Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Zukofsky Biographer Comes to Town

If you're reading this and live in the Chicago area, there's a poetry event coming up this Sunday, June 1, that will be more than worth your time.

Poet / critic / blogger / biographer Mark Scroggins, whose "splendid" biography of the modernist poet Louis Zukofsky got a rave review from Michael Dirda in the Washington Post (and cudos from the New York Times, etc., etc.), will be speaking at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies on "Louis Zukofsky: The Modernist Poet as Jew."

I helped put this event together, and a good turnout will do a lot to help me bring more poetry events to this gorgeous new space. I hope that you'll be able to come--and, in addition, that you'll help me spread the word about the talk!

Here are the details:

Louis Zukofsky: The Modernist Poet as Jew
Mark Scroggins, author of "The Poem of a Life: A Biography of Louis Zukofsky"

Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies, 610 Michigan Ave.

Sunday, June 1 at 2 pm
Tickets are $20 | $15 for Spertus members, and $10 for students.
Call 312.322.1773.

As the unbelieving child of immigrants, Louis Zukofsky (1904 – 1978) sought to study his way out of his father’s Lower East Side sweatshop and to write his way into Western literary history. He did so by placing himself among the "high modernist" poets, whose conception of culture was often covertly or explicitly anti-Semitic. Dr. Mark Scroggins’ new book explores Zukofsky’s growth into one of his century’s most fascinating and complex poets, growth paralleled by his navigation of poetry and Jewishness, and his discovery of Jewish-inflected modernist poetics, which continue to influence and inspire contemporary poets.

Mark Scroggins holds an MFA and PhD from Cornell University and teaches literature and creative writing at Florida Atlantic University. A widely published author of poetry, essays and reviews, he has written on a broad range of writers, including extensive writing on poet Louis Zukofsky.

"terrific new biography"
—The New York Times

Verse by Voice

Here's a curious project: people call in, and record themselves reading a pretty good poem aloud. Some have the text linked, some don't; my favorite in the "someone had to do it, maybe" category is the recording of Wallace Stevens's "The Snow Man" in bits and pieces via cell-phone voice mail; my favorite for sheer listening pleasure (so far--I haven't heard them all) is Yeats's "Adam's Curse" read by a hushed female voice, the tone enforced by the phone connection.

Remember Barthes on "the grain of the voice"? "The pulsional incidents, the language lined with flesh, a text where we can hear the grain of the throat, the patina of consonants, the voluptuousness of vowels, a whole carnal stereophony: the articulation of the body, of the tongue, not that of meaning of language."

(Ah, youth! Bought that book, The Pleasure of the Text, in 1981, I think; it came out in '73 in France, '75 in translation. Mais ou sont les jouissances d'antan?)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

One Last Joaquin Aftershock

This, by email, today:

Mr. Selinger, I debated responding to your email, but since I'm in a more
relaxed environment, vacationing for the first time in five years, with
friends and family in Seattle, I thought I would at least acknowledge your
say, but please let's make it clear that this is not an invitation to a
conversation or a debate and that any and all emails or comments from you
will be left unread and duly deleted. I never wish to hear from or about
you after this. And boy, do I have a long memory, so please, never come up
to me and introduce yourself.


You do not need to apologize to me or anyone else because apologies do not
suffice. The damage has been done, the anger has been generated, the
memory of one ignorant critic enabled by one inept editor has been set in
stone. However, you will recover, you will survive and thrive in whatever
field you pursue, I trust. You seem young enough. The rest of us old
horses, and I do mean Aragon and myself, will probably never change our
errant ways.

If anything, be careful who you associate yourself with in the future.
What might look like the shining glimmer of a connection might result the
fool's gold of a dead lead.

[I've added the link, in case you want to get to know his thoughts on Chicano poetry and related topics. I suspect I won't be writing much about him now myself!]

So what do you think of this email, folks? This part, especially: "I never wish to hear from or about you after this. And boy, do I have a long memory, so please, never come up to me and introduce yourself."

Do I feel this way about anyone? Maybe one--but there are years behind that, and I'm not proud of the feeling. Am I proud of not feeling this way about anyone? No--more reminded of my good luck.

So, how not to brood over this for the next few days? Let's think the best of it, in manner of my grandmother, perhaps. Maybe the "never introduce yourself" is meant to keep me from trying to suck up to him or curry favor, as a rising poet or grad student might, rather than simply as a slap in the face. And at my age, it's nice to be thought of as young.

Hmmm... That's all the spin I can think of so far. Let me know if you come up with more.

In the mean time, Lord, please continue to spare me insults too deep for apologies and memories set in stone.