Friday, April 13, 2012

ON THE SIDEWALK with a necessary postscript

Forty years ago W.H. Auden left his apartment on St. Mark’s Place in New York City to go back to Europe.  One of the reasons was the sight of bodies being taken out of apartments in corpse sacks and loaded into ambulances.  Unlike the suburbs much is played out on the actual streets and sidewalks of New York, Manhattan in particular.
I was thinking about this because as I was walking back from the Strand Bookstore this morning I found a box of books on Sixth Street near Second Avenue… boxes of books, piles of photographs, mattresses heaped on sidewalks always… always take me to: who died and while I know this is not always the case…people move, people pee in beds, clutter becomes too much, who wants to look at or be reminded of him or her?...
But books this time just around the corner from BLOCK drugs---  if you watch films from the 40s 50s you can see their distinctive sign--- if the characters venture downtown.
I would have brought home the whole box because after being sure no dog or human had visited the box in that way  I looked through the books… many unread copies of the Paris Review, the collected stories of Paul Bowles from Black Sparrow… and NEW DIRECTIONS IN PROSE AND POETRY  11.. from 1949 Signed inside by Shirley Stein using the Palmer method it looks like.. this book looks like it was read…  poems by Lorine Niedecker…fragments from Jean Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers… two stories by Robert Lowry… a story by Lloyd Alexander…  I won’t continue as there are many famous writers… who survived their deaths… and there is an unread  THE SONG OF THE WORLD by Jean Giono in the paperback from North Point… 1981… I got a copy of that when it came out as I was a messenger for Maple Vail and they had been the printers--- being a messenger, before I descended to being or ascended to being an adjunct professor---  and a series of copies of a little magazine LONG SHOT, from New Jersey, which I took along as they had poems by Sean Penn, Marianne Faithful and Amiri Baraka and Charles Bukowski… these too  have not been read … and book of poetry by the very quiet and strange Philip Lamantia  MEADOWLARK WEST:  a certain attention to detail/ sight of forgotten life on the wheel (from Fading Letters)
in the newspapers  it seems Eileen Myles has received a Guggenheim fellowship.. everyone I am sure remembers two things:  in the movie The Swimming Pool::: an editor says literary prizes are like hemorrhoids, eventually every asshole gets one...  and the little Jack Kerouac poem: fame is a newspaper blowing down Bleecker Street

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


A list for the Spring and Summer  2012 or really any season for that matter

--From the Library of America:   
---THE CIVIL WAR The First Year
---THE CIVIL WAR The Second Year
---KURT VONNEGUT  Novels and Stories 1950-1962      
---KURT VONNEGUT  Novels and Stories 1963-1973
---DAVID GOODIS  Five Noir Novels of the 1940s &50s
And then...
-- STOLEN AIR Selected poems of Osip Mandelstam  translated by Christian Wiman. (Ecco Press)
 --A TIME FOR EVERYTHING by Karl O. Knausgaard.  Archipelago
 --MY STRUGGLE by Karl Ove Knausgaard.  Archipelago
 --SATANTANGO by Laszlo Krasznahorkai  New Directions
 --PARALLEL LIVES by Peter Nadas.  Farra Straus & Giroux
 --SEX AND TERROR by Pascal Quignard.   Seagull Press
 --THE ROVING SHADOWS by Pascal Quignard.  Seagull Press
 --AS CONSCIOUSESS IS HARNESSED TO FLESH  Journals and Notebooks 1964-1980
    by Susan Sontag.  Farrar Straus & Giroux
 --THE HUNGER ARTIST by Herta Muller.  Metropolitan Books
 --TRANSPARENCY by Marek Bienzyk.  Dalkey Archive
 --ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS  by Ernst Junger.  New Directions  (out of print)
 --SONG BOOK.  The Selected Poems of Umberto Saba.  Yale University Press
 --ON THE BORDER OF SNOW AND MELT.  Selected Poems of Georgy Ivanov. Perceval Press
 --JAMES JOYCE.  A New Biography by Gordon Bowker.  Farrar Straus & Giroux

The American writers on the this list are all dead.  
Is that saying something? 
More, maybe than I would like to say, really: but does anyone look forward to any American writer’s newest book with the eager anticipation that the announcement of a new translation of a book by THOMAS BERNHARD or ROBERT PINGET or ERNST JUNGER or MICHEL LEIRIS would create?
(there is William T. Vollmann and then...)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

50 Years Ago: it begins this writing

How it began.  Patchogue High School.  My Senior year.  I saw a blonde girl taking books out of a locker on the second floor.  I found out her name, Melinda Brady.  She was two years younger than me.  I could not figure out how to talk to her.  I had been reading about World War One and I had a picture history THE FIRST WORLD WAR edited by Laurence Stallings...

I began to write and a young man dies in France in the trenches on 6 November 1918, though the author recorded that he did have a thought of a girl back home....  

I no longer remember how I came to give the story to Alfred Willis who was the editor of The Red and the Black but I must have and he published it.
I would see Melinda in school and I even danced with her once in gym class, never telling her of the story or what I... but then I thought surely she must have read it and while I added an L to the last name of the girl in the story who does not know what has happened to the young man in France.

As writers do, I now realize, her silence or the silence of everyone else in the school did not stop me and so the second story, now told from her viewpoint of when this young woman goes down to the train  station in a small Indiana town hoping to meet her returning friend, who of course is not on the train... 

I had seen these small Indiana towns when I had been driven out to Beloit,Wisconsin that previous summer to look at Beloit College and I longed to live in one of those tiny town, no more than one stop light and to be sitting on a porch and now many years later, what I now know, I was thinking of being on that porch alone without my father, drunk in the afternoon yelling at the doctor next door to us on Furman Lane in Patchogue, my drunken father yelling at the MD MD mental deficient mental deficient.   

And of course Melinda would be forever walking across the lawn and I would know and maybe she would know that on one of the maple trees in front of the house I had carved her name and the year 1962.


The other week I drove by that house on Furman Lane in Patchogue and the tree is gone.  Alfred Willis did not go to college but enlisted in the USMC and served two tours on the front line in Vietnam.  He came back entered the Catholic priesthood and then left.  He lives far away from Patchogue.  Melinda lives in Vermont with her third husband.  I live on East First Street with my wife Anna Saar  with whom I am very happy yet I remain faithful, still, for better or worse, and it is mostly for the worse, as any writer really knows, as the years go by, to that first moment in the second floor corridor of Patchogue High School when unable... I turned to the written word.

The inevitable post script.  I did see Melinda when I came back to Patchogue from Dublin for the summer of 1965 just before my parents were sent into exile in northern Wisconsin.  Many years I hate those words---many years later--- as they do not accord with how I hold all of this in my mind Melinda asked me how did you know my birthday? 
I did not know that November 6 was Melinda's birthday but now I guess I know that she had read the story fifty years ago.