Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Some issues also offer Featured Poets, a "The Critic Writes Poems" series, and/or Feature Articles.

Saturday, May 2, 2015



Homage to Etel Adnan, Edited by Lindsey Boldt, Steve Dickison & SamanthA Giles
(Sausalito, CA: The Post-Apollo Press, 2012)

The occasion for this volume of tributes was Small Press Traffic’s awarding of its Lifetime Achievement Award to Etel Adnan in 2011. It seems churlish to review this in any other spirit than the one in which it was composed, because it’s basically an outpouring of love and memories. As should be obvious from the review of To look at the sea is to become what one is I co-authored with Deborah Poe, also found in this issue of GR, I have no beef with sending Adnan all the love in the world. So what I’m going to do instead is pay my own homage to EA by sampling from the contributions herein, because that’s what I do.

I should note that the contributors to Homage to Etel Adnan are Ammiel Alcalay, Jen Benka, David Buuck, Norma Cole, Steve Dickison, Thom Donovan, Sharon Doubiago, Simone Fattal, Robert Grenier, Benjamin Hollander, Joanne Kyger, Michael McClure, Stephen Motika, Nancy J. Peters, Csaba Polony, Megan Pruiett, Brandon Shimoda, Roger Snell, Cole Swensen, Stacy Szymaszek, Lynne Tillman, Fawwaz Traboulsi, and Anne Waldman. I’m going to mash them up in (more or less) reverse order, and also do a little editing.


“There have been pounds and pounds of decomposed flesh          tons of suffering” “HOU HOU HOU HOU HOU” “The woman who “prefers waves to the sea” has addressed a message to the poet: “change the world or go home!” Aren’t we fortunate, to paraphrase Wittgenstein, that this book allows us to make our own way with the narrative position of the post- or trans-mortem “I” as a response to our own experiences of injustice? In response I received a long inky letter filled with the precise tone of green or blue and the full effect of their complementarities. Thus I put my whole body into the codes. May people of the future decipher these runes, this sanctum: the smell of rotting fruit; this escarpment: the bewilderment of days; this house: the paragraphs of weather. The lake felt ancient, yet regenerated in every instant, the tenderized lung of a much larger organism – “and I become water, friend of water” “That’s what we are: beings made through the contact of water with stone, of a chilly sunset with pure geometry” … the way a cat is a cat: human before all else. I too have thought the traffic light beautiful, I too … But now the heretofore crushed and humiliated, “the wretched of the earth,” were rising and reclaiming their rightful place in all creation. We chatted briefly in this most dramatic of settings and then the two of them turned and vanished into the quiet mystery. Although its name is derived from the Miwok word meaning “coast mountain,” we don’t have records of the tribe’s rituals involving the peak. Torments dream us as we answer with bliss made of flames and fires and “there is a particular emotion created by days” “Inner stirrings made to capture the first signs of atmospheric changes” This molecular intelligence makes me giddy. But the use of this rime – In this … / The Eclipse … which paused the arrival of the place of the eclipse, was also an accent on it, because “Poets”, Etel once wrote me, “are great realists (even when they see angels, if they do, as Rilke does).” Straight from the heart (from the character for Heart-Mind that possibly exists in Chinese (?)), a transformative / ‘rocklike’ / unrepentantly ‘naïve’ & ‘downhome-perceptive’ / playfully ‘logical’ / sternly educated / fully knowledgeable / ‘simple-steady’ Socrates-like person who goes about her work (painting, too!) & (without giving up on this Earth) teaches (in her writing, & by ‘personal example’) Embodied Intelligence & Fairness In All Matters, while passionately advocating for certain causes in which she believes (like the Rights of Multiple Kinds of Beings / Almost Anybody on Earth to Be Alive) … Anyway, as she received death threats, she left the country. “It smelled of jasmines and orange blossoms, and you could look at the sea from almost any street.” What (à la Bhanu Kapil’s wonderful questionnaires) do you eat before teaching? A cup of hours, of salt, flowers, darkness, iodine. Or, as Adnan puts it, “the thread of this century is made of wire.” Like I’d never felt my arm before, made of hair, skin, tissue, bone … I remember talking with Pauline Oliveros after a performance she gave at Woodland Pattern, her accordion bellows still holding a long tone somewhere in my inner ear. She, too, was more interested in asking questions than being asked.


John Bloomberg-Rissman has just finished a 5-year textual project/poem, In the House of the Hangman, the third section of his maybe life mashup called Zeitgeist Spam. Want to publish it? It’s only 1.5 million words, not counting the notes. The first two volumes have been published: No Sounds of My Own Making (Leafe Press, 2007), and Flux, Clot & Froth (Meritage Press 2010). His working title(s) for the fourth section are In the House of the Hangman: The Baroque Feast and Adouéke, an untranslated plant name in a Kanaka war chant which was translated by Louise Michel while she was exiled on New Caledonia in the 1870s, after the Commune (adouéke makes warriors “fierce, and charms their wounds.”) In addition to his Zeitgeist Spam project, Black Widow Press has just published an anthology which he co-edited with Jerome Rothenberg, titled Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Anthology of Outside & Subterranean Poetry, and he’s just embarked on another anthology project, called Nuestra America, about which he’ll be more than happy to wear out your ear. He’s also learning to play the viola and he blogs at (Zeitgeist Spam). 

1 comment:

  1. Of interest may be John Bloomberg-Rissman's and Deborah Poe's engagement with TO LOOK AT THE SEA IS TO BECOME WHAT ONE IS: AN ETEL ADNAN READER at