Weekend Reading: Rexroth, Césaire & Collage

With the summer all but gone, the Maghrebi anthology all but done, the first week of teaching behind me, & a long weekend ahead, there may even be time to get some leisurely reading done. Returning to Brooklyn after 3 months on the road, I found a trove of books that had arrived or that I hadn’t gotten to in the spring. Below, a few of these (more over the next few days), though for an early morning first cup of coffee treat, mosey over to Jerry Rothenberg’s Poems & Poetics blog, & check out his & David Antin’s late fifties interview with Kenneth Rexroth, here, the first installment, here, the second.

Trying to get slightly ahead with the work schedule (a patent impossibility), I remembered that on 6 October I’ll be part of an evening celebrating Aimé Césaire — & the publication by Wesleyan UP of the unexpurgated 1948 edition of his Solar Throat Slashed, translated & edited by A. James Arnold & Clayton Eshleman — at the New York State Writers Institute in Albany. Buy it here. (More details when the time comes). As the editor/translators write: “The original 1948 edition… has a dense magic-religious frame of reference. In the late 50s, Césaire was increasingly politically focused and seeking a wider audience, when he in effect gelded the 1948 text — eliminating 31 of the 72 poems, and editing another 29.” This edition restores the texts of the original for the first time in English translation (& in a bilingual presentation). We can only be grateful to Arnold & Eshleman for this excavation, & what they have brought to the light of day is no old mummy, but a very live text, as witness the opening of the poem “Delicacy of a Mummy”:

I embalmed my severed head in a very thin skin
whose power of absorption would need to be calculated
worms? thread? swaddling clothes? at the other end ice floes of angels
Look I am so smooth you would think nobody had ever looked at me
of course I escaped the dogs
was that for nought
there are sirens that sound the call of cities
men who do not wait for the sappers of nothingness
and bewildered priests who laugh quietly

On a more theoretical level, I was very pleased to find my copies of Cutting Across Media: Appropriation Art, Interventionist Collage and Copyright Law, edited by Kembrew McLeod & Rudolf Kuenzli, & published by Duke University Press (buy here) — which represents the revised papers given at a conference on collage at the University of Iowa in 2005. Besides the editors, the volume features essays by, among others, Marcus Boon (“Digital Mana: On the Source of the Infinite Proliferation of Mutant Copies in Contemporary Culture”), Carrie McLaren (“Copyrights and Copywrongs”), David Tetzlaff (“Das Plagiierenwerk: Convolute Uii”), Joshua Clover (“Ambiguity and Theft”), Lorraine Morales Cox (“Cultural Sampling and Social Critique: The Collage Aesthetic of Chris Ofili”), Jonathan Letham (“The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism”), and my own “On the Seamlessly Nomadic Nature of Collage.”

Enjoy! & have a great labor Day (though I do think that any celebration of Labor would happen on 1st May, not in early September.

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2 Responses

  1. Ted Fristrom says:

    My favorite collection of essays on art and appropriation is DJ Spooky’s “Sound Unbound Sampling Digital Music and Culture”. It includes the Lethem essay and others on writing but trends more toward music. What’s not to like about a book that puts Pierre Boulez, Vijay Iyer, and Chuck D under the same cover?

  2. Poo says:

    Not that I was alive then but both Canada and the U.S. have been celebrating Labor Day, the 1st Monday in September since the early 1880s. Surprised you missed it! There are still parades. As a child, it meant the end of summer when I had to come home from the cottage, a desperate portrait of youthful depression to be sure. Members of the Commonwealth seem to have dates all over the calendar; Trinidad, June 19, New Zealand, 4th Monday in October and Australia, 1st Monday in March and so on. Over 80 countries celebrate May 1st. Apparently we are in the minority again. I will spend Labor Day writing verbage for a website. Only me having a baby would cause more Labor! Memories of being ordered to “get in the car” will surely come to mind.

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