Thursday, February 18, 2010


Today I received some unexpected artworks in the mail. A small book, a "chapbook" as some people say, containing a long poem—SOME VERY POPULAR SONGS—by the German poet Rolf Diter Brinkman, translated by the American poet Mark Terrill, who's lived in Germany for decades.

It's a brilliant poem and a wonderful translation as far as I can tell. I knew a little about Brinkman before he died (in 1975 according to the jacket copy though I remembered it as later). He translated a lot of great "American" poetry including some by Frank O'Hara and Ted Berrigan. I had a lot of my own poetry translated into German back in the '70s and knew people from both scenes, which may be how I knew of Brinkman's work.

Terrill is another story. A terrific poet whose "prose" poems I have been raving about for years now (his early collection BREAD & FISH is one of my all time favorite books), and though we've never met we've become occasional correspondents through the internet.

But with SOME VERY POPULAR SONGS he included a letter that's as good as one of his poems and another little book—THE WHEEL—made up of three poems, two lyrical but fearlessly realistic small poems—e.g. one about Hitler's dog—and another "prose poem" as good as any I've read of his.

It's one of those handmade little objects I love—a heavy, stiff paper stock, one page, folded in half to make four, for a cover, the two small poems inside and the title "prose" poem on the back. This is the kind of mail I (and I suspect a lot of poets and artists and other art makers) would anticipate finding in the mailbox everyday back before the internet. I still feel that sense of anticipation when I go to the mailbox these days, though it's usually mostly bills, but now and then an unexpected goody or more, like today's.

I got a similarly pleasant envelope with some poetry in it a few weeks ago from another poet, Jonathan Jones (BELGIUM WAFFLE is his blog recommended down to the right) who I've never met. I like his blog and what I've seen there of his poetic interests. We too have exchanged a few brief e mails. His package also contained two little "books"—one containing a serial poem called MATERIAL COMFORTS but the other opening up to a packet (like a small pocket folder) with six collages in it incorporating words and images, the whole thing titled SINGAPORE # 1-6.

That was such a delightful surprise. I love artwork, especially collages, with words in them, when they work. And these work.

So, thank you Jonathan and Mark, and everyone who makes art whether they make money on it or get recognition for it beyond a small circle of admirers or not. The generosity of the effort predisposes me, at least, to be ready to dig whatever it might be. But when the work actually entertains and engages me, as it often does, that's even better.


Elisabeth said...

Maybe Michael, there is an attempt on the part of some of us to move back in time to the more personal, the less well spread, the more idiosyncratic sharing of our words ad art.

Blogs and the Internet allow this and it's wonderful. Just to reach a few interested people is intoxicating.

harryn said...

what a joy - and the Lally Library of printed materials continues to grow - one of the most engaging collections i've ever seen - then i think of all you've given up through the moves you made ...

Lally said...

Elisabeth, you said it: "intoxicating" to share with those who appreciate it and appreciate those who share with us.
And Paul, unfortunately I remember too many books and art objects (including some of yours) that got lost or were given to others so they might have some years of the kind of delight I got from living with them for a while and sometimes I wish I had back!

-K- said...

"...everyone who makes art whether they make money on it or get recognition for it beyond a small circle of admirers or not. The generosity of the effort predisposes me, at least, to be ready to dig whatever it might be."

This reminds me of a phrase that's been coming to me more and more these days:

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Charles Lambert said...

Yes, Brinkmann died in London in April 1975, two days after performing at the Cambridge Poetry Festival. He was a fine, explosive reader and his work was translated by that equally fine poet, John James, who read with him, I think. Brinkmann's was one of two deaths connected to the festival, the other being Veronica Forrest-Thompson, who also read wonderfully, with an air of focused naughtiness. It would be hard to say which of the two - both tragically young - has been more missed.