I'm re-reading this one now and thinking back to when I ordered a review copy; the publicist protested "she left out all the good stuff!" Well, it depI'm re-reading this one now and thinking back to when I ordered a review copy; the publicist protested "she left out all the good stuff!" Well, it depends on what you mean by "good stuff."
Braverman is a cult figure, already legendary at the age of 60, and I have reviewed a number of her books, often with Denis Johnson's, for I think they are the best writers of their generation Her website contains many links and fascinating interviews concerning language, consumerism, "writing as criminal behavior," but my favorite is one in which she pronounces herself to be "an unlikable person." I laughed and immediately thought most of the people I love, who would describe themselves in much the same way that Braverman does (And I hear reports that her last "criminal behavior" consists of being caught up in the notoriously corrupt Santa Fe legal system while trying to divorce a man who had been using crack and heroin for five years and seems terrifyingly well-armed.) I also thought of BITCH: IN PRAISE OF DIFFICULT WOMEN, by Elizabeth Wurtzel, which would be canonical were it not for the fact of the author's having indulged an exhibitionist streak in that book and her first, the infamous PROZAC NATION, but what author can be held responsible for the treatment--I use the word advisedly--given her words as they are run through Hollywood's mill of screenwriters, even if she has a long background in Talmudic scholarship and, like Melanie Thernstrom, a Harvard diploma?
Back to Braverman: her real crimes seem best described by the author. "'Normal person'" and ‘literary poet' cannot be indigenous to the same sentence. It cannot be made graceful. I doubt human being and literary writer are possible in the same equation. Pain tolerance and stamina. You go while you bleed from the nose. But of course, one tries.
The other question--the Academy, located on tierra firma, versus the archipelego of the stranded, the drowned, those with no harbor of their own, they float bloated in the river called perfumed and holy, float blue as delphiniums and larkspar. Into the translucent sea of the bled out failed. No flag, they changed the currency since you left, you don't know the dialect and you're broke."
"I've tropicalized and feminized the language. You must get into the fortress of words and from there subvert. Los Angeles was a border town, a languid Mexican fishing village rocked by an Okie beat. An English that flows elegant, seductive, the Santanas in her skirt. The prototypical fire is the word. All else is fashion." ...more
Superb. The essays on C.D. Wright and Laura Kascischke in particular are as classic as the phrase "elliptical poetry!" (And yes, Lucie Brock-Broido haSuperb. The essays on C.D. Wright and Laura Kascischke in particular are as classic as the phrase "elliptical poetry!" (And yes, Lucie Brock-Broido has been a favorite of mine since A HUNGER; and in the case of all three authors, I own every single volume (I think, for Kascischke is a hard one with whom to keep apace!) in the original edition, which is something of a miracle considering that I have moved 25 times in my 54 years).
One of the things that makes Burt's criticism so important in our poetic community--at least to me--is the empathy and depth he accords female writers. THE NEW YORK TIMES, which gives paltry coverage to poetry at best, has recently run six reviews, and Burt's is the only one to feature a woman: Kasischke again (didn't I say she was a difficult one with whom to stay current?) with another top-notch piece, this time on both THE RAISING and SPACE, IN CHAINS (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/boo...)....more
I too love Renata Adler, but when I read the above item, I posted the following:
I wish I'd known about this. I would have recommended the works of Elise Sanguinetti, now sadly almost forgotten. I don't know where or how to start praising her four novels, THE LAST OF THE WHITFIELDS, THE NEW GIRL, THE DOWAGER, and BEDFORD'S STATION; but where some people might look at the tag of "Alabama author" and think "regional writer"--no, worse, "Southern Female Writer"--their themes are timeless and their historical resonances are an integral, so to speak, part of 20th American cultural history. Someone on Amazon has compared her to Louis Auchincloss, about whom my tattooed friend Ben Downing has written so eloquently, and I should add that while WHITFIELDS was re-issued by the University of Alabama Press, Sanguinetti (look up her family, the Ayers) is about as much exclusively Alabama as Auchincloss is Wall Street...or the eponymous academy in THE RECTOR OF JUSTIN.
My earliest memories of the word are aural and biracial: I remember sitting under a glass-topped table in my grandmother’s kitchen in Anniston and hearing this gorgeous polyphony of women’s voices, black and white, call and response, with no real effort at answering the original speaker or the songs on the radio that often played.
Race has proved a natural constant throughout my work, and the vague, inchoate, and disturbing feelings on the subject were first reflected to me in two Alabamians’ novels: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and Elise Sanguinetti’s first book, THE LAST OF THE WHITFIELDS. The latter was the more powerful influence, perhaps because of its humor, yet I find myself returning to Sanguinetti’s more somber, subsequent three books: http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/.... ...more
"Poetry is the news that stays news,“ Ezra Pound said, reminding us that the greatest poems embody themes as timeless and universal as the love, loss,"Poetry is the news that stays news,“ Ezra Pound said, reminding us that the greatest poems embody themes as timeless and universal as the love, loss, and longing that have always troubled the human heart. Pound’s dictum obviously applies to poems like ”Ode to a Nightingale“ or "The Waste Land": any present-day reader can identify with John Keats’ secular ecstasy or T.S. Eliot’s religious despair. But what sort of ”news“ does a poem like BEOWULF, with its mead-hall monologues and thornily inflected war-whoops, bring us today? Even Seamus Heaney, the Irish bard and Nobel laureate behind the newest translation of the poem from the original Anglo-Saxon, seems startled that his version of the epic has landed on the New York Times best-seller list.
Heaney’s interest in BEOWULF developed relatively late: as a Belfast Catholic schoolboy whose forebears spoke Irish, Heaney felt bitterly estranged from the Anglo-Saxon tongue, a symbol of his homeland’s conquest and partition. His reconciliation of the Irish and English, the Celtic and the Saxon, didn’t begin till much later, when he happened to hear a relative say, ”They’ll just have to learn to thole.“ The poet remembered the word—which means to suffer or endure—from a long-ago, much-despised Anglo-Saxon school course. And since he had begun to teach stateside for one semester each year, he further realized that ”thole“ had not only journeyed from England to Scotland to ”Ulster with the planters and then across from the planters to the locals,“ but also ”farther across again when the Scots Irish emigrated to the American South in the 18th century.“ As evidence, Heaney quotes John Crowe Ransom in his introduction here: ”Sweet ladies, long may ye bloom, and though I hope ye may thole.“
In other words, Heaney’s BEOWULF translation, which has been lauded by reviewers with every praiseful adjective in the Oxford English Dictionary, bloomed from soil cross-pollinated by Gaelic, Anglo-Saxon, and modern English, especially its current Irish, Scots, and American varieties. The collapsed dualities out of which Heaney writes are no less present in our own country. Indeed, the best American verse collections published since last year’s National Poetry Month have been energized by a lavish variety of tensions: self/world, formalism/free verse, American/English, white/ethnic or racial, academic/”real world.“
(originally published in the NASHVILLE SCENE / Village Voice Media) ...more
Speaking of Richard Howard's translation of *Les Fleurs dul Mal*, my great teacher Derek Walcott roared "Reeeechaaahhd did not use rhyyyme, friends."Speaking of Richard Howard's translation of *Les Fleurs dul Mal*, my great teacher Derek Walcott roared "Reeeechaaahhd did not use rhyyyme, friends." (He had just plunged my own copy into the kitchen trash can and, out of respect, I haven't replaced it.) This pronouncement was repeated when, the next Monday, at the suitably ungodly hour of 9 a.m., when I was perched on one of his windowsills in that same smoke-filled room at Boston University where Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton had taught. Derek had a point. But so does Howard in this superb translation, still one of my two favorites. He recognizes, as do Robert Pinsky and Ciaran Carson in their translations of Dante's INFERNO, that English is rhyme-stingy in comparison to, respectively, and all employ other of what Pinsky calls "the sounds of poetry" to make the words sing in the ways their original authors, I believe, intended.
Yet I also recommend strongly a Baudelaire translation of which no one ever seems to have heard: that by William Crosby, commissioned by the late A. Poulin, Jr., of *Les Fleurs du Mal* and *Paris Spleen.* (Please see my review of that book as well: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...)....more