To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Four Poems by Heriberto Yépez translated by Nathaniel Tarn (redux)

An untoward alliance
of words.
A prosti-code of our time
(an era which is scarcely maternal). 

An age pusillanimous or absurd 

What would Homer have said
had he seen this movie? 

Would he have been anguished by this rape? 

Or would he not even have been restored
by the very existence of Virgil?


inhabitation. The night of history
will mix its mists
with the night of your life. 

Mammalian technology.
Emetic vulva, mine. 

In the underworld, the sole of your foot
is looked on with terror.
(Horror pedal of the sycophantic god) 

Every monad, sarcastic, sings
its farewell. Obscure

Before, you separated from the beast.
Now you separate from the human. 

Don’t add to your problems.
You will fit into the new ironic uterus. 

You are not far from yourself.
You don’t need to shout. 


You’re speaking a belated language. 

                          The interminable is impossible for you now. 

Talking to you of a wood would be talking to you of a wilderness.                                                                              

) It’s a reference to a decade (
/// The tree you can’t tell from the universe because it occupies an equal space
/// in its arborescent will
/// it immerges its leaves to the trunk’s core
/// turns its leaf veins a periplum of cortices
/// and from every dry leaf: planks that bury themselves in the depthless
/// like fruit turned to dry lumber
In a rubber sweat throws arms or opens breaches
(The spiral searches for a substantive, a whom so it can happen).
Do you know the sign of being lost in thought? The sign of the lumberyard which survives solidly, oxidized to its best red, until being struck [in its permanence] and made absolute black dust [in a single moment]?
Do you know the sign of the orange? (An orange which falls from no tree).
Any language is. a. belated. language. I’m telling you.
And languages are always humid, always parched (you tell me).
In the beginning neither were there rotten grapefruit, you add
Nor were there any translations or paraphrases.
                   What political gospel? What terrors?
What is the price of this absolute order, this path which (now) cannot be taken blind
You now speak a belated language, you repeat, you (“now”) speak a recognizable language.
You have become intelligible – like caverns.
Mystery has parted ways with you. Of the other you only know the one.
You pretend to escape from every text to another text. Consequently you love anamnesia.
The decade you refer to is reached intermittently. It is a decade which was interpolated so that some travelers (ulterior ones) could exist, could attach their lives to it, while in other decades (shipwrecks).
In the dialogue, Penelope –
Having wanted to make of the other voice a feminine one (latent)
Those voices we believed reached their targets (were predicates    we had no memory of).
When a fly insists on a face, it signifies a visit. Flies that are playful stones, paratactical humors, shards of a capricornian order.
Recent refugees from the intelligible. Peregrinations to the unresolved (for now) encountering non-rhythms.
They will create dialects whose use will be to be understood by one of their speakers.
Each time that two gestures coincide and a signified might arise, or a third speaker deduces some coherence, large black stones will seal three or four, who (‘the isness of their existences) will be condemned [prisoners] to keep silent [consciously – regarding what they knew].
[In total obscurity they will hide their construction of a communicable language]
[like the tide passes over its already millenary timetable]
Geometries exigent for those that surfeit has reciprocally [wiped out].
[And they wrote] the tribulationed [distanced from any community or seduction via shared signals] so as not to look like anything in their outlines [they wrote] in private codes, in scrawls directed to no language, but they provoked so many strange glances [oblique, slanting] that the tribulationeds’ outlines became ever more similar – and the secret of chesstongue died.
And whatever was unknown openly disseminated in its best color red, in its highest tower.
We are everything that is black on white.
And we become only the will to reply.
History is not cyclical but its form is scroll-like.



Between this moment and the other
a limbo occurred.

This limbo (both)
we call it “oblivion.”

Second step:

Situating oneself in “oblivion.”

Camp in no one’s zone
or shattering of time.

Methodological subsequence:

Once settled in (now solitary sun)
Realizes the most meticulous of studies
Next to the passage
Which governs existence

Now that you sit in your parenthesis,
I’m talking to you of the moment,
of the interval (infuriating)

In which a being (myself)
(He who laid on you                                                                

this errand)
Becomes (from one moment to the next) deplorable.

Parameters of the results:

Once written the report
Delineating, detailed, then,
Bring me your epilogue –
no hurry, time doesn’t run here –
(Here all is space)
Bring it to me in this meantime
where I now live (wary)
Bring it here // to me
in any case distant.
Explain to me, you who appreciate
Morosely, from outside, how
it happened that, from one moment to the next,
For you, for her, for the world
I became deplorable.
Once the job done, you’ll be able to proclaim
To the four corners of the universe
Posted in the pure center of the quincunx
That you have solved the mystery.

You managed to explain to a man
         what “oblivion” is.

[Heriberto Yepez has emerged in recent years as a major figure in contemporary Mexican writing. His poetry, fiction, & translations, as well as his critical & theoretical writings, are not easily confined within generic boundaries, & his collaborations with other artists & theorists reveal an intellectual & creative fluency in multiple artistic languages. His work, translated into English, has also reached into the United States, including previous postings on Poems &Poetics & in journals such as Chain, Tripwire, Shark, & XCP.  The poems translated here by Nathaniel Tarn, a senior & essential poet in his own right, appeared originally in El Organo de la Risa, published by Aldus Editorial in 2008.  Tarn’s latest major work, Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers, appeared from New Directions in 2008, & Yépez’s latest book in English was The Empire of Neomemory, a challenging critique & appreciation of Charles Olson.]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jackson Mac Low: the poem I've been futzing around with for c. 16 days

[The following letter & poem are as found in our email correspondence from 2003.  The Naropa reference is to a question I had raised about using some of Jackson’s aleatory procedures in a workshop at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac school that coming summer, & the initials LP refer of course to Jackson’s Light Poems.  A small portion of the formatting has been modified or distorted in the transfer to blogger, but may be better viewed in the Jacket2 version. (J.R.)]

From: Jackson Mac Low
Subject: the poem I've been futzing around with for c. 16 days
Date: Wed, 04 Jun 2003 15:44:21 -0400
Dear Jerry

I'm attaching "Touching Chickens the Don until It Doesn't" to make me stop messing with it. The source is a mix of verbal materials I gathered from works by GM Hopkins, Charles Hartshorne, Gertrude Stein, and Lewis Carroll--with a lot of choices etc.during the makingtime. (That started on 20 May and just ended today, 6/4/03.)
(Once in a while I get bogged down this way.)  

The form is sort of a bow to an old friend I met the day I got here on my 21st birthday and by happenstances turned out to be an old friend of the lady I lived with in the village and a friend of
someone he introduced to me after an anarchist meeting who became one of my closest anarchist friends who lived near Woodstock. Both dead now.  

As for naropii--why chicken them by harnessing them with one of my ancient complicated groups of methods? This way they won't get the idea that all they have to do is just pop something into a machine and thereby make a poem.  

The old complex methods won't make them write any better, and they know nothing about their quasi-Buddhist roots + humanism + anarchism + unfashionable metaphysics & poetics & all the rest of my craziness. And they don't need to. A simplified LP method shd suit them much better. Tell 'em to each dream up a genus of "things" with some resonance for that particular person and bring names of members of the species thereof into one or more poems, writing in sentences etc. that include one of the species' names, thus designating an individual of that species (e.g., an instance of "arclight"). Otherwise I'd give them free rein as to forms of the poems and burdens thereof. A list poem such as LP 1 shdnt be encouraged.  

But all that's up to you. The mix of the humane and the machinic, the intentional and the quasi-nonintentional is where I'm at. Nothing a human being does can be nonintentional & why shd it? But the attempted mix is a good thing. We have to leave the door open to the fact that we're nothing and our identity's a dream, but one that's not only unavoidable but necessary for us to do the slightest thing.  

God bless Malevich! But he done his bit and got bit for it. Shittin' Bolsheviks!  

love to you both and to Matthew   


Touching Chickens the Don
until It Doesn’t

 { Hopetc 1 } 

                                                 It’s in a way touching
                    said Don to Andrea
                                                      that you’ve been calling Schwitters
             and his scarless
        discontenting and delusive
                         as snowflakes in a summer atmosphere. 

Are sunbeams’ living spirits a-dwindling?

                    The motionable shadowy selves of patience
                                                 seemingly immaculate
                                                     have never selected motherwords.
                                                                 Three banded canine bodies
snap at timbers overhead.       

                 Time developed
                                      corresponding discontented frights
                                                   with perfect navels.

                         thoughtfully blue
                                                                 conceived a blinding wince. 

                                                                           Dispensing with days
                                           they motionably lifted
           beating welcomes to the morning. 

Between impatience
                              and selection                         
                                    behavioristic discontented bandits
                                      snatch up violets. 

Aren’t you enjoying
                                       your new behavior’s singularity? 

Who was it called
                             beating patience
                                                                    miniSchwittersistic behavior
                                     of nonbehavioristic body tops? 

    Rooted be the healing glass of humankind! 

                              Spiritmystery light
       riddles all allaying pseudoimmaculate breath. 

                                                                         Time and sunbeams
                                                      always moving
                                                                                      never motionable
                                                              hymn a dwindling sweetness
                                                                                     coloring breath. 

      beating praise
                          cannot cap a scarless navel. 

Living minimotionably
                    ever moved
                                                                                                        banded trees
                                      never wink or blink at lilac erections. 

        Who conceived that chimney voice
                         winking at mothers’ patience? 

                              Who’d riddle a scarless navel with infinite light?
Infinity isn’t witty. 

                            Are you
           Beth and Mellie’s intellectual mother?
they say you’ve mothered three                                                                        timberless mysteries!
      Hand the golden glass no more to Mother.
                           What caps a mother's  mothering? 

No mother is scarless.
                                                                              Timber’s dwindling’s inconceivable!

      Who could’ve conceived
     or composed
           a conception of that dwindling?
breathing between three laws
on snowflakeaccumulating skydays

                              would share the timber overhead? 

        Your mother’s
 conceived your heart. 

Yours the breath your mother's heart conceives.               

When morning's wincing fingergaps share living blackness
                              the day
    is right as sightlight. 

 disperses the light of glowing flesh                                                           

                  Who is the banded bowman
                              snatching a longedfor wink? 

                                           Patient allayers look at him through immaculate fingergaps. 

All through the breathing world
                                             the day
                           dear and healing light
         arrives through vast

                                     distances from a swirling sphere of unimaginably fiery gases. 

                                                            beating praise
                                              is panning around in our blackness. 

                             from bearing and nursing humankind                                                                                                                                                                     are shared by humankind. 

                                                  Glass must often cap
                 before they can sweetly heal.                                                             

                                                                     Lightly breathing mystery
                                                                                    riddles the infinite rightness
of sightlight. 

Is any bare and lightless world
                                                     dearer than the daystar?
                                                                                                                                       Your mother’s
                                                                             breath conceived your heart.
What is the richness of a flash?
                                                                           However vast
it never is dearer
                           than the daystar. 

       Unnumbered painters
                                                                    with patience and impatience 
                                                                               mystery light. 

Not in a vast
                           do the mothers conceive all humankind.  

                                              Is Bethany’s healing mystery
         lighting more than breath?     

       What savior might conceive the infinite healing
                                                                  beggedfor by the world’s
                                                                                                        elemental wound? 

                                             Always being moved
         wounded and unwincing
                                                        the unmotionable atmosphere is dying.                              

                                                                                                            heaven will harbor
                                                                                          living spirit.
   The daystar
               unobservably maculate
          will glow unseen
                                                                until it doesn’t.     

Jackson Mac Low
New York: 20 May–4 June 2003

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Pier Paolo Pasolini: Seven Poems for Ninetto (1970-73)

Pier Paolo Pasolini & Ninetto Davoli
Translation from Italian & commentaryby Peter Valente

[These poems are part of a sequence whose central focus is Pasolini’s love for the young actor Ninetto Davoli.  They are selected from the 112 works that exist in various states of draft and revision, most of them written during the filming of the “Canterbury Tales” in England and completed on Pasolini’s return to Italy. The last poem in the sequence is dated “February 1973.”]
Your place was at my side,
and you were proud of this.
But, sitting with your arm on the steering wheel
you said, “I can’t go on. I must stay here, alone.” 

If you remain in this provincial village you’ll fall into a trap.
We all do. I don’t know how or when but you will.
The years that comprise a life vanish in an instant. 

You are quiet, pensive. I know it is love
that is tearing us apart.

I have given you
all the power of my existence,
yet you are humble and proud, obeying a destiny
that wants you to remain impoverished. You don’t know
what to do, whether to give in or not. 

I can’t pretend your resistance
doesn’t cause me pain.
I can see the future. There is blood on the sand.


I think of you and I say to myself: “ I have lost him.”
I cannot bear the pain and wish I were dead. A minute
or so passes and I reconsider. With joy  

I take back strength from your image. I refuse to cry.
My mind is changed.
Then again I consider you, lost and alone. 

Who is this ugly gentleman
who does not understand what concerns him most? Are you
or are you not this Other, 

he who always loses without really dying?
He is my double: I, pedantic. He, informal. 

Knowledge of him has changed everything in my life.
He says that if I am lost he will find me.
He knows that when he does I will be dead. 

                                            Bath, October 24, 1971

That Freud that you enjoy reading doesn’t
clarify what I desire. You came here,
and I repeat –Nothing binds you to me.
Yet you decide to stay.
The man who prays and does not feel shame, who desires 
his mother’s nest for comfort, will lead a false life.
A desolate life. You will deny this.
But remember his cry is not for you.
It is for his own ass.

You came to teach me things I had not known before
but the angel appears and you are silent again.

He is soon gone. And still you are anxious.

Pleasure suspends my anguish.
But I know afterwards regret will shatter our fragile peace.

There existed in this world a thing without price.
It was unique.   Few were aware of it.
No code of the Church could classify it.

I confronted it midway on life’s journey
with no guide to lead me through this hell.
In the end there was no sense in it
tho it consumed the whole of my reality.

You wanted to destroy any good that came from it,
slowly, slowly, with your delicate hands.

You were not devoted and yet I cannot understand                                                                       
why there was so much fury in your soul
against a love that was so chaste.

                                                       Benevento, Feb. 3, 1973

The wind screamed through the Piazza dei Cinquecento
as in a Church –there was no sign of filth.
I was driving alone on the deserted streets.  It was almost 2 am.

In the small garden I see the last two or three boys,
neither Roman nor of the peasantry, cruising for
1000 lire. Their faces are stone cold.  But they have no balls.

I stopped the car and called out to one of them.
He was a fascist, down on his luck, and I struggled
to touch his desperate heart. 

But in the dark I could see him watching me.
You have come with your car and had your fun, Paolo.
The degenerate individual was here next to you. He is your double.
Cheap stolen trinkets hang from his car window.

Now you must leave
but where can you go? He is always there.

When you have been in pain for so long
and for so many months it has been the same, you resist it,
but it remains a reality in which you are caught.

It is a reality that wants only to see me dead.
And yet I do not die. I am like someone who is nauseous
and does not vomit, who does not surrender
despite the pressure of Authority.  Yet, Sir,

I, like the entire world, agree with you.
It is better that we are kept at a far distance.
Instead of dying I will write to you.

In this way, I preserve intact my critique
of your hypocritical way of life,
which has been my sole joy in the world.

                                                  London Airport, November 14, 1971

After much weeping, in secret
and in front of you, after having staged
many acts of desperation, you made
the final decision to surrender

and never to be seen again. I am done.
I have acted like a madman. I will not let the water run
from the source of my evil and my good:
these pacts between men are not for you or perhaps

you’re too skilled in the art of breaking them,
guided by a Genie that gives you certainty
by which you are transfigured.  You

know the right button to push.
When I speak you tell me “no”
and I tremble with disgust and fury
at the thought of our unforgettable happy hours.

                                                           Rome, January 13, 1972

After a long absence, I put on a record of Bach, inhale
the fragrant earth in the garden, I think again
of poems and novels to be written and I return
to the silence of the morning rain,

the beginning of the world of tomorrow.
Around me are the ghosts of the first boys,
the ones you knew.  But that is over.  Their day
has passed and, like me, they remain far from the summit

where the sun has made glorious their heads,
crowned with those absurd modern-style haircuts
and those ugly American jeans that crush the genitals.

You laugh at my Bach and you say you are compassionate.
You speak words of admiration for my dejected brothers of the Left.
But in your laughter there is the absolute rejection of all that I am.                                

note.  Giovanni (“Ninetto”) Davoli was born on October 11, 1948 in San Pietro a Maida, Calabria.  During the shooting of “La Ricotta” (1963), he was introduced to Pasolini. He was fourteen years old.  Pasolini had just turned forty.  Pasolini wrote, “Everything about him has a magical air…an endless reserve of happiness.” Soon Ninetto became part of Pasolini’s entourage and began appearing in his films.  He was first cast in “The Gospel According to St. Mathew” (1964) and appeared in many others films culminating with “The Arabian Nights” in 1974. He has said of his relationship to Pasolini, “In me, he found the naturalness of the world he knew growing up.”  This was the world that Pasolini saw devastated and ultimately obliterated by the changes that Italy was undergoing in the 60s.
Ninetto told Pasolini, during the filming of the “Canterbury Tales”, that on his return to Rome he intended to marry. Pasolini writes, “I am insane with grief.  Ninetto is finished.  After almost nine years, there is no more Ninetto.  I have lost the meaning of my life…Everything has collapsed around me.”  In January 1973, Ninetto married. He promised Pasolini that nothing fundamental would change as a result of his marriage.  But Pasolini was inconsolable.
The poems begun on August 20, 1971 chart the series of emotional upheavals Pasolini underwent during the time leading up to and after the wedding.  He writes that Ninetto “is tired of our relationship.  It has lost / all sense of novelty for him.  The duty of a new life / distracts him.”  He writes of Ninetto’s fiancée, “She blamed you for your innocent abandonments…She wants everything./  She is desperate and without hope, / without any compassion.”  In another poem he accuses Ninetto, “This love/ does not glorify you. It humiliates you. /…You love her only if she weeps and is humiliated./You don’t know how to maintain her / nor do you really want to.” His anger turns to regret: “But you, so happy, you/ the very image of happiness, now/ that you are gone from my life.”  Finally his anger subsides and he writes on February 1, 1973, “But seeing that you have retained a little love for me / exclusively, this means everything.” Pasolini’s relationship with Ninetto had changed into something else.  Desire had given way to affection and loyalty.  Pasolini cast him as Aziz in the “Arabian Nights,” a character he described as “joy, happiness, a living ballet.” Ninetto’s first son was named Pier Paolo.