Wednesday, August 23, 2006

two lit mags

I walked up the hill to Euclid for lunch today, had a chef salad at Stuffed Inn then browsed Analog Books. I haven't been buying literary magazines in a long time. Part of it was I would bring them home and they'd sit around unread. Part of it was I didn't want to buy magazines if they weren't going to publish my stuff. 'S the truth.

Anyway, I've been wanting to add some current literary magazines to my browsing paperbacks collection at Claremont plus I've actually been reading magazines again, working through my New Yorker subscription, Parthenon West Review, Beeswax Magazine, Matter. So at Analog I picked up the Spring/Summer 2006 issue (#58) of West Branch and the Summer 2006 issue (#2) of A Public Space.

I started reading West Branch over coffee & a cookie at the cafe across the street from the bookstore. I got through the first five poems. Four by Mike White (editor of Quarterly West, says the bio) and one by Aleda Shirley. Were I editor I would not have published any of them. What, they're Awful? No. But I know the magazine received better poems and chose not to publish them. Death shows up in one of White's wearing a "rumpled smock" and displaying "empty hands", prepping to work once more on the Sistine Chapel of White's inner skull; "Nocturne in Black Monochrome" the title of the painting. I can't think of anything to say about the poem other than Death could be doing better things with his/her time. Aleda Shirley seems to like pairing words, "solid & consecutive", "refractory & lissome", "fulgent & resolute" ... seems she's thinking about a "friend who died suddenly at forty" (ooh, my age) and how this friend's "refractory & lissome residue" has to compete with "planes / pulling banners advertising happy hours & water parks, / with satellites & space debris & ovals of ozone" on its way to heaven. I misread "ozone" as "ovaltine" ... "ovals of ovaltine" ... There's an edit for you! This is one of those poems I'm tempted to rewrite ... "planes drag the sad names of bars through the muck of a sky indifferent even to a boot" ... whew, my god, "refractory & lissome" cramp up like words-of-the-day getting their first exercise after lying abed for months in a convalescent hospital.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies

So what did I learn from the Winter/Spring 2006 issue of the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies?

Michelle Bachelet, the new president of Chile, is a pediatrician. "Together with her mother, she was arrested and tortured in 1975 at the Villa Grimaldi, one of Chile's most notorious torture centers." Her father had already died in prison. He was an air force general under deposed president Allende. "Due to her family's personal ties with the military, Bachelet and her mother were released later that year, after which they were smuggled out of the country." Her cabinet is 50/50 male/female.

"[I]f her administration is mediocre or worse, she ... may ... damage the principle of gender equality." Unlike all the all-male administrations which, when completely idiotic and incompetent, cruel and assaultive, do nothing to "damage the principle" of male superiority.

An article about the inequities of a guest worker program for Mexicans in the United States ... An article about criminal violence in Brazil ... It sucks to live in Colombia during its neverending civil war ... and it's tough to find a market for a movie not made in Hollywood (in this case a Chilean movie) ... mm hm, nothing new here.

An interesting article about Mexico's "generics revolution". It seems a businessman has decided to open cutrate clinics and pharmacies. The pharmacies specialize in generic drugs. "Refusing ... to sell Laboratorios Best products to the public sector [that is, the Mexican government?], Gonzalez Torres dramatically offered to sell at a further 25 percent discount any medicine that patients were prescribed by IMSS [Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social, which would translate to Mexican Social Security Institute, I believe] but could not get their hands on in the still understocked public sector pharmacies." Understocked because his company refused to sell to them or because they are inefficient government entities or ..? Gonzalez Torres declares, "'I'm Che Guevara in a Mercedes!'" The article terms it "a businessman's revolution" and "populist consumerism." I'm not quite sure what to make of it but it doesn't sound bad.

Monday, August 07, 2006

pile of reading

the Winter/Spring 2006 issue of Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies (in which I learn that Chile has elected its first woman president. Kent told me this some time ago and I remember thinking, Oh? I ought to find out more about that.)

Spontaneous Combustion, a thinly fictionalized autobiographical novel by David B. Feinberg (the incidents in at least the first third recapitulate incidents in Feinberg's first novel, Eighty-Sixed)

924 Gilman, edited by Brian Edge (a sort of oral history of Berkeley's famed collectively run punk rock club; the book's repetitive and rarely exposes a prose style but I'm enjoying it)

In Cold Blood, a nonfiction novel by Truman Capote (I've been meaning to read this forever and it's a little premature to say I'm reading it since so far I've only read the first sentence about five times; while it was lying on the couch Kent took it up and got to the fourth page)

Parthenon West Review, issue 3, a poetry magazine out of San Francisco

Swann's Way, the endless novel (with endless sentences) by Marcel Proust

The Work of a Common Woman, poems by Judy Grahn (Grahn agreed to read as part of the Poetry & Pizza series this fall -- yay!)

Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Funny in Farsi: a memoir of growing up Iranian in America, by Firoozeh Dumas (the "Berkeley Reads" book this year; I tried to read along with the community book the first year they announced one but stalled out on Ellison's Invisible Man midway through the first chapter)

Snow Crash, a virtual reality novel by Neal Stephenson (as with In Cold Blood it is premature to say I'm reading this, really, but Stephenson keeps getting the hype and, um, I see by looking at page 211 that there's a librarian in it)

Poems for the Millennium, Volume Two, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris (if this had been a 430 page anthology I would have finished it already)

Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction, edited by Joyce Carol Oates & Janet Berliner (I've read two of the stories; maybe now that I'm between New Yorkers I will read a third)

The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (I read the bio Bitter Fame but I find I keep pulling Plath biographies down from the bookstore shelf and flipping through them for fresh anecdotes; "It took three days driving north to find a cloud / The polite skies over Boston couldn't possibly accomodate.")

For those of you not up to looking, the books that have hung on since last pile are: Plath's Collected, Snapshots, Parthenon West, 924 Gilman, Poems for the Millennium, Long Walk to Freedom, and Swann's Way.

Other books have fallen into and out of the pile in the meantime but I'm not going to go tote those up.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Useless to go back there.
My uncles too have all died out on me.
After my uncles all died out my aunts next fell,
to die.
why is it I alone,
just I alone have managed to survive?
I survive.

The above is a translation of a "lament" recorded in 1972. The poem/song was composed in Eyak, an Alaskan native (Indian) language that, as of summer last year had one remaining native speaker. Having no one to talk to in her language the elderly woman typically uses English and Tlingit, a native language that, the author of the article I'm looking at (New Yorker, June 6, 2005) speculates, may in the absence of English have displaced Eeyak. When Europeans arrived Eyak speakers were a remnant population and Tlingit speakers were becoming ever more dominant in the area.

The extinction of languages distresses me. I do remember when I was a kid being delighted by the idea of global language and enough of a chauvinist (& lazy?) to hope that that hegemonic language be English. As I studied other languages (such common ones as Spanish & Portuguese and the relatively exotic American Sign Language) and discovered different ways of organizing thoughts my dream of the triumph of English began to seem distasteful. Gradually the frustration with hearing unintelligible language gave way to an appreciation for their musicks. The change had something to do with my growing appreciation for poetry and exploration in language. Much poetry is difficult, even impenetrable, and, I discovered, there are varieties even of English that I just can't grok. Unfamiliar languages came to seem new technologies, fresh tools, and I like gizmos, too. I like it when science "discovers" some animal (typically well known to the also overlooked locals). Why shouldn't I be fascinated by the novelties of other languages?

The Eeyak version of the first two lines of the above goes (roughly, as I don't know how to reproduce some of the typography -- an "l" with a line through it, an "x" with a subscript period):

K'aadih ulah uuch' q'e' iili'ee.
SitinhGayuudik sixa' iinsdi'ahl.