Category: Poetry

2015: Books

Books, Cinema, Language, Philosophy, Poetics, Poetry, Prose, Sociology, Theory and Criticism, Translation February 2, 2016

Truly, the most important reading I did last year was Beowulf. I got to read it in the original Old English with a group of amazingly brilliant people and to live in that super soundrich world for about two months. We also looked at a couple other translations; the Thom Meyer is really special. The next most important reading was for my comprehensive exams, which I wrote about here.

Hmm. I don’t really mean to hierarchize the value of these books. This is wrong. Maybe, since so far things have been listed chronologically (did Beowulf early last year, comps reading during the summer): a third highlight was Michael Donhauser’s Of Things (trans. Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron), which I read toward the end of the year, on my multiple flights home to Bangalore. It is a gorgeous and fierce book that reads fieldlife:

from “The Tomato”

To say once more “the tomato.”
On this autumn-saturated Sunday evening.
At the quiet of day’s end, the ringing of bells, cries of farewell.
When the fun stops and with it, the feeling of its insufficiency.
The waiting, the passing in silence, the rustling of leaves, being nowhere.
When Sunday, diminishing gradually, retires.
In sitting there, in spoiling away, in willingness.
With which we endure it: in praise of enduring.
To say it: that this has been a beautiful Sunday.
Yet the tomato takes the evening as an opportunity.
Favored by the given conditions: in all their sparseness.
By way of the light: allowing it to gently settle there.
By way of the surging traffic: in order to absorb it.
The humming, the droning, the vibrating: in order to transpose it.
Into the quieter variety of its seeds, into the juice of its fruit-flesh.
(No fruit has ever robbed me of every rebellion like this.)

The tomato appears in the shadow of language.
As moon (once again): as monad.
Darkened: a silken coal ember.

Of Things_Donhauser

Michael Donhauser. Of Things. Tr. Nick Hoff & Andrew Joron. 1993/2015.

Here are the rest of my favorite books from last year: Read More

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My Comprehensive Exam Results

Art, Books, Cinema, Philosophy, Poetry, Prose, Theory and Criticism, Translation September 14, 2015

Pass Pass Pass
Pass Pass Fail
Pass Fail Pass
Fail Pass Pass
Pass Fail Fail
Fail Fail Pass
Fail Pass Fail
Fail Fail Fail

are one of the above combinations.

Or they are what’s in this blog post.

*

What’s in this blog post is a list of books that I “discovered” this past summer, that shifted things for me in small or big ways, or that I simply enjoyed.

Comprehensive exams, where I go to school, involve picking three topics for which you create a list of at least thirty-five books each. Like most PhD amateurs I went overboard and had around two hundred books overall, then read about half of them.

You get the summer to read and make notes, then you get questions which you answer in five thousand words each and await results.

I don’t care much for waiting, so I’ve declared myself three wins.

Congratulations, me! You’ve done what millions before you have done.

*

The books I picked were of four main kinds:

books I’d read before that I knew would be core books for my essays
books I hadn’t read before that I knew would be important for me
books I hadn’t read before that were there because they were “supposed to be” there
books I picked by chance/that fell into my lap/that weren’t even on my precious lists but I read them

I don’t want to be a broken record about books I may have gushed about before, so I’m picking just a handful of books from the last three kinds.

Etel Adnan (major figure)

Etel Adnan. Journey to Mount Tamalpais. 1986.

All of Etel Adnan’s books, which I either read or re-read this summer, are wonderful—I pick Journey because it works beautifully as both memoir and manifesto for how Adnan looks at the world. As you may know, Adnan has painted Mount Tamalpais for decades of her life. I expected Journey to tell me how she came to that work and how it has sustained her. I didn’t expect it to let me re-enter her written work—The Arab Apocalypse, Seasons, and Sea and Fog particularly—with a more nuanced sense of what she does. Here is one of my favorite paragraphs from the book (context: Cézanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire repeatedly in a similar manner, so obviously is an influence):

Let us return to Cezanne. He is a petrol lamp. His glance lightens the things it touches. A sense of the tragic in the quality of a painter’s glance, in the moment of choice, in the phenomenon called vision. Cezanne was in love with the mountain (or the gardener, or the apples) but with the moment when his glance settled on them differently than when he was promenading or was involved in a conversation. A painter’s glance is bitter, in the sense Rimbaud gave this word. That’s why this glance seems to erase the very object that creates its intensity, the cause of its intensity. (“To abolish . . .,” Mallarme used to say.) Cezanne turns light into an impersonal and cruel prism. And if we so much like his watercolors, it is because they escape our direct glance, they slide like mercury under our eyes, because there is between them and us an invisible obstacle which is both transparent and irreducible. It can lead you to insanity.

Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari. What Is Philosophy? Tr. Hugh Tomlinson & Graham Burchell. 1991/1994.

I’m struggling to remember exactly why I put this book on my EA list . . . Read More

N. B.

Books, Philosophy, Poetics, Poetry, Theory and Criticism, Translation, Writing May 26, 2015

I have about ten notebooks currently in my possession. This may not sound like a lot, but they have notes in them from every class and every guest lecture I’ve attended as a graduate student. I write on every page and am very sparing with the use of paper. So it is a lot, actually.

I’m about to enter a summer of what is known as “comprehensive exam study.” It is about as bureaucratic as it sounds.

In order to prepare for it, I’ve been going through these notebooks, deciding what I need around me as I attempt to think this summer.

And the notebooks don’t want me to.

Here are some excerpts from my notebooks, at random.

*

why does apostrophe allow a move to the present?

thing: “a gathering of people to make law” (Saxon)
etymology
(Joy[c]e: thing mode)

voice
|
the occasion for
constantly turning
in and what
comes out is
a new modality
something pure

but for Cecil [Taylor]
|
a breakdown
of the self
|
what
emerges is
a radical
sociality

“consent not to
be a single
thing” Read More

Best Things 2014, Part I: Books

Books, Language, Philosophy, Poetry, Prose, Theory and Criticism, Translation January 5, 2015

Upon deep reflection I nearly came to the conclusion that 2014 was a total shit show, unworthy of comment/time travel/etc.

Then upon deeper reflection I realized that I read all of Proust’s Search in roughly eight weeks.

So yeah, 2014 is exonerated!

In addition to these extraordinary books—

In Search of Lost Time Volume I: Swann’s Way. 1913.
In Search of Lost Time Volume II: Within a Budding Grove. 1918.
In Search of Lost Time Volume III: The Guermantes Way. 1920-1.
In Search of Lost Time Volume IV: Sodom and Gomorrah. 1921-2.
In Search of Lost Time Volume V: The Captive & The Fugitive. 1923-5.
In Search of Lost Time Volume VI: Time Regained. 1927.

in the 1992  Modern Library translation by C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Terence Kilmartin, and D. J. Enright*

[*I like their work, though of course the argument can and has been made that they’ve over-smoothed the French, which Lydia Davis has not. I was reading Proust in a small group and this was the translation chosen out of consensus. I’m happy I went along because the Viking series, from my occasional referencing it, seems to be inconsistent probably on account of having different translators for each novel.

One day I’ll read in French. And do my own translation! Ambitions.]

Robertson_Adnan_Jabes

Lisa Robertson. Etel Adnan. Edmond Jabès.

 

—I began my discovery of three writers whose work, like Proust, will have a lasting impact on how I read, write, think, live:

(1) Edmond Jabès; 

[I read the first two volumes of The Book of Questions (The Book of Questions. 1963. & The Book of Yukel. 1964.), translated by a my biggest translation hero, Rosmarie Waldrop, and published by Wesleyan University Press. This was part of an amazing one-on-one tutorial and I’ll be reading the rest when I can breathe again.]

(2) Etel Adnan (who is going to be a major figure on my upcoming comprehensive exams—she is completely stunning and writes in multiple genres and languages);

[Sitt Marie-Rose. 1978. Translated from the French by Georgina Kleege. Post-Apollo Press, 1982.
Seasons. Post-Apollo Press, 2008.
The Cost for Love We Are Not Willing to Pay. Hatje Canz Verlag, 2011.
Sea and Fog. Nightboat Books, 2012.]

(3) and Lisa Robertson (whom I got to hear read and lecture at Naropa and make sign a billion books for myself and a friend).

[Occasional Work and Seven Works from the Office of Soft Architecture. 2003. Coach House Books, 2011.
Magenta Soul Whip. Coach House Books, 2009.
Nilling: Prose Essays on Noise, Pornography, the Codex, Melancholy, Lucretius, Folds, Cities and Related Aporias. BookThug, 2011.
The Weather. New Star Books, 2011.]

I should add George Oppen to this list, though technically I’ve read his books before; Read More

End of a Notebook

Poetry, Writing August 9, 2014

Sometimes I watch how other people use paper.

It upsets me when I see  someone write only one side of a sheet or write on alternate lines of ruled paper.

I grew up writing on every inch of paper I could find, not out of worry for the forests but for paper itself. I used, for the most part, very ordinary notebooks. Once I found an empty notebook from my mother’s college days and I used that. It was very yellow. Today I buy Moleskines (which, from the looks of the graduate classes I’ve been attending, some writers use all the time) only when I know they will be carefully used and preserved. Typically I only buy their daily planners or their most ordinary softcover notebooks to copy out my favorite poems.

You could say I have a kind of disgust for ill-used notebooks.

And then I have a stack of paper of all kinds: junk mail, receipts, old assignments no one will want anymore. I write on their empty backs: notes for poems, grocery lists, lists of things to do. I use post-it notes very sparingly. I think they’re dangerous.

It turns out there are older relatives in my family who use paper in this same way. I can’t say whether I learned this habit from them or if it simply runs in the family like a, I like to think, good gene.

Here’s an example from my college days. Notes from a college guest lecture on the Israeli-Palestine conflict written on foolscap:

College Notes

  Read More

April Poems

Journals, Poetics, Poetry, Translation April 30, 2014

Bit of a shame I’m doing this on the last day of the month, but I’ve had some poems in the wonderful new issue of MiPOesias, edited by Sarah Blake. I’m sharing journal space with some really exciting poets, which I’m thrilled about.

MiPOesias April 2014

I also did a little blog post for Sarah Blake’s National Poetry Month Daily tumblr on something I love to think about: how people talk. There’s thirty poetry-related write-ups by poets on this blog, so lots to read and think about.  Read More

“Sonnet of the Asshole” by Paul Verlaine & Arthur Rimbaud

Poetry, Translation April 1, 2014

Dark & puckered like a purple floret,
it breathes; it hides humbly amid the moss
still moist with love that trails the gentle floss
of snowy cheeks into the heart of its skirt.

Filaments like strings of milk are wept—
above, the cruel wind drives them across
the russet marl, along the little clots,
& they vanish, lured in by the gradient.

My Dream often kissed its suction cup;
my Soul, jealous of this corporal fuck,
made it its musky trough, its tear-filled nest.

This the ecstatic olive, this the tender flute,
this the tube down which falls the celestial fruit:
o womanly Canaan in moistures fenced!

translated from the French by Aditi Machado Read More

Recent Acquisitions

Books, Philosophy, Poetics, Poetry, Prose, Sociology, Theory and Criticism, Translation March 20, 2014

As would any serious readerly person, I treat my books like real estate.

Or is it a bad thing to treat one’s books like real estate? Either way, I like to look at my shelves the way an Austen character might look on the prospect of a mansion–you know how that is.

OK, I have to say this before I forget it: I’ve been bingeing on BBC televised versions classics for the past couple of days in order to get over the trauma of yet another academic term as a doctoral student. The best thing about these shows is how all the characters say RRUHM for “room.” Apparently it’s some sort of old-fashioned British thing, like the way they used to say GUHLANT for “gallant.” Such beauties.

Onto far more important things, I only bought two books in February, but they were both so excellent, and strangely of similar sizes and colors even.

Carmody_Sartiliot

Teresa Carmody. Claudette Sartiliot.

Teresa Carmody is a super talented PhD peer and co-founder of Les Figues Press. I don’t know how much you can tell this from my scan, but the book is narrow and long. It feels very different in my hands. I like.

The Claudette Sartiliot is an utterly random discovery. I looked up “discourse of flowers” in the library’s search engine, figuring that someone must have written a measly essay or two on the subject, and turns out there’s a whole book. It’s out of print and rather exquisite. Hardback with actual dead flowers in the mix. Read More

Best Things I Read in 2013

Books, Philosophy, Poetics, Poetry, Prose, Science, Translation January 25, 2014

Apparently, most people make such lists at the end of the year rather than a month into the next.

Apparently, also, lots of people read what is published in the same year, whereas I merely buy those books and feel proud and then read dead people or people I’ve already read.

Generally, this means I’m taking classes over whose reading lists I have no control or that I am attempting postponement of pleasure, which is a thing some of you may know about though most of you will probably be questioning the sanity of such nefarious sacrificial tendencies.

As I have been, imaginably, awake this whole night due to self-diagnosed insomnia* caused by unnecessary thinking about life events, I have decided to give you my list of best things I read in 2013.

[*I wrote this post yesterday and saved a draft. Following writing this post, which I did in a moment of extreme alertness useful to the writing of blog posts but not to reading PhD things, I slept for sixteen hours. So clearly, no insomnia.]

For reference:

things = book-length works, chapbooks included

read = read for the first time, re-reads not included

Poetry

Quintane_Giscombe_Neidecker

Nathalie Quintane. C.S. Giscombe. Lorine Neidecker.

Amal al-Jubouri. Hagar Before the Occupation, Hagar After the Occupation. 2008. Translated from the Arabic by Rebecca Gayle Howell with Husam Qaisi. Alice James Books, 2011.

Jorge Carrera Andrade. Micrograms. 1940. Translated from the Spanish by Alejandro de Acosta & Joshua Beckman. Wave Books, 2011.

Inger Christensen. alphabet. 1981. Translated from the Danish by Susanna Neid. New Directions, 2001.

Eduardo C. Corral. Slow Lightning. Yale University Press, 2012.

Robert Creeley. Selected Poems, 1945-2005. Edited by Benjamin Friedlander. University of California Press, 2008. Read More

The Robing of the Bride + Notes + Recording

Books, Poetry, Translation, Writing December 17, 2013
Aditi Machado. The Robing of the Bride. 2013.

Aditi Machado. The Robing of the Bride. 2013.

I have this chapbook out from Dzanc Books, which Matt Bell picked for the Collagist Chapbook Contest in 2012.

I wrote the poems for the chapbook in fall of 2011, surprisingly enough in a craft class.

Usually, a craft class is a space of experimentation and weirdness for me. I get to do a bunch of fun things and maybe get one poem out of the mess I create. Mostly, it’s a lot of learning to be used later, when I’m unaware of the learning.

But for some reason, in this particular class, which studied and practiced different ways of (re-) (un-)writing history in poems, I wrote nearly forty poems. Some of them were fragments or wholes created out of older wholes or fragments, but many were brand new poems in forms that were new to me.

Turns out, I kept notes during this time.

RotB Notes_1

Read More