Sunday, January 31, 2016

Bomb Magazine 2016 Recommendation: Clarence Major

Recently BOMB Magazine offered me and other writers and creative types the opportunity to share my thoughts some of the many books we're looking forward to this upcoming year, so I selected poet, novelist and visual artist Clarence Major's forthcoming collection Chicago Heat and Other Stories (Green Writers' Press, 2016).

Major (b.1936 -) is the author of 8 novels, 14 collections of poetry (including the 1999 National Book Award finalist collection Configurations), 2 collections of short fiction (including this one), 8 works of nonfiction, and 4 anthologies, among them 1969's landmark The New Black Poetry. His essay "Necessary Distance," the title of an eponymous collection of nonfiction that Tisa B. turned me onto, is one of many compasses I periodically return to.

Despite his prodigiousness and originality--this is a man who wrote a novel based on the premise that a Connecticut law required husbands to carry their wives across thresholds at home!)--his work remains far too little known, and should be much more heralded, read and discussed, so I am particularly looking forward to this new book. For Bomb I wrote:

One book I’m eager to get my hands on is acclaimed novelist, poet, and visual artist Clarence Major’s forthcoming collection of short fiction Chicago Heat and Other Stories. Though far less known than he should be, Major, as original as anyone writing today, has been successfully experimenting with the formal possibilities of fiction for over four decades, and has developed a distinctive, accessible, and unforgettable style. I’m enthusiastic to read and learn from what he accomplishes in this new gathering of stories.
About the new book Major's publisher writes:

Chicago Heat and Other Stories by Clarence Major, employs a gorgeous purity and simplicity of language in a series of masterful analyses examining human interaction. Each narrative voice comes forward all at once, individual and complete, without obstacle or complication, enabling the reader to see the characters and feel their emotions. Major does not shy away from the bitter or the harsh; we get to hear it all. Like paint on an easel he blends lyricality with moxie and the blunt with the beautiful. The characters come together as easily as they part; people leaving, coming back, going, staying—it all sticks and fades like heat on your skin. The imagery is completely accessible and generously given. Toni Morrison comes to mind. His work is like jewels.
Based on what I know of Clarence Major's work, this description barely touches the surface. Check it out this year.

More book 2016 recommendations by Dawn Lundy Martin, Albert Mobilio, Alan Gilbert, Chelsea Hodson, Justin Taylor, Ander Monson, Ken Chen, and Lawrence Giffin at the BOMB Magazine site!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Who Runs the Publishing Industry?

UPDATE: Jonathon Sturgeon has just posted a piece on Flavorwire comparing the publishing industry to the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, and gives Counternarratives a shout-out in the process.

The semester has begun, Blizzard Jonas and all, and I can already see my blogging pace dwindling, so I am going to try to follow a plan I set out a few years ago but have never followed, which is to maintain my blogging activity by posting micro introductions to interesting things I find on the web, and just let the articles speak for themselves. (I also hope to do this with the stubs of pieces I've begun but not finished in the recent past.)
Marlon James at the Man Booker Prize ceremony
So here goes. Last year Marlon James, author of several novels, including the 2015 Man Booker Prize-winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead, 2014), stated at a Guardian-sponsored event in London that the publishing industry "panders to that archetype of the white woman, that long-suffering, astringent prose set in suburbia. You know, 'older mother or wife sits down and thinks about her horrible life'."

He went on to say:
[B]ecause white women readers dominate the market, “the male editors will only accept one type of story. Everyone knows what a New Yorker story will look like. I could have been published 10 times over – I knew that there was a certain kind of prose I could have written; intense scenes that hinted, rather than explored.”
In its report on James's remarks, linked above, the Guardian noted that "Women, particularly white women, make up the vast majority of regular fiction readers, purchasing two thirds of all books sold in the UK. Almost 50% of women classify themselves as avid readers, compared to 26% of men." He expanded a bit on these assertions in a highly entertaining and informative Guardian Books podcast.

James was responding, in fact, to a Tin House essay, "On Pandering," by Claire Vaye Watkins, who received multiple prizes for her 2010 collection Battleborn. Watkins' is a rich, exploratory attempt to make sense of her experiences as a white woman writing in a tradition that usually valorizes white men, abets sexism and racism, and consciously and unconsciously urges women, including white women, to write against their perspectives and themselves.

Claire Vaye Watkins
To quote her:
The stunning truth is that I am asking, deep down, as I write, What would Philip Roth think of this? What would Jonathan Franzen think of this? When the answer is probably: nothing. More staggering is the question of why I am trying to prove myself to writers whose work, in many cases, I don’t particularly admire? I recently finished Roth’s Indignation with nothing more lasting than a sincere curiosity as to whether Roth is aware that these days even nice girls give blow jobs.

I am trying to understand a phenomenon that happens in my head, and maybe in yours too, whereby the white supremacist patriarchy determines what I write.

I wrote Battleborn for white men, toward them. If you hold the book to a certain light, you’ll see it as an exercise in self-hazing, a product of working-class madness, the female strain. So, natural then that Battleborn was well-received by the white male lit establishment: it was written for them. The whole book’s a pander. Look, I said with my stories: I can write old men, I can write sex, I can write abortion. I can write hard, unflinching, unsentimental. I can write an old man getting a boner!
In The New Republic, Phoebe Maltz Bovy took issue with James's assessment, penning a response, "Don't Let Men Attack Pumpkins Spice Literature,"filled with links to others responding to Watkins' essay. In it she asserted that James was half-right, and was focusing on literary sexism. She contrasted his take with freelance writer Nicole Perkins' reading of "On Pandering" in the Los Angeles Times, and stressed the need for a more intersectional understanding of the literary marketplace, and for the voices of women of color to be heard (yes!). (NYRB critic, author, translator and blogger Tim Parks offered thoughts about conformity in literature that sidestepped any discussion of race or gender, but which I thought connected at certain points with what all these critics were saying.)

There have been many other essays and articles on the lack of diversity and need for equity in publishing, including in children's literature. There are even organizations, like We Need Diverse Books, dedicated to highlighting and transforming this situation. A few years ago, a former student and I attended a great workshop in Brooklyn on diversifying children's literature, especially in the speculative fiction and fantasy genres. Shortly before he passed away the late, highly acclaimed writer Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher--who used the term "apartheid"--published essays in the New York Times calling for diversity in children's literature. But the need across all genres remains, and not just in the US, but in other plural Western societies, like the UK.

Yesterday, Electronic Literature posted an article based on a new publishing diversity baseline survey by children's book publisher Lee and Low showing that the US and Canadian publishing industries are overwhelmingly white and dominated by cis-gender, abled heterosexual women. Moreover, executive level publishing jobs US and Canadian publishing executives are even more concentrated in the hands of straight, cis-gender, abled white women. Shades of Hollywood, though with a gender reversal. These are the decision-makers in the book biz.

These facts suggest that real diversity, beyond lip service, is necessary if the publishing even wants to begin to reflect the reality of the society around them; James' critique has a basis in the sheer facts of who runs the industry; and that Watkins' understanding of the internalization of male-centered values extends beyond writers, to the people and institutions that put books into readers' hands.

I'll conclude by saying that my own experience as an author has tended more towards what Marlon James says, though I have never let that stop me. In fact, I even encountered pushback from industry people--though not, thankfully, my publisher, New Directions, whose chairperson is the legendary editor Barbara Epler--concerning Counternarratives. In other ways, however, I have been fortunate to encounter people from all backgrounds--all races and ethnicities, genders and sexualities, national origins, class, religious affiliation, physical abledness--who have been supportive of my work, and whose work I could enthusiastically support.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Art & Context Interview with Mendi + Keith Obadike

In addition to being friends Mendi + Keith Obadike are among my favorite contemporary artists. At one of their online sites, BlackArtNet, has been part of my blogroll for a decade now, and I have had the pleasure of writing about them critically in a paper set to appear later this spring. Collaborators and partners in life and art, and true multidisciplinary visionaries, Mendi+Keith have created a series of iconic artworks and performances across a range of platforms for over a decade and a half.

Recently, at Art & Context, Erin Sickler interviewed them about their work and lives, and the interview is full of insights on their practice, their aesthetics, and their goals.

Here are some quotes:
We moved through many zones to arrive at this sound centered practice that we have today. When we began we wanted to find our own way for music, language, and media to work together. We thought we might make a new kind of opera. We started talking about this around 1993, but we were already heavily involved in separate practices. Informed by a lot of experimental music and video work from the 60s & 70s and our experience with computers, we started seriously working online in the mid 90s. Working online was a simple way for us to combine our work in music, art and literature in one accessible frame. We were not living in New York at the time, so it was also a way for us present our projects to a large audience little or no institutional support. As we learned the language and nuances of the early world wide web, we began to explore all of the ways one might perform in this new space. We did live streams, animated gifs, text-based email projects, and sound pieces. All of those lessons (about communicating scale, giving a sense of register/tone, and projecting your energy in media) informed and enabled the work we would later do in brick and mortar spaces.
In the 1990s we began calling the technologies of race (among other things) “social filters,” to think through the ways that technological and social dynamics on Internet and in digital culture were grounded in older cultural patterns. While racial discourse is of course implicated in our projects about social filters, we have always been interested to think about who gets to belong and who does not and what the barriers are to belonging. Race is one of the many technologies that delimit this belonging, but because our work is sometimes allegorical, there are also other issues explored in the work. That said, we’re often using the resources offered by African diasporic thinkers -- Igbo, African-American and other African writers.
And finally:
We think in times like these it becomes even more important to choose your media and limit your intake carefully. The flow of bad news can be overwhelming if you forget to step out of the stream. We stay focused because we know we are here to do this work. We know what art can do, and we are empowered by the lasting energy of the folks who came before us.
Do read the entire interview too, and don't miss them if they are speaking, performing or part of an exhibition near you.

Here are three videos featuring their work, including 2015's "Blues Speaker [for James Baldwin]," at the New School for Social Research.

Mendi + Keith Obadike's "4 Electric Ghosts" (2009)

Mendi + Keith Obadike's "The Earth (for Audre Lorde and Marlon Riggs)," Obadike Studio (Side A: "If the Heavens Don't Hear (A Roller Skating Jam for Marian Anderson)" + remix by Gordon Voidwell, and Side B: "The Earth Will Hear (for Audre Lorde and Marlon Riggs)"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kobus Moolman Wins 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize + Poems

Kobus Moolman (b. 1964), a South African poet, playwright, and author of five individual collections of poems and two collections of plays, has received the 2015 Glenna Luschei Prize for his collection A Book of Rooms (Deep South, 2014). The judge was the award-winning poet and scholar Gabeba Baderoon, and the honor was bestowed by African Poetry Book Fund (APBF) based at the University of Nebraska. The recipient of numerous awards in South Africa, Moolman teaches at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.

Judge Baderoon says about the book: "“In this close reading of spaces, we trace walls, windows, curtains, corners, our attention caught by the cut beneath the door, illumination flaring from glints of memory…. Yet if his flesh is betrayed, and his heart breaks into silence and shame, the hole in his heart also opens into speech."

African Poetry Book Fund Director Kwame Dawes writes about Moolman, "Every time we bring attention to the wonderful poetry being written by African poets today, we are enacting something quite important for African literary arts, and Moolman, whose poetry I have followed for a number of years, is a poet that more people should know. Our hope is that in some small way, this prize will aid in that larger effort." Lastly, Moolman describes this volume as "a brave/foolhardy attempt to shake up the distinction between truth (fact) and fiction, between autobiography and invention."

Though I am affiliated with the APBF, I wasn't familiar with Moolman's work before this award, but having read it I can without question that it certain merits this distinction and high praise. And now, here are two of Moolman's poems, from Poetry International. Enjoy!

[The sheep move off]

The sheep move off.
The sky gets heavier.
The birds grow lighter.
The wind stands up and stretches.
The trees bend over to pick up the old leaves.
The horizon folds in half, then half again.
The sound of a train drags rough words across the hills.
The hills slowly empty of colour.
He sits down on a stone.
He moves his left hand in circles,
circles that narrow in upon themselves.
His skin crawls with flies.
He makes no attempt to drive the end
of the day away from his bare chest.
He throws his left hand against the wind.
He throws the earth far away from beneath his feet.
There is a tightness in his side again.
A tightness where his faith should be.

© 2013, Kobus Moolman
From: Left Over
Publisher: Dye Hard Press, Johannesburg, 2013, 978-0-9869982-2-5



So most nights.

So every other night.

So every other night when not with.

So when usual and without surprise.

So together and far apart and beyond all at the same.

So at night time when leaving and standing, watching go

So more or less, this way and that.

So opening, closing, in, out, attached and loose as
a nozzle.

So switched on.

So off.

So when the sky rolls over and on top and big is too
full and the wind is grey as cotton, hand-washed,
hanging up, dripping over the bath, and the plug is
breathless and blocked up with his hair that does
not stop, that does not stop falling, out.

That does not.

© 2013, Kobus Moolman
First published on Poetry International, 2013

Both poems © Kobus Moolman, 2013, 2016. From Poetry International, all rights reserved.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Oscars Whiteout (Again)

Who really cares about the Oscars? Clearly some of us care about the Oscars. Should we care about the Oscars? Should we care about the fact that the #Oscars(Are)SoWhite--again?

For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that awards out the annual gold-plated Oscar statuettes, considered the pinnacle of the multibillion-dollar American film industry's honors, have nominated an all-white slate of actors in the Best and Supporting categories. Ten slots, ten white women and men, and even in two films, Creed and Straight Outta Compton, with black leading actors, only a white supporting actor and the white scriptwriters respectively received nominations. No leading actors of other races or ethnicities were nominated, nor were any films in which they played the leading roles.

While this might not have drawn much notice fifty years ago in 1966 (which in fact did have an all white roster of nominees) or, in 1936 (unsurprisingly), closer to the Oscars' establishment in 1929, it does stick out in 2016, at a time when the United States is growing increasingly more diverse in racial, ethnic, religious, and other ways, and when industry figures themselves note that 46% of Hollywood movie ticket buyers in 2013 alone were people of color (designated as black, Latinx and "other" in the marketing study linked above), and Latinxs in particular are the most enthusiastic moviegoers. And the Academy has a black woman, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, as its president.

2013 in fact was supposed to be "turning-point year" for black filmmakers. In his The Dissolve article "New study puts numbers to the lack of minority representation in film," Vadim Rizov quotes producer Harvey Weinstein uttering a quintessentially post-racial (and deeply deluded) paean to America's changing political and thus social terrain, noting that the micro-burst of black directed and starred films "signals, with President Obama, a renaissance. He’s erasing racial lines. It is the Obama effect." How wrong he was and is. Hollywood cinematic representations lag behind those on TV, which has certainly improved since the heyday of the 1970s, and those "racial lines" Weinstein spoke of are as present today as they were in 2013 or before.

As it turns out, 2013 was more of a mirage than anything else. The USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism study that Rizov cites makes clear, diverse racial and ethnic representation in Hollywood cinema is still a problem:

Examining 500 top-grossing films released in the U.S. from 2007 to 2012, the study considers some 20,000 characters and finds diversity is sorely lacking. “Across 100 top-grossing films of 2012, only 10.8 percent of speaking characters are Black, 4.2 percent are Hispanic, 5 percent are Asian, and 3.6 percent are from other (or mixed race) ethnicities,” the paper notes at the outset. “Just over three-quarters of all speaking characters are White (76.3 percent). These trends are relatively stable, as little deviation is observed across the five-year sample.”

I observe this not only when I catch previews during my increasingly rare visits to see movies in theatrical release but on TV, where film after film appears to reflect a very narrow, usually white, upper-middle-class, coastal perspective. Innumerable stories not just from the present but the past remain offscreen, at least those screens commandeered by Hollywood studios. Non-traditional casting has improved somewhat, but people of color are still relegated to secondary or subsidiary, and often stereotypical roles, and even though blackface performance thankfully is rare to nonexistent in Hollywood these days, whitewashing source characters happens regularly, and yellowface characterizations crop up. Far more frequent, though, are stereotypes.  Quoting Rizov again:

Among the other conclusions reached: “Hispanic females are more likely to be depicted in sexy attire and partially naked than Black or White females. Asian females are far less likely to be sexualized.” While women got assigned the same kind of domestic status regardless of their race or ethnicity, “Hispanic males are more likely to be depicted as fathers and relational partners than males in all other racial/ethnic groups. Black males, on the other hand, are the least likely to be depicted in these roles.”

Some actors of color, like Kevin Hart--who has become the current go-to black sidekick-enabler in comedies--continue to make careers out of this situation. What exacerbates the problem is the lack of diversity behind the camera, with the ratio of white directors dwarfing directors from any other racial background. Thinking intersectionally, given the sexist and ageist challenges women in Hollywood still face (articulated without intersectionality last year by Patricia Arquette and again this year by media darling Jennifer Lawrence), things are even worse for women of color.

Meanwhile certain plotlines, including "white men battling adversity"; an older white man paired with a younger white woman; younger upper-middle-class white people facing relationships hurdles; and all or mostly white historical scenarios characterize a great many of the plots of Hollywood films. Yes, pace Vladimir Propp, there are a limited number of plots out there, but still a far greater array of narrative configurations, inflected by cultural difference, which is to say stories and experiences, in the US and across the globe, that rarely if ever make it through Hollywood's system.

Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan
in Creed (
This imaginative narrowness, which I would only partially chalk up to racism, only magnifies the inequities the Academy members' racial and gender makeup (94% white and 77% male) and voting patterns produce. Fewer and less culturally and narratively diverse film opportunities mean fewer roles in which actors of color appear on screen, whatever their acting skill level. I should also note that most of the black actors who have won Oscars in recent years have usually been honored for performances involving strong elements of abjection and spectacle, which also points to Academy voting biases.

Ultimately it comes back to gatekeepers at all levels of the movie industry who fail to approve and advance scripts and films that might offer a richer portrait of the society, or who tend to view issue of race and ethnicity, religious difference, and so on, through a narrow lens, are one major source of the problem. The revelations emerging from the Sony hack made this very clear. Moviegoers who support the status quo are another, but while it is conceivable that Americans could boycott Hollywood standard offerings (and excuses), films are a global business, circulating from Canada to Argentina, the UK to South Africa, Russia to New Zealand--and China is the largest single market of all. Hollywood's representations are not just a domestic problem.

Actress Jada Pinkett Smith, supported by her husband actor and musician Will Smith, who starred in the film Concussion (which I did not see) and did not garner a nomination this year, has called for a boycott of the Oscars ceremony, as has director Spike Lee. Actor and comedian Chris Rock, the event MC, may be considering boycotting the proceedings as well, though it appears he will show up and, I hope, skewer the debacle. Other actors, including 2013 Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong'o and actor Idris Elba have called out the movie and TV industry's failings, and in the Briton Elba's case, the UK's parallel problems with cinematic and TV racial representations.

April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, has challenged one of the default excuses behind the film industry's ongoing whiteout, male domination and this and the previous year's nominations: "Don't tell me that people of color, women can't fill seats." But Hollywood, which pays attention to the bottom line, apparently isn't as concerned about who fills those seats as it is with endlessly replicating its tiny store of self-regarding visual narratives. It's not about the money, but rather systemic and structural problems that need to be dismantled completely. Perhaps beginning with a boycott of the Oscars this year, and from now on all movies with retrograde casting approaches and stories.

As important, filmmakers, actors and movie audiences must proactively devise ways to build systems to enable domestic filmmakers of color to create, distribute and screen not just more, but better films, and perhaps if people desire an awards system, as in the case in the literary world and other artistic areas, create that as well. The technology is increasingly there, as are the rival film bases Bollywood and Nollywood (whose films I increasingly watch). Given that Hollywood's earnings have taken a dip in recent years, the studios will change--or they'll realize too late that they could have but did not.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Gukira on Claudia Rankine's *Citizen: An American Lyric* & "microaggressions"

A week ago I posted about two standout examples of literary criticism, a young Barack Obama's super-concise reading of T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," and Frank Kermode's extraordinary disquisition on the word and concept of "shudder" in that and other works by Eliot and a range of authors. Neither is exactly a model of traditional literary criticism, which brings me to another stellar example, at Gukira: With(out) Predicates, the brilliant Keguro Macharia's thought-site (to call it a blog barely does it justice).

In his January 19, 2016 post "microaggressions," Keguro shows what another approach to critical writing about literature might look like, exploring Claudia Rankine's highly lauded 2014 collection Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf) with a level of discernment, analytical brio and lyric verve that marks all of his writing. I won't try to summarize the piece's argumentation except to say that it takes one on a journey both into Rankine's book and into the aesthetic, social and political discourse surrounding it. He begins by pointing out that the book "circulates as an aesthetic object that documents microaggressions," and then continues:

The “micro” in microaggressions suggests the low hum of noncatharsis Sianne Ngai taught us to call “ugly feelings.”

Nothing explodes. 

Nothing releases. 

An archive builds. 

We are far from anger, far from rage, far from the demands created by the word racism.
Instead, we are in the world of microaggressions, the world of archive building, the world of opportunities created by the aesthetic object to engage in a dialogue on race or a conversation on race, in which we are encouraged to share our stories of racialization, of being marked by race, singled out, unseen in our particularities and embedded within histories we did not create and do not want to own.

Learning from Fanon, we scream that we are not our histories. 

Frantz Fanon is only one of many figures he thinks with--alongside, to, and through--beginning with Elizabeth Alexander and Barack Obama (whom he also critiques). As importantly, Keguro historicizes and defines the term "microaggression," so ubiquitous these days, in order to show what it means--what meanings emerge--from, around and because of the circulation of an "aesthetic object that documents microaggressions." The (current) aesthetic object that documents microagressions--in American society. Is much of the extant criticism about the book about the book or about the discourse that surrounds it--"the wreck and not the story of the wreck / the thing and not the myth that surrounds it," quoting, as he does Adrienne Rich

As I note above, this essay--in the truest sense of the world,  a trying out of thought, an attempt to think into and through ideas--concludes on a powerful note. I'll quote it:

I conclude this writing a week after Obama’s State of the Union speech, on the Monday designated this year as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I am arrested by the question of lag, caught by the duration of the pause. The “micro” in “microaggressions” might describe the lag that one must overcome—that return to the untime of unmaking, that disembedding from the human that one overcomes but does not overcome. How long is that pause? How is it measured? What happens in that pause? 

Chester Pierce names that pause as where the cumulative takes hold. What accretes in the pause, and how? A model of resilience reaches for the grit in the oyster, the pearl-making potential of adversity. Recall, the much-lauded Citizen is the aesthetic object that documents microaggressions. White space can be a pause. Pauses are cumulative. Something accumulates in the pause. How long is that pause? How is it to be measured? How does one measure pauses as they accumulate? How does one evaluate the pause that is considered an aesthetic object? 

how does one live—how can one breathe—in the pause

This is one dazzling example of how one thinks--in the pause.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Amidst the Notes: RIP Pierre Boulez & David Bowie

Pierre Boulez,
by Carlo Bavagnoli
I've been of two minds about the recent deaths of two leading figures in the world of music, Pierre Boulez (1925-2016), and David Bowie (1947-2016), mourning their deaths while also feeling the need to acknowledge key faults--which are not commensurate, let me be clear--that marked the characters of both. Both were musicians of original vision and talent, and born performers. Both left a deep mark not only in the musical cultures of their native countries but in the US and globally. Both wrote music that I turn and return to periodically, for differing but aesthetically and emotionally necessary reasons. So I feel sorrow and grief at their deaths, but at the same time, perhaps akin to the form of negative capability I maintain when reading certain writers like Wallace Stevens or T. S. Eliot, I keep in mind certain criticisms of them, even if the elation and admiration their music brings sometimes temporarily evacuates that criticism. (Keguro at "With(out) Predicates" offers one of his characteristically profound, moving and concise meditations on the necessary distinction between acknowledging the flaws of a deceased person and haranguing someone who is mourning that person as a way of forcing them to engage in such acknowledgement.)

Pierre Boulez was perhaps the towering figure in avant-garde Western classical music in the second half of the 20th century. He became one of the leading composers and judgmental exponents of new music, championing certain composers, especially those of his generation, as well as key figures in the French tradition, and the leader early 20th century modernists. He pursued a parallel career as a conductor, beginning in the 1950s, and perhaps most famously, led the New York Philharmonic from 1970-1975, a tenure that still provokes mixed reviews, though his focus on contemporary composers and the 20th century repertoire was undeniable, and remains unmatched by the Philharmonic even today, in 2016. His conducting style, without a baton and noted for its precision and clarity, brought the modernist composers Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Gustav Mahler, Bela Bartók, Maurice Ravel, and Edgard Varèse in particular to life. His own work showed their influences while moving in its own direction; just a few years ago I saw Messagésquisse performed at Columbia University, and it was more beautiful and stirring than any recording of it I'd ever listened to. Boulez, however, could be extremely harsh to the point of cruelty in his criticisms. He famously proclaimed Arnold Schoenberg "dead" at the end of an eponymous essay in which he trashed Schoenberg's failure to fully exploit the possibilities of the dodecaphonic system he had developed, and published the essay shortly after that pioneering composer died. Boulez cruelly described the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich as "the third pressing...of Mahler," and cast Karl Amadeus Mozart off as "trite." His fallings out with fellow musicians, including his former teacher Leibowitz, and former experimental compatriots John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, are well recorded. He also apparently never publicly came out of the closet as a gay man, though some critics and many fellow musicians knew about his sexual orientation and relationships. I take all of this into account, but also point to his music itself, which at its best--and there are certainly high points--is the lasting testament of the man.

Pierre Boulez, Répons - Ensemble intercontemporain - Matthias Pintscher, conductor, 2015.

 Pierre Boulez, Messagesquisse - Eric-Maria Couturier - Ensemble intercontemporain, Matthias Pintscher, conductor, 2014.

David Bowie, 2016
David Bowie championed another kind of 20th century music, or several, rock & roll and soul-influenced pop. Born Robert Jones in Brixton, London, he initially launched his career in the late 1960s, and first made the charts with his song "Space Oddity," which introduced the figure Major Tom, whom Bowie would revisit later in his career. In the early 1970s, he created the queer, glam rock alter ego character Ziggy Stardust, the titular figure of his LP The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and transformed the public figure of the male rock icon through his overtly androgynous persona, which he concluded with Diamond Dogs. Throughout his career, Bowie remade himself, shifting into "plastic soul" in 1975, with the album Young Americans, which featured the overtly queer "John, I'm Only Dancing," one of my favorites, includes one of my favorite songs, and 1976's Station to Station, with the track "Golden Years," which he performed as one of the first white musicians on Soul Train. Subsequent shifts included the adoption of electronic elements and collaboration with Brian Eno, a stagy pop style with "Ashes to Ashes," and his biggest hit, which was one of the top tunes during my senior year of high school and freshman year in college, "Let's Dance." Bowie continued to record up through the final months before his death, issuing his final album, Blackstar, just days before he died. He acted in films, including the still striking and bizarre The Man Who Fell to Earth, an unforgettable vampire in The Hunger's sex trial, and an equally memorable Andy Warhol in the biopic Basquiat. David Bowie flirted with Nazism in his youth, adopting some of its trappings as a kind of fashion statement and aesthetic performance, and also had sex with an underage girl, the first of which I knew, the latter of which I didn't, and both disturb me tremendously. On the racist front, he did speak out more than once about the racism in the music industry, famously calling out MTV's overt discrimination while on air; as to whether the song China Girl is heard as something other than the Orientalism it ostensibly is a matter for others to uncover, and whether he ever atoned for what essentially involves the abuse of a teenager I cannot say. I can speak to the electric feeling I felt as an early adolescent watching him perform in a plastic suit, and later drag, with gender performers Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi, which I link to below.

David Bowie - Let's Dance, EMI Music.

David Bowie & Klaus Nomi - TVC15 & Boys Keep... by ZapMan69

Monday, January 18, 2016

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr & Eslanda Goode Robeson,
Schomburg Center digital collection

“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.’ When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…” –Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.

From "11 Most Anti-Capitalist Quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.," compiled by Katie Halper at Raw Story.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Counternarratives Featured on Howard Rambsy's Culture Front

Photo from Cultural Front (© Howard Rambsy II)
UPDATED: Cultural Front has added two new posts, "John Keene's 'Acrobatique' and the poet as short story writer" and, bestowing me what I consider to be one of highest possible honors, he places the remarkable Elizabeth Alexander and her foundation poem "The Venus Hottentot" in conversation with "Acrobatique." (This is particularly important to me because Elizabeth has been a huge inspiration since I first saw her read, from The Venus Hottentot no less, at the Dark Room in Cambridge, Massachusetts many moons ago. I hold her and her art--her poetry, her criticism, her nonfiction--in the highest esteem. She is for me one of essential poets of her generation.)

The reviews of Counternarratives continue to trickle in now that we're a few weeks into 2016. One by Daniel Green is forthcoming on Kenyon Review's online, and I think it will be positive, given that he selected it as the best book of 2015. Currently online but inaccessible--to me, since neither the Rutgers or New York Public Library systems subscribe to the journal--is Alex McElroy's review, at Georgia Review. (We currently are conversing by email about the book and hope to see a copy of the review one of these says soon.) Just before the new year arrived, another online site, Wuthering Heights blog, which had previously wrestled with the book, named it to its "Best of 2015" list (you can read the prior review at the link). Lastly James Crossley of Mercer Island Books selected Counternarratives as one of his 2015 "Books to Give At the Holidays."

In the meantime, it has been encouraging to have an African American scholar, Howard Rambsy II, who teaches at Southern Illinois University and writes about black poetry and poetics, book history and textual studies, to write a bit about the book on his blog Cultural Front. Rambsy is the author of The Black Arts Enterprise and the Production of African American Poetry (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011), and is involved with several important scholarly and critical projects involving black literature, among them the Project on History of Black Writing, based at University of Kansas. He also served as faculty member for the Black Poetry after the Black Arts Movement Institute, about which I heard extensive praise, this past summer at KU. As Rambsy's archive list will show, he has been blogging about poetry and black writing more generally since 2008, so make sure to scroll through the trove of posts.

Howard has now posted three entries about Counternarratives. The first provides a list of some of the online coverage of the collection, helpfully aggregating many of the book's reviews. The second does something that I think is a first for this collection and which has not popped up in most of the reviews, which is to explore how the Counternarratives fits, extends and exceeds--I guess that's the right word--the African American short story tradition. As Rambsy notes, there are aesthetic links to prior black writers, some of them like Charles Chestnut and Zora Neale Hurston (though I love their work) whom I was not thinking of, and some of whom, like Richard Wright and Charles Johnson, that I was. (I would add that other black short story writers who have strongly influenced my work include James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Ernest J. Gaines, Gayl Jones, Paule Marshall, Reginald McKnight, James Alan McPherson, Alice Walker, and John Edgar Wideman, to name just a few from preceding generations.)

His third post concerns the character "Zion" from my story "An Outtake from the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution," and focuses as this protagonist as an example of the "bad man," akin to similar figures in African American folklore and popular culture, and in books by writers I deeply admire, including Tyehimba Jess, Adrian Matejka, Tony Medina, Cornelius Eady, and Rita Dove. Rambsy points out that Zion is in some ways linked to the mythical figure (High) John the Conqueror, and like him he continually eludes attempts to keep him in bondage. Yet Zion also operates on the plane of realism in that he moves through his world attempting always to experience and embody freedom, but as an enslaved black person, is denied the option, in part because he is not recognized with in the larger discursive space, as Bernard Bailyn so artfully describes in his landmark 1967 book The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, that would permit him to realize freedom as the unfolding social and political systems and practices of the society around him. His revolution is internal and considered lawless, even as it mirrors that of the larger society and of black people across the northern states. 

I imagined Zion as a fictional counterpoint to figures like Phillis Wheatley, Prince Hall, Wentworth Cheswell, and Lucy Terry, to give just a few examples of real 18th century African American pioneers. Zion, as the story makes clear, refuses to play by any rules, unlike his fellow enslaved person Jubal, because he senses that the entire system disregards and oppresses him. Moreover, there is the fact that much of his behavior parallels that of his white master and others whose actions are rationalized and permitted by the society's racialized legal, political, cultural, and social structures.  One need only look at the contemporary prison-industrial complex, the ties between capital and criminalization, and the unequal application of justice and incarceration to see that we are still living with these same systems and institutional mechanisms. I'll stop there, but I offer my deep thanks to Howard for highlighting the book, and welcome any comments from readers of his blog or this one about the book (or anything else).

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Two Literary Critics: Barack Obama & Frank Kermode

The other day I came across Columbia professor and W. H. Auden scholar Edward Mendelson's short blog entry at the New York Review of Books on a critique President Barack Obama wrote while still quite young on T. S. Eliot's landmark poem "The Waste Land." (Let me say that though I decry the racially exclusive precincts of New York Review of Books, which only intermittently publishes critical reviews by or about writing by authors who are not white, I nevertheless explore its free blog site, which often offers provocative, distilled commentary by smart people on a range of current topics.) This letter has, as Mendelson notes, sparked a range of commentary, some praising the president's critical judgment and some reading it as incomplete, hasty and deficient in one way or another. It is certainly brief, and not a full essay, so any praise has to account for its partial quality. Additionally, Eliot scholars, Modernist academics and critics of Anglo-American literary might dispute its formulation of how to read and understand the St. Louis-born, High Anglican convert, poet, playwright, and essayist.

What struck me, though, to echo Mendelson, was the acuteness of the assessment, the deep understanding and ability to articulate, in concise, lapidary fashion what Eliot was wrestling with not just in "The Waste Land" but throughout his work, which scholarship over the last 50 years has increasingly revealed. The tensions between the material and sexual, on the one hand, and the spiritual, abstract and ascetic, on the other, are evident not only in a poem like "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," which opens with a sensuous simile that is also deeply suffused with the morbid--"like a patient etherized upon a table"--and which one could read as an extended negotiation between the "asexual purity" and "brutal sexual realism" (especially evident in some of his bawdy, racist college and post-graduate poetry, or in the anti-Semitic "Sweeney Among the Nightingales," which appears in Poems (1920), to give two examples) that culminates in a broken reverie culminating in the very morbidity with which the poem began--"till mermaids wake us, and we drown." (Can I also just register here how enduring strange--bizarre--Eliot's two 1920 collections, Poems and Prufrock and Other Observations are? I mean, many of these poems, at least in my reading, have lost none of their thematic and linguistic weirdness, even though they are for the most part formally retrograde at this point.)

That Obama was still a young man--a student? I did not read the David Maraniss biography from which Mendelson draws the quoted material--makes this assessment all the more remarkable. Or rather, based on my experience as a teacher of literature and a wide-ranging reader, it is rare. Even my best students for the most part would not be summarizing a work and an author so pithily. That the President, who studied political science, if I'm remembering correctly, can do so, makes it that much more impressive. Mendelson has more to say about Obama's critical reading of Eliot's form of conservatism, which was less idealist and utopian than realist and socially grounded, so I recommend reading his complete entry. It isn't "TL;dr" by any means. He concludes by speaking of his mixed feelings about Obama's tenure given his high expectations in 2008, and notes whether the "fatalism" that the president expresses in the letter, in agreement with Eliot, is even desirable in a politician.

I wonder, however, given Obama's rhetoric in his first term, during which he repeatedly expressed what I sometimes felt to be candy-colored expectations about his ability to work with the GOP, which had vowed--publicly, and we have since learned, secretly--to oppose him at every step, whether that "fatalism" was not a useful opinion that his subsequent political rise dispelled. This was a man who ran for the US Senate at a time in which only two Black people ever had been elected to that body, and in a state in which another Black person--Carole Moseley Braun--had previously been elected almost miraculously then lost her reelection bid. In that election, Obama espoused an agenda that was considerably to the left of his Democratic primary opponents, then stayed left in his policy prescriptions as he faced the Republicans, yet won in a landslide. His speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention was anything but "fatalistic"; it was almost narcotic in its optimism, and unsurprisingly elevated him in the national consciousness. He then dared to run for the presidency after only four in the Senate, knowing full well that no candidate from that house who had not also served as governor had been elected in 48 years, yet he did so against one of the most formidable candidates in politics--who is running again--and, defeating her, then went on to soundly defeat his Republican opponent--again.

One way of looking at Obama's choices would be to point to a laser-sharp opportunism, but even the most opportunistic candidate might have feared taking on Daley's Chicago machine in 2004, or Hillary Clinton in 2008. (I was fortunate enough to meet Barack Obama as he was running for the Senate, and told friends that he was the real thing, and would win in November.) What I think Mendelson misses, but what has become clear during Obama's two terms, is that for all the missteps, the triaging, the cynicism, the tinselly rhetoric that was clearly meant to be just that, the president does possess a capacity to see quite deeply into the hallmark of many issues--not all, but quite a few--and think several steps ahead, which is rare quality no matter what sort of person we're talking about. Part of this may involve calculation, in the negative sense of that word, which means that someone and some things will have to be sacrificed in favor of some larger goal, and that the particulars and niceties may be fudged, but it also has meant that for all of the GOP's opposition, Obama has pulled off a string of successes that will resonate for decades to come. To put it another way, he has been transformative, and his successes have resulted not from intuitiveness or (just) luck, but from being able to see that by achieving certain things--the Affordable Care Act, for example--a range of other things might come into being.

The fact that this is how he has operated has infuriated progressives--I am one--and upset many of his liberal supporters, but it is also the case that conservatives of the utopian kind--not Eliot's crew--and racists have been pushed to levels of rage that make the emergence of a figure like Donald Trump utterly comprehensible. He is the material emanation of that conservative rage, and whether he wins the nomination or not, his political prominence, despite his clear insufficiency for the job, is a sign not just of how effective Barack Obama has been as president, but how many of the policies resulting from his analytical skills, have proved. Whether they or his policies have proved enough is another issue, though by many objective indicators, the country is doing well, even if communities within it are still struggling. I say this not as exoneration but in a spirit of realism; to put it another way that 11th dimension chess approach that some commentators have called joked about and that the squib about Eliot makes clear has worked in some key ways, though it's also led to a blindness about other things.

This blog post's title suggests that I was going to talk not just about Barack Obama but also about the analytical skills of the late critic Frank Kermode (1919-2010), so let me conclude by pointing J's Theater readers to the essay of his that Mendelson cites, "Eliot and the Shudder," which appeared in the London Review of Books shortly before Kermode died at the age of 90. It was originally to be a lecture about William Shakespeare, to be delivered at a lecture for that publication. What resulted, however, is an astonishing piece of literary analysis, so effortless in its learning, so organic (a troublesome word these days, I know) in its argumentation, that it strikes me both as the very best model one could follow and yet almost impossible to reproduce. It is a remarkable tour (de force) of discussion about literature, aesthetics, emotion, faith, sexuality, and so much more that also gives deep insight also into how the word "shudder" itself carries particular kinds of emotional and metaphysical charges in English. This single word, Kermode shows, can convey both an involuntary physiological and emotional response as well as a profoundly sublime one. That strangeness that I noted above in Eliot's poetry is a hallmark of literary effects that can produce a "shudder" in a reader, as Kermode makes clear. A different approach on Eliot than Obama's, certainly, but in the case of both, whether in teardrop or cataract form, two readings--and minds--that, without question, show what a little thinking can do.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Quote: Alexander G. Weheliye

"I emphasize the family ties between political violence and suffering not because they are nobler or more worthy than other forms of suffering, but because they usher us away form the liberal notion of wounding that that is at the core of modern western politics and culture. Given the prominence of political violence within the histories of colonialism, indigenous genocide, racial slavery, internment, de jure segregation, and so on, black studies and other incarnations of racialized minority discourse offer pathways to distinctive understandings of suffering that serve as the speculative blueprint for new forms of humanity, which are defined above all by overdetermined conjurings of freedom. Overall, I am asking whether there exists freedom (not necessarily as a commonsensically positive category, but as a way to think what it makes possible) in this pain that most definitely cannot be reduced to mere recognition based on the alleviation of injury or redressed by the laws of the liberal state, and if said freedom might lead to other forms of emancipation, which can be imagined but not (yet) described."
- Alexander G. Weheliye, Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human, Durham: Duke University Press, 2014, pp. 14-15.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Translations: Paulo Leminski

Paulo Leminski (photo Julio Covello)
It has been eons since I've posted translations; the last, I think, were several poems by Sunjata, from French. Over the last few days, as the new year rolls in, I've been reviewing old translations I'd completed but never published, and I found a trove of translated short poems by Paulo Leminski (1944-1989), whom I've featured several times on this blog. He remains a favorite of mine. My first led to a lively conversation in the comments section with Kai hingeing on the sonorities of vowel sounds in Spanish and Portuguese and the word "dezenas" (close but distinct from "dozenas"), which led me to think even more carefully not just about Leminski's work but about translating poetry in general. I find translating poetry considerably harder but more rewarding than translating most prose (though writers deeply rooted in their native languages, like Guimarães Rosa, are more difficult or even impossible to render into another language, though people still do so).

As I wrote about Leminski before--and here I'm going to be lazy and collage parts of my previous postings--he is mostly unknown in the United States, though he is acclaimed as one of the important 20th century poets in his native Brazil. (You can scan a thorough bibliographic timeline here.) A native of Curitiba, Paraná State, he was incredibly prodigious in his brief 45 years, producing "poetry, fiction, biographies, criticism, journalistic pieces, translations, children's literature, performance scores, song lyrics, and photographs" before suffering the effects of cirrhosis of the liver. As I also wrote, "He also found time to become a martial arts master!" He apparently did not sleep.

I also wrote:

A good deal of Leminski's best known poetry is brief and linguistically playful, almost defying translation; a poem like "Ali," which turns on the Portuguese word for "there" and homonyms formed through verb juxtaposition while also referring to and riffing off the name of his second wife, "Alice," loses most of its zip in English. He also like forms such as the hakai and Leminski's work also shows affinities with the Concrete work of his good friends Haroldo (1929-2003) andAugusto de Campos (1931-). One of the best sites for translations is Edson Froes's Kamiquase: p. leminski, which features translations by Michael Palmer, Chris Daniels, and others.

Here are several of those short, linguistically playful poems, all taken from Leminskianas: antologia variada, by Paulo Leminski, with the collaboration of Maria Esther Maciel; Célia Pedrosa y André Dick and with a prologue by Mario Cámara (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 2005).

soprando esse bambu
só tiro
o que lhe deu o vento

breathing in this bamboo
I get only
what the wind lets through


mês s/ fim
vem de fora
ou de dentro
esse cheiro de jasmin?

month w/out end
it is coming from outside
or from within
this scent of jasmine?


a hora do tigre

um tigre
que se entigre
não é flor
que se cheire
não é tigre
que se queira
ser tigre
dura a vida

The Hour of the Tiger

a tiger
which entigers
is not a flower
it has no odor
is not a tiger
that can be desired
being tiger
lasts an entire


And a slightly longer poem, about Leon and Natalia Trotsky:

El viejo León y Natalia en Coyoacán

desta vez não vai ter neve como en Petrogrado aquele dia
o céu vai estar limpo e o sol brilhando
você dormindo e eu sonhando

nem casacos nem cossacos como en Petrogrado aquele dia
apenas você nu e eu como nasci
eu dormido e você sonhando

não vai mais ter multidões gritando como en Petrogrado aquele dia
silêncio nós dois murmúrios azuis
eu e você dormindo e sonhando

nunca mais vais ter un dia como en Petrogrado aquele dia
nada como un dia indo atrás de outro vindo
você e eu sonhando e dormindo

Old Leon and Natalia in Coyoacán

this time there was going to be no snow as in Petrograd that day
the sky would be clear and the sun shining
you sleeping and I dreaming

Neither overcoats nor Cossacks like in Petrograd that day
only you and I just as I was born
Me sleeping and you dreaming

there would not be screaming multitudes as in Petrograd that day
silence we two blue murmurs
I and you asleep and dreaming

there would never be a day like those in Petrograd that day
nothing like a day departing behind another arriving
you and I in dreams and sleeping

All poems copyright © the estate of Paulo Leminski Filho, from Leminskianas: antologia variada, by Paulo Leminski, with the collaboration of Maria Esther Maciel; Célia Pedrosa y André Dick and with a prologue by Mario Cámara (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 2005). All translations copyright © John Keene, 2015.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

RIP Natalie Cole

The new year brought with it the saddening news that the golden-voiced Natalie Cole (1950-2015) had died of congestive heart failure, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, at the age of 65. One of the most talented singers of her generation, Cole debuted in 1975 with Inseparable, which was an instant success, with both the title song and "This Will Be" charting and confirming that she was not just the daughter of one of the greatest singers of all time, Nat King Cole (1919-1965), and former Ellington Orchestra Maria Hawkins Cole, but a major talent in her own right.

Nominated 21 times for a Grammy Award and recipient of 9, Cole posted platinum-level sales several times and scored many hits, including "Sophisticated Lady," "Mr. Melody"(one of my favorites of all her songs), "I've Got Love On My Mind," "Our Love," "Miss You Like Crazy," "Pink Cadillac," "I Live for Your Love," and the remarkable "Unforgettable," her duo with her late father, which would go down as one of her most popular recordings (and LPs) of her career.

In addition to her 4-decade musical career, Cole also acted on TV and in films, and published a memoir in which she discussed her struggles with drugs and challenges from a range of illnesses throughout her career. I grew up listening to Natalie Cole as a child and have been a lifelong fan, but her record Unforgettable touched me deeply, in part because by the early 1990s I had started to re-immerse myself in jazz, and her decision, after refusing for much of her career to cover her father's songs, struck me as a gesture of tremendous grace and tribute. The result was a treasure for the entire world, like so much of Natalie Cole's music.

Here are a few videos featuring Natalie Cole. Enjoy!

Natalie Cole singing "Inseparable" and "This Will Be," November 5, 2014, Hard Rock Café.
Natalie Cole singing "Stardust," LIVE at the Singapore International Jazz Festival 2014.
Natalie Cole singing one of her father's first hits, the folk tune "Straighten Up and Fly Right," in 1991.
Natalie Cole singing "Mr. Melody" live, from Natalie Cole: Love Songs
A heartbreaking duo, featuring Natalie Cole and Whitney Houston (RIP), singing "Say A Little Prayer"
Natalie Cole, at the "Unforgettable" concert in Los Angeles, 1992 Natalie Cole's complete concert from Bergen PAC, Englewood, NJ April 25, 2014 (in 1080p/24fr).

Friday, January 01, 2016

HAPPY 2016!

Happy New Year!

Feliz año nuevo
Feliz Ano Novo
Bonne année
Buon Anno e tanti auguri
Kull 'aam wa-antum bikhayr
Aliheli'sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv
Na MwakaMweru wi Gikeno
Feliĉan novan jaron
聖誕快樂 新年快樂 [圣诞快乐 新年快乐]
Bliain úr faoi shéan is faoi mise duit
Nava Varsh Ki Haardik Shubh Kaamnaayen
Ein gesundes neues Jahr
Mwaka Mwena
Pudhu Varusha Vaazhthukkal
Afe nhyia pa
Ufaaveri aa ahareh
Er sala we pîroz be
سال نو
С наступающим Новым Годом
šťastný nový rok
Manigong Bagong Taon sa inyong lahat
Feliç Any Nou
Yeni yılınızı kutlar, sağlık ve başarılar dileriz
نايا سال مبارک هو
Emnandi Nonyaka Omtsha Ozele Iintsikelelo
Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Chronia polla
Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Kia pai te Tau Hou e heke mai nei
Shinnen omedeto goziamasu (クリスマスと新年おめでとうございます)
IHozhi Naghai
a manuia le Tausaga Fou
Paglaun Ukiutchiaq
Naya Saal Mubarak Ho

(International greetings courtesy of Omniglot and Jennifer's Polyglot Links; please note a few of the phrases may also contain Christmas greetings)