Thoughts on book publishing, editing, contemporary poetry, dementia, administrative memos, and teaching by the editor of Tinfish Press.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
New _Memory Cards: Wolsak Series_ from Ink Press in Metz
From Alain Cressan of Metz, France, I've just received a couple packages of Memory Cards: Wolsak Series. As is perhaps appropriate for a small chapbook whose composer's obsessions are memory and (mostly) forgetting, there's no indication on the chap where it was published, printed, stapled, or by whom. The cover reads Ink, and then #13. So I take photos and put them to float here in interstitial, internetted space.
The chaps arrived while I was in Vancouver reading from the Wolsak poems to an audience that included Lissa Wolsak herself; the next evening, she read from her new book Squeezed Light: Collected Poems 1994-2005. At that reading she made of herself a juke box (juked box!) and read poems requested by Dorothy Trujillo Lusk and Steve Collis, namelyher early book, The Garcia Family Co-Mercy, followed by a recent poem, "Thrall." It was in writing about that first long poem that I was persuaded that Wolsak knows exactly what she's doing; like Hart Crane, her words come eight levels deep, many of them. In looking up her new book, I find more on "squeezed light," another reference that pushes the phrase beyond the lyrical and into the speculative world of physics. The word "mercy" made communal--"co-mercy"--with its play on "commerce," as on the more spiritual meaning, is also a constant in her work. She invokes mercy, while often railing at commerce. (Jocelyn Saidenberg, who read with Lissa, referred aptly to Lissa's "graceful rage.") "Thrall" is an extended railing, at once attack (on the Bush administration) and a support (for those who also rail on). This last poem ends with these lines, which I cannot make work in the blogger box the way they appear on her page. So here is content without her chosen form, but not without an echo of Pound as his best. Here is her priority: mercy.
In the stumbling that speaks for me / I say death to vanity, / solipsism's potency / let the pyrrhic / burning thorn / in deeper / Mercy above Justice
When, after a gap of a decade, I began again my memory cards (prose poems that each fit on an index card), I found random lines or phrases from Wolsak's book off of which to riff. The first poems begin from Behold one orphan, then from Compassion is largely exile. Once the tone was set, the poems put in motion, I spent more time looking consciously for lines--cheating, in other words on my own rules--. It's an odd way to read a book, to open it and look for lines and phrases. This cannot be said to be "reading" in the usual sense of the word, at least not until responses are launched, reading occurs actively; this is not to read poems, but to parse phrases inside of poems, to recast them from another imagination. (Since then, I've composed sequences based on poems by Norman Fischer and Wallace Stevens, poets whose work is abstract and philosophical, can be worked through a specific context or set of contexts--response poem, poem in Hawai`i, memory poem, forgetting poem.) Click on the photograph to read the first two.
One of my freshmen lamented on our class blog that she thinks by way of class conversations, but she cannot think on the blog. Lyz Soto and I wrote back that the blog is itself a conversation (if only you read each other's posts!). Each post becomes a conversation once the links are found and installed; they talk back to the writer, and then the reader in their different ways. The new set of memory cards is also a conversation, or a set of them. Speaking back to poets, thinking back on earlier selves. Appropriating words in order to realign them in another space. Publisher Alain Cressan has new work in Ligne 13; my chap is #13, and my daughter's number on her Eastside Soccer club is #13. There is no randomness in this world that is not an opening to something sturdier, if only "momentary in the mind." His poem is "Angle mort." My foreign eye spies the word "memoire" at least twice therein, along with the dampness of a photograph in the last line. You can read more about the issue here. And because every publication contains a train of thought (on rails . . .), you can find out more about Ligne 13 here. The mysterious Ink can be found here, if anywhere, and Alain Cressan, blogger, at this address.
My books include Aleatory Allegories (Salt), And Then Something Happened (Salt), Memory Cards & Adoption Papers (Potes & Poets), Dementia Blog (Singing Horse), Memory Cards: 2010-2011 Series (Singing Horse), A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry and edited collections on John Ashbery (Alabama) and on multiformalisms (Textos), the latter with Annie Finch. Tinfish Press recently published Jack London is Dead: Euro-American Poetry of Hawai`i (and some stories), which I edited (2013). My newest book is volume two of Dementia Blog, "She's Welcome to Her Disease" (Singing Horse Press, 2013). Tinfish Press can be found at tinfishpress.com