Thursday, June 18, 2015

Isaac's First Fiesta

Peter Anastas

St. Peter’s Fiesta, which opens its 88th year with music on Wednesday, June 24, at St .Peter’s Park and concludes on Sunday night, June 28, with a procession through the Fort, is Gloucester’s most meaningful celebration of our collective identity. Watching the lights and the altar go up this week and feeling the excitement in the air of impending carnival, which so many of us have experienced since childhood, I couldn’t help but remember the first time I took my grandson to Fiesta…
Isaac and Papou.St. Peter (2)
Isaac and “Papou” go to Fiesta

 It was June of 2009.  My son Ben and I were taking his 19-month-old son Isaac to his first St. Peter’s Fiesta.  My mother had accompanied my brother and me when Fiesta started up again after the war, and I, in turn, took Ben and his two siblings, beginning in the 1960s.  If you count the fact that my mother, who was born in Gloucester in 1910, had attended the earliest Fiestas, beginning in 1927, four generations of our family have been celebrating the Feast of St. Peter with our Italian friends and neighbors.

Though a bit overwhelmed by the crowds along the midway, the music from the rides, and the amplified voices announcing games of chance, my grandson seemed to take to Fiesta.  Eyes shining with wonder, he refused to be carried by his father or me, rushing instead among the legs of those on their way down Beach Court to where we could watch the seine boat races and greasy pole contest from the shore.

Isaac at greasy pole (2)
Isaac with “Papou” and his dad watching the greasy pole contest

Returning to Commercial Street, we decided to walk to Fort Square for a better view of the events and so that Isaac, who loves to play in the sand boxes of Brooklyn’s city parks, where he lives, could fully enjoy Pavilion Beach.  On the way there I pointed out the old Birdseye plant with its iconic white tower to Ben, where, from 1928, his grandmother had worked as Clarence Birdseye’s secretary.  On our way back to Fiesta we walked around Fort Square to Charles Olson’ house, where we took a picture of Ben, Isaac and me in front of the commemorative plaque to Gloucester’s great poet.

Isaac at Olson house (2)
Isaac points to the memorial plaque for Charles Olson at 28 Fort Square

That afternoon we covered the entire Fort, from Beach Court to Fort Square.  We shared fried dough and Ben shot a few baskets to see if he could win a stuffed animal for Isaac.  What came home to me during our walk, along with the powerful sense of attraction I’ve always had for Fiesta and for the Fort itself, where I once worked on fish, was an increased concern that if a proposed hotel were to be built at the Birdseye there could be unforeseen consequences.  Prospective developers had already expressed reservations about this traditional marine industrial neighborhood (one was quoted in the Gloucester Times as having said, “When our guests arrive we want them to know they’ve arrived somewhere”—as if the historic Fort were nowhere!); and one wondered how many of their guests would spend a lot of money to stay in a busy neighborhood full of trailer trucks and early risers. What would be the impact of the new hotel on Pavilion beach, which was public and protected as such?  And while I could imagine some hotel guests enthralled by Fiesta, would others on vacation be annoyed by the noise, the crowds, or the smells from the working waterfront—the engines of the fishing vessels, the early morning activity of taking on ice?

During our walk I tried to envision the Fort with a fancy upscale hotel in its midst.  All I could think of was that the hotel might ultimately displace the neighbors, the neighborhood, the Fiesta, and all the traditional kinds of single and multi-family housing on the Fort.  Once the hotel was in place, there was certain to be greater pressure for upscale housing or condos.  Then, quite covertly, we would have the beginnings of Newport right in the heart of the waterfront.

I was especially concerned about the potential for “collateral damage” in the neighborhood as a consequence of outsize development, especially if traditional fishing industry businesses were pushed out, and long-term residents with them.  These thoughts troubled me as I walked with my little grandson and his father—three generations of Anastases enjoying Fiesta (and a fourth if my mother, who first took me, were still alive)—and suddenly a great sadness came over me, followed by a profound sense of loss.

What should ultimately have been an occasion of joy with my family, my grandson’s first Fiesta, prompted a bittersweet reverie, in which I could imagine all that has meant so much to our family and every other Gloucester family of Fiesta and of the Fort itself, taken from us were we not vigilant about protecting our heritage and the very places in which it lives and breaths.

Today the hotel, so utterly alien to everything the Fort has stood for, is fast becoming a reality, and we can only hope that Fiesta, along with the Fort itself, will not be swept away by this new wave of urban renewal called gentrification.

Viva San Pietro!

Photo courtesy Document/Morin
Peter Anastas is Editorial Director of Enduring Gloucester

Monday, May 25, 2015

Kenneth Warren (1952-2015)

Kenneth Warren was a rare public leader who knew when/how to push the envelope of public discourse, to seek and participate in deep, locally defined values in an era nonetheless when the local is being uprooted in favor of global development. He was a man dedicated to finding the deeper currents that might drive a community, and thus a world, forward into a brighter and more humane future of greater good.
                                                            --Daniel Slife

The sudden death of writer, critic, editor, Jungian scholar and astrologist Kenneth Warren has a special poignancy for his friends in Gloucester.  Many of us first met Ken when he and Fred Whitehead were editing The Whole Song, the landmark volume of selected poetry by Lynn native and Gloucester poet laureate Vincent Ferrini, published in 2004 by the University of Illinois Press.

            Ken visited Gloucester frequently, reading at the Writers Center, where he was an advisory board member, and The Book Store.  He also spoke at the centenary celebrations for Ferrini and Charles Olson, about whom Ken was working on an important series of essays in House Organ, the quarterly publication of contemporary poetry and prose he edited and published, first from Lakewood, Ohio, where Ken was library director for 25 years, and later from his home in Youngstown, NY.

            Ken was that rarest of critics, who could write about avant-garde poetry, Punk Rock, the interface of astrology and the arts, and the complexities of Jungian analysis, often in the same review.  To read his 2012 collection of essays, Captain Poetry’s Sucker Punch: A Guide to the Homeric Punkhole, 1980-2012, is to gain a sense of one of the most original and capacious minds of our time.

            Yet Ken was far from self-involved.  As editor and publisher of House Organ, he sought out a stunning array of contributors, from former Black Mountain, Beat and New American poets to those who  were young and unpublished, to review some of the most exciting experimental writing in print and to submit their own poetry and prose.  To experience a single issue of the magazine that appeared in one’s mail box punctually each season, in its idiosyncratic 4 by 11 inch format, was to have an entrĂ©e into some of the most exciting work in poetry and personal and critical prose of our time.

            Speaking for myself, it was a privilege to be asked by Ken to submit work he’d heard about, or to have been sent a series of remarkable collections of poetry or prose to review.  His editorial style was supportive rather than intrusive.  He let his writers be themselves, and in the process I believe we all flourished.  In asking me to contribute to House Organ, Ken literally gave me a second career as a critic and essayist, one that I would not have enjoyed without Ken. Ken also published Gloucester poets Melissa de Haan Cummings and Josie Schoel.

            Ken and I did not meet frequently, but when we did the talk was incandescent—largely from Ken’s side.   I would always leave with lists of books to read or new writers to discover.  With Ken one did not need to take a post-graduate course in innovative writing; one simply listened to him talk or read his extraordinary study of the work and thought of Ferrini and Olson that had been appearing serially in House Organ

            In writing to tell me about Ken’s death, our mutual friend, novelist and critic Bob Buckeye, described the void created by his leaving: 

We have suffered a great loss.  Something has stopped and I don't know if it can start up again.”  

Andre Spears, a member of the board of directors of the Gloucester Writers Center, wrote:

“Ken Warren departed the planet on Thursday (May 21), as the sun was transiting from Taurus into Gemini. He was, and remains, a beautiful spirit, particularly open to the world, and he leaves behind, in the singular poetic community he made cohere, a terrible absence that only time, sooner or later, will erase."     

Ken loved Gloucester.  He knew the city from his deep immersion in the poetry of Olson and Ferrini and from his own time spent here absorbing the look and feel of the place, its history.  Ken understood community and how it could be uprooted by gentrification and unwarranted development.  As his friend Daniel Slife wrote:  “He was a man dedicated to finding the deeper currents that might drive a community, and thus a world, forward into a brighter and more humane future of greater good.”

Goodbye, Ken.  We will miss you sorely.

Peter Anastas

(This tribute was originally written for and posted on the blog Enduring Gloucester)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Un-American Activities: A Review

Benjamin Hollander, In the House Un-American, (Clockroot Books, 2013), pp.150, $15.

Carlos ben Carlos Rossman, Benjamin Hollander’s alter ego in his account of discovering what it is to be, or not to be, an American, describes his father, “a Jew hiding in plain sight,” as living “between false options: as a worker among workers speaking outside his class, or as the quiet American hiding the languages he knew they distrusted, since they insinuated, in phrase or condition, heard or unheard, ‘the un-American,’ the un-welcomed.”

            I spoke Greek before I spoke English.  It was the language of our home, the one I absorbed from the cradle, spoke with my parents and my grandmother, who never learned English.  But when I went to school, one day in second grade (this was during the early years of WWII), our teacher Miss Parks asked each one of us to tell where our parents were born.  When I offered that my father came from Sparta, Greece, a girl piped up—Marie Byrnes: how can I ever forget her name?  “Sounds like a can of grease,” she said.  From then on my brother and I were called “Grease Balls” or “Greasy Greeks.”

            I went home crying.  As soon as my father returned from work at the corner store he owned, I explained to him what had happened.

            “You tell those kids you’re proud to be Greek,” he said. “Tell them that the Greeks invented the democracy they live in!” 

            Of course, my father was right to comfort me, giving me an argument for my defense.  But my brother and I knew that such a response would only lead to more derision, if not physical retaliation.  For in those xenophobic war years in Gloucester, Massachusetts it was the Greeks and Jews against the Italians, Portuguese and Irish, who had arrived in America before our grandparents and staked out their claims earlier as Americans.  As a consequence, my brother and I never spoke Greek again.  We literally expunged our mother tongue from our consciousness for the rest of our lives.

            No wonder I can relate to Hollander’s harrowing account of his own, his family’s, his friends’ and immigrants like them as they attempted not just to live in this country but to become Americans.

            Cut to a 1947 hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee in Washington, before which Bertolt Brecht is questioned about his possible ties to the Communist Party, by definition believed to be un-American: 
            “Now Mr. Brecht, what is your occupation?”
            “I am a poet and a playwright.”
            “A poet and a playwright?”
            “Where are you presently employed?”
            “I am not employed.”

            About poetry Hollander writes:

“[It] comes like this kind of underwater English to one who speaks like this, because poetry is already the sounding of a second language within an American culture that does not count it among its facts, its culture of evidence.” 

            Equating poetry and alienation, exclusion—poetry and anti-intellectualism, Hollander continues:

            “This is what the un-American feels, his condition, if you care, is that he appears to others like a poem, quizzical, without much use, just standing around.”

            But Hollander, to his credit, does not stop with “the role of the Un-American Committee in determining political alliances or questioning who among the native-born or naturalized among us was or was not a patriot.”  He brings us immediately to the present: “Just as today FBI counter-terrorism media consultant Brad Garrett can warn us about the thoughts of a Muslim citizen of America, who, himself, may not be capable of being a threat to the country, but. . .may be drawn to the ‘bad guys’ who are not citizens but bomb-capable, which is why we have to be in a state of vigilance towards the un-American American’s ‘bad thoughts.’”

            So not only in America do we police what we fear may be potential actions of the putatively “un-American,” we also strive to monitor their thoughts or what we think may be their thoughts from their ethnic and cultural origins, or from those of the individuals or groups they may be associating with.

            It’s an old story for anyone who grew up during the McCarthy anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s, or who knew people whose phone calls were monitored, mail read, and movements recorded; yes, and whose family members lost their teaching jobs, as Vincent Ferrini’s Radcliffe honors graduate wife Peg did (a brilliant teacher, incidentally, who had a school building named for her after she was “allowed” to return to teaching).  And it hasn’t ended but only continues with our phone calls and emails collected and stored today, potentially to be used against us, for communicating with each other.

            Hollander’s narrative—part memoir, part fiction, part history and part documentary—is so utterly relevant as to have been written tomorrow.   For In the House Un-American is not only an account of an immigrant’s voyage of self-discovery as he uncovers the very nature of belonging “in an exceptional country that makes no exceptions,” Hollander writes.  There is also sharp social criticism here, much of it as biting as it is humorous, as Hollander skewers the sentimentality that papers over every national excess: “When in America did this start, this ritually honored public sentimentalism as a form of redemption for your violence?”

            I want to conclude with language because language is at the heart of Hollander’s inquiry (or should I say inquest?)— the languages our families arrived speaking, the languages they adopted or abandoned.

            The Dartmouth-educated son of a Jewish immigrant of my father’s generation once accused my father of “murdering the English language” as he claimed his own father did.

            “I’d like to know what you would do,” my father retorted, “alone in a strange country, with no one to understand you and not a soul to turn to.”

            That pretty much encapsulates the condition Hollander opens his account by describing.  I know it well from growing up caught between two languages.  I saw how my father struggled to make himself understood in his second language, and how my mother and her siblings, all well-educated, tried to transcend their own embarrassment at their parents’ imperfect and accented English.  My brother and I joked about how our father called the World Series “the World Serious,” but beneath our laughter was our own fear that we too, even though we could speak the native tongue, did not belong.  To this day I do not feel that I belong.  And yet I wonder, as Hollander calls into question, do any of us belong in a culture that is more fable than reality?

(This review appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of House Organ, edited by Kenneth Warren)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Olson in Love: A Review

After Completion: The Later Letters of Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff, edited by Sharon Thesen and Ralph Maud, (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2014), pp. 294, $24.95

Charles Olson had things to say and he said them compellingly, but he was also a private person.  He compartmentalized his friendships, so that one friend or group of friends, though aware of the existence of others, was often kept in the dark about the nature of conversations that passed between them, either directly or in the form of letters, which Olson favored as much as the spoken word.

            However, none of Olson’s friends were apparently aware of the poet’s correspondence— or, indeed, his intimate personal relationship—with the Pennsylvania-born artist, book designer, writer and independent scholar, Frances Boldereff, until George Butterick, curator of the poet’s papers at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, discovered their letters during a preliminary cataloging of Olson’s papers at the poet’s 28 Fort Square apartment, in Gloucester, two years before his death, in 1970.  Tom Clark’s 1991 biography, Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life, disclosed the existence of this crucial relationship.  But it was Butterick who initially reached out to Boldereff, whose letters from Olson he was given permission to photocopy for the archive at Storrs, where Clark was then allowed to consult them before meeting personally with Boldereff, in January of 1987 (Boldereff’s papers subsequently became part of the Archives and Special Collections at Storrs).  In 1999, Wesleyan University Press published Charles Olsson and Frances Boldereff: A Modern Correspondence, a major compilation of letters from 1947 to 1950, edited by Olson scholars Ralph Maud and Sharon Thesen, followed in 2014 by After Completion: The Later Lettters of Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff (Talonbooks), which collects the remainder of the correspondence, from late 1950 to 1969, just before Olson’s death from liver cancer (Boldereff died in 2003).

            It is especially intriguing to consider that Olson began his two most extensive and important correspondences, the one with Boldereff and the other with poet Robert Creeley, within three years, between 1947 and 1950, and though Olson spoke about Creeley to Boldereff, he appears never to have mentioned Boldereff to Creeley.  According to Creeley’s biographer Ekbert Fass, “Olson never once in his voluminous correspondence with Creeley referred to his epistolary muse and lover… In turn, he was hesitant to talk to her about his new male associate with whom, before long, he began to exchange letters at a rate exceeding those he traded with her.”  Such was the extent of Olson’s ability—and need—to compartmentalize.

            Who was Boldereff and precisely what is the nature of her importance to Olson?

            To answer this question, there are no better authorities than Thesen and Maud, whose two exemplary volumes of this correspondence add more to our understanding of Olson, especially during his formative years as a poet, than any biography or previous scholarly work. According to the editors, Boldereff, who, on November 22, 1947, initiated the correspondence by writing Olson an enthusiastic response to his first book, Call Me Ishmael, “believed she had found not only a kindred spirit but a lifeline, a persona, a twin.”  And to Olson, who responded with equal enthusiasm, “Frances became muse, sibling and Sybil.”  Thus began a correspondence as intense as it was to become sizable, interspersed with assignations, missed or postponed trysts (“stonewalling,” a frequently stood-up Boldereff would call it), and encounters of equally erotic and frustrating nature.  As the editors write, “This was the voltage that charged Olson’s writing at the time,” when he had completed “Projective Verse,” but not yet begun work on the Maximus Poems.” But what this correspondence “with its responses and challenges” demonstrates, they  stress, “is that an intimacy of two strong minds helped to engender Maximus.  So that, in concert with his sexual desire for his correspondent, Thesen and Maud contend, “[Olson] desired her insight, acumen, scholarship, curiosity and canny knowledge of the direction of the underground stream of his thought,” adding, “there was no one else like Boldereff in Olson’s life.”

            Furthermore, according to Thesen and Maud, “it was Boldereff who encouraged Olson in the notion of a poem as a “construct of energy,” and, therefore, Boldereff who stands behind the ideas in ‘Projective Verse.’”  Learning of Boldereff’s inspiration and the impact of her thinking on Olson at the time does not diminish the poet’s own struggle to come to terms with both a new and open poetry (“stay OPEN at all costs,” Olson wrote Boldereff on October 5, 1950, “stay OPEN and IN”), and, equally a way out of what Olson called “the old soul,” another term for the “humanism and its errors” he and Boldereff  believed had been rendered obsolete by the horrors of the war, ultimately leading to “the deadness of American postwar culture;” not to speak of the debasement of language through propaganda on the part of both the Allies and their Axis enemies, manipulations Olson knew well from his work in the Office of War information.

            It is this struggle to achieve new cultural terms, for “something in poetry,” the editors write, “that [Olson] believed had either been hidden or taken from it;” indeed, a revolutionary new world view, that had occupied the correspondents separately before they met and with renewed engagement as their correspondence and their intimate relationship progressed.   Such is the burden of the initial volume of letters, as Olson became the poet we would know him to be and Boldereff continued to elaborate her “utopian feminism” of “joy not possession,” underpinned by “the gendered gestures that compose an archaic world view,” as the editors characterize what Boldereff  herself referred to as “the task of modern woman.” It was this, along with her powerfully original scholarship on Joyce, that resulted in her groundbreaking 1959 study, Reading Finnegans Wake.

            By the time we approach the bulk of the letters in After Completion, much has happened to the two correspondents, personally and intellectually.  Olson and his first common-law wife Constance had moved from Washington, D.C. to Black Mountain College, where Olson was to teach and eventually lead the experimental community until the college closed in 1956.  They had a daughter Kate and then separated.  Meanwhile, Olson had begun a relationship with Betty Kaiser, a Black Mountain music student and the mother of his son, Charles Peter, moving to Gloucester and then to Buffalo, where he taught at the state university and where, in 1964, Betty died in an automobile accident, after which Olson moved back to Gloucester, from where he traveled to London, Rome, Spoleto, and Berlin as his fame grew.  As Olson’s star was in its ascendency, Boldereff, never affluent, endured serial job loss and excruciating poverty.  While still engaged in major work on Rimbaud and Joyce, she relocated from Woodward, Pennsylvania to Brooklyn, back to Pennsylvania then to Lawrenceville, New Jersey and back to Woodward, re-marrying in the process.   During these years after Olson’s return to Gloucester, the Maximus Poems entered their major phase and Boldereff  published Reading Finnegans Wake, followed by what was to become her masterwork, Hermes to his Son Thoth: Being Joyce’s Use of Giordano Bruno in Finnegans Wake (1968), both of which books, lovingly inscribed to Olson, remained in his library.

            Reading these letters, which are as erotically charged as they are intellectually engaged, one might wonder why Olson and Boldereff never made the move to live together, though they spoke of it often.  In fact, when Boldereff suggests they have a “closer relationship,” Olson demurs, the editors write, concerned that “moving it forward…into closeness,” they quote Olson, would endanger “the depth & power of letters between us, the imaginative wildness of the communication would be disturbed.”  Trenchantly, Thesen and Maud conclude: “Fearing the consequences of a domestication of his relationship with Boldereff, Olson is also trying to protect his marriage—at this point to Connie Olson and then later to Betty Olson—from his attachment to Boldereff,” adding that “the possibility that they might live together was broached and rejected later on, by each of them in different ways and under different circumstances.”  And yet, paradoxically, Olson could write Boldereff in 1958: “I have loved you the whole time—and have hung myself  (not to speak of Con and now, Bet) believing, the whole time, I would one day live with you, at least give over to the love, and let it have life to live itself in, instead of staying bottled up in me, and thus doing the harm such wrong does do.”

            It is possible that Olson, who appeared to be the least domestic of men, felt safer in his marriages, especially from a lover like Boldereff, who challenged him intellectually at every point—and may also have challenged him sexually—a woman who had clearly read as deeply and extensively as Olson had and wrote with equal brilliance.  There were a couple of trysts after Betty’s death, the editors report, “but it seems the lovers decided it was as it had always been: that to live apart was the more productive thing.”  After one particularly difficult rendezvous in New York toward the end of Olson’s life, “where he talked all through the night,” Boldereff remembered to Tom Clark: “He was in terrible psychic suffering, but I couldn’t respond. There was no contact between us. I felt, there’s no human being there, just a husk.  He was experiencing a real loss of his own identity, which he was hoping to get back through me. Alas, it did not work.” 

            The former lovers and correspondents of twenty-two years would never see each other again; and yet Olson was to write Boldereff, on May 28, 1969, seven months before his death: “My dear sweet Frances—Just in another burst of love for you (they come in such gusts my whole nature at this moment (as I write) bursts on you)   Love, Charles      PS I adore you”

            With Connie remarried and Bet dead, a bereft Olson, while assuring Boldereff of his undying love during the final years of their correspondence, is nevertheless engaged in an intense correspondence with a much younger scholar and poet, Joyce Benson, enlivened by assignations  with her in Gloucester and elsewhere, according to Clark.  There is another affair, conducted mostly in London, with an American heiress, who had important ties to Beat and Black Mountain writers, and a relationship in Gloucester, his final, it appears, with a young poet, who shared his Fort Square apartment and continued to live in it after Olson’s death.   While having struggled successfully to integrate his poetic and historical vocations in the Maximus Poems, and his politics through concerted local activism, Olson appeared never to have been able to achieve a lasting union, remaining, at best, conflicted and ambivalent about love, though there is no question that he experienced powerful moments of ecstasy with Boldereff.

            By this time Olson’s health was seriously failing.  A year earlier, during the summer of 1968, after Olson had reported illness, Boldereff had written with concern: “Please tell me what your doctor says; what can he do; what can’t he do?”   Blithely, Olson had replied. “and though I have still to ‘behave’ (the problem seems simply to be to take care to be taken care of—food & that stuff; and equally not ‘socialize’ too much!”)  But those of us who were close to Olson at the time, knew it was more than lack of proper nourishment (when he was not binging late at night in local restaurants, he often ate his food directly from a can—and even wrote about it in a letter to the editor of the Gloucester Times), or Olson’s heavy drinking, that constituted the problem.  Olson suffered from emphysema, yet he continued to smoke; and though often surrounded by friends at home or visitors from many parts of the globe, there was a deep loneliness in the poet, which is evident from the final Maximus Poems, in which he describes walking disconsolately up and down the seaside Boulevard of a community he had once loved and had great hopes for, but which had become, as he wrote in another letter to the editor, a “city of mediocrity and cheap ambition,” in its apparent rejection of its marine industrial heritage, while attempting to chase the tourist dollar:  “destroying/ its own shoulders its own back greedy present persons/stood upon.”  The dejected poet, who left Gloucester for Connecticut in September of 1969, may well have also been fleeing death, for he was soon to be diagnosed with inoperable cancer, dying six weeks later in New York.
            As much as the drama of this unique relationship grips the reader—and the letters are as full of the sting and bite of disappointment as they are of the elation of eroticism—there is something about them that transcends the merely relational.   As writing, they are often incandescent, as Olson, goaded by Boldereff, challenged equally by her ardent correspondent, hones his projective, propulsive prose to perfection.  His essay on Lawrence, “The Escaped Cock: Notes on Lawrence and the Present, or, the Real,” developed during their exchanges, can be taken as a trope for the dialectic at the heart of this correspondence, just as it proposes a revolutionary view of the narrative.
            Olson writes: “I take it that CONTEST is what puts drama (what they keep harping on still as story, plot) into the thing; the writer’s contesting with reality—to see it, to SEE; that climax is not what happens to the characters or things (which is, even at the finest, a rigged puppet-demonstrandum) but is, instead what another, my peer, called “a broken stump,” this contest and its issue, the ISSUE of the man who writes.  The issue is what causes CHANGE (the struggle inside, the contest there, inside, exhibited).  At root (or stump) what is, is no longer THINGS but WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN THINGS, these are the terms of the reality contemporary to us—and the terms of what we are.”   This, then, is “no bare incoming of novel abstract form,” as Olson wrote in “Letter 27” of Maximus, but instead what was powerfully enacted in the letters themselves, what the two lovers grappled with as they engaged each other to the limit of their abilities, contesting and thereby changing.

(This review appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of House Organ, edited by Kenneth Warren)