to town, a sultry, watery place, crawling with insects
In the semidarkness of the mountain,
small things loomed large: a donkey urinating on a palm;
a salt-and-saliva-stained boy riding on his mother’s back;
a shy roaming black Adam. I was walking on an edge.
The moments fused into one crystalline rock,
like ice in a champagne bucket. Time was plunging forward,
like dolphins scissoring open water or like me,
following Jenny’s flippers down to see the coral reef,
where the color of sand, sea and sky merged,
and it was as if that was all God wanted:
not a wife, a house or a position,
but a self, like a needle, pushing in a vein.
Top Five Albums Named After Cities or States:
2. Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen
3. California by Wilson Philips
4. Oklahoma? (original cast recording)
5. Boston by Boston
Two E-Versers, Jake Berry and Jack Foley, send in their correspondence about Michael Palmer winning the $100,000 Academy of American Poets prize:
JACK: Ah, but they don’t want to cast a wider net. Michael Palmer, even more than Charles Bernstein, is what happened to the language movement when it became respectable. He publishes with New Directions. People who don’t “like” language poetry “like” his work. Though Michael worked for many years with the dancer Margaret Jenkins, his poetry (unlike the poetry of his friend Jerome Rothenberg) represents experimentalism as writing rather than as performance. He says of the page in “Pre-Petrarchan Sonnet,” “We are nowhere else.” Writers associated with Talisman (Leonard Schwartz, for example) admire him tremendously. I have a few remarks about Michael in my piece on Ishmael Reed in my book, Foley’s Books, p. 29 ff. Michael was friends with Robert Duncan and wrote the introduction to the new edition of Ground Work. The introduction doesn’t even mention Duncan’s insistence on Ground Work I’s mirroring his typescript–a fact that makes the book look very strange. Palmer certainly knew what Duncan had done; he evidently didn’t think it was important enough to mention. As for myself, I think it’s a fact of considerable significance: it’s a literal working out of Olson’s insistence on the typewriter as a “score” for poetry, and it points to the tension between writing and speech which is everywhere present in Duncan. For years, Michael Palmer was more or less associated with Leslie Scalapino: you would see them at readings together. Michael’s career took off in a way that Leslie’s never did, though she has her admirers. I think it’s significant that Palmer isn’t in the Pound tradition. Robert Hass’s remarks about Michael being the most important experimental writer of his generation “and perhaps of the last several generations” are a subtle way of discrediting both Duncan and Olson–not to mention far less well-known people like Ronald Johnson or Jackson MacLow (or Ivan Arguelles and Philip Lamantia, for that matter, or the whole of the language group). Hass is implicitly saying, “You don’t have to read them: read Palmer.” Palmer is certainly a good poet, but you can’t help feeling that he’s being used. And for $100,000 who would object to a little use?
Invaluable Fact of the Week:
This week’s town you really have to visit:
Read my interview with poet, critic, and editor David Yezzi:
While I was away from E-Verse, I managed to edit the entire summer issue of the Cortland Review:
E-Verse Radio wishes it was in Koopa, Colorado today. It is a regular weekly column of literary, publishing, and arts information and opinion that has gone out since 1999. It is brought to you by ERNEST HILBERT and currently enjoys over 1,300 readers. If you wish to submit lists or other comments, please use the same capitalization, punctuation, and grammar you would for anything else intended for publication. Please send top five lists, bad movie titles, limericks, facts, comments, and new readers along whenever you like; simply click reply and I’ll get back to you.