Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Zbigniew Herbert's Majesty

Ecco Press just published Zbigniew Herbert's The Collected Poems 1956-1998. I've been plowing through and marvelling at this body of work. While well acquainted with his fellow Pole and contemporary, Czeslaw Milosz, I had only read a small number of Herbert's translated lyrics-- access was limited as translation was only sporadic. This opus, 600 pages all together, illuminates the moral and historical landscape of Eastern Europe with a newness, a strangeness, an exuberant questing after poetry's legitimacy and its relationship to culture, on the one hand, and the authoritarian state, on the other. Herbert, who died in July 1998, wrote poetry under the auspices of what he called "justice and truth." The lyricism here flies into and beyond the gravity of those concerns and yields an atmosphere at once ominous and moving. The book is $35 but well worth the price for this hefty volume. If you choose to steal it, please do so only from chains and franchises, not the independent booksellers. --curley

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Living with the Living: Go Leo! Go Pharmacists!

Last Tuesday, Touch and Go released the new Ted Leo/the Pharmacists album, "Living with the Living." After only a week I am thoroughly enamored of its focused ferocity and lyrical content moreso than most dreck that percolates these days or rather froths forward in the bubbles of indie rock mediocrity (and mendacity). It is a protest album of the finest caliber; being such, it is a rarity, which should not be the case in these days. But, you know, these Americans...(well, I, like Bowie, am afraid of Americans). But Ted and the boys have invigorated the pivot and punch of political rock and the rhythms and rhymes coalesce majestically. One is reminded of thirties proletarian fiction and seventies Phil Lynott. Righteous, wonderful. --curley

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Value of Valery

Recently re-reading some work by the fine Frenchman, Paul Valery. Came across the following piece of prophetic knowledge and thought it merited reiteration. Perhaps it's already being quoted all over but I just came across it after too long. According to Valery:

"Europe visibly aspires to be governed by an American commission. Its entire policy is directed to that end.
Not knowing how to rid ourselves of our history, we will be relieved of it by a fortunate people who have almost none. They are a happy people and they will force their happiness on us."

Watch out, Brussels, the American Empire is on its way. And not only will the Euros succumb to the Happy People, they will also be in company with a mostly tactless people who prattle on about politics during presidential runs, become instant experts on world affairs, and then hibernate for four more years, cherishing their Democratic and Republican parties. Happy, stupid people. ---Jameson (Curley's kid brother/bother)

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Occupational Hazards of Proofreading

I’ve been at it so long that if you gave me
a blank sheet of paper, I might stare for an hour
without finding a single word to write.
Maybe I’d finally mark up the paper’s speckles,
the grain itself, for deletion.

I can’t even recall the morning headlines
any more, but I might chuckle all day
about a typo I found in the ‘City Styles’ section,
on page D-8.

So after years of watching me do what I do
to menus, to wedding invitations,
birthday cards from my nephew, even I don’t blame her
for the note she left on the kitchen table –
‘…our love is the strangest farce I have ever known…’
Even she’d have been surprised to see me change
the As to Os, and then pretend
her sweaters still hung in all the closets,
tubes of her lipstick were spilled on the dresser’s top.

And still, the epiphany didn’t come until an overtime shift,
the rumble of the presses just barely buzzing my chair.
when I finally saw that I had seared my own sight
leveling the indents on lease agreements
that would never leave the Misc. drawer
in a law firm’s filed cabinet, in Storage Area C.

That was the night I finally drafted
my suicide note, the first time in months
my pen filled the page with a torrent
of my own words. But when I read it through
I found some bad paragraph break
and so many run on sentences,
that all I could do was mark it up
and put it in the basket for corrections.

--Mark Aiello

Literary Sightings II

Last summer, I gave an impacted inventory of writers with whom I've converged. Not all exchanges were momentous or even friendly, but they all gave me a scenario to share. Here are more sightings for your, er, edu-tainment (pace KRS ONE)-- Curley

I caught ED SANDERS wandering around the east side of Providence with his electric piano tie, and LEGS McNEIL once told me to "fuck off. A groveling letter was sent to THOM GUNN and I have no idea what spurred to write literary fan mail. Never again. I used to write only one Christmas card a year, sending it to 44 Joy St., Boston, MA, where the hermit poet JOHN WIENERS lived. He died in 2004. I was too intimidated to knock on JOHN HAWKES'S door and he died before I had the courage to do so. DONALD HALL never invited me to his farm in New Hampshire but sent me funny postcards that were typed. I used to chat with JACQUES DERRIDA during his office hours because no one would show up, too intimidated by the pipe-smoking deconstructionist. Jacques failed to hold the door for me, and so it slammed on me, the week his book, The Politics of Friendship, was published. Philosopher MARTHA NUSSBAUM, who wrote The Fragility of Goodness, laughed hysterically when my backpack burst open, dispersing its contents. GYPSY JAMES O'TOOLE recited a poem for my birthday and then gave me a gypsy tattoo. When I first met SAMUEL MENASHE, he thought I was drunk. I was. MICHAEL HELLER, whose party it was, said I wasn't. I wasn't. I ran into EILEEN MYLES in a hotel lobby in New Orleans and she was surprised to be recognized. Hail, Eileen!...more to come...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Damn the Randians!

What is this wretched phenomenon, this malign situation, witnessed frequently, of business execs and functionaries, mostly female, fervently perusing the shit fiction, the pseudo-philosophical, anti-communist, collectivist utopia/dystopias of Ayn Rand? I just quit a bicycle messenger gig and my new temp job has me riding the rails. Seems like Harry Potter and DaVinci code and self-help manuals and chick lit have been supplanted by the Rand canon. Terrible in form, worse in content. THE FOUNTAINHEAD? What the fuck? Are these Greenspan jackoffs reading for knowledge's profit or some other insidious reason? My speculations scare me. Off to the subway....regards and adieus, Martin SCRIBLERUS

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

American Academy of Arts and Letters Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary Art

I highly recommend this show which is on view until April 1, 2007 at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. There are 86 paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and works on paper by 34 contemporary artists that were chosen from a pool of more than 150 contemporary artists nominated by the 250 members of the Academy, America’s most prestigious society of architects, artists, writers, and composers. Rather than showing one work by each artist, the Invitational allows for groupings of selected artists' work to be shown in its grand galleries located in two landmark buildings designed by McKim, Mead & White, and by Cass Gilbert.

Exhibition artists are as follows: Painters: Clytie Alexander, Robert Bordo, Sally Hazelet Drummond, Manny Farber, Mark Ferguson, Jackie Gendel, Juan Gomez, Julian Hatton, Frances Hynes,Warren Isensee, Christine Lafuente, Mel Leipzig, Stephen Mueller, Ann Pibal, David Salle, Dana Schutz, Susan Shatter, Cynthia Westwood, and Alexi Worth. Graphic artist: Emily Nelligan. Installation and mixed-media artists: Sarah Oppenheimer, IƱigo Manglano-Ovalle, Soo Sunny Park, Andy Yoder, and Emna Zghal. Photographers: Saul Leiter and Sally Mann. Sculptors: Charlotte Becket, Lawrence Fane, Joe Fig, Bryan Hunt, Grace Knowlton, Cordy Ryman, and William Ryman.

Organized by: American Academy of Arts and Letters
Location: Gallery Location: Audubon Terrace on Broadway between 155 and 156 Streets
Directions: Subway: #1 to 157 Street. Bus: M4, M5 to 155 Street and Broadway
Price: Free
Telephone: 212.368.5900

To read a review of the show by Artists Unite, please visit:

- Luchy Edwards

The Return of the Repressed Unoppressed

I just read a review of two new books, the former attempting to rehabilitate Stalin, the latter to resuscitate Kruschev. In the past decade, several Spanish historians have lambasted liberal historiography for unfairly maligning fascist Spain, that the Spanish Republic was unjust too, and that the Loyalists tortured Francoists, so there. In Chile, much of the populace danced in the streets when Gen. Augusto Pinochet died in December (thirty-three years and three months too late), but other Chileans, including academics, enthused about how, despite the torture, killings, and abductions, he introduced an Americanized neo-liberalism which brought the Chilean economy into modernity. Historical revisionism is once again encroaching on truth and morals, supplanting fact for facile, dishonest interpretation. Now there are advocates for the tyrannical and the powerful among the intelligentsia, individuals wishing to supplant visions of fascist brutality with fascist bonhomie. Walter Benjamin, a victim of the Fascist Terror, noted how history was written by the victors and it seems, once again, that historians are not writing history but playing games in which they see themselves as victors, aide-de-camps to dead dictators. May their fates be unkind. --curley

Friday, March 09, 2007

A Political Poem for Presidential Candidates, All of Whom are Contemptible

Some Remarks on Healthcare

Let us now praise famous men
Who never resort to strength
To maintain their physiques

And have the cheek to suggest
That maybe the laurels of their labor
Are sufficient to set store against skin
Either inside or out. Policy regulates

Bodies, though immune to their needs,
Except as a function of the known
and isolate. Pain is mapped as a desultory blip

On an x-ray screen that omits the mind,
The secret wound, while saving itself
As insurance against itself.

j. curley

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Megachurch, Megabusiness: an Impossibly Wide Berth

"Maybe churches aren't so different from corporations."

Leftist, god-hating rant? Hardly. It is the opening line from an article in (linked via the title of this post) about certain enormously successful non-Catholic churches in the United States. Some, like Joel Osteen's Lakeland Church (Houston, TX) draw as many as 25,000 worshippers to a typical Sunday service. That's about average for a middling major league ballclub, and an awful lot for a preacher.

Big news! Americans like baseball, and some of them even like church. What's the issue? For me, it's taxes. Or lack of them. It goes back to a little thing we call "separation of church and state."

Many of these huge churches operate businesses: record labels, publishing companies, real estate. They make lots of money. They pay no income tax. According to the article, they do sometimes pay other kinds of taxes (sales, real estate). They also employ armies of volunteers.

So far, so what? Jealous? No (at least not much). Threatened, maybe. Here's why.

Watch the telecasts beaming out of any megachurch. You'll be hard pressed not to notice these preachers have a sharply-honed agenda. And if you're a so-called liberal, or gay, or woman, or non-believer, or Bush-questioner, you're going to notice that their agenda is aimed square at your midsection. They want you out--and not just out of power. Some of them can't wait until "the rapture", when you, o godless one, will be fried like batter-dipped halibut while they are bodily lifted up to a sweetly imagined place called "heaven".

Silly Preacher! But what isn't silly, and what makes their nontaxation pernicious, is that these same megachurches spend lots of time and effort trying to influence public policy. The kind that results in laws that affect all of us. Witness Roe v Wade (to be abolished); the war against gay marriage (fomented); our own Mess o' Potamia (crusaded); stem cell research (prevented); and rational thought (shouted down).

They use their nontaxation as a base for assaulting reason, fairness and peaceful co-existence--not just in peoples' hearts and minds, but in people's legislatures. Plus, many church leaders are getting plenty rich personally (and so might more of us, if only we didn't have to fork over tax dollars to keep the streets clean).

So, if churches are like corporations, why aren't they taxed like corporations?


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Calvino Vita!

Tempest tippler Curley gave me a book by Italo Calvino called HERMIT IN PARIS, a rag bag of autobiographical writings. An essay included, "Political Autobiography of a Young Man," contains a little manifesto that is worth quoting:

"I would like to point out here at least two things which I have believed in throughout my career and continue to believe in. One is the passion for a global culture, and the rejection of the lack of contact caused through excessive specialization: I want to keep alive an image of culture as a unified whole, which is composed of every aspect of what we know and do, and in which the various discourses of every area of research and production become part of that general discourse which is the history of humanity, which we must manage to seize and develop ultimately in a human direction. (And literature should of course be in the middle of these different languages and keep alive the communication between them)."

Calvino wrote the above in 1962; I had no idea he was so ardently political-- as the next passage shows--

"My other passion is for a political struggle and a culture (and literature) which will be the education of a new ruling class (or new class tout court, if class means only that which has class-consciousness, as in Marx). I have always worked and continue to work with this in mind: seeing the new ruling class taking shape, and contributing to give it a shape and profile."

And from a Master often considered postmodern--tout court-- because of his stylistic brilliance.
I'm awed. --Katy O'Farrell

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Disappeared

Occasionally, these posts will be far too site-specific for their own good, geographically that is, being that all of our contributors are currently based in the NYC area. You, dear Reader, could change that if you were to flog a blog at your lesiure. In any event, for those Readers in the area--better yet, those who can get here--I recommend you visit El Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th St.; open Wed.-Sun. 12-5) for the overwhelming exhibition "The Disappeared/Los Desaparecidos."

The exhibition showcases the work of more than a dozen artists of various Latin American countries and their efforts to come to terms with the horrific experiences of various citizens at the hands of their dictatorships. These efforts are extraordinary, refusing to become overt petitions for sympathy, relics of recognition, or readymade propagandistic versions of political art. No, these myriad works, from sculpture, to paintings, to drawings, to photographs, mirrors, and...bones, all commemorate the victims of Chile, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, and Brazil, with art that shows a reckoning with the enormity of the events, the complicity of violence with evasion, and, so powerfully, how no representation or commemoration can be anything but a fitful trace of the people who were abducted, tortured, and murdered.

I feel compelled to share my thoughts on some of the more bracing pieces in this exhibition, but should rather urge you to witness these marvels. Those who have gone have not gone forgotten; but nor have they returned fully. Their absence informs these art works and their names and faces are with us even if they are still nameless and faceless. Organized by the North Dakota Museum of Art, the show runs in NY until June 17. Please see it. Let me know what you think.

-- curley

Thursday, March 01, 2007

No Things!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In all scrawling realms, from newspaper op-ed pieces to academic writing, student papers to published fiction, the word "thing" is now rearing its head more roubustly than the shadow-seeking groundhog who promises us (this year at least) an early spring--which is something, not nothing, and a prospect and not a "thing." The frequent use of this word is largely laziness or incoherence-- that is, the writer cannot fully articulate a thought and "thing" becomes a place-marker for that thought. So vague, so imprecise, so abominably a reflection of our current decade that cloaks itself in euphemism, crowds itself into muddled hallways of pseudo-logic, and shoots tear-gas at the windows of clear thought. The following lines of Lorine Niedecker should be tattooed on the inside of everyone's eye-lids:

O my floating life
Do not save love
for things
Throw things
to the flood

Yes, dear Reader, throw things to the flood. Make the no-thingification a quasi-biblical-apocalyptic event. And, oh yes, thanks for no thing. -jc