Friday, November 27, 2015

C. Dale Young's "Torn": A third excellent Christmas present

Here's a third Christmas book suggestion: C. Dale Young's Torn, his third collection of poems, which he published with Four Way Books in 2011. I also recommend his first two books (The Day underneath the Day and The Second Person), but Torn (as many of my friends know) is my favorite collection of poetry from this century.
And for those who want to read a book that will be just as extraordinary, C. Dale Young's new collection The Halo will be published by Four Way on 1 March, 2016, and you can preorder it now.
(And of course there's also my book of poems. Yes, this is the third time I have repeated this point!)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Major Jackson's "Roll Deep": Another excellent Christmas present

Here's another Christmas book suggestion: Major Jackson's Roll Deep, his fourth collection of poems, which he published this year. I also recommend all three of his other books (Leaving Saturn, Hoops, and Holding Company), with Hoops perhaps being my favorite of those three.

(And of course there's also my book of poems. I hope you'll forgive me for repeating this point!)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Claudia Rankine's "Citizen": An excellent Christmas present

If you want to buy a good book for someone this year for Christmas, how about Claudia Rankine's "Citizen: An American Lyric"? I especially recommend it for anyone who has read Ta-Nehisi Coates's "Between the World and Me" (which is another great book to give someone for Christmas).

(And of course there's also my book of poems.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Coates is the Coates of ...

Ta-Nehisi Coates, from Between the World and Me (43, but here copied from the excerpt from the book in the Atlantic):
Serious history was the West, and the West was white. This was all distilled for me in a quote I once read, from the novelist Saul Bellow. I can’t remember where I read it, or when—only that I was already at Howard. “Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus?,” Bellow quipped. Tolstoy was “white,” I understood him to say, and so Tolstoy “mattered,” like everything else that was white “mattered.”
And again, from later in the book (56, again copied from the Atlantic excerpt):
It must have been around that time that I discovered an essay by Ralph Wiley in which he responded to Bellow’s quip. “Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus,” wrote Wiley. “Unless you find a profit in fencing off universal properties of mankind into exclusive tribal ownership.” And there it was. I had accepted Bellow’s premise.
And here's the beginning of an article by Felice Léon from The Daily Beast, "Ta-Nehisi Coates on Why Whites Like His Writing":
 “Why do you think that so many white people love what you write?” asked the award-winning New York Times Magazine journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, during a sold-out discussion at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Here are some passages from the article where Coates's response is quoted:
“I don’t know why white people read what I write,” Coates said. “I didn’t set out to accumulate a mass of white fans.”
“I felt like many of the people that I was reading in the ’90s, when I was in college, were very much burdened by the need to explain to white people,” he said. “And that has an effect on your language.”
“The history is what the history is. And it is disrespectful, to white people, to soften the history.”
“I’ve never seen white people embrace the idea of a black man talking about a world in which they are not at the center of the narrative (for better or worse).”
“Who knows what the mentality is behind that [white people purchasing his book],” he said. “You’ll have to ask some white people, but from my perspective I try to give them [white people] the respect that they deserve, as readers.”
My eipgrammatic response to why I read Coates, then, is this: Tolstoy is the Tolstoy of the Zulus, and Coates is the Coates of whites. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Superfluities, by Major Jackson

I read this poem in Major Jackson's Holding Company this morning, and I went to find it online to share with friends. I found it, but I also noticed that the version that is online has one more phrase than the version in the book, and as the phrase that is only in the book is one that I had stopped to ponder ("ecstasy of fumbling", which comes from Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est"), I wanted to get the book version online. So here it is:


by Major Jackson

This downpour of bad reasoning, this age-old swarm,
this buzzing about town, this kick and stomp
through gardens, this snag on the way to the mall,
this heap and toss of fabric and strewn shoes, this tangled
beauty, this I came here not knowing, here
to be torched, this fumbling ecstasy, this ecstasy of fumbling,
this spray of lips and fingers, this scrape of bone, this raid
of private grounds, this heaving and rocking, this scream
and push, this sightless hunger, this tattered perishing,
this rhythmic teeth knocking, this unbearable
music, this motionless grip, grimace, and groan.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Tag der Poesie, Basel, 12 September 2015

The Tag der Poesie in Basel was revived in 2012 by Alisha Stöcklin and has taken place in September every year since then. The 2015 "day of poetry" with the theme of "Stillstand und Bewegung" ("stillness and motion") takes place on 12 September at Münsterplatz in Basel, featuring over 20 performances of poetry and music, in German as well as in English and Italian. The two readings in English will be at 1 pm (Cecilia Woloch reading from her latest collection, "Earth") and 1:30 pm (Andrew Shields launching his collection "Thomas Hardy Listens To Louis Armstrong").

For complete information (in German) on all the readings and events, check the Tag der Poesie home page.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Negation or not in a subordinate clause

My wife (a native speaker of German) tells my daughter: "I'm not going to let you go before you haven't practiced [piano]." I noticed the negation in German in such a subordinate clause a few years ago, but today I decided to not just notice the negation in the English but to think about it for a moment.

Consider the following sentences in which I have put the preposition in bold and underlined the verb in the subordinate clause:
  1. *I'm not going to let you go before you haven't practiced.
  2.  I'm not going to let you go before you have practiced.
  3. *I'm not going to let you go until you haven't practiced.
  4. I'm not going to let you go until you have practiced.
  5. I'm not going to let you go if you haven't practiced.
  6. *I'm not going to let you go if you have practiced.
With "before" and "until", the verb in the subordinate clause should not be negated, but with "if", the verb in the subordinate clause should be negated.

For a moment, I thought it might have something to do with the "let" construction, but the main clause could be the much simpler "you can't go" instead, so it's not that.

The first time I encountered the corresponding German construction was in an English class with native speakers of German, to whom constructions 2 and 4 above don't make sense, so it's not just a matter of the "logic" of the sentences either, since English and German realize the referential logic of the situation differently.

At this point, I should probably get out my Cambridge Grammar of the English Language and look up "scope of negation" (that's my best bet about where to start), but instead, I'll just post this and see what anybody says.