Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Books by Zarko Radakovic and Alex Caldiero

My dear friend Zarko Radakovic just sent me a copy of his newest book. It's title means something like "Fear of Emigrations." I'm quoted on the back, something like this: "I don't know anyone who works or plays with such fresh ideas." Something like . . . something like this . . . because I don't read Serbo Croatian. I've got only scraps of the language.

Beer is "pivo." I learned that on a barge on the Danube river near Zarko's hometown Zemun. White wine is "belo vino." Belgrade is "Beograd." "Pisac" is "writer." "Textom" is a declined version of "text." Scotto Abbotto a declined name that can become the slightly embarrassing Scottom Abbottom. "Skot" means "vermin." "Mustikla" means cigarette holder. "Thank you" is "hvala." "Zrno vino" means "red wine." "Jebi ga" means "fuck it." "Serbi su dobri ljudi," a phrase Zarko's mother taught me, means "Serbs are good people." And that's about it for me.

But I want to read the book.

One of the book's sections is titled "Urlik nad Balkanom" -- Roar of the Balkans, according to google's translation service. Another is called "Smatram (Jugosloveni, Turci, Nemci, belo vino, novine)" which may mean "I think (Jugoslavs, Turks, Germans, white wine, newspapers).

Makes me want more.

But basically I can't read my friend's book about his early work as a performance artist in Belgrade. What kind of friend can't read a friend's book? 


Last week my dear friend Alex Caldiero's new book was published by Dream Garden Press: Poetry Is Wanted Here. It's a powerful set of poems gathered around the title poem which is in the form of a letter written to Alex's despairing friend Bob Heman shortly after the World Trade Center towers came crashing down.

It's a beautiful as well as powerful book, with five drawings and plenty of space fore and aft as well as on each page.

Because Zarko and Alex know each other, if only through my translation of each's work for the other, I've put them side by side above. And to  further emphasize the connection, here's a copy of Alex's poem about language and translation dedicated to Zarko and me.

And finally, news today that Stubovi kulture has published another book by Zarko, this one called "Era." Here's a very grainy image of the cover:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Language Crisis and Autumn Equinox

This is a difficult time for me. And a time of exquisite beauty.

The huge harvest moon has been hanging over the mountain.

There have been long warm evenings on the deck overlooking the deer that come at dusk to drink: a three-point buck the largest of them, two four-point bucks his companions, and then two does, each with a pair of fawns growing quickly toward the coming winter.

And there's the problem for me: this equinox is a marker for the coming winter.

Louis Menand, reviewing a new anthology of literary parodies in this week's "New Yorker," quotes Ezra Pound's depressive parody of the thirteenth-century round "Sumer Is Icumin In': "Winter is icummen in, / Lhude sing Goddamm."


The fading light, the Indian Summer, the harvest moon, the coming winter -- I take off my shirt and sit on the deck in the last light soaking up vitamin D, knowing it won't be enough in the months to come.

But there's another problem related to the fading light and to the coming depression, and, perhaps, related to broader issues in my body and mind as well, and that's a falling out of language and into experiences beyond or below or outside of language.

For Alex's and my seminar on "Language, most dangerous of possessions" (Hölderlin), I've just read Hugo von Hofmannsthal's heartwrenching Lord Chandos' "A Letter." Lord Chandos writes Francis Bacon that he's got a problem, that he's fallen silent in the face of physical/mystical experiences: "It is something completely unnamed and also unnameable that announces itself to me in such moments, a random revelation of my mundame environment filling me like a containter with an overflowing flood of higher life. . . . A watering can, a harrow left on the field, a dog in the sun, a poor churchyard, a cripple, a small farmhouse, any of these can become the container of my revelation." And in the face of these "revelations," Lord Chandos can't write a word.

I've been trying to finish an essay on Travis Low's and Torben Bernhard's film "The Sonosopher," and for a full month have been unable to write more than a phrase at any one time. Nonetheless, I've been alive with experiences like the ones Hofmannsthal has Lord Chandos report. A couple of mornings ago, for instance, well after dawn but just as the sun was finally clearing the mountains to the east, I walked our dog Blue along the hill by the house, dropping below the direct sunlight at times, rising into it at others. I stood at one point below the sunlight while Blue stood above me, arching his back and raising his tail to pee directly into the sun. The stream of urine flowed strong and burned a brilliant yellow-gold, shimmered with color so pure and bright that I quit breathing.

Tonight I sat on the deck short minutes after the sun had disappeared behind the mountains to the west and watched Blue, his light and dark yellow highlights still lit by Alpenglow, alert to sounds in the dry leaves below us, and found myself alive with sensation, alert to a thrill that overtook my body. It was how I feel when I wake out of a pleasant dream in the morning and lay in bed with first sun reaching my skin. It was like the satisfaction of oncoming sleep that blots out depression. It was like the spreading pleasure of gin-and-tonic as I watch Blue's alert yellows in the fading light. It's like the aftermath of sex. It's like the electric pleasure people with early MS report.

But focus on the essay? Not a chance.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Bike Ride

This morning, my son-in-law Brandon and I rode our bikes from an elevation of 5000 feet to the microwave tower at 9000 feet. The tower overlooks the south part of Utah Valley, including the town of Woodland Hills just below. We had to scramble up a steep slope visible to the left of the one photo (the one of the mountain from our house), to the road that slants across from that left side up the canyon to the ride. The Dream Mine or Relief Mine people have the regular road gated off at the bottom, hence the need for the steep initial climb.

We rode for about 5 hours up and down, including a leisurely lunch near the helicopter landing pad next to the microwave tower.

In the one photo, I'm looking north-east over Spanish Fork Canyon to the Uintah Mountains. In the other, Brandon is trying out the landing-pad hammock that has him hanging above the whole world.