On 26 May, 1993, Algerian novelist and activist Tahar Djaout was shot in the head on his way to work in Algiers. He died in a coma a week later. One of his attackers, a member of the Armed Islamic Group, confessed that he was murdered because he "wielded a fearsome pen…", a fact that highlights one of Djaout's more famous quotes: "If you speak, you die, and if you remain silent, you die. So, speak and die."
Djaout's untimely death at the age of 39 robbed Algeria of one of its great 20th century voices, but not before he produced a corpus of lasting and important novels and books of poetry. We are excited to be releasing, this December, The Bone Seekers (Les chercheurs d’os) in a new translation by esteemed translator Marjolijn de Jager, whose credits include, among many others, Assia Djebar's seminal Children of the New World.
The Bone Seekers is set in an Algeria ravaged by the war for independence, narrated by an adolescent boy who sets out, with his uncle and a donkey, from his primitive Kabylian village to find the bones of his brother who was killed in the war. The boy's naive encounters with "the new world" of post-independence Algeria, along with his ruminations on his and his brother's past, culminate in a homecoming that is a realization of the world to come.
We are also releasing—or rather re-releasing, since I published this book, formerly, at UNO Press—another North African title of great significance, Nabile Farès' A Passenger from the West, translated by Peter Thompson. In 1970, Farès was asked to interview James Baldwin in Paris for Jeune Afrique magazine. What begins in this book as an interview with Baldwin confronting the history of Black America leads Farès into a journey through his own past and a broad consideration of the matter of identity in the postcolonial world. The original interview with Baldwin (the only extant English translation) is included.
These two volumes bear comparison at a number of levels. They are both "road novels" that hinge, in very different ways, on the revelations that travel can inspire. And both grapple with the problem of identity (and its now fundamental corollaries of language and nation) in a way that brings to light the real costs of empire building, from the American slave trade to the sacking of Algiers.
For this reason we would like to offer these two books in a special package deal: Order either one from our website in the month of August, and you will receive the other at no additional cost. Click here to order.
"In death, he is like an apparition. He shows up inconspicuously, tactfully, in a way he never did in life. No matter how deep you look into his past, you won’t find much because most of what he did was impromptu, without a script. He lived in the present, unencumbered, and he left behind a trail of anger and destruction." (From: "Mario Santiago: Infrarrealist and Terrorist", by Ilan Stavans)
Ilan Stavans, who wrote the introduction to Poetry Comes Out of my Mouth, has published an essay on Papasquiaro in Los Angeles Review of Books. Well worth reading. When you get to the end, use the fourth to the last word in the essay as a coupon code and receive 50% off the book price here, until the end of May.
Yesterday, April 10, 2018, Marthe Reed, beloved poet and friend to poets and lovers of poetry all over the world, especially to our community in New Orleans, died, suddenly and tragically, just before she was scheduled to attend the New Orleans Poetry Festival. The festival, this year, will be dedicated to her memory, and we are offering the two books we are so proud to have published, Tender Box: A Wunderkammer, and Nights Reading ::Burton's Thousand and One::, at a special low price, in the hopes of sharing her love and her vision with a wider audience.
No one ever met Marthe and didn't like her. She will be sorely missed.
The third iteration of the New Orleans Poetry Festival kicks off in less than two weeks, on Friday evening, April 20. It has been rewarding and heartening to organize this gathering, which threatens to host some 200 poets this year. More than 30 small presses and journals are represented in our book fair, and we're excited to have poets from as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand joining us, once again. If you haven't already, check out the lineup and schedule and do what you can to get here and add your own voice to the conversation, which will include more than 60 readings, panels and workshops, with concurrent events running all day Saturday and Sunday and features on Friday and Saturday nights.
Our goal with the fest, originated and organized by Lavender Ink/Diálogos and Trembling Pillow presses, has been to both celebrate and augment our local poetic community, bringing national and international poets and writers to New Orleans and vice versa. We have panels on topics ranging from Infrarealism to Visual Poetry to Collaborative Writing to Translation to Sex Magic to End Times, as well as a wide variety of readings, workshops and performances. More about these in the next newsletter.
To focus today on our features, the fest opens Friday evening with a reading by Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack Bedell, followed by a poetry slam featuring the award winning Baton Rouge Slam Team, followed by music from Kelcy Mae and Ever More Nest. Saturday night we're happy to present Carolyn Hembree, Tonya M. Foster and performance poet Douglas Kearney, followed by our Poets with Bands show which threatens to reverbrate into the wee hours.
Next Thursday, February 22, the eve of the anniversary of the death of John Keats, will mark the launch of Keats Is Not the Problem, a collaborative poem by Chris Shipman and Brett Evans, at the famous Dogfish Reading Series. Even if you have to fly in from New York or California or Uruguay, you should plan on attending this event, which promises to be as much a party as a reading, with refreshments to make "The Eve of St. Agnes" seem Wordsworthian by comparison. Rodger Kamenetz says of this book: "EvansShipman have merged to form a durable romantic monster with one big clear voice, scarifying at times as poetic monsters should be, but also amiable amidst the ruins of New Orleans." Come merge with the monster and celebrate with us.
In honor of this auspicious event, we offer a little taste of the book below. You can also listen to EvansShipman reading from the book and talking to yours truly about it on The Writer's Retreat at WRBH.
If you can't make it to the launch, pick up a copy of the book from our website for half price, today only.
It’s weird to think
some people got
old and died
before the apocalypse hit
Who Killed the World?
on the celestial seasonings
tea flap, beer bib
and what about geriatric
roaches who just age out
of scurrying living
and flaming hot Funyons
besting nuclear winters
hearts on the fire
like terminal marshmallows.
psst— Spring is about youthiness
and bed springs
but once I read with the poet
at the 13 Bar in New York,
he among younger poets
reading about sorrows of the flesh
even though we poets are supposed
to be like opera singers time-
wise, relative to peak.
Aging in America is one thing
Dying in Paris is another
so Andy, yeah—
shucked smushed upright
in a Pittsburgh flat just might
be roundly where it’s at
or just flying a kite on a field
before they invented
all this shit that killed us
outside the movies
looney tunes glue
there are no pacifiers
atoms for peace
who made this place
wipe the glue crust
from corner mouth
start all over again
make the sale
be your own
Our comrades in the fight against literary banality, Spuyten Duyvil, have just put out Jill Darling's (re)iterations(s). We published Jill's a geography of syntax in 2016 and are happy to say Jill is going to be helping out with this magazine. A poem from a geography of syntax follows, and you can buy her book on the website, today only, for half price.
Besides poetry, Jill writes fiction and non, and a recent and fascinating essay on Wendy Walters’ Multiply/Divide and contemporary urban/corporate politics can be found at Entropy. You can hear her in conversation with T. Hetzel on Living Writers, and you can hear her read the poem, below.
from a geography of syntax
The clang of seasons
plays like distinct hues melted into liquid
while we gather the pieces
move ahead on the game board, or go to jail
claim property, sell out
I am trying to say that little is more than accumulation
sorting the details will only take us to September
You are what you earn
Correspondence hangs uneven like background music
there is a reason country songs are popular
on the jukebox
the easy metaphor
The current Kenyon Review (JAN/FEB 2018, Volume XL Number 1) features a special section, Generation Zero: New Cuban Poetry, edited by Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, translator and author of With a Strange Scent of World, herein.
In the introduction (available online), they write:
It’s not a cliché by any means to declare that few times in its history has Cuban poetry been more varied, innovative, critical, and attractive than it is right now. And an undeniable part of it is the verse written by what has been called Generation Zero (Generación Cero), poets born after 1970 and who began publishing after 2000.
The work by these young poets reaffirms Cuba’s long, rich tradition of dialogic poetry, which finds its identity through the identification with the other, and is marked by tensions between commitment and autonomy, dialogue and creativity, continuity and rupture.
This introductory essay is a succinct analysis of the situation of contemporary Cuban poetry, and indeed poetry in the Spanish-speaking world in the present ideological environment. They note, for example, that not a single Cuban poet was included in the recently released anthology El canon abierto: Última poesía en español [The Open Canon: New Poetry in Spanish] published by Visor, the most respected poetry press in Spain, in 2015, and add:
Cuban poetry has had to confront, above all in the seventies, neo-Stalinist aesthetic standards, which demanded, among other things, “reaching the people,” being clear and direct. This is precisely one of the paradigms of the so-called “poetry of experience,” which prevails in Spain today, with offshoots in Latin America, especially among the contemporaries of Generation Zero, the self-designated “poets of uncertainty.” By contrast, the young poets selected are very well aware, from historical experience, of the danger of making aesthetic concessions in the name of coherence and transparency, and, as such, they defend poetry’s integrity.
Which makes us wonder if we in the English-speaking world, where "coherence and transparency" continue to be the ideological vogue, might have something to learn from this collection.
And here's a poem to read and listen to from With a Strange Scent of World, by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez and translated by Katherine M. Hedeen, The sound files features Victor reading the poem in the original Spanish and Kate reading the translation.
Kate and Victor both teach at Kenyon, where Kate also serves as Translation Editor for Kenyon Review.
Pick up a copy of With a Strange Scent of World for half price, today only.
Praise for the Neutrino
For Jesús Selpúveda
I celebrate you
because no one in the world
you cross galaxies nebulas stars
Because even as light
much slower than light
or rest motionless
the theory of a warming universe
Because thanks to you
the past was only
reheated plasma and not ashes
Plasma’s density reached
billions of tons
by cubic centimeter
Because no one knew
you were ninety-seven percent
leaving only three to be divided up
among sons of bitches and the rest
Because thanks to you
no one’s far
from anyone now and everything tends to join
And it doesn’t matter if
in a solid flame
at a radiant point
I celebrate you
because you are
essence of spasm
matter of tenderness
or that tiny bit of nothing
my aunt uses to brown her custards
the world isn’t infinite
Like a verse
it’s made up of syllables
that can be counted
The world fits in an alexandrine
Elogio del neutrino
Para Jesús Sepúlveda
porque en el mundo nadie
es más pequeño que tú
y sin embargo
atraviesas galaxias nebulosas estrellas
sin reaccionar con nadie
Porque aún siendo luz
muchísimo más lento que la luz
o descansar inmóvil
la teoría de un universo caliente
Porque gracias a ti
el pasado fue solo
plasma recalentado y no cenizas
La densidad del plasma
era de billones de toneladas
por centímetro cúbico
Porque nadie sabía
que eras el noventisiete por ciento
quedando solo un tres a repartir
entre hijos de puta y demases
Porque gracias a ti
nadie se aleja
ya de nadie y todo tiende a unirse
Y no importa que sea
en una llama dura
en un punto radiante
la esencia del espasmo
materia de ternura
o ese poco de nada
con que mi tía dora sus natillas
Gracias a dios
no es infinito el mundo
Como el verso
está hecho de sílabas
que es posible contar
El mundo cabe en un alejandrino
Again this year Lavender Ink/Diálogos is proud to co-sponsor, with Trembling Pillow Press, the New Orleans Poetry Festival. This year the fest will take place April 20-22, 2018, once again at the Healing Center in New Orleans. The site is open and now accepting proposals for panels, readings, workshops, and tables at the small press fair. Come help us make it an even bigger success this year.