Listening In

Posted by @ 10:54 am on April 12th, 2010

iphone Denver by poet Rick Bursky

-There’s a piece called “How to Unfeel the Dead” by Lance Olsen in Artifice that knocked my socks off.

-A review of Edith Grossman’s Why Translation Matters, something I’ve been thinking a lot about. Richard Howard summarizes Grossman’s thesis:

In the end, Grossman warmly (after all) and gratefully rehearses the twofold answer to the question of her title: translation matters because it is an expression and an extension of our humanity, the secret metaphor of all literary communication; and because the creation of any literary translation is (or at least must be) an original writing, not a pathetic shadow or tracing of the inaccessible “original” but the creation, indeed, of a second — and as we have seen, a third and a ninth — but always a new work, in another language.

-I was tired this year at the AWP  Conference. I couldn’t sleep past 5am, and my head swam in treacherous waters all day. New CollAge magazine had a table—we sold about 2.5 copies—at which I sat for 15-20 minute intervals before getting the jitters and flying the coop. Lots of wandering around the Denver Convention Center, admiring the big blue looming bear, sneaking peaks at the car show, listening in:


I can’t just get drunk and flirt with all the students—

Jesus wouldn’t come down and have sex with me like that.

I feel like my arms look like big white baby harp seals.

I’m glad nobody got raped.

I got my MFA in deleting words. I don’t know anything

about throwing babies.


Tribalism is inevitable.

Simplicity serves to authenticate sincerity.

Tone measures what is existentially at stake.

We’re all passing through each other’s comet tails.

(Choices guided by intention.)

Over preoccupation with means, underpreoccupation with ends—

textual vertigo undermines our view of the world.

How severely limited language is so that

if you’re not willing to be converted

between lines one and two, you won’t have a poem.

You must have a willingness to be turned.

We may survive our humanness…

and find ourselves on another shore.

Suffering is the weight of humanity.

Write out of suffering.


Could you hit me over the head with something heavy please?
A chair?

I think the toilets flushing add a nice touch to this reading.
These are litanies of nothing.

He might be insane.
How does she have 11 books out?

This stuff really is terrible.
She is talking to herself.

That’s an important point.
This is the stuff that scratches at the door.

People who mistake invention for talent and art.
It’s not even invention. Just dictation.

Does she have Asperger’s or something?
Oh my god. Another asshole.

Promise me that if I ever write anything like that you’ll kill me.
I will at least tell you. No, you have to kill me.

I think John Keats could start reading
and I wouldn’t like it at this point.

-And finally my favorite phrase from a poem read at AWP comes from BH Fairchild, whose poem “Beauty” is in my top 25 poems ever. This, I think, came from a dramatic monologue about a woman with no arms or legs, which is a lot of set-up for 5 words:

“my little stillborn ritual prayer”

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