics & would be international in scope.

The structure of the book was otherwise of our own devising & different in kind & intention from more conventional assemblages. We chose in the first volume to highlight a number of the movements that characterized the early twentieth-century & had been ignored or diminished in most academic gatherings. Accordingly we gave a separate section of the book to each of six of them – Futurism, Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, Negritude, & the American “Objectivist” poets. The rest of the poets were grouped in three large “galleries” following a rather loose chronological sequence, & we opened the book with a section of nineteenth-century “forerunners” & ended with a section (“A Book of Origins”) that gave a glimpse into historical & ethnopoetic recoveries across the whole preceding century. In the second volume we limited ourselves to two galleries & incorporated a number of movements or quasi-movements as “corridors” or “clusters” within the galleries – many of them still more local or regional than those in the previous volume. And – as a kind of musical or compositional gesture – we began with a section that was pure prelude (“In the Dark”) & closed with a short coda-like section (“At the Turning”) in which we joined two of our own poems with Robert Duncan’s final, altenstil poem, “After a Long Illness.”

In all of this we were trying to present a range of realized possibilities while hoping that the work wouldn’t be read canonically in terms only of its inclusions & exclusions. To avoid that, I suppose, we also put what was probably a greater than needed emphasis on the personal nature of what we were doing – in Olson’s words again, our “special view of history.” Going still further, I would describe the book as a construct or even, if it comes to it, a fiction – but the kind of fiction (“supreme” or otherwise) that all such works must surely be. It was also, inevitably, a work of many different minds & voices, & as such, a work, like much that came before, that put authorship, as we thought we knew it, into question.

With that said, however, Poems for the Millennium remains for me a meaningful if not necessarily “true” accounting of an adventure in poetry in which we ourselves were small but for the moment active players. It is also the vindication of a view long held, that treating authorship as collaboration puts into question that other side of poetry – our separation from each other by the realities, if left unchallenged, of cultural & individual identity. The further step would be to treat all acts of poetry as collaborative at heart, a great collective & collaborative enterprise – like language itself. But that waits for another occasion to spell it out.

Jerome Rothenberg
Encinitas, California
August 2010

[1] Chinua Achebe, Adonis, Nani Ballestrini, Charles Bernstein, Mary Ann Caws, Andrei Codrescu, Michel Deguy, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Allen Ginsberg, Lyn Hejinian, Hiromi Ito, Ernst Jandl, Nathaniel Mackey, Eric Mottram, Marjorie Perloff, Quincy Troupe, Cecilia Vicuña, Anne Waldman, Rosmarie Waldrop, & Eliot Weinberger.

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[The following is from the liner notes to a retrospective triple CD of Charlie Morrow’s works & performances to be published on the XI label early next year. It follows a week in September 2010 devoted to the Little Charlie Festival in New York City.]

Our possibilities are historic. We are known in the most utter revelation of starlight in the hills. Our possibilities precede the glacier...........................................
-- Richard Grossinger

Casting his astute eye across trends in twentieth-century Western culture, the late Guy Davenport noted that “what is most modern in our time frequently turns out to be the most archaic.” Examining the terms of this unlikely rapprochement between the pressingly new and ostensibly remote, Davenport recalled Pablo Picasso’s often stated observation that “modern art is what we have kept”. More provocatively, he suggested that this meshing of modern and archaic corresponds, at least in part, to a “radical change in our sense of what is alive and what isn’t.”

Twentieth-century anthropologists and archaeologists, Davenport pointed out, have resurrected ancient awareness of “a world totally alive, a world in which one talks to bears and reindeer, like the Laplanders, or to Coyote, the sun and moon, like the plains Indians.” Vital artists, philosophers and scientists of relatively recent times have at some level been attuned to this insight, have grasped that the archaic still has much to tell us about the significance of making poetry and design - that is, about ways to understand the world and live in it. Davenport wrote with the heavyweight Modernist mainstream in mind: Picasso; Stravinsky; Einstein; Brancusi; Joyce.

Charlie Morrow belongs to a later generation. His identity as an artist took shape during the 1960s; a decade when such identities became volatile, when shape shifting, border crossing and evasion of conventional classification started, once again, to become the norm. Tom Johnson, writing in The Village Voice in 1975, celebrated Morrow’s versatile unpredictability. You might find him turning out an advertising jingle in the morning, working on an atonal score in the afternoon, improvising on a Tibetan scale with fellow members of the New Wilderness Preservation Band during the evening.

The following day Morrow might spend time developing experimental vocal techniques or pursuing research into sounds made by fish, planning a film project or painting a multi-coloured poster-size score, designing an electronic circuit for his home recording studio or promoting some stimulatingly off-the-wall idea to Madison Avenue executives. “For anyone else such variety might be chaos,” Johnson remarked, “but for Morrow it all seems completely natural. He wears all his hats quite easily.”

A bowler has long been Morrow’s trademark headgear, but he is – to borrow a phrase from his old friend Dick Higgins – “attracted and moved by multi-hattedness”. Charlie Morrow is of his time, alert to changing contexts, new technologies, new means and modes of expression and creative action. But Morrow, more than most of his contemporaries, has grasped the persistence of the archaic in our sophisticated and complex present. And few current Western artists have matched his committed sense of “a world totally alive”. With humour and delight he has talked with the moon, sung to the sky, collaborated with buzzing bees, chirping frogs and calling birds; he has even staged a concert especially for fish. Guy Davenport noted that Wyndham Lewis, studying prehistoric cave paintings in southern France, observed acutely that “the artist goes back to the fish.”

Morrow’s outlook in part reflects an interest in shamanism developed while he was studying at Columbia University with Willard Rhodes, an ethnomusicologist acclaimed for his work with Mazatec mushroom music and his notation of shaman songs. Morrow subsequently studied composition and trumpet at New York’s Mannes College where, during the early 1960s, he met Jerome Rothenberg, a poet who shared his deep interest in shamanic practices. During the next decade Rothenberg published not only the important and influential ethnopoetic anthologies Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poems from Africa, America, Asia, & Oceania (1968), and Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas (1972), but also Revolution of the Word (1974), a collection of avant garde writing from 1914 to 1945. What is most modern in our time frequently turns out to be the most archaic.

Between 1973 and 1989 Morrow and Rothenberg ran the New Wilderness Foundation, promoting cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary art and performance, while exploring correspondences and points of contact between the new and old. The Foundation published EAR Magazine of New Music and New Wilderness Letter: Journal of Poetry. It played host to performing groups: The Wind Band, Grand Conch Chorus and The Ocarina Orchestra. Its “Audiographics” cassette imprint issued recordings by artists including Philip Corner, Annea Lockwood, Pauline Oliveros, Jackson MacLow and Lakota medicine man Leonard Crow Dog, who had participated in the second Wounded Knee uprising.

In 2003, 30 years after setting up the New Wilderness Foundation, Morrow invented a 3D Sound Cube, an advanced playback system for presentation of his own specially designed sound works in galleries, museums and other public spaces. The Cube was developed in collaboration with expert acousticians from Arup SoundLab, and in 2006 it was a featured exhibit at the Torino Winter Olympic Games in Italy, offering an immersive hi-tech sonic experience. Charlie Morrow respects the old ways but he’s fully plugged into the current.

He has a mind geared to design, and a taste for collaboration not only with other artists but also with theorists and technicians in a wide range of fields. He observes trends and seeks out specialist know-how, yet he still cherishes the acoustic properties of that ancient and organically occurring instrument, the conch shell. He sounded a conch at the funeral of his mother, and at those of Armand Schwerner, George Maciunas, Robert Watts and other friends. “The sound carries far even when it is blown very softly,” Morrow enthuses. “The conch is played universally, and has developed in different ways over the ages around the world. My research into shamanism led to recognition that any ritual you are doing in the present is a re-enactment of the first time it took place. When you blow a conch shell you connect back to the Palaeolithic, back to antiquity.”

A child holding a conch shell to her ear hears an ocean’s roar. In Morrow’s hands concepts can have comparably unbounded content. His Mars Doppler Shift Echo Event opens out onto interplanetary space, where the rotations of Mars and the moon may modulate radar signals. His installation Land Sea Air: Changing Climates offers an overview of Earth’s climate history, stretching back 400 million years to a point when terrestrial life emerged from the ocean. In such pieces a shamanic imagination shares horizons with the findings of science and the facilitations of technology.

Since 1968 Morrow has run a home studio, a self-reliant set-up allowing him creative independence and professional autonomy. In 1969 he established Charles Morrow Associates, a business venture which he describes as “the crucible for my commercial sound production work”. But his earliest recordings, issued on cassette tape by the New Wilderness Audiographics imprint, were intensely personal chants that got to the persistent core of his multi-faceted personality. These chants didn’t imitate traditional incantations, but were intimate soundings out of his own body. Morrow has subsequently fed his chanting body with dream visions, and he has taken the infinite sky as his score, charting through voice the eccentric mutations of clouds and the patterned flight of birds. Morrow’s sound work has extended from the orbit of Mars to his own buccal cavity, from the dawn of life on Earth to his own improvisatory present.

He has always found improvisation compelling, as a solo performer and in various groups. Improvisation played its part in the ideas-driven, interdisciplinary performances of the New Wilderness Preservation Band, formed in 1974 by Morrow and Carol Weber with singer Joan LaBarbara, percussionist Bruce Ditmas and bassist Harvie Swartz. Morrow has worked in ad hoc contexts with other brilliant musicians, including percussionist Glen Velez and guitarist Derek Bailey. He has also played frequently with amateurs. Morrow formed The Ocarina Orchestra on the simple, pragmatic basis that “the ocarina makes a good sound for anyone who plays it. It was a way to bring people together to improvise and make structures. It became a social instrument.”

During the 1960s Morrow played trumpet with Tone Roads, the exploratory chamber ensemble formed by Philip Corner, James Tenney and Malcolm Goldstein. It was a liberating experience within his development as a musician, an exhilarating, good-humoured alternative to the doctrinaire sobriety of the university music scene at that time. Tone Roads, the contemporary activities of Fluxus friends and a little later Philip Corner’s Sound Out Of Silent Spaces music-ritual project consolidated Morrow’s sense of music-making as an adventure in the living world and as a social gathering.

Morrow has the improvisatory outlook of a man who has grasped that, as Richard Grossinger succinctly and poetically put it, “our possibilities precede the glacier”. He’s an improviser imbedded in the world as it is, an individual organism finding terms of articulation within a universe that is historic and teems with life. He’s an improviser stimulated by fascination with the human heartbeat, by recognition that a tugboat’s horn is a musical instrument, that a bell-tower is a sound art installation, that marine life has a language. He is accepting of the given; not in a politically passive sense, but as a condition of his own creative existence. Social formations congeal and dissolve in time, over the tireless pulse of life. Morrow’s artistry, from the mid-20th century into the 21st , arises from unorthodox slants of perception, from discovery of unexpected applications and alignments, different functions, alternative modes of organization.

As a composer, Morrow soon became disenchanted with the concert hall. The issue was not merely physical containment of music. Morrow’s more recent work has actually involved capture of sounds and their installation in specific enclosed spaces. He has even created drawers and reliquaries holding sounds that may surprise and amaze gallery visitors who pause to listen in. Morrow’s objection to the concert hall was above all that its conventional character implied a blank canvas, scrubbed clean of sonic content in preparation for the composer’s work to be presented without extraneous distraction.

An Evening with the Two Charlies, an anti-war event staged in January 1973 at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in effect marked his farewell to the standard concert hall’s sterile tabula rasa. The other Charlie was composer Charles Ives, precursor, fellow renegade and kindred spirit in music and Nature. The programme started with Ives’s Intercollegiate March and featured his Three Page Sonata plus arrangements by Morrow of America, He Is There and General William Booth Enters Heaven. These Ives pieces were interspersed with Morrow’s own Trumpet Concerto, with soloist Gerard Schwarz, and Requiem for the Victims of Kent State, an angry keyboard piece played by pianist Zita Carno. The evening concluded with Morrow’s epic The Birth of the War God. A recording of that stirring work, performed by The Western Wind vocal ensemble, was issued in 1988 by the Laurel Record company of Los Angeles. It is one of the rare instances, until now, of Morrow’s work being available in CD format.

After The Two Charlies concert, Morrow moved outdoors, becoming a dedicated event designer and galvaniser of collective actions in public spaces. In 1973 he organized a celebration of the Summer Solstice in New York, which was so well received that other Summer Solstice events were staged annually until 1989, commissioned by the city, reported locally, but also broadcast nationally and shared through international media. While negotiating with metropolitan bureaucrats and media operatives Morrow was nurturing a sense of spatial and temporal relatedness that reflected his researches into shamanism.

Ancient reverence for the Solstice surfaced in distinctly modern ritual; a point in urban space connected back into the rhythms of cyclic Nature, and was projected across the globe by means of telecommunicative channels opened up by the newest technology. Morrow’s work as a carnivalesque event-maker in physically definable public space reached its apogee with Citywave, staged on the streets of Copenhagen in 1985. It involved more than 2000 participants - folk musicians, singers, brass bands, bell-ringers, rock groups, boats, helicopters, clowns on bicycles.

During the mid-1980s, Morrow made ambitious radiophonic artworks, some using specifically Arctic sounds, for Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) in Germany, commissioned by enlightened producer Klaus Schoening. Morrow has long been fascinated by the Arctic soundscape and by the prospect of listening to the Far North, and in 1996 he co-ordinated a Circumpolar Spring broadcast, tracking the arrival of that season, with the cooperation of a network of radio stations in Alaska, Siberia, Russia, Finland, Sweden and Greenland.

In 1987 Morrow provided music for the soundtrack of Beyond Day and Night, Swedish Sámi director Paul-Anders Simma’s acclaimed film about a city boy striving to acquire the old ways of living harmoniously with Nature. Morrow’s work in soundtrack writing actually dates back to 1969, when he supplied the highly effective, varied and dramatically atmospheric musical accompaniment for Theo Kamecke’s spectacular Moonwalk One, a feature-length documentary about the Apollo 11 mission. The director’s cut of Moonwalk One has recently been recovered and released on DVD. During Fall 2010, at the Little Charlie Festival held in New York City to celebrate Morrow’s life and work, a 20-minute sequence from that movie was screened while his music was performed live on Baroque pipe organ mixed with the intermittent beeping of NASA’s telemetric signals.

The Little Charlie Festival gave some indication of the scope and scale of Morrow’s activities as composer, sound artist and event-maker. It presented his Land Sea Air installation, instrumental concerts and a workshop, soundscapes, sound sculpture, parades, settings of ancient poetry and a composition for boat horns and blinking lights. Much of his work seems to exceed the viable limits of documentation, yet Morrow has compiled a comprehensive archive at his home in Barton, Vermont, formerly the home of Dick Higgins and his peerless Something Else Press. In Morrow’s archive are audio and video materials, assorted publications, artefacts and artworks; not just his work in sound, but its offshoots in stitch-work and calligraphy. The archive proves that it is possible to capture through documentation at least a strong sense of Morrow’s robust yet mercurial creativity. Further proof is offered on this long overdue CD release.

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Stefan Hyner

Too hard to get to, they say
10000 mountains made of tears
life is suffering, so easily said
when all possible hands are needed
to calm the memory down

Jerome Rothenberg

Is something left to say
for those who say it
who come into a kind of stillness
in which a scream breaks forth at intervals
& then recedes
leaving a trail of shattered bones
in back of ear
……………………& tongue
………………………..............& eye
awake forever
in the pain of who we are

Stefan Hyner

Mr. Shirach, Gauleiter of Vienna
-- perl of the 3. Reich --, alone
had 60000 sent
………………… the extermination camps
…………………..dirt under the carpet, ground
into imperial oak floors

His mother had taught him
how to keep the house clean, but at night
he smelt the tears in the Danube
…………drying out his soul
……………………………a hairless broom remained
so we take an iron shovel to hell
to extinguish the fire

after Hyner and Picasso
Jerome Rothenberg

“the eye in erection”
knows fear
…………a closed door
between him & the devil
not me
………..& that cry in extremis
a black fire burning us
night after night
………..“I am bagged” says the uncle
who is there in my dream
but escapes me
…………………………..& sleeping
I only can run down the stairs
at the back of his house
can relive his dream without hope
with the dead always present
the wonder of “someone is here”
“he is calling your name”
“he will kill you”

Stefan Hyner

every word wrangled from
……..the eye of Uranus
……………every sound of the world perceived

“We are grown ups,” he sez
“cuz we hurt constantly.”

A fire extinguisher, a pill
to end the pain
………………’s…………………….over now
…………we had it

………………with…….ALL……present at
………………for………………………to behold
………………………………………….called & callin’

………………………… their voices
……………………………...were in the thunder

………………………………… then it calmed

Jerome Rothenberg

the gauleiter & the rabbit
form another segment
of the dream…..their motion thrusts them forward
until he drives his teeth into the other’s neck
purveyor of a custom so within the norm
the world will hardly recognize it
but will say of him as it has always done
the passion of this man to kill he reads as justice
& such justice is the province of the powerful
& pure
………..where purity is one with power
& no rabbit will escape the hunter’s trap
now that a gauleiter has spoken
because the murderers are there in every generation
& the spray that cleans the flesh out of his teeth
will still keep running as the rabbits will
will leave the country bare without a trace
until the other gauleiters come riding in
to stoke his fires
it will be the way we saw him once & froze
a man of an uncertain size
dimensions hidden colder than a stone
his shadow flattened out against a wall
the children in his dream
fused to a single child
a rabbit running backwards
with his finger on the spring he brings them down

Stefan Hyner

Another segment of the dream
holds him by the neck
…………there is nothing for this world
to recognize, as it has always done
(behind closed eyes
pure & just
………………all shadows fuse
………………into bare landscapes, while
the murderers clean
each others teeth
……………………..& step over
……………………..the bloody bag of progress
…………………… dream up another world

A Lesson
Jerome Rothenberg

to leave this world & not to know it
more than we did at birth to know
the mystery of murder not a mystery
with us forever
……………………………where the wall
enclosing us begins to burn
the eye spins in its socket
men with hammers change the faces
of those we love……they drag them
slithering & pale behind their wheels
they make a vortex for the restless dead
a tide of blood to wade through
where the sleeper says: it is too cold
he says: my hand is looking for a hand
he says: the paper has erased its words
& fallen dumb
he says: I do not know my name
he says: my name is no name
when we ask about the lesson of his death
he says: a lesson learned by rote
is not a lesson

NOTE. Stefan Hyner is a poet of remarkable means, living where he grew up – in Brühl-Rohrhof, near Heidelberg – with connections & interconnections far beyond his original home. I first met him sometime in the middle 1990s & felt an immediate friendship & a wide range of shared concerns. Some of these concerns involved poets & friends we had in common, largely those around the poet & artist Franco Beltrametti, many of whom Stefan was then publishing in his largely English-language magazine Gate. I was as much taken by his English poetry & his Buddhist practice & Chinese scholarship as by anything else I knew about him. He also took on the translation into German of some poems from my Holocaust-centered book, Khurbn, & its extension into a series of gematria-based poems, 14 Stations [14 Stationen], published in 2000 by Ralf Zühlke’s Stadt Lichter Presse in Berlin.

It was from those translations that the idea came to him for an exchange of poems that would allow us to carry our mutual concerns with issues of holocaust & human brutishness into the immediate present. At the time, if I remember correctly, the question of Israel & Palestine was in its Oslo phase, with Ariel Sharon & the second Intifada still in the shadows, so didn’t enter the poems as (for both of us) a deeply troubling issue. And the collaboration – the poems – went up to a certain point & never reached the scale that we had originally intended. I remain interested, certainly, in how a common language or poetry breaks through in them, something with which I’m fully at ease, as I hope he is also. It is a collaboration, anyway, in which the two of us can work together & can co-exist as who we are.

The preceding, with an important note by Hyner selbst, was originally published in Sawako Nakayasu’s Factorial magazine in 2003. At the conclusion of his note he writes: “I do think that collaborations between people w/so-called different cultural backgrounds can show that human beings are very well able to coexist w/out the threat of violence & the display of power. That despite all arguments to the contrary mutual aid, & to me a collaboration is nothing else but exactly this, is the dominant factor of life & not the crazy idea of an out of touch anarchist.”

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David-Baptiste Chirot: Cinema of Catharsis (IV-VII)

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 6:54 AM 0 comments
[continued from an earlier posting]


As the patterns are emerging from the small battered lawn—the patterns which are for her continuously seeping in from those in the long-ago linoleums . . . they begin to form before her eyes the patterns of a parquet floor . . . the patterns, even, of a kind of design she has seen somewhere before . . . watching, waiting, with ever increasing urgency, an urgency she feels violently and vividly coursing through her tautening veins . . . as the memory begins to clear . . . revealing to her both the floors and the ceiling of a Cinema she had frequented as a child . . . in some outlaying area of the small battered city . . . an area which she associates more with dream than memory . . . though, now coming back to her as the patterns grow ever clearer before her eyes . . . she finds herself involuntarily witnessing scenes from her childhood and early adolescence . . . entering into this Cinema with her family—entering in there on weekends—Sundays even—she now recalls, as the parquet floor and ceiling become ever more vivid, all the while themselves images superimposed over those of her now streaming memories—of her entering the Cinema as a girl in neatly pressed skirt and blouse . . . freshly ironed that morning, before Church, by her mother . . . the scent of her mother’s faint perfume comes back to her—the slight smells of freshly laundered dresses, of crisply clutched handbags in which various “secrets” of her mother’s ‘Woman’s Life” are kept carefully at the ready for the ever awaited “special occasion” which might someday “you never know when” arise . . . those scents of an expectancy which made her mother and everything about her seem to her, even now, “romantic”---all this flooding back to her now, superimposed over those lozenges, those patterns of the parquet—and the expectancy of waiting in line, there, at the ticket taker’s small glass enclosed booth---before entering the inner area where the popcorn machine towered, immense and alive, spouting furiously its fountains of pop corn, while the soda fountain poured forth a continual bright and multi-colored syrupy mist in her memory—a mist made up of all the exotic tints of the promising sodas . . . and then, then, her own taut veins now pressing ever more tightly against the skin—she could feel this—the tautness, like a bow being stretched back, back, back—about to launch the well aimed arrow—then—with a slight release of the tension—she sees herself entering into the Cinema—


El Colonel smiles . . . there in the darkness, he sees a person enter stealthily from the door way at the other end of the Cinema—on the other side of the middle of the three rows of seats . . . at the same time—he is aware of some one moving with equal stealth in the area of the balcony just above where the first figure is moving----and, slightly behind this figure, for the very briefest of moments—there appears another figure—which swiftly withdraws—into a shadowy area in which hovers the red light sign for the restrooms . . . something is taking place, El Colonel murmurs to himself . . . something is taking place—and he is suddenly aware, at the sound of these words uttered by himself, to himself, with as much stealth as the two moving figures are possessed of—he is suddenly aware that at this moment in his consciousness, and “before his very eyes as an observing consciousness”—he notes mentally—as an aside, whispered to the audience which is comprised by his own various suddenly alert consciousnesses---he is suddenly aware that the events which are about to transpire are occurring simultaneously as memory, dream, imagination and that form of conscious thought which is known to himself as “writing”---and that these events are triggering also, somewhere else, events in the consciousness of someone else—not only a reader—the reader who is himself of the writings which emerge with –with, as in a distinct and intimately close collaboration--himself—writings at once his own and some Other’s—as well as some other reader—and some other being, somewhere else, also writing—in their own way—these same events . . . aware of all these simultaneous events occurring—and of all these simultaneous awarenesses converging, here, in this spot—in these events now going on—El Colonel finds himself being drawn to an area to his right, in the middle aisle—in which the figure who has stealthily emerged form the door on the ground floor—has seated itself unexpectedly next to another shadowy figure—there in the dark—of which he had not previously been aware—and that this shadowy figure is now engaged in some form of exchange of both sounds and gestures with the figure who has emerged from the doorway—and placed itself practically on top of the shadowy, seated figure—in an astounding act of imposition---

El Colonel smiles. Casting his gaze upwards—he perceives the figure in the balcony slowly grope its way towards the front of the balcony—where, standing just overhead—it is watching the scene below, in which the two figures are exchanging rapid gestures and indistinguishable sounds—before suddenly separating—with the figure who had entered into the Cinema from the ground floor door—moving off and finding a seat at some distance from the other—while the figure overhead—suddenly is casting glances sideways and back—back towards the area where the hovering red sign indicates the rest rooms----

El Colonel smiles. Something is going on—he is thinking—when of a sudden in the area on the ground floor to his right—there enter two shadowy policemen . . . creeping carefully along the dim rows of seats—while, above—where the standing figure has been directing its gaze—he sees beckoning another figure—gesturing—towards a door marked “EXIT” whose light has suddenly come on and which swings suddenly open—open—to a hurried, scrambling rush of bright air and light---


The scene in the small battered backyard is flickering as the lights from neighboring houses go on . . . and for the first time she feels a slight disturbance in the scenes in which she is simultaneously entering the Cinema proper . . . inside the movie theater itself . . . this flickering catches her eye immediately she is inside the theater---and, drawing her gaze towards the peripheries of her vision to her right—she sees entering there suddenly a swift, stealthy figure . . . the flickering increases, as though there is interference from some other transmission . . . and for the first time she has the sense—a sense “like ESP”—that some one else, also, is watching this same scene . . . though from somewhere else—some other pair of eyes is also making out in the dimness the shadowy figure moving along the rows of seats until it finds one where a figure she had not been aware of, a shadowy, lumpy figure, is slumped---and practically on top of which she observes the swift moving shadow place itself—so nearly are the two figures placed they seem for a moment to merge, then pull abruptly apart—and between the two a rapid fire series of gestures and indistinguishable sounds is being exchanged . . . while, above—“out of the blue”—for all the darkness around her, the phrase comes to her—she notices a figure beckoning from the area where a dimly glowing red light announces “rest rooms”—and—following the line of sight towards which this figure is beckoning, she makes out another figure—dim, standing at the edge of the balcony—and—while she watches—she sees a door begin to open behind the man gesturing from the rest room area—and, as the door opens—she sees a patch of sky—feels even the slight in-rushing of a cooler air . . .

Even as she is watching, she becomes aware that she is seeing the arrest of Oswald in the movie theater in Dallas on “That Day”—and into her awareness come rushing the snatches of varying accounts of those moments—accounts pieced together from among the stacks of books she has read . . . with a growing intensity her vision is taking in each detail, each remembered moment of the action—in a kind of slow motion . . . a slow motion however, growing increasingly troubled by interference---by a kind of flickering in which the images “go in and out”—and sounds suddenly are leaking in as though from some other consciousness—not voices so much as sensations of wires, synapses, being crossed . . . she feels herself recoiling in a kind of horror as her suddenly sensed awareness of witnessing the multiplicity of possibilities of what may have occurred during those fateful moments—is being disrupted—by a transmission-- which she senses is not meant to interrupt—but is that of an other consciousness, also registering these scenes—though this other consciousness she senses, is somehow not aware, as she is, of what the scene exactly is—that is, the other consciousness observing these events is not interested in them—not in the way that she is, but at the same time from some other interest of which she has no idea, no remote idea of herself--—a horror from which she recoils—that some one else’s awareness of the events—is interpreting in ways completely other than her own—not out of malevolent design, as she somehow most powerfully feels—but out of an intensity of awareness happening within it, this other consciousness, which is equal to her own—and even—perhaps—even—she feels the possibility all too acutely—painfully—even more powerful than her own—yet not with any ill intentions at all towards her own. . . a consciousness which she feels suddenly withdraw . . . leaving her to observe—the now empty theater . . . after the sensed fleeing of all those who but a few brief moments before had been there—all those who had been present on “That Day” according to all the accounts she had read . . .

Everything is happening so fast . . . has been happening so fast—and now, so abruptly she feels herself nearly swoon . . . is so abruptly over . . .

Slowly, slowly her eyes become aware of the small battered backyard in which the shadows among the flickering light look like so many burnt out remnants of an intense explosion . . . the singed and still smoking remains of her intensity of awareness . . .yet . . . as she gathers herself—she thinks—having come this close . . .this close to finding the Truth . . . perhaps . . . someday . . . and she finds her awareness trailing away . . . trailing away into an immense and most welcome sense of relief, of safety, of rest . . . of a calm assurance completely new to her . . . and, as she drifts into this peace . .. she has all the while a feeling through its own shadowy, slowly retreating substance, of the still flickering presence of that Other . . . while it, also, slowly recedes . . . she has still the consciousness of an emerging “welcome memory, however faint”-- of this awareness which has brushed presences so intensely with her own, there, on “That Day”—in the Cinema of Catharsis . . . . .


El Colonel is smiling . . . lighting another cigarette, he uses its bright glowing tip to write in the gathering twilight sky . . . to write of the sensations of coolness and blue he had found himself drawn to in ascending to the second floor of the Cinema and exiting by the door which he had seen open . . . while all the while there lingers in his consciousness the sensation of having passed through an immense, and intensely concentrated, electrical event of some kind on his way across the floor of the theater, to the stairs and then up them . . . as though the immensity of the blue he finds on exiting . . . is the calm following a storm, a storm in his consciousness, to which, someday he may return—as he sensed within it—the presence, distinct and powerful, of some Other there in the Cinema, some other pair of eyes also observing the same mysterious scene—some other consciousness, some where—which might hold the key for him—of all that had transpired during this afternoon—this afternoon in the Cinema of Catharsis, in which he finds the writing taking him . . . on so many occasions . . .

[NOTE. Concerning the whole El Colonel series, an evolving “major” work, Chirot has written elsewhere: “it should be noted that El Colonel is not a ‘static’ being—moves through & inbetween as ‘in-beat-we-in’—is rhizomatic—rhythmic—unfolding—in events among Time & ‘consciousnesses’—non-linear-and ‘occurs’ not so much as a ‘character’ ‘by an author’(including himself)---but exists in dimensions which begin to explore the zones which Stephane Mallarmé created as ‘poèmes critiques’—& an obsession with El Colonel is a Writing which exists without ‘materializing’—a Journey with the Writing of the No—

“there is thus no particular ‘order’ to the pieces, though the ‘first’ appearance as and in print of El Colonel is the Chapbook ‘El Colonel Smiles’—(also published as a prose poem text w/o images in Otoliths online & print Journal-)—the first presentation of El Colonel’s ‘thoughts, those improvised compositions’ which may serve as a kind of ‘Intro’ in re ‘composition’& re composition as an emergence out of ‘decomposition’--appears in ‘El Ojo de Dios Part the First: Insects & Letters,’ which can be linked to at the Sous Rature site.”

An extensive bibliography of Chirot’s published El Colonel pieces recently appeared on his blog at]

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[From the forthcoming Compression & Purity, poems (City Lights Spotlight No. 5)]

I was born under Leo, under its signpost of heat, and what has evolved from such colouration is a verbal momentum always magnetized to the uranic. A verbal rhythm prone to the upper hamlets of starlight, my predilection being instinctively honed to the fluidic motion of the sidereal. This is not to say that the protean aspects of earth cease to amaze me, or cease to enthrall me with its natural magic. The winds, the bays, the deserts, ceaseless in my mind like a teeming field of Flamingo flowers, or a sun-charged clepsydra. Yet above all, the earth being for me the specificity of Africa, as revealed by Diop, and Jackson, and Van Sertima, and its electrical scent in the writings of Damas.

Because of this purview I have never been drawn to provincial description, or to the quiescent chemistry of a condensed domestic horizon. I’ve always been prone to exploring the larger scope of predominant mental criteria as exhibited by the influential civilizations over the span of time which we name as history. For instance, within the Roman or American criteria I see the active involvement of what is called the left brain and its natural gravitation towards separating life by means of active fragmentation. Yet at a more ancient remove there exists the example of Nubia and Kemet unconcerned with life as secular confiscation, but with the unification of disciplines, such as astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, law, as paths to the revelation of the self. Knowledge then, as alchemical operation, rather than an isolated expertise. So when various knowledges fuse in my writings, insights occur, revealing an inward light whose source is simultaneous with the riveting connection between flashes of lightning.

For me, language, by its very operation, is alchemical, mesmeric, totalic in the way that it condenses and at the same time proves capable of leaping the boundaries of genre. Be it the drama, the poem, the essay, the novel, language operates at a level of concentration modulated by the necessity of the character or the circumstance which is speaking. My feeling is that language is capable of creating shifts in the human neural field, capable of transmuting behaviours and judgments. Humans conduct themselves through language, and, when the latter transmutes, the human transmutes. The advertisers know this linkage, but to a superficial degree, so when language is mined at a more seminal depth of poetic strata, chance can take on a more lasting significance. And I do not mean in a didactic manner, but in the way that osmosis transpires, allowing one to see areas of reality that heretofore had remained elided or obscured. I’m speaking here of an organic imaginal level which rises far beyond the narrow perspective of up and down, or left side and right side, which is the mind working in the service of mechanical reaction. Rather, I am thinking of magnetic savor, allowing the mind to live at a pitch far beyond the garish modes of the quotidian. One’s life then begins to expand into the quality of nuance naturally superseding a bleak statistical diorama.

I was always drawn to realms outside the normal reaches of comment even at an early age. I would sustain imaginary dialogues with myself by continuously creating imaginal characters very specific in their cryptic ability to spur continuous inward rotation. Imaginal kings, warriors, athletes, angels, always igniting my mind with their ability to overcome limits, to sustain themselves beyond the confines of normal fatigue. And it was during this period that I had my first confrontation with a spectre. It spoke to me in the dead of night, commanding me to rise from my bed and follow its presence into I know not where. I remained frozen as it spoke to me, and as I vividly recall I could utter no sound. I knew I was not dreaming, because as I stared into the darkness its strange niveous image formed in my vision, and took on for those unbelievable moments a staggering animation. Of course I was not believed the next day when I reported my contact to my mother. And years later she could never recall me recording the incident or my reaction to the incident, something totally out of character for her. Nevertheless it confirmed for me the activity of the supra-physical world which has remained with me in all my subsequent moments. Thus the rational world has never been able to annul my alacrity for what the mechanically-sighted call the invisible.

This reality was further strengthened when first hearing the recordings of Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane. It was during my early teens and listening to the music was absolutely electric. It made me feel that I had allies, that there were others who knew that the material world was completely permeable, and that none of the rationally stated boundaries could contain the imaginal. Of course all of this happened before I knew anything of poetry. Yet I was already in the poetic, the music already opening me up to creativity linked as it is to the inner and outer plane. The inner burst of creative power and its circulation in the world on an international scale. Eric Dolphy in Berlin, John Coltrane in Antibes, Cecil Taylor at Moosham Castle in Austria, Duke Ellington in Dakar. So by the time I read a book on Rimbaud some seven years later I felt a definite relation between his inner experience and my own. Close to finishing the book I found myself writing my first poem, and I immediately felt a great liberty transpire within me, a liberty which suddenly flashed to creative fruition.

And I’ve found over time that this liberty continuously burns, and is capable of transmuting all that it touches. I’ve found no discipline which is foreign to it. Architecture, politics, mathematics, mysticism, all prone to a higher verbal kindling, to a different archery of usage. This is not to say that poetry serves as a didactic device, no, but as a magical instrument with the prowess to overcome the mortality of the temporal. It is fiesta outside the limits of the measured diurnal regime where the constraints of the conscious mind vanish without trace. So by the time I discovered Surrealism and the writings of Artaud, Césaire, Breton, Lamantia, and Bob Kaufman, I felt ripe for exploring the subconscious levels of the mind. Then connecting the power of such writing with Sri Aurobindo’s supra-conscious mind, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and the Egyptian connective between visible and invisible domains, I was able to develop within an instinctive motif of linguistic arousal. And as was for Cesaire earlier, the Surrealism opened me up to animate use of language not unlike the ancient African atmosphere of consciousness. Life being an unbroken motion of consciousness, poetry is for me the celebration of that unbrokenness.

Creativity being an ongoing praxis, is a continuous trance, in which one deals with the unification of worlds, rather than fostering inclement fragments. Insights, worlds within worlds, which include not only scintillations of the conscious mind, but more importantly, its ability to both elevate and descend, thereby traversing the triple levels of the mind, the conscious, the supra-conscious, and the sub-conscious minds, creating in the process a concert of worlds.

[A NOTE IN CELEBRATION. The following to mark the publication of Compression & Purity: “This new & rich gathering of Will Alexander’s works – always in progress – marks him again as the true successor among us to the likes of Surreal & deeply explorative figures like Breton & Césaire. No other poet writing in America today does it the way that Alexander does – a range of words & images that startle & create new pathways for language & the mind-in-freedom (‘alchemical, mesmeric, totalic,’ as he names them in these pages). Compression & Purity, so aptly titled, is the work of a true American & world master – & a joy to have & read.” (J.R.)]

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Liu Xiaobo: from "Experiencing Death"

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 2:30 PM 0 comments
Translation from Chinese by Jeffrey Yang

[Liu Xiaobo, poet and literary critic, is the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. China has forbidden him to travel to the award ceremony, which will be held on Friday December 10 in Oslo. Earlier postings on Poems and Poetics were published on May 10, 2008 and January 1, 2010. A letter from PEN American Center “in solidarity” follows this excerpt.]

I had imagined being there beneath sunlight
with the procession of martyrs
using just the one thin bone
to uphold a true conviction
And yet, the heavenly void
will not plate the sacrificed in gold
A pack of wolves well-fed full of corpses
celebrate in the warm noon air
aflood with joy

Faraway place
I’ve exiled my life to
this place without sun
to flee the era of Christ’s birth
I cannot face the blinding vision on the cross
From a wisp of smoke to a little heap of ash
I’ve drained the drink of the martyrs, sense spring’s
about to break into the brocade-brilliance of myriad flowers

Deep in the night, empty road
I’m biking home
I stop at a cigarette stand
A car follows me, crashes over my bicycle
some enormous brutes seize me
I’m handcuffed eyes covered mouth gagged
thrown into a prison van heading nowhere

A blink, a trembling instant passes
to a flash of awareness: I’m still alive
On Central Television News
my name’s changed to “arrested black hand”
though those nameless white bones of the dead
still stand in the forgetting
I lift up high up the self-invented lie
tell everyone how I’ve experienced death
so that “black hand” becomes a hero’s medal of honor

Even if I know
death’s a mysterious unknown
being alive, there’s no way to experience death
and once dead
cannot experience death again
yet I’m still
hovering within death
a hovering in drowning
Countless nights behind iron-barred windows
and the graves beneath starlight
have exposed my nightmares

Besides a lie
I own nothing



Dear Friends,

Help us celebrate Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize: please read and listen to Liu's words below, and forward this message to 10 of your friends by using the link at the end of this e-mail.

By keeping Liu Xiaobo behind bars, and by preventing his wife and brothers from traveling to Oslo to accept the award on his behalf, the Chinese government has done its best to silence this important voice once again.

At PEN, we can think of no better way to respond, and to celebrate this momentous day, than to flood the world with clips we've compiled featuring Liu, his wife Liu Xia, and Liu's poetry and so-called "subversive" prose.

SO PLEASE: take a moment and watch the four short clips below, and read a poem by Liu Xiaobo published today in The New York Times. Then forward this message on to 10 others, asking them to do the same.

By making Liu Xiaobo's voice viral, we'll be accomplishing what the Chinese government has worked so hard to prevent: we'll be making sure that on this, his day, he is heard around the world.

Liu Xia telling the story of Chinese authorities confiscating Liu Xiaobo's work, recorded in Beijing, March 2010

• Readings by Liu Xia and Victoria Redel of the poem "Greed's Prisoner"

Liu Xiaobo on freedom of expression in China, 2006

Writers Rally for Liu Xiaobo, New York, December 31, 2010

"Words a Cell Can't Hold," translated by Jeffrey Yang

Check out for more multimedia, Liu's poetry, and continued updates on his case.

In solidarity,

Larry Siems
PEN Freedom to Write & International Programs Director

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Translation and introduction by Rodrigo Rojas

The Mapuche are a native nation of South America that by their own reckoning has lived from the beginning of time in the central valley of Chile and in the grasslands across the Andes, in Argentina. Their language, Mapudungun, has been studied since the Spanish and other Catholic Missions were established in the region and admired only by a few dedicated scholars throughout the centuries. From their very first contact with the Spaniards in the 1540’s they have been fighting for the survival of their culture.

The politics of integration that were enforced by the newly formed Chilean State in the 1880’s were emphasized by a law under Pinochet’s rule a century later (1979). This law abolished communal ownership of the land and with it the definition of Mapuche culture as a way of life. This gave rise to a political movement that has opposed this law (by many considered genocidal) and that seeks to recover both land and cultural rights.

In the 1960’s, the Chilean poet Laureate, Humberto Díaz Casanueva, observed that no anthology of poetry in Chile included Mapuche oral poetry. To this day it is difficult to find this poetry outside of the world of ethno-studies, or anthropological research.

From the time of the Chiapas uprising in Mexico, the Mapuche poets gained more readers and political support from parties and associations. While the indigenous poets write about the destruction of forests, their language and their culture, the main goal of the political parties that support them is to capitalize on the discontent of people in order to show that the newly gained Chilean democracy and the liberalization of markets will not solve the problems of the third world.

The poets translated here use a wide array of poetic resources to refer to violence and discrimination and their search for roots that imply their whole history of struggle, not only against a dictator or the state, but against western civilization. They may use slang, mix Spanish and Mapudungun, use archaisms, or translate from languages other than Spanish into Mapudungun. They are mainly bilingual, and this has allowed them to enter more than one world at a time and not be fixed under one interpretation.

The work of three poets follows.

Born in 1969 in the town of Alepue. At the age of ten he began to write in Spanish and Mapudungun. He has lectured on Mapuche poetry in Sweden, Spain and Peru. His first book was published in 1989 and with it he earned the city of Santiago Literary Prize.


Trafuya pewman
ngüru wanküyawün
inche ruka
¿chumyawimi ngürü? –pifin
welu ad elulaenew
wankümu ta llumi.

¿chemew llumimi ngürü?
wac wac pienew
ina lef nepen
wekun lifmekerkefuy ta wün

kiñe ngürü trokifiñ

......The Dream

While dreaming last night
a fox
sang under our house
What are you doing there?
Asked my voice
the fox hid its face
behind the song

Why do you hide?
I yelled from my bed
wac wac
was the answer
I woke up startled
out side
the day began to be sketched
I heard from afar
a fox seemed to be
weeping in the mountains.

This poet, born in the city of Osorno (1968), belongs to the Huilliche community from south of the Mapuche territory. Their language, Tse-Dungun, (Tongue of the South) is related to Mapuche, but maintained by fewer speakers. Of the three poets presented here, Huenún is the one who bears most clearly the signs of the poeta-ulkantufe. Poeta is the Spanish word for poet, and ulkantufe is the carrier/keeper of the ÜL. The ÜL is the chant, the song; in other words, the ülkantufe is similar to a bard. He writes in Spanish, but in his poetry there is a texture, a mosaic of idioms, that bring under one text the use and deformation of Spanish through colonization, together with the sound and actual words or names of the Mapuche world and all its variants.

Huenún talked about this process while interviewed by the poet Cecilia Vicuña. “As a Spanish speaking Huilliche, born and raised in the confines of Chilean society, my racial and childhood innocence lost, I have had to seize the branch of Vallejo and Mistral (Gabriela Mistral, 1945 Nobel Laureate) in order to shelter my self beneath the tree of my origin. Poetry, that frenzied old forbearance, does not hesitate to push me toward the woods and rivers of Tse-Dungun.”

Huenún has published two collections of poetry: Ceremonias (1999) and Puerto Trakl (2001), and he has recently published an anthology of 20 contemporary Mapuche poets in a bilingual edition. He has earned many literature prizes and recognitions, among them the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize.

.......Ceremony of Love

Last night trees loved each other like Indians: mañio and ulmo, pellin
and hualle, tineo and lingue, node to node they loved
as great lovers, peumos
bronced barks, coigües
much kissed their roots, tufts and sprouts, until love was aroused
in birds already lulled
by feathers of their very own
twittering love.

The same way, filthy huincas
like lovers buried themselves, and the negro waters
opened their springs to bring light, sip by sip,
alone, naming, calling out: gentle and beautiful
waters, but oh, we were raped, Rahue river waters,
Pillmaiquén River moaning, bloomed, in labor and yet joyous
lady streams that cross the hills
and mountains like hares.

And doves of the same love, soon gathered under one yoke
the green wellspring Inallao,
the wild honey Huaiquipán,
swift-eye Llanaquilef,
thrush breasts Requeleo,
the quillay Huilitraro blackbird-hair,
the young beech trees Pailamanque.

Huilliche love, last night they made love again
in a plain negro thicket under threshed
perpetually Indian skies,
like mountains they made love,
like stallion waters, like flaming anchimallén flowers,
in a fragrant dawn they loved,
sweetening their yeast,
like overflowing vessels of muday liquor.

The oldest of the three poets, born in 1955 in the town of Quechurewe, he is perhaps the most translated poet of Mapudungun. In a sense he prepared the ground for the younger generation of poets such as Lienlaf and Huenún. His first published works presented only a Spanish version; later books offered a translation into Mapudungun. His third book De Sueños Azules y Contrasueños is published in both languages, but there is no mention as to who did the translations. This is a relevant question, because in previous collections, the versions in Mapudungun were versions of someone other than the poet. Maybe the reader should assume that Chihuailaf is the author or perhaps there is no need of individual authorship in Mapudungun texts. If so, it raises another question over which text is the original. Even though the Spanish text was written first, it still corresponds to a version of the oral memory of a Nation. In that case, text will only have an author in Spanish, for when it returns to Mapudungun in a written form, its authorship dissolves into the community, and the collective memory becomes the original once again.

.......Ars Poetica

“The blue house in which I was born and raised, sits upon a hill surrounded by hualle trees, a willow, walnut-trees, chestnut-trees, myrrh that blooms like it found spring in the fall--a sun with the fragrance of ulmo honey--chilco flowers surrounded by humming birds that we did not know whether they were real or a vision. So ephemeral! (…) At night we’d hear the chants, stories and riddles at the fireside, breathing the fragrance of bread baked by my grandmother, my mother, or aunt María, while my father and grandfather, lonko of the community, observed with respect. I speak of the memory of my childhood and not of a utopian society. There, I think, I learned what was poetry. The greatness of everyday life, and above all its details, the sparkle of flames, eyes, hands. (…) Sitting on the knees of my grandmother I heard the first stories of trees and stones in dialogue with each other, with animals, and people. All you have to do – she’d say -- is to learn to interpret their signs and to perceive their sounds that often hide in the wind.”

.......The key that no one has lost

Poetry serves no purpose, I am told
and trees caress one another in the forest
with blue roots and twigs ruffling to the wind,
greeting with birds the Southern Cross
Poetry is the deep murmur of the murdered
the rumor of leaves in the fall, the sorrow
for the boy who preserves the tongue
but has lost the soul
Poetry, poetry, is a gesture, a landscape,
your eyes and my eyes, girl; ears, heart,
the same music. And I say no more, because
no one will find the key that no one has lost
And poetry is the chant of my ancestors
a winter day that burns and withers
this melancholy so personal.

Rodrigo Rojas, Chilean poet (Lima, 1971), is one of the editors of Rattapallax Magazine and teaches at the Undergraduate Program in Creative Writing at Diego Portales University, Chile. He is the author of two poetry books Desembocadura del Cielo (1996) and Sol de Acero (1999) both published by Editorial Cuarto Propio in Santiago de Chile. He has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for graduate Studies in the U.S. (2001), the Pablo Neruda Creative Writing Fellowship (1995), and the Gabriela Mistral Poetry Prize for his collection of poems Corazón de Langosta (1995).

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Murat Nemet-Nejat: A Few Thoughts on Fragments

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 5:20 AM 0 comments
[Written as an afterword to Nemet-Nejat's The Spiritual Life of Replicants, a long poem which itself constitutes Part VI of a seven-part work The Structure of Escape. It will be published shortly by Talisman Press.]


The poem The Spiritual Life of Replicants is infused with Sufi ideas, and this infusion results in a poetry which consists of movements of thought in a visual field. The reader experiences the movements as he or she is ensnared by them reading the poem. The thought patterns are arabesque, circuitous, tangential, reflecting the Sufi sense that reality is not stared at directly; but it can only be touched, glimpsed at reflectively, as fragments, the way, for instance, the reality of the wind can be seen (or heard) in the traces it leaves on the movements of branches. In this way the infinite - the invisible, the music of silence - descends to visibility.

The primary struggle for the poet in The Spiritual Life is to create a spectacle in which words, language can act freely, following impulses inherent in them -basically, each page becoming a scene in which, in different constellations, words enact their drama. The primary unit in this enactment is the fragment. A fragment is like a lyric poem or an epigram in length, but is devoid of any lyric persona (no lyric I), replacing it in the poem with the “mechanical eye” of a lens. In the process, the distinction between human and non-human, organic and non-organic, thought and sensation disappear, enabling fragments to move “across party lines.”

Fragments are thoughts afloat.

Fragments function almost completely without metaphors. They are replaced by gestures. A gesture is a sensory observation, a riff of thought which is complete in itself; in this completeness, it lures the reader into itself (every love starts with attraction), making the poem possible. Nevertheless, a fragment also desires complementation by opening up to and reacting with other ones. In this interaction, fragments create the very field of energy, the spectacle within which the drama of language occurs. This paradox reflects the Sufi consciousness where the human is embedded in its physical being -and the chains of its language - and burns with the desire for a greater union.

Walter Benjamin states in one of his fragments, “Language has made unmistakably plain that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium. It is the medium of that which is experienced, just as the earth is the medium in which ancient cities lie buried. He who seeks to approach his own buried past must conduct himself like a man digging.” Given that The Spiritual Life is the buried city, written at a specific time in the past with specific constellations of fragments, the reader is put in a special place. He/She can not remain passive before this medium, but must start digging from his/her place in the present. Constellations may move and rearrange themselves. Nevertheless, hopefully, as a result, the poem - itself a fragment - will open itself up, being complemented, by the community surrounding it.


A poetry where meaning has turned into pure motion created by the movement of the eye on the printed page, a spiritual filmic language…”

Eda is a poetics of Sufism embodied in the structure of the Turkish language. This linguistic quality - thought not as statements, but thought as a linguistic tissue - is achieved in Turkish primarily through its syntax:

Turkish is an agglutinative language, that is to say, declensions occur inside the words as suffixes. Words need not be attached to either end of prepositions to spell out relationships, as in English. This quality gives Turkish total syntactical flexibility. Words in a sentence can be arranged in any permutable order, each sounding natural.

The underlying syntactical principle is not logic, but emphasis: a movement of the speaker's or writer's affections. Thinking, speaking in Turkish is a peculiarly visceral activity, a record of thought emerging. The nearer the word is to the verb in a sentence, which itself has no fixed place in the sentence, the more emphasis it has. This ability to stress or unstress -not sounds or syllables; Turkish is syllabically unaccented- but words (thought as value-infested proximity) gives Turkish a unique capability for nuance, for a peculiar kind of intuitive thought.

(M.N.-N., Eda: An Anthology of Contemporary Turkish Poetry, Talisman Publishers, 2004, pp. 5/6)

The “I” experiencing phenomena and phenomena themselves disappear and unite in an animistic synthesis. The “I” becomes the “eye” merging with it in an open-ended weave of language.

The same dissolution occurs also in Sufism. Sufism is the dissolution -even destruction- of the self in ecstatic suffering.

If one considers The Spiritual Life an attempt to translate the flexibility of Eda, the spiritual universe of Sufism into English, one sees the antagonist the poet must encounter: the nearly absolute inflexibility of the English syntax. English turns into a prison within which Eda must move and, more importantly, from which it must escape. The spectacle-ization of the poem in The Spiritual Life, fragments becoming basic poetic units, is the path to achieve that goal.

Placed in proximity in fluid, tangential combinations, fragments misfit together, rather than perfectly synchronize. The jagged connections energize the reader to jump across, therefore making the reader an active participant in the creation of meaning in the poem. The reading often involves his or her eye tracing the mechanical eye - a panning lens - buried in the sinuous, meandering movements of the poem. In this interaction between “human” and “machine” - “silhouetted by the dark matter of words” - thoughts dissolve into space, into motion and light.

[A small section from The Spiritual Life of Replicants will appear in a later posting on Poems and Poetics]

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