Monday, May 22, 2017

 




Within the past year, there have been three major motion pictures built around poets and poetry – Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson,  Pablo Larrain’s Neruda, and Terence Davies’ A Quiet Passion, a biopic of Emily Dickinson played by Cynthia Nixon. Only in the first of these is the poetry – penned by Ron Padgett but assigned in the film to a Paterson, NJ bus driver likewise named Paterson – really what the film is about. In each, the question of the writer’s relationships is central to the film’s scope and development, and to some degree one could read these films as different studies in what happens when a human being takes on this mysterious second skin as a writer of verse.


Paterson, which is about a fictional writer in the downscale industrial suburb of New York that looks nostalgically to its poetic heritage (as well as to comic Lou Costello) for a last, lingering sense of worth, is constructed around one of the sweetest relationships in recent film, between Adam Driver’s quietly brooding Paterson, a meditative-to-depressive soul who doesn’t say a lot, and his perpetually optimistic starter-of-a-million-creative-projects girlfriend, Laura (Goldshiftah Farahani), a gal who comes with her own color scheme. This may well be Adam Driver’s best film performance, and you can see and sense him writing as he overhears conversations in the course of daily life. 


The relationship in Neruda is less between the poet and his partner Delia del Carril than between Pablo and Óscar Peluchonneau, the Director General of Police Investigations charged with bringing Neruda in during one of Chile’s periodic neo-fascist periods in the 1940s. Played by Gael García Bernal as a noir cop – more a wannabe Bogart than a Broderick Crawford – Peluchonneau becomes obsessed with his target, who rouses opposition to the crackdown by refusing to escape the country, preferring instead to visit the brothels that are portrayed here more as nightclubs for intellectuals with half-naked ladies there for the fucking. Pointedly, when Carril suggests getting pregnant as a means of defying the regime, Neruda (who in “real life” had one son he didn’t see after his Dutch first wife went back to Europe) heads straight to the brothel where everyone interrupts what they’re doing to watch him read. 


A Quiet Passion is more disciplined in its treatment of its poet, but not a lot. The screen play with its consciously stilted dialog presents the role of 19th century bourgeois women as nearly as constrained as that of  The Handmaid’s Tale, which it suggests is very much the way Dickinson herself wanted it. Gradually the poet reduces her contact with men to her brother Austen, whose affair with Mabel Loomis Todd is treated entirely from the perspective of Dickinson’s negative reaction. Notably absent is her most important male relationship, with Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who is not mentioned once. A viewer can be forgiven for not suspecting that Higginson and Todd were the editors who first made Dickinson famous. In standard Hollywood cliché, we see Dickinson writing with Nixon’s off-screen voice-over augmented by music to signal its quality. 


Were it not for Nixon’s superb performance playing a prickly, brittle personality who is becoming just a little crazier by the year, but who dies of Bright’s Disease before she can get to mad-woman-in-the-attic status, there wouldn’t be much to see in A Quiet Passion. Neruda is not García Bernal’s best work and there is not enough focus on Gnecco’s Neruda, period. But I could watch a nine-hour version of Driver guiding his bus, going to the local tavern, straightening his mailbox, sleeping beside Laura, penning patient little poems one word at a time. Oddly enough, the fate of Driver’s poems is more of an issue in the Jarmusch film than Dickinson’s in Passion. But then, for Jarmusch, they’re real poems. And that makes all the difference. 


In each case, the film’s tension is at least in part between a figure and this other thing they are involved with beyond any relationship, as if poetry were a code for any kind of interest in a serious pursuit outside of the conjugal bed. Paterson could be making whirligigs for all it matters: his interest in the poem doesn’t compete with his love for Laura any more than her painting the shower curtains competes with hers. Neruda as played by Luis Gnecco is self-important, but also an inspiration to the resistance. His partner’s self-abnegation is an effect of a cruelty he’s not even conscious of. But tellingly this is not a film about the poet and his partner so much as it is about the cop’s unrequited desire for his suspect. Dickinson on the other hand makes a point, repeatedly, of turning away from relationships, to the point that she stops seeing outsiders at all. You wouldn’t know from this film that two-thirds of her poetry was written before she was thirty-six, and that her final two decades were much less about her writing than the decades before.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

 


Joanne in the Himalayas 1962, photo by Allen Ginsberg

e-mail to Linda Russo from Ron Silliman

From:      rsillima@ix.netcom.com
Date sent:     Tue, 28 Apr 1998 05:00:30 -0500 (CDT)
To:     lvrusso@acsu.buffalo.edu
Subject:      Re: Silliman on Kyger

On 04/27/98 20:10:48 you wrote:
>
>Dear Ron Silliman --
>
>you maybe recognize as a sometime poetix listperson --
>
>i've been only skimming posts lately (busy) but I was wondering if you
>could say more abt. Joanne Kyger being the most influencial progressive
>woman poet of the 60s - 70s. She's been important to me & it does seem,
>considering the scope of her work, that she *should* be important, but
>doesn't seem so considered. So i wonder if you'd be willing to tell me a
>thing or two, or maybe point me to something you've published re kyger.
>
>thanks --
>
>Linda Russo



Dear Linda, 

Been thinking about this myself over the past few days. Kyger's not in the [Paul] Hoover [anthology Postmodern American Poetry] or the [Douglas] Messerli [anthology From The Other Side of the Century] and absent even from Moving Borders [ed. Mary Margaret Sloan], an anthology I imagine as having been premised on precisely this sort of omission (though I argued over this with Margy Sloan, who simply doesn't know the work and doesn't have the historical depth I wish she had -- she told me that she was only using writers from the late '70s onward, so I was surprised to see Niedecker, Guest and Fraser, all of whom are contemporaneous with Joanne or, in Lorine's case, even earlier).
Joanne Kyger was a student of Hugh Kenner's at UC Santa Barbara in the 1950s who moved to SF where she became the only woman to participate as an equal in the otherwise remarkably misogynist Spicer circle. She married Gary Snyder and traveled with him to Japan (and, also with Gary, to India where they traveled about with Ginsberg). Back in SF she was also best friends with John Weiners and is the Miss Kits he refers to in his Scott Street journals. She worked for awhile as a TV producer for the local PBS station (this was 35 years ago, when such a job was not impossible for somebody just roughly creative and intelligent to go get), then moved to "the Mesa" which is a hill overlooking the ocean in Bolinas (there are two other neighborhoods to that small town, a section by the road coming in, neighboring -- literally -- a lagoon that's one of the great birdwatching spots in northern California, then the downtown itself, nestled betwixt the beach, the lagoon and the Mesa. During the early 1970s, Creeley and Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Lewis and Phoebe Macadams, Larry Kearney, Peter Warshall, Bill Berkson, Bob Grenier, Richard Duerden, Tom and Angelica Clark, were all living in Bolinas, a town with a population of just 300. Phil Whalen was there for awhile also before his duties in the Zen Center became full-time.
Joanne's influence on Grenier is palpable, it really is the connection between his fascination with Creeley (he edited RC's first Selected Poems), and his own later work which is so much about how thought emerges. 

Joanne has never ever been one to push her own work, but there was a time circa 1970 when every poet I knew owned a copy of The Tapestry and the Web, her first book (I have no idea where my own copy disappeared to -- I'm certain I never sold it, although it may have gone off in my divorce from my first wife back in '72). In 1975, Berkson published her second book, All This Every Day, and Kenward Elmslie I believe was behind the 3rd one, The Wonderful Focus of You, John Martin publishing Just Space (poems 1979-89) from his Black Sparrow press. There's also a chapbook that contains a poem based a local indian tale, Up My Coast and most recently a big book of her Japan and India Journals from Tombouctou. SPD would still have whatever is in print. There've been other chapbooks, I know. The National Poetry Foundation is talking about doing a big selected poems sometime in the future, although there needs to be (I hope) a book of the poetry since 1989. 

The very first poetry reading I ever produced, in 1974, was a benefit for a Bay Area prison reform group. My readers were Creeley, Kyger and Dorn and in the context of SF in that year it was very much a line-up of people recognized as equals. 400 people attended. 

I've written at some length about the disappearance of poets and how it reconfigures history into something unrecognizable to those present at the event. This isn't always bad -- Ferlinghetti was shocked to see that anyone was still interested in Spicer as recently as a year or two ago. But all too often it leads to this sort of erasure of a major writer. 

I don't know if you know Joanne's work. It has its closest affinities, I think, with Whalen, Grenier and, though I don't know how well she knows him, Anselm Hollo (Joanne has a terrific sense of humor in her writing, which may in fact actually work against her being taken as seriously as she deserves). I know that Bobbie Louise Hawkins has wanted her to come and teach full-time at Naropa for years, but Joanne (who has no visible means of employment, though she must live on very little money) seems willing only to do the occasional workshop there. 

She's one of our hidden treasures -- the poet who really links the Beats, the Spicer Circle, the Bolinas poets, the NY School and the language poets, and the only poet who can be said to do all of the above. 

All best,
Ron Silliman


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Friday, February 24, 2017

 


Tour de France

Nantes
Reading & Interview with Martin Richet
Sunday, March 5,  2:00 pm
Maison de la Poésie de Nantes

The unique place
Quai Ferdinand Favre, Nantes
Admission free

Part of the Atlantide Festival of Literature
 

Paris
Poets & Critics Symposium
Tuesday, March 7, & Wednesday, March 8, 9:45 am-5:00 pm
Room 830 (8th floor of the Olympe de Gouges Building)
Université Paris 7 Denis Diderot, Bâtiment Olympe de Gouges

Reading
with translations by Martin Richet
Tuesday, March 7, 6:30 pm
Hall de la Bibliothèque des Grands Moulins
,
 5, rue Thomas Mann, 75013 Paris


Marseille
Reading & Discussion with Martin Richet
Friday, March 10, 7:00 pm
centre international de poésie Marseille
entre de la Vieille Charité
2, rue de la Charité
13 236 Marseille Cedex 02




Events organized in partnership with
Double Change, the House of Poetry of Nantes

& the International Center for Poetry, Marseile

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Monday, February 20, 2017

 



Not to be confused with the Vichy regime being set up in DC and elsewhere. The following are Twitter accounts for the legitimate government of the United States.





































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