Friday, November 28, 2008

And then there's this sort of thing, also from Tender Buttons:

A no, a no since, a no since when, a no since when since, a no since when since a no since when since, a no since, a no since when since, a no since, a no, a no since a no since, a no since, a no since.

The only way I can read this is to speak it aloud, as a type of sound-poetry, somewhat along the lines of Hugo Ball and the DaDa movement, though Tender Buttons was published two years before the DaDa manifesto. Amazing. A true original.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Here are some short poems:


A blue coat is guided guided away, guided and guided away, that is the particular color that is used for that length and not any width not even more than a shadow.


I had angst


Above his head clanged
And there were no dreams in this sleep
Over this table


rather than melt the ice passes through my hand
i pass through another way
dead surrounded by white
light flowers out


A color in shaving, a saloon is well placed in the centre of an alley.


Enthusiastically hurting a clouded yellow bud and saucer, enthusiastically so is the bite in the ribbon.

Recognise them? The second and third poems were written by Ted Berrigan in the 1970s, the fourth was written by Tom Raworth in the 1960s, and the others were written by Getrude Stein, a woman born 134 years ago, and who published these poems in 1914. The poems in 'Tender Buttons' wouldn't be out of place in a poetry collection written now, and they seem to prefigure a lot of contemporary work, including LANGUAGE poetry and much of what we'd currently call post-modernism. All of the poems above, by their very abstraction, are questioning the relationship between language and the world - a contemporary preoccupaton, but not in 1914 (I'm ready to be contradicted here). It strikes me that Ezra Pound now reads like a great poet from another era, while Gertrude Stein reads like a great contemporary.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hotel February


Alan Baker

£4/$8 (postage free - contact Leafe Press in the UK). pub. Bamboo Books. Cover image, Bob Rissman. Stapled pamphlet.

Read a poem from this pamphlet on Todd Swift's blog.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I've been reading Gertrude Stein's 'Picasso' to while away the evenings in my hotel this week. It's quite something: a highly personal and insightful description of Picasso's life and work (at least up to the 1930s). It's also a triumph of style: plain, direct and yet with a clever use of punctuation, mainly using commas where you'd expect a full-stop, that throws you slightly, and makes you read more carefully. Her comments and asides on art, history and psychology are masterful:

"The spirit of everybody is changed, of a whole people is changed, but mostly nobody knows it, and a war forces them to recognise it because during a war the appearance of everything changes very much quicker, but really the whole change has been accomplished, and a war is only something which forces eveyone to recognise it. The French revolution was over when war forced everybody to recognise it, the American revolution was accomplished before the war, the war is only a publicity agent which makes everyone know what has happened, yes, it is that."

That final "yes, it is that" clinches it: giving the impression that she is talking to herself, that she has just realised something as she speaks/writes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Having described the poet Abdellatif Laâbi as a "Morrocan francophone poet" I found this statement by him in an interview in Double Change magazine

"I don't really like the term 'Francophone.' Aside from the fact that it's politically charged, the term is reductive. It's a means of confining very diverse literary experiences, each of which are distinct, into a singular issue with language."

Laâbi argues that Maghrebian, African, and Caribbean literature in French has parallels with writers like Milan Kundera (Czech, writing in French) and Salman Rushdie (Indian-origin, writing in English), and that they constitute a new kind of literature emerging from the peripheries.

The whole enlightening interview can be found here.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I meant to mention the poetry/artwork by Ed Baker which is now available on Litter, soon to be followed by poetry from Morrocan poet Abdellatif Laâbi, in a new translation by American Gordon Hadfield. Work is hectic at the moment. After the delights of John and Kathy's visit and our French holiday, it's back to the grind. I'm working in Bracknell, Berkshire this week, next week in Prague (an improvement on Bracknell, admitedly), then, I hope at home to catch up.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I might add to my previous post, that the charming provincial towns of France idealised in my last post saw large-scale and prolonged riots in 2005 by sections of the population that official France likes to pretend don't exist. Toulouse was a scene of burning cars, smashed windows and police baton charges. The situation was worsened by the inflamatory statements of the Interior Minister, who became a divisive hate-figure before he was elected President by a different section of the population.