Remembrances, appreciations, and remarks.
Blake Butler on Mark Baumer’s MEOW
The following introductory essay by Blake Butler is reprinted from MEOW (Burnside Review Press), the posthumously published poetry collection by the writer and activist Mark Baumer. Baumer was struck and killed by an S.U.V. in January 2017 as he walked barefoot across the U.S. to raise awareness of climate change and other issues.
“Of Looking, and Looking”: On Mary Oliver
All morning the rain has been delivering its packages to the grass, the wildflowers that in a month or two will turn the fields and roadsides of central Texas into a carnival of color. Yesterday the sun rinsed everything in a wash of wonder. When I learned that Mary had died I was sitting in a pediatrician's office, holding my week-old son in my arms. Tears stung my eyes, but I held back from weeping, embarrassed of strangers. Weeks before, when we still did not know if his mother would follow through with her adoption plan, my wife and I attended the baptism of several children at our church
From the Archive: Those Sunglasses
James Laughlin's delightful poem "Those Sunglasses" about his good friend, Tennessee Williams, was almost completely lost to the world through my own over-organization. Having finally finished (with my co-editor Thomas Keith) The Luck of Friendship: The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin (which my boss, James Laughlin had asked me to do almost twenty-five years ago, as part of a series of correspondence volumes with his most famous New Directions authors, published by W. W. Norton & Co.), I was tidying up my files and decided to go through the JL/TW-related material that I had brought home from New Directions as James Laughlin's literary co-executor when I retired in 2011.
“The Weird One”: Helen Adam's Visual Work
The following essay is a slightly modified excerpt from The Collages of Helen Adam, recently published by Further Other Book Works / Cuneiform Press. The volume features forty stand-alone collages, the last state of the collage poem In Harpy Land, Adam's photos from the 1964 Buzz Gallery poet's show, as well as two occasional collage suites (for Robert Duncan and Bob Hershon). There are also essays on Adam and her work by James Maynard, Alison Fraser, Lew Ellingham, Bob Hershon, Samuel R. Delany, and Kristin Prevallet.
Maggie Nelson on Eileen Myles
Earlier today I taught a class at CalArts about the great artist and writer David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992. In Cynthia Carr's biography of David, she quotes a student at Illinois State University—located in "Normal," no less—who saw him talk there in 1990, right when David was becoming a poster child, or rather a whipping post, for the culture wars of the 90s. The student said, "After you hear a voice like that, it changes you." Indeed. After you hear certain voices, the direction of your life is changed, and there's no going back. That was what hearing the voice of Eileen Myles was like for me, in the year of Wojnarowicz's death, 1992
James Laughlin, Publisher & Poet
Born handsome, brilliant, and rich, all his life James Laughlin courted the art of self-effacement. But even as he practiced disappearance, a behind-the-scenes master rather than a public figure, he, more than any other person of the twentieth century, directed the course of American writing and crested the waves of American passions and preoccupations. His life is mirrored in his friendships and in the careers of the many writers he championed.
Lorine Niedecker and the Obstinacy of the Particular
I want to think about Lorine Niedecker and her 1967 poem "Wintergreen Ridge" apropos the idea of the obstinacy of the particular. First, though, I believe I need to say something about the question of the particular. Obviously the problem of the particular, and of language's tendency to universalize and lose the particular, is addressed throughout the history of philosophy