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Robert Fernandez
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1) Evan Gruzis The essence of the simile is for me rooted in a kind of naiveté and risk, an innocence that rushes headlong into the impossible pivot of an association that impossibly arrives at something accurate—a pivot and an arrival that highlights the awesome possibility of relation itself. (Consider the poet Heather Tone’s inspiring simile work here.) With the simile, we experience at once the falling away and re-entangling of language, but we also see that we are seeing, we hear the “as” or the “like” and the dissimilarities they imply. We are reminded that our complicity in meaning’s production has been solicited and of how pleasurable that solicitation and seduction can be. A good simile feels delightful and effortless; it draws us under quickly, exposing the nothing behind saying and seeing only to briskly pivot and resituate us on new, rekindled ground. The artist Evan Gruzis creates work that solicits and seduces even as it lets us see our own seeing and seduction. Images in Gruzis’s work are both like “beauty” and beautiful; they’re both like “fun” and “sexy” and “noir” and are. Gruzis knows what it means to have a style, which can be both affirmative—the coordination of the differences of a life and world and of what they might become—and potentially ideological—the sinister work of taste (and its exclusions) that solicits and seduces. Installation View Of Exotic Beta At The Hole Gallery, NYC 2011 Consider My Mind Blown No. 3, Ink On Paper, 2008 2) The Claudius App The Claudius App's selections represent a diversity of traditions and run the gamut from a slew of ferociously talented poets in their early twenties to poetryland’s most interesting eminences. A handful of my favorites from issues 1 and 2: Cesar Vallejo Mark Levine Anthony Madrid Pierre Klossowski Sara Akant Margaret Ross Geoffrey G. O’Brien 3) Jenny Saville's Continium (Flesh) is all things. Ugly, beautiful, repulsive, compelling, anxious, neurotic, dead, alive. --Jenny Saville 4) Isaiah Toothtaker's vimeo feed (NSFW) Style, sensiblity, world-building, mayhem, Tucson. 5) The Catenary Press A lineup that's not to be missed. Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
I asked my friend, the artist and scholar Blake Bronson-Bartlett, to write us a little essay about Stephen Crane. Blake and I had been discussing Crane’s curious status and reception in the history of American literature. Crane makes possible Hemmingway and Stevens, Jeffers and even Hart Crane, but how many remember that it was the poet John Berryman’s book, Stephen Crane: A Critical Biography, that, in Robert M. Dowling’s words, “single-handedly ensured Stephen Crane’s reputation as a major American author”? Crane’s poems, which on the whole seem over the top and decidedly “minor,” at their best remain potent imaginative reservoirs, pockets of singular and foreign seeing and feeling. Crane was an iconoclast and an original. He is, as Joshua Edwards once said to me, “sort of our Rimbaud.” Please welcome Blake Bronson-Bartlett writing on Stephen Crane. —RF “‘For my further undoing,’ Stephen Crane: There is Nothing to Say.” This post was inspired by a previous post on Best American Poetry, which quotes a high school sophomore who took an interest in a poem by Stephen Crane.[1] When I read the post, I had just finished teaching Crane’s prose and poetry to a class of college students who had never heard of him. So I was surprised and thrilled to discover that Crane’s poetry was being taught in high school and even capturing the attention of students. Since then, I have become increasingly curious about what I consider to be the author’s “half-presence” in American literary history. His work is read, and perhaps always will be read—or at least The Red Badge of Courage will be. But, even then, the emphasis that is placed on Crane, within and without the classroom, whether in high school or in college, is lacking, I believe, when compared with the emphasis placed on American authors of equal or even lesser “impact.” Crane’s poetry, in particular, has more to teach us about the grey area underlying the “classical” trajectory of American poetry from Whitman to the likes of Williams, Pound, Moore, etc. Although in recent decades cultural historians have proposed alternative narratives that complicate this trajectory, Crane’s poetry is relatively invisible and unheard. Michael Fried’s Realism, Writing, Disfiguration: On Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane (1987) and Bill Brown’s The Material Unconscious: American Amusement, Stephen Crane, and the Economies of Play (1996) are significant works of scholarship in their own right, but exile the poetry to focus exclusively on Crane’s prose. Meanwhile, the single book-length work devoted to Crane’s poetry remains Daniel Hoffman’s The Poetry of Stephen Crane (1956). Why this silence about the poetry? Maybe it has nothing to say to us. But that doesn’t mean that we should ignore it, as it waits obstinately, to be drawn out. To elaborate, I think it would be appropriate to share with the readers of Best American Poetry the second poem of the “Intrigue” cycle, from the latter half of War is Kind (1899), Crane’s second collection of poems. I. Love forgive me if I wish you grief... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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MMC Da Click’s sound isn’t easily classifiable. They remind me of the Weeknd or Frank Ocean, which is to say theirs is a somewhat psychedelic, poetic cast of hip-hop and R&B, but they also go toward pop and have elements of funk and even, as one commentator on YouTube notes, dubstep. Their “Philophobia,” linked below, is as haunting an elegy as I’ve heard in a while. MMC Da Click’s sound is also optimistic, celebratory, a bit utopian: they’re after that “universal feel,” that “good sound”; they’re concerned with “Peace and Blessings” (a valediction to their emails echoed by Jinxo’s signature peace chain). Poised to take off, the guys were kind enough to answer a few questions for me. —RF RF: Can you tell us a bit about who you are, where you’re from, and how you got started? MMC: We are MMC Da Click (JinXo, PeeZaY, and SunnySoulstice) a Miami-based group, drawn together through our love of not just music, but our passion to create it and be among the greatest names. RF: How has the culture and/or environment of South Florida had an impact on your music? MMC: Growing up in Miami had an impact on our music by giving us the idea that the best way to attract someone to our music is not by letting them hear it but feel it. RF: Can you talk a little about the concept behind your video “Philophobia”? About the stylistic decisions and the mood? MMC: Both the video and the song are about love lost no one grieves perfectly sometimes you get angry and cast everyone out sometimes you sleep around and try to pass it off as love sometimes you drink till you pass out. It’s all about human emotion the real human emotion. RF: What does style mean to you? MMC: Style is a lot of things it’s life it’s food it’s music but most of all it’s interpretation and expression it’s your ability to gather all the things that inspire you and transport it to the world. RF: Do you see any trends in hip-hop and/or R&B lyrics these days? In terms of lyrics, what are your obsessions and preoccupations? MMC: Yes, we do notice trends in this new era of hip-hop as well as R&B, but we’ve become preoccupied with creating our own, expression has become our only obsession. RF: What's next? MMC: Our ultimate goal is to blur the lines of music and to bring back the universal feel, that good sound that isn’t so easily categorized by genre so hopefully in the coming future hip-hop will absorb a lot more genres and explode into an array of different sounds, we’re already starting to see that happen. More about MMC Da Click can be seen here. Robert Fernandez is the author of the poetry collections We Are Pharaoh and the forthcoming Pink Reef. He lives in Iowa City. Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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[i] [ii] [iii] [iv] [v] [vi] [i] “Album Zutique” Text: “The Album Zutique was a communal journal for the poets and artists with whom Rimbaud associated while living in Paris....They called themselves Zutistes, a word coined from the French exclamation “zut,” which, depending on context, can mean anything from “golly” to “damn....” Most of [Rimbaud's] poems here are parodies of the work of other poets, and many are ribald in nature.” (Wyatt Mason, from Rimbaud Complete); Image: Grace Jones, from Vamp (1986) [ii] “Blood of a Young Girl Streaks the Altar” Text: Aeschylus, from Agamemnon; Image: Michael Spinks, from Spinks vs. Tyson, 27 June 1988 [iii] “Disorganized Rainbow” Text: Albert Ramsay, from “Bright Jewels of the Mine” (Saturday Evening Post, Vol. 207 Issue 13, September 1934); Image: Miners, from “Bright Jewels of the Mine” [iv] “Merle in Switzerland” Text: R.F.; Image: Rivi’s eyes, from Cocaine Cowboys (2006) [v] "Shelley" Text: R.F.; Image: Amelia Curran, from Portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819) [vi] "Take Me Away" Text: "Take Me Away" (1992), Mix Factory; Image: from Tyson Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
The following interview with film-maker, poet, and editor Nick Twemlow took place in mid-June of 2012 in Iowa City. Nick’s first poetry collection, Palm Trees, is forthcoming (along with the poet Joel Craig’s first book) from Green Lantern press in fall 2012. Nick has generously provided a poem, “The Twenty-four Complications,” from Palm Trees, along with a link to the video piece, Richard Prince, around which part of the discussion below revolves. —RF RF: Can you say a little something about how you work on poems or video? NT: I pretty much work every day on something. Usually, it’s an image that I come across and want to respond to or…deform. That’s the strange thing: the fact that you go back, that you return to these images. My brother-in-law is a blues guitarist, and practices all the time. Whenever I visit him and my sister and their family, he’s most likely to be in his studio, practicing. He has gigs most nights I’m around. Throughout the day, I hear him practicing chords; sometimes he breaks into a recognizable tune, but usually, he just repeats chords. It’s like he’s just making sure that he is still able to play. And I wonder if sometimes the impulse to write or cut video or whatever is also the need just to stay practiced. I wonder if constantly doing whatever it is that you like to do—constantly practicing—also creates the need to do it in the first place, and then also that’s how you arrive at the works that you want to see. Maybe it’s a matter of temperament: there are some poets who seem to produce work at a rate that would suggest that there is little editing going on, poets who say, I have to not only write constantly, but publish it. Then there are others who don’t work like that at all—poets who don’t churn out work, for whom work doesn’t come out easily and quickly. RF: My question has to do with those moments in which, after diligently staying practiced and alert, you find yourself responding to something. Can you describe what happens, in either film or poetry, in that moment—how you’re drawn in, how work comes out of that? NT: Recently I made this piece, Richard Prince, which is a seven-minute study of Brooke Shields, primarily using footage of a eulogy she delivered at Michael Jackson’s televised memorial. I had been thinking about MJ and Shields off and on for some time—largely because my wife, Robyn Schiff, had written a poem featuring Shields—the Calvin Klein poem in her book Revolver—and had also written a poem considering MJ, a few weeks after he died. I watched a good chunk of the memorial live—this was an entertainer who may have been the most gifted showman of his time, a figure who imprinted on me at a young age. I can still do the moonwalk, which I practiced for hours upon hours as a child. I was sad, as millions were that... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Ish Klein’s poems are a synthesis of imagination, virtuosity, and feeling the likes of which I’ve never seen before. For this post, I asked Ish to write a poetics statement and asked if I could include her poem “From a Book of Changes.” Ish also sent along her poem “IN THE BEGINNING.” My thanks to Ish for her generosity and her efforts. —RF Dear Robert, I’m writing this for you. I see you as my brother and I like your poetry. Here is an account of how I wrote “From a Book of Changes”. What precipitated the writing of it was just me trying to impose order on me. So I will give you the circumstance and some notes on form. This will include what some numbers mean to me. In spite of everything, I like the poem; it was what I did at that time. I was still me then and a decent person even though I was troubled. THE ATMOSPHERE When I was writing “From a Book of Changes” (2009 through early 2011) I was struggling with intrusive thoughts. I’d be shocked by a thought and then it would get stronger. It was like mental Tourettes. I would think something filthy then I would think, why am I thinking this filth? That can’t be me. Like the worst thing you could imagine—with knives in genitals, and other things. Since I knew I didn’t want this, I figured someone must be doing these thoughts to me. Implications spread. Things on the radio, things people said, I took very personally. As a result I lost trust in most other people and was alone most of the time. To protect myself , I intensely imagined the strongest man in the world. The idea was that my need would make a sort of scream that he could hear and then he would come here and help me. The poem was the happening after the summoning. The ‘you’ in the poem is a strong man. He takes many different forms (like Odin). In fact, the “you” probably is Odin. We get into a sort of wrestling match for control of the book. The book is my brain. Maybe I am not the best one to be in control of the book and yet I can’t seem to help myself from trying to exert influence. Well that is human; to want Odin and not want Odin. He probably isn’t really bothered; which is why he’s him. THE FORM The form is in tercets because three is the number of spirit. The third thing. The first thing is me, the second is you and the third thing is the thing between us: spirit, or our relationship. That there are 22 tercets was determined by the number of turns the poem took; more or less. Two is the number of wisdom. Yes it is this and yes it is that. Two equal halves. Finally that there are 66 lines is because as I wrote the poem... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Please welcome the scholar and translator Diana Thow, who for today’s entry has generously provided poems from her translation of Amelia Rosselli's Serie Ospedaliera (Hospital Series) in addition to some illuminating and insightful Rosselli context and commentary. —RF From Serie Ospedaliera (1963-1965) Amelia Rosselli/translation Diana Thow Lifting of weights and particularities of fate little doves eyed my strength taken from your take-off like candy, the vocation melted into a semantic revision of our quarrels and birds. None of the soldiers who really wanted to remarry was able to tell me who is it that really marches. ….solitary in the didactic regions I held the brigantella disappointed by such a miserable fate, oh see I’m exploding, don’t run away, the piano’s machinegun subtracts sensations, metro, camphor, the curved red lips bricks of the safe. * A thin little voice: enough to open the shutter of the little window, that changes the world and its surfaces are a part of your migraines. Enough to barely open, open, your sleep measures itself against the sky, where a tragic image stays. You open a wall: another appears, to take your pulse. You can’t razor the wall, you don’t want to save yourself those few spirit hours, forcing its mysterious cells. And still, you feel like a fallen pine between the new pine groves, straight end to rotten pity. * You scare yourself with all your heart with the air that shakes and sheds you; dreams radiate down through the illiterate facades, you count blood in fat drops falling full into your hands withdrawals from the anguish of knowing where the air is what does it move why it speaks, of ills so watered down to seem, so many things together but not one you forget, your dragging night and blood through immense days. [Note: “You scare yourself with all your heart” first appeared in the estimable THERMOS] RF: Who was Amelia Rosselli? DT: In her words: Born in Paris afflicted in the epoch of our fallacious generation. Laid out in America among the rich fields of landowners and the statal State. Lived in Italy, barbarous land. Fled from England land of the sophisticated. Hopeful in the West where nothing now grows. —from “Contiamo infiniti morti…” in Variazioni Belliche, translation Cinzia Blum and Lara Trubowitz) Amelia Rosselli (1930-1996) was a dynamic, idiosyncratic and intensely lyrical presence in postwar Italian poetry. She was in a category of her own: not only multilingual (she grew up speaking English, French and Italian), she was often the token female in the largely male dominated field of Italian literature at that time. Rosselli was born in Paris in exile. Her father was the famous antifascist leader Carlo Rosselli, and her mother was British. Her very name bore the scars of Italy’s struggles to liberate itself from the fascist regime in an era that was trying to forget its fascist past. After her father’s assassination, she spent formative years in upstate New York with her extended family. During this time her... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Jul 6, 2012