Cartographies of the In-Between

The 2011 collection of essays & takes on my work, edited by Peter Cockelbergh & published by Literaria Pragensia Books in Prague (Czech Republic) under Louis Armand’s auspices, has just been released as a pdf that can be downloaded here  (though, I am told, a few actual copies remain & can be purchased here directly from the press). Below, the table of contents preceded by 3 extracts from the introduction. Ten years after (darn, I used to love that band), I am still deeply grateful to Peter Cockelbergh for the immense labor of gathering the essays in the book, &, of course, to all the contributors.

From Peter Cockelbergh’s Introduction:

Pierre Joris is known to many and in many guises—above all as a poet, but also as a scholar, prolific translator, critic/essayist, anthologist, blogger, nomad travelling between languages & continents, editor, letter writer, radio broadcaster, teacher, performer, active poetry “communard” and so on. It is curious, therefore, to observe that scholarship or criticism which actually engages Joris’s work is virtually non-existent, i.e.: that his writing always seems to slip through the mazes of—usually only nationally oriented—American, British, French, North African, Luxembourgish or German secondary literature.

In terms of reviews, it is mostly Joris’s translations, the Celan translations in particular, that receive attention (think of Marjorie Perloff’s “A Poet’s Hope” in the Boston Review). The same holds for the Millennium volumes, which publication evidently won great acclaim in 1995 and 1998. Yet apart from such “occasional” reviews—only RainTaxi truly steadily reviews both Joris’s poetry and translations—, one has to go back to the UK, 1977 to find the single special issue that extensively discusses the poetic oeuvre: Oasis number 18, edited by Ian Robinson and Antony Lopez, is dedicated in its entirety to substantial work on and by Joris. Certainly, countless magazines present his poetry of the moment (ranging from Sulfur and Po&sie, to Verse Magazine, Process, Alligatorzine and VLAK), but actual in-depth essays on Joris’s poetry and poetics remain rare: number 7 (Winter 2001) of Robert Archambeau’s Samizdat Magazine was a special issue on Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris, but—again, apart from numerous poems and translations—contained only one piece on Joris (a review of Poasis, be it one by Robert Kelly). Finally, Jacket Magazine’s issue 40 (fall 2010) had a short but powerful feature on Joris, occasioned by the publication of Justifying the Margins (2009). It needs to be emphasized that these “writings on” are nearly always of an exceptional quality, yet that in itself does not alter the fact that overall attention to Joris’s work remains sparse and scattered. A book like the present one intends to change this somewhat saddening state of neglect, and has, consequently, been due for many years. In what follows, I shall have a detailed look at the different parts of its title: Pierre Joris—Cartographies of the In-between…

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Cartographies of in the In-between: multiple middles

Bearing in mind Joris’s poetry and poetics, the approaches, maps and routes presented in Cartographies of the In-between are kept as varied and as multiple as possible. Already the different backgrounds and languages of the poets, critics, philosophers, translators and scholars gathered here, bring out a certain heterogeneity. Furthermore, the dimensions of Joris’s oeuvre listed above are not treated systematically or exhaustively. The texts collected in this book can, however, be read along roughly five lines that cross Joris’s work in different ways: “filiations,” “en route,” “space,” “trans|” and “PoPoPo.” These meridians do not divide a landscape in strict and separated areas (or time zones), but rather serve as loosely drawn, multiple middles running through different essays, and connecting these with different aspects of the poet’s oeuvre. For to chart and to graph a poetry of the “in-between”—of “Barzakh” or “isthmus,” as Joris writes in “A Poem in Noon”—, lines and maps cannot be static, centring or parallel; they must touch, interlace and overlap, like unstoppable arabesques, they must move on, split, dash off. Thus, the five sections or grand tours below are continuously cut up, and spreading out: becoming “in-betweens” themselves.

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Traveltravails & géographèmes

Pierre Joris, nomad. Indeed, Joris’s relative absence from scholarship and criticism so far, seems to some extent to be a strange and literal corollary of a nomad poetics, which took the poet in the mid-sixties from Ettelbrück (Luxembourg) to Paris—initially to study medicine, yet quickly morphing into a stay on the 2nd floor of the legendary Shakespeare & Co bookshop; a stay shared, moreover, with Mohammed Khaïr-Eddine—, thence to the US (where he attended Bard, and NYC in the late 1960s), from there to London in 1972, and onto Constantine (Algeria), to live and teach from 1976 to 1979, London and Paris again in the early, and Binghamton (NY) in the late eighties, after which California follows (1989), then the Hudson Valley in 1992 (with its 17 years, Albany, NY is the longest span of time Joris spent in “one place”) and, most recently, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, not to mention the uncountable short and long detours, and transhumance to Europe that fill up each year.

To counter that all too strange and literal take on nomadics, this book is cut up, or traversed time and again by another zigzag: “géographèmes,” or short intermissions tracing Joris’s poetic peregrinations geographically. More specifically, these brief entries—remotely reminiscent, perhaps, of Roland Barthes’s “biographèmes”—display/displace chronology and biography, taking the poet’s so-called travels and travails as compass. The halts covered are the “US,” the “Maghreb, Algeria,” “Luxembourg” and “the UK, France(, Germany).” Old and new stopping places Pierre Joris has been asked to revisit during a day-long Paris conversation with Peter Cockelbergh, for the purpose of this book. Comparable to the atla’l opening the pre-Islamic odes dear to Joris, quotes, interpellations, dates, anecdotes and fragments serve as proverbial “ruins,” setting off travel stories, past paths, encounters, poetics and dwellings in these géographèmes.

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