Saturday, March 28, 2009

Poetry RIP

Once again, poetry is
. This oft-repeated prognosis always surprises me here in Chicago, because we are rife with magazines and reading series. Whatever your malady if you need some resuscitation stat, call in the life suport with these links. Newsweek didn't do its homework on this one.

Chicago Review

Another Chicago Magazine

After Hours



Book Slut

The Myopic Books Poetry Reading Series

Series A

milk magazine

Woodland Pattern Book Center

The Danny's Reading Series

The Poetry Center of Chicago

Monday, March 16, 2009

look/ out where yr going

Coming up on 4 years now--since Robert Creeley’s passing (March 30), which has me thinking again of what a vacuum exists in his absence. Many poets champion or cheerlead only the work of other poets most similar to their own, but Creeley had a reputation for being much more magnanimous. He would respond to an e-mail in a kindly and forthright way that not only answered the questions at hand but also provided new avenues of consideration -- this is something I had heard about him from other poets and then I also experienced it myself. Being one whose writing doesn’t resemble Creeley’s in its brevity, I marvel over what he accomplished (and in such few words). One gets the sense that each and every syllable in a Creeley poem is absolutely crucial to the poem’s construction. In the alchemical sense, all dross in his work was melted away and nothing but the gold remains -- wit and wisdom that doesn’t seem didactic. Creeley’s Wikipedia page is a useful start.

Friday, March 13, 2009


James Joyce, in "Finnegans Wake," coined the word Bababadal­gharagh­takammin­arronn­konn­bronn­tonn­erronn­tu

Aristophones, in his play "The Assemblywomen," coined the word lopadotemakhoselakhogameokranioleipsanodrimypotrimmatosilphiokarabomelitokatakek

Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism: The longest nontechnical word in the OED

Antidisestablishmentarianism: The longest noncoined/nontechnical word

Of which, Wikipedia provides the agglutinative origins:

establish (9)
to set up, put in place, or institute (originally from the Latin stare, to stand)
dis-establish (12)
to end the established status of a body, in particular a church, given such status by law, such as the Church of England
disestablish-ment (16)
the separation of church and state (specifically in this context it is the political movement of the 1860s in Britain)
anti-disestablishment (20)
opposition to disestablishment
antidisestablishment-ary (23)
of or pertaining to opposition to disestablishment
antidisestablishmentari-an (25)
an opponent of disestablishment
antidisestablishmentarian-ism (28)
the movement or ideology that opposes disestablishment.

Honorificabilitudinitatibus is the longest word in all of Shakespeare's works.

One of the longest place names is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokai
whenuakitanatahul. (It's a hill in New Zealand.)

But if we're talking about paraskavedekatriaphobia "the origin of the link between bad luck and Friday the 13th is murky. The whole thing might date to Biblical times (the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus). By the Middle Ages, both Friday and 13 were considered bearers of bad fortune. In modern times, the superstition permeates society.

Five Friday-the-13th facts:

1. Fear of Friday the 13th - one of the most popular myths in science - is called paraskavedekatriaphobia as well as friggatriskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.

2. Many hospitals have no room 13, while some tall buildings skip the 13th floor and some airline terminals omit Gate 13.

3. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and President Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.

4. Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. 'It was bad luck,' Twain later told the friend. 'They only had food for 12.' Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.

5. The number 13 suffers from its position after 12, according to numerologists who consider the latter to be a complete number - 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 days of Christmas and 12 eggs in a dozen.

Pythagorean legacy

Meanwhile the belief that numbers are connected to life and physical things - called numerology - has a long history.

You can trace it all the way from the followers of Pythagoras, whose maxim to describe the universe was "all is number.'" (

However, there are also those who have no hesitation in using the number. "In the Great Seal of the United States there are 13 olive leaves (with 13 olives), 13 arrows, and 13 stars. These form a triangle over the eagle with the number 13 on each point. On the reverse the pyramid has 13 levels.

The number 1138 (1+1+3+8=13) is scattered through many of George Lucas' films, namely owing to the fact that one of his early films was THX 1138. In fact it is represented in all six of the Star Wars movies.

Ozzie Guillén, manager of the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox, has worn the number throughout his baseball career. Alex Rodriguez began wearing it upon joining the New York Yankees (three, the number he had previously worn, is retired by the Bronx Bombers to honor Babe Ruth). Dan Marino, an American football player known for passing the 2nd most yards in NFL history, wore the number 13, although pundits in the sport have often cited him as the greatest quarterback never to win an NFL championship. Basketball great Wilt Chamberlain wore the number 13 on his jersey throughout his NBA career." (Wikipedia)

In Italy, 13 is considered to be a lucky number. Ciào.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Readings at Myopic Books

Readings are free in the Myopic Books Poetry Series, and there are exciting upcoming events on the calendar. Hope to see you.

Sounds Good to Me

To ridicule the nonsensical rules of English pronunciation, George Bernard Shaw demonstrated that the word fish can logically be spelled ghoti:
gh as in laugh
o as in women
ti as in nation

Homophonic translation means translating not the sense but the sounds from one language to another, or even within the same language.


Charles Bernstein on the homophonic translations of Celia and Louis Zukofsky in Jacket #30: “Zukofsky’s iconoclastic approach to translation would flower with Catullus, which he wrote with Celia Zukofsky, working on it from 1958-1966. For Catullus, the Zukofskys developed a technique that has come to be called homophonic translation – translation with special emphasis to the sound rather than the lexical meaning. Since Latin and English share many cognates, the results are sometimes uncannily resonant, even passionate, versions, of the original poems.”

“Leading with the sound, homophonic translation reframes what is significant in translation, challenging the idea that the translation should focus on content or create poems that sound fluent in their new language. Zukofsky insists that the mark of the translator be pronounced, and that in making the translation strange, we may provide a way to come closer to its core.”

Here’s the first chunk of Pablo Neruda’s “Gentleman Alone” followed by my homophonic translation:

Caballero solo/Pablo Neruda

Los jóvenes homosexuales y las muchachas amorosas,
y las largas viudas que sufren el delirante insomnio,
y las jóvenes señoras preñadas hace treinta horas,
y los roncos gatos que cruzan mi jardín en tinieblas,
como un collar de palpitantes ostras sexuales
rodean mi residencia solitaria,
como enemigos establecidos contra mi alma,
como conspiradores en traje de dormitorio
que cambiaran largos besos espesos por consigna.

El radiante verano conduce a los enamorados
en uniformes regimientos melancólicos,
hechos de gordas y flacas y alegres y tristes parejas:
bajo los elegantes cocoteros, junto al océano y la luna
hay una continua vida de pantalones y polleras,
un rumor de medias de seda acariciadas,
y senos femeninos que brillan como ojos.

El pequeño empleado, después de mucho,
después del tedio semanal, y las novelas leídas de noche, en cama,
ha definitivamente seducido a su vecina,
y la lleva a los miserables cinematógrafos
donde los héroes son potros o príncipes apasionados,
y acaricia sus piernas llenas de dulce vello
con sus ardientes y húmedas manos que huelen a cigarrillo.

Lost, jubilant homophone, errant amour
My largess, so viable, suffers delirious insomnias
And my jovial woman, prescient with hours,
You lose rancheros and cats, cruise tardy and blasé
Comely in your collar of palpitations. Sexual ostrich
Rodeo solitary residences,
While enemies establish alma maters
And conspire in trial dormitories,
Cakes large as waking kiss wives on consignment.

Radiant veranda, conducive to enamel
Wear the regimented uniform of melancholy
Etched with gorgeous flame, allegories and trysts parry
Bars with elegant cacophonies, jump oceans in the moon
Hide continuous lives, as if pantomimed and pollenized
These rumors of medicinal aviaries, sane and
Feminine, keep brilliant company amid eyes.

Piquant employee, despair is mocha
Destined for tedium, seminal novels leaden night
With roads and definitions, seducing vaqueros
Who lay in wait for miserable cinematographers.
Done are the years, and their sons poach principals’ passions.
Why carry such piers? Lead us, dulcet violins
Con sunlight ardently, as humid men walk cigars.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Word is that Little, Brown is to publish posthumously David Foster Wallace's novel The Pale King next year. Illinois is getting even more attention of late: The setting for the book is an IRS office in Illinois in the 1980s. Thanks to The New Yorker for the excerpt.