Jen Hofer gives us her summer reading list:
The War Before: The True Life Story of Becoming a Black Panther, Keeping the Faith in Prison and Fighting for Those Left Behind, Safiya Bukhari, ed. Laura Whitehorn (The Feminist Press, 2010)
Pantera negra. El arte revolucionario de Emory Douglas, ed. Sam Durant (Alias, 2012)
A phenomenal collection of Black Panther Party newspaper covers and BPP posters and graphics by Emory Douglas, all translated into Spanish along with essays by Bobby Seale, Sam Durant, Kathleen Cleaver, St. Clair Bourne and Colette Gaiter. The history of the Black Panther Party and its tremendous power to instigate autonomous structures of mutual aid and community solidarity, accompanied by the history of the state repression that sought to obliterate The Black Panthers and other groups like them is absolutely relevant to contemporary struggles around race, class, incarceration, immigration, access to resources, and government repression today. If you have any question about that, or about the complexities of working within radical movements, The War Before should help to reinforce the sense that questions will abound always.
Here you will find at least two worlds, and then some. In an interview conducted by Tom Fleischmann in Seneca Review, Aaron Kunin said: “Is my interest in the gesture of withdrawal from the world compromised by the worldliness of the speaker positions in my writing? That is a real problem. The solution is dualism. Where in the world can I go that isn’t in the world? I can’t. To get out of the world, I need at least two worlds. That is the paradox of misanthropy: in rejecting society, you project another one.”
Fair warning: Aaron Kunin’s notes are totally addictive.
Belle, Georges Simenon (Signet Books, 1954)
FAIL-SAFE, Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler (Dell Publishing Company, 1962)
The first sentence of Belle: “It sometimes happens that a man at home moves about the house, goes through familiar motions, everyday motions, his expression unguarded, and, suddenly raising his eyes, he notices that the curtains have not been drawn and that people are watching him from outside.”
From the authors’ introduction to Fail-Safe: “Although science and technology have been harnessed to the American defense system in a miraculous way, most people are unaware of even those portions of the miracle which have been declassified and discussed openly in technical books and journals…” (Do keep in mind this quote is from 1962.) “Men, machines and mathematics being what they are, this is, unfortunately, a “true” story. The accident may not occur in the way we describe it but the laws of probability assure us that ultimately it will occur. The logic of politics tells us that when it does, the only way out will be a choice of disasters.”
I read mid-20th century suspense novels for the diction and syntax, and for the narrative leanness, but it is a rare treat to locate an atomic tale that centers on the work of an interpreter (consistently and predictably mis-identified as a “translator” throughout the book). Stay tuned for a live film narration piece based on Fail-Safe, to be included (eventually) in less than one, more than one, the sequel to my Palm Press book titled one.
Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, ed. Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black and Michael Northen (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011)
Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, ed. TC Tolbert and Tim Trace Peterson (Nightboat Books, 2013)
In her gorgeous Albion Books chapbook titled Anything has to be easy enough to get done, Jennifer Bartlett quotes Ron Silliman’s remarks on Larry Eigner: “the complex choreography of one whose total physical vocabulary is in use in the composition of the poem.” What other vocabulary is there, other than the total physical vocabulary? Our bodies inform our work, Bartlett argues. Who could ever have the luxury to dodge this truth, and to what end? Languages and bodies are material. They matter. These anthologies are about bodies, about language, about material reality, about conceptual complexity, about personhood—that is, a condition we all share, and each experience in utterly distinct ways, informed by entirely different “total physical vocabularies.”
“Let us be accurate:”
—in the way only poems can be accurate, that is, full of quirks and run-ons and short-cuts and minute details and vast leaps and impossibilities and realities and elisions and magnifications. I had the good fortune to meet Maged Zaher in person and hear him read at the East Bay Poetry Summit in May. About readings, I always say it’s better to leave ’em wanting more than wanting less. I left Maged’s reading and wanted more.
Jen Hofer is a Los Angeles-based poet, translator, social justice interpreter, teacher, knitter, book-maker, public letter-writer, urban cyclist, and co-founder, with John Pluecker, of the language justice and literary activism collaborative Antena. Her latest homemade books include we do not see what we do not see (DIY edition, 2013), When We Said This Was A Space, We Meant We Are People (Libros Antena/Antena Books, 2013), Shroud: A Piece Of Fabric Sewn To A Piece Of Paper By Way Of A Map (collaboration with Jill Magi, DIY edition, 2013), and En las maravillas/In Wonder (Libros Antena/Antena Books, 2012). Her recent and forthcoming books are available from a range of small presses, including Action Books, Atelos, Dusie Books, Insert Press, Kenning Editions, Les Figues Press, Litmus Press, Little Red Leaves, Palm Press, and Subpress.