To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
.......................................again
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jerome Rothenberg: Three Poems after Images by Nancy Tobin

[As I approach the seven-year mark of Poems and Poetics, I thought it appropriate to re-post the initial offering in the series, first posted herein on June 7, 2008.  Published later that year as a small book from a resuscitated Hawk's Well Press, two of the images appear here and here on the internet,  and copies of the whole can still be ordered from Small Press Distribution. My own brief comments on our collaboration & Tobin’s more extensive description of her aims & working process follow the poems, below. (J.R.)]
 
Waiting for Seurat

waiting for seurat
is not so bad is not

what everybody thinks of
standing in a fish tank

arms akimbo legs too
when the bathers fail to make

the morning’s exercise
forsaken all awash

as I am too
but now

the final holiday draws nigh
some sunday afternoon

the chime has chimed
the branches overhang

the crowd of watchers
& it’s time

to coax the children
back into the car

to leave the dishes
& the soap behind

the other little friends
so soon departed

still we wait for them
we are the walkers

in the park
& if we fall into the lake

a second time
the acrobats will scoop us out

will whisk us home
like children

neither lost nor found
our bodies & our thoughts

like tiny flecks
& little reckoning

the time it takes
to sink or swim

still bug eyed
half alive

the big bowl broken
waiting for seurat


Dystopia Parkway

how far he dives
into a sandbox
lights erupting flicker

down a parkway
riding to the Star Hotel
a place to watch

the stars on carpets
sidewalks stitched into a
pure dystopia

as one by one
we dance
for all the children

in the world
my temper will ignite
feed you my flames

a red confusion
opens to the right of us
we raise white fingers

stubby arms
a forest of computer
screens alight

the parkway filled with
phantom windows mothers
can stare out from

their dystopias
more like a fact of life
seeing that nothing

can cohere however
solid are the walls
however bright

soap bubbles floating
over broken glass
the perch deserted where

birds seldom sang
the parkway packed into
a sun box flat

I carry underneath
my coat the memory of where
we all will live

a family of artists
each one with a simple story
resolved to bring it home


The Best Thing
About Sunday

is the color
& the next best
how the little folk
find here a place to fly

balloons & kites
skidaddle
rummage among the broken
mother boards

how pink & paper thin
the world appears
to be a field of pinwheels
driven by the wind

& spinning
line on line
& circle into circle
strings cut free

these are the gifts
they bring us these
are what we throw
into the air & see them

flying by
the children’s room
a little brighter
walking cockeyed looking

for the wind to stop
then we can find
the best thing about sunday
eggs & eyes

adornments cars that run
on spirits wheels
too precious for the road
a pig that squeals

note. The initiatory act here follows from Tobin's quasi-abstract images and her assessment of the mysteries and revelations that her art provides her: “I construct both my paintings and works on paper as a dialogue between the representational and ornamental; which party gets the last word remains a mystery until the composition is complete. I start with painted or drawn images, then literally cut them down to size with scissors before reassembling the components on painted panels or into ‘quilted’ paper compositions that I treat with successive layers of paint, ink and polymer. This break-‘em-down-to-build-‘em-up methodology is my way of capturing moments in an expanding universe. Representation is as powerful as it futile. Any tableau is illusory; even mountains are in constant flux. Particles decay, light bends, and perceptions alter with each recollection. My technique in turn encourages the viewer to approach each work with a forensic eye: to examine the constituent parts and try to reconstruct their pedigree, then step in and take in the totality of color and form. The layers I create fade into opacity, however firmly each is fixed in memory. Try to peel them back with your eyes, and you'll reach a new level each time.”


Monday, May 11, 2015

Inrasara: from The Purification Festival in April, with translation from Cham/Vietnamese & note by Alec Schachner


[from Inrasara, the purification festival in april, The Culture & Literature Publishing House, Vietnam, 2015]

From ALLEGORY OF THE LAND
                                                Cham (Vietnam & Cambodia)

I
Not a few friends have scolded me for wasting time on Cham poetry
is there even a trifling scarcity of readers? Will there be anyone to
      remember?
yet I want to squander my entire life on it
though there may only be around a quarter dozen people
though there may only be one person
or even if there’s not a single living soul. 

II
One line of proverb – one verse of folk song
half a child’s lullaby – one page of ancient poetry
I search and gather
like a child seeking a tiny pebble
(pebbles that adults carelessly step past)
to build a castle for only myself to live in
a castle one day they’ll use for shelter from the rain – it’s certain!
 

THE PURIFICATION FESTIVAL IN APRIL 

Sunshine begins to warm the hills of April
starting earlier than many centuries past
when the ocean had yet to awake
earlier than all the memory of the elder ceremony priests. 

Earlier. The sun opened its warming rays
bright astride the ka-ing dancing master’s rattan rod
rousing the baranung drums still lying dust-covered in the attic
        stirring
awake the crows of a pair of roosters waiting through the last
        night before their sacrificial offering. 

Faster. I see the sun breaking
athwart the footsteps of the shaman hurrying down the hill
even faster. I see the sunlight spilling across
no time for the dewdrops to linger in sleep
sunshine encircling the hair of a crowd of girls headed down to
        the river to get water, the columns of trees, the flat landscape,
        the multicolored garments, the sweeping calls to return to the
        village
to build the ceremonial kajang

the sunlight falls catching at the folds of the old dancer’s mutham
        scarf
flying across 365 days coated in the impurity of this world. 

The purification festival is beginning. 

On this same day this same month for everlasting millennia past
the same anxieties, infatuations, this uneasy waiting
only the repetition is present
the same sacred texts, hymns of worship are unfurled. 

Fire blazes red
red pomegranate flowers bought at yesterday’s market red Royal
        Poinciana flowers freshly plucked red summer sun
red garb red He
fire burned red into the labyrinthine skeins of every waiting soul
candles lit aflame many sticks alight glinting in the midday
before the door of the kajang there fire blazes red. 

He sees
He raises his rod up high, high above the old centuries
He flogs two feet, two feet taciturn since the dynasty past
feet that for 365 days only know to follow the plow’s furrows
feet that yesterday danced sluggishly to the rhythms of Cei Dalim,
        Cei Tathun
feet hardened by acidity. 

The Purification Festival is beginning
sound of the rite-master’s chants rumbling devotion the beating
        baranung booms
still not yet enough – the scriptural orisons recited
not enough for His contentment. 

Our storehouse is brimming with words - words worn and dull
full of words/ still not a single phoneme to praise delight
one word strives to soar up level atop the flames’ shoulders
level atop the purification festival. 

No more words to name. He roars out. The words fold their
       wings and slip away
only His roar floods the empty world 

A... U... M...
He roars out
the roar echoes to a buffalo herd grazing on a faraway hill
        straining to listen

wronged ghosts forgotten for a thousand years sit up from
        ashes and coals
flocks of birds startled rise up circling hastily and returning
as if afraid of vying lost within the wellspring of joyous
        purgation. 

AUM…
He has seen
the door of the heavens open like the embrace of his wife
        of previous lifetimes open
the fleets of monsoon clouds returning like a lock of his future
        son’s hair flying back
He spreads His arms
He steps forward, treading to match the mud-drenched feet
        of yesterdays

heedless the fires crackling along with the sounds of hands
        clapping ahei crackling
heedless of the ginang drums beating urgently pursuing
        chasing off fear
He transforms into fire He dances with fire He is fire
clean the final time, clean numberless thousands of more times
for the world a single time cleaned. Such it is. 

Swift. Swifter
smoke rises into clouds, human faces flock through clouds, hair a
        thousand strands of cloud, all space dimly pillared
        into titanic columns of rainclouds.
they are crumbling, crashing apart and about to toss down floods
        of rain. 

The Purification Festival in April has ruptured. He feels
the earth fracture, sound of the eulogies
shattering the jubilation of anticipating secrets hidden deep. 

Life no longer hesitates, no more wavering
swift, swifter
but slow too slow as if no possible way to be slower. He feels the
language of the hymns spill into millions of millions of cells
        living or dead
overflow and stir them awake never to let them sleep again all
the millions and millions of sprouts are stretching their shoulders
        to raise their heads. 

Steps stomping more sturdily. I see – more firmly
the world fragmented and rejoined by an urgent breath
the fire at its last gasp. 

He is cast out freed from the flames – his body covered with wounds
all the world wounded – only the smile untouched
            the bliss untouched
millions of millions of water drops fly down to extinguish a surviving
            spark straining to flicker one last time
extinguish misery, hopelessness on the faces. I see. 

On the far side of elation
Resilience untouched they begin to take root once again. 

Bis bis wok wok
once more people move
once more once more life moves. 

translator’s note. This collection represents a broad range of Inrasara’s poetic oeuvre to date, tracing his diverse journeys through storytelling, his forays into a varying array of narrative modes and transitions through lyric and narrative verse. Like all great storytellers, Inrasara pulls from a wide network of experience, weaving together the past and the present into a tapestry of the personal and collective, blending the real and the mythical. Wandering across history, literature, folklore, music, philosophy, Hinduism, Buddhism, pop culture, myth, war, peace, harvest, community, tradition, dream, language, ritual, epic and the everyday, Inrasara’s poems sing not only the song of the Cham people in modern Vietnam, but also of all human experience – of our imagining of self and of the myriad innermost emotional lives of globalization and modernity.  Deeply rooted in his readings of the Cham epics, Inrasara’s verse somehow also resonates with the flowing lines of Whitman and Hughes, a montage of human experience and insight, capturing essences both singular and universal. 

Inrasara’s use of the Vietnamese language is highly complex and philosophical, and naturally impossible to translate into English to its full extent. All Cham language terms have been italicized and left in the original, with an index of notes provided at the back of this book. This collection meanders through the languages of the classic Cham and Vietnamese epics, colloquial Cham, modern Vietnamese, Sino-Vietnamese, Sanskrit, classical Chinese, Zen philosophy, folksong, physics, ecology and beyond.  Through use of linguistic elements which do not exist in English, such as bound morphemes and a complex pronoun address system, Vietnamese contains a multitude of subtleties which are essentially untranslatable. I have attempted to retain the original flow of the language wherever feasible, translating on a line-to-line basis when able and often retaining the Vietnamese order of information, to stay as true to the original narrative architecture as possible. I hope that the reader will find this bilingual edition not only a guidebook to Cham culture, tradition and daily life, but also a useful tool to engage with the depths of the modern Vietnamese language. Inrasara’s epical lingual explorations wander through lyric verse to freeform, short odes to long narratives, across the geography of native land and soul, inviting the reader into a world both known and unknown, foreign and familiar, ordinary and wondrous.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Homero Aridjis and Pierre Joris: Two Pieces on the PEN American Center Award to Charlie Hebdo


[For the record & because I’m feeling some irritation following the recent PEN Center / Charlie Hebdo brouhaha, I’m posting these two pieces on today’s Poems and Poetics.  Both Joris & Aridjis have been very close to me over the years, & their pieces, taken together, provide as strong a statement as needed in the present instance.  My own sense of the issues goes back to forerunners like the Dada poet Richard Huelsenbeck who spoke out against the “misbelievers” of religion & in favor of the “disbelievers” & “the liberation of the creative forces from the tutelage of the advocates of power.”  “Poetry fetter'd,” as Blake had it long ago, “fetters the human race,” and the misreadings from the recent “protest” are an embarrassment & challenge for all of us who would write & think & even, as disbelievers, blaspheme freely.  Or Joris, in what he writes below: “The right to blaspheme is essential for our mental health.”  (J.R.)] 

Is a PEN Mightier Than an AK-47?

by Homero Aridjis


MEXICO CITY - As a former president of PEN International (1997-2003), I join Salman Rushdie and numerous colleagues in defending the PEN American Center's decision to give its Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo at its annual literary gala on May 5. Twelve people were murdered on Jan. 7 during an attack by two Islamist gunmen at the magazine's Paris office. A dissenting group of some 200 writers has protested the award as "enthusiastically rewarding" "expression that violates the acceptable," and some have withdrawn from acting as table hosts at the gala.

For nearly 100 years, PEN has defended freedom of speech and the thousands of professionals of the word who have been persecuted because they exercised their right to that freedom. PEN has always been quick to stand up for the victims of repressive governments, religious fanaticism or criminal groups -- be they famous writers such as Federico García Lorca (albeit too late to prevent his assassination), Arthur Koestler, Boris Pasternak, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Wole Soyinka, Orhan Pamuk and others only known locally, such as the dozens of journalists who have been attacked in Mexico during recent years.

Humor, including satire, is often lost in translation, misunderstood or only locally relevant. What would your average 1960s French intellectual have made of American stand-up comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, whose targets often included his own Jewishness? Was Jonathan Swift's ironic A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick (by selling them as food to the wealthy) received with death threats in Ireland?

Much of the satire published in the British magazine Private Eye is unintelligible to anyone not familiar with the vagaries and scandals of British public life and politics, but sufficiently stinging to provoke incessant lawsuits under Britain's particularly tricky libel laws --- but not physical assaults on the magazine's staff. I don't know of any murderous attacks on Luis Buñuel after he satirized The Last Supper as a beggars' banquet in his 1961 film "Viridiana," although the movie was denounced by the Vatican and banned in Franco's Spain.

Two French sociologists examined Charlie Hebdo's 523 covers over the past ten years and found that 336 took aim at politics, 85 were concerned with social and economic issues, 42 zeroed in on media celebrities and only 38 (that is seven percent) focused on religion, out of which 21 tweaked Catholicism, 10 dealt with several religions -- including Judaism -- together and seven were focused on Islam. Twenty-two covers were directed at a mix of subjects.

Charlie Hebdo's many and varied targets over the years certainly have included one particularly "marginalized" (to borrow the dissenting writers' word) group, comprised of homegrown or imported Islamist terrorists. In societies where freedom of expression is the norm, should this group be exempt from criticism because it responds with extreme violence to silence its detractors?

Censorship and self-censorship, wherever in the world they may occur, are forms of public and private complicity with those who practice intolerance and aggression against writers, journalists, publishers and bloggers.

As the object of repeated death threats during my PEN presidency, I can testify from personal experience that in times of violence, solidarity among writers is paramount.

Originally published May 4, 2015 in The Huffington Post.

PEN Gala: Political Correctness Gone Viral

by Pierre Joris


That a half-dozen writers would counter the PEN proposal to correctly honor Charlie Hebdo with the Toni & James Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award & absent themselves from the Gala is explainable. As indeed Salman Rusdhie did explain their actions, despite the use of one inaccurate word. That nearly two hundred more (PEN-members? writers? fellow-travelers of what?) would jump on the bandwagon of this “boycott” via the net is a bit more surprising & in fact profoundly irritating. Why? Obviously the vast majority of these signers do not know French, have thus not ever read Charlie Hebdo — except possibly for minor excerpts & a few rare cartoons, given that most of the anglo news media treated the whole affair back to its origins with a sense of, how to say, Victorian prissiness. A sort of Protestant puritan white-gloves-on tight-ass-ness (I can already see the Charlie cartoon!) confronted with Gallic-Rabelaisian bravado & excess. They are thus basing their judgments on pure hearsay.
Certainly these signers-on will not have followed Charlie over the years, probably most of them will never have held a single issue in their hands. Would they thus know that (as laid out below) “of the last 500 covers of the paper, no more than 30 took aim at religion? And that, of those 30, just seven—seven!—took issue with Islam? And that the two most problematic cartoons, those that unleashed, in 2006 and 2015, the worldwide explosion of criminal violence of which the massacre of January 7 was the apogee, did not attack Islam as such but rather that distortion of Islam, that insult to and caricature of Islam that is radical Islam?” Of course not — so they and the seven instigators should shut up and first do their home-work to find out what Charlie Hebdo actually is and does. They’ve all been claiming Charlie Heddo as racist, most often quoting a cover on which Christiane Taubira, minister of Justice, a woman of color, is shown as a monkey: the problem is that that image comes from…Minute, a extreme right-wing neo-fascist paper & that Charlie Hebdo was reacting against the racism of the cartoon with a drawing by Charb (one of those killed).
It’s not my favorite magazine, by a far cry, but I have seen & read a large number of issues since its inception (the founders & continuers of the mag are more or less of my generation in that we belong to the “génération ’68.”) Where I am in total agreement with the magazine is that all organized religions, & more specifically the three monotheisms, need to be caricatured, attacked, shown up for the ideological con jobs  & strangleholds they are. The right to blaspheme is essential for our mental health. 
To show that the emperor has no clothes is important: just think of the core regions where our world is going up in flames, or where someone is holding or selling the flamethrowers that do this job — & centrally present & involved in them you’ll find the 3 core religions, misused of course, you may say, but that misuse is the direct and logical outcome of the underlying righteousness any & all religions claim: radical Islam, gone-awry Zionism, evangelical Christianity.
Are there other ways of being critical? Yes indeed — & I may prefer them, as, in relation to radical fascistoid  Islam, my translation & dissemination (on this blog) of Abdelwahab Meddeb’s book The Malady of Islam shows. Today, maybe for the first time ever, I agree with Bernard-Henri Lévy, and now take the liberty to reproduce his current column as Englished by the Daily Beast. (But if you have French also go and check out Pierre Assouline’s blogpost on the same subject. Or check Katha Pollitt’s piece in The Nation, the most accurate piece, in my judgment, on this whole affair in our press.)
Bernard-Henri Lévy: The PEN Gala and the Gall of the Boycott
Blinding ignorance is what really lies behind the statements of those PEN members who’ve attacked the decision to honor Charlie Hebdo.
The writers who have decided to boycott the PEN American Center’s annual gala in New York on Tuesday, an event at which the courage of Charlie Hebdo is to be honored, rely on five arguments.
The dissenters cannot, they say, endorse the editorial line of a publication that specializes in “criticizing Islam.”
This argument fails on two counts. It fails first because paying tribute to the courage of a team that fought to the death to defend and embody the values of freedom of expression for which PEN is supposed to stand has, by definition, nothing whatsoever to do with whether one approves or disapproves of its editorial line.
And second it fails because characterizing Charlie Hebdo as a newspaper obsessed with some strain of Islamophobia is an error that the most basic fact-checking could have dispelled: is it really necessary to point out that, of the last 500 covers of the paper, no more than 30 took aim at religion? And that, of those 30, just seven—seven!—took issue with Islam? And that the two most problematic cartoons, those that unleashed, in 2006 and 2015, the worldwide explosion of criminal violence of which the massacre of January 7 was the apogee, did not attack Islam as such but rather that distortion of Islam, that insult to and caricature of Islam that is radical Islam? That is a fact.
Nevertheless, insist 35-odd writers who believe that Charlie Hebdo has already had, as Joyce Carol Oates had the gall to utter, enough publicity, seven, even two, are too many. Especially when we are dealing with caricatures inspired (sic) by “hate” and “racism.”
This argument reveals complete ignorance about the history of a paper that has always been in the forefront of the struggle against racism, as expressed in its support for SOS Racisme in the 1990s, its organization of large democratic rallies in the early Sarkozy years, and its firing of the cartoonist Siné for anti-Semitism. It also attests to a misunderstanding of freedom of thought and of the First Amendment, as well as of the boundary that divides criticism of an idea from hostility to those who hold it; the deconstruction of dogma from calls to murder those who follow that dogma; and the gentle Cabu, who poked fun at all systems of belief and all forms of bigotry, from the former actor Dieudonné, who misses the days when the Jewish journalists he doesn’t like could be marched off to a gas chamber.
Argument number three: We accept the boundary, they say. But it is tenuous, fragile. And when you’re dealing with a community that is itself fragile and vulnerable because it still bears wounds from the humiliations of the colonial era, prudence is called for. Let us skip over this vision, itself exquisitely humiliating, of a community reduced to a bunch of simple-minded individuals punch-drunk from poverty and incapable of understanding that the famous drawing of a benevolent human prophet, an apostle of kindness and tolerance, who was frustrated that it was “hard to be loved by idiots,” did not stigmatize the prophet’s message but amplified and saved it.
This habit of consigning Muslims to the colonial past of their grandparents, of declaring that a certain segment of the French population of which “a large percentage” are “devout Muslims” (how much do the boycotters really know about this?) were “shaped by the legacy of France’s various colonial enterprises” and that this is the source of their suffering today, has one effect and one only: to distract us from the other possible causes of that suffering; to divert the attention of those sufferers from the abuses of power of, for example, imams trained in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen; and, along the way, to ignore the very real humiliation represented by the spectacle of assassins executing courageous journalists in the name of the Quran.
The fourth argument is no less than shameful. It is the argument of arrogance. Yes, you read that right. The word was indeed spoken. As if this little newspaper, penniless from its origins, libertarian by temperament and doctrine, hostile to all forms of power and  self-importance, somehow falls on the dark side of power because only one of the 12 victims (copyeditor Moustapha Ourrad) was from the community “marginalized and victimized” by the neocolonial arrogance of France. As if, in a mirror image, the assassins were somehow on the side of resistance against that power, on the side of the victimized and humiliated.
I’m sorry, American friends, but it was by the same reasoning that many Europeans hesitated, on September 11, 2001, to take the side of the 2,958 victims of the attacks carried out by 19 representatives of the “party of the humiliated” against the world capital of “imperialism.” And it is the same reasoning that I myself confronted when, the following year, I carried out my investigation into the death of Daniel Pearl, that other young hero who, like the editor of Charlie Hebdo, preferred to die on his feet rather than live on his knees but who made the mistake, in the eyes of the French equivalents of Francine Prose, Rachel Kushner, and Teju Cole, of being (i) Jewish, (ii) American, and (iii) a correspondent for a newspaper that they saw as a symbol of the reigning power.
And now for the last argument, which would be laughable if the situation were not so tragic. According to Australian novelist Peter Carey, two-time winner of the Booker Prize, PEN is called upon to defend a writer only when he or she is a victim of censorship … by a government!
By that standard, so much for essayist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who is threatened not by the Dutch government but by the killer of Theo Van Gogh and his followers from the red mosque of Islamabad. By the same standard, must we abandon Taslima Nasreen, who has lived for 20 years under threat, not from the now secular government of Bangladesh, but from the fundamentalists hordes of the entire Indian subcontinent? And how should the writers of the United States and world have reacted if Salman Rushdie, once the Iranian government lifted its fatwa, had been seriously threatened by nongovernmental jihadists affiliated, for example, with Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State?
I think back to PEN’s timidity in the face of the Stalinist terror of the 1930s and the post-Stalinist terror of the 1950s.
And to the deplorable Congress of Dubrovnik of 1933, at which the predecessors of Peter Carey refused to take a position against the book-burnings in Germany.
The truth, the sad and terrible truth, is that we are once again in the midst of one of those episodes of collective blindness—or fear—of which the intellectual history of the last century gave us so many examples.
The differences are that, this time, the scene is not Europe but the United States and that the party of courage, honor, and decency seems, for the moment, to have won out.
But for how long?
Translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Serge Pey: Three Poems in English from "Why I Crush Tomatoes"


Translated from French by Yasser Elhariry 

[My first memory of Serge Pey was in Paris, sometime in the early 1980s, when he woke us up in the apartment off Saint Germain that my wife & I were then borrowing.  Our son had arrived a few hours before, traveling with a couple of friends across Europe & walking halfway across Paris on the morning of a Metro strike.  The three of them were sacked out on the floor, across the room from us, but didn’t hear Serge’s heavy knocking on the door.  We did & when we opened up for him he moved in quickly, holding with both hands a large, hollow, brightly painted rain stick, filled with beans or pebbles, which when upended made a gentle swooshing sound like rain or falling water.  He told us he had come to serenade us – Aztec style – & walked out to the center of the rather large room, where the ritual began.  Those were still the years when nothing could surprise us, so we sat up on our bed & listened, somewhere between sleep & waking.  His performance, which we recognized as “his performance,” went on for 10 or 15 minutes, during which time one or other of the young men on our floor would open up his eyes from time to time & then fall back to sleep.  At one point too the live-in maid walked past him on her way into the kitchen but seemed to take no notice, & Serge, when his ritual work was over, embraced us both & left as peacefully & caringly as he had entered.
               I have seen & heard him many times since then & have come to recognize him as one of our most inventive & energized performers of a new & constantly evolving poetry.  In addition to his performances (often still with sticks and rain sticks) he is the author of nearly sixty volumes of written poetry & was the editor for many years of Émeute and Tribu as two principal magazines of the European & world avant-garde.  The title poem of his new work Why I Crush Tomatoes, translated into English by Yasser Elhariry, is a masterpiece of poetry & poetics, but its 758 numbered sections are too long to publish here.  The following three shorter poems will hopefully be enough to give a hint or taste of his ongoing sense & sensibility. (J.R.)] 

Imbecile 

When I speak
of your poems
to an imbecile
it’s as
if I were pissing
against the wind
wanting the
wind
to change direction

Imbeciles are
truly numerous
on earth
Surely more
numerous
than the poems
that you write

An imbecile doesn’t
wear a watch
but chooses
the hour
we speak of you

An imbecile
may divide your hope
by zero

An imbecile may
make
onions cry
when he speaks
of his suicide
while affirming
that we’re assassinating him

An imbecile
feigns ignoring
the truth by rigging
a photograph of
poetry

For an imbecile
a thousand examples
are pointless
and a single lie
proves all

An imbecile may say
that a monster
recruits thousands
of angels
for his army

An imbecile may
declare
that this text
is no poem

When the toast
of a poet falls
the imbecile believes
the jam
changes sides
some where
in an other poem
or world

When the world falls
the imbecile knows
not 

We Have A Flag 

We have a flag
that we see and a flag
that we do not see
We have flag
with no flag
of all flags
We have a flag
like a kerchief
to vomit our blood and our skin
We have a flag that couches
a skeleton
dismantled of its own bones
We have a flag that undresses
all flags
Our flag is a sandal
Our flag is a piece of foot
 
We have a flag
A piece of serge
We have a flag
We have a hand
We have a skin
We have a flag made
with an eye and a bird
We have a flag with no flag
We have a flag
that does not love flags
We have a flag on fire that
burns all flags
We have a piece of wood
We have a piece of skin
We have a flag with no flag
amidst a million flags
We have a flag with no flag
among a single flag
We have no flag
We have a flag with no flag
  in our own flag 

Time for Assassins 

When a poem
cannot even
save death
it’s time for assassins

Death is dead
We no longer find it
in the tombs
upturned
of the bistros

Some
dedicate themselves to
find
it by dying twice
and confuse
this effort with
resurrection

The café is dead
The table is dead
The bread is dead
The telefilm of the dead
applauds other
dead
who run behind
balls

We know it
the dead vote
for the dead

When death has had enough
of death
we must console it
by giving it sugar
black
like to a dog

We bark
By living
we only find
the dead who
no longer attend
us & that’s what we call
death

The tombs are
cradles
constructed by babies
in cement

Our only way of being
is killing
It’s time for
assassins
The unique virtue of
man
is that he knows that a
sack
doesn’t stand up straight
when empty