Wednesday, September 29, 2010
From Old Notebooks was reviewed in TriQuarterly Online!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Unusual Woods by Gene Tanta
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Read more: http://www.blazevox.org/bk-gt2.htm
“Gene Tanta's Unusual Woods is at once shocking, lively, and oddly nurturing, imprinted as it is with the down-home authority of language's deep hands.”—Annie Finch
“The poems in Unusual Woods are energetic little bulletins from the front.”—John L. Koethe
History with its betrayals lurks behind Gene Tanta, lends his writing wisdom and gravity, but he’s also playful and wickedly humorous. Infused with a deft surrealism, these subtle yet startling poems are like parables, brief films, elegant dreams, baffling skirmishes or erotic near misses. They demand and reward repeated readings.—Linh Dinh
Gene Tanta’s Unusual Woods is just that, a journey through the dark forest of the poet’s mind. Tanta’s poems are at once playful and haunting, turning the everyday into the grotesque, the carnivalesque, the beautiful. His is a world in which, “sometimes the squeaky wheel / gets the hammer.” A speaker in one of Tanta’s poems says, “I too want to fully conjugate the human heart.” In Unusual Woods, in Tanta’s unique way, a way simultaneously foreboding and alluring, he already has.—Shaindel Beers, author of A Brief History of Time
In the 50 demi-sonnets that make up Unusual Woods, as original a debut collection as I've ever read, Gene Tanta asks us to enter history in unusual ways: through the noose of a joke, the music of assassins, the slippery holes in the sidewalk of logic. This remarkable sequence reminds me that there is no music more beautiful and terrifying than an open mouth, breathing, singing, dreaming. How Tanta, a child of Romania and Chicago, became heir to so many rich traditions (Dickinson, Berryman, Simic, Popa, to name only a few) is our pleasure to discover as we chart the terrain of an important new voice in poetry.— Maurice Kilwein Guevara
Gene Tanta’s “Unusual Woods” should come with a warning label: Handle With Care. Contents Extremely Volatile. Each thirteen-line poem is a powder keg taking on politics, history, and language itself. While in search for the “myth or origins”, Tanta experiments with sounds and striking, original images, in turn creating new worlds that are entirely his own. Tanta writes in the surrealist tradition but he is no follower. This is poetry as it should be—irreverent, visionary, breaking expectations.—Andrei Guruianu
“Where are we, in Gene Tanta’s Unusual Woods? We’re where Charles Simic would live, if he’d been born a few decades later, under the signs of ellipsis and disjunction. These are woods with at least two borders running through them. The first of them divides the surreal anecdote from the elliptical meditation, and along this border we find deformed aphorisms, slippery allegories, cryptic personifications, and parables bent out of shape and away from meaning. This is a zone filled with almost-expressive artifacts like faceless dolls and faded photos. The second border runs between Tanta’s Romanian past and his American present. Both Eastern Europe and the United States appear in fragments of iconic figures: Stalin, fortune-tellers, gypsies, elders with samovars, spies, and Paul Celan; or Black Hawk Indians, Gulf War veterans, teenagers dancing the funky chicken, and Ernest Hemingway. No one but Tanta lives at these exact poetic co-ordinates. You’d be wrong not to visit.”—Robert Archambeau
"Gene Tanta's Unusual Woods is deceptively simple and candidly devious. Reading it is like looking in a funhouse mirror for the first time."—Mike Topp
Gene Tanta sees the world through the “two-way mirror of my (that is Tanta’s) itchy eye.” He is positioned on both sides of the mirror at once. He watches reflections of his self against an ever-changing background of unusually absurd situations. Like dreaming about having a dream of being lost in the woods.—Yehuda Yannay
“Gene Tanta’s poetry reads like documentation of the lost, just come to light after being hidden in an ammunition box buried at the site of some anonymous atrocity. It feels personal, ravaged and beautiful, hovering on the far bank of some inexplicably authentic nightmare, the first and last thoughts of a band of survivors. Distant light is intensifying but it’s not clear if dawn is on its way, or some further conflagration.Unlike some of the leading-edge poetry of recent decades, Gene Tanta’s does not impersonate an explosion. There is no scattering of attention or resources. Instead, we are in a verbal landscape of aftermath and preparation. The work is careful and inclusive, each fragment of dream and vision brought back to the table for inspection and reassembly. We are invited to participate at this stage as if it mattered: as if the orchestration of meanings had to be collective because of ethical imperatives it is now too late to ignore.Behind these poems range the ghosts of victims and the ghosts of poetic forms. None is banished. This generosity is a gift to the reader who (tired of the brash, cocky or complacent) may feel that here is a poetry adequate to our times: an art humming with political and aesthetic urgency, and with a resonance that feels at times mythic.”—Peter Hughes
Gene Tanta was born in Timisoara, Romania and lived there until 1984, when his family immigrated to the United States. Since then, he has lived in DeKalb, Iowa City, New York, Oaxaca City, Iasi, Milwaukee, and Chicago. He is a poet, visual artist, and translator of contemporary Romanian poetry. His two poetry books are Unusual Woods and Pastoral Emergency. Tanta earned his MFA in Poetry from the Iowa's Writers' Workshop in 2000 and his PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2009 with literary specialization in twentieth-century American poetry and the European avant-garde. His journal publications include: EPOCH, Ploughshares, Circumference Magazine, Exquisite Corpse, Watchword, Columbia Poetry Review, and The Laurel Review. Currently, he teaches creative writing online for UC Berkeley Extension.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
At the Fair by Tom Clark
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I've known and read Tom Clark for almost half-a-century as a master of many genres: a writer of plays, biographies, novels; as an editor and critic — but always foremost, as a poet. At the Fair gives glimpses of this poet peering through the eyes of his reflection in the mirror of time and reporting on the memories of that image. Part autobiography of the author in shards; part philosophy of atmosphere and thought; part natural history of air, land and water; part defense of the local; part the literate writer at work, translating, being distracted by the logic and beauty of language: this book, which I read straight through, is a tribute to a lifelong addiction: a mutable one-handed keep-awake smack in the forest of loss. One's hat is raised as observation passes.—Tom Raworth
Remembering his first glimmers of vocation as a boy in power-charged mid-century Chicago, Tom Clark has given us some of the most beautiful American Poems that I know. At the Fair is the work of a living master.—Aram Saroyan
Not nostalgia transports us here, but the sweet pulse of "vanished ephemerae", love of the Voyage, the illumination, and "throbbing rituals" of a life lived always inside poetry. Tom Clark's prodigious archive of memory trembles on the edge of a teetering universe, calls us back toward the imagination of Reverdy, Vallejo, Ungaretti as witness to the power and thrust and ethos of language. "The universe is strange, the universe is dangerous, the universe doesn't answer the phone." Indeed. But Clark does answer here for all us dreamers.—Anne Waldman
I read At the Fair driving through the vertiginous rock castles of Utah on the way to Moab, and it hit me like a gong in perfect synch with the incredible landscape. Memory, time, and the suffering of puny humans who resonate nonetheless with beauty, are indelible in this work; it is majestic, profound, and smart. For a language-user that's about the utmost. You can read this in a cave and you'll know grandeur.—Andrei Codrescu
Doors swing open on this shock of light. Here you will experience scripts and mind-telegrams, shapely in nerve and essence, moving always, and moving on. A circus at the settlement's edge: with memory-movies, new songs, and travellers' tales. We are reminded of frontier days when poetry was the better politics, proud inside itself. As Tom Clark's fresh voice echoes, and re-echoes, so beautifully, in the head. Across oceans and continents from Mediterranean California. And back. Mind kites in marine haze. Streaks. Showers.
"A theory of games is not the same thing as games," the poet says. Hitting on the precorporate is no retreat. Let this book happen. Its pleasures are subtle and true.—Iain Sinclair
What a world. Every sinew in Tom Clark's verse-and-prose combine, taut and eloquent as can be, answers to a bevy of emergent occasion beyond the door, under the bed and in every phantom portfolio, whatsoever the unseen powers have slipped over gadzillion cubicles and the overextended imaginations of this our Earth. The poet's smooth lines and sudden-sprung fancy are the gentle observer's only comfort here. Large as that is, expect no closure as the page flips from "This is where we came in" to "So here we go." Go with Tom, boldly.—Bill Berkson
"M'illumino / d'immenso," as Ungaretti wrote in Santa Maria La Longa on the 26th of June, 1917; "Morning arrives / Big Time // (Morning arrives / Wide Eyed)," as Tom Clark 'translates' it, in Berkeley, California, on the 12 of June, 2010. What a pleasure it was for me to read it that morning, posted there on his blog (http://tomclarkblog.blogspot.com/) accompanied by an array of amazing photos — closeup of a "Peach Glow" water-lily just after rain; astronaut's view of an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption, Mt. Cleveland, Alaska; the Hubble Space Telescope's image of the Cone Nebula (seven light years long, 2,500 light years away); one final closeup of Red-eyed Tree Frog standing on a bright green leaf near Playa Jaco, Costa Rica. So now too what a pleasure to read this book, having seen it 'in pieces' each morning with the pictures that are here 'missing.' But if these words are all that remain of such an original work (words plus pictures), are they 'ruins' — Shelley's "shattered visage" around which "the lone and level sands stretch far away"? Yes, in one sense, because the poems are (as Tom says in a comment on the blog) "a mythic history of presence within the irretrievably lost"; but also no, since the words are still here, and in each present moment of reading invite us to imagine those now missing pictures along with the "disquietudes" of the world they look at and think about and feel, the one that "Just before sunrise... seems to wobble slightly on its axis." And so as Tom writes at the end of "Homecoming," "here we go."— Stephen Ratcliffe
_________________Tom Clark was born in Chicago in 1941 and educated at the University of Michigan, Cambridge University and the University of Essex. He worked variously as an editor (The Paris Review), critic (Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle) and biographer (lives of Damon Runyon, Jack Kerouac, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn), has written novels (Who is Sylvia?, The Exile of Céline, The Spell) and essays (The Poetry Beat, Problems of Thought: Paradoxical Essays). His many collections of poetry have included Stones, Air, At Malibu, John's Heart, When Things Get Tough on Easy Street, Paradise Resisted, Disordered Ideas, Fractured Karma, Sleepwalker's Fate, Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats, Like Real People, Empire of Skin, Light and Shade, The New World, Something in the Air and Feeling for the Ground. He lives in Berkeley, California with his wife and partner of forty-two years, Angelica Heinegg.
Stephen Burt has a great review of Evan Lavender-Smith's FROM OLD NOTEBOOKS in the new RAIN TAXI, calling it "a charm, a goad, an anti-masterpiece of an anti-novel -- a work of art that's easy to enter, and hard to put down."
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Saturday night Sarah Sarai was interviewed on
The Joe Milford Poetry Show :
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