Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Burton Hatlen

Burton Hatlen, Professor of English at the University of Maine, and director of the National Poetry Foundation, died on Monday, January 21st. Serious readers of the Objectivists and of modern American poetry in general are bound to be familiar with Burt's work. His essays on Zukofsky, Oppen, and Reznikoff remain fundamental to the field, and he edited a number of major critical collections. His criticism is remarkably wide-ranging: from Renaissance literature to Bram Stoker to Philip Pullman to his former student, Stephen King. He was a gracious and gentle man, immensely supportive of younger critics. I first got to know Burt when I was a grad student finishing my dissertation at Emory: having learned of my work on Oppen, he asked me to contribute to George Oppen: Man & Poet, which he was editing at the time. I was thrilled that such an accomplished scholar was giving me serious attention. According to his students, he was an extraordinary teacher too. As Robert Creeley would say, Burt was a true member of the company. An account of his life and career can be found here.

Monday, January 21, 2008


A BIG JEWISH POETRY READING coming up at the 92nd st Y in NYC Jan 31--the poets will be in NY for the annual AWP meeting.
They are (modesty aside) a brilliant group. Note the discount if you order with code ZEEK.

8:oo PM Thursday Jan 31

Praise, Grumble, Shmooze, Lament: The Voices of 21st Century Jewish Poetry
Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street
Cost: $26.00 / $12.00 with discount code "ZEEK"
Co-presented with Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. Hear some of today's most eloquent, provocative and meaningful Jewish poets. The program features readings by established and emerging poets, including Alicia Ostriker, Rodger Kamenetz, Robin Becker, Jacqueline Osherow, Dan Bellm, Patty Seyburn, Philip Terman, Scott Cairns, Jay Michaelson and Richard Chess. Reception follows. Get your tickets NOW at or 212-415-5500.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A New Book by Henry Weinfield

Henry Weinfield's Without Mythologies: New & Selected Poems & Translations has just been published by Dos Madres Press. Readers of this blog who are familiar with Henry's poetry, criticism and translations will understand the significance of this book. It contains work from 1967 to 2006, including most of The Sorrows of Eros (1999) and a generous gathering of earlier work, including poems from In the Sweetness of the New Time (1980) from the press I ran long ago, House of Keys. Henry is one of my oldest friends and it would be a bit redundant of me to sing his praises, but for those interested in my thoughts on his work, I wrote a substantial review of The Sorrows of Eros which appeared in Denver Quarterly 35.2 (Summer 2000). Henry's new work has turned increasingly toward contemporary political events, and as I have noted here, such pieces as "Praise and Lamentation" are some of the most important and provocative Jewish poems to come along in some time. As usual, Robert and Elizabeth Murphy of Dos Madres have produced a beautiful book, a perfect complement to Henry's inimitable lyricism. This book is a must.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Praise for Z in the NYT

Charles asked about reviews of the new Zukofsky bio by Mark. There's a big one out tomorrow--already, on-line--in the New York Times Book Review, by Dan Chiasson. Here's a sample paragraph, from early in the piece:
“The Poem of a Life,” Mark Scroggins’s terrific new biography, never strays far from Zukofsky the poet. Though he treats all of Zukofsky’s writing respectfully, Scroggins, who teaches literature at Florida Atlantic University, keeps his focus on “A,” the first seven parts of which were published in 1932. Free of megalomania, touchingly invested in his wife’s work as a composer and in the care of his son, Paul, now a pre-eminent violinist (both of whom contributed, Celia substantially, to “A”), Zukofsky nevertheless uncompromisingly devoted himself to the composition of his enormous poem. His reputation rests today partly in the hands of the so-called Language poets, who find in Zukofsky’s brilliant subversions of syntax, word games and indeterminacy (his poem, after all, is called “A,” not “The”) an augury of their own methods. But “A” is not about anything as simple as “language” or “life”: it is a poem about working on “A” — about the daily elations and impediments of an artist who sought, over the course of decades, to make something really hard really good. Since it takes its own composition as the measure of living, it is a more personal poem, and often a more moving one, than either of its main models, Pound’s “Cantos” or William Carlos Williams’s “Paterson."
A lot to be talked about in the piece--we're at a third reception-moment for Zukofsky (a fourth, maybe? A new one, anyway), and it's quite fascinating to watch the terms of debate laid out here. (Ain't it good to know, for example, that language and life are "simple"?)

Still, hats off to Mark, to Zuk, and to Chiasson for his praise of them both!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Zukofsky reviews

Two reviews of the Zukofsky selected --

Jewish Exponent (Robert Leiter)

Poetry Bay (Jack Foley)

I would be interested to know about any reviews of Mark Scroggin's biography.