Contemporary Verse Novels: Robert Walser’s SPEAKING TO THE ROSE and Harry Mathews’s 20 LINES A DAY

Contemporary Verse Novels continued . . .

Okay, so, this is important (and many thanks to A. D. Jameson for pointing this out in my previous post’s comments):  A book should probably not be called a Contemporary Verse Novel if it is not written in verse, which is to say, if it is neither lineated nor metered. Seems obvious, right?

 

Verse vs. Prose Poems

Well, this raises some interesting questions. First, I suppose we should talk about prose poems (which share a tricky, fine line with that so-called “flash fiction” that at one very small time in our recent history seemed to be all the rage but mostly now people just sort of are annoyed by, as they’d much rather just consider these to be stories, and not even short short stories or very short stories or sudden fictions or anything other than, simply, you know, stories. Am I wrong about this?). I should also clarify that the reason I have these more prose-oriented books on my reading list (Walser, Mathews, Boully, Saterstrom, Ruefle, the Roubauds) is because I’m very interested in hybrid genres, that this study is probably more about hybridity than anything else. But, when studying poetry, one must make arguments for reading what the establishment might consider “not poetry,” especially where credits toward degrees are concerned, yes?

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An Interview with Yuriy Tarnawsky, Part 2

Yuriy in La Sainte Chapelle, Paris, c. 1968.

Part 1

Let’s back up a bit. When did you move to the US?

I came to this country in 1952, having left Germany at age 17. My 18th birthday I celebrated on the boat a week before landing in New York. I had just graduated from High School. This was in February, and in the fall I enrolled at Newark College of Engineering (now New Jersey Institute of Technology) in the BS program in the department of Electrical Engineering. I didn’t feel I had any other choice. Having spent my formative years in post-WWII Germany, I saw of how little use was liberal arts education during times of crisis so, like most of my Ukrainian friends, I decided to study engineering. Being “technical” was the answer. This kind of thinking permeated the whole Ukrainian immigrant community. New Jersey had a lot of recent Ukrainian immigrants at that time; I believe that about 10% of the students at the college were Ukrainian. (Both my brother and stepbrother later followed in my footsteps.)

I had no particular interest in engineering as such (I hated to tinker around with things and never put together a radio as some of my friends did), but loved math, so I chose Electrical Engineering, which was the most theoretical of the engineering disciplines. I took lots of math and physics, and actually enjoyed the technical subjects more than the less technical ones, such as economics, “principles of engineering,” and even English. I preferred dealing with clear-cut issues. But there was another reason I went in for engineering. While in High School, I avidly read Dostoyevsky, and one of my favorite characters of his was the nihilist Kirilov from The Possessed, which I mentioned earlier. He, as you may recall, was an engineer. I fancied myself similar to Kirilov in many ways and like him wanted to be an engineer.

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