Date: Fri, 23 Jul 1999 05:30:53 -0400
Subject: $3.50: Summer vacation in Scandinavia!

I think I've discovered where poetry might be, had there never been a
"Wasteland" to set us back 30 years! With the recent interest in
international poetry demonstrated by such publications as Boundary2,
readers should grab up the chance to check out the oddities transpiring
in Scandinavia, in the latest issue of Samizdat (no. 3). With English
translations of 10 little-seen poets from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland,
it's an opportunity to glimpse a sturdier branch of our same family tree,
effortlessly twentieth century, in a lineage spared the antagonistic
influences of American confessionalism with its counter-reactions. The
surprise of it is a kind of unselfconscious modernism which escapes
the sometimes deforming pressures of obligatory experimentation. Even
Nordic Europe's "conservative" strains seem to derive from an unfamiliar
lyric tradition (unfamiliar to American readers) which remains startingly
without recourse to our lyricism's "I"/"you" axis. What informed English
or Romance poetry these poets do explicitly evoke (Lawrence Durrell,
Valery, and Char in Gungerd Wikholm;"My Interview with I.A. Richards",
Perry Miller, and an Auden epigraph in Anglophone Goran
) may sometimes seem quaint, but its spottiness and
lacunae have spared them the weight of the Bloomsian patrilineage we
suffer, all for the better. All the same, it's interesting to find Eliot that far
north: "But think also of . . . the lonely typists in their immaculate rooms /
with a small fridge and biscuits on the mantelpiece" ("My Interview").
(That quote may be unrepresentative, though, as even the same author
could coin such fine peculiarities as "intestines of the heuristic house"
[!].) Overall, they have no compunctions about blithely changing direction
mid-stream in their poems, yet without that petrifying into an imprisoning
literary trope like formal "disjunction." A flourish of Pop can turn up, as
in Printz-Pahlson's "The Enormous Comics," which flaunts as much
Superman and Katzenjammer Kids as a Kenneth Koch poem, except
here Superman is a transvestite. Curiously, Scandinavian modernism
also seems to have grown up without the facile vernacular imitators
took from Williams Carlos Williams, and the pleasant formality that results
meets the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E '90's halfway, insofar as they too, if
pushed to it, may "hate speech." For instance, such linguistic
materialities as: "And the language will arrive at last / We do not know
what's first", "The vortex of our language / in the greater vortex;
through its eye---" (Goran Sonnevi), "Stuck in his back pocket, a book
with gleaming covers / . . . start at what page?" (Jesper Svenbro).
There's a good share of nature imagery, --- a relief, in this July weather
--- but there's a lot of wilderness up there, and, while perhaps a trace
of Symbolisme adds a cool mystery to such "yellow leaves of the
birches, the red leaves of the rowans", it's equally realist in its
occasional specificities: "drop by drop / down the whitewashed wall
and the bulging gauze-wrapped sewer pipe / to come out first as rust"
(Soren Ulrik Thomsen). Here's how far from transparency it can go:
"gridiron reverberations / in the hills, sourmash / blandishments . . . As
the gavroche innocence of a barnyard rape: // He offers a smile, mild
/ as pick-axe handles a / mile wide which kindles/ the hide of rutabegas"
(Printz-Pahlson again, whose English language originals, translated into
Swedish, have "on occasion" been translated back into English,
according to the editor's introduction). I lived in Sweden when I was a
teenager, so I can swear to you: those "sourmash / blandishments"
keep coming and coming. (Followers of this EPC discussion list will also
be glad to hear from our own Masha Zavialova, lone list-er throughout
continental Russia, in her "Word from Russia": she reports on their first
prize for independent writing, the covetted Andrei Belyi Prize for
literature, where the award is a bottle of vodka and one ruble.)

The info is: Samizdat / 14 Campus Circle / Lake Forest, IL 60045. Single
copies of current/back issues: $3.50. Subscription: $10 for three
annual issues. Checks made out to editor Robert Archambeau.

What better time than now, while summer sunlight lasts well past
midnight there?