March 10th, 2011 / 9:49 am

round up: bell hooks, joseph p. wood, jubilat, gordon massman, lowercase letters, et al.

I picked up Gordon Massman’s The Essential Numbers 1991-2008 at AWP. Nobody told me to; I didn’t know that Blake had said things about it. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. This is the most depraved-and-beautiful book of poems I’ve read maybe ever. I mean, Massman’s language forces me read every poem aloud (which is one of my gauges of good poetry); the sheer music of the language propels me down the page, and when I’ve finished every poem, I feel a little sick. I’m glad this book exists in the world. I’m not sure I’ll get through it.¬†Here’s an interview.

In the chapter on capitalization in The Copyeditor’s Handbook–I was just forced to buy a new one because I spilled grouper juice all over my tried-and-true copy; I bought it at Borders for a big-chunk discount because Borders is hightailing it out of my town–so, in this new copy, under the heading “Personal Names and Titles,” is a debate about ¬†capitalization. For fuck’s sake, people. If bell hooks or k.d. lang want their names lowercased, what’s the problem? Well, according to Amy Einsohn, who feels like my bff some days, Bill Walsh says this:

Sure, before “k.d. lang” there was “e.e. cummings.” But, as most good dictionaries…and New York Times style recognize, these are logos. The names are K.D. Lang and E.E. Cummings. To bow to the artists’ lowercase demand…deprives readers of a crucial visual cue…

i am now going to deprive you of that crucial visual cue. i hope you don’t hyperventilate trying to decipher the hieroglyphics that is lowercase. the other day when bell hooks came to speak to a group of staff and students about teaching and the writing process, she sent me into a tailspin of language, which ended with my decision that i have adhd. always spinning in circles. never doing enough. perhaps this is a cultural phenomenon. do you know that bell hooks reads a book a day? do you know how many books she’s written? she used phrases like “the mysterious nature of the imagination” and “decolonizing the mind” and “the way people really learn is through conversation” and maybe (although i might have made this up) “collaboration is the way of the future” and “the democratization of the book” and “learning is like sparklers” and the question “why don’t we take silence as a moment of pedagogy?” i simultaneously want to nosh on bell hooks’ brain and take her out for coffee. google books bell hooks.

on another lowercase note, ¬†i finally got to reading jubilat 18. i am nowhere near able to talk about the whole issue, but the first few poems: stellar. the first poem, in particular, “hurricane” by yona harvey is rhythmically fantastic, all that repetition, all that song. do you think yona harvey would be upset by my lowercasedness? “hurricane” is a poem about katrina and daughters and language and movement, which brings me to:

oil and water, “a philanthropic, collaborative literary project” from typecast publishing.

the book comes in a beautiful case, with ten postcards. a great gift for ocean lovers and enviro-nerds (i hope we all are) alike. my cultural geographer brother is getting one.

my copy of joseph p. wood’s book of poems, i & we (none of which is lowercased), just came in the mail. joseph is my friend, one of those people you’re friends with 1., because they’re nice and funny and 2., because maybe they’re geniuses waiting for the world to notice. joseph’s gutter catholic love song: fucking great.

here’s a poem from i & we, capitalization restored:


I once abhorred the ex-marine on TV
who hooked up his daughter’s beaus to lie detectors.

They stuttered like caught schoolboys because they were
competing for her hand–perfect as sculpture–& cash.

She or her less glamorous twin was found today
facedown in a swimming pool. It was so new

there wasn’t even water yet–in made the splayed corpse
more vulgar, as though if she floated, her body

would appear at leisure. In the sun,
as it were, she was craned out. The ex-marine raised

his hand to his bulbous, swollen face, choking
in front of the cameras, blinded by the hot white light,

& sobbing why, good god why,
are you taping this?

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  1. stephen

      My understanding is that E. E. Cummings’ preferred rendering was E. E. Cummings

      Wikipedia says, “On the contrary, he wrote to his French translator that he preferred the capitalized version (‘may it not be tricksy’).[26] One Cummings scholar believes that on the rare occasions that Cummings signed his name in all lowercase, he may have intended it as a gesture of humility, not as an indication that it was the preferred orthography for others to use.[27]”

  2. Alexisorgera

      yes, I read that, too, in The Copyeditor’s Handbook, actually. it’s a bad example of preferred orthography, i guess.

  3. Matthew
  4. Trey

      ha, was just going to comment this. like.

  5. alexisorgera

      Oh, excellent! Thanks.

  6. deadgod

      “deprives readers of a crucial visual cue”

      No. By contravening commonly accepted “visual” conventions, violating capitalization rules – as lang and hooks do with their own names and Cummings did in his poems, and as our mutual friend ZZZZZIPPP does in its comments – gives its own “crucial visual cue”. Luckily for 49er fans, Walsh’s casedyslexophobic dogmatism did not affect his skilz with Xs and Os.

  7. Anonymous

  8. Josephpatrickwood

      Alexis, thanks so much for putting the nice word about the book and the chap. It’s strange how different the poems from ten years ago (book) are from now (chapbook) but both appeared at the same time. Anyhow, hopefully niceness outweights geneuis…