Pierre Joris

Pierre Joris

Poet, translator and essayist Pierre Joris left Luxembourg at age nineteen and has since lived in the USA, Great Britain, North Africa, and France. Rain Taxi praised his collection Poasis: Selected Poems 1986-1999 for "its physical, philosophical delight in words and their reverberations." Since then he has published two chapbooks of poetry: Permanent Diaspora and The Rothenberg Variations. In 2003, Wesleyan University Press brought out his collection of essays A Nomad Poetics. Recent translations include Paul Celan: Selections (University of California Press, 2005), Lightduress by Paul Celan (Green Integer, 2004), which received the 2005 PEN Poetry Translation Award, and 4x1: Work by Tristan Tzara, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey & Habib Tengour (Inconundrum Press 2002). With Jerome Rothenberg he edited the award-winning anthologies Poems for the Millennium and, just out from Exact Change, Pablo Picasso, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & Other Poems.

Mark Thwaite: It was as a translator of Paul Celan that I first came across your name, Pierre. What first led you to translate a poet who is deemed so difficult? What are the specific challenges of Celan's work?

Pierre Joris: In high school when I was 14 or 15, Othon Scholer, my German language and literature teacher, brought in some peripatetic scholar/actor who gave a reading of contemporary German poetry for our listless class. Though at that time I was primarily a phenomenal devourer of novels, and in the process of switching from James Fennimore Cooper and Karl May adventure stories to the more existential narratives of Camus, Sartre and Dostoyevsky, I already had a vague interest in poetry, having discovered Gottfried Benn’s work, both poetry and prose — his “Weinhaus Wolf” has remained one of favorite “existentialist” narratives, in fact the only one I keep rereading for the sheer pleasure of it about once a year. In 2003 when I spent the fall in Berlin, I made walking pilgrimages to Benn’s house and what remains of his Berlin haunts, rereading Weinhaus Wolf, Der Ptolemaer and other essays and proses. But back to high school. Something strange happened that day: after reading some of the work of those I think we called the “Bestandsaufnahme” poets, whose spare, tentative, prosaic language tried to reinvent a possible German poetry, a poetry of ruins, a Trümmerlyrik after WW2, though leading more often than not to an aesthetics of amnesia — Krolow, Eich, Piontek, etcetera — this peripatetic scholar/actor read Paul Celan’s Todesfuge. The poem went through me like a knife through butter, it cut me open, laid me out, flayed. My hair stood on end. It may have been the one absolute epiphany I experienced. It was not the gorgeousness of the music, of the poem’s fugal construction, nor was it the obvious horror of the content, the exterminated bodies of the Jews going up in smoke to be buried in the air. No, it was the abyss opened by the combination of those two sides into which I fell, it was the seesaw teeth of that absolute contradictory doubleness of that chiasmus that tore me open. Interesting that the image of a knife & a saw comes to mind — for Celan, when asked by Hans Bender to contribute to the latter’s anthology Mein Gedicht ist mein Messer, My Poem is my Knife, sent Bender a letter suggesting that the poem, rather than a knife, is a handshake. And who knows, it may have been that clear disemboweling power of the Todesfuge that was also on his mind (besides or beyond the misuses the poem had been put to) when he decided to prevent further anthologizing of this poem. Obviously I am happy that it remained in print in his book, or I wouldn’t, couldn’t, have had that experience that afternoon in 1961 or 2.

So some five years later — years during which I had written my juvenile poems and stories in French and in German — when I decided to write poetry in English and make that my life’s work, I also knew that translation would be an essential part of the work. This is so not only because I foolishly thought at the time that literary translation could be a way of making a living as a poet, but also because I saw translation as both a duty — I had the languages and therefore felt it to be my ethical responsibility to use that faculty to move things from one language to the other so that the language-challenged could get some sense of what had been and was being written elsewhere — and a core poetic learning experience: I never believed one could learn to write poetry in creative writing classes, nor do I believe in some genius-muse-inspiration romanticism, but I do think that reading is essential to writing. The closest reading — total immersion in fact — into the strongest and most mysterious and challenging work that comes along and kicks your lazy ass, is finally the only way to learn about writing. You apprentice yourself to that work, that poet, and keep digging in. Now, what is the closest reading you can give a poem? Translation, of course. And for me, given my quite rudimentary English, it was also a language-learning experience. Translation made me discover not only the depth of the poem to be translated but also the complexities, difficulties, limits and resources of the so-called “target” language. So for me translation was immediately a twofer. Or rather a threefer, for there was another aspect, rarely mentioned, but important for a young poet: while your own work may not yet be accepted or even well received, given that there is no name recognition and that you will be one of several hundred unknowns submitting to a given issue, you can much more easily approach and get into magazines and reviews with good translations of major foreign poets.

Given the epiphanic experience mentioned above, it was only natural that when I started translating I would turn to Celan, though I did not do so exclusively or immediately. If memory serves, the first batch of translation I put together for publication (though the magazine died before that issue came out) was a small anthology of some 7 or 8 German poets — oddly enough they were basically the same list that Jerome Rothenberg put together for his first book, New Young German Poets, published in 1959 by City Lights in San Francisco, but which I didn’t get to see until a couple years later — for the Paris-based English-language magazine Two Cities, edited by the Mauritian poet and psychiatrist Jean Fanchette. I had come across Fanchette and his magazine at Shakespeare & Co., the Paris bookshop where I was living on and off in those days. It was also in Two Cities that I started reading francophone poets such as Malcolm de Chazal and Édouard Maunick, while hanging with Mohammed Khair-Eddine, my room-mate at Shakespeare’s, and learning about Maghrebian literature. Among those 7 or 8 German poets I translated, Celan was but one, even if then already and for all the stated reasons, the most important one. Then, in 1967 I bought Celan’s new volume Atemwende as soon as it came out. This was a further major discovery, for this is the volume in which Celan moves his own poetics through what the title calls a breath-turn, and starts to write those very difficult and complex late poems. In order to read these poems closely and to try to come to an understanding of what I could only see as a certain hermeticism, I immediately set about translating the volume.

That late summer of 1967 I crossed the Atlantic to go study at Bard College. The student thing was an excuse to get to the land of Kerouac and Ginsberg, and I didn’t plan to necessarily complete any academic studies. It was a way of having some money from home and a visa to be in the US. But as I was planning on making a living as a poet/translator, I brought over two other books: Michel Foucault’s Les Mots et les Choses and Jacques Derrida’s De la Grammatologie, the latter also published that year. And during my first months in the States I did translate a chapter each from those two books and sent them out to New York trade publishers. Of course the response was zilch — in fact only one publisher — Unger — even deigned send me a rejection slip. So, as it turned out, I didn’t figure prominently in bringing French theory to the US, but I did stay on at Bard & kept working on Atemwende and in 1968 turned it into my senior project, the sort of dissertation you do as final work at Bard.

As for the second part of your question, the answer is: all over. Celan’s work is challenging all over for the translator. Which is as it should be — all great poetry has its own, insistent, absolute mark, and that makes it at one level extremely difficult to translate because you have to re-invent that same mark in the other language which involves often retooling that language or some aspect(s) thereof (remember Hölderlin saying he was writing Greek in German when translating) and that can be a violent process. At another level there is a needed literalness in the approach to translation demanded by such a poetry that makes the work if not easy and simple, then at least straight-forward: just translate what’s there & you’ll be okay. I revised my 1969 version of Breathturn in the late 70s in England when Asa Benveniste wanted to publish it from his Trigram Press (that never happened, because despite Asa’s efforts, Suhrkamp wouldn’t let him have the rights; Hamburger was the ‘official’ translator at that time, and it would be years until first Gisèle Celan-Lestrange & then Eric Celan would realize that more translations were needed, that despite Hamburger’s pioneering early work, he was finally limited in relation to the late work.). At any rate I revised the book a second time in the late eighties when I was incorporating it with 2 other late Celan volumes into my PhD dissertation, and then yet again in the early nineties when I was getting it ready — finally! — for publication by sun & moon press. The 69 version had been very literal — that’s all I could do, there was no work on Celan and certainly nothing in relation to that, his latest volume at the time, that could help clarify the difficulties or give helpful interpretations of the poems. The 70s & 80s versions had all of a sudden hundreds & then literally thousands of essays & books on Celan at their disposal, & so the translations were revised, opened up, experimented with according to the various ways in which I thought the poems could be understood. Re-reading these half a dozen years later to prepare the final ms. I more often than not went back to slightly tweaked or fine-tuned version of the first, i.e. the most literal versions of the translation.

MT: At the conclusion of your (wonderful) essay Celan/Heidegger: Translation at the Mountain of Death you say, "A translation of a poem has to be a poem. 'Poetic thought' ... mean[ing] 'the thinking a poem does in its poemness, its poetic Eigentlichkeit ' - does not translate into, say, philosophical thought, or literary-critical thought ... A poem can only translate into another poem." I like the notion that a poem thinks (and thinks itself) differently to other forms. Something, as you say, Heideggers seems not to have understood. Why do you think he was fascinated with Celan's work? And with poetry in general?

PJ: That’s a tough one. If I’m uncharitable I’d say that Heidegger found refuge in poetry — a safe place, to some extent. Where could he have gone? The end of Western metaphysics was what he had thought through. Where to go from there? The great poetry of Germany (from Hölderlin to Rilke, say) would certainly prove a possible place of engagement for thought (see his late essays on poetry & language). But remember also that the second part of Being and Time does move into another realm, but a dangerous one, namely the political: it deals with the power that Dasein and its “co-destiny” — an entity he calls the Volk — have to escape inauthenticity and to open themselves to the future. This is truly a political project, if not a specific program. I agree with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe when he claims that Heidegger's political involvement in 1933 is in no way an "error", it is clearly inscribed in Heidegger's thought from the beginning on, and absolutely coherent with his thinking, so much so that the combining of the "political" and the "philosophical" was so powerful that up until 1944 nearly all Heidegger's teaching was devoted to an "explication" with national-socialism, and the "truth" which Heidegger had, or had believed to have seen in it. But Heidegger was also a sly fox, the canny German peasant whose “Bauern List” made him pull back (once he had not obtained the dreamed of philosopher’s place at the side of the tyrant) from too deep involvement and so during the later 30s and 40s, his teaching also began to focus more and more on and through poetry and literary writing — Hölderlin, Nietzsche, etcetera. This will allow him, for example, to claim in his posthumous published (on his demand) white-washing interview for the Spiegel, that he was not a Nazi propagandist, vide, during those years he was teaching poetry… He is a good reader of Hölderlin, no doubt about that, and his late essays on language and poetry are certainly worthwhile going back to today.

Heidegger’s specific interest in Celan’s work goes back to the late fifties; I don’t have the exact details, but in all likelihood the German writer Erich Kästner and the philosopher Otto Pöggeler, as well the French poet René Char were the ones who brought the importance of Celan’s work to Heidegger’s attention. This interest was strongest in regard to the earlier work, and by 1964, so Pöggeler reports, Heidegger found Celan’s poetry too difficult and alien. At any rate, the philosopher always did a very selective reading of Celan, insisting on poems that had some shared theme (aloneness, for example), while avoiding any of those poems where a careful reading would not be able to avoid dealing with the question of the Shoa. Heidegger knew the situation, the personal situation of Celan, perfectly well. Pöggeler had told him the details of the deaths of Celan’s parents, as Celan had told it to him, and also told Heidegger what Celan, who had heard it from local surviving witnesses, had related to him about how the deported Jews in the transnistrian stone quarries had linked hands in a long line before jumping to their death all together rather than letting themselves be slowly worked to death by the torture of forced labor.

Celan’s interest in Heidegger’s philosophy, of which he was a serious reader, goes even further back, maybe as far as Czernowitz, if Pöggeler is right to see a reference to Heidegger in the early poem “A warrior.” Certainly Celan will have known (and from a critical angle) of the philosopher’s work by the time he was in Vienna, if through no one else than his then friend and lover, the poet Ingeborg Bachman, who was at that moment working on her doctoral dissertation on Heidegger (completed in 1950). We know for example also that in October 1951 Celan received a copy of a limited edition of Der Feldweg, etc. etc. Celan felt that Heidegger had a rare openness to poetry and was interested to take up a dialogue. It is therefore not surprising that this shared interest would culminate in a meeting (after Heidegger had come to a reading Celan gave). However, it is not surprising either, given the ego, blindness and arrogance of Heidegger, that he would completely misread the Celan poem dealing with his visit to Todtnauberg, as I’ve tried to show in the essay you were referring to. I don’t think it ever entered his mind that a poet could be critical of him, the great philosopher, just as he clearly did not get the point of Celan’s visit and inscription, which asked for a word of apology for what had happened. Now, if one wanted to be very kind to Heidegger one could suggest that perhaps he thought the Shoa much too absolute a crime for a mere apology to be able to be of any use and that silence was therefore preferable — but then, he could have put thought that into words. The fact is that he simply refused to give Celan what Celan had come to ask. And Celan did not let him forget it. And yet Celan continued to want to interact, and met twice more with Heidegger — a further meeting being cut short by his death.

MT: Can theory read poetry without doing it undue violence? (I'm asking this also wondering about your role as a professor at the University at Albany and how your teaching there informs your own reading and writing.)

PJ: What is undue violence? Isn’t all violence undue? Or is there maybe a poetic violence that is due vs. an undue theoretical violence. Or the other way around? Theory, like any critical method, always reminds me of that fabled object of juvenile self-gratification: superman glasses that will let you see through the clothes the passersby wear, that will reveal the sexy nakedness of your neighbors, while you remain fully dressed, i.e. invisible in your classic detective trench coat. The ultimate voyeuristic tool. Last night, after the semester’s final graduate seminar — a creative writing course I turn traditionally into a reading-writing course — one student, Chris Rizzo, a lovely young poet who after a few years in the “real” world, has returned to academia to earn a PhD, asked me about the use of theory (most of his other courses are heavily theory-oriented) in our class where we read Deleuze & Guattari’s Thousand Plateaus, among other books that included volume 2 of my Poems for the Millennium anthology, plus books of essays by poets Alice Notley and Juliana Spahr. And I answered that I always read the books of theorists for a poetics, i.e. for the use they can be for the practice of writing, rather than as “theory” — which in US English departments nearly always means a sort Frankensteinian creature, part philosophy, part literary critical tool, part cultural studies application. I.e. D/G for me as poet are interesting in thinking through notions such as the rhizome as a useful schema for the organization of a poem, their concept of a minor literature is useful in terms of ways of thinking through questions of hierarchies of language and the uses of idiolects; Derrida, to mention just one other “theorist” is useful to think in new & enlightening ways through that most classical of poetic figures, the metaphor, or, say, his sense of the “monolinguism of the other.” On top of which people like Blanchot or Derrida, but also Foucault or Barthes, and at times Lyotard and Serres as well, are superb writers, so I read them de préférence in French, & often cringe when I have to use English translations, at times very awkward and stultifying hackademic jobs, in my classes. In fact, I think that these theorists are among the best writers in French in the second part of the last century, while most poets and prosists (with some notable exceptions such as Deguy or Roubaud, Guyotat or Sollers) are pisspoor writers. In fact the most interesting and explorative literary writing in French of the last fifty years has not come from Paris, but from the periphery of the old colonial empire — the Maghreb and the Antilles.

MT: Your book 4x1, English translations of works by Rilke, Tzara, Duprey and Tengour, is a delight. Which of those poets' work are you most drawn to Pierre? Why?

Pierre Joris: That book happened by, how to say…. happenstance. Young friends, mainly ex-students of mine, wanted to start a press and when the first ms. they had wanted to publish — a novel — took too long to come in, in their eagerness to get a first book out, they asked me for a book. Thinking that a volume of poems by one author was not the most reasonable way to help start a small publishing venture that had set itself the aim to become financially viable, could in fact be the kiss of death, I proposed a book of multiple authors — i.e. the press would be inaugurated with an immediate list of 5 authors. I did have a range of translations by very different writers in my drawers — most of them I had published in magazines here and there, but on their own none of the four assemblages was really substantial enough to make a book by itself, while together they would constitute a solid, and, I thought intriguing volume. I was myself intrigued by the differences they presented and wanted to see how they would act or react when gathered between the same covers. What would such strange bedfellows as Tzara, Rilke, Duprey and Tengour have to say to each other? Did anything link them besides the fact that I had liked them enough to invest the time and energy to translate them? The introduction to the book gives my detailed answer. Suffice it to say here that those four trace a weirdly exemplary, if abbreviated, poetic map of the 20th century for myself (& others, I hope). I end that text by suggesting that “though compiled in early 2001, now, as I write this preface in these post-9/11 days, the book feels like a psycho-topography that leads from matters involving late 19th century colonialism all the way through the long and torturous 20th century to leave us exactly there where we have to start to think a new cultural constellation that will, finally, have to include the heritage of the excluded third — Islam & Arab culture.”

So in that way your question about preference among those writers doesn’t make that much sense for me. They are all important and map a long investigation into 20C writing. But for the sake of playing along with your question, let me suggest that those who interest me most deeply are the two who frame the book, Tzara and Tengour, the first because he is truly a great eye-opener, a major inventor of new forms, a breaker of taboos, a generator of laughter and pleasure, and the second because it is in the questioning his work (and that of a number of other writers from the Maghreb and elsewhere) proposes — involving questions of exile, of nomadism, of rereading euro-classics (here the Odyssey), of working through & beyond & in the process renewing the genres we have come to take for granted — that I recognize my own quests the most. Tzara is he who opened the 20C and remains a delightful, anti-authoritarian model; Rilke & Duprey, at different levels are essential figures of the successes and failures of what will have been the last euro-centric century, but Habib Tengour is my brother in arms as we enter this new century.

MT: What do you think you gain/learn as a writer and as a reader by translating other writers?

PJ: I think I spoke to that to some extent in my answers to the first questions, and the gains for the writer are obvious: it’s one of the best ways of learning one’s job. But let me try to give it a larger context. For me, writing and reading are inextricably mixed. I read to write and I write to read. Every text is intertextual, and though it may, and often does, respond or act upon an event in the so-called real world, be it the “inside real or the outsidereal,” as poet Ed Dorn put it, it is also always involved at some level or other with other texts (its “outsidereal”), with its own language (its “inside real”) and is in some way in discussion with everything that has been written before it. So for me a major part of that is broadening the discussion, widening the field, opening it up to writing in other languages, writing into and through other languages. Like that 19C native American chief from one of the Plains tribes, who — when taken to Washington and shown the White House and told that that’s where the “Great White Father” lived — shook his head dismissively and said that if he was a chief in this town he’d live in all the houses, i.e. move from one to another as he wished or was moved to do. The nomad’s prerogative. The way I want to inhabit the houses of different languages, move between them or from this one to that one, as need or desire pushes me, knock on the door or shake the tent-flap, be invited in by the laws of hospitality, find out what’s happening & move on, bringing the “news that stay news” as Pound called poetry, from one teepee to the other, or onto the market place or agora of another assemblage of houses — with the propulsive movement being an errance, a dérive, a process of discovery and sharing.

MT: I don't want to reduce your own very complex and varied poetry to its themes (some of which might be, exile, nomadicism, marginality, the influence of Africa and the Maghreb, the torsions of language), but I'd like to ask: why do themes of departure and movemement, loss and becoming play such a large part? Are your themes consciously explored or do they happen "behind your back"?

PJ: Both and. They happen because that’s what happened all my life and to some extent defined it. I left — voluntary exile, nothing heroic about it, nor is there any desire to return for, say, more than 48 hours once or twice a year to see family — my home country and mother tongue in my late teens.. Since then I have been living in other countries and speaking, thinking and writing in other tongues, so the natural condition of my being in the world is that of hajra, to use the Arabic word (that is also the title of one of my collections of poems) that means exile, going away, going forth and so on. And even if I have now lived for fourteen years in one place, Albany, NY — which, by the way, is the longest I have lived anywhere, ever — I am very much looking forward to get out of Albany, and I don’t just mean for a short time, which is something I do all the time anyway (I am actually writing this in Amsterdam’s Shiphol airport. waiting for my plane to NYC after a 3 day visit to Luxembourg — two days at poetry fest, one day visiting the family) but forever, i.e. there will be a time in the next few years when I’ll leave Albany for keeps, without looking back.

Moving like that (as a traveler, not a tourist, to use the distinction Paul Bowles makes in The Sheltering Sky) keeps you on your toes. A new environment forces you to adjust your sight, listen differently, be more aware of the place and the people. One way to put this is to say that indeed “familiarity breeds contempt.” Unfamiliar places breed sharpness of perception, teach not to prejudge places and people, to withhold judgment. And every new place will rewrite the old places you have left and thought you knew. Geography rewrites history, just as much as history rewrites geography. I note that the verbs of the two last sentences are all three “rewrite” — and so is the work: a kind of continuous act of rewriting the comings and the goings, often going over the terrain just traveled, be it a book or a desert, or prewriting myself into the next move. The danger is of course the possibility of nostalgia, what in the traditional pre-Islamic Arab ode is called the atlal, in which the wandering poet returns and stops at the site of an old camp, and laments the ruins. Or in Western parlance, what I would call the romantic fallacy. So it is always a question of being on guard, of being aware of the situation, the place, the possible déjà-vu, functioning as a veiling of the new, still to be discovered, explored place or book.

MT: Your "investigative peregrinations" are modernist and playful. How do you write? Wait for the Muse or work and work and work at it!? Who influenced you in the past and who now?

I try to write every day but don’t manage it. Too much interferes at this point in my life. So I write when I can. The muse is simply the time available to me to concentrate on writing. I used to get up and sit down at the writing desk, open the notebook & start writing. Whatever came, came. This is more difficult now, even though I still get up very early — all my writing gets done between 5 and 10 a.m. In the afternoon I am only capable of rewriting, editing, translating, teaching and whatever other mundane para-literary activities need to be taken care of. Not sure if it is age or just the fact that life has gotten so busy with commitments all over the place, the days seem completely jam-packed. So I try to create structures that I can work on anytime, anywhere. Right now there are two such series going on, one a sequence of 40 poems based on the forty “stations” (words, concepts, meditative instructions) given us by the Sufi poet Al-Hallaj. The other being a sequence of 28 poems based on the letters of the Arab alphabet. I hope to finish the first one this summer and the second one next year. But I don’t really give myself deadlines. These are ongoing processes that take the time they take. Then of course there are always interlopers, things, poems, texts that write themselves — and they are a great pleasure because they surprise me; or rather, when they surprise me I know they are good & not some rerun of old material. Surprise is delight.

The influences are legion. When I was younger I always wondered at Robert Duncan’s description of himself as “a derivative poet.” I guess that early on I too had that young man’s sense, or desire, rather, to be absolutely original — another old romantic fallacy. But maybe because I had decided to write in a language other than the mother tongue, it was very quickly evident to me that the idea of originality is but a fiction. There is a level at which what I write is obviously “original,” because “I did it,” but that may not be the most interesting thing about the writing at all. I would, for example, argue that Pierre Menard’s Don Quichotte, as Borges proposes in his fiction, would be absolutely as original as Cervantes’. If I still hold with Rimbaud’s line that one must be “absolument moderne” (and I read that as meaning that one has to be completely of one’s own time, and would rather call it the “extrême contemporain” as Michel Deguy phrased, and as I heard this very morning in Toronto Nicole Brossard speak about the poet’s situation), this does however also now have to imply the postmodern realization that every text is intertextual, that all writing (also) speaks of and to and through and from any range of other texts, present and past. So I would nearly like to say that everybody I ever read has influenced me — one way or the other. As I say in my introduction to 4x1: “I read to write.” (And of course the obverse is also true: I write to read — others). The best list of “influences” I can give you is the table of contents of the two volumes of Poems for the Millennium — over 200 poets — and that leaves out all those pre-20C writers who were and are important to me.

MT: What are you working on now? What is coming next?

PJ: Well, there are the poems that write themselves kind of despite of me: they just happen when I open the norte book and the hand starts moving. But there are also more planned projects, right now two sequences I am in the middle of, both drawing on Arabic materials: a sequence of 40 poems based on the one-word “stations” the Sufi poet Mansour al-Hallaj proposed as terms of meditation, and a sequence of 28 poems based on the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet. I am finishing the translation of a book of Paul Celan’s proses (overdue, overdue… that’s what I should be working on right now) and I keep gathering materials for another anthology, this one a historical compilation of writings from the Maghreb. This summer I am also putting together another book of essays, a follow-up to A Nomad Poetics, tentatively titled Justifying the Margins, gathering work published the last 15 or so years in various magazines and journals.

MT: What is the best book you have read recently? Who is your favourite writer/what is your favourite book?

PJ: Again, there never is just one best or favorite book. Here too I like to use the Deleuzian formula: it is always n-1. So here’s a short list, that oddly enough for me includes three books of prose: Robert Majzels’ Apikoros Sleuth, Robert Kelly & Birgit Kempker’s Shame, and Nicole Brossard’s Yesterday at the Hotel Clarendon. On the non-fiction side of things there is The Big Oyster by Mark Kulansky and I have started rereading Jack Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World — an absolutely superb book, a true revisioning of a core moment in our history. Poetry-wise I am savoring Company of Moth by Michael Palmer (which I hear is up for the Griffin prize — hope he gets it!), and, even though it came out nearly 2 years ago, and I taught it last year, I am deeply engaged with Allen Fisher’s Entanglement, the second installment of his ongoing long poem Gravity as a Consequence of Shape. Fisher is to me by far the most interesting and challenging poet writing in England today — his work has been on my table for over thirty years now. From Morocco just in, the lovely texts by Abdallah Zrika, translated by himself from Arabic as La Colombe du Texte. And I have just finished Mahmood Darwish’s Why did you Leave the Horse Alone? very ably translated by Jeffrey Sacks. There are two stacks — one of books and one of magazines — just behind that await reading — & I am going to do that right now! Thank you, Mark.

-- Mark Thwaite (28/06/2006)

Readers Comments

  1. Paul Trewhela says... Friday 21 March 2008

    In tribute and gratitude to Pierre Joris: a major discussion/debate is under way on a South Africa-based website on the relation between Heidegger's thought to that of a prominent contemporary South African Vice Chancellor, in which writings by Pierre Joris have been of great help. The website address for the initial essay by me, 'Two Vice Chancellors: Malegapuru Makgoba and Martin Heidegger', and the subsequent series of comments can be found on:;=Detail.

    With many thanks to Pierre Joris. I would be most pleased to have this drawn to his attention.

    Paul Trewhela

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