The Spoils: December 2012

  1. A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (excerpts here and here, introductions here)
  2. Novel Pictorial Noise by Noah Eli Gordon (reviews here and here and here and here)
  3. Elegy by Mary Jo Bang (reviews here and here and here and  here and here)
  4. Skirmish by Dobby Gibson (review and Book Notes track list)
  5. Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, trans. John Felstiner (excerpt here and here, review here and here and here and here and here, essay here and here and here)

Tweet Lookup

When I hit Google with a search string from the tweets that appear on my timeline, it leads me to wonderful wonderful things. To wit:

Read Paul Celan’s entire poem here.!/MichelleMcGrane/status/111131540926365696

From the W.S. Merwin interview conducted here.

Palmer’s poem is at the bottom of this blog entry and Jorie Graham talks about Palmer and poetry in general here.

Hank Lazer

On line breaks (SOURCE):

Initially, the form of Portions, due to the very short lines, made me think more fully about the multiple possibilities of line breaks – the way the line break offers both a discontinuity and a space through which one reads to connect. In some ways, the condensed form allowed me to try some of the quick compression, turns, and fusion that I found in my readings of Celan. While some of the lyrical pleasures of Days can also be found in Portions, the latter has less of an insistence upon melopoeia or traditional modes of lyricism.

On “Musicality In Poetry“:

My first suggestion is that “meaning” and “musicality” are inseparable, coincidental, and simultaneous. It’s not that a poet “has something in mind” and “tries to express it.” The poem is the thinking, is an embodiment, a highly specific incarnation and manifestation of an interval of consciousness. While I don’t mean to suggest that poems do not have meaning, I do think that viewing a poem as an object to be re-stated in terms of a theme or an underlying idea amounts to a kind of linguistic strip-mining – a process that extracts an element at the expense of the overall verbal terrain.

Poems don’t have to be about something; the poem itself is a primary thing in the world. I think of poems – as in the best of Creeley – as intervals of consciousness. And the musicality of the poem – including shifts in direction, shifts in tempo, playing off of similar sounds – is intrinsic to the embodiment of a particular interval of consciousness.

Three Reasons To Study Simonides Of Keos

For being “the first poet in the Western tradition to take money for poetic composition,” or so claims Anne Carson in Economy of the Unlost: Reading Simonides of Keos with Paul Celan.

For being the seminal figure in the development of spatial thinking as a mnemonic aide, or so claims Joshua Foer in “Secrets of a Mind Gamer.”

For being a particularly contentious thorn in discussions of the dichotomy Plato establishes between poetry and philosophy, or so claims Adam Beresford in “Erasing Simonides.”

Adorno on Celan

Celan’s poems want to speak of the most extreme horror through silence. Their truth content itself becomes negative. They imitate a language beneath the helpless language of human beings, indeed beneath all organic language: It is that of the dead speaking of stones and stars. (405)

from Aesthetic Theory

W.S. Graham

I wasn’t so familiar with W.S. Graham’s work when I first came across “The Uses of Difficulty, Written in the Margins of W.S. Graham,” though I was already, given certain interests, looking forward to reading the essay. Three lines into the excerpt from “Approaches to How They Behave” however, I found myself entranced by the themes of presence (speaking) and absence (death) as well as Graham’s lineation and his use of “exact” as both adjective and verb (the latter being a device I’ve been using more and more in my own work lately).

So I went on Google, and one of the first items to turn up was this old blog entry discussing the translation issues raised in the Paul Celan article from which I just quoted. It’s a discussion that takes its its blog entry title and much of its content from Graham. Oh, apophenia, I love you.* (And from there I came across this wonderful bit from George Steiner: “Uncertainty of meaning is incipient poetry.”)

“Approaches to How They Behave” is apparently a long poem, so only excerpts are available online. This one has six sections, and the same blogger has put up Graham’s “Penzance/London” and “The Gobbled Child.” Poetry Nation has “What Is The Language Using Us For?” in what seems to be its entirety, as well as “Imagine a forest” and “The Secret Name.” I need more time with these works–the essay on difficulty suggests an hour–but from what I’ve read so far, I feel a certain affinity for the shapes in Graham’s work, the shapes of his thought and the shapes of his verse.

More to follow.

On Paul Celan’s Use Of German

Emphasis mine:

The language of Schneepart is not merely purged of inherited content or meaning. It has shed all logic. The very title is an error of logical category. Schneepart, Fairley reminds us in his introduction, does not mean “the part that is snow” but rather “the part or role that is given to snow” as if a phenomenon of nature had gained the power of speech or music. Fairley is not at all troubled by these Kategorienfehler, which are now commonplace. Lichtdung is, brilliantly, “light soil”.

I do not think that Celan was a sort of verse Heinrich Böll, who set himself to rid written German of National Socialist patterns of speech and writing. Rather, Celan’s German is like a modern fighter aircraft that must be made absolutely unairworthy before it can perform its allotted task. (An F-15 without power will not glide but plummet.)

Only when language is utterly disabled, it seems, can it articulate, in some abandoned region at the end of space and history, a fugitive echo of reality.

via Review: Snow Part/Schneepart and Other Poems by Paul Celan | Books | The Guardian