A painting by Rick Beerhorst
The current issue of Hyperallergic Weekend
has a lot of great stuff. I’ve been enjoying John Yau on Rick Beerhorst
and Barry Schwabsky’s wonderfully polemical “Why I’m Not Reading Louise Glück
.” In the latter, I love this sentence by Schwabsky, which begins at Point A and ends with Point Z (or rather Point X): “Glück is one of the best-known American poets, a native New Yorker who has won just about every prize and honor available — Pulitzer, National Book Critics Circle, U.S. Poet Laureate — and taught at all the famous places to be taught poetry; better still, as I’ve just learned from Wikipedia, her father helped create the X-Acto knife, a tool I’d recommend to every poet who hopes to carve more precise verses out of the thick and messy matter of our speech.”
I’m also in the mix with a review of Lytle Shaw’s Fieldworks: From Place to Site in Postwar Poetics.
John Yau and Albert Mobilio, editors of Hyperallergic Weekend, have released an annotated list of 16 of their favorite poetry books of 2012. I reviewed one of their picks, Enduring Freedom by Laura Mullen (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions), in early December, but I haven’t yet seen many of the others; I clearly have a lot of good reading to do in 2013. (As Amber Sparks noted in a recent Big Other post, this year was a great year for literature: “Good writers got great books published.”)
I wanted to also briefly note a handful of poetry books that gave me pleasure in 2012–I wish I could mention more, but 2012 was more of a year of rereading (and writing) for me than reading and encountering new books.
* John Yau’s own Further Adventures in Monochrome (Copper Canyon Press)
This is bound to be a classic. Besides containing the dazzling title poem–which must be one of the most profound dramatic monologues to be yet penned in the twenty-first century–Further Adventures in Monochrome contains the completed series Genghis Chan: Private Eye, which Yau began to publish in installments in 1987. Seth Abramson from The Huffington Post got it right when he said: “It seems impossible that such a fragment-driven lyricism should again and again accumulate into ridiculously compelling assemblages, but Yau has done such difficult work countless times in the past, and returns to do so once again–and brilliantly–here.” “I wink at you from infinity”–that’s the last line of the book. No spoiler alert needed: there is surely enough surprise in these pages to go around.
Hyperallergic, “a forum for serious, playful and radical thinking about art,” has launched a new online magazine, Hyperallergic Weekend, a venture spearheaded by the editorial collective of John Yau, Thomas Micchelli, Claudia La Rocco and Albert Mobilio.
It is, as Yau states in his introductory essay, “Unassimilated and Inadmissible,” interested in what “is simmering in the zone of the prohibited and unacceptable.”
This edition has a healthy serving of literary conversation including Yau’s review of Ben Lerner’s first novel Leaving the Atocha Station (Coffee House Press, 2011) and my review of Noah Eli Gordon’s The Source: an investigation in constrained bibliomancy and ambient research (Futurepoem Books, 2011). Do take a look and subscribe.
by John Yau
Letter Machine Editions
The latest offering from Letter Machine Editions — an exciting new press run by Noah Eli Gordon and Joshua Marie Wilkinson — is a volume by John Yau that packs a playful and intellectual wallop far, far beyond its slim, chapbook length.
The painting by Squeak Carnwath on the cover reads, “Art, like science and philosophy presents essential versions of reality,” and such a statement nicely serves as the volume’s unofficial epigraph; inside the book proper, Yau presents us with 110 oblique statements and rhetorical questions (5 per page) that, for all their apparent zaniness, offer a similar aphoristic wisdom, something that I might venture to call poetic truth.
In this month’s issue of The Brooklyn Rail, poet and art critic John Yau has an entertaining and thought provoking retort to Jerry Saltz’s recent praise of Jeff Koons’ massive fin de siècle sculpture Puppy. Yau basically challenges Saltz for over-enthusiastically associating Jeff Koons’ artistic vision with what Saltz calls “our America.”
This is Saltz’s appraisal of Koons (which comes from the pages of New York Magazine):
Koons’s work has always stood apart for its one-at-a-time perfection, epic theatricality, a corrupted, almost sick drive for purification, and an obsession with traditional artistic values. His work embodies our time and our America: It’s big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, heat-seeking, impeccably produced, polished, popular, expensive, and extroverted—while also being abrasive, creepily sexualized, fussy, twisted, and, let’s face it, ditzy.
And this is Yau’s critique:
I wasn’t bothered by Saltz’s overheated imitation of Frank O’Hara’s prose, its bad alliteration and doubly obvious onomatopoeia. His goo-goo eyed, love-struck declaration that Koons was “the emblematic artist of the decade” was predictable, but not depressingly so. It was his blithe characterization of “our America” that I had trouble with. When he ticked off “big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, heat seeking…” it seemed to me as if Saltz were talking about what personality traits he and Koons have in common, their ideal attributes, and that America was actually nowhere in sight.
For all you New York City folks, this looks like a fantastic event featuring Charles Bernstein and John Yau.
With an introduction on Futurism in China by Performa Curator Defne Ayas. Introduction by Chris Alexander and Kristen Gallagher. Organized by Tan Lin.
Museum of the Chinese in America
215 Centre Street (between Grand and Howard), New York City
Saturday, November 14 4:00pm
Charles Bernstein is author of “All the Whiskey in Heaven: Selected Poems” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming March 2010), ”Blind Witness: Three American Operas” (Factory School, 2008); “Girly Man” (University of Chicago Press, 2006), and “My Way: Speeches and Poems” (Chicago, 1999). He is Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. More info at epc.buffalo.edu.
John Yau is a poet, critic, editor, and publisher. His most recent book is ”A Thing Among Things: The Art of Jasper Johns” (D.A.P., 2008). He is the Arts Editor of the Brooklyn Rail and teaches at Mason Gross School of The Arts (Rutgers University).
Sponsored by the Asian American Writers Workshop, Museum of the Chinese in America, the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University, and the Chinese American Association for Poetry and Poetics.
For the past few years, Black Square Editions, run by John Yau, has been putting out beautiful paperback books in translation such as Pierre Reverdy’s rollicking work of short fiction Haunted House (translated by John Ashbery) and Reverdy’s Prose Poems (translated by Ron Padgett). Its latest venture is Brian Evenson and Joanna Howard’s translation of Walls (Anamneses) by Marcel Cohen who, according to John Taylor, “has produced some of the most innovative and arresting short prose in contemporary French literature.”
At 5.5″ by 4.5″—about on par with the Green Integer volumes or the books in The City Lights Pocket Poets Series—this is one of the smallest books that I own; it is also one of the most fascinating. It is the kind of book that I wish well-dressed elderly men passed out on the street instead of those pocket-sized bibles that one inevitably sees immediately abandoned on the tops of newspaper machines.
A compendium of aphoristic passages, a flipbook of presences and absences, an exquisitely minimalist travelogue-cum-commonplace book, a remembrance of things past by way of the fragment: it is difficult to categorize this text, which was originally published in 1979, but it is quite easy to appreciate its grave acumen and elegance.
As the title suggests, these authoritatively stated sentences directly meditate on walls both physical and figurative, and sometimes a careful observation of the phenomenal world exists in the same sentence as the metaphysical:
Little flowers blooming between the stones of the wall, detritus of time at the confluence of all memories.