FROM MINIATURES TO CRIED AND MEASURED

As important as brief pieces, some fragments, produced in enlarged type may have been, their minimalism became more of a limitation than an opportunity. My first solution to this problem was to build sequences out of miniatures, some based on fragments, some as free lyrics. My favorite from the early 1970s took the name Echoes of the Wine-Dark Sea. Part of it is available on-line at
<a href= "http://www.logolalia.com/mailart/karl-young/wds-01.htm">Dan Waber’s Logolalia site.</a>

Still, I wanted to expand beyond slow-building compounds such as this. The first and most important solution came from an unexpected source, and I didn’t realize what I was doing with it until I had made significant progress.

In I believe 1975, Jerry Rothenberg suggested that I try working some of the Dead Sea Scroll fragments in a manner similar to those I had been doing. If they worked out well enough, he offered to use them in his block-buster anthology, A Big Jewish Book. I tried checking out the Dead Sea Scrolls, but found nothing I could use. The search, however, lead me to related Judaica, most importantly the Elephantine Fragments. These are the remains of a colony of Jewish exiles living in Egypt during the first Diaspora. I make some comments on their nature in my Introduction to Cried and Measured, most of which I won’t repeat here. These initially lent themselves to treatment as fragment poems by their suggestiveness and incompleteness. Many of the fragments were the remnants of papyrus scrolls, and their condition came about as a result of the way time had treated the writing surface. Others contained compressed texts which suggested fragments within fragments. The Elephantine Jews kept lists of their names. We don’t know the purpose of these lists, but the names themselves were miniature poems. Each condensed one of the Biblical Psalms which was, in turn, associated with the bearer for some now lost reason. Still, I could make poems of the names themselves by transcribing or expanding the Psalms. The names were in patronymic form: X, son of Y. Virtually all names thus suggested lineage and the hopes of continuity into the future in a patrilinear society.

The fragments included any number of firsts. The first description of a Passover observation, for instance; interestingly and appropriately enough, taking place back in Egypt. But perhaps the most important of the texts dealt with the first pogrom. In terms of origins, the origins of the barbarity of the 20th Century lay not within the current century, but in the fifth Century B.C.E. One of the functions the fragments suggested was a Holocaust memorial, placed outside the familiar lists of my own century’s atrocities. As a collection of origins, these fragments pushed anti-Semitism back as far as it could go.

Another level emerged from the fragments: Many of the papyri had apparently been used for inventories. These included lists of utilitarian items, completely unrelated to the lists of names. They suggested the work-a-day world of the colony. The keeping of accounts from grain to cups was a feature of daily life which had not been left out of the sources. Hence the word Measured in the title, along with the word Cried which suggested everything from the pogrom to the cries of women in childbirth, a possible source of the Psalms in the names of Elephantine’s residents.

It took some time before work on individual-fragment-poems for a book to evolve from them. Jerry had three for A Big Jewish Book long before my own book was complete. Even the nature of the sequence’s purpose was questionable for some time. During part of the process, I thought of the work as a multi-voice performance piece. This worked out well enough with ad hoc performers in Jerry’s living room. I set up a public performance at The Body Politic in Chicago. Two of the readers didn’t get there in time to rehearse. The performance was a farce. It seemed a fortunate one, though. The public nature of the performance didn’t seem to work right, despite the gaffs from the unprepared performers. And the book as a model of writing for people who did not read aloud took precedence over other purposes.

I had been thinking of the layout of the book as a means of determining speed and rhythm that went beyond Projective Verse methods. From the time of the reading in Chicago, this became my main objective in imaging the text.

The completion of the book was filled with delightful accidents and good omens. Jerry introduced me to Harris Lenowitz, a scholar who studied ancient Semitic languages as well as a contemporary poet. He had an ideal set-up at the University of Utah. This included a telephone with an 800 number, so I could call him with questions or just to talk over what I was doing. David Meltzer took an interest in the project, watched most of it evolve, and even agreed to publish it through his Tree Books before I had completed the last pages. The people who had worked with me on the book, from Jerry to David, were an ideal group for such a project, and the participation of all three contributed to the final book.

By the time I completed the book, I had worked out numerous means of reworking or combing smaller fragment texts. Generally, they no longer felt like miniatures but poems in sequence. Although I had not produced a score for live performance, I had worked out a new rhythmic pattern on virtually every page. Some of the rhythms came from unexpected breaks in the text, others from almost incantatory lists, some simply from size of texts in relation to the negative space around them, some from tensions and conflicts in the nature of clusters of patterns on the page. A fair number of pages used downward reading direction as a method of changing reading speed, one read up the page, and several contrasted vertical and horizontal lineation.

In addition to marking the first example of what many consider the worst crime of the 20th Century, I had also proposed alternate reading patterns, previously unexplored by any poet with whose work I was familiar. The contrast between atrocity and a new means of reading wasn’t meant to suggest that the two were of equal importance, but I did want to suggest that something completely new could squeak out from under the origins of genocide and that the creative mind should keep working in spite of atrocity: that is, that no matter how vicious the evil, or how weak the creative gain, the active and artistic mind should not be paralyzed by ultimate evil, and should continue to seek sources of renewal even in the face of the most monumental of catastrophes. In a book of the names of fathers and sons, the spirit of new generation should stay alive and active. If the Elephantine pogrom marked the origin of a type of historical barbarity that reached its greatest stage in my time, the avant-garde impulse to find new origins should not be crushed.

. . . . . . .

CONCLUSION

If “loss” is an enormous word, so is “origins.” It may be ironic that the closer we get to origins the more we touch on loss. As with creation and destruction, both are bound in what seems an inescapable and unavoidable dance. In my two essential fragment books, I tried to point out and tentatively explore two of the most important aspects of the world in which we live from as close to their point of origin as fragments would allow. Our world may still be framed in part by the prospects of annihilation and by the community of written language.

My observations, and those of the translators who joined me in this last part of the project, come from their own unique sets of losses and origins. We are the heirs of those who survived or created the concentration camps, the gulags, the human world which, for the first time, had the power to annihilate itself. We are also among the first to use writing that has been moved into an electronic form that can be universally shared and that, in itself, can involve immense loss or act as a point of origin for a completely reconfigured society. I write these notes at a time when virtually every aspect of society is in a greater state of uncertainty than it was at he time I wrote the two fragment-based books, or even when I asked Marton and Anny to extend my work beyond anything I could do with it on my own. I’d like to think that literary experimentation is one of the forms of not only attempting to touch basic origins but also to extend what it means to begin.

[NOTE.  A full version of the text, with illustrations, can be found at http://www.thing.net/~grist/ld/TextBackHome/Volume5.htm.]

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[What follows is the best account yet of the history of Alcheringa and the beginnings & development of ethnopoetics.  The full archive of the magazine, including a series of audio inserts, is available at http://jacket2.org/reissues/alcheringa-archive-journal-ethnopoetics-1970-1980, from which Tedlock’s “Dreamtime” has been excerpted. (J.R.)]

As a discipline ethnopoetics differs radically from general poetics, negates the Empire, asserts that everything is marginal, and that consequently there are no margins. 
                                                        —Michel Benamou

In 1968, I was living around the corner from Moe’s Books in Berkeley. That was where I found Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, & Oceania (Doubleday), along with the first double issue of George Quasha’s magazine, Stony Brook. They were new arrivals, displayed face up and sharing the same space with Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan (first published in 1968 by the University of California Press) and John J. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks (available as a Bison Book paperback since 1961). This was a time when many stores, from City Lights in North Beach (which is still there) to the Eighth Street Bookshop in the Village (long gone), had begun devoting entire sections to titles dealing with the indigenous cultures of the Americas.

When Technicians and Stony Brook appeared, I had been working on the problem of how to translate the stories Andrew Peynetsa and Walter Sanchez had told me in Shiwi’ma, the language spoken at the Pueblo of Zuni in New Mexico. Spoken narratives, whatever the language, had always been transformed into prose for the printed page, but what I was hearing on my tape recordings struck me as something more like projective verse. I used line breaks to indicate pauses, changes of type size to indicate changes in loudness, and parenthetical stage directions to indicate tones of voice and gestures. I showed my translations and read them aloud to various people in Berkeley, and I got an enthusiastic response in a gathering that included Josephine Miles and Robert Grenier. But no one was able to suggest a likely place of publication. When the opening came, it came from the opposite coast.

The first issue of Stony Brook carried an excerpt from Technicians (pp. 205-223), and the masthead (inside back cover) listed Rothenberg as an advisory editor specializing in “ethnopoetics.” I later learned that he had coined this term when Quasha urged him to find a name for what he was doing. Anthropologists had long been using such terms as ethnobotany and ethnozoology and would later add others, notably ethnomedicine and ethnomathematics. In practice, studies carried out under such rubrics are devoted to the ways in which ethnic others organize their knowledge, but in theory, there is no botany, zoology, medicine, or mathematics that is not embedded in ethnicity. In the same way, there is no poetics that is not an ethnopoetics.

It seemed obvious to me that Stony Brook would be the right place to begin publishing my work, so I sent a scripted translation of Andrew Peynetsa’s “The Boy and the Deer” to Rothenberg. At that time he was living on West 163rd Street in New York City, a few blocks from what was then the Museum of the American Indian (now located in the Battery). His response was speedy, positive, and enormously encouraging. The Ethnopoetics section in Stony Brook 3-4 (pp. 288-327) was already full, but he added an announcement (on his first page) that my work would appear in 5-6.

In the spring of 1970, when it was apparent that there would never be a Stony Brook 5-6, Rothenberg and I decided to start our own magazine, Alcheringa / Ethnopoetics. In effect it was a successor to two magazines, the other one being some / thing, co-edited by Jerome Rothenberg and David Antin and published in four issues (the last one double) running from 1965 to 1968. The Neolithic labyrinth that served as Alcheringa’s logo until 1977 was inherited from some / thing. The logo for the remaining issues was a Mayan glyph in the form of a cupped hand, standing for the day named Chij or Kej, “Deer,” the day when shamans do their work.

The source of the word alcheringa is Arunta, an aboriginal language of Australia. Sometimes translated as “the dreamtime,” it refers to a mythic world that existed at the beginning of time and continues to exist in our own time as a parallel world, revealing itself whenever we dream and whenever someone speaks or sings a myth. At present it serves as the name of an Australasian journal of paleontology, a gallery of Pacific tribal art in British Columbia, and an annual cultural festival sponsored by the Institute of Technology in Guwahati, India, not far from Bhutan.

In the summer of 1970, Rothenberg and I assembled and published the first issue of Alcheringa in Santa Fe and launched it with a reading at St. John’s College. For the remaining four issues of the old series (1971–73), the place of publication was New York City. The eight issues of the new series (1975–80) were published under the sponsorship of Boston University. Circulation reached 2,000, a large figure for a small magazine. The end came for Alcheringa, and for the innovative Classics journal Arion as well, when the university’s conservative president withdrew funding without notice and shifted his support to Partisan Review, which had left its radical past far behind by then.

In the first issue of Alcheringa, Rothenberg and I proclaimed our magazine to be “a place where tribal poetries can appear in English . . . . While its sources will be different from those of other poetry magazines, it will be aiming at the startling and revelatory presentation that has been common to our own avant-gardes” (o.s. 1: 1). We wished “to encourage poets to participate actively in the translation of tribal/oral poetry,” and “to encourage ethnologists and linguists . . . to present tribal poetries as values in themselves rather than as ethnographic data.” From the beginning, we included the work of contemporary poets who seemed to be “connected with the same source,” as Robert Kelly put it (o.s. 2: 71), along with ancient poetry, contemporary folk poetry, the poetry of past avant-gardes, and the poetic equivalent of outsider art. We also published two of David Antin’s talk pieces, including the earliest one (o.s. 4: 42–44, 1972; n.s. 1, n. 2: 8–52, 1975).

Among the poets who contributed work to Alcheringa—in addition to Rothenberg, Antin, and Kelly—were Gary Snyder, Anselm Hollo, W.S. Merwin, Charles Simic, Diane DiPrima, Clayton Eshleman, Theodore Enslin, Barbara Einzig, George Quasha, Édouard Glissant, Edward (later Kamau) Brathwaite, Armand Schwerner, Simon Ortiz, Ian Tyson, Nathaniel Tarn, and bpNichol. Among the anthropologists, linguists, and folklorists (some of them poets as well) were Stanley Diamond, Dell Hymes, Michael Harner, Allan F. Burns, Richard Dauenhauer, Jeff Titon, William Ferris Jr., Peter Gold, Leanne Hinton, Jill Leslie Furst, Susan Stewart, Barbara Tedlock, and myself. Some contributors retranslated texts that had been previously published in ethnographic reports, discovering poetry in what had previously been treated as prose. Others departed from standard formats for presenting poetry, creating compositions resembling those of concrete poets, finding ways to deal with iconic writing systems, making use of calligraphy, and producing scripts or scores designed to be read aloud.

Most issues of Alcheringa included tear-out disc recordings. In the old series, Jerome Rothenberg sings two of his “total translations” of Navajo Horse Songs (o.s. 2), Jackson Mac Low and five other readers perform part of his “Stanzas for Iris Lezak” (o.s. 4), and Armand Schwerner reads two of his “Tablets” (o.s. 5). In the new series, Jaime de Angulo, in a 1949 broadcast recorded by KPFA, reads his translation of an Achomawi story from northern California (n.s. 1, n. 2); Anne Waldman, inspired by María Sabina, reads “Fast-Speaking Woman” (n.s. 1, n. 2); and Rachel Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s mother, tells the story of a life-changing epiphany (n.s. 4, n. 2). Voices speaking in languages other than English include those of Andrew Peynetsa, telling a newly-invented story in Zuni (o.s. 5); a family of three vocalists from Midwestern Nigeria, singing in Edo (n.s. 2, n. 1); Alonso Gonzales Mó, telling a story in Yucatec Maya (n.s. 3, n. 1); and Zahra Abdi Kareem, telling a story in Somali (n.s. 3, n. 2).

When Rothenberg and I were editing the seventh issue of the magazine, which appeared in 1975, we accepted a mini-anthology of works that would later be called “Language poetry” and (still later) “Langpo” (n.s. 1, n. 2: 104–120). It was compiled by Ron Silliman, who titled it “The Dwelling Place” and included the work of nine poets: Bruce Andrews, Barbara Baracks, Clark Coolidge, Lee DeJasu, Ray DiPalma, Robert Grenier, David Melnick, Barrett Watten, and himself. Silliman observed that their work was “called variously ‘language centered,’ ‘minimal,’ ‘non-referential formalism,’ ‘diminished referentiality,’ ‘structuralist’,” and that these terms referred not to “a group but a tendency in the work of many” (p. 104).

In the notes following his Alcheringa anthology (pp. 118–20), Silliman quoted Charles Bernstein as desiring “wordness” and Robert Grenier as seeking “the place where words are most themselves,” located “way in the back of the head.” By way of amplification, Silliman added that “neither the words nor the processes of the poem must point away from the poem itself.” He went on to quote Robert Creeley as saying, “Poems are not referential, or at least not importantly so,” thus installing Creeley in a seminal role. What was afoot was a move toward an intermediate zone where language would have fewer connections to the world, on the one hand, and fewer connections to standard grammar, on the other.

None of the poets who were anthologized or quoted by Silliman (except for himself) ever contributed to Alcheringa independently. Rothenberg and I had published poetry that was “language centered,” including language games; “minimal,” consisting of a few words that did not form a sentence; and “non-referential” in the extreme, consisting of syllables that did not constitute words in any language and whose organization was not grammatical. But this was not poetry originating in American English, the language to which Language poets were destined to confine nearly all their attention. As for structuralism, the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss was discussed in a 1976 issue of Alcheringa (n.s. 2, n. 2), but what interested Nathaniel Tarn (pp. 27–28) and David Antin (p. 115) was the role of concrete phenomena in the construction of systems of representation. In actual practice, the structuralism of that time was closer to being in line with a radically different dictum from Creeley: “Form is never more than an extension of content.”

Among all the poets who have ever been categorized or anthologized under the Langpo rubric, the only ones other than Silliman who ever sent work to Alcheringa were Jackson Mac Low and Steve McCaffery. Before anyone associated them with Langpo, they were well-known under other auspices. Mac Low was a performance artist and practitioner of chance composition, and he was often mentioned together with John Cage. In 1972, Alcheringa published his calligraphic renditions of Hindu chants (o.s. 4: 47–48) and the recording of a performance piece cited earlier. McCaffery was a sound poet, and in 1973, he joined sound poet bpNichol in founding the Toronto Research Group. Both of them were also visual poets, and they shared in the multicultural aspirations of Alcheringa. In 1975, Alcheringa published bpNichol’s concrete rendition of a Montagnais song (n.s. 1, n. 2, inside back cover), followed in 1977 by McCaffery’s “Drum Language and the Sky Text” (n.s. 3, n.1: 79–84), an essay in which he interprets shamanic drumming as a language.

Post-structuralism was on the rise when Alcheringa ceased publication. What came to be called “critical theory” was constructed in opposition to major historical trends in thought at the very center of what Benamou called the Empire. Unlike structuralists, and unlike avant-garde poets and artists of the early twentieth century, critical theorists turned their backs on the world outside the center. Otherness became an inward, self-generated affair, housed deep inside the academy. In effect, critiques of “orientalism” and the anthropology of the colonial era served as an excuse for ignoring the questions raised by outside forms of otherness, and the critique of “essentialism” served the same purpose.

When Jacques Derrida argued for a reversal of priority between writing and speech, he used “writing” as a metaphor for mental structures of a linguistic kind, but for those who took him literally, the argument served as an excuse for supposing that oral literature could pose no problems that were not already familiar to students of written literature. Noam Chomsky claimed to be discovering the “deep grammar” underlying all languages, but all of his sample sentences were drawn from English. When Stephen Greenblatt and other humanists took the Columbian quincentennial as an occasion for reexamining the history of what was now called the “encounter” with the peoples of the Americas, they tended to focus their attention on European accounts rather than facing the greater challenge posed by indigenous accounts that date from the early colonial period. An interest in cultural others has returned to humanities departments under the rubric of Cultural Studies, but the favored others are close at hand, already living inside the metropolis. Whatever their places of origin might be, they write in metropolitan languages, and their surest path to a place in the curriculum lies in conforming to genres that are already familiar to humanists.

Since the last issue of Alcheringa appeared, Rothenberg’s books have included a revised and expanded edition of Technicians of the Sacred (University of California Press, 1985); two volumes co-edited with Pierre Joris, Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern and Postmodern Poetry (University of California Press, 1995, 1998); and a collection of his own experimental translations, Writing Through: Translations and Variations (Wesleyan, 2004). My own books include a series of poems generated by Mayan divinatory techniques, Days from a Dream Almanac (University of Illinois Press, 1989), a revised edition of Popol Vuh: The Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life (Simon & Schuster, 1996), and a revised edition of my translations of Zuni performances that includes three new stories, Finding the Center: The Art of the Zuni Storyteller (University of Nebraska Press, 1999).

Other poets, scholars, and poet-scholars have continued to publish transcriptions, translations, and interpretations of verbal arts in languages, dialects, genres, and writing systems other than the ones that dominate Western literature departments. Books devoted the indigenous poetry of North America include Larry Evers and Felipe Molina’s Yaqui Deer Songs / Maso Bwi­kam: A Native American Poetry (University of Arizona Press, 1987), Nora Marks Dauenhauer and Richard Dauenhauer’s Haa Tuwunáagu Yís, for Healing Our Spirit: Tlingit Oratory (University of Washington Press, 1987), Robert Bringhurst’s Masterworks of the Classical Haida Mythtellers (Douglas MacIntyre, 2002), Dell Hymes’s Now I Know Only This Far: Essays in Ethnopoetics (University of Nebraska Press, 2006), and Ron Scollon’s This Is What They Say (Douglas MacIntyre, 2009), in which he translates stories written in Chipewyan by François Mandeville.

An Afro-Amerindian language spoken in Surinam is the source for Richard and Sally Price’s Two Evenings in Saramaka (University of Chicago Press, 1991). Indigenous traditions of the Amazon are the sources for Ellen B. Basso’s A Musical View of the Universe: Kalapalo Myth and Ritual Performances (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985); David M. Guss’s study of Yekuana poetry and art, To Weave and Sing: Art, Symbol, and Narrative in the South American Rain Forest (University of California Press, 1989); and Anthony Seeger’s Why Suya Sing: A Musical Anthropology of an Amazonian People (University of Illinois Press, 2004).

Among recent works devoted to literature in the indigenous languages of Mesoamerica are Sam Colop’s critical text and subsequent Spanish translation of the K’iche’ Maya Popol Wuj, in which he reveals the full complexity of the original poetic forms (Cholsamaj, 1999 and 2008). Dana Leibsohn offers a multidimensional reading of a seventeenth-century Mexican manuscript that combines indigenous and alphabetic scripts in Script and Glyph: Pre-Hispanic History, Colonial Bookmaking, and the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca (Dumbarton Oaks, 2009). Mayan alphabetic texts from colonial Yucatán are the subject of Timothy W. Knowlton’s Mayan Creation Myths: Words and Worlds of the Chilam Balam (University Press of Colorado, 2010). The most recent of my own books, 2000 Years of Mayan Literature (University of California Press, 2010), begins with works written in the ancient Mayan script and continues with alphabetic works (University of California Press, 2010). Texts and translations of works by contemporary indigenous authors from all over Mesoamerica have been gathered by Carlos Montemayor and Donald Frischmann in three volumes titled Words of the True Peoples / Palabras de los Seres Verdaderos (University of Texas Press, 2004, 2005, 2007).

An alternative English is the language of Jeff Titon’s Powerhouse for God: Speech, Chant, and Song in an Appalachian Baptist Church (University of Texas Press, 1988). David Antin has published several collections of his talk pieces, the most recent being i never knew what time it was (University of California Press, 2005). Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch present transcriptions of their conversations on walks around Manhattan in Ten Walks / Two Talks (Ugly Duckling, 2010).

Yunte Huang brings ethnopoetics and the “wordness” of Langpo together in Shi: A Radical Reading of Chinese Poetry (Roof Books, 1997). Jonathan Stalling creates texts that simultaneously make sense in Chinese and English in Yíngēlìshī 吟歌丽诗 (Chanted Songs, Beautiful Poetry): Experiments in Sinophonic English (Counterpath, 2011).

Steven Feld, an ethnomusicologist working in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, brings all the arts together in Sound and Sentiment: Birds, Weeping, Poetics, and Song in Kaluli Expression (University of Pennsylvania Press, second edition 1990). Among his audio CDs is Voices of the Rainforest: A Day in the Life of the Kaluli People (Rykodisc, 1991), combining environmental sounds with those of people who sing while they work.

Swahili is the source for Johannes Fabian’s Power and Performance: Ethnographic Explorations through Proverbial Wisdom and Theater in Shaba, Zaire (Uni­versity of Wisconsin Press, 1990). Isidore Okpewho translates and interprets Igbo epics in Once upon a Kingdom: Myth, Hegemony, and Identity (Indiana University Press, 1998). In 2000, writers and speakers of scores of African languages held a conference in Eritrea and issued the Asmara Declaration (posted on culturalsurvival.org and many other websites), affirming the importance of translation while at the same time recognizing a central role for indigenous languages in “the decolonization of African minds.”

In New York City, Poet’s House, City Lore, and the Bowery Poetry Club sponsor the People’s Poetry Gathering, a spring festival that has so far taken place in 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2006. The performances are in multiple languages (not limited to the metropolitan ones), in multiple genres and media (not limited to solo speakers), and in multiple venues (indoors and out). As in the pages and sound recordings of Alcheringa, traditional forms, innovative forms, and innovative reworkings of traditional forms all have places on the program.

Ancient texts, many of them in nonalphabetic scripts and some of them newly discovered, stand in need of translations that do more than recast them in familiar alphabetic forms. Ethnographic reports are filled with texts that have yet to be treated as poetry and retranslated as such, and many recordings made in the field have yet to receive the close listening required for transcriptions and translations that pay attention to sound. Nearby and far away, contemporary poets continue to speak, sing, and write in hundreds of languages that are neither colonial nor sanctioned by national governments.

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(for Jerry Rothenberg)

a prelude of questions (to be sung as a chant)

will the poem of the dream
of the book of the house

be such a very long poem?

other poems like these
have been

such very long poems

will the poem of the dream
of the wilderness of fire & clay

outside the book of the house

abide within the poem
of the dream

of the book of the house?

other poems like these
have found themselves

within such long poems as those

will the poem of the dream
of the book of the house

seek the magic & meaning
of the secret names

languages
& images

of god?

other poems of other dreams
of other books
of other houses

such as these

have sought the magic & meaning
of the secret names

languages & images of god

will the unremembered rooms
of the book of the house

remain passed over in silence

or receive rites of mourning
here in the poem of the dream

of the book of the house?

other rooms like these
have been passed over in silence

many other forgotten
& disremembered rooms

have yet to be mourned

will the priests & judges
of the poem of the dream

of the book of the house

burn or bury
the book of the poem

of the dream of the book of the house?

other priests & judges
of other poems such as this

have burned or buried other such books

will the translators

& interpreters of the poem
of the dream of the book of the house

betray the mysteries
of the book

of the poem
of the dream

of the book
of the house?

other translators & interpreters
of other poems

such as this

have betrayed the mysteries
of other such books

will the tourists of the dream
of the book of the house

disregard the poem
of the dream

of the book of the house?

other tourists like these
have disregarded

ignored or abandoned
many other poems

such as this

will the poem of the dream
of the book of the house

remain imprisoned
w/in the language of commodity

exploitation & exchange?

other poems
of other dreams

of other books
of other houses

such as these

have remained
imprisoned

within the language
of commodity

exploitation
& exchange

.......

thirty four final questions addressed to the Book of the House, its readers, & its poets

will the thunder of galloping horses resound in the sky over the poem of the dream of the book of the house...  will the sound of such horses lift us over & beyond the margins & limits of the above...  will it spill & swirl like the dervish dance of the ecstatic seekers of the immanence of god... hiss & bray while beating its wings against the dark... crash across the surface of the roaring waves... curl into the vortex... echo within the orange breaking of dawn... resound within the purple setting of sun... pour its sweat as replenishing rain over the nakedness for which we will no longer feel fear or shame... will this great dream-vision of horses tear an immense opening in the heavens...  will the red horses run this way & the black horses run that... will the white horses turn in circles & the horses with hair of yellow corn refurrow the earth against every being & thing which is no longer wild?

       ...we do not know this, but we believe, hope, & pray that it
       will be so...

& will the smoke which ascends to the heavens when we have put fire to the book of the house please the nostrils of god... this fire inside the poem of the dream of the book of the house... will the cry of the life-giver rise from the ashes of the burnt book... hey yah hey yah hey hey yeh heh yah... will sun & moon join hands in embrace & dance in circle around this bonfire of singing flame... will wolf howl amidst the laughter of coyote & coyote yelp amidst the baying of wolf when each perceives the brightening of sky above the burning of the book... will flames arise from such a fire such flames as never before imagined... will fires burn upon the clouds...  will flames arise upon the waves & break themselves singing across the shore... will the nostrils of galloping horses & wonderstags snort & chortle with branches of flame... will the poem of the dream of the book of the house fire chant in the glory of its own demise... will the grapes grow riper, deeper, & darker upon the vine... will the creator & the teacher reveal the threads of the vastness to all... will we see & hear with new eyes & ears cleansed by the fire of such a flame... will we sense & feel with new bones, muscle, & flesh bathed in the smoke & ash of such a flame?

       ...we do not know this, but we believe, hope, & pray that it
       will be so...

& will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the condemnation of the tens of thousands of voices which have sought its demise...  & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the endless repetitions of those memories of the violations against its will... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the distance between memory & tremble... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the uncertainty of doubt surrounding the scream of the impossible to imagine or bear... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the ecstasy of the persistence of god... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the trial of the ostracism by stone... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the abjection of destitution & poverty... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive its own memories, itself... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the fury of those horses sent to ensure the very possibility of its own survival... & will the poem of the dream of the book of the house survive the possibility of survival itself?

       ...we do not know this, but we believe, hope, & pray that it
       will be so...

[NOTE.  Previous postings from Bruce Stater appear here & here & here on Poems and Poetics.  Additional work on the internet includes his e-book collection Labyrinth of Vision from Ahadada Books and the complete PDF text of Outside the House & many other works on his web sites Old & New Musics for Prehistoric &/or Postindustrial Dreams and An Incantation of Dreams.]

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"Jerome Rothenberg @ 80: A Celebration"

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 1:23 AM 0 comments
[official announcement]

CUNY Center for the Humanities (New York)

Friday, December 9
Martin E. Segal Theater
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue
(diagonally across from the Empire State Building)
6pm (sharp) to about 10:00pm

Poet, translator, editor, anthologist, Jerome Rothenberg is joined by friends and collaborators for an exploration of his influential work. Papers on, and celebrations of, Rothenberg’s work will be presented by Susan Howe, Homero Aridjis, Carolee Schneemann, Anne Waldman, Bruce Andrews & Sally Silvers, Jeffrey Robinson, Pete Monaco, Charles Morrow, Anne Tardos, George Economou, Rochelle Owens, Robert Kelly, Al Filreis, Monica de la Torre, Ernesto Livon-Grosman, Nicole Peyrafitte, Lee Ann Brown & Tony Torn, Mark Weiss, Peter Cockelbergh, Ligorano-Reees, Danny Snelson, Heriberto Yépez, Charles Bernstein, Pierre Joris, Hiroaki Sato, and Diane Rothenberg.

The evening will end with a reading by Jerome Rothenberg.

Organized and hosted by Pierre Joris and Charles Bernstein.

In conjunction with the event, Steve Clay, of Granary Books, will curate a retrospective exhibit of works by Jerome Rothenberg. Included will be examples of books and magazines with which Rothenberg was directly involved as editor/publisher, such as Hawk's Well Press, "Poems from the Floating World", "Some/Thing," "New Wilderness Letter" and “Alcheringa”; the remarkable series of anthologies he edited from "Technicians of the Sacred" to "Poems for the Millennium"; selections from his more than sixty published pamphlets and books, to an array of his collaborations with artists including Ian Tyson, Susan Bee and Arman. 

Charlie Morrow will also have an exhibit of his many audio collaborations with Rothenberg.

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[1]                                                           via John Clare (1793-1864)

                                                                                Consider

                                                                                    sung
                                                                             scalding of the Heart burred under
                                                                                   Green dark lay
                                                                                 of breast  &  lungs
                                                                          from which there  is  No  Other
                                                                                        Green
                                                              water of  Endive,  eye gaping mint. 

                                                                            
                                            A chamber, churred pill seed/Wheat,
                                                                            it driveth inward bleeding
                                                                      Blue Marks by Blows,
                                                                              rib Jeeping Soil of it, laid open
                                                                                          a running
                                                                     of the head bringing thorough flesh
                                                                                            set
                                                                           upon quivering stalk.

                                                                             All of them.
                                                                    Spittle Singings of the Ear:

                                                                            Esteem it as
                                                                            jewel,

                                              Flag, Elding
                                                         slice of morning, closen
                                                Water that Cleanses & Cuts Common, Wild, upon the lip:

                                                                   deep colour very gently
                                                               Bellied, properly resembling
                                                         bold mattering/warm flight of the

                                                                            Heart.
[2]                                                    via John Clare (1793-1864)
Yellow Flag.  We Came By: black dog cupping arrow.
Much branched tie of the kidney:
Fool’s page, first upon
The Drake’s Flight, it riseth
gently
Then.  Slipped                                                                                                                                                                                  Silk was that &                                                                                                                                                                                Shaded
            (of a sort fishes delighteth in)        
                             quickly
             & very many the thready headings
             were no less an inward honey
                          chosen always:
                    & the heart’s good flare
                                  beat
                         w/full stem,
                         w/Great Water
                                      drawn
                                                  under          
                                                                      (Both,
                                    crayon Bareth gypsies) – Lieth
                                                                          bunching
                                                                     voilet’s Green
                                             divide &
                                                 SINGINGS
                                        on wheaten wing Rare &
                           Graceful coming that way:
                               arc in the shell, Sea
                                        Awash.
                   Clacked Wing dulsing w/pewter-steal,
                                     & healed w/it.

                              (note to accompany my two Clare poems)

These two poems (via John Clare (1793-1864) (1) and (2) were made around the late 1970s/early 1980s in homage to Clare. They are included in ALTO (2009). John Clare was one of the poets I began reading in the early 1970s.
Of vital sustenance and continuing inspiration to me, are his unfettered, courageous uncompromiSingings.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

in my own practice of weaving or assembling, making or doing or unmaking language’s VISIBLE PHYSICAL mattering on the sight/sight of the salvaging body of the page in the ear on the tongue in composition - in performance ---
how to draw from silence --- breakings up and breakings apart within utterances  and hearings, deconstructing/re-constituting-as-(being)-heard --- this bodily work by which i breathe by – in process – in always searching for poetic form - No Twas No From The Although No Twas Of To No Seemed So Made Untill A Each Made I Sing I Seemed - & Beside & To & To The Each & She’d - - - in stuttering - - in pushing into not knowing --- i don’t know -
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

how to achieve by not achieving? how to make by not making?
it's all in that.
it's not the new.  it is what is yet not known,
thought, seen, touched but really what is not.
and that is. (Eva Hesse)                                                                                                                  
[Lucy Lippard, Eva Hesse (New York: New York UP, 1976) 165.]
Maggie O'Sullivan / November 2011



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