RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: November 2013

SNOW

SNOW

SNOW 2 Fall 2013- Spring 2014 (Allardyce, Barnett Publishers

14 Mount Street, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 1HL) http://www.abar.net is an extraordinarily high quality literary review.

This issue has considerable variety encompassing poetry, translations, photography, film stills, music, drawings, visual poems, and essays. A veritable cornucopia of delights beautifully designed and presented.

SNOW 2 consists of poetry by Ralph Hawkins, Eleanor Perry, William Fuller, Peter Larkin, John Hall, Justin Katko, Simon Howard, Ray Ragosta, James Wilson and collaborative texts by Vincent Katz and Barry Schwabsky. There are superb translations by David Lloyd of Anne-Marie Albiach, Ian Brinton of Francis Ponge, Anthony Barnett of Giuseppe Ungaretti, and Andrea Zanzotto, Boyd Nielson of Raul Zurita, Keith Sands of Osip Mandelstam, and Jørn H. Svaeren by the author.  Music is provided by Joëlle Léandre, Michelle Rosewoman, and Dave Soldier, with words by Anthony Barnett, in the Requiem to the Memory of Amy Li.  The drawings are by Anthony Barnett, Dom Sylvester Houédard, photographs by Sung Hee Jin, Pauline Manière, visual poems by Sarah Kelly, and film stills by Nick Collins.

Amongst the essays Kumiko Kiuchi writes on ‘The Silence of Film And The Voice From The Spectral: Samuel Beckett, Buster Keaton And …’, J.H. Prynne writes on ‘The Night Vigil’ of Shon Zhou, David Hutchinson writes on ‘Caring for Historic Buildings in Japan and England, and Anthony Barnett on ‘Parts Of A Lost Letter From George Oppen’.

David Caddy

Advertisements

The Text Festivals: Language Art

The Text Festivals: Language Art

The Text Festivals: Language Art and Material Poetry, edited by Tony Lopez, (University of Plymouth Press 2013) is a fascinating collection of essays by artists, poets and curators about The Text Festivals, which challenges preconceptions of the possibilities of language art.  The Text Festivals has seen a convergence of Language Art and Material Poetry and continual development since its beginning on 19 March 2005 with Tony Trehy’s The Text Exhibition and a retrospective exhibition of Bob Cobbing’s experimental work in sound, poetry and art. Tony Lopez’s introductory essay notes that Tony Trehy’s approach, as Festival curator, has been that ‘art can be read as poetry and poetry can be viewed as art’. This allows different approaches to language use to work together on each other and work against specialist separation and categorization. The ICA’s June 2009 exhibition Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. added more impetus to the growth of interest in Text / Visual Art. Named after Ian Hamilton Finlay’s magazine of the Sixties and Seventies it showed ‘art that verges on poetry’ and featured Finlay, Dom Sylvester Houédard, Henri Chopin, Robert Smithson, Alisdair Gray, Philip Guston and David Hockney. Lopez’s historical overview, light on definition, notes that visual poetry, as opposed to Concrete Poetry, has continued since the Seventies and that Concrete Poetry, as a more discrete development within art, as opposed to poetry, ended in the Seventies.  The ‘shape poem’ has become a standard teaching aid to help children play with language since the Seventies. There are certainly a great many practitioners from different backgrounds, with variant approaches, that make current developments more than interesting.

 

Tony Trehy offers an insight into his strategies in curating the Text Festivals. Canadian poet, Christian Bök writes about The Xenotext, a literary experiment with biologists that explores the aesthetic potential of genetics, following on from William Burroughs’ famous remark that ‘the word is now a virus’. Liz Collini provides insights into her Language Drawings in her Versions essay. Philip Davenport recalls an inspiring meeting with Bob Cobbing and how it led his curating the Cobbing retrospective. [Bob Cobbing incidentally was the first poet that I ever booked for a reading in 1973.] James Davies, publisher of if p then q magazine and press, encourages thinking about ‘text art’ and explores the value of poem poster art. Poet, Robert Grenier describes his serial drawn poems being exhibited, and Alan Halsey explains how his text-graphic work, Memory Screen (2005) was exhibited and performed, at Bury. Carol Watts’ artist’s book, alphabetise (2005), which consists of 26 chronicles, derived from overheard stories and anecdotes, organised into alphabetical structures in handwritten and digital form on one page, was shown at Bury as an object in a glass case. Watts takes a dictionary word as its arbitrary focus for each entry and cuts it together with an event story as part of an exploration into the arbitrariness of words and alphabetic systems. The alpha part stemming from the first part of the Greek alphabet and as a sequence of status, as in alpha male, and betise meaning something that is foolish, a joke, or nonsense. American visual poet, derek beaulieu accounts for sending The Bury Museum and Archives an empty box in an exploration of the value of nothing and bureaucracy across borders. His piece ends with a John Cage quotation, ‘Nothing more than nothing may be said’. Holly Pester writes about her engagement with the Bury Gallery, Museum and Archives producing an installation that gathered objects, recording and ideas on transmission and the nature of speech apparatuses in order to investigate how archives operate around poetry. In her notes on incorporating text within artwork, Hester Reeve (HRH. the) follows mid-period Marina Abramovic in seeing performance art as a radical philosophical questioning linked to the body and claims her body is protesting against the predictive mind to produce an art text that is not a vehicle for explanation but ‘is the explanation’. Visual artist, Carolyn Thompson details her Festival installations, predominantly cut up’s that are exhibited on walls, and writing an audio guide for Bury buildings that were designed but never built.

 

These absorbing essays are well written, candid and accompanied by photos, colour plates and catalogue of exhibitions, commissions and events. There are few books on this area of poetic enquiry and experience.  This well produced book is trail blazing and essential reading.

 

David Caddy

The Happy Hypocrite

The Happy Hypocrite

The Happy Hypocrite 6, an experimental art writing journal, guest edited by Lynne Tillman (Book Works 2013), dedicated to Nelson Mandela, on the theme of Freedom, has contributions by artists, poets and writers of fiction, theory and essays, mostly, but not exclusively, American. The journal is beautifully designed and has a good amount of stimulating material.

 

One highlight is Lynne Tilman’s interview with Thomas Keenan on the construction of human rights language. They discuss the assertion by protestors during Libya’s Arab Spring that they were human beings and not sheep suggesting that that the rights and liberties of citizenship were not self-evident and needed to be claimed. I liked this recognition of human rights as something that is fragile and needs to be approached as a movement towards becoming that involves struggle. Paul Chan’s sequence of visual poems ‘Really New Testament’ stimulated with their philosophical asides on artistic expression framed within beguiling language art.  I also enjoyed Lynne Tilman’s Parnoids Anonymous Newsletter from 1976, Chloé Cooper Jones article on the connection between morality and art through Socrates’ ‘The Apology’, Robin Coste Lewis’ long poem, ‘Felicité’ and Sarah Resnick’s story, ‘Time Spent’. The latter piece dealing with issues of domestic work and independence.

 

The lack of a working definition of Freedom and the editor’s insistence that stories are ways of thinking is a hindrance to a more considered exploration of the theme in global or historical terms. Some contributions are rather woolly and divorced from the real world of differing definitions of the word. Competing concepts and notions of freedom are clearly economic as well as moral and religious. It is here that loss of rights and division has rent more global unrest and difficulty.

 

Following Milton, Blake and Hazlitt we might argue that freedom stems from the ability to dissent and hold contrary, heretical views and not be detained or imprisoned for doing so. Freedom is thus not about market choice but rather the right to think and act differently to the State and religious orthodoxies. Blake’s assertion that he belonged to the Devil’s Party deepened Milton’s assertion, in Areopagitica (1644), that freedom stemmed from the rights to know, utter, think, argue and choose, into full recognition of heresy as the main bulwark against State and religious orthodoxy. The United States Supreme Court in its defence of the First Amendment refers to Milton’s justification of the rights to freedom of expression and speech. Human trafficking and slavery, the enormous gap between urban affluence and rural deprivation remain chilling facts of life.  It is also possible to argue that we are still in the pre-feminist world where only a few of the Women’s Movement Manifesto demands from 1970 have been realised and several parts of the world deny basic rights of independence, education and morality to women.

 

Yasmin El Rashidi’s ‘An Imaginary Letter to a Bureaucrat: on permission to publish’ about the right to State funding for a not-for-profit literary quarterly to offer ‘a space for free expression’ in Egypt rather than the permission to publish was disappointing. I do not think that this is either a right or something that is useful. This bourgeois mentality could be offset by independent samizdat publication and the radical tradition of pamphleteering, which historically have won rights. Similarly Craig Owen’s Imaginary Interview ‘The Indignity of Speaking For Others’ from 1982 could more usefully have been used as the start of an essay on the politics of representation now.  Notwithstanding my comments there is much to savour and argue with. Congratulations to the editor and Book Works for producing such a provocative journal.

 

David Caddy

 

 

 

B. Catling’s The Vorrh

B. Catling’s The Vorrh

B. Catling’s The Vorrh (Honest Publishing 2012) is an extraordinary dark fantasy novel by the Professor of Fine Art at Ruskin College, Oxford.  Poet, writer, sculptor and performance artist, Catling continues to impress and beguile with the range of his explorations.

 

I found myself reading not only the narrative but also about the range of materials, which inform Catling’s diverting imagination. He always sends me on a journey of discovery and I return nourished and invigorated.

 

The first thing to say about The Vorrh, the title of which is derived from an imaginary African forest in Raymond Roussel’s 1910 novel, Impressions of Africa, is that it is exquisitely written and effortlessly draws the reader into its constructions. It maintains an intense and unpredictable narrative throughout veering from a charged elegance to the hallucinatory with graceful if shocking ease.

 

The man looked like God. A mane of unkempt white hair, a long,

fearsome white beard, and wild smoke eyebrows cocked ragged

over piercing, unforgiving eyes. A stern, knowing face which saw

the world in a hard light with gauged contrasts. A Lear

countenance that let nothing in or out without radical severity. He

wanted to look like this – biblical, austere and imposing.

 

The novel, an inventive addition to the literature of the imagined forest, crosses over from fantasy to magical realism as a means of propelling the narrative onward through the unexpected. It works wonderfully well. Sometimes the reader is forced to re-read and think to make sense of where the narrative has gone. I found this more of a pleasure than a pain as such beautiful writing carried the narrative.

 

Dawn, like the first time. The lead-grey clouds are armoured hands

with the weak sun moist and limp inside them. The night still sits

in the high branches, huge and muscular, rain and dew dripping to

the pungent floor. It is the hour when night’s memory goes, and

with it the gravity that keeps its shawl spun over everything in the

forest. The crescent-eyed hunters sense the shift, feeling the glory

of darkness being leeched and ultimately, robbed of its purity. The

vulgar gate of day gives no quarter, and its insistent brightness will

tell lies about all forcing the subtlety back into the interiors of the

trees and the other side of the sky.

 

Among the characters is the hunter, Tsungali, the Cyclops, Ishmael, Roussel, rifle heiress, Sarah Winchester, pioneering Victorian photographer of the body in motion and in motion-picture projection, Eadweard Muybridge, and the physician Sir William Gull, often associated with the Whitechapel Murders. I knew of Muybridge through Francis Bacon and his importance for the study of the body. Catling took me further into murder and forensic neurology. My reading of The Vorrh has been a history of interruptions and diversions. I hope that yours is as pleasurable.

 

 

David Caddy

Zone: A New Magazine

Zone: A New Magazine

The first issue of a new magazine from Kent University has just appeared and it is absolutely terrific.

 

Edited by Kat Peddie and Eleanor Perry this first number contains work by Allen Fisher & Jeff Hilson, Denise Riley & John James, Kelvin Corcoran & Tony Lopez.

 

It also contains exciting new work by the Canterbury Chapter and it is very good indeed to see new poems by David Herd, Simon Smith, Juha Virtanen, Ben Hickman, Dorothy Lehane, Nancy Gaffield.

 

The blurb on the inside of the back cover of this polished, illustrated and handsomely printed magazine makes the collaborative nature of the enterprise very clear: ‘We have commitments and enthusiasms to and for certain writers, writings, ideas, and actions.  We wish to share these with each other and with others. Some of these commitments are political. We have chosen essayists whose poetical and political commitments we think are important. One of these commitments is to the idea of the Commons…in a common, and commonly owned, ground in which individuals come to work together.’

 

Benjamin Hollander’s Memoir American

Benjamin Hollander’s Memoir American

(dead letter office, BABEL Working Group, an imprint of punctum books, Brooklyn, New York)

 

As the blurb puts it ‘You will find in this Memoir what it means for an alien to search for his family in a book outside the time of its writing. You will find him discovering that translation is a personal story and that poetry might not have a home without it.’

 

I have increasingly become one of those people whose reading, unless I am focussed upon a particular piece of writing that I am committed to, seems to take on a life of journeying of its own. I read something and then find I need to travel down a path which arises from some memory of having read something else which in itself triggers another pathway and…I am going to have to read everything I have ever read as well as read all those things I have only heard of which have been recommended. I need to speak all languages. I am tumbling off the walls of Babel:

 

Therfor was called the name of it Babel, for there was confounded the lippe of all the erthe. [Genesis 11:9, translated by John Wyclif, 1382]

 

Having read Ben Hollander’s Memoir American which arrived in the post yesterday I feel energised and bewildered: I want to set off on those pathways. This is one of the most exciting short books I have come across for a long time and I can only suggest to you all: READ IT!

 

The central study of a section from Charles Reznikoff’s By The Well of Living and Seeing is a delight as Hollander contemplates what it means to hear/see ‘an American poet’s voice transformed when it is written under the influence of other languages which do not need to manifestly show themselves to be felt present in the poem, and which we know are evidenced in the poet’s life.’

 

And now I am being drawn in a way to re-read Paul Auster’s City of Glass (Faber 1987) with its disturbing opening sentence ‘It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.’ And then I am dragged off to look again at Rod Mengham’s, Language (Bloomsbury 1993) with its study of the ‘crazy attempt to erect a structure that might bridge the gap between earth and heaven’ showing the depth and intensity of a human need to be furnished with a language that not only matches the world of physical phenomena ‘but which in some sense brings that world into existence.’ And, yet again, I am now impelled to search the shelves for George Gissing’s autobiographical sketch, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft in which he says

 

How the mood for a book sometimes rushes upon one, either one knows not why, or in consequence, perhaps, of some most trifling suggestion. Yesterday I was walking at dusk. I came to an old farmhouse; at the garden gate a vehicle stood waiting, and I saw it was our doctor’s gig. Having passed, I turned to look back. There was a faint afterglow in the sky beyond the chimneys; a light twinkled at one of the upper windows. I said to myself, “Tristram Shandy”, and hurried home to plunge into a book which I have not opened for I dare say twenty years.

 

Read Ben Hollander’s Memoir American at your peril; you don’t know where you might end up!

%d bloggers like this: