One of the things that can happen – perhaps uniquely – with poetry that appropriates existing texts is that this repositioning of a text into a poem can also dramatically redirect our understanding of that text back within its original source. Mark Nowak’s Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) does exactly that. Coal Mountain Elementary is a kind of activist poetry comprised of preexisting texts that have been combined with color photographs by Nowak and British photojournalist Ian Teh. Read more
I first encountered the poetry of Nathan Hoks when he read from his new book The Narrow Circle at New Bo Books, located in the hip New Bohemia district of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I was intrigued by the poems he read and as he flipped through his book during the reading I was surprised to see images on some of the pages. I bought a copy and started to spend time with it. The more I read the poems and pondered the relationship between his poems and the pages with photographs, the more impressed I was with the individual poems and the thoughtful construction of the book as a whole. In November, I posted a short piece on The Narrow Circle and I emailed Nathan to propose that we conduct a short conversation for Vertigo that would focus on his use of photographs. Here is the result.
Vertigo: First of all, tell us a bit about your intentions for the structure of The Narrow Circle, which is bifurcated into two halves with twenty-two poems each. The first section is labeled The Interior and almost every poem in that section has the word “interior” in the title. The second section does the same for The Exterior. How did you arrive at this structure?
Nathan: One summer I simply fell in love with the word “interior.” Read more
Therein was to be sought the reason and the cause why things are sometimes, mostly sometimes, rather often, sometimes rather often, mostly rather often, sometimes mostly mostly, mostly mostly not as they should be.
By sheer accident, the narrator Gert Jonke’s The System of Vienna: From Heaven Street to Earth Mound Square becomes the one hundred thousandth visitor to the Vienna Furniture Show and is thereby awarded by the personal representative of the Chancellor a copy of a book called The System of Vienna, which he promptly tosses in the garbage. In Jonke’s version of The System of Vienna, the city is full of frauds and people operating under their own personal delusion, including the narrator, a lowly teaching assistant in the musicology department of the university, who sees himself as a “fantastic fraud.” Read more
The remarkable collaboration between the Center for Writers & Translators at the American University of Paris and Sylph Editions continues to put out thoughtful and beautifully-produced publications. They have just released numbers 21 and 22 in their Cahiers Series, with texts by Anne Carson and Paul Griffiths.
The DVD of Grant Gee’s film Patience (After Sebald) has been released. I’ve written about Gee and his film several times, but here’s the primary link on the content of Patience (After sebald), which also bears the subtitle A Walk Through The Rings of Saturn. The DVD contains one “extra”: a 20-minute “Ambient Visual Representation of the Film by The Caretaker.” The ambient musician The Caretaker was responsible for the score for Patience, and this short video piece combines layered images from the film with The Caretaker’s layered music and sounds into a meditative, almost abstract experience. The DVD is available from the distributor and other sources. Read more