Day in, Day out

I’m no good at writing ‘journal entry’ posts, as my last few entries have demonstrated, I believe. However, I have not been posting new texts/reviews for about two weeks and I kind of, weirdly, feel I need to explain. Before I do so, I recommend visiting De Seuil en Seuil again, unless you’ve done so already. The blogger has put up a beautiful new post on the Danube and a moving encounter at its waterside. To read it, click here. As to me, it’s been a tough two weeks. I worked hard on my dissertation, writing a précis for my professor, working out kinks in my argument. Saturday, I went to a friend’s wedding and it reminded me how fast I/we can lose contact to people who were once so important to us. My friend, Christoph, who now lives in Japan, was responsible for my studying literature in Bonn, for coming to Bonn in the first place, too. Without him, my life would be infinitely emptier, both my heart and my brain encountered something new here that they will hopefully never have to live without henceforth.

And on Friday, I learned that a friend had died, well over two weeks ago. If you follow this blog and its links, you might have found a handful of posts linking to bookbabble. Of those, three led to bookbabble episodes that Gem partook in (link here). Gem is the friend who died. I have been almost constantly close to tears for the past week. I have never met Gem ‘in real life’, but she has helped me through some rocky times, and I loved her as I loved few friends in my life. Gem is/was the most big-hearted person I have ever known, a smart, humorous, amazing, beautiful person. I feel incredibly selfish in talking about her in this way, but her ear, her words, her heart, they were at times a life-saving support. Literally. She is/was an inspiring person, in the most horribly corny sense of the word, she inspired me, and many others, to be a better human being. If I failed at it, as I so often surely did, it was despite her luminous presence. But she wasn’t grandiose, self-aggrandizing, she was always just herself, gleefully, bravely so. She lived through so many bad times, working through all of them with a strength and an unassuming bravery that few other people possess. She was talented in all kinds of ways, she connected with so many different people, and so many people connected with her. People like her are rare, and for everyone who knew her, her loss is terrible. I feel her loss every day. I can hear her voice still and, dammit, crying again, I remember things she told me, the things she wrote me, although I don’t have the strength so far to look at old emails and messages. I started to compile my current manuscript of poems because of Gem. Gem has (still does) inspired me to try and use whatever talents and strengths I have to make something of my life. She has made so much of hers. And so much of mine. All this above has been rather crude, simple, but I can’t write about this in more than simple terms so far. I don’t want to seduce myself into writing something that isn’t true. Every day that passes, her death seems more real to me and every day I am afraid her presence will slip from my life. Her voice will dull, her words lose resonance, one more light in my life go out like a wet fag. Apart from burying myself in work, I spent the past week drinking a lot, reading god-awful trash and watching crappy movies, all to postpone this, to stop it from becoming real. I don’t have a great story to share or an anecdote. There is just that imprint on me, this emptiness that I’m figuring out how to deal with. I drank a shot of gin last night in a bar, to commemorate her, who was a gin enthusiast, but it didn’t feel right. I am doing the same right now, and if you have a bottle or a glass of something nearby, please, drink one with me. One of the most wonderful persons I have ever known or am ever likey to know has vanished from my, no, our life. за здоровье!

Just One Book

Salt, the amazing British publisher of prose and poetry, is almost broke. Last year, they launched a campaign called Just one Book to save themselves, and they are doing it this year as well. It’s a plea to buy Just One Book published by Salt. You can buy it directly from them or from your retailer of choice. Spread the word. Here are three suggestions for you:

1. Buy Just One Book by Jennifer Moxley. Moxley is one of my favorite living American poets, and Salt has published two volumes of hers, Imagination Verses and The Sense Record. Both are strongly recommended by me.

2. Buy Just One Book by Michael Hulse. I was lucky enough to once meet Mr. Hulse in person, it’s still one of my highlights. Salt has published his book Empires and Holy Lands, Poems 1976–2000, which is a great treasure trove of poetry that draws on Continental and British sources in order to produce an assured, marvelous poetic voice.

3. Buy Just One Book by Rachel Blau DuPlessis. Blau DuPlesssis is both an insightful poetry critic as well as one of the most interesting American poets around. For years she has been contributing to her long poem of sorts called “Drafts”, a series of numbered poems. Salt has published at least two volumes of her poetry. One simply called Drafts, containing Drafts 39-57, which I own, and which is amazing. The other, called Torques, containing Drafts 58-76, which I just ordered and which I am pretty sure is great, since I know some of the poems.

don’t say no to me you can’t say no to me

don’t say no to me you can’t say no to me because it’s such a relief to have love again and to lie in bed and be held and touched and kissed and adored and your heart will leap when you hear my voice and see my smile and feel my breath on your neck and your heart will race when I want to see you and I will lie to you from day one and use you and screw you and break your heart because you broke mine first and you will love me more each day until the weight is unbearable and your life is mine and you’ll die alone because I will take what I want then walk away and owe you nothing it’s always there it’s always been there and you cannot deny the life you feel fuck that life fuck that life fuck that life I have lost you now.”

from Sarah Kane’s play Crave. Sarah Kane’s plays are collected in one indispensable volume of theatrical greatness. You don’t have it? Dude, you have no idea what you’ve been missing.

New poems. Want some?

I am compiling a manuscript of poems. New, well, most of them aren’t. Just so I’ll get em off my chest, and given the fact that I don’t publish them on the blog any more, I’ll send some of them around. If you’re interested email me with your address (you can find my email address in the “about shigekuni” section of the blog) and within the next month you’ll get a batch of poems. I just sent a few of them to South Africa, so postage isn’t an issue. A short cycle of poems and a group of random other poems. It’s free, but I would be happy about comments, though since I myself am a sluggish and laggard and crappy commenter (*hanging my head in shame*) I understand if you’d abstain from writing any.

To slash me shocked

John Berryman: “I didn’t.”

I didn’t. And I didn’t. Sharp the Spanish blade
to gash my throat after I’d climbed across
the high railing of the bridge
to tilt out, with the knife in my right hand
to slash me knocked or fainting till I’d fall
unable to keep my skull down but fearless

unless my wife wouldn’t let me out of the house
unless the cops noticed me crossing the campus
up to the bridge
& clappt me in for observation, costing my job –
I’d be now in a cell, costing my job –
well, I missed that;

but here’s the terror of tomorrow’s lectures
bad in themselves, the students dropping the course,
and Administration hearing
& offering me either a medical leave of absence
or resignation – Kitticat, they can’t fire me –

This is an untitled poem by John Berryman, written on Jan 5, 1972. This version is from my copy of Henry’s Fate & Other Poems, 1967-1972. In Mariani’s biography (Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman), he also quotes the poem, but in Mariani’s version it says “shocked” instead of “knocked” in line 5

RIP Harvey Pekar!!

Oh no no no. Harvey Pekar died.

Harvey Pekar, 70, the graphic novelist whose autobiographical comic book “American Splendor” chronicled his life as a filing clerk, record collector, freelance jazz critic and one of life’s all around misfits, was found dead early today at his home in suburban Cleveland.

The AP reported that police were called to Mr. Pekar’s home by his wife about 1 a.m. and the artist was found between a bed and dresser. Mr. Pekar had been suffering from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression, police said.

Below is a clip from one of several appearances on Letterman’s show in the 1980s.

Banning the Burqa

In the latest installment of NYTimes’ The Stone, Martha Nussbaum proves to be largely correct

Proponents of the burqa ban do not propose to ban all these objectifying practices. Indeed, they often participate in them. (…) Once again, then, the opponents of the burqa are utterly inconsistent, betraying a fear of the different that is discriminatory and unworthy of a liberal democracy. The way to deal with sexism, in this case as in all, is by persuasion and example, not by removing liberty