Tag Archives: Michael Kincaid

“Lyric Poetry Is Dead”: The Flourishing Obituary of Ezequiel Zaidenwerg

Friday, March 22, 2019

LA LIRICA ESTA MUERTE/”LYRIC POETRY IS DEAD” by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg
(translated by Robin Myers; drawing by Carmen Amengual)
Cardboard House Press / www.cardboardhousepress.org

THERE ARE GODS HERE TOO: Readings of Heraclitus — Michael Kincaid
The Buffalo Commons Press, 2008
(P.O. Box 525, Dickinson, North Dakota 58602-0525

Kenneth Rexroth’s “Thou Salt Not Kill: A Memorial to Dylan Thomas” is not cited as often as it should be. It certainly does not appear in many anthologies, despite its precedence to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” as a major, mid-century jeremiad. I have no idea of whether the Argentinian poet Ezequiel Zaidenwerg is familiar with Rexroth’s scathing indictment of American culture, but those who find themselves entranced with Zaidenwerg’s book-length poem should dig up Rexroth’s rant and note the insidious violence attributed to Thomas’s death. If lyric poetry is dead, it is a corpse with the aura of the continuous present tense, at least in the palimpsestual shroud in which Zaidenwerg has wrapped it; its death still seems painfully recent. If such were not the case, the appropriation and adaptation of twentieth century texts (Eva Peron’s autopsy; Che Guevera’s corpse) would not shimmer in these poems as if propelled by some inward, still palpitating vision. Zaidenwerg has descried a dystopia epic, and the bruises, amputations, beheadings, assassinations, and massacres of civilized history are all too visible, however. “Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse” is not the advice to be found on lyric poetry’s tomb.

On the whole, the “death” of lyric poetry, in this fourteen part, book-length poem, reminds of Abel Gance’s cinematic call-to-arms, “Now is the time for the resurrection of all myths in light.” Orpheus, Odysseus, and the Sybil at Cumae, as well as Lot in the Book of Genesis, all contribute to an extended eulogy of narratives, each meant to remind us — the few who find ourselves willing to show up for a public memorial — of how resilient these archetypes remain, even if the form of imaginative conveyance has become a negligible art.

Zaidenwerg’s title, which gets repeated as the opening gambit of many sections, is most certainly not meant to stir up any lingering traces of nostalgia. The irony, of course, is primarily operating in the translator’s domain, for it is translation that operates with a Janus mask. Zaidenwerg’s book, and Myers’s translation deserve to be the focus of the following question: Is a translator a writer inherently committed to a conservative avant-garde?

Given the absence of any significant presence of avant-garde writers at the upcoming AWP convention, I don’t expect to have many conversations in Portland that take on this question by first quoting from Michael Kincaid’s THERE ARE GODS HERE TOO: Readings of Heraclitus (Buffalo Commons Press, 2008). This book should be on the shelf of every poet who wants to produce a body of work worthy someday of being translated. Kincaid, who is a very fine poet himself — perhaps the best “unknown” poet in the United States, exemplifies the positive response to my question in taking on this pre-Socratic poet as an avant-garde visionary of paradoxes’ mutability:

“What is cold warms, warmth cools, moisture dries, the parched moistens.

“Fire lives the death of air; air lives the death of fire. Water lives the death of earth, earth that of water.

“But it is death for spirits to become water, and death for water to become earth. But water is born of earth, and spirit of water.”

(page 37)

Footnote: As is the case all too often with something first read 50 years ago, Gance’s proclamation turned out to be a lengthier statement. It can be found at the start of an essay by Martin M. Winkler: https://books.google.com/books?id=WgpMAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA133&lpg=PA133&dq=Now+is+the+time+for+the+resurrection+of+all+mythis+in+light.+Abel+Gance&source=bl&ots=mZWStcXfdx&sig=ACfU3U1dhhOcVv025z7BTxUp8NxwunrJMA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjyp6H_lI7gAhWW14MKHe0iADwQ6AEwBnoECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=Now%20is%20the%20time%20for%20the%20resurrection%20of%20all%20mythis%20in%20light.%20Abel%20Gance&f=false

The Perfume of the Soul

June 28, 2015

The Perfume of the Soul

I have been working on a talk I am scheduled to give in Dijon, France in November and reading with great pleasure and interest Michael Davidson’s On the Outskirts of Form: Practicing Cultural Poetics. In discussing George Oppen’s poetry, he mentions that “a number of recent books in critical theory have chronicled modernism’s ocularcentrism …. At the same time, social theorists have provided a critique of modernity’s ocularcentrism, pointing out how metaphors of seeing and sight dominate the work of philosophers and theorists from Marx’s theory of ideology as a camera obscura, Heidegger’s “Age of the World Picture,” and Bergson’s duree to Foucault’s emphasis on the panoptical gaze, to Sartre’s “regard” and Laura Mulvey’s theory of the gaze” (116-117). To limit ocularcentrism to moderism and modernity, however, is to underplay its role in Western philosophy and culture. Sight was the key sense cited by Plato in The Republic, for instance, so this privileging should hardly be limited to a contemporary rendition of “modernity.” Rather, sight’s dominance is the mark of modernity, whether we are thinking of remote modernity or the prosthetic forms that pass themselves off as the post-modern.1

It is my understanding that this emphasis upon sight has a pragmatic basis, for I read somewhere that well over two-thirds of the information our brain receives and works with is directly accessed through sight. That proportion of appetitive perception will probably not alter much in the centuries ahead, but we might be better off if we take the time to cultivate the other senses, too, in the same way that pianist must learn to play with the “weak” hand as well as the hand that ‘s inclined to take the lead. In fact, would both Plato and Heidegger have been better off emphasizing another sense, that of smell. The latter’s quarrel with the former might well have led him to a different understanding of Being if smell had been the sense to which he entrusted the fate of his soul.2

A recent prose poem of a blog entry that points to the possibilities of an epiphany based on smell can be found at: http://www.juliaharis.com/ Her entry, “Textures of the Unknown,” is a profound meditation on how the aquifers of the olfactory nourish the perfume of the soul. After reading her entry, I trusted more than ever Heraclitus’s proposition that “if all things turned to smoke, the nose would know all things.”3

 


1 In particular, the discussion in Book VI of The Republic at one point becomes a eulogy for the interwoven nature of the sun, its light, the eye and the soul.

2 Two recent articles in the Los Angeles Review of Books examine the on-going destabilization of Heidegger’s impact on twentieth century philosophy due to his affiliation with the Nazi Party in Germany.

http://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/what-to-make-of-heidegger-in-2015  What to Make of Heidegger in 2015? by Santiago Zabala (June 24th, 2015)

http://lareviewofbooks.org/review/king-dead-heideggers-black-notebooks   “The King Is Dead: Heidegger’s Black Notebooks” by Gregory Fried.

3 Michael Kincaid. There Are Gods Here Too: Readings of Heraclitus. Dickinson, North Dakota: Buffalo Commons Press, 2008, 53.

Poetic Research Bureau

I received a notice about LIFE SENTENCES the other day and can’t think of a better possible way to start posting on my site than to share this announcement.

If I were able to bring in a single poet from anywhere in the United States who would complicate the dialogue aspired to in this upcoming program, Michael Kincaid would be my first choice. I have met him at only one occasion, a celebration of Tom McGrath’s writing that took place at the Loft in Minnesota when McGrath turned 70. Doren Robbins and I flew out together from Los Angeles to be part of the program and one of the people in attendance was a young poet who seemed as equally obstreperous in his poetics as I yearned to be. Kincaid and I corresponded for several years, and I published his chapbook, “Inclemency’s Tribe,” in 1990 as a sort of coda to my work as editor of Momentum Press. He has remained the most stalwart and uncompromising poet-philosopher in contemporary practice. Here is entry number 43 from his most recent book, “LIGHTNING DIALOGUES,” published by Nemesis in Minneapolis.

CHILDREN OF SOCRATES. — From the French dialecticians — Derrida, et al. — to a poet like Jorie Graham, the postmoderns are neo-Socratics, basking in the false prestige Socrates lent to ignorance. They don’t know: that is their claim to admiration, the plot and pathos of their drama. Playing to the mirror, they deconstruct their presence, trading on a politic despair. They flaunt their self-doubt as if uncertainty’s dialectic were a superior form of presence, not its indefinite deferral.

My expectation is that the program announced by the Poetic Research Bureau will offer the crucial variant that gets left out of Kincaid’s summary of postmodern poetics. The desire to know still underpins the writing of many poets who struggle with how to determine the boundaries of negative capability. Of the poets who will be reading this Saturday, Bennett and Bernstein in particular are likely to remind the audience that the yearning for knowledge cuts short the self-serving pose of the neo-Socratics. The advantages of saying “I don’t know” lose their momentum when confronted with the question, “What would it mean if you did know? How would you then be held accountable for having not known?” At the very least, there is a poignant desire to know underlying the work of many poets who get lumped together as postmodern, but who agitate that categorization with their jaunty wit, the one quality that most efficiently redeems the deferral of resolute acknowledgement. Even so, I wish I had the means to bring Kincaid’s critique into the conversation this Saturday, for it would make this event even more deserving of your attendance. Despite his absence, I hope to see you there.

LIFE SENTENCES: An Afternoon of the Epigrammatic
4 hours, 8 readers, 800+ statements

w/

Guy Bennett, Charles Bernstein, Aaron Kunin, Andrew Maxwell, Maggie Nelson, Vanessa Place, Matvei Yankelevich, Maged Zaher

Saturday June 15th, 2013 1pm – 5pm
@ Poetic Research Bureau
951 Chung King Rd, Chinatown, LA

Gnomes, aphorisms, propositions, fragments,
maxims, phrases, epigrams, mottoes, curses,
koans, haiku, quips, dry tweets, pensées.

In sequence, relentlessly, toward 1000 sentences.
Live readers, video people, giving the compressed
form its due, by mouth and by pixel.