"Restlessly we wait thus, as near as we can to the frontier"

I agree so much with Ernesto when he writes, "Deejaying is a form of writing." Not that I've ever been a DJ, but that music and writing feed off each other. I write this listening to Mogwai's EP+2 (Matador, 1999), with a slight headache from the sun on the beach, again at Buzzards Bay. Seaweed had washed onto the shore, leaving it covered in brown-green strands.

I saw them play once in Providence, probably around the time this EP came out. They opened for Pavement at a small club in Downcity, the lead singer/guitarist sat down during some of their songs, his feet hanging off the stage. Compared to the loud moments in their music, they were casual and quiet onstage.

It's the DJ's task as editor, anthologizer, or sound librarian, I admire.


Now it's Mike Ladd's Negrophilia (Thirsty Ear Recordings, 2004), which reminds me why hip-hop has always allowed for so much of what I understand as "poetry." Being mostly an instrumental album, Ladd's few verses float to the front:

"Solo Mandingo float like Attila sex ride

Or so seen in such direction

Jo Jo Baker Duke on Victoria hold a

Mumbo noir-noir virus stylus bumping

On the mountain range going in circles

Black as the oil and notions of Johnson

Boxing in Montmarte

Disco with a Hottentot

British museum as cabaret"

One of my favorite verses in the album is probably the hilarious moment in "Blonde Negress" where he shouts: "Somebody stop me / I'm from Cambridge for Christ's sake."


I received Stephen Spender's New Collected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2004) in the mail today. It's a much better edition than I expected, edited by Michael Brett, who thanks Natasha Spender and John Sutherland for their assistance. Of all the editions of his work I've seen, this one stands out as the most complete, ranging from texts printed in his 1930 self-published pamphlet Twenty Poems up to two pieces published the year of his death.

The first section of the book emphasizes the continuity of his mostly-untitled poems from the late 1920s and early 30s, how their verses build on each other's use of political and personal tensions. It's Spender's awkward approach to political verse that often impresses me. Many of the texts still shine (or disturb) when read in today's volatile context:

"—That programme of the antique Satan
Bristling with guns on the indented page,
With battleship towering from hilly waves:
For what? Drive of a ruining purpose
Destroying all but its age-long exploiters.
Our programme like this, yet opposite,
Death to the killers, bringing light to life."

The book also has a good selection of Spender's translations, including versions of Hölderlin, Manuel Altolaguirre and Bertolt Brecht, along with excerpts from his versions of The Oedipus Trilogy. For some reason, his versions of García Lorca are not in these pages. Part of my interest in his writing is due to his work as a translator. He usually convinces me with his translations, seeming to fully inhabit the lives and tones of the authors he re-writes into English. His 1985 version of Antigone remains my favorite translation of that play because of his subtle portrayal of Ismene and Antigone's debate. I hadn't read his version of Brecht's "Concerning the Label Emigrant":

"Not a home, but an exile, is the land that took us in.
Restlessly we wait thus, as near as we can to the frontier
awaiting the day of return, every smallest alteration
observing beyond the boundary, zealously asking
every arrival, forgetting nothing and giving up nothing,
and also forgiving nothing which happened, forgiving nothing."


James Fenton writes about participating in the 15th Medellín International Poetry Festival in the Guardian ("Speaking in tongues").

Crucero 5 y 10 on poetics (10.7.05 post).

Juan Carlos Chirinos writes against Ernesto Cardenal's recent Venezuelan idiocy at El Cuaderno de Taganga (see ERNESTO CARDENAL o la VERGÜENZA AJENA on 9 July).

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