The Last Poem Of Jacques Brel

"Les Marquises" (The Marquesas) is the final lyric on Jacques Brel's last album of songs.

The allusion is to a small group of islands about 850 miles northeast of Tahiti. On one of these islands, Hiva Oa, Brel is buried, in the same cemetary as Paul Gauguin. As Frank and Rose Corser had written: "The Marquesas Islands, known to the inhabitants as "te henua enata" (or "te fenua enana" in the southern islands) which means the land of men and the people call themselves, "enata", the men."

People in Polynesia remember Brel. He flew patients in his private plane to hospitals, and he helped with mail delivery between islands back when.

An earlier version of my translation was published in CHAMINADE LITERARY REVIEW (Honolulu, 1995), with the original poem, in French, interfacing.

Although I didn't get to Hiva Oa, in 1989, I spent a week on Nuku Hiva, the largest island of the Marquesas, the island where Herman Melville jumped ship in 1842. You could say that with TYPEE, his first book, he invented Gonzo Journalism. But there was a lot of seafaring literature then. Byron's grandfather "sailed round Cape Horn" and wrote of the Giants of Patagonia.

Anyway, here is THE MARQUESAS, by Jacques Brel:

They speak of death as you speak of fruit
They see the sea as you see a pit
The women are lascivious in the fearsome sun
And there is no winter that is not summer
The sidewinding squalls beat grain upon grain
Some old white horses whinny Gauguin
And without wind time stops
In the Marquesas

From the rising evening fires and stars
Enlarge and the moon advances
And sea rends itself infinitely broken
By rocks which pray the names of the passion-swept
And then from far off dogs chant repentence
And some two-steps and some slow moves
And the night is deferred and the trade winds disperse
In the Marquesas

The laugh is in the heart the word is in the glance
The heart is a voyager the way is by chance
And the falling of the coconuts write songs of love
The convent girls take no notice of
The canoes come the canoes go
And my memories become my myth
What can I say since grieving's not for show
In the Marquesas


Elaine Feinstein

To American readers, English poet Elaine Feinstein is perhaps best known simply as the recipient of Charles Olson's "Letter To Elaine Feinstein" (1959), published in the Donald Allen anthology of New American Poetry, along with the republication of his Projective Verse essay.

To a British reading public, however, she is known as a poet, novelist, translator of the poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva, author of biographies of Pushkin and of Anna Akhmatova, and of Ted Hughes and, since the death of Scotsman A.C. Jacobs, the finest Anglo-Judaic poet in the UK, (although she says she is no longer of the Jewish faith) and perhaps the only one ever to be accepted, if not embraced, by the now less overtly anti-semitic English literary establishment.

Her new book, TALKING TO THE DEAD (Carcanet, 2007) , is her best and most moving work to date. "Nothing of value screams for attention" the late Harry Thomson (drama professor at the University of Hull and theatre guru) once said, and Ms. Feinstein's poetry is quiet and even serene while, at the same time, exploring deep emotions, holding nothing back.

Much of the book deals with the recent death of her husband. Here is her poem "Beds":

Last night I wondered where you had found to sleep.
You weren't in bed. There was no one in your chair.

Through every window the white, full moon glared.
I walked into the garden, shivering:

"Where are you, my darling? You will catch cold."
Waking, I let the daytime facts unfold.

She finds sustenance in her lifetime's commitment to poetry. These are the final two stanzas from her "Letter To Ezra Pound":

Mussolini took no interest in you. How pretend
those broadcasts were no more than opportunistic?
The sneers figured in letters to old friends,
and fellow poets: Reznikoff. Zukofsky.
A little more than that provincial prejudice

Ginsberg said you confessed to in Rapallo.
And yet, those Pisan Cantos... you were gifted
above any. And young writers found you generous.
Pull down thy vanity. Socrates warned us
not to trust poets centuries ago.

In her longish poem, "Scattering" she speaks of visiting the home of her friend Yehudah Amichai, but it is Dahlia Ravikovitch to whom she is closer in spirit, and in the seemingly simple flowing precision of her language and her sense of a felt rather than a merely recorded or abstract history, Denise Levertov. And In the final poem in the book, one is reminded of the fragility and gentleness of Dr. Williams' late love poems.

A full ginger moon hangs in the garden.
On this side of the house there are no stars.
When I go to bed, I like to soothe myself with
streetlights, lit windows and passing cars.

When my grandchild comes to sleep over
I find we share the same preference.
She doesn't want to draw the curtains either.
I like to look out on my town, my London...

Have you seen London from above? she asks me.
It's like a field of lights. And her grey eyes widen.
Her eight-year-old spirit is tender as blossom.
Be gentle to her now, ferocious London.


charles simic's attack on Robert Creeley

The first internet riposte to Charles (nee Dusan) Simic, was from Diane Di Prima, who noted that his comments concerning Robert Creeley were "snide...and stink of sour grapes". I agree, and it goes beyond even that. What are these "sour grapes" of the man who claimed he was a friend to Mr. Creeley for 40 years, yet chooses to spew his spurious slime upon him in a way he never would dare do if Bob were alive. Betrayal of a friend is not a matter to be taken lightly, especially when that friend cannot now speak for himself. In a way, it is akin to old nazi Gunter Grass's claim that he was a friend to Jakov Lind, saying this only after Jakov's death of course.

Like most American poets these days, Simic likes to be politically correct, signing off on the Iraq invasion, but it is unlikely he has ever put himself on the line in a demonstration or a vigil.

One wonders why so many women, like Stepford Wives, fawn over his self-hating versification. "The little wife always alone ironing death's laundry" he writes. And "it is good to have a woman around...and two is even better" he writes in another verse.

Worse, there runs the leitmotif of infantile voyeurism throughout his clunking stanzas - women in various states of undress, or unobtainable, or dead. And worse than that, animal cruelty - blind cats and miner's canaries squeaking in pain he takes an inordinate glee in mentioning.

Guilt shrouds what he writes, and in one of his verses he looks down upon his brother and sister who died at birth and sees them not in the motes of the air or elsewhere in nature but gaping at him though the animal skins on his feet. There is a complete lack of compassion in any of his verse. He seems to want his readers to suffer a similar kind of pain he himself claims to have suffered as a Serb in what was Yugoslavia before coming to the U.S. as a teen. If in fact he did indeed suffer deprivation. We have only his word for it. The word of a man who betrays a friend is not to be trusted. There is much unconscious hatred of his father, and his attitude was also a result of his mother's smothering him under her overcoat so he wouldn't have to confront the corpses of WWII. At least this is what he says. The repressions of course return in his dreams. He says that he was "so poor I had to take the place of the bait in the mousetrap" but he is not poor any more. Not with $100,000 Wallace Stevens awards, and MacArthur grants, and not that he lacks clout, given his professorship and his Pulitzer and his editorship of Paris Review and now the laureateship. Follow the money. He is a Manchurian Candidate of sorts, and of course it is to be expected that those in power in this world will do all they can to reify their positions, and many of the poets laureate of America have written things which, if put in a hat and shuffled about and taken out and read, would all pretty much sound alike. It is shameful. There are exceptions of course.

There is something nasty in Simic's condescending to characters appearing in his writing. All of his verses are marked by denial. The apparent horror of his dreams, which gives a cheap thrill akin to the peeping-tom quality which pervades his writing, is translated into a rational and received syntax which dissipates any interest they may possess, other than the prurient. His squiggles are personal observations in somewhat sarcastic clothing and an insult to sensitivity. The world is not enriched by what he has done. It is poetry as fast food, adolescent stuff you can wolf down like a hamburger and then go back to cable TV. His stanzas are all notations of easy despair, and his success is due to a narrow-minded group of people with an equally "narrow concept of the poetic tradition" and to the dumbing-down of American life. It is repetitive verse as a form of narcisisstic therapy. He sounds a bitter, bitter man. His verses are pedestrian and filled with bile. His newish book, My Noiseless Entourage (2005) , is banal and vapid and of course is blurbed by the NY Times, New Yorker, and Harvard Review.

In his unwarranted attack on the man he claims was his friend for 40 years, he lets the guise of civility drop and chooses , as Lisa Jarnot points out on her blog, to stick "his head up his ass." Simic's defecation in the guise of an essay on Creeley's COLLECTED is simply unconscionable and reprehensible.

Obviously, his attack on Robert Creeley is informed by some sort of jealousy, and, quite obviously, it is totally inaccurate. He has the unmitigated gall to call Creeley's work after For Love (poems 1950-1960) "superficial" and "instantly forgettable" and he says Creeley "doesn't have a rich imaginative life" and that for the most part he writes "so-so" poems, especially during much of the last thirty years of his life. What Diane Di Prima correctly notes is that Simic is not only "uptight" but also lacking in the understanding of nuance, and like many other poets still, for some reason, fearful of the spontaneous.

Here is Creeley's beautiful poem "The World" (from Words, 1967):

I wanted so ably
to reassure you, I wanted
the man you took to be me,

to comfort you, and got
up, and went to the window,
pushed back, as you asked me to,

the curtain, to see
the outline of the trees
in the night outside.

The light, love,
the light we felt then,
greyly, was it, that

came in, on us, not
merely my hands or yours,
or a wetness so comfortable,

but in the dark then
as you slept, the grey
figure came so close

and leaned over,
between us, as you
slept, restless, and

my own face had to
see it, and be seen by it,
the man it was, your

grey lost tired bewildered
brother, unused, untaken -
hated by love, and dead,

but not dead, for an
instant, saw me, myself
the intruder, as he was not.

I tried to say, it is
all right, she is
happy, you are no longer

needed. I said,
he is dead, and he
went as you shifted

and woke, at first afraid,
then knew by my own knowing
what had happened -

and the light then
of the sun coming
for another morning
in the world.

What Creeley accomplishes is to give a tonal weight to the words. It is akin to Hokusai, the brush-strokes are Zen-like, and this ability is so honed as the years pass that there is an exactitude of language even greater than in the early work, a here-and-now quality, never a prefabrication. He has "nothing to say about history" Simic stupidly says, projecting his own failure unto another, as if the newly appointed laureate had written of Srebinica, or of anything except his own abyss.

On the dustjacket of If I Were Writing This (2003), Creeley says: "Given the bleak vulnerability of the world and of our own country's dogmatic commitment to violence, what can either poet or poetry do? For one thing, insist on feeling - insist on witness..." As Paul Celan had written: Who will bear witness for the witness? Some of us are "still here, you bastards" and we will continue to speak truth to power.

Finally, for now at any rate, in yet another of his verses, Simic, with no intended irony, writes: "Of rats who came to pay me a visit, I had the highest opinion." No doubt.


The Man Who Loved Wooden Boats

Having been told that Bill Griffiths was a Hell's Angel, I felt a bit intimidated when we met in Earl's Court back in the 1970's. It was sometime before he appeared on the cover of Simon Pettet's mag, SATURDAY MORNING (issue #4), when he was emerging as one of London's most interesting innovative poets. At any rate, I had to ask him about his "Love" "Hate" knuckle tatooes, and yes, he said, he had seen Robert Mitchum in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. I thought Bill's forearms resembled Popeye's, but I may be imagining it. I know Bill wouldn't mind my mentioning that he was the most tatooed poet in the long history of English literature because when we saw each other in a pub he liked (The North Star) across the street from the Finchley Road tube (after he had moved to Seaham and was in London doing a fine tuning on the Eric Mottram Archive for King's College), we talked tatoo, and I said that in the event I ever introduced him at a Reading I'd like to say that. He was chuffed (a word I picked up in the North of England in 1967-'68 watching Ena Sharples on Coronation Street). His first published poems appeared in POETRY REVIEW, Autumn 1972, and the opening poem of his CYCLES ON DOVER BORSTAL was reprinted along with two others from that sequence in SIXPACK, issue number 3/4, Spring 1973. It opens thus:

As I ain't like ever to be still but
Lock and knock my sleep.

The complex of the fort against the French, Dover,
'S mighty imperfection: fits to the sea.

* * * * *

At running in the sun
I thought
This serious, my world is.

* * * * *

Rowed up in roads, housing cuddling cold
Sky's lead, is closed in of fear
Just keeps crying
Get punished: punched by the sea
Shit on by the rain.

He became a small press publisher (Pirate Press) issuing the first bilingual edition of BEOWULF in England in over 100 years, although the translation, by John Porter (cover by the inimitable Jeff Nuttall), still today an excelllent antidote to the populist version by Heaney, met with silence from critics, disdain from academia, and today it is becoming almost as rare as the original of Blackburn's EL CID. He was a student of Anglo-Saxon Literature, earning a Ph.D. Even then, the police kept tabs on him; loyal to his friends he was. Here is Bill writing of a visit to Durham prison:

A vast speculation
each supports, uses, is practical

we are plump pillars
a sequence
count up and it is a sentence

and their motto reads
(right to left)
had a good reason for everything

or declare the product the cause

we that wish to bring you the truth
which is the consequence of so many molecules
and may not be explained.

Such are the conditions of help.

(from DURHAM & Other Sequences, West House Books, 2002)

Eric Mottram and Clive Bush had commented on how so many of Bill's poems register the sound slightly before the sense comes to consciousness. This is from "Mantras" in NOMAD SENSE (Talus Editions, 1998):

All th'ev'ry-day daubing-on
fresh tinkle art
yellow ground 'n' red-teddy
all-year paint-maintain and move.

A good van
'n' all th' lettring you-can-eat.

I would she-sez
if they were-not-all
so man-an-man ,
but The-lord-of-life
keeps bedward
keeps-close keeps-dumb

'Not travel.'
Static feet shuffle-switch,
Prod-at sheets.
'Have home.'

It could be DHL's GIPSY (Bill was also a translator of Romany poetry), or a girl with a red parrot walking along the beach, but it is "painting job with-the fairground-people" and the precision of the voice, comes from his musicology, not just piano and the writing of music as he had done as a young man, but also from Balinese gamelan, of which he was an afficionado. That plus, as he said to Cris Cheek in the old SATURDAY MORNING interview, "Crabbe, Keats, and Hopkins, where increasingly you're getting use of all aspects of a word for its function in a poem, both its meaning and its rhythm and its phonetic sound, its contexual placing..." Muriel Rukeyser became an influence later on.

His tending-his-garden poems may remind one of Neruda's odes to various vegetables, but his language is more akin to an upside-down roto-rootered ALTAZOR enhanced with the syntactical synapses and jump-cut discourse-shifts of TRILCE. From "A Review of Vegetables" in DURHAM & Other Sequences:


"No, it must have been someone who looked like me."
Spoke the potato, and very cool.
My authority in jeopardy.
Zig and zag, they may.
I invoke the concept of collective responsibility and cook the lot.


... like newborn.
Humans do look like tubers, sometimes.
Ginger, Mandrake, Horseradish
hairy, bulby, lumpy, stumpy limb
the forked carrot they said was the prophet Elisha.

For the systems of roots are as marvellous as the upwards
can you doubt this under-world or downward-world?

I think not.

Bill's last book was PITMATIC: THE DIALECT OF THE NORTH-EAST COALFIELD, a valuable work of which I am sure he was justifiably proud, though always modest, this hard and gentle man.

"...a genuine in a poetic and academic world of mostly arseholes....he wore his scholarship gracefully and lightly" Tom Raworth had said on hearing of Bill's death, and although the last time I saw him was on the London bus of THE POETRY BUZZ, the last time we had a one-on-one was at that pub on Finchley Road when, even though his legs were badly swollen and he was anxious to return to the high Northeast of England, to Seaham, to the place he had come to dig into and to love, the place which was his final port, Bill was a romantic old salt, and we spoke of his possibly voyaging out into the great south seas, a journey he, like me, was always ready to make, even though we both knew it was highly unlikely.......... "and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are --
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Bill Griffiths, poet & scholar, 1948-2007. r.i.p.

(fulsome obituary by Nicholas Johnson in THE INDEPENDENT, September 20th, and by Professor Will Rowe, King's College, London, in THE GUARDIAN (Sept. 22). William Rowe is also the editor of The Salt Companion To Bill Griffiths. Generous selection from THE MUD FORT (Salt Modern Poets) also on-line.)

ADDENDUM: from an interview with Bill Griffiths by Bridget Penney and Paul Holman....

"Why am I so set against the reality that authority has designed for us? When I went around with bikers in Harrow and Uxbridge, there was almost constant but small run-ins with the law, and one day I was called in and interrogated by detectives about a series of local break-ins which I had nothing to do with, but I guess somebody had given them my name to get the pressure off themselves. I was not very well treated. They let me go but later that day I got into an argument in a pub and was challenged by three people. Because I felt really angry, I wouldn't back down but as a result I got a bad cut on the head from a glass and had to stop fighting from lack of blood. I was in a bad state for some weeks after that, and during that time I was picked up by the police and remanded in Brixton prison for possessing a small knife which I was actually using as a pencil sharpener. The problem was that because of my injuries I couldn't speak very clearly and this was taken as a sign of aggressive non-cooperation. I was put into solitary and did not appreciate the experience of being locked in a wing where all you had all night was continual screaming. Eventually a psychiatrist came and told me that if I didn't give up my ambitions to write and get a sensible job, the court would send me to prison, so I compromised and got a job as a gardener and continued writing, but I have determined never to write the sort of poem that is simply entertaining, that helps people carry on enjoying the world as it is."


Saudade, Hiraeth

from THE FATAL IMPACT by Alan Moorehead

(with thanks to Jim Pennington)

Melville quotes an old Tahitian song:

The palm-tree shall grow,
The coral shall spread,
But man shall cease.

In Gauguin's Tahitian paintings no man or woman ever smiles; supine, defeated, despairing and beautiful, his people gaze in a reverie into the lost past. They have no hope at all. They see nothing but the broken stones of their marae, their fallen idols, the great legendary war-canoes with their tatooed warriors in their elaborate robes, the forgotten dances and rituals of the arioi. They ask, 'D'ou venons-nous? Qui sommes-nous? Ou allons-nous?' and the answer is silence. The overwhelming physical beauty of the girl remains, but she does not dance. Instead she lies inert and naked on her bed, and Gauguin painted her waiting for nothing, hoping for nothing, the petals of the tiare tahiti scattered about her, a dark, conspiratorial couple in the background and all around them the mystical shapes and symbols of the tropics. On this canvas the painter has written in English the one word 'Nevermore'.


Gonzalo Rojas, translated by Will Rowe

They prostitute eveything,
by wasting energy in circumlocution.
They explain it all, they monologue
like well-oiled machines,
and slobber over everything with their metaphysical drivel.

I'd like to see them in the southern ocean
on a night of real wind, with their heads
cold cast, smelling
the vast solitude of the world
without moon,
without possible explanation

smoking in the terror of abandonment.


Germaine Greer & Aaron Burr

The 10th anniversary of the death of Diana, and a significant percentage of people in the UK continue to believe she was murdered. She could have become Queen, if she had kept quiet. She chose to become a Londoner. If she were pregnant (not an impossibility), or if she were to have married one of her Islamic lovers, it would have provoked a constitutional crisis and perhaps brought down the monarchy. Her campaign against land mines infuriated the military-industrial establishments of both the UK and the U.S.

Tina Brown, upon hearing of Diana's death, said on a TV interview (presumably alluding to Britain): "The brightest star in our constellation is gone." She has since altered her position.

Germaine Greer has trashed Diana in her recent pronouncements, but then Ms. Greer has become a rather sexually jealous woman, it would seem, unlike her earlier manifestation as a Professor at the University of Tulsa, in Oklahoma, when she enjoyed choosing whichever cowboy was coming down the pike.

Speaking of the U. of Tulsa, Nancy Isenberg, the Mary Frances Barnard Chair in American History there, has published an exceptional book: FALLEN FOUNDER, THE LIFE OF AARON BURR (Viking Penguin, 2007). It is rare when a text (like Germaine Greer's early and admirable work, THE FEMALE EUNUCH) changes our knowledge and perception, but this is what Ms. Isenberg has accomplished in her scholarly book.

As she writes: "Prejudiced characterizations of Burr have been repeated as received wisdom....Everything we think we know about Aaron Burr is untrue....He was no better, no worse, than those with whom his name is most commonly linked, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson. In moral terms, it is arguable that he behaved with greater honesty and directness than they did...Hamilton and Jefferson have always had their defenders. Burr did not have a protective posterity...Historians, as a result, have found Burr to be a man of mystery, and...nearly all have insisted that he had no political philosophy to compare with or rank alongside of Jefferson and Hamilton and the other traditional "founding fathers"....The record clearly shows that this assumption is ridiculous.

(this is post #40 on omoo, parts I, II, & III - post #20 on omoopart3.)


re: Jacket #31: Letter To The Editor

Dear John Tranter,

I was quite upset by two pieces which appeared in #31.

(1) The essay by my old friend Rachel DuPlessis, whose work I always read with pleasure, accepts without question sources which claim Charles Olson made sexist remarks in Buffalo, 1963-'64. She quotes from the Tom Clark biography, which does not name its sources, attributing comments to Olson he did not make. I was a young postgraduate student at Buffalo in Olson's Modern Poetry course, and the only confrontational queries he ever addressed to a woman (to the best of my knowledge) in that context were made to my dear friend, now deceased, the wonderful poet, Shreela Ray, who was born and raised in Orissa (near Calcutta). Olson asked her where she was coming from. Shreela knew quite well that Olson was questioning her in a manner cosmological as well as specific, and she was not prepared to deal with it, and told him she was coming from the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and, before that, Webster College, St. Louis. Olson was rather taken aback by this, but in no way attacked her or said what Rachel, using Clark, says he said. She did not leave the class in a huff as alleged. She just decided she had other priorities as a student, and in fact she was working with George Starbuck and also with John Logan at the time and she simply decided not to continue with the class. Rachel also quotes Nancy Armstrong, now a distinguished professor, as to how she was put off by comments to the effect that it was "men's poetry" would be the subject of the course. I do not know Dr. Armstrong, but from her biography on the internet, it is clear that she was no more than a sophomore (or junior) student at the time, and the Modern Poetry course was open only to postgraduates. In the event that comment was made, it was not made by Olson, and Rachel does not claim it was. There was one other course which Olson was teaching before the death of his wife that Spring, and that was his Myth and Literature course, which was open only to senior English majors. Perhaps it was that class Dr. Armstrong had wanted to attend, but poetry was not "taught" in that class as far as I know, and although it now seems the predominant thing to say: that Olson was anti-woman, there is really no evidence for this except hearsay at one remove, which seems, sadly, to be universally accepted. Both Ralph Maud and the late Jack Clarke wrote detailed negative reviews of the Clark book, Maud noting that for some reason Tom Clark wanted to make Olson seem pathetic, calling him "Charlie" in his biography and pulling unsubstantiated quotes from nowhere, unworthy of as fine a writer as Clark is. Rachel also notes that Susan Howe had compiled a list of quotes from Olson's poetry she regards as misognystic. But then she does not produce any of these excerpts (though she gives a footnote source), and I would like to dispute them. Well, this was all 45 years ago now that Olson was teaching at Buffalo, but I don't think it fair that he has been so adamantly attacked and misrepresented, and the attacks so accepted. Rachel also notes that comments on Olson by Charles Bernstein are "witty and transgressive" and here I must disagree totally, since I find the comments silly and superficial, like the essays written on Olson by Bernstein and Barrett Watten many years ago, clear examples of sophomoric misprision.

(I should add here that Rachel and I have since had an e-mail back-and-forth and she understands my (perhaps) petulance and further knows that I regard the other major thrusts of her essay regarding poetry and male sexuality in the 1950's to be perceptive and well-argued.)

(2) In the same issue, there is what I consider to be a completely intellectually dishonest piece by Robert Sheppard, which makes nasty comments about another dear friend, also deceased, Eric Mottram. I was appalled at what Sheppard said. Sheppard's dissertation on Roy Fisher and Lee Harwood was, as Eric told me at the time (yes, I know this is hearsay) simply the worst Ph.D. dissertation he had ever read, and that he really thought the advanced degree should not be awarded without much rewriting and rethinking, but he agreed to pass Sheppard finally since he was one of the first in the UK to submit a dissertation on the evolving contemporary and so could justify a multi-standard approach, and Roy Fisher and Lee were friends of Eric's and were pleased that Sheppard had written of them, and that at the time there was a job at stake at some point and serious thinkers in poetics, Mottram believed, should not be opposed so rigorously by the Academy.... Sheppard notes that Eric "snorted" in some sort of ungainly fashion when Sheppard said there was more than one set of facts regarding the UK Poetry Society Wars, and goes on to say that Mottram's take on this was opinionated and incorrect. This is nonsense, unless you believe, say, that there is more than one set of facts regarding the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/ et. al., decision to invade Iraq. (Perhaps there are I suppose: Bush wanting to prove that he is a bigger man than his father, or that what is good for American oil companies is good for the world, or that War is the Way.) Most of the people involved, the major players, from Bob Cobbing to Barry MacSweeney, et. al., are no longer with us, but it is impossible for me to believe that if they were alive they would agree with Sheppard in any way as to what the "facts" were. Sheppard ends his surly schoolboy piece by saying that the innovative poets in the UK in the 1970's "fucked it up for the rest of us." By which he implies he has not enough outlets of an "establishment" nature for his own writing? Which of course was not the point of the coup d'etat engineered at the Poetry Society. Who "fucked it up" - Allen Fisher? Elaine Randell? The previously mentioned MacSweeney or Cobbing? Bunting? MacDiarmid? Both of whom took turns as President of the Society during those exciting years when Eric's intellect and passion and energy served as a vortex for the British Poetry Renaissance. Or does he refer to the Americans living in the UK who were involved: Asa Benveniste? Paige Mitchell? Myself? But I said the review was dishonest intellectually. The objective evidence for this if more evidence is needed is that he again attacks Eric Mottram for not paying attention to the American L=A=N=G poets until near "the end of his life" which is just not true. Eric never reckoned their theoretical work highly, it is true, finding it, as I do, to have been juvenile and academic and without depth, and much of the early poetry vapid and uninteresting. However, Eric arranged for Charles Bernstein's first major reading in the UK at King's College, feeling that he should be given a fair launch. That was in the 1970's, 20 years before Eric died. And 15 years before Eric died, he presented in great detail the work of many of the "lang gang" (to quote Cid Corman) to a larger audience by including them in his "Sites And Sounds Of The Contemporary In Current American Poetry" conference, giving all of them a wider hearing for the first time in Britain. Eric was always on the side of the young, and those whose outlets were blocked or not yet formed. He was a tireless and dedicated socialist educator and critic, and "the best unknown poet in Britain" as both Clive Bush and Will Rowe had noted. Sheppard would never have received his Ph.D. driving license if it weren't for Eric's deep good will. But Sheppard knows nothing of this; all he does is grind his axe of resentment (spiritual poverty) against someone who, unbeknownst to him, gave him (and so many others) his start. As Oscar Wilde said: "No good deed goes unpunished.



On July 18th, I am scheduled to leave for London (again), having promised to do a flat-sit for a friend.

As one of the oldest bloggers on the block, I feel compelled (sort of) to offer this thought to anyone out there who reads this. It was a perception apparently popularized by Chesterton, but I remember reading somewhere that it was first expressed by someone earlier. Poets are like prostitutes: first we do it for love, then for a few friends; in the end, mostly for money.

(Even Cid, whom I miss, and who, to the end of his days, bless him, hoped for a Nobel.)

Perhaps all blogs are, even at their most informative and useful, egocentric, even narcissistic. Everyone thinks that they (we) have something of import to say, or at least something which needs saying, or which someone else wants to read/hear. I'm no different. In my Profile I list no "favorite music" not simply because, like books or films (or paintings), there is no end to the lists one can amuse oneself by making (favorite mall: Ala Moana, Honolulu), but because, in my case, having become severely hearing-impaired (Meniere's) over the years, all music comes to me now as too distorted to listen to anymore with pleasure, and the sounds I remember loving (obviously quite Retro) - from the sadness of Satie's GYMNOPEDIES, and Glass's BEAUTY & THE BEAST, and Billie Holiday and Chet and Piaf and Aznavour and Sinatra's ONLY THE LONELY vinyl album, Steeleye Span, Ralph McTell, Christy Moore, Sandy Denny's song "Farewell" and Joni Mitchell's BLUE to the deep introspections of Miles and Monk and Coltrane, the otherworldliness of Sun Ra, to quite personal favorites like Blossom Dearie and Astrud Gilberto and Sade and Trudy Pitts/Mr. C, to Ewan MacColl, Kirsty MacColl, Pete (& Peggy) Seegar, Guthrie (pere et fils), Fred Neil, Dylan, the ballads of Springsteen (with Clemons), a sentimenal weakness for country & western songs like By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman, a bit of bluegrass (Doc Watson) & some blues et. al., Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Leonard Cohen, - are now only nostalgia.

However, I still have a bit of a pedagogic interest in adding to the list of favorite films Profile space won't allow, and so here are some movies not otherwise profiled or mentioned in my previous posts. Obviously, the list is open-ended and infinitely becoming.

Silents: NAPOLEAN (but NOT with the nepotistic intrusive score Coppola added). CITY LIGHTS.

Old Welsh Culture: HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, LAST DAYS OF DOLWYN, and especially the film version of Dylan Thomas's great UNDER MILK WOOD.



Old-Time French: Vigo, Truffaut, THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG and ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS, and Godard's innovative masterpiences, one after another, from BREATHLESS through to ALPHAVILLE.

Tracy/Hepburn, ...etc., etc.

Film discussions and films listed under Profile and films alluded to on other blogposts and this clearly incomplete list dedicated to veteran film afficionados, Leon Lewis and Jeremy Taylor, from whom I learned so much.

For those desiring to read film theory/criticism, the two poles seem to me to be Jurij Lotman's SEMIOTICS OF CINEMA and Manny Farber's NEGATIVE SPACE, with any number of English language writers on film from McDonald to Kael to Sarris, et. al., somewhere in between those two extremes, along with whatever these days has been translated from the old CAHIERS DU CINEMA. Kenneth Anger's HOLLYWOOD BABYLON is still a lot of fun (as is his SCORPIO RISING), and Philip French's review essays for THE OBSERVER for over 40 years now (!) will doubtless one day be collected between covers. Robert Warshow's "The Gangster As Tragic Hero" is, in my opinion, the best short film essay ever written. Some prefer his companion piece, "The Westerner" ("probably the last art form in which the concept of honor retains its strength" he writes). A particular favorite of mine, among so many, is William Claxton's forgotten gem, LAST STAGE TO THUNDER ROCK. I did mention in passing in an earlier post that Kevin Brownlow's THE PARADE'S GONE BY is the best starting point for anyone interested in cinematic history.


Notes Toward An Essay Of NOIR In Poetry

Cold stars watch us, chum
Cold stars and the whores

Kenneth Patchen, from STREET CORNER COLLEGE

The poet Grey Gowrie once commented that he had ceased to write poetry because he was no longer "unhappy in love" and this seemingly offhand remark certainly reverberates with the classical psychoanalytic perspective that literature is displaced or sublimated libido. Freud of course maintained a deeply neurotic and unacknowledged jealousy of poets, even those he feigned to respect. Whether it was because he was distrustful of intuitions unrelated to the sexual, or because of the repression of his desire for Lou Andreas Salome (lover of both Nietzche and Rilke), it is clear that all post-Freudian psycholoigcal analysis as well, is a discourse which runs counter to the discourse of poetry (in that it attempts to subsume the vision within the context of its own discipline) almost as much as the legal profession (in that in law each word used occasions an exact and pre-established response to its usage, thereby encouraging reification and an illusion of justice, whereas in poetry the writer/sayer never knows the response which will be evoked).

Jungian thought disguises the distaste for poetic inspiration most effectively by attempting to assimilate it within the structures of myth. This of course is a case of denial, similar to Jung's own fraudulent denial of his Fascism, working as he did for several years as Hitler's psychiatric honcho in The Third Reich, later using the by-now discredited excuse that he did this to save Jews.

The issue of whether a Fascist work of art can be great art is still a troubling one. Leni Riefenstahl is the best example of a great artist whose works clearly espoused Fascism. Heidegger was a pro-active Nazi; yet there are those who still claim greatness for his philosophy. Of course in Heidegger's case, it was the fact of Hannah Arendt's being in love with him and coming to his defense at a crucial time which saved him from Nuremberg. "Every woman adores a Fascist" as Sylvia Plath wrote. Ezra Pound is the most obvious of American examples, though it was T.S. Eliot who was clearly the most anti-semitic of the acknowledged great poets of the last century. One example among many should suffice. In "Burbank With A Baedecker, Bleistein With A Cigar" TSE writes:

The rats are underneath the piles.
The jew is underneath the lot.

But this is not the kind of Noir in poetry and thought which cathects my interest as much as the darkness and mystery contained in such great short lyrics as Noyes' THE HIGHWAYMAN, Poe's ANNABEL LEE, or De La Mare's THE LISTENERS; the veil, if you will, lifted to reveal a possible other world contrary to that which seems Real, from Rimbaud's rants to Barry MacSweeney's THE BOOK OF DEMONS.

Can ALL great poetry then, be said to be Noir? One would be hard-pressed to point to a single great poem (though I imagine there must be exceptions to prove the rule) which does not at least have strong Noir elements.

Love, death, nature, war, and language itself are the cornerstones of poetry, and one finds Noir in poetry from the glorification of the gory in Homer, through the hot anal poker in Marlowe's EDWARD THE SECOND, the cannibal feast in Shakespeare's TITUS ANDRONICUS (which foreshadows the violence of the later tragedies), Milton's giving the best lines to Satan in PARADISE LOST, Keats's melancholia at his unconsummated love for Fanny Brawne, John Clare's sad resignation to the Northamptonshire madhouse in I AM, the despair of Marina Tsvetaeva, Millay's lost loves ("What lips my lips have kissed..."), the fragmentation of the linguistic in Pessoa and Celan, and, in fact, everywhere one looks in great literature, not just in poetry. The marvellous absurdity of Cervantes' QUIXOTE, the indifference of the universe to man's plight in Melville and Camus. In fact, all this is not really surprising since all great literature is by nature subversive, as Leslie Fiedler was the first to have said.

If all poetry can be said to begin in an Absence (of whatever signifier), call it "unhappy in love" or what you will, it is precisely there, in the rift, in Coleridge's "chasm" that poetry begins, whether it emanates from the heart of the subconscious, or whether it is a Voice from the Outside. As Gary Snyder, writing of Jack Spicer, had noted: "To even say that it comes from within is to mislead yourself....We are the vehicle of that voice."

However, as Robert Creeley, in the final stanza of the final poem of the final book published in his lifetime, expressed it:

Sit down, says generous life, and stay awhile!
although it's irony that sets the table
and puts the meager food on broken dishes,
pours out the rancid wine and walks away.


Jakov Lind

These days there seems to be an emergence of germanophilia, and apologists for the marauding Teutonic tribes which became modern Germany pop up everywhere, especially in intellectual circles. Timothy Garton Ash, following his recent piece in The New York Review Of Books in praise of German culture, is the most obvious example. What Garton Ash and others refuse to confront and consider is the politically incorrect possibility that far from being an aberration, Nazi-ism equally might be construed to be a logical and ongoing manifestation of the German psyche. The Pope was a young Nazi, and the "education for death" he received is not something to be swept under the proverbial carpet and forgotten, anymore than Gunter Grass's finally admitting (and making money from - cf. his piece in The New Yorker) his commitment to the Waffen SS. When in London in 1965, Jakov Lind told me that Grass was once a member of the Nazi party, and I repeated this information over the past forty years to a number of people who were, every one of them, incredulous, and refused to believe me, I had no recourse to any facts other than Jakov's word. Now that Jakov is with us only in spirit, Grass goes so far in The New Yorker piece to claim friendship with Lind! Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word.

The politically correct "good German" syndrome rears its head in the recent well-crafted and well-acted film, THE LIVES OF OTHERS. Clearly a fine piece of movie-making, but (although better paced - i.e. - a film, really, is made in the editing room), not nearly on the same level of imaginative achievment and political toughness as PAN'S LABYRINTH. LIVES was both ingenious and sentimental in the same way SCHINDLER'S LIST was, so of course it garnered the Academy Award for best foreign film. As Jean-Luc Godard has commented, Speilberg wants "to please before finding truth or knowledge" and this arrogance - his "reconstructing Auschwitz" was, to Godard, a kind of pornography, deeply authoritarian, as, for example, Resnais' NIGHT & FOG, or Andrej Munk's PASSENGER, were clearly not.


local news & newish bios

Almost a month back in my U.S. base in south Jersey where a nationally reported story was the burning of over 17,000 acres of pineland and homes of people living there when an Air Force training jet let go a flare into the woods. Not the first time pineland fire and destruction in the pines has been caused by the military here. There are the usual political speeches about closing this particular military training area permanently, but I'd be surprised, pleasantly, if that happens.

Not nationally reported was the electrocution and burning of over 35 cats housed in a no-kill shelter in Ocean City, NJ. Something about faulty wiring - not arson, so they say.

Also in Ocean City, a movement to prevent city council from using Amazon rainforest hardwood to rebuild their boardwalk; Wildwood, also a south Jersey shore community, is planning as well to use Amazon trees for their boardwalk. Anyone requirng further information should phone the southern New Jersey co-ordinator for Rainforest Preservation, Georgina Shanley @ 609 398 1934 or e-mail shanleyg2001@yahoo.com.

Meantime the wars go on and the stock market rises.

Unless you have no interest in the subject matter, a rather riveting read is the excellent new biography of Neal Cassady, by David Sandison & Graham Vickers. Many good quotes from interviews with Carolyn. Some snapshots of Luanne Henderson I hadn't seen before. Quite a sad text in many ways I guess, but it does delineate the energies, and it made me have another look at THE FIRST THIRD. & The Green Automobile.

Likewise, unless you have no interest in the materials, a good, if a bit ponderous prose-wise, new biography, perhaps as definitive as we are ever likely to get, of Doc Holliday, by Gary L Roberts. Some interesting speculations about Doc's possible chance meetings with other mythological figures from the West of just over a century ago, like Bonney. The best take on Bonney remains Ondaatje's THE COLLECTED WORKS OF BILLY THE KID.

(Not much in-depth on Curly Bill Brocius in any biography of 19th century Western American gunmen - not quite as cathecting a figure, although a lineal descendant, Bob Brocius, lives on the island of Moorea, and would like to, shall we say, have a word or two with the biographer who wrote a piece he saw which claimed Curly Bill was gay.)



Still on in London for one more week at the Victoria Miro Gallery are some of the neons and silkscreens of Ian Hamilton Finlay (in collaboration with Julie Farthing) to commemorate the first anniversary of his death. The works are deeply de-familiarizing, brilliant in conception and extraordinary in execution and as precise verbally as Niedecker or Basho, resonant with meaning. "Zimmerit - Haunting Wood Nymph" (1992) in both neon and silkscreen for example. Gone are the days when you could purchase one of his carved wooden oars inscribed "Odysseus Was Here" for a nominal sum. The neons are on offer from between seven and twenty thousand pounds sterling (i.e. between 14 and 40 thousand greenback dollars). For anyone still unfamiliar with the work of this greatest Scots artist of the 20th century, there are permanent installations outside the Serpentine in Hyde Park, and his garden at Stonypath (which I have yet to see). IAN HAMILTON FINLAY A VISUAL PRIMER by Yves Abrioux is an excellent and invaluable book, and the text and visuals end by documenting the still wildly controversial Speer Project. For me personally, his work is fascinating, inspiring, unique.

FIRE poetry journal, edited by Jeremy Hilton, out of Oxfordshire, has recently issued number 27, and the lead poem by Chris Torrance, whose work is still unknown in the U.S., is worth the price of the issue. FIRE usually runs to 200 pages, and sprinkles in the work of well-respected innovative British poets and emerging poets in each issue, although the concentration is on the work of little known and often previously unpublished poets, so, obviously, there is an uneven quality to the journal, which is a kind of literary project; however, it is also one of the few journals in the UK open to submissions by American poets, well-known and otherwise, not previously published in England. Each issue is prefaced by a short excerpt from the lyrics of a folksong, and each issue is themed, though loosely. It is done on a relative shoestring, money from Hilton's pension more often than not, and the poet-editor is hard-line insistent that he will not accept grants from Arts funding bodies. Torrance, who gave up a career in law in London to write full-time, is widely known in Britain, especially for his ongoing work, THE MAGIC DOOR. He is also the dedicatee of one of Iain Sinclair's novels, LANDOR'S TOWER, and he has chosen to live in rural isolation in Wales, in the upper Neath valley. His poem in Fire #27, "Dreaming Viv" is based on the Carole Seymour Jones biography of Vivienne Eliot. It is a heartfelt poem, and the deceptively simple and accessible surface belies the crystalline distillation of the quality of thought which has gone into the four page work.

When quite recently visiting Hilton and his partner, poet and writer Kim Taplin (see my review of her book "The English Path" on "iprefernottopart2.blogspot.com" - i.e. omoo part 2), Jeremy put me onto the work of a young poet from Wales, Lyndon Davies, whose new book, HYPHASIS (Parthian Press, 2007) is a breakthrough for him. Definitely worth reading.

And a breathrough of sorts as well for well-known poet and publisher Ken Edwards is his BIRD MIGRATION IN THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY, published in an edition of 250 by Paul Green of Spectacular Diseases, whose press and distribution services are long a staple of the British underground.

It used to be easy to find chapbooks like these in iconic London bookstores, vanished, like Compendium, Better Books, Indica, and now there is only one bookstore in London specializing in small press work, BOOKARTBOOKS, @ 17 Pitfield Street, near the Old Street tube. Open only Wednesday - Saturday in the afternoons, they don't stock much small press poetry yet - specializing in artists' books, and pataphysical publications, except for odd items like back issues of AND, Bob Cobbing's mag, but they do have a wide-ranging selection of work from Stewart Home, the "intellectual enfant terrible of the UK post-punk art movement and cult writing circuit" whose pamphlet, THE CORRECT WAY TO BOIL WATER, from Sabotage Editions, BM Senior, London WC1N 3XX, confirms his position as one of the foremost cultural critics in the English language. As part of the back-cover blurb states: "His work to date being one gargantuan anti-narrative that juxtaposes pulp/trash/porn with high-minded literary/social/political theory - an intertextualising of dissent and a vital one at that. It is about time we begin to accept that Stewart Home is the shadowy figure lying beneath modern British artistic/literary culture." (Lee Rourke, Scarecrow editorial Monday December 12, 2005)

It was Tara Woolnough, daughter of Keith Woolnough, (see my blog for Friday, November 18, 2005 - omoo (part 1): "iprefernotto.blogspot.com" for further information on Keith)
who hipped her father to the bookstore, and also, on a more commerical level (i.e. wider distribution /overtly capitalist press) recommended what is a most interesting quick read indeed: THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, a novel by Mohsin Hamid.

Also recommended are two of the sweetly wondrous and marvellously authentic novels of Celestine Hitiura Vaite, FRANGIPANI, and, most recently, TIARE. She is the first native Tahitian to be writing novels in English.


Quick Takes: Three New American Novels

Although the plot-line is a disguised traditional linear narrative interspersed with attempts at heightened passages relating to the migration of birds and their once-a-year mating dances in Nebraska as a leitmotif, THE ECHO-MAKER by Richard Powers, is a most accomplished novel presenting a number of issues relating to paranoia, brain damage, pharmacology, male bonding, sibling love and family dysfunction, betrayal, and the fictionalized pursuits of Oliver Sacks, in a deep and serious way. Last year it won The National Book Award, and deservedly so. An intriguing and compulsive read, if a bit overly influenced by nineteenth century fiction.

Most critics have commented on the brutality of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD; however, I found its vision of despair rather sentimental, especially at the end. Early on, very little attention is given to the suicide of the wife, which sets father and son on the road in a post-nuclear-disaster world, a writerly equivalent of Gwathmey's painting "The Observer". Extremely well-written of course, and quite spare, more a novella than a novel, probably the author's best work since BLOOD MERIDIAN, which WAS quite brutal.

Amazing that at 80+ years, Norman Mailer still has the stamina for a novel, and a major work of fiction at that. Not so much an imaginative biography of Hitler, pre-puberty, as a well-researched take on Hitler's father and mother. Mailer takes the position (first espoused by Ron Rosenbaum) that Hitler was monochordist, and he investigates the incest which Mailer claims produced him. This of course does not explain germanic fascist fanaticism, except in Mailer's discussions of the gutterel nature of the language. Mailer's theology, which he has pondered for well over forty years, comes to the fore in this book for the first time in his career, and I would expect a sequel (or a part II) to be in the works. I must admit to not (yet) having read THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, but THE CASTLE IN THE FOREST is, in my opinion, Mailer's finest novel, dazzling and textured. Not for feminists who are not transgressive.


feb. 5th.

May have missed some notice(s) but have not seen anything in U.S. on the passing of blind British poet John Heath-Stubbs (on Boxing Day, '06, age 88) at a hospice in West London. Major obituaries in UK in The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Independent.

Word received of a UFW boycott on all Krug-Mondavi products.



parataxis being specifically
(an order of discourse
precise in its exactitude

a footnote in Eric Havelock's

picked up on by Olson
1963, the only required text
in his Modern Poetry course, Buffalo

"beads on a string"
every event in Nature
equal to every other event

And this happened, and that happened, and that
no subordinate clauses
"unpleasant because it is endless"

a metaphysic of a science of grammar
rooted in the oral
when Mythos is
before Logos, syntax (Letter 23)

Not that journal of Cambridge Apostles
Giving it title
Without knowledge of its specificity
Thus pejorizing its power

Pataphysic is polar opposite
to paratactic

So is Li Po
Not his Haiku

But when
In Tiamat

In the presence of an absence

"a pair of taxis" Duncan had punned


Turkish Fascism Alive & Well in Texas Panhandle

(to Susan)

Capitalist Missionaries, the

Cutting edge of trade

Was Sinclair Lewis right when he said
If Fascism comes to America
It will be wrapped in a flag
And carrying a cross?

Expropriated, colonized
The Yankee Dollar buys
From Texas to Washington
Turks speak out
Against Islamic Fundamentalism

To win over
In the long run
(Free trade in space!
Other Muslims
To their side of the schism

Pawns of the invisible government, they
Begin their enterprise
Call it HumanitiesInstitute.org
Run altruistic blather to the naive
Purchase top talent
The deal is
They can now deny
cf. "tallArmeniantale.com"
Genocide, and other slaughters
Even put happy face on occupation of Greece!

Needed in NATO, in EU,
Show world
Islam can make money too!
Keep them gushers comin'

N.B. The excellent piece by Elizabeth Kolbert in THE NEW YORKER (Nov. 6th), a review of the Turkish historian Taner Akcam's new book (Akcam "one of the few Turkish historians to treat the Armenian genocide as genocide" was imprisoned in Turkey, escaped and currently lives in Minnesota) clearly offers a confirming perspective of the above poemessayblogpost. Further "www.humanitiesinstitute.org" has now hidden by removal the names of the founder-directors of this well-funded e-learning front: one, a retired Turkish diplomat in Washington, D.C., the other a Turkish-American physician operating out of Texas whose opinions form a part of the "tallArmeniantale" site and its wretched hate links. (Nov. 2, 2006)



For those who, like myself, cathect to the work of David Loeb Goodis, 1917 - 1967, there is a Literary Conference in his honor to be held in his home city of Philadelphia, where he lived most all of his life (except for his years in Hollywood), in Logan and on North Eleventh Street (East Oaklane). It will be held January 5 - 7.

All of Goodis' seventeen or more novels were out of print when he died. Even the Truffaut film of DOWN THERE as SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER didn't lead to the reissue in his lifetime of any of his prose fiction. Neither did it matter to publishers that Henry Miller had said: "I think the novel is even better than the film."

During the past twenty years, when his books have begun to come back into print, first in France, then in England, now here, even his admirers who have written superlatively of his work: Geoffrey O'Brien, Nick Kimberly, Adrian Wootton, David Schmid and others, still see him in the traditon of crime fiction, when, as Goodis had written to me in 1966, "Very few of the protagonists of my novels operate on a criminal level. They live in neighborhoods of low real estate value, which is a different thing entirely." Samuel Fuller understood this, and he said that Goodis knew that the value of a neighborhood could be destroyed so that "real estate could be grabbed for a song and sold for fortunes." Goodis' work can be said to be noir, bleak and existential. His novels, in my opinion, are among the most dreadfully powerful and honed in all of twentieth century literature, in any language. He is not, of course, everyone's cup of tea.

No one has ever matched his relentless narrative drive, and the street accurate down home spoken language, and although the classical psychoanalytic theory which runs like a leitmotif through many of his novels is reductionist, the psychology nevertheless has a curious power, as Leonard Kaplan has said, which, I think, can be attributed to the fact that most of his novels were written for a readership of the working-class, and the lower middle class, taking public transport, perhaps reading on the train or tram. It was an America before fast food and malls and the smiles of "have a nice day." OF TENDER SIN, recently reissued, is his SCARLET LETTER, and it also provides a good example of how he refuses to overdetermine behavior, thus avoiding complexity but, in his best work, striking home. Goodis does not condescend to his characters, ever; he has only empathy for the outsider, for the "internal exile" he himself was. Most of the people who inhabit his books, are "out of it" - people who have fallen from grace, and those who have never received any grace, living as they do as invisible marginals on the fringe, tenderloiners, living in a world where the sex and violence hold the Nausea at bay. His compassionate heroines are sometimes warm and feminine, and others are hard-fighting, hard-loving, sometimes hard-drinking, women who are still able to give of themselves to their man. It has been often said that Goodis is the poet of the losers, of romantic loners, both men and women. The primary value in Goodis's world is love.

Because he tempered his narrative gift during World War II in magazines like BATTLE BIRDS and FIGHTING ACES, and MANHUNT, and he is said to have written five million words in five years, sometimes entire issues of a magazine under a variety of pseudonyms, by the time he got to the pulps, after five years in Hollywood under contract to Warners, initially due to the success of his DARK PASSAGE, there was no fat, only lean in his fiction. Everything was pared to its essentials.

A myth grew up around him, that he sought out large obese black women in bars, and would entice them to abuse him, verbally at least; however, gossip is not "lusimeles" and it should be remembered, as Dr. Louis Boxer, Goodis afficionado and Conference organizer, has pointed out: Goodis' last serious ladyfriend was the distinguished Afro-American artist, Dr. Selma Burke. Goodis died, Dr. Boxer says, of a "cerebral vascular accident" in Albert Einstein Medical Center in North Philadelphia. He had refused to give up his wallet to muggers and suffered a beating which, a few days later, proved fatal. Ironically, no one does fisticuffs like Goodis, at least in his books; one thinks of Hemingway and bullfighting.

In the U.S. in the first half of the last century, it is only the very best of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, West (in MISS LONELYHEARTS) (and a very few others: Flannery O'Connor, or Steinbeck, or Richard Wright, or Kerouac at the top of his game, Malamud at his most magically real) who can match Goodis's extraordinary poetic prose power, heightened language as if one were reading a naturalist hallucination without losing narrative flow and beat. This is rooted and grounded most often in his novels in his native Philadelphia, not the center city twee, but the hard-core Philadelphia through which "the sullen Delaware" runs, near where Poe and his child-bride lived with her mother a century before. His exactitude of psychological geography, and the meandering through the hard streets, and also the swamps and pines of South Jersey, bring a verisimillitude.

Every commentator on Goodis seems to believe that the haunted characters of his fiction are projections of the writer himself. He seems never to be granted the benefit of aesthetic distance, when, in fact, many of his characters might well be derived from the tortured mental peregrinations of his brother, Herbert, a "paranoid schizophrenic", the brother for whom Goodis provided the financial support. And for his parents as well. Yet, Goodis is always decried for returning to his native city, to his parents' home, to care for his brother, after the Hollywood years, and his Hollywood eccentricites, particularly the lack of desire to spend the money he was getting, can be viewed in terms of the needs of his family he was supporting, and from whom he was unable to break. None of his still extant friends remember him as a drunk; yet, it is assumed the alcoholics in his books, are somehow him.

He didn't die in financial need, as I incorrectly stated in my obituary for him in SIGHT AND SOUND (Winter,1968/69). He left a considerable estate, which covered his brother's institutionalization after the writer's death.

In a piece on his work published by Laura Rosenthal and Andrei Codrescu in EXQUISITE CORPSE (number 39, 1992), I commented that all of Goodis' novels were a no-exit brand of nihilism, genre within genre since written to formula, layered with despair and loneliness. But like the music of Miles or Coltrane or Monk or Billie Holiday, and jazz pervades his books as it did Kerouac's, Goodis' work does not bring you down, except into deep levels of your own consciousness. He refused to think highly of his great achievment as a novelist, writing to me that most of his novels were "nothing" - although he did say that in addition to DOWN THERE (his masterpiece), he had "something to say" in FIRE IN THE FLESH and in STREET OF THE LOST, books he then considered his best. Certainly STREET OF THE LOST is his most anarchic novel, and the one which best delineates the spiritual cesspool of hard-core urban poverty and corruption, and at the horrendous (and curiously feminist) climax, the reader is treated to the revolutionary's dream: the weapons of the soldiers turned against their tyrannical leader. I never met David Goodis. I was planning on seeing him in Philadelphia, Spring 1967, and negotiating the film rights to one of his novels, but his sudden death intervened. His death also terminated for all intents and purposes the six figure lawsuit he had prosecuted through a family firm against the makers of the TV series THE FUGITIVE, plagiarized from Goodis's work. After his death, the lawsuit was settled out-of-court in Goodis's favor, but with only a measly financial reward.

There is no religious view in Goodis's work, so that even in those books, like FIRE IN THE FLESH, where there is redemption, there is no way out, only death at the end of it. Yet he does not rule out chance and meaningful co-incidence, the unconscious, the fact of our human divinity as Cid Corman once put it. And he admires and respects the courage of many of his protagonists to commit to honorable action, even against all the odds. In fact, there is more male-female "redemption" in Goodis's novels than might otherwise appear. From his last published clothbound book, his third, and perhaps his most under-rated, BEHOLD THIS WOMAN, a novel which portrays a fat and sensuous and violent and schemingly-intelligent working-class/lower middle-class American Lady MacBeth (whose portrait is lightly sketched in the opening and closing of the newly reissued THE BLONDE ON THE STREETCORNER), an embodiment of pure evil, to the last novel to be published in his lifetime, NIGHT SQUAD, there is, at the end, the possibility of love-relationships deepening. It should also be noted that BEHOLD THIS WOMAN, was published in France as LA GARCE (The Bitch, or The Strumpet), and that is an oversimplification, since the title also alludes to the protagonist's daughter becoming a woman, overcoming, if you will, the evil step-mother. It is, of course, a fairy tale, where youth and innocence can triumph, and although the ending is earned, the mature love at the end of NIGHT SQUAD is less sentimental, more satisfying. Goodis was also a master at prose fiction's version of "the pathetic fallacy" - or "thing talk" as it is sometimes called in the hard-boiled world. Something like: Loneliness blew into town after she left and took up permanent residence in my easy chair.

One could blog on, but for now it is enough to note that GOODISCON 2007, is being held, 40 years after his death. More information can be accessed on the web. There is a biography, as yet untranslated, which gives a wealth of information: Philippe Garnier's GOODIS: LA VIE EN NOIR ET BLANC (Life in Black And White).


Woody Allen

To what extent is one of the subtexts of Woody Allen's two London films, MATCH POINT and SCOOP, the death of Princess Diana and the belief of a significant number of people that it was murder, and not an accident.

Leaving aside autobiographical leitmotifs in all of his films, the most obvious of which in MATCH POINT and SCOOP is the director's desire for Scarlett Johansson, and who except his wife could blame him for that, the interesting fact of Allen's portrayal of upper-crust aristocrats and wannabes as natural born killers surely must be based on more than his dislike of snobbery, ingrained anti-semitism, unflappability and pretense. Well, perhaps not.

He does go out of his way, however, to make London appear clean and superficially atractive, using only posh and touristic locations. Never a bit of rubbish anywhere to be seen on the streets. And the streets are almost devoid of people. So it is not realism he is aiming at. He gives it a sheen which belies the murderous instincts underneath. Henry James is the obvious figure who comes to mind.

Never a hint of Mike Leigh's London, or of SINGIN'IN THE RAIN's London, ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS, or contemporary London as portrayed by directors like Stephen Frears in his best work, MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE, PRICK UP YOUR EARS, or DIRTY PRETTY THINGS. However, Allen's great early films like ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN were not exactly the ambience of MIDNIGHT COWBOY. Perhaps it is enough that an American film-maker does work with wit and intelligence, if not the compassion, not seen since Preston Sturges or Frank Capra. It is reason enough to keep going to his movies.



Randal Johnson in his internet essay (@sensesofcinema.com) AGAINST THE GRAIN: ON THE CINEMATIC VISION OF MANOEL DE OLIVEIRA (and in his forthcoming book), writes of the strange primacy of the work of this man who is our oldest living and still active film-maker, with his 98th birthday approaching on December 11th. In his DVD notes to De Oliveira's I'M GOING HOME, Richard Pena writes of De Oliveira's early documentary work, HARD LABOR ON THE RIVER DOURO (1931) AND ANIKI-BOBO (1941), and he also says that many critics consider FRANCISCA (1981) as his masterpiece. I don't doubt it, although I have only seen I'M GOING HOME (2002) and A TALKING PICTURE (2003). De Oliveira is an inspiring director, restoring one's faith that there are still explorations beyond the technical which film can achieve, even after early Godard, Truffaut's SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER, Cassavetes' SHADOWS, Antonioni and Fellini, Bergman, Bunuel, Brakhage and the movement known as The New American Cinema, after Fassbinder/Herzog/Wenders, grainy British neo-realism, Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beineix in France, American independents from STRANGER THAN PARADISE through THE GRIFTERS, to MEMENTO, BRICK, and whatever other films you might care to add.

De Oliveira is known for his almost completely static camera. The great Kevin Brownlow, in his remarkable and richly illustrated book, THE PARADE'S GONE BY (highly recommended reading for any serious student of film), demonstrates his belief that the apex of cinematographic achievment was just in the process of being reached, and then sound came in, and camera movement took second place to spoken language, script was all, and the voices now to accompany the acting. So the static camera had to become, eventually, a technique in-itself: the closed shadow sets and "deep image" work of Gregg Toland in KANE, and, later, the broad wide screen images of James Wong Howe and the crisp intensity of Conrad Hall.

The tradition had begun to postmodern itself when Billy Wilder said that a camera should never be seen as intruding, that the film-goer should never be aware of the presence of the camera. But in Oliveira, you are ALWAYS aware of the camera, by the very nature of its extreme stasticity. It is a tradition going as far back as Carl Dreyer, whose THE PASSION OF JEANNE D'ARC, Oliveira has said, had a profound influence upon him. As did the French avant-garde, as Pena points out, even though the static camera is the opposite of the brilliance of Raoul Coutard's hand-held camera. The pace is slow, as slow as Ozu's pacing (Ozu possibly defining his own work against that of the more "Western" master, Kurosawa). In Oliveira the static camera seems a minimalist device, as do the repeated shots of the prow of the ship in A TALKING PICTURE. In the most radical and probably not wholly serious way, it was Andy Warhol who most used the static camera. EMPIRE STATE comes to mind. Eight hours of footage of the Empire State Building. I remember someone said that after about four hours, there was a bird. Someone else said there was a cloud passed briefly. (I sat through some of it, and also abbreviated versions of SLEEP and KISS.) Shirley Clarke tried a more static approach with PORTRAIT OF JASON, which followed upon her masterpiece, THE COOL WORLD.

With the medium range shot framing the film as if it were a picture, and of course it is, one which gives the illusion of motion, Oliveira also shoots totally absurdist camera angles and holds them. In I'M GOING HOME, two men hold a conversation at a Paris cafe, but the camera shows only their shoes and the pavement. It completely defamiliarizes the dialogue spoken, and the referentiality of the frame, the illusion of the reality of the film itself, and the reality which it nevertheless is, in spite of itself.

I'M GOING HOME is the more theatrical of the two companion piece films: unlike A TALKING PICTURE, the deus ex machina comes at the beginning of the film as the actor performs baroque and stylized excerpts from Ionesco and from Shakespeare.

John Malkovich was chosen to play foil parts in both of these films; I am not a part of his cult following. I do not reckon him as an actor of depth, and I tend in fact to cringe at his film presence. He seems always smarmily arrogant, and in these two films he plays roles which are suited to that manner. An obsequious and over-reaching film director doing Joyce's ULYSEES in I'M GOING HOME, and a ship's captain in A TALKING PICTURE, an imitation of an imitation of David Niven doing Ronald Coleman laced with a shot of John Cleese. He shows how much of a risk Oliveira is able to take, since the ship scenes in A TALKING PICTURE run the risk of being Ed Woodish. Malkovich falls over that line into camp at times; yet, there is no denying his weight in both films.

What Oliveira does is to refine and condense cinematic techniques, making them his own by the theatricality (as in late Abel Gance or Renoir's THE RIVER) and his jump cuts, no fade-ins or fade-outs, no cross-wipes. His jump cuts are not always establishing shots. Richard Pena notes that his editing is essentially musical, focusing on rhythms and movements and not on establishing temporal or spacial relations. I think of Rohmer here, and one can't help thinking of Anna Karina's dance in BAND OF OUTSIDERS, the film which is perhaps Godard's most astonishingly innovative achievment, as Irene Papas moves through the cruise ship audience singing a kind of Greek Fado, and, for the first time in ages, the camera moves into a slow and sustained tracking shot.

Catherine Deneuve is luminous and beautiful in both films, and unlike Malkovich doesn't try to ironize her lines, as she and Papas disclose the price of their artistic greatness.

I'M GOING HOME is a film with real heart and reverence and a superlative performance from Michel Piccoli. A TALKING PICTURE picks up a thread as the grandfather and boy in I'M GOING HOME are transformed into the young history professor mother (Leonor Silveira) and her daughter taking the ship from Lisbon to Bombay.

As the ship sails down the Tagus, leaving Lisbon, and the protagonist tells her daughter about the Age of Discoveries and Henry The Navigator, and touches on the myth of King Sebastian, the camera never moves. The scene drifts by. The history had taken but a few moments. The space through which the time flows is enormous. A TALKING PICTURE proceeds, beads-on-a-string, (edited by Valerie Loiseleux, a "sharply cut gem of a film" as Manohla Dargis writes in The New York Times) to its inevitable conclusion.

When last did a film reach this level of Becoming, faultless in execution.

(Margate, New Jersey, August 2006)


If Of Any Interest

At the present time, I support the position taken by www.alcsl.org re: the current horrors in the Middle East.

It's always the old who send us to the war
It's always the young who fall
Now look at what you've done
With your sabre and your gun
Tell me was it worth it all...

from "I ain't a marchin'anymore" by Phil Ochs



At Its Widest Extremes

The divergences, say 1975,

American poetry & English poetry:

Two chapbooks -
(Raindust Press, Independence, Missouri)
(Saffron Press, Cambridge, England)

To quote from the former:

I mean you
in New Boston
and Cairo
I mean you
in Beardstown
and Quincy
I mean you
I mean the river
I mean towboats
I mean willows
at Hannibal
and Clinton
I mean you
and sunsets
in Muscatine
and Sabula
I mean you
I mean laughing
I mean boozing
I mean fighting
in Keokuk
and Port Byron
I mean you
and I mean me
Me and you
kissing it up
in LaCrosse
or Nauvoo

To quote from the opening of the latter (a chapbook of 24 pages, the same number of pages as the Etter, and of about the same size (8x5), both centre-stapled):

Pink star of the languid
settles by a low window
lap to flit, give the life
too quickly. the storm
a mere levelled gaze.

And count the hook by the water.
rely on modest delay;
it is I who say this, not to
fade or shine out,
to be trusted and played.

There: heat rises now
with the bank speckled,
going down to the point
of noon. Take stock, be
fair while there's room.

Here is Iain Sinclair on Prynne:

"...readers are asked to become researchers to take purchase on the whole body of language and the history and polity sedimented within it, rather than acquiescing in the name of a figment of a common readership."

Etter is, obviously, more accsesible, perhaps apexing with Romanticism in his ALLIANCE,ILLINOIS(1978), the American populist tradition - E.A. Robinson, Edgar Lee Masters, Sandburg, Lindsay, Millay, Langston Hughes - so fashionably ignored or decried (except for Hughes) by postmodernist tastemakers.

Etter's poetry is stridently Regionalist and he is committed to the belief/cause, noting in his SELECTED POEMS, "How arrogant it would be to think of myself as either national or international....A regional writer is one who knows his or her territory....You tell me how it goes in New Hampshire or Tennessee and I will tell you how it goes in Illinois....William Carlos Williams, that superb regionalist, spoke the truth when he said, 'The local is the universal.' So that's the end of that. Case is closed. Ten-four. Over and out."

There is, despite this, and not applicable to Etter's work, the problem of when is "regionalist" merely the provincial, and trumpeted as such as a virtue.

Prynne could also be said to be a regionalist of sorts, his region (be it medieval, or coming from French symbolism as Eric Mottram had said, or as two of his former students who authored "NEARLY TOO MUCH The Poetry of J.H. Prynne" had written, using Baktin: a "mutiplicity of discourses and openness to the extraliterary" a "repeated shift between emotional or moral or material terms") being an intellectual region of small lanes and spires of privileged ivory-tower existence and centuries of class power of Cambridge. It is, in short, a mental (vertical, if you will) regionalism, more than a spacial one, and although his poetry often leaves one preferring "plain American which cats and dogs can read!" (Marianne Moore, from her poem ENGLAND), it remains an open question as to which kind of regionalist is less parochial. Prynne's epigones, Reeve and Kerridge, in NEARLY TOO MUCH (Liverpool U. Press, 1995), believe that his sequence, THE OVAL WINDOW (1983) "is not only representative of Prynne's later manner, but...the most important and significant long poem of its time." That's quite a claim. One can make no such claim for Etter's poems. However, his newest book, LOOKING FOR SHEENA EASTON (2004), still shows a desire to at least find in language a jazzy and plaintive Streatham Hill version of Pet Clark's Downtown, and, although far from his lyric naturalism in THE WHITE STONES (1969), Prynne too, says: "In darkness by day we must press on, / giddy at the tilt of a negative crystal."

Fifteen years after THE OVAL WINDOW, Prynne begins a new sequence (FOR THE MONOGRAM) thus:

At a point tunes beating and striking the plate for
sylvatic break and drop there not so sunken away
as in stay-put agreement; set off put off these crowds
no free sky conversely. Will you jag up the tippet
over a new bow thrown down if for implored at five
apace, floating across bars in black?

In a letter from the 1970's, Prynne compares himself to a tree in a forest and asks why he should give the reader an axe.

However, as George Oppen would have it:

One must not come to feel that he has a thousand threads
in his hands,
He must somehow see the one thing;
This is the level of art
There are other levels
But there is no other level of art

Or, as another American poet, writing in a different context, had put it, in words which are applicable as well to the "simple pudding" boring and academical theory verse of some of those whom Cid Corman had labelled "the lang gang": a poet can do what he or she likes "provided only the result of his activities be something interesting, and, after a period of application, comprehensible....he may not, however, write poetry in English which is more difficult to translate than poetry written in Latin. He may, of course, write it. But if he publishes it, if he prints and offers for sale poetry which he is quite content should be, after hours of sweating concentration, inexplicable from any point of view...then he does so with a motive which is frivolous from the point of view of art."



Alone Without Love
Years and years now
So many deaths

ON EARTH, Bob's last book,
The sadness & the loss

The most depressing books I ever read
nevertheless great in different ways. Maybe it's just me.
Their poetry never depressed me in the past.

It was in 1967 they met in Buffalo
Shared mutual respect
A chemistry of feeling

It was the work of men
Who had been there
Opened "that door facing Cornwall"

Though Levertov's "Feet"
Sadly and too late

Duncan's furious discourse
Which unknowingly crossed a line
"Never to be healed"

How to put it out there
The pain, so it is useful
To have the feeling live in air

Suspend it there (a HEARTBREAK HOTEL
As Jeremy Reed called his bio in poems
Of the life of Elvis Presley)

Not a direct transfer
A Middle Voice
"No one said it was easy"

Creeley laughed
When I asked him about this
In London,late sixties, or early seventies

Depression, Regret
Deaf (partially) & weary
After two heart attacks

Forsaken, it seems,
By old friends
Lucky to have any

No one here now
No one to turn to
In the night

In the morning, no one
Get out in the daytime
Make sure to eat

No one to talk to
-Pass the time of day with
Have coffee with

Broken I am
Self-pitying and lonely
But I have loved.

& times were
I thought I was loved
Where are they now

Those women who said that
Where does the vibration go
Which I still feel

For those whom I have loved
Vanished they all are,
"Les neiges d'antin"

Too many wrong choices, errors
"Of my condition at the time"
I hurt many

Never did I mean to
I swear by "the holiness
Of the heart's affections"

Maybe I've been in the wrong place
This past decade
Too much alone (otahi)

No child of my genes
No woman really wanted
A child by me I suppose.

Three chose abortion
In my decline
I continue to obsess over that

I was unfaithful
I broke Commandments
I didn't have the sense to lie

The times I cheated.
There were times I was betrayed -
The heart ached

My former wife
Kept all resentment hidden
Seven years

& left.
She needed
To be free

It was all too much for me
I sought solace by the sea
Lonesome blues

A song of my arrogances
Ego conceits, small triumphs
Failure of compassion

It's not been all bad.
Much good times.
This just a sombre wail

Against the inevitable
As Asa Benveniste once wrote.
It's the top yang line now

In Hexagram 13.
There with Kavanagh
"On Raglan Road"

As Burroughs said to Eric Mottram
A paranoid
Is a man in possession of all of the facts

Or as Huncke said, age 80,
Reading at Jackson's Lane:
When you write, just tell the truth


April in London (Three in One)

I had thought I had blogged my say on Tusitala (Robert Louis Stevenson) on iprefernottopart2, but the nasty idiocy of someone named Ian Pindar, in his short blurb on Stevenson in THE GUARDIAN SATURDAY REVIEW (MARCH 25), begs to be answered. The Guardian Sat. Review contains possibly the best weekly literary journalism of any English-language publication (despite the rise of The Independent), but this comment on RLS is an abomination: "Before he died suddenly, aged 44, of a brain hemmorage, he was churning out any old thing to pay the bills while his wife went mad."

In my RLS blog, responding to a similarly stupid full review of the new RLS biography, I pointed out that the English (subconsciously Imperialist) take on Tusitala and on any south seas writing is to denigrate it by a typically sneering tone which is usually learned in public (i.e. private) schools. Suffice to repeat that some of RLS's best work was produced in the south seas during the last 5 years of his life, including THE BEACH AT FALESA, one of the greatest long short stories ever penned, and the final unfinished masterwork, THE WEIR OF HERMISTON, in addition to multitudes of quite serious essays in the field of what we would now call "cultural studies".

Fanny Osbourne, his American wife, had long suffered from an undiagnosed illness, which, apparently, came and went, and her bouts of depression and obsessive compulsions and madnesses and the family's struggle with this is, for this Ian Pindar jerk, a source of amusement.

Of course the successes of TREASURE ISLAND and JEKYLL AND HYDE and other early works paid the bills at Vailima, along with his inheritance, and he did not have to do hack-work as the reviewer alleges.

Both pieces on Claire Harman's well-written and clearly well-researched biography demonstrate a total lack of knowledge of RLS's writings from Samoa.

Although Harman's text seems a labour of love, there is one error in it which goes uncorrected. I had written to her about it, but I have received no response, so I will put it out for the record.

AITU does not translate "uncanny" as she would have it, but (to the best of my knowledge) "goddess" (feminine of ATUA) -- although it is true that native Samoans, referring to Fanny in this manner, could easily have been ironic in their tone.



London's cafe of the lost -
40 years ago, Beano's
now Chez Nous
Haverstock Hill
A good place for a lonely man
For the defeated

Katie at the Moon & Sixpence

London today -
Marauding gangs of blacks
Up Malden Road, Mansfield Road
(No wonder there's still a Natl. Front)
A dark, cold, nasty city all changed -
Suits my disposition
Be good though to have my revolver here
Never? How then defend against knife gangs?
Jack The Ripper's Town
"Old man smoking a pipe
petting a cat" Kerouac wrote
Masculine city
(opposite of San Francisco)
Constipated glorification of the anal
A place to live alone
The warrior's cry:
A good day to die.



Let's call it that until a fourth book in the series emerges. Malcolm Pryce's first three novels, ABERYSTWYTH MON AMOUR, LAST TANGO IN ABERYSTWYTH, and THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING IN ABERYSTWYTH are unlikely to be nominated for any major literary prize in the UK since wryly comic and ironic detective stories set in a small Welsh seaside town are not the meat of the Man Booker nor the Whitbread panels (as Iain Sinclair's best novel to date, DINING ON STONES, also was not). However, they are all excellent works of fiction, all featuring one of the most alluring heroines in all of Anglo-Welsh literature, and which, to someone like myself, who lived there for three years, could just as easily be read as non-fiction, so rooted are these wonderful books in their fine and deep sense of place.

Welsh poet Owen Sheers has pointed out: "George Borrow, in WILD WALES, wrote that the Welsh will never forget they were conquered by the English, but the English have already forgotten."


Ian Hamilton Finlay



The Feline

On the eve of the year of the dog, the Feline Awards

WHEN A CAT DIES by Lyn Lifshin wins in the category of best book of poetry about and concerning cats. She takes great risks - the risk of sentimentality and of sounding maudlin; yet Lyn always did take risks in her poetry, as other American poets of my own generation whose work I most admire (Bobby Byrd, Adrian C. Louis, Lewis MacAdams) do. In much of her poetry over the past 35 years, she has her claws out, but in some of her early work, as in these lines from Tearing This Old Building Down first published in Poetry Review (London) edited by Eric Mottram (Winter 1972-73), she retracts to say purringly:

No one could
stay the shade

blowing from
the window could
be hair,

my hair.
when I live

in your arms
it's this

useless, beautiful

The best novel with a major cat character is THE MASTER & MARGHARITA by Mikail Bulgakov. (With a very honorable mention to the Kinkster's cat.)

For a chapbook of poems, there is a double award to the blind British poet John Heath-Stubbs, now in his eighties (1) and a long-time resident of west London, one of the Oxford New Romantics of the 1940's, whose cat verse may well be his best poetry(in the same way that the dialect poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar, so publicly despised by him in his own lifetime, seem to me to be his best work, and can be read in HOWDY HONEY HOWDY, the finest edition being the one with photographs by Leigh Richmond Miner; and Herbert Woodward Martin has edited a slim & nice paperback selected Dunbar.) Heath-Stubbs's work on cats is published by Hearing Eye, with its 75 year old maven, former chairperson of Anarchist meetings at The Lamb & Flag, John Rety, 1960's editor of Freedom, the British weekly anarchist newsjournal who, in protest against the Vietnam war, participated in the fast at Speakers' Corner, still at the helm. CATS' PARNASSUS was Heath-Stubbs's first cat chap, and he writes in the guise of cats who belonged to famous poets. As Jeoffrey, Christopher Smart's cat, he writes:

For I will consider my master Christopher
For he also is the servant of the living God
For he yowls at all hours singing psalms
For he is of the house of Asaph the chief musician......

Or: "Great Atossa, sleek and fat - / I am Matthew Arnold's cat..." and so on. However, in a heavier vein in a later Hearing Eye chapbook, THE PARSON'S CAT, he writes eight poems and a Prologue in which he notes: "...I'll not bore you / By going through the six-and-twenty letters / Which make our alphabet. I'll choose just eight, / and they'll spell out his hidden name / (A name of horror and terror it is to boot - / The parson's cat is a shadow of the parson)". These Hearing Eye Heath-Stubbs chapbooks are designed and illustrated by Emily Johns.

In the category of best long poem of a cat the Feline Award goes to Basil Bunting (in collaboration with Obaid-e Zakani) for THE PIOUS CAT, published in Bunting's Complete Poems.

Best short poems: THE CATS' PROTECTION LEAGUE by Roger McGough. CHARLIE PARKER by Dave Etter.

Best cat snap on dustjacket of poetry book: SELECTED POEMS of Dave Etter (photo by Emily Etter).

The award for best musical is obvious, but an award for lyrics to TSE will be withheld due to his virulent and uncatlike anti-semitism. In graphic art and comics/comix, one honors Krazy Kat, and those who have followed, from the one in the hat, to Gilbert Shelton's cat, to the more sanitized syndicated versions. It would appear that there are now even cat bloggers: Valderbar, for example.

The Cat People films (even the recent Halle Berry one), celebrating as they do, the independent mystery and untameable wildness of the feline, win the coveted Freedom Award, cats always symbolizing Evil to the Tyrant. But of course, it is, nevertheless, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, in spite of noble efforts by Sidney Greenstreet, which garners the nod for best film with cat.

Tom wins Animation award.
Best Title Credits: Saul Bass ("Walk on The Wild Side")

The surprising winner in the category of best non-fiction prose is William S. Burroughs for THE CAT INSIDE. It is, I think, unlike anything else Burroughs has ever written.

These Catadamie Awards are certified and approved by The Cheshire Cat, Dick Whittington's Cat and Puss-in-Boots.

One dedicates this post to all of the cats I have lost over the years, and also to the gone human cats who have touched my life. I'd like to call specific attention, for example, to a brief portrait of Christopher Cook Gilmore in a book by Jeremy Mercer titled (in the U.S.) TIME WAS SOFT THERE, referring to George Whitman's Shakespeare & Co. in Paris; also to the recent short film about the iconic bookstore which featured my friend Chris in both the film's opening and closing. Writer of novels (ATLANTIC CITY PROOF, published by Duckworth, paperbacked by Penguin), short stories, and articles for magazines; performance artist and poet, CCG, a good friend, was one very cool and well-travelled cat indeed. An obituary I never thought I would write was printed in the local newspaper, Atlantic City Press, and was also published in FIRE #26, edited by Jeremy Hilton out of Oxfordshire, UK (www.poetical.org), and that issue also contains two of Chris's pieces: excerpts from his lyric, PARIS BLUES, and a poem he calls a "Transcription". Three of his poems from Rebibbia appear in issue number four of Branch Redd Review, now o.p.

(1) John Heath Stubbs, age 88, died on Boxing Day, 2006, in London. Obituary in THE CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL was followed by notices in The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph. (footnote posted Jan. '07)