Friday night at the Green Arcade in San Francisco Krupskaya Books celebrated the publication of two new books: Judith Goldman's l.b.; or, catenaries and Brandon Brown's The Poems of Gaius Valerious Catullus. I missed it! However, I have the books and eagerly await time to dive into them. They are hefty tomes; Brown's book has 189 pages and Goldman's 212. They will make for winter reading.
In the meantime, here are some selections from each book, including what others have said about each.
First up, Judith Goldman:
Stop questioning my average
Like I can't even represent myself
Like jury duty I never ejaculate anti-socially
Judged by a jury of my fears
my congress in line-item defeated
my forest floor porn twitches
thinks it's raising the dead
but Sclerical fidelity cannot be
reduced to facts
facts is timely and seems to imply
You can get the same effects
to its defense,
Are you my god
Whereas conventions down-boy
The tally, they argue
Paradise can be entered from the other side
Supposedly, Nobody tries that hard (106)
General Scholium: "In the Beginning"
In the beginning was the worm, long unstymied stomach
In the begged were the warm stigmata whittled in the stick
Innocently wagging a carrot
Intensive care bigged the hole, stuck. Ow, ow, my hamstring!
Unstringed, to crawl I chug, dressed up as
I wandered lonely as a clod
These condensations slung
O'er my shoulder
We the pebble, formidable, soldier,
than onion's perfect domino
We connote wayfare to the wayfarer
We the altar-wafer leaving
no waifish soul unaltered
We the peephole look through ourselves securely to instablish there's just-us
We the peeping chick assure you how wee the peehole
By God! your bigotry's big!
This one goes out to the precedent
Got its claws in you
Likewse my, my, my
My cavalry got bogged down, the critters
Ain't fending for me no more
Send reinforcements but
Lost the manual, managed to do it
e the manhole's unmanning
yes, yerr honor
yerr grave spit on me
sharing its curse, spitty
If the case sweats to serve as precedent
All systems go, but
Where does that get you?
A faint crackle of paper still swells the ranks
The same glint sparkles Out the blue
tossing its head in a sprightly dance
Flashing upon my inward I (you)
Pensive, push the cork in--
O ham it, my climate Climbs
Chugging uphill to flow into its coffers
Dusk me into this stricken empyrean else I
Frag this figment, fuck it, don't
Kindly my kinlessness, I'm not kindling
Mankind, I'm just ham with ante upped
I wear my strong suit and Online accreditation
I stick to stick figures with my sticky back
Decalcked, but lacking off, keep onned
What do you mean exactly?
Thank you. I know my way out. [bumps head]
If only I were the lacy edge of a fried egg
/Then close the wicket (87-89)
Craig Dworkin on Goldman's l.b.
The concatenated series of poems in Judith Goldman's l.b. chart the narratives formed by texts of uniform density hanging freely from two fixed readings not in the same semantic line. On the one hand, the book dramatizes language under the regimes of contemporary communication--the protocols and phatics of privatized and publicly traded language--with all the false and inescapable sociality of networked media and commercial memoranda. On the other hand, the motivated material play of the signifier points to the paths of greatest resistance: chance, ludic laughter, and the recalcitrant residium of the body.
At the level of composition, l.b. is also a kind of catena patrum: a series of extracts from earlier writings, forming a commentary on some portion of scripture. Goldman's finely sutured microcollage of forms and phrases moves from Aristotle to Andy Warhol, Kathy Acker to William Wordsworth, Abu Ghraib to Thomas Wyatt. Where the traditional catena is also a chronological series of extracts to prove the existence of a continuous tradition on some point of doctrine, here the discrepant result is a more thoroughly, honestly, chronic text: not the false time of doctrine and tradition, but something more true to its own time, and to linguistic time itself.
From Brandon Brown:
This is from the section entitled "Sparrow":
Catullus is a poet with no job, so hoards mucho otium, makes it obvious there is the tablets: leisure, convening (so delicious!), writing verses about writing verses with his phallus on the door of a bar, etc. Ludic numbers that make young Victorian Latin students blush and not from too much wine. Not incensed, I do sense discrepancy about the sleep and the quiet and the limitlessness of the time Catullus has to hang with Licinus, trading licks (both verse-ish and tongue-ish.) If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I'm probably at work. Bummer patrol! Catullus in bed, his members post-poesy, half-dead like writing in a book. Dolors make him sweat, but it's for dollars I perspire and expire. No bombs drop on my head except incendiary malinheritance. Beware the bombs brought on by gum disease: too much wine, not enough otium. Beware of do. Beware of poor attendance at the play. (51)
an excerpt from 65
The sixty-fifth poem in the corpus of Catullus is addressed to his friend Hortalus.
The poem is in the vocative and is usually read as essentially epistolary, a letter to accompany a translation that Catullus has made of a poem by Callimachus. This work of translation has been incredibly difficult, because there is a crisis in the life of Catullus that has made prosody frustrating.
The crisis in the life of Catullus is that his brother is lying on the beach dead in Troy and a wave licks his little pale foot.
The death of this brother has made it impossible for him to "produce the sweet fruit of the Muses." As if prosody were a redemptive tactic against the total loss effected by death.
I find it interesting that Catullus, who remains associated with the anachronistic but persistent mode of the lyric, constructs a practice almost always including appropriation. Translation, and certainly as Catullus himself practices it, is an artwork of appropriation. And yet much of contemporary translation as much as contemporary works of appropriation purport to cancel the somatic vehicle for lyric material.
That is, the conventional picture of translation, in which the translator is invisible, which excludes her body from the scene of translation, does not suggest a space in which the translator's desire--or grief--can find any entry into the imporous mimetic activity they understand as "translation." (93)
The back of Brandon's book includes this unattributed piece:
Ever since the poems of Catullus were discovered in a wine cask in Verona in the 13th Century, translators have returned to them over and over, insisting on their continued relevance. These troubling poems have scandalized and delighted generations of readers in translation, as they apparently scandalized and perhaps delighted the literary coterie surrounding Catullus in pre-revolutionary Rome. Brandon Brown's The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus is a translation in which the decadent excesses of ascending Roman hegemony meet the decadent excesses of collapsing American domination. The meeting is staged as half confrontation, half party. And this confrontation/party monster goes down in the overdetermined and hyper-privileged site of translation: the translator's body. Instead of reduplicating what Lawrence Venuti calls the "translator's invisibility," Brown is all too visible, exposing himself in various costumes: abject hero, demonic oaf, pathetic provocateur, swaggy braggart. These poems exploit the specificity of times and places to their maximal debasement, so the Gods of ancient Rome can't be distinguished from Brad Pitt watching Avatar, finally. And such spectacular cultural force doesn't just live in the sky, but irrupts into this sustained act of interpretive reading. 'Imagine if Brad Pitt came to your wedding. No, seriously.' Dead serious and impossibly fraught, Catullus's poems lurch in the hallways of the social networks in which we live. The time just before the machines become part of our bodies. Dazzling and devastated.