amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Margento - Nomadosophy - (Max Blecher Press, 2012)

This book is a collection of poems by a multitude of poets/collaborators from all over the world. Margento is the performance troupe of poet and translator Chris Tanasescu, who is currently at the University of Ottawa as a researcher/visiting scholar. The book blurb by David Baker describes Margento as a "caravan, a circus, a symphony and a brawl. It is a global, multi-languaged, powerful performance troupe made up of more than fifty poets..."

The poems in Nomadosophy are guided by the ideas of mathematical graph theory and jam sessions. If this seems like an unusual juxtaposition to you, I agree. In a good way. Science and art are blended here.

"Graphs are ways to understand and (re)generate language, society, and biochemical structures or entities. They literally are ways, paths that connect vertices. Vortexes. Overt axes.
Every poem, that is, every person, is a graph – of instincts, beliefs, phrases, and so forth (news everybody knows but wants to receive proof of) – and yet they may be read and then involved as a (set of) point(s) to start networks from or to connect through." Chris Tanasescu, "The Graph Poem (Four Poems & a Note on the Poetics)" in Jerome Rothenberg's "Poems and Poetics" 

My own experience of the works in Nomadosophy is one of delight and surprise. There are poems originally written in Romanian, Vietnamese, Polish, Chinese & other languages & translated into English or poems written in English translated into Romanian. There are engagements with/translations of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Wislawa Szymborska, Randall Jarrell & Elizabeth Bishop, to name a few. There are notes on some of the difficult aspects of translating concepts that exist in one language, but not necessarily another. This work is visceral, passionate, eccentric & freeing. Above all, these poems are acts of love, a demonstration of care, compassion & community. The duende is in full force here: "news everybody knows but wants to receive proof of."

"I step into the sea guided solely by my heartbeat:/this is the way so many others have tried to escape/but they died of thirst afloat/after devouring each other alive…" MARGENTO solo (A Temple Passage through Cambodia, part 1) The Wave Home

Daniel Scott Tysdal, The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Writing Poems (Oxford University Press, 2013)

For many years I have been an avid collector of how to write poetry books. They help me in a number of ways. Originally to answer many of the questions I had and still have about poetry & subsequently to use as a reference when I've had to edit other people's poems. I am happy to welcome another how to book by a writer I admire. I'm not that far into the book yet, but what I appreciate is that its philosophy is that of the moment, the idea that poetry arises out of a convergence of occasions. the first exercise asks poets to write a forbidden poem. I enjoy this already. Tysdal has an easy-going, conversational style that makes this book approachable for all budding poets. There are example poems with each exercise.

Robert Kroestch, The Hornbooks of Rita K (University of Alberta Press, 2001)

I come back to this book often. I love Kroetsch's poetry & this book in particular because of its playfulness, its play with personas & its wit. Currently I'm working on a commonplace book, which is not that different from a horn book, "a leaf of paper containing the alphabet, the Lord's Prayer, etc., mounted on a wooden tablet with a  handle, and protected by a thin plate of horn." The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1998) as quoted in the front matter of this book. You'll think this is an odd & likely inappropriate comparison, but this book makes me think of Griffin & Sabine, the epistolary novel by Nick Bantock. The one-sided entreaties of a lover who misses the object of his affection. In this book, the speaker, Raymond, builds up a fragmented narrative for Rita Kleinhart, a poet who has gone missing, an eccentric woman & one, I would love to know: "as some of her neighbours put it, a  nut case." "She worshiped, in her own way, the peeling white paint, the smell of rotting wood, the worn pathways of ants…" At the same time, the book is a discussion of poetics; it is about not taking oneself too seriously.

Robin Blaser, The Holy Forest, Collected Poems, Revised and Expanded Edition (University of California Press, 2006)

Since September, I've been obsessed with "The MothPoem," one of the series in this book. It was written over the period of 1962 to 1964 and is dedicated to HD. I haven't been reading anything else from this voluminous collection, just this series. It is made up of 17 poems. The image of "A Literalist," the opening poem, of a moth inside a piano stays with me, even haunts me in some ways. Or perhaps tickles my synapses would be a better way of phrasing it. Again once more there is a theme of absence, of bereftment, I guess the right word is bereavement. I find myself also following along the path of this poem-series, reading HD, dwelling on Eurydice's story.

The next 5 x 5 entry on January 29 will be about colour in Ken Babstock's poetry...all being well...

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