Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Palmer Wins Prize + Vito Acconci Poem + TO Drama

Michael Palmer Receives Wallace Stevens Prize
I'm usually behind the curve these days on literary and other kinds of news, but I did see on Charles Bernstein's blog that poet Michael Palmer (1943-) was recently awarded the Academy of American Poets' 2006 Wallace Stevens Prize. This $100,000 prize is one the most important literary honors accorded to an American poet can receive. Palmer is one of the leading experimental poets of his generation, a frequent collaborator with artists in other genres, and a translator of Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and French poetry. His most recent volume, as I noted in my previous post, In the Company of Moths (New Directions, 2005), was a finalist for this year's Griffin Poetry Prize. His other works include The Promises of Glass (2000), one of my favorites; The Lion Bridge: Selected Poems 1972–1995 (1998), which collects poems from his major early books; At Passages (1996), which was his first book with New Directions, I believe; and the landmark volumes Sun (1988); Notes for Echo Lake (1981); and Blake's Newton (1972). The Academy of American Poets citation notes Palmer's decided lyricism and avant-gardism, which is consistent throughout nearly all of his work, which often appears to embody Pater's (or was it Nietzsche's dictum) of language aspiring to the condition of music, as well as Zukofsky's idea of poetry as "upper limit music, lower limit speech." At the same time, a consistent current of critique, of poetic conventionality and of the politics of the larger society, has been central to his poetic oeuvre. (I once sat in on a little pre-reading workshop (those were the days!) that Michael Palmer conducted at the Dia Center for the Arts, and left impressed by his friendliness and breadth of knowledge.) The specific citation reads

Michael Palmer is the foremost experimental poet of his generation and perhaps of the last several generations. A gorgeous writer who has taken cues from Wallace Stevens, the Black Mountain poets, John Ashbery, contemporary French poets, the poetics of Octavio Paz, and from language poetries. He is one of the most original craftsmen at work in English at the present time. His poetry is at once a dark and comic interrogation of the possibilities of representation in language, but its continuing surprise is its resourcefulness and its sheer beauty.

The judges for this year's prize were Robert Hass, Fanny Howe, Susan Stewart, Arthur Sze, and Dean Young. Previous recipients include W. S. Merwin, James Tate, Adrienne Rich, Anthony Hecht, A. R. Ammons, Jackson Mac Low, Frank Bidart, John Ashbery, Ruth Stone, Richard Wilbur, Mark Strand, and Gerald Stern. In the dozen years of the award, no writer of color has yet been honored.

Current Bookshelf:
All Aunt Hagar's Children, Edward P. Jones
American Culture Between the Wars, Walter Kaladjian
Assembling Alternatives: Reading Postmodern Poetics Transnationally, Romana Huk, ed.
Black Gold of the Sun, Ekow Eshun
Blackness without Ethnicity, Livio Sansone
Graceland, Chris Abani
Incubation: A Space for Monsters, Bhanu Kapil
Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation, Aldon Nielsen
Language to Cover a Page: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci, Craig Dworkin, ed.
Lick Creek: A Novel, Brad Kessler

Poem: Vito Acconci
It's not that rare for creative writers to draw or visual artists to write, but it is fairly rare for a person who makes her or his name in a particular area of the arts to then move into a different genre, make his or her name, and then self-reinvent and do so yet again. The poet, videographer and filmmaker, conceptual and performance artist, and now acclaimed architectural theorist Vito Acconci (1940-) is one such person. Acconci studied literature and creative writing at the College of the Holy Cross and later the University of Iowa, and began writing experimental poetry and prose in the 1960s, before turning several years later to other artistic genres and forms in which he made his name as something of an enfant terrible. Nearly a year ago, I posted on his (in)famous 1972 performance piece "Seedbed," which the artist Marina Abramovic revisioned and performed (and which Mendi L. O. of SWEAT commented on); in addition to that work, Acconci is also best known for "Following Piece,"

Here is one of Vito Acconci's poems, "'Re'," from the 1960s. (If you click directly on it you can enlarge it.) My initial thoughts upon seeing it were its echoes of the standard format of Sappho's poetry, as well as Mallarmé and Dickinson, and of the ways in which the typographic possibilities of the typewriter (this having been written long before PCs) and the process of writing were incorporated into its form.

TO Suicide Attempt (?)
OwensI have to add what's probably circulated quite a bit by now on the Web, the news that Dallas Cowboys wide receiver and the controversy-generating "NFL's most misunderstood man" Terrell Owens's (right, allegedly attempted suicide last night by taking an overdose of pain pills. I'd initially heard on ESPN that he was suffering from a severe reaction to the medication, but shortly thereafter on The Raw Story site I saw that the story had changed. And now he's officially denying that it was a suicide attempt. Who knows--but he is getting the attention he appears to so badly crave. On a sportlist I'm on, we've debated TO's prior crises, as a San Francisco 49er and a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. My thought was that some of his public spectacles over the last few years have been steady cries for help, and though it appears this most recent action may have resulted from immediate issues, the larger issue of his emotional issues still probably ought to be addressed.

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