Monday, May 08, 2006


JH: I don't do translating per se, but I am assisting a poet in translation of some of the plays of Elena Garro. I assist strictly and accurately, ideally. Have you also translated in traditional fashion? I really admire your translation via altered texts. as I've commented here before. Speaking of your poems, let me say how much I like your latest poems (very much!). Your "patr 1, his early, middle and late" is excellent:

Look, here's the latest history of Ted Berrigan. He was born in Tulsa, Rhodeland. Here he wrangled with a strict attention to how they sound. On each street he sees more guys, and people, and he struggles with temperament. He's just a lad in a groaning place. He learns to pay attention, but you can't buy much with that. Moving to Provider, Oklahoma meant that he was in charge of the next few years of American history. He fought in the war against the naming of other things by the names intended for these things of which we all are said to be familiar with. He got plug ugly with teachers, wrassled on the home team, left some places in a rush. He met Ron Gallup and Dick Padgett. Inside of minute they were fast friends, tho nowhere near the record. The record began with Motown beat, familiar and yet. They moved quickly and suddenly it was New York, honest. Have you fucking seen New York? It's like one grand toaster oven. Each piece of white bread you stick in that oven, it becomes its inner piece of toast. Same possibly could work for whole wheat, rye and other sorts of bread type conveyances but that resides out of the purview of this study. We're at the point when the story gets exciting. Here goes, in no particular order: Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, Frank O'Hara, Larry Rivers, Anne Waldman, Joe Brainard. Already the list seems old fashioned, but poems used to include them like anything. His kids and all, stories, Pepsi, the choice of generation, etc. then some other stuff, written in that way that says: this is written this way. Then some other means of conveyance, cup, siphon, prodigy, off gold. Then dying in the last expanse.

"patr 1, his early, middle and late" has more dimensions than a piece I've always liked by Joe Brainard called "Van Gogh":

Who is Van Gogh?
Van Gogh is a famous painter whose paintings are full of inner turmoil and bright colors.
Perhaps Van Gogh's most famous painting is "Starry Night": a landscape painting full of inner turmoil and bright colors.
There are many different sides to Van Gogh, the man.
When Van Gogh fell in love with a girl who didn't return his love he cut off his ear and gave it to her as a present. It isn't hard to imagine her reaction.
Van Gogh's portrait of a mailman with a red beard is probably one of the most sensitive paintings of a mailman ever painted.
It is interesting to note that Van Gogh himself had a red beard.
When Van Gogh was alive nobody liked his paintings except his brother Theo. Today people flock to see his exhibitions.
Van Gogh once said of himself: "There is something inside of me - what is it?"

"Van Gogh" is almost a piece of found poetry (but re-written as in information regurgitated - someone asks "Who is "Isaac Newton" and the reply is, typically, a re-phrasal of encyclopediaesque entries), with some commentary. When I said your "patr 1, his early, middle and late" had more dimensions than Brainard's "Van Gogh" it wasn't necessarily a criticism of Brainard's piece, but "Van Gogh" has the sense of recital of information, instead of narration, with the commentary presenting itself as more information masquerading as a human speaker (the information realizing, in the mouth/pen of the speaker, that more words, with an appearance of the extraneous, are needed if it is to come from a speaker, instead of from a collection of data that had the human removed from it in order to be information). "patr 1, his early, middle and late" is poetry, dodging pure information and its masquerade. Intentionality is a (yet another!) bugbear of poetics, and procedure may or may not come into the consideration of intentionality. The poem is free of intentionality and procedure upon completion, though the poet has nostalgia, perhaps, for the process and intention, and a false idea of the poem, certainly, if he or she thinks of the poem at all -- True or false? Regardless, could you say a few words about "patr 1, his early, middle and late" (and about Brainard's "Van Gogh", if you want - does the reader, as well as the poet, have a false idea of the poem? Who reads poems? What are we in fact reading when we read the words of a poem? Has anyone ever read a poem?)?

AHB: I've doodled translations using my high school French, but aside from my wobbly skill in French, which makes it more of a casual game than anything literary, I'm not all that interested in strict translation. I'd be more interested in translation like Pound's Cathay. He was, first of all, trying to make interesting poems, rather than accurate translation. Arthur Waley may present a more accurate rendition of what Li Po wrote, but I'd rather read Pound's work. “patr 1” should really be part 1, it's just my typical rush typo as I sent the thing off to the Wryting list. But as you accept that spelling, you've given it coinage, so that I guess that that is how it should be. It is 'part 1' because I meant to write more, but so far have only writ one other section. And it is partly an informational poem, wherein slurred facts are presented (you can't get the news from poems). We've discussed using characters in our work, and Berrigan, with the facts that I impute (impugn) to him, is another. Brainard's poem brings to mind a couple of songs by They Might Be Giants. In one, the lyrics are taken verbatim from a children's book about the sun. All these robust, almost toxic bits of info about the sun are straightforwardly sung to the point of vapid ridiculousness. And yet. TMBG also have a song about about the electrifying James Polk (when I was young a cereal offered little statuettes of presidents in each box. I got Polk, which thoroughly disappointed me because I'd hope for a more interesting president like Washington, Lincoln or Franklin), again plain data concerning Mr 54-40 or Fight. I think those questions that you ask are apt insofar as Ted Berrigan is in our midst. I've been reading his collected, and his work confronts those questions head on and obliquely. His freewheeling play confronts questions of poetry (what is) and facts. And audience, oh my god! Sometimes I wonder if people have read poems, because in their exultation of having read something, the reaction suggests something different from the glowing conception in my brain when the word (capital P) Poetry comes to mind.. I don't mean that snobbily. It's more like that Poetry is almost more than we can handle, unless you're Dickinson (with the top of her head exploding) or some like. Do you find poetry more than you can handle? Do you find that you fail it, or it you, not just the writing but the reading?


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