To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Jerome Rothenberg & David Antin: A First Interview with Kenneth Rexroth (1958), Redux

The memory of Kenneth Rexroth goes back into my distant past. I had been aware of him since the 1940s but with renewed interest during the 1950s & the emergence of the San Francisco Renaissance & that early Beat Generation for which he was an older spokesman. With David Antin & others, circa 1958, I was coming into contact with poets outside of our immediate neighborhood &, as with Kenneth, outside of our own generation.

I think our first meeting with him was under the pretext of doing an interview for Chelsea Review, during its early period, when Robert Kelly & George Economou were among the co-founders & editors. I have a memory too of having caught up with Rexroth at the CBS Studios in New York, to watch him being interviewed by Mike Wallace, but David seems not to have been a part of that. Afterwards, we agreed to meet and do our own interview at the Five Spot, a popular jazz club in what would later be called the East Village, where Kenneth was performing nightly with Pepper Adams’ quintet.

In that ambience the interview we did was secondary, but the chance to watch Kenneth was something I felt as memorable from the outset. By that I mean Kenneth talking & Kenneth doing jazz & poetry, all of it with an outrageous zest & for the moment at least with a belief in his own presence & power as a public person & a man who had the real goods & could well display them.

Our interview was never published but I retained a copy of the manuscript and have recently dug it out of my papers and manuscripts at the New Poetry Archives of the University of California, San Diego. In 1958, it’s clear, there was no tape recording to fall back on, but I was busily writing down notes in a weird kind of shorthand that I had picked up while working for a sometimes questionable New York outfit called Writers Service. I can still hear his voice as I read through it, and I’m aware now, as I was then, of how much he was trying to dazzle us. We took it all in stride, including the irritability and impatience he displayed toward other poets, and learned later that it was a part of any encounter with Kenneth.

For David and me there would be other meetings with Kenneth down the years – not too many but all of them comradely and without rancor. He was incredibly supportive of the work I did with ethnopoetics and with an avantgardism for which he was often an interested but skeptical supporter. We only found out, after his death, that our connection with New Directions – the poetry rather than the poetics – was largely of his doing. That he had never called this to our attention is something I find as moving as the support itself.

What follows, then, is an unedited version of our interview with him, scribbled by hand at the Five Spot.

As Rexroth sat down a well-dressed woman over at the side pointed him out to a group of friends, speaking in an audible, almost passionate tone: “That’s him, that’s the poet, the PO-ET!”

Rexroth: Feed him some peanuts (Laughter).
R&A: How are things here?
Rexroth: Not bad...This isn’t the best town for what we’re doing. Too many other things to pull the crowds away.

R&A: Better audiences here?
Rexroth: I don’t think so. I find a New York audience is less sophisticated. They miss all the better lines. I mean I like to throw out some patter before we start, to relax them. You do it here and they’ll sit right below the bandstand and never crack a smile...all the music and literary references go right by them.

R&A: What are the differences outside of New York?
Rexroth: Well, we draw bigger there. We pack in crowds in some places they would never dream of here. You can’t match the enthusiasm. This is a big cultural event for a lot of those people. This is a big cultural event for a lot of those people. They’re quick to respond. Like in St. Louis I said, “We want to pay tribute to St. Louis’ two greatest citizens, Jimmy Blanton and Karl Schurz,” and some guy got up and applauded...Wouldn’t happen here.

R&A: In the Jazz-Poetry itself, what are you trying to achieve? What effects do you go after?
Rexroth: You don’t always get what you want, of course, but we’re learning...What I try with my own stuff is to work the poem to a slow climax through a series of quiet painful dissonances. They (the musicians) aren’t dissonant enough for me. There’s too much funkiness. On a tour like this you can’t expect too much, playing with different groups.

R&A: What’s the trouble?
Rexroth: A lot of the boys just don’t want to practice. I have some of my own Chinese translations in the book, and I try to get them to listen to tapes of Chinese music and build the jazz around it. There’s a tendency for it to come out like 42nd Street chop-suey music. Its not a bad effect altogether, but it isn’t what I want.

R&A: Have you tried any Japanese waka or haiku?
Rexroth: I’ve managed some really good, short things with that, but there the Japanese music is essential. A lot of the boys are good instrumentalists, you know, but without imagination for this. It seems to me as if the 1958 bop style is swinging back to the old K.C. sound brought up to date –with harmonies invented by Beethoven. The funkiness always bugs in.

R&A: Does any of this interfere with your poetry?
Rexroth: That question always depends on who you are. I find I’ve learned a hell of a lot about my poetry and poetry in general. Actually only about half the things in our book are my own. Then I read Durrel, Neruda, early Sandburg, a lot of other people.

R&A: In what way does your approach to Jazz-Poetry differ from, say Patchen’s or Ferlinghetti’s?
Rexroth: Well, Larry came to it late and didn’t really know much about jazz to start with. But he’s a good foil for me. We work well together. I’ve been around jazz and jazz musicians most of my life. In my teens I ran a joint in Chicago. Dave Tough was a very good friend of mine. He was a great musician and a really good poet too. I knew them all back in Chicago.

R&A: He’s got some really top musicians there.
Rexroth: There’s six men but they double in everything under the sun. Some of their climaxes come out sounding like the Pines of Rome. With my own group I like to keep it loose. They have to counter rather than go with me. When they stop I like to be moving.

R&A: Like cross rhythms?
Rexroth: That’s right. You have the voice moving free across the bar line. It’s something like a solo riff. Kenneth’s arrangements are a lot tighter. I think they’ve got it worked out to the hemi-semi-demi-quaver.

R&A: Do you think it’s all heading somewhere?
Rexroth: Sure, it’s the only way you can return poetry to its audience.

R&A: What are the chances of this developing into something like drama?
Rexroth: You can’t tell yet. Actually out on the coast very soon, they’ll be a performance of my Phaedra to jazz accompaniment. It’ll be jazz with sort of modal harmonies. My wife called me on this from out there, and I told them to hold everything till I got back. The essence of all these plays is in the absolute starkness, as in Noh drama or Yeats. Did you know I staged the first performance in America of At the Hawk’s Well ? Well, in the Phaedra also the staging is bare. You have two choruses — four people sitting at the sides who are also the musicians, and the main chorus, a beggar and a prostitute, sitting on a sort of step in front. They narrate what the characters are doing and also pick up their lines and speak for them in their own voices. Now originally I had this scored for flute and percussion and something like a guitar. That’s pretty far away from the new version, and I want to make sure it doesn’t get loused up. When they put this on in New York back in the forties, it was one of the great disasters in the history of drama. Thank God I wasn’t there. Later I heard they played it in orgone boxes.
R&A: What’s your present view of that which is called “the beat generation.”
Rexroth: Oh hell! Do you know what I said about that? It’s all a Madison Avenue gimmick that’s going to go out with the Fall book list.

R&A: Just sticking to the writers around San Francisco....
Rexroth: Those two (Kerouac and Ginsberg) aren’t from San Francisco, they’re from the San Remo. I mean I think Allen Ginsberg is a very good poet. Don’t get me wrong. I said and I still feel that he has great potential as a really popular and hortatory poet.

R&A: How about Kerouac? Have you changed your mind about him?
Rexroth: I have no interest in Kerouac whatsoever. I’ve done my stint for him. As far as I’m concerned, Kerouac is what Madison Avenue wants a rebel to be. That isn’t my kind of rebel. I mean I’ve been an anarchist all my life, and I know a lot more about Greek and Latin than Allen Tate.

R&A: What’s your opinion of Howl ?
Rexroth: I’ve gone through it very carefully. It’s a skillfully put together poem, if you understand what he’s doing. I mean Allen handles a colloquial line — of the type of Sandburg before he imagined he was Abe Lincoln — very well.

R&A: Does the “hipster” vocabulary bother you there?
Rexroth: I don’t think it’s inherent in the verse line. It’s part of the content, but that’s something different. What I was talking about was the rhythm of the line...the use of a natural speech line. Allen works very hard at it. He’s really a poet.

R&A: And Kerouac?
Rexroth: No! I think that Jack busted the crust of custom, and as far as that went I was for it. At least he made all the right enemies.

R&A: In your own poetry it’s not just the natural speech line, is it? You use syllabics ...
Rexroth: Oh yes ... mostly. But the syllabic structure is just a device, and behind it there’s the organization in terms of rhythms. Eluard did that also. Or you find it in Laughlin, where you have to know what he’s playing it off against ... the jazz feeling behind it. Do you know this? (Leaning over and chanting)
Met you in the supermarket
And gee you were nice.

R&A: Is that what you mean by cadenced verse?
Rexroth: The basic line in any good verse is cadenced ... building it around the natural breath structures of speech.

R&A: What about Williams’ claim to have discovered a new type of American prosody?
Rexroth: Well, Bill I think is a very great poet, but I’m afraid he’s created such an elaborate smoke screen about his discoveries that he’s come to believe them. It reminds me of the story of the painter who went through a big show of stirring his paints very carefully, and someone asked him what the secret was, and he said, “It’s all in the mureatic acid.” Bill just got to believe the hoax.

R&A: You wrote, in the Prairie Schooner I think, that most of the San Francisco people, except Denise Levertov, were “uncivilized.” Did you mean anything special by that?
Rexroth: No; just that Denise is the product of an old and rich culture ... her family is grounded in the humanistic tradition. I don’t think it’s that important. I mean there are a lot of different kinds of people on the San Francisco scene. And I’m not talking about Kerouac. He doesn’t belong there. I don’t think he’s been in Frisco more than three months in his life.

R&A: This Marie Ponsat is quite different than the others, isn’t she? More like Lowell, or someone in the Donne tradition?
Rexroth: Oh sure, there’s just the widest variety out there. Josephine Miles, Robert Duncan — all of them are different. You can’t call this a movement.

R&A: You wouldn’t want this to tighten into a single poetic point of view?
Rexroth: No; when I was teaching a workshop course there, the only thing I tried to impress on my class was certain fundamentals of any writing — directness and clarity of observation, and fidelity of the poetic situation. Not any special forms or styles.

R&A: How do you take to people who work in more or less traditional metrics, like Richard Wilbur?
Rexroth: No, I’m just not interested. It bores me. What would you call the now — the neo-alexandrianization of the baroque tradition? I mean I can still read Callimachus, but not Eratos. I draw the line there ... no interest whatsoever. You can fall into the same thing by modeling your work around Saintsbury’s Minor Caroline Poets.

R&A: Does that hold for Lowell too?
Rexroth: I don’t think Lowell’s like that.

R&A: He writes a stanza like Drayton’s...
Rexroth: Yes, but there’s a personal element here. I’ve always felt with him a considerable violence and bettering of form. But even so, he’s not one of the people I like best.

R&A: Who would you consider the rating American poets?
Rexroth: I don’t know ... Williams. He’s one of the very few we have in the general European tradition. All these quarterlies and all that exist in the backwash of the English tradition ... something apart from the modern movement. Williams is the peer of the Europeans — a world poet.

R&A: How about Pound?
Rexroth: Well, as a poet I find his verse soft and mellifluous ... a limp soft line. It’s not what I’m looking for at all. The difference is like that between Wyatt and Surrey. And he’s beneath the backwash also. I just don’t think it’s very fruitful.

R&A: Which European poets do you prefer?
Rexroth: Mostly French, though I read the Italians also. Reverdy and Apollinaire in particular.

R&A: Any younger French poets?
Rexroth: I don’t care for the post-war ones in general, though I did translate some of [Oscar] Milosz. I like the sentiment. I’m in favor of that.

R&A: How about post-war Germans?
Rexroth: Those I don’t know. Is there anything there? See if you can find some.

R&A: Back to the French, what about Rene Char?
Rexroth: Well, don’t forget that he’s a sort of A.E. Housman in a modern the same way that Prevert is really their New Yorker poet, which shows how much ahead of us they are. Larry [Ferlinghetti] always thought he’d modeled himself on Prevert, but I think he’s got a much harder line, more like Queneau.

R&A: Are there any older poets to whom you return?
Rexroth: Those I read continuously are Burns and Landor. Simple, stark quatrains ... things my little girls can enjoy.

R&A: There’s been a growing interest in oriental verse recently, in which you played a part. What do you think of it?
Rexroth: In California — not Los Angeles but in Frisco — there’s direct contact. They’re open to the sea, so that something of the real flavor comes across. And Frisco, remember, is full of Buddhist churches. Mary, my little girl, was confirmed in a Buddhist temple. She saw the Life write up on Buddhism, with pictures of the ceremony, and she said she wanted to be confirmed there because she only liked Jesus as a kid. She was a little disappointed in him when he grew up. But anyway, the orientalism in Frisco isn’t all the ten cent incense burner variety. A lot of us — Gary Snyder, Alan Watts, myself — read the languages.

R&A: Do you include the current Zen craze in this?

Rexroth: Oh, I don’t much care for that. Do you know what the Japanese call it? Buddhism for white people. It’s too easy, something set up for a popular market.

¶ R&A: Do you think of yourself as a Buddhist?
Rexroth: Not really ... or if I am, if I am a Buddhist, I’m a Buddhist of a very primitive sort — not a Rhys Davids Oxford Hinayana Buddhist. If I have any religious belief at all, I suppose I believe in the primacy of religious experience. In Buddhism the religious experience is purely empirical.

¶ R&A: Do you mean they’re continually searching, but nobody gets to Nirvana ... like the laughter of the Buddha and the Bodhisatvas about the path?
Rexroth: It’s like what you find in the statues — the bored look on the face of the Buddha — or the Bodhisatva’s vow made out of a kind of good humored indifference or insouciance. But I’m not a Buddhist anyway. I’m an aetheist.

¶ R&A: That searching for the path isn’t like Kerouac’s search for God’s face, is it?
Rexroth: Look, that’s all a lot of talk. You don’t become a saint until you lead a good life whether in Tibet or Italy or America. When the hipster picks this up, he cheapens it. I don’t like hipsters. The hipster is a louse on jazz ... a mimic of jazz and Negroes who believes the Negro is born with a sax in his mouth and a hypodermic in his arm. That’s despicable. In jazz circles it’s what they call Crow Jimism.

¶ R&A: And in religion?
Rexroth: I just don’t know where they drag the saints into this. You can’t become a saint by taking dope, stealing your friends’ typewriters, giving girls chancres, not supporting your wife and children, and then reading St. John of the Cross. All of that, when it’s happened before, has typified the collapse of civilization ... and today the social fabric is falling apart so fast, it makes your head swim.

[Originally published online in Jacket 23, August 2003.]

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Robert Yerachmiel Snyderman: Lyric Fermentation: A Practice

Besmilr Brigham
 (via CD Wright and Besmilr Brigham, in memory)
[Presented originally at Outside-in/Inside-out,” A Festival of Outside and Subterranean Poetry, in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 5, 2016, as a testament in part to C.D. Wright’s work with the archives of poet Besmilr Brigham, while touching on much else in the process. (J.R.)] 
When C.D. Wright died ... American poetry lost one of the great ones, one of the figures who changed what the language can do, one of the writers whose lines and titles, sentences and similes are going to last at least as long as American English. That’s something I believe, but it’s also something seems inappropriate, even rude to say, because Wright’s artistic powers cannot be separated from her deep sense of democracy, her work against boundaries, rankings and exclusions, her insistence that poetry, and society, should become, not a hierarchy or star system or a way to exalt a singular self, but a way to be generous, to share the powers we get, to give of oneself, to let everybody come in.                                             
      Stephen Burt, Los Angeles Times (ShallCross, 2016)
1.       Fermentation
Culture is what we overhear and what we overhear is noise, not a privileged didacticism we should mutter after. Dough culture is sour. Crushed grain and water, given space, left to change in an experimental zone, if you will, a jar, traditional, ghetto. Culture is what’s passed down and chained to change. I’ve chained, or linked, held, digesting and wrapping or tonguing, studied my noise for my ancestors by responding, adding the water and flour. Whatever is available to me in my time now, my fields, my supermarket, my rations. Culture is radically shared substance, bitter, wild to its eater, and appropriately so. Its bitter wild is signage of persevering lifeforce, digestive affect, and innate experimentalism. But for all of that it is also (a) dying, somewhere between the now-not-wholly material culture of ancestors and very present but not visible microorganisms. It is evidence of what’s at stake for emotional beings. The foremost popular advocate in the U.S. for fermentation’s significance to food justice and cultural history, Sandor Katz, rightly associates fermentation with a coming-to-terms-with and re-envisioning of mortality and death because fermentation is a projectile utilization, preservation, changing, and presencing of what-could-rot to keep for living, preserve through winter, sanitize in the way of restraint and witness, grant the gut ecology-tools by which to cultivate genetic resilience. The politics of fermentation, or what sociologist, Heather Paxon, calls “microbiopolitics,” presences us in the violence of “Pasteurian ethics” which need us to erase microbes, bacteria, biotics wholly as if we can separate from them, from our vaccuum of space where we, as if we could, make time alone. Maybe rightly so, we do this out of a fear of falling ill, because of the fermented thing’s dangerous soil-potential activation, addressing what makes us edible to the dark unnamed god; that moral inverse of our own behaviors that silences subjectivity for the omnipresence of the body. We over-prescribe and inject anti-edemic chemicals into our dead. We try to perform the body of death.  Pasteurian ethic is that vast contract that protects through indiscrimate erasure on the most base level confounding a visibility that turns out to be of ultimate significance. The ecology of our immunity is all bound up in the cascading of resistances the microbial world inherits and advances. And what is immunity other than our most fragile conundrum?
Susan Stewart, in “Lyric Posession,” writes on Plato’s reason to exile poets from his city on the basis of the cancer they initiate, of possession and mimesis, “The point is that one cannot intend to be possessed; one is helpless before the magnet and one’s helplessness is contagious.” What is lyrical is a matter of fragility and what we tend to do with ourselves against it. Lyric in its most urgent conundrum calls and levels, which is painful, ecstatic, and collective; that active tension between subjectivity and the material commons that never ends in language but the contagion of utterance. Fermentation in  the Pasteurian era is lyric force that makes things reckon, both progressively and retroactively, in a momentum propelled by a perceived-to-be unperceivable excess. Fermentation is real genetic influence, process, feast, as much as it is teacher and metaphor. Somewhere here in the crush of ancestrality and microbials and subsequent bio-momentum is the full permeable capacity of lyric, quite indifferent to the separations between what we name and the ways in which lyric objects disperse, which is to say with or without rotting.
2.      Fermentation-Incantation 
Fermentation incantation. Incantation is the magic behind apostrophe. All language is apostrophic. It is always addressing two. It is always addressing one who is present and one who is not, from a place of speech-origination that is as permeable to its own not-being as it is to its capacity to assert being. Lyric’s shifting of language between subjectivity and material distortion intensifies this process. That which the critic, Jonathan Culler, in his various works on lyric theory, calls “embarrassing” in regards to apostrophe, is I think its fundamental source of resistance to its own institutions, including language and all that codifies it. The poet, Lisa Robertson, parallels and informs my stance by her idea of “the prosody of noise:” “The rhythmic opacity of noise,” she writes, “or the body or the city fails or exceeds its measure” (61). The lyric becomes incantatory as a form of noise, dependent upon its arrivals or emergences from the shelter of institutionalization; the way it runs from it without ever really leaving and what happens then by the prosody of that refrain. Robertson: “The prosody of noise parses a discomfort that uncovers, in its unstable caesura, the fact of the citizen’s material fragility” (61). The lyric poet is ultimately within but, and at least, triangulated, always able to incant to (at least) two outsides by the simulatenous surfacing of herselves. One outside is that shelter of institutionalization. The other is a violator of the sheltering, less immediately present, less named, yet equally something one is within. Incanting to both there in that is incantation-fermentation; a vatic acculturation that induces othering sensibilities, misdirecting language to and through what is expectant because it’s paying debt to an origin subversively fragile, which is to say it alters from the roots, ecologically speaking. This happens because it happens in a historicity that confounds presence into what I think Fred Moten in a more specific context calls nothingness, and Robertson noise, “the historicity of nonmeaning,” and what Theodor Adorno in “Lyric Poetry and Society,” calls “lyric’s inalienable right.” I will quote Adorno at lenghth: 
Not only does the lyric subject embody the whole all the more cogently, the more it expresses itself; in addition, poetic subjectivity is itself indebted to privilege: the pressures of the struggle for survival allow only a few human beings to grasp the universal through immersion in the self or to develop as autonomous subjects capable of freely expressing themselves. The others, however, thos who not only stand alienated as though they were objects, facing the disconcerted poetic subject but who have also literally been degraded to objects of history, have the same right, or a greater right, to grope for the sounds in which sufferings and dreams are welded. This inalienable right has asserted itself again and again, in forms however impure, mutilated, fragmentary, and intermittent—the only forms possible for those who have to bear the burden. (45) 
If these are the social conditions of lyric utterance, I think we might call them in a more total and visceral manner, lyric momentum, lyric fermentation, incantation-fermentation; a force welded to possibility and poverty, the poverty of possibility and the possibility of poverty. Lyric fermentation steps outside of the shelter of rhetoric by working specifically with unseen- and also nonhuman agents of social condition; some tradition of evocation and anti-meaning expenditure addressed to whole ecologies of power and space. Lyric fermentation is what Adorno calls an “undercurrent that makes language the medium in which the subject becomes more than a mere subject” (45). It is only by way of (the sealed off, the hidden, the excised) poverty that subjectivity is afforded to the whole, and social conditions are afforded to ecology. 
3.      Before-Archive 
I approach these things through telling of an archive that for many years lived between readership and trash; between the carpentry of an author’s husband and Southern humidity and the teeth of rodents; between a daughter’s body and indifference. When I found the poem, “The Origin,” Besmilr Brigham’s archive became a law. Handwritten in blue ink, dated precisely in the upper right corner “Feb. 5.88/11 am,” I was sitting in the dust yard of the daughter Heloise’s home, Las Cruces, New Mexico, cataloguing everything because I thought she was dying. Heloise had just returned from the hospital diagnosed with bladder cancer. Besmilr’s boxed papers surrounded the bed I slept in and once I woke to see three little people sitting on top of them, looking at me. Heloise limped her tall, thick body outside, and read loud the scrawl, at the edge of her voice, while I typed.  
I am an old woman writing.
it began
            in a gully of fright, bare red earth—
            a yard of graves, hill-land and
            delta; a child rocking in a chair
            learning to read; it began, a recurring
            in silence, with fingers on letters
            feeling out the words. a young
            woman’s songs, singing in the night
“The Origin” was evidence that she was still writing then. The late work is all in notebooks, handwritten; most of it dated precisely, with the time. She was hard in Alzheimer’s by the early 90’s when CD found her in backwoods Arkansas, having dropped out of a brief period of belated literary recognition a fifteen years before. At this time, Besmilr could not always identify with her own work, questioning, for instance, in a video Forrest Gander recorded, from where “in the world” the poem she was reading out of the binder in her hands had come. When I saw (or should I say read, or witnessed?) “The Origin” I felt I was being addressed as an instrument of the archive, that it was employing me, making me it. A pulse emanated through all the papers and the house where her husband died before her in her lostness, and Heloise’s cancer. The word “writing” in the poem’s first line is subject and verb. “I am an old woman writing” is a stilled state of active being, continuing to perform in a combustion. It is old writing that irrupts the archive, adamantly and always resettling, unsettling, giving writing to I am not. She instrumentalizes her life’s work in its total precarity with a base statement of self-witness that cannot really be eradicated by any other. In this simple gesture, Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever, which deconstructs the “codetermination” of “archivable meaning,” is undermined by a diffident speech-act of self- witnessing and -protection. To re-appropriate Roland Barthes’ term, Brigham’s poem-object is the punctum to her papers; stripped of and stripping ready association, piercing for an other axis of perceiving and meaning-making. What if the specific poverty of a specific lyric’s tendency to ferment, foments past the archival superstructure into its own ante-archival persistence? What if this persistence is what saves it?
The noise before archive calls for an embodied research that might underlie recuperative urgencies as much as it reckons the extent of influence. In the noise: poems, blood-urine, photographs, voices, boxes, sleep, defunct mines, logging woods, cats, a bed the author’s husband died in, intuition, ghosts of the scholar, and income tax records, or the smell of paper rot that is the smell of accumulated backwoods shames and the exact disintigration of memory break down upon each other to formulate shapeshifting trace of authorial power. The exciting problem of this need is that it is pushed out and pushes out of bounds for immunity. This pushing is interrogative and instructional. I have asked myself the following questions, because the living and dying of my subject (and the living and dying of how there I arrived) instructs it. Where does Besmilr begin and the young, working with what she left, end? Where do Besmilr’s intentions begin and the archive’s own end? Where does Besmilr’s lyrical force begin and the decisions Heloise makes about its shelter end? Lyric fermentation, the dangerous abolition of boundaries these questions inaugurates, designates the mortal field. Fruits and drought of my intuition, hallucinations, illnesses, experience, and thought are given import to meet Besmilr in a mutual and dark noise. As when Robertson writes, “Noise doesn’t cohere with the figural self-identity of meaning,” that it “excedes its own identity,” the lyric force of a woman’s materials teaches and so reforms, deforms “us” into untracked elsewhere. We join, so to speak, such a force of things to be closer to each other than our names can be. “Noise is moving survival.” The point is there is no evacuation of the subject’s momentum. There is no purification process for the caretaker and the dead to decisively separate themselves, in working through what is left. 
Works cited
Adorno, Theodor. “On Lyric Poetry and Society.” Notes to Literature Volume 1. Ed. Rolf Tiedeman. Trans. Shierry Weber Nicholson. New York: Columbia UP, 1991. Print.
Katz, Sander. “The Art of Fermentation Sander Katz Interview.” Youtube, 22 April 2014. Web. 06 December 2014. 
Robertson, Lisa. Nilling: Prose Essays on Noise, Pornography, The Codex, Melancholy, Lucretius, Folds, Cities, and Related Aporias. Toronto: Bookthug, 2012. Print.  
Stewart, Susan. “Lyric Posession.” Critical Inquiry Vol. 22, Issue 1 (Autumn, 1995). U Chicago P, 34-63. Print. 
(The author thanks John Melillo, Julie Carr, Jerome Rothenberg, and the organizers of the Outside-in/Inside-out Poetry Festival in Glasgow for the fundamental gift of dialogue)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ariel Resnikoff: from the “yinglossia” series, a work in progress

[AUTHOR'S NOTE.  I arrived at the present work thru a practice of translingual-poetic (translational) deformance across/​between multiple code-switching dialects. My compositional method traverses by (mis)translation in/to​ Yiddish-, Hebrew-, Aramaic- & Akkadian-English adapted​ sonic/semantic properties in​ grammar, syntax & lexicon, taking English as its temporary “host” while performing perpetual inflectional slippages—interlingual punning & fusion-slangs,​ as much as the host can absorb.
     The dybbuk (Yiddish: spirit-possessor), which my Jewish-Ashkenazi ancestors believed to inhabit the body of the wild stutterer, mad person, heretic or “akher” [lit. other],​ became the peripheral focus​ of this poetry. I began to imagine the “odd”  transgressional​ practices​ of that other(ed) marginal antinomian ancestor —the “possessed”— and to consider the ways in which this “possession” by language might manifest in my own​ “odd” practices, which so mark me as poet, translator and jew. I use the word “odd” here in deliberate echo of the terms against which Sabbatean stigma was transcribed in ​17th-century Palestine: “for the odd practices of a false messiah.​”--A.R.]

y i n g l o s s i a “ f i r s t s p e e c h ”
praise god! thanks & pray. recite the 18 benedictions. vo den (cut-off [lit: what else])? no sweat. god [lit. the name] respects the humble somebody -- does he? berates the evil-ones (may they choke on their tongues [lit. languages]). the real article is a bargain for hire. the chew-among-chews. for rent or (re)lease. it pleases me, see? my heart told me so, see? i predicted it, see? likewise: keep it moving! don't bother me [lit. don’t throw a hook around my nose]! **a stutterer was seen as a scatterbrain, confuser, & somehow also a conniver, twister, self-promoter, not to be trusted [lit. jew]. human dung was attributed to [lit. the inferior merchandise]   now we talk excessively or not at all. a groan, maybe, even, a disparaging sigh…cld be…lies on the square & still talking non-sense

y i n g l o s s i a “ f r i e n d l y f a c e ”
friendly face. a familiar face. 
like a hot bath. like a bowl of chopped meat.
stop banging on my head [lit. bargaining w/ my sanity]
the gargling solution shld be
fresh breath? o, that it shld come true!  who bringeth forth bread
     from the earth, etc.
to the common people, for a bargain say, not only to do business
but for heartache, see? sweetheart (singing) my heart’s love
is a pit in the earth . . .
listen: you can shake-stammer
in impending fire
from stuffed cabbage to stuffed cabbage to
stuffed (holebshes/holishkes/holubtshe) depending on
& so I made a mistake. so the words abrade. so what?
i’ve been called worse than debauchee
many times before, a caine-raiser
carouser, mad man, mongrel, kyke --

 y i n g l o s s i a “ m i n c h a ”
                                                for Anne Tardos
in praise & submission to a baby-son [yiddishism (derisive)] -- let us prepare the tools for extraction [lit. from tongues]. if the fever is of a jewish head -- is it a shaygets luck?  There's no evil eye, either way, as they say (tu-tu), the canary keep away. single men of marriageable age [lit. little birds] crippled into misfits for a spoiled lap of milk, narrowly achieved [lit. hardly lived to see] the transformation of soars into sacrifice (slang [lit. false-messianism]). raw groats (a mess-up [lit. mix-up of]) & cooked groats w/ broad noodles at a kosher boarding-house-cafeteria in the far-reaches of the Bronx [lit. a lively Russian dance, usually to sexual cause (ie. of ‘blind mixing’)]. an amulet [lit. charm, (from german, "kind-bet-tzettel")] worn at birth, containing psalm 121: di nomen fun melokhim [lit. names of angels] -- envision god in labor & after, old & young, eating plates of stuffed derma (in flour & onion, salt, feffer & shmaltz, (to keep them in skins) -- the ticklish little prigs (technically, talkative little jews [lit. fruitless idle questions)]: not in "reality," so to say [lit. "as if it were" (pronounced ver)], round dumplings made of groat-meal cooked-up in pork-belly stew & tied at the corners in ‘bakers handkerchiefs.’ dumplings filled w/ potatoes & livers, kidneys & barley at a kosher boarding-house-cafeteria on grand concourse: a petulant excitability by a gad-about gang of jews gathers about --“he had been perfect [lit. legitimate] before the cross-eyed sickness took!” first in small pockets of dough filled w/ meat & curd-cheese, the magic-worker, trickster, phony casper milquetoast corrupts the root-canals of the pure jewish jaw. a virus of the tongue & teeth [lit. cheek & mouth]. how does it infect? 

**in force of false laughter & aguish [lit. idling], the loafer lox-addict stutterer stumbles out of the afternoon prayer-hall, wreathing in false thanks & praise: “may we fan forever the shekhina embers”! [lit. blessed is the vessel as it breaks]

y i n g l o s s i a “ b l e s s e d a r e w e ”
go away! go hump w/ the whales (peddle yr fish
     elsewhere [lit. whistle at a leviathan]).
go to hell! [lit. may you choke on yr tongue] shit in the ocean. 
    spill yr guts.
spill yr guts against the city hall.
spill yr guts against the synagogue [lit. house-of-entry]
that you shd threaten the "holy geese" upon entering & don't
     (& don't frighten me [lit. you little non-native jew of
someone hollers: go frig yrself  . . .
the same to you! [hebraism, lit. big deal… (derisive)]
quite well, huh? tho it doesn't work-out the way we planned
     there is no "complete man"
to bribe, see? blessed are we, w/ children & all (in fractured
     English [lit. utter
misery]) we are chopped-in w/ the herring & vodka [lit. minced] 

y i n g l o s s i a “ c o m m e n s e n s e ”
what a..! what kind of a..! what’s it matter to you, huh? now don’t get excited [lit. burst into flame]. it stinks—what’r you talking? smack smack (gently said) wd you keep quiet (shouted), quiet, I said, shutup!! there’s the professional (professorial) type who makes a living from it, gathering the pious sheep, berating the irreligious (who “flout” the sacred law. “beautiful as the seven worlds,” (belles lettres, & w/ a hearty laugh [lit. half-sarcastically]). the wig at the wedding she wore ever after (a watchword greeting, beadle at the shtibl quoting old policeman’s slang: “it had a been a brothel whorehouse (before) mix of  wool & linen ! now you oughta be ashamed of yrself [lit. to the bottom of yr throat]. the prettier ones they bury [lit. this one is an ugly one].  & gather pleasure, the little nothings for a “messenger drunkard” -- non-jewish [lit. impious or wild one]. if to skin one: a hag-mare worthless one [lit. mischievous child]. an apoplectic wreck. where the customer is king [Americanism], a snake can also be a shrew  clumsy bungler, drag, poor luckless sponger, butter-fingered shmock  

y i n g l o s s i a “ p a r v e n u ” 

so now, get rid of it:
alas for alack, woe unto whom?
either too much or too little [lit. a wallop or a toot]
“dear me!” (imitatingly —parvenu!
cut it short [lit. w/out intro(duction)]
conceited & peevish
sulky & stuffed in a puffy shirt
& sputtered as confused
little pups [lit. overly made-up]
“the rich are too stuffed-up
to photograph [lit. stuffed in dead birds]
& drunk
me bothersome hanger-on
cursing in

y i n g l o s s i a “ i m p u r e b o n e “

good for nothing -- worth nothing -- starved [lit. dead hungry] day-to-day contrary to the dietary laws -- forbidden foods, impure or unprepared [lit. improvisatory] (applied also to the Sabbatean writings) in the posterior rectum [lit. buttocks-ass, a backward variant on toches] or “house of worship”. the pashkeviln [lit. wheat-paste posters] coating the study hall’s walls: THE JEW WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY THE JEWISH LAW IS AN IMPURE BONE. r e a d i t & s e e. ( t h e ) evil inclinations [lit. those who crave pig’s feed] are no-thing but an-other ratty snot rag [yiddishism, sarcastically], decrepit worn out no-body. said some-body to no-body “it’d be better to fornicate w/ one-self than to birth such a body.” said  a bum ne’er-do-well faker I was -- mistaken for a petty-Paul & overdressed in wretched rags wandering. from a distant foreign words melted into a mouth, then confusion, absent-minded wild ecstatic repetition: not the one you were expecting, but like a sweet carrot pie [slang, lit. fuss over nothing] in disgrace & humiliation hang the words on tho unwanted, for better or worse. “do me a favor & don’t do me any favors !” the confusion agitation roister bositerer is not just an ornamental swan but at the fringes of language hanging-on; & its costly dear, too much, for such & such [lit. bodily soars]