I read this for poetry class last year and revisited it recently. Eliot Weinberger is cool; even though he was n00b at Chinese at the time that he wroI read this for poetry class last year and revisited it recently. Eliot Weinberger is cool; even though he was n00b at Chinese at the time that he wrote this book, he is pro with language & its nuances and shares a lot of precise insights into both the art of translation and poetry itself, often with a sense of humor. I like the way he reads. I also definitely enjoyed Octavio Paz's commentary and approach to translating. He is wonderful too.
Overall, great poets and an interesting focused discussion that opens up more discussion. Also a very intelligent philosophy of translation!...more
This is totally the weirdest stuff I have ever read in my whole life, as in it has absolutely no competition. I don’t think I ever got used to it; itThis is totally the weirdest stuff I have ever read in my whole life, as in it has absolutely no competition. I don’t think I ever got used to it; it was so raucous and ridiculously spontaneous that even as I became familiar with its world and started to open myself to it, it was still inherently foreign and still surprising (in both a good and a negative sense) and there would only be small moments where I would connect in some tangibly human way. Or maybe it was just a new kind of connection that I had never experienced before, which is very possible. I alternated between being annoyed out of my mind (which rarely happens to me in life, i.e. almost never!) and strangely delighted for reasons I didn’t understand. Sometimes I would think, He is so irresponsible and this is completely meaningless, and other times I would laugh out loud in pointless joy or find myself reverently silent and think, This is super cool and he is probably a genius.
In this collection, Kenneth Koch likes to “discover” and “follow sound” in ways that I would never ever for the life of me have thought of. In “Pericles,” he writes, “The stops have been removed / and the bottle is filled with leeks,” and in a later poem, he uses the word “leak” in a way that makes logic-sense. He’ll repeat words and do variations on them (basket, casket, wastebasket, can) in combination with other words, including colors, fruits, cities, states, and countries to make a strange, chaotic, and always shifting geography. He is also very conscious of repeating certain prepositions and using them in unconventional ways (“I am waking off in the wooded arms apartments”), which made me think sometimes because prepositions are really confusing and maybe even arbitrary. He also mixes parts of speech and creates his own verbs/nouns and brings them back when he feels like it, then does weird things with time just for fun (“eat the pears and peaches / That Father Ludwig counsels yesterday”).
Overall, I think that he creates enough loose patterns for us to get used to him a little, and then when we start to get tired, he’ll do a little something “different” such as “Soon day. O boxed cool breeze! Mex- / Icans! ‘I love to climb that valley up in hill.” I can’t explain why I enjoy that so much, but I do, boxed cool breezes feel so good! “Kinkaid Subway” was one of my favorites for sure. It was one of those poems in which he didn’t exasperate me by being flippant and reckless (like in “Gypsy Yo-Yo”) and I understood some things.
He has some quiet moments here and there that I really feel because most of the time he is crazy and kind of “loud.” For example, “With soles on her shoes, / She takes the gyroscope / Between her fingers / And, quietly, it spins.”
Something that was frustrating for me, other than the brain-effort it took sometimes to follow his words (I got dizzy), was that when he would begin to make sense, to say something, he would make a sharp turn, and then he wasn’t saying anything anymore and never did say anything. So I had to be okay with not taking out very much meaning from the poems and to just let them be an experience of the moment.
If I had not been reading this collection by Adam's recommendation, I would’ve dropped it after ten pages out of confusion, but I am glad that I stuck with it because it was worth those times when there was something bizarrely beautiful or funny in a words/sound/association way, like I never would have expected that humor could be generated like that. After “habeus perfumes,” “agnostic peaches,” and lots of mints and mice, I think that maybe I can kind of answer, “What is the road to Gary, China?” among other questions that probably no one else in the world would ask other than this man Kenneth Koch. ...more
Barnes's novel is innovative, pretentious, anti-Semitic, strangely sentimental, and seemingly driven by hardcore hallucinatory drugs. There are precisBarnes's novel is innovative, pretentious, anti-Semitic, strangely sentimental, and seemingly driven by hardcore hallucinatory drugs. There are precise poetic moments, and then there is the other 90% of the text, which is bizarre, scatter-brained language that hopes to communicate something but doesn't, at least for me. Barnes should have written a long poem instead. These are the kind of books that make me wonder why I am an English major....more