January 5, 2017 § 2 Comments
Bref, I read a lot of poetry translated from German and a lot of nonfiction translated from French. This is not very shocking. Much of my non-book reading happened at Asymptote: this reading (plus editing) is far more diverse and includes work by poets like Vicente Huidobro (Chile), Jan Dammu (Iraq), and writers who push at the limits of what translation means (the Special Feature in our January issue). One of my favorite pieces of this latter sort is Bronwyn Haslam’s anagrammatic translations of Nicole Brossard’s poetry (“Soft Links” becomes “Silk Fonts,” for example):
It’s nouns that gulp fire and life, one can’t tell if they’re Latin, French, Urdu, Veda, Cree, Mandarin, Aleut, Creole, Basque, English, secrete a number, deed, quorum, animal or accelerate old anxieties eddying before us in doubled somber contours full of luster and immense legends.
I also got to collaborate with my friend Michael Joseph Walsh to put together a different sort of experimental translation portfolio for Denver Quarterly 50.4 I have a few extra copies and would be happy to mail them to anyone interested (or you can subscribe). Joshua Ware’s visual translations of Celan appear as an online supplement to this portfolio here.
For some years now I’ve been obsessed with a film by Yvon Marciano called Le cri de la soie (1996), which fictionalizes the life of pioneer psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault. This year I read two texts relevant to this film, de Clérambault’s case studies of women who developed an unusual sexual “passion” for silk and other textiles: Passion érotique des étoffes chez la femme (1908) and its suite (1910). « Read the rest of this entry »
December 31, 2016 § 2 Comments
– speak less of other people
– watch more good cinema
– sleep well
I found a poem I wrote on 06.04.09 called “A doctoral student confesses”—it is oddly prescient:
“so sound would be plural like description is” (Giscome Road 52)
“Sentences find you, style finds you on the road out; it overtakes you effortlessly, it palavers” (69)
February 2, 2016 § 1 Comment
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.
Here are the rest of my favorite books from last year: « Read the rest of this entry »
September 14, 2015 § 1 Comment
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)
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.
I’m struggling to remember exactly why I put this book on my EA list . . . « Read the rest of this entry »
January 5, 2015 § 4 Comments
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.]
—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. The Post-Apollo Press, 1982.
Seasons. The 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, 2011.
Magenta Soul Whip. Coach House, 2009.
Nilling: Prose Essays on Noise, Pornography, the Codex, Melancholy, Lucretius, Folds, Cities and Related Aporias. Book Thug, 2011.
The Weather. New Star Books, 2011.]
I should add George Oppen to this list, though technically I’ve read his books before; « Read the rest of this entry »
March 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
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.
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 the rest of this entry »