Showing posts with label Other traditions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Other traditions. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An international poetry festival is a little like one of those lab experiments that science students are forced to perform. Take a creature that does one thing well – make art with their language – and put them into a container with other creatures who seem similar enough, but lack that one key common element – a mutual language. The possibilities are more or less obvious, and the folks in Rotterdam earlier this month were blessed with the fact that all 19 of their on-site participants¹ were actually nice people. One of the festival officials joked that this was an “innovation” they were trying this year, and that it had not always been the case in prior years.

It’s not an accurate statement that the poets lacked the same language. Eighteen of the 19 spoke at least some version of English, and four of us – Karen Solie of Canada, LK Holt of Australia, Sascha Aurora Akhtar of Pakistan &amp Britain, & I – use variants of it for our writing. With language, of course, history comes encrusted. When Moosejaw-born Karen Solie lists manufacturers of tractors in her work, US companies like John Deere turn up. And I heard Australian Lucy Holt asked on at least one occasion if she was British

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Contemporary Chinese Poetry

On December 9, a large delegation of poets from Wuhan, the most populous city in central China, visited Kelly Writers House at Penn. For nearly all, this was the first visit to the U.S. These poets – Liang Biwen, Liu Yishan, Chen Ying-Song, Tiang He, Wang Xinmin, Ke Yumin, Hu Xiang & Liu An – read and then had their poetry read in English by one of a team of volunteer translators: Bob Perelman , Sarah Dowling , Michelle Taransky , Charles Bernstein , Greg Djanikian & Yanrong. Yarong is the current scholar-in-residence at the Chinese/American Association of Poetry and Poetics (CAAP). The process was then reversed, with texts by Bernstein, Dowling, Djanikian, Taransky & Perelman (“China”!) translated into Chinese.

Video of the entire event

Downloadable audio here

Complete texts in English & Chinese

In 2009, as part of its Writers Without Borders series, Writers House hosted Zhimin Li, a poet who teaches at Guangzhou University (Guangzhou is the city most Americans my age think of as Canton) & sits on the CAAP board. Li gave a reading & a talk on new Chinese poetry.

Downloadable audio of the full reading here

Downloadable audio of Li’s talk here

Text of Li’s talk – New Chinese Poetry:
The Origin & Development from the Perspective
of Cultural Exchanges between China & the West

Access to segmented poems is available
through Zhimin Li’s page on PennSound

Call for papers
First Convention of
The Chinese/American Association for Poetry & Poetics
Wuhan, China
September 28 30, 2011

Friday, September 13, 2002

Of course Allen Curnow and Gary Snyder are not precisely generational equivalents. Snyder’s first publication, in the Reed College student publication Janus, doesn’t occur until 1950, a point at which Curnow has already brought out at least three books. But one of the things the comparison does is to highlight that discrepancy. The reality is that there were few innovative American poets of significance who emerged during the 1940s.

The largest exception is Robert Duncan, who in fact first started publishing at the end of the 1930s (precocious teenager that he was). The two other major movers of literary form who were born during that decade between 1910 and 20 – Charles Olson and the novelist William Burroughs – were both late bloomers. Glancing over Hayden Carruth’s The Voice That is Great Within Us, a surprisingly decent anthology of the first 60 years of the 20th century that organizes its poets by birth date – now there’s a narrative! – you can’t help but notice that between the first poet born in that decade (Olson) and the last (May Swenson), the poets who predominate in that period – Schwartz, Berryman, Jarrell, Kees, Stafford, Weiss and Lowell – represent the core of what was the academic tradition of American poetry. The more innovative poets of that decade, Antoninus/Everson,  Patchen, Merton, McGrath, were all pronounced loners as writers. Two were monks, no less.

Certainly, the Second World War created a great schism in American writing, by cutting off the expatriates and the international influences that had been so very important to the high modernists. One might also blame the war, at least in part, for the failure of the Objectivists to move beyond their first youthful burst of publishing in the 1930s. For a talented young poet during the war years, the conservative tradition of American letters – that version of history that sees U.S. poetry as a tributary of British letters – was very close to the only game in town.

Five poets who are interesting to look at in this regard are David Ignatow and Harvey Shapiro on the one hand – Shapiro is slightly younger, having been born in 1924 – and, on the other, Swenson, Elizabeth Bishop, and Muriel Rukeyser.

The first two have often been paired, and I admit to reading them as though they were examples of what the Williams influence would have led to had Objectivism not shown its potential for greater breadth, depth and evolution. When the New Americans came along, Ignatow and Shapiro could easily have recognized the shared sympathies for Williams, but seem instead to have been isolated by the sudden appearance of all this new writing. Except for Shapiro’s first book The Eye, published by Alan Swallow (as far from the New York publishing world as one could get in the 1950s), the two did not begin bringing out books until the 1960s. The trajectory of their isolation was to lead both into becoming profound conservatives, as is evident from Shapiro’s work at the New York Times Book Review and Ignatow’s comments at the “What is a Poet?” symposium at the University of Alabama in 1984. (See Hank Lazer’s What is a Poet?)

The three women poets have often been claimed by the conservative literary tradition and to some degree at least they must have needed to relate to that world simply to get their work into print, not unlike Williams. But it is worth noting how all three can easily be read quite differently: Swenson (who worked at New Directions) as another Williams-influenced writer of innovative forms, Bishop for her visible influence on some of the New York School poets, Rukeyser’s political work aligning her with a tradition that would bridge McGrath and, say, Ginsberg and Ferlinghetti. One can only imagine what might have happened to American poetry had the three worked together to create a woman-centered poetic tendency decades before Judy Grahn, Pat Parker, Susan Griffin and Adrienne Rich came along.