IHF & Lem

The blog goes unhappily into obit-mode yet again — a double-obit, no less, for today:

Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006) — poet, sculptor, curmudgeon — has crossed the border into another order or disorder and will no longer walk in his Scottish art gardens. But you can check out his work easily: a relatively recent interview in Jacket 15, and in the same issue an essay on his work by Brian Kim Stefans; Mark Scroggins has an essay here, and Ubuweb posts a very useful 1963 manifesto/letter by IHF here. Below the “commentary” Jerome Rothenberg & I appended the following commentary to his work in volume 2 of our Poems for the Millennium anthology:

Certain gardens are described as retreats when they are really attacks. (I.H.F.)

While still emerging from a poetry of small structures. written in the dialect(s) of urban Glasgow, he described himself to one of us (circa 1961) as “just a wee poet who writes wee poems.” Shortly thereafter, as an offshoot at first of children’s word games he had been devising, he created a new textart with affinities to the internationally based concrete poetry movement of the later 1950s (see above, page 000). Minimal in its verbal means but marked by prolific ventures into publication, Finlay’s poetry developed into a public (inscriptional) art — its most striking expression (& one of the most genre-breaking works of poetry of the twentieth century), a “classical” garden & temple (Stoneypath, later called Little Sparta) at his home in rural Scotland. What is evident throughout his later work is that its pastoral facade is the cover for what he understands — &, unlike many others, fears — as untamed “savage nature,” exemplified in modern warfare & in “the notorious Nazi-German organization, the SS … equated with nature and … [signifying] … the ultimnate ‘wildness’ on a scale whose other, ‘cultivated’ extreme is the eighteenth century.” The objects & inscriptions at Little Sparta & elsewhere are replete, therefore, with machine-gun-toting gods & goddesses, bird feeders in the shape of aircraft carriers, corinthian columns facing double-columned guillotines, revolutionary maxims from Saint-Just & Robespierre, a “Siegfried Line” with laundry hanging from it (like the famous British war-song), & the double lightning bolts of the Waffen SS above the entrance to a classic grotto or intercalated, still more pointedly, in the Italian word oSSo (= bone) engraved onto a block of (classic) marble. Finlay’s later success as a visual/verbal artist — conceptual not hands-on — has been marked by recurrent controversy over just such (necessary) symbols.

* * *

Meanwhile a Reuters dispatch announced the passing of Stanislaw Lem, master science fictioneer (more on him at this site):

Solaris author Stanislaw Lem dead

KRAKOW (Poland): Polish author Stanislaw Lem, one of the world’s leading science fiction writers, died on Monday in his home city of Krakow at the age of 84 after a battle with a heart disease.
Lem, whose books have sold more than 27 million copies and have been translated into more than 40 languages, won widespread acclaim for The Cyberiad, stories from a mechanical world ruled by robots, first published in English in 1974.

Solaris, published in 1961 and set on an isolated space stations, was made into a film epic 10 years later by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and into a 2002 Hollywood remake shot by Steven Sodebergh and starring George Clooney.

”Shortly after 6.30 pm Stanislaw Lem died in the heart clinic, where he had been treated over the past few weeks for circulatory problems,” Andrzej Kulig, director of the Jagiellonian University hospital, said.

Lem, born on September 12, 1921 in what is now the Ukrainian city of Lviv, studied medicine before World War Two. After the war, Communist censorship blocked the publication of his earliest writing.
After the fall of communism in 1989 Lem ceased writing science fiction, instead devoting himself to reports on near future predictions for governments and organisations.

He wrote essays on computer crime, as well as technological and ethical problems posed by the expansion of the Internet.

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3 Responses

  1. Antonia says:

    so….not a good day today since two so intersting people died…
    but why am I actually commenting, I saw in your blog in a post from march 9 I guess something about this ‘New European Writing’ Absinthe issue and saw there is a contribution by Bettina Galvagni.I was wondering whether you know if she has written some new stuff recently – in the last 2 or 3 years after she published her second book? Do you know anything about new texts – since this one in Absinteh is also an old one, only in english….

  2. Pierre Joris says:

    Not as far as I know — & there isn’t any new book findable via amazon.de — though obviosuly she can may have published in magazines during these last years. —

  3. Antonia says:

    oh ok…
    thanks for letting me know…

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