Wednesday, December 02, 2009

OR, Edit’d by Paul Vangelisti

Yellow Leaves


My escutcheon is
dexter’d and my
music is shot—
nowhere is withdrawal
a snap. My
dicking around hardly
equals condensare, oh
senescence, oh cant.
To pin one
fierce verity down
without the simpering
choral sketches of
the contextual. To
rout the sap
inveigler and carney
filibuster of niche
stability, three throws
for a dollar,
win a wind-
up talking bear.
To see it
stretch’d out royal
to a pinning-
board, and stiff!
I think of
Martha, the mite-
quashing taxidermy, iridescent
skittish shine dull’d,
a pigeon zoo-
mort in Cincinnati.
Or Ishi, any
nameable in advance
of the caravansary
of l’innommable. Thousands
of opusculi perish’d.

Out of Paul Vangelisti’s new magazine, OR (#3), the one with Pound intently de-scabbing a thumb on the cover—and a scrawl’d note:
O. K
        send ’em

subject       verb       object

E. P.
Though the K is fortuitously mimicking an R, honeying the nomenclature. Magazine in the style and format of Vangelisti’s Invisible City: newspaper-like (whiter, heftier paper), lots of space for graphics (lots of graphics), two-color (red and black), international emphasis (particularly Italian). A sampling. Ray DiPalma’s notational attentiveness to what he calls “Tagewerk— / The vexing tangles of the thinking day / With a lean appeal if not ascetic” and adds “Nothing is to be wasted” (out of If to why):
2 /5/09

Falling in parallel folds secured
at the hip with wide knots
pleated sashes intersect
across the torso

Presented tribhanga—in three bends

Set against the leafy branches of a tree

On a lotus base carved with rhythmic incised lines

Bordered with diamond-petaled florets

The reverse is rough hewn

. . .


The posited voice—sometimes subtle—
but a weak and graceless instrument
of thought—that even half-noticed embraces
all to affirm little or complete nothing—ever more
innocuous in its patient amazements at whatever
is distant but traceable and coordinate
Thus in a half-naked sort of way is
the living aspect of these obscure phenomena
through which we must stray set in motion
to the detriment of other all kinds of idle
and trivial strains of thought assuming
the shape of any great impulses struggling
to accomplish the celestial promise
the undeniable position of blankness and exaltation
(A jampack’d and solacing place, one could stray therein endlessly . . .) Valentino Zeichen, translated by Paul Vangelisti and Brunella Antomarini:

If the assassins of feeling
possessed an infallible aim
the surprised lovers would share
even in the world beyond
an endless unknowable anguish;
but missing their targets,
the shots meant for the heart
swerve in random trajectory
striking the head’s lofty observatory.
There the bullets bore openings
not unlike little portholes
through which light enters,
sister to the light of reason:
diffusing studied doubts
and clearing the fumes of passion.
Too, some “Onesheets” by Brian Blanchfield (with titles like “A Page on Sardines, Permitting Shame, Error and Guilt, Myself the Single Source” and “A Page on Completism, Permitting Shame, Error and Guilt, Myself the Single Source”). Out of the “Sardines”:
Ordained confinement wherein embrace is organized as a situational necessity is recognizably the ground floor of my erotic imagination. My early fantasies and even dreams were perforce arrangements of closeness with boys, ingenious scenarios that late Cold-War tropes helped to prepare: root cellars during a tornado scare, bomb shelters, prisoners’ quarters, deep dry wells, or dens within caves demanded that another haplessly subterranean boy whose form I could barely make out in the pitch black must stand or lie squarely against me. Endless stimulation of the fort-da wiggle room between speculation and the highly conditional permission to touch: Does he feel what I feel? and then, We have no choice, we have to be like this.
An essay by Dennis Phillips titled “Leland Hickman: Against Taxonomies,” preface to Hickman’s forthcoming Tiresias: The Collected Poems (Nightboat Books, 2009):
From its title, its length, and its complex arrangement,* Great Slave Lake Suite—the bulk of Hickman’s mature work—decidedly follows a High Modernist tradition. Yet he seems to have jettisoned the modernist tendency to “impersonalize” the poetic work by using autobiography as the core of the poem. Though the work is very personal, by dimension and mythic ambition, it’s not confessional. There is a seeping narrative, the but the poem’s not narrative in any conventional sense. And there is a dense and shifting lyricism, symphonic in its scope, that might seem Romantic were it not for the thoroughly contemporary dissonance that Hickman deploys to challenge the very musicality that drives the work.
A consideration (“Efficient Detail”) by Bill Mohr of Ron Silliman’s The Alphabet:
      The Alphabet contains many passages of vigorous language and memorable detail, but all too often, especially in the final 400 pages, one feels that one is having one’s attention called to something that is not worth noticing, or at least that the language used to call attention to the perception is not worth one’s devotion. “At the service / station / a man / in a brown / jumpsuit / slowly waves / a customer / into / the proper bay.” A certain kind of monotony sets in, rather like someone having the same kind of pancakes every morning, 365 days a year.
      Perhaps Silliman does not care if a reader decides that an old joke is one too many (“I pick up the paper to read the latest lies”) and puts his poem aside. I can’t say that I would scold anyone who did not finish this poem. “Whoever lives by the aphorism dies by the cliché” appears on the same page as, “Returning in the rain from the old brick bank to the car, I realize that I forgot to feed the meter, had scurried right past it in my hurry to stay dry, only to have gotten by without a ticket, little gift of fate.” Philip Whalen and Allen Ginsberg were equally self-indulgent in presenting extracts from their diaries, and while their audience tolerated it with good humor in public, I wonder how long they actually leaned and loafed on their living room floors, mulling over the pertinacity of such an anecdote to the imperatives of their circumstances?
(Brilliant to summon Whitman there.) Mohr wonders, too—regarding Silliman’s grandly announced Universe—“whether there is actually a need for another long poem by Ron Silliman.” “If so, it would have to be radically different in content to make it worth the trek,” Mohr writes, adding that Silliman’s “new project might be best served by an essay or two in which he discusses what urgent surprise is missing in The Alphabet that so desperately requires its enunciation in The Universe.” And ends:
“Can I trust this poet?” each reader has a right to ask, and she deserves a sincere answer. In general, the avant-garde is the province of the young, and it is not exactly blessed with a reputation for appreciating sincerity or trust. Perhaps Silliman could continue to change that reputation. How much of a contribution his next long poem could make, in terms of intermingling ineluctable form and innovative content, to the avant-garde will depend on how much he is able to redefine “trust” so that it re-organizes every point of contact with the distant intimacy that has marked his writing up to this point.
Tons, like they say, more. Marinetti’s “Technical Manifesto of Literature” translated by Vangelisti (“In some cases one must link the image two by two, like those chained iron balls that level a whole line of trees in their flight”). Vangelisti’s “Conversation with Mary de Rachewiltz.” Reviews of Stacy Doris’s Knot, of three Norma Cole books, of Mary Barnard’s memoir, Assault on Mount Helicon, at twenty-five. Memoir piece by Neeli Cherkovski.

OR’s put together semi-annually, free of charge: “send ’em along.”
* Phillips notes here that “the full title of Great Slave Lake Suite, Tiresias I:9:B: Great Slave Lake Suite, suggests a grand and complex form.”

Paul Vangelisti