09 September, 2006

"manipulated incompetences of public thought"

Blaser asks us to imagine a syntax for the human condition that is more subtle than a world of competing fascisms. It is this question of syntax — how to put together, without foreclosing in totalitarian abstractions, the fragments of our experience, and how to maintain necessary uncertainty in mapping the real. . ." Meredith Quartermain, "Lyric Capability: the Syntax of Robin Blaser"


I don’t know anything about God but what the human record tells
me—in whatever languages I can muster—or by turning to
translators—or the centuries—of that blasphemy which defines god’s
nature by our own hatred and prayers for vengeance and dominance—
that he (lower case and questionable pronoun) would destroy by a
hideous disease one lover of another    or by war, a nation for what
uprightness and economic hide-and-seek—and he (lower case and
questionable pronoun) is on the side of the always-ignorance of politics
in which we trust—the polis is at the ‘bottom of the sea,’ as Hannah
Arendt noticed—and he (lower case and interrogated pronoun) walks
among the manipulated incompetences of public thought

(Robin Blaser, from "Even on Sunday," The Holy Forest)


We must return to the Lark of our speech.

I would have them eat of the heart of this
form-of-life that they might participate in
the form of it.

Language is love—the only way to enter
the form of our lives

(Blaser, from "Language is Love")

A talk by the same name can be heard at PENNSound's Blaser audio files


Blogger Arcturus said...

Charles Alexander, a poet/printer/bookmaker/person from Tucson, AZ, sent the following bio out a few years ago, trying to ensure that Blaser had an audience when he came to town to read.

"First, Robin Blaser is truly a great poet, and perhaps I mean that in an unfashionable, old way -- i.e. that if one were making canons of poetry, he would be one of a small handful of living North American poets I would want in that canon. He's that good, that smart, has stayed that connected with the roots of his work as well as with developing innovative writing over the past 50-plus years. . . .

"You may not know a lot about Robin Blaser. He was born in Colorado in 1925, raised in Idaho, and arrived by bus in Berkeley in 1944. He was one of the three primary poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, the others being Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer. The San Francisco Renaissance was a part of one of the most significant periods of change in the poetry of the last century -- a time in which, collectively, such schools and movements as the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats, the Black Mountain Poets, the New York School, and the Deep Image poets collectively overturned a kind of forced-order hegemony that had been in place in American poetry, one that was perhaps most firmly represented by the "formalist" poetics of Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, etc. One of the early telling breaks in that hegemony was when, after first accepting a [poem, "African Elegy"] by Robert Duncan for the Kenyon Review, that poem was then rejected because of Duncan's homosexuality [after his essay "The Homosexual in Society" was published]. Duncan would find community in the lifestyles and poetics of Blaser and Spicer, as well as with poets active at Black Mountain (Charles Olson and Robert Creeley) and significantly with Denise Levertov. These poets also re-established connections that had been broken with American modernist poetry (H.D., Williams, Pound, etc.) and with second generation modernists that were completely ignored by the poetic powers-that-be, such as the Objectivists. Among all the other groups, what these poets brought into American poetry was more than a poetic revolution, but one that admitted of differences in culture, lifestyle, politics, and more. Significantly, Blaser, as well as Duncan and Levertov, would go on to write some of the great political poetry of the Viet Nam period, and to have continuing effects on and involvement with the development of postmodern poetry and poetics.

"Blaser attended important poetry conferences in Vancouver, and ended up, in 1966, staying there, and later becoming a Canadian citizen. As many of you know, Vancouver has been a key site for poetry at least since the 1965 Vancouver Poetry Conference. It has also been a hotbed of experimental poetics, and Blaser has been at its center as teacher, poet, and friend to many -- including bpNichol, Steve McCaffery, and others who have helped foment continuing opening of poetic possibilities over the last four decades.

"Blaser has published many important books (The Moth Poem, Image-Nations, Cups, Suddenly, Harp-Trees, Syntax, Pell Mell, and more), but he has also followed a calling to bravely understand the entirety of his work as one opus, and the book of that opus, The Holy Forest, was published in its latest incarnation in 1993 by Coach House Press. I know that when that book came out I couldn't remember a more stunning and important publication of poetry in my lifetime of reading. The Holy Forest, in a more up-to-date edition (Blaser continues to write new and wonderful work), will be published again within the next few years. I'm not going to post poems of his here. You can search for him on google and find plenty. I just want to personally attest to his great value. PoeticsListserve, 22 Oct 2004

9:58 AM  

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