Showing posts from September, 2013

Brooklyn Book Festival 2013

After a long night of rain, Sunday turned out to be gorgeous. Again, I shared a table with RH of Poets Wear Prada Press. I decided to sell CW's and JI's Math Paper Press books, as well as my own. GH helped me design a sign, Singapore Poetry, which I taped to the top of the stand, and in front of the table.

Singapore Poetry was certainly a draw. People who have lived in Singapore, have visited Singapore, or have a cousin who have been to Singapore came over to talk. Singaporeans came bounding to the table, surprised and pleased to find Singapore Poetry at the Brooklyn Book Festival. A nunber of Asians checked out the books too. And a Brooklyn bookseller who really liked the design of the Math Paper Press books.

I sold three times the number of books sold last year. It was a good idea to sell the books at a generously discounted price. Many other tables were doing so as well, including the university press at the next table. People liked a special offer. Having collected contact…

Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon"

Watched this 1950 film last Tuesday, and was wowed by it. I prefer Seven Samurai, but can totally understand why someone may think that Rashomon is the greater film. Essentially a crime drama, it provokes big philosophical questions about the nature of truth. A samurai (Masayuki Mori) is killed and his wife is raped, but those are the only agreed-upon facts in the four tellings of the story. In three of the four versions--by the woman (Machiko Kyô), the bandit (Toshirô Mifune) who raped her, and the dead man speaking through a medium--the teller confesses to the killing. Each version also sheds light on the character of the teller, and why he or she wishes to incriminate himself or herself.

The fourth version is by a woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) who revises his initial story to reveal that he was an eyewitness to the murder, but lied to hide his theft of the samurai's dagger. The three other confessions are further complicated by the fact that they were retold by the woodcutter to…

Dipesh Chakrabarty's "Provincializing Europe"

Chakrabarty's project in this book is not so much to subvert the rational-secular view of history, inherited by postcolonial societies from the European enlightenment, as to see around the limitations of that view. In order to do so, one has to give up historicism, the idea of development in history, and of stages in history. Instead, one holds on to the idea of the heterogeneous present, when different world-views are not judged as pre-modern, modern, or even, post-modern (all stageist concepts) but as all life-possibilities. Only when we see the present as irreducibly plural, can we give an accurate account of the past of post-colonial societies. That is the challenge posed by subaltern studies to the dominant European paradigm. The book lays out its theoretical argument in its first part, and illustrates its argument in the second part with specific case studies about Indian widowhood, Indian nationalism, a form of Bengali sociality called adda, and salaried labor. The author f…

New Poems

Long Run

Let me in your adda, shoot the breeze and hang up my Adidas.

Living Room

You turn up the Bose speaker as you draw the loft to be built by Carnegie Hall.

Money Shot

Who gives the smacks to make these bad gay movies with such corny scripts that we keep getting from Netflix?

Recycled Paper

It’s easy to misread my handwriting in the Hallmark card, to read to have for its partner to hold.

Group Portraits

Watched Seven Samurai over two nights, and loved it. One of the imdb reviewers put it best, there are certain directors who just "get" it, who get the medium, and Akira Kurosawa is one of them. I was tired, I was doing what I thought of as a "duty," but I was mesmerized throughout the movie (3 hours, 27 minutes). Total involvement, that must be a criterion of great art, surely. Takashi Shimura, who plays the leader of the band, provides the moral center against which Toshiro Mifune's antic samurai tilts. Isao Kimura is the young untested warrior who falls in love with a farmer's daughter.

Less involving but still absorbing is the 1970s cult classic, the break-out novel by Ryū Murakami, Almost Transparent Blue. A group portrait of Japanese hippies (drugs, sex, and rock and roll), it is narrated by a young arts student called Ryū too. The scenes, numbing and addictive, are almost too painful to read, especially the one in which the Japanese had group sex wit…

Poem: "Stored Value"

Stored Value

Before my MoMA card expires, I will top up my plastic bottle with Perrier.

Poem: "Quality Care"

Quality Care

Don’t slip and sit hard on the floor by stepping on the lemon-scented overspray of Furniture Polish.

Poem: "Heavy Weight"

Heavy Weight

I lift the Bench Press book off the top shelf and read you the poem about love’s carelessness.

Poem: "Science Fiction"

Science Fiction

In your 2(x)ist underwear I bought for your birthday you sighed in our cot, I woke up in Paris.

Poem: "Short Straw"

Short Straw

Why don’t we have any A-list friends, you spit and stick your purple toothbrush aslant my Oral-B, blue and down the middle transparent.

Poem: "Small Help"

Small Help

It doesn’t treat but takes away the itch, this cream from Singapore, Mopiko for mosquito bites, made of menthol and camphor.

Death as Radical Discontinuity

TLS August 2 2013

from Marci Shore's Commentary piece "Out of the desert: A Heidegger for Poland":

[Krzysztof] Michalski's childhood had coincided with Stalinism in Poland; his adolescence with attempts to purify the Communist system of its Stalinist deviation without abandoning Marxism. At the core of Marxism remained Hegel's claim that "the truth is the whole". "Does the understanding of something suppose finding a unity in that which one wants to understand? Is it only then--when we are able in each fragment see a part of some whole--that we can discover some meaningin the multifariousness of the experienced world?" These questions, Michalski said in an interview, had kept him awake at night since his first years of university. They were at the heart of his book on Heidegger, published in 1978, and at the heart of his book on Nietzsche, published some thirty years later. Coud there be meaning--the kind of meaning that imbues life with value…

Summer Reading

My big summer reading book was The Tale of Genji, which I read and blogged about in an earlier post. My feelings toward the book are colored by the start of summer and by summer's long afternoons in Central Park. I borrowed from the school library E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime, which I liked enough to be happy to find another novel by him in the apartment in Nice. TheWaterworks, my second Doctorow, has a rather predictable plot and characters that seem more symbol than flesh-and-blood. It is a pleasant enough way, however, to learn more about New York City in 1871. For instance, where the New York Library now stands, there used to be a reservoir.

My second loan from the school library was Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground. I swear that I have tried to read the great D many times, but failed every time to get past Chapter One. I thought that the slimness of Notes might help me get into the great Russian, and, boy, did it. I loved its tortured protagonist, who tries so hard to …

Decatur Book Festival 2013

I was at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend to launch the anthology This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ Teachers on the Art of Teaching. The launch at Decatur High School, introduced by Georgia State Representative Karla Drenner, and moderated by the school's English Head of Department Cara Cassell, was well-attended. I read with Pablo Miguel Martinez, Theresa Davis and anthology editor Megan Volpert. Ed Madden could not make it to due to a neck problem, but Wayne Koestenbaum kindly stood in, and read two of Ed's poems. The Q&A session after the reading was filled with questions from the audience. How would you motivate homeless LGBTIQ youth to study? What has given you hope recently in your teaching? I was pleased that someone bought a copy of my Seven Studies after just hearing me read one of my poems.

The Decatur Book Festival is billed as the largest independent book fair in the country. It was certainly very well run. The air-conditioned hospitality suite for autho…