There is no such thing as the greatest anything. Greatness is subjective. But if, for the sake of argument, or fun, or obsession, or whatever, we choose to at least toy with the concept of greatest modern novel, James Joyce's Ulysses is considered by many to be the frontrunner. And were one to attempt the hopeless task of choosing the greatest book of modern poetry, Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus would be a strong contender.
In a life that could have stepped straight from the pages of his beloved Dickens, albeit a 20th century and queer version, Peter William Burton was a boy of humble Hackney origins, born as the Second World War staggered to a close, who by dint of an extraordinary passion for books blazed a fascinating trail. His father was homosexual. Common of many of his kind, then persecuted, he married as a means of disguise. Like father like son, but their shared sexuality gave them nothing in common. What it created was an unhappy backdrop for growing up, and a desire to leave home and school as soon as possible. When he read the eulogy at his father's funeral, he stated, "George Burton was an old bugger!" Most of those gathered assumed he was being affectionately ribald. He was in fact being bluntly truthful. It is a great shame that he never wrote a book about this unusual, if imperfect, relationship. It would have made an extraordinary epistle, especially from the pen of one with both an eye for detail and an acute sense of mischief.
Ken Krimstein's latest book of cartoons, Kvetch as Kvetch Can, is the perfect holiday gift!
It is amazing to me that I did not come across the work of Fumiko Nakajo until this year. No poems in Kenneth Rexroth’s three main Japanese translations (One Hundred Poems from the Japanese, One Hundred More Poems from the Japanese, not even Women Poets of Japan), or in The Poetry of Postwar Japan (ed. Kijima Hajime), or in Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson’s From the Country of Eight Islands. Unrepresented in any of the more general poetry compilations in my collection.
Finally, combing Wikipedia while researching an article about what an amazing literary year 1922 was, I clicked on her name (she was born in 1922) because I was also on the lookout for more Japanese female poets to include in one of my musical projects. When I read the brief Wikipedia article on her, I quickly became eager to know more after learning that she was a tanka poet and that she had died at age 31 from breast cancer (I have friends who battle that cruel affliction). Noting that there was a book – this book – cited in her Wikipedia bio, I bought the only reasonably priced copy available on Amazon.
Traveling, to me, is more than just going somewhere you haven’t been before to take a bunch of pictures and possibly relax at a beach or whatever other amenities present themselves. It’s an opportunity to step outside of one’s self and, be it a neighboring city or a distant country thousands of miles away, ponder the different approaches to life that you could have taken and may still. In preparation for my travels, I always like to read up on the history and culture of my intended destination, and in all my pre-travel readings I have never read a book that excited me so much and primed me for where I was headed as when Seattle was in my sights and I happened upon Seattle and the Demons of Ambition.
William Parker: Conversations (Rogueart)
“The memories that stop being memories due to constant use”- Laurie Anderson
“Beauty is a puppet that keeps dangling in front of me” -Anselm Keifer
Not since John Zorn’s Arcana project and Art Taylor’s Notes and Tones, a comparison many will make, and which Parker says in his brief intro is the book that inspired him to do this project, has there been a book of interviews so vital, so down to earth and so personal. What we have here are 34 interviews conducted by Parker over approximately the last decade, 30 of which are with so-called free jazzers/improvisers, two with new music composers, one with Patricia Nicholson Parker (his wife, a dancer and an organizer of such events as the ongoing Vision Festival), and one with photographer Jacques Bisceglia who also contributed a beautiful black and white and color centerfold (27 photos) of most of the artists being interviewed.
by Leon Arden (Muswell Press)
In a dusty, cluttered Manhattan apartment overlooking the Hudson River, an old married couple, Jacob and Beryl, bicker and nag at each other as they live out uneventful days of bickering and nagging. Then Jacob has a stroke, and their lives are never the same again. Instead, Jacob, Beryl, and their only son, Russell, are forced to confront new circumstances.
A home carer moves in, Jacob becomes deeply depressed, and the family must ask themselves some tough, existential questions: What makes life worth living, and has one ever the right to call it quits? And if someone needs help to die, is the person who helps a compassionate deliverer, or just a murderer?
Ken Krimstein's latest book, Kvetch as Kvetch Can, is a readily available prescription.
This is an obvious must-read for anyone interested in punk rock: the story of the main force behind one of the top five American punk bands, Hüsker Dü. And though by page 150 Hüsker Dü has broken up, there's a lot of interesting stuff after that. By which I don't just mean his also excellent band Sugar, his solo albums, etc. More than most music bios, this is the story of a man whose job just happens to be "musician."
That's not to say that it's an entertaining book full of uproarious anecdotes like Keith Richards's autobiography. This book lacks that sort of celebrity dazzle and charm; Mould's wit is dark and wry (such as his memory of a Finnish festival performance where he "saw an inebriated local approach one of the festival agents and, mistaking him for a tree, began to urinate on his leg") rather than sparkling and exuberant.
As the publisher's website explains, New Directions was founded in 1936, when James Laughlin (1914-1997), then a twenty-two-year-old Harvard sophomore, issued the first of the New Directions anthologies. "I asked Ezra Pound for 'career advice,'" James Laughlin recalled. "He had been seeing my poems for months and had ruled them hopeless. He urged me to finish Harvard and then do 'something' useful."
Few American publishers have been more useful to the cause of poetry. Yes, ND has published much great prose as well, both original (notably a huge number of Henry Miller essay collections), and in translation (Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, the success of which funded many other projects; Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea) or reprinted/collected (Delmore Schwartz's In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories). Nonetheless, poetry -- less often supported by the major presses, especially early in a poet’s career -- is where the press has made its biggest impact.