Waking Up Again in Winter:
Philip Fried, founder and editor of The Manhattan Review had a line-up of readers at Poets House you'd want to hear even if you didn't know their names beforehand. The Winter 2002 issue (Vol. 10, No. 1, $5) marked their twenty-first birthday and contained many of the poems read during the evening.
In his opening remarks, Philip told the story of how as a young boy he had read a sci-fi book about teenagers who built a rocket ship and flew it to the moon. Years later, he realized he was doing a similar thing with The Manhattan Review: a magazine that traveled far, across borders, and languages.
"A large part of running a magazine," Fried said, "is imaginary with an imaginary audience. So, I'm glad to see you actually here. It's very reassuring to see you." Culture, he said, is something we "make with our hands, and it can travel. It isn't handed down to us or given to us by the media."
Amusing and personal, Fried's introduction set the tone for this enjoyable evening. With about thirteen readers abiding by a seven-minute time limit, it was 'Boom! Boom! Boom!' all the way, but relaxed and intimate. No dead air; in fact, often electric.
Most readers had something as interesting to say as the poems they read. An all-out articulate night. Examples were Jeanne Marie Beaumont's poem, "Untitled" (vowing she will never have another untitled poem) and her "D.E.," about Donald Evans, an artist known for creating elaborate postage stamps for non-existent countries (1945-1980).*
Frank Beck read his translation of Spanish poet Antonio Machado (older, less well-known), writing about his murdered friend, García Lorca, with its resonating refrain, which Fried described as 'full of rage, not elegiac in tone': "Let it be known, the crime was done in Granada. Poor Granada. His Granada." (Alan Trueblood has edited bilingual collection of Machado's work.)
A remarkable piece of work was heard from Ian Brand, "The People I Love," which begins with admiration, not for Einstein's genius, but for his "flash of hair." The "ungroomed" are the people he loves, who "make jokes so dark you have to squint to see the humor."
D. Nurkse delivered "Grand Hotel Pascal," (an actual place and one of the poems in the issue), " Sunlight," the alarmingly current-sounding "1665" (based a quote from Daniel Defoe) and "The Reunification Center," with his characteristic emotional punch and sensitivity.
You had to be there to hear Jim Haba's, "Let Me Put It To You This Way" (I want a copy), loosely based on his efforts, along with Galway Kinnell, Rita Dove (by letter), and other poets who, at a high-level meeting with members of The New York Times, attempted to persuade them not to review poetry books in three's, but rather, singly. They were so cordial and reassuring, the Times people. Surely, the meeting had nothing to do with the newspaper dropping poetry reviews (virtually) altogether.
No reader should be overlooked. Barbara Thimm's interest in list poems, their severe syntactical constraints, the disappearance of the speaker and others in the poem, "Moves"; Marilyn Hacker's translations of "Vénus" by Khoury-Ghata; the work of Patricia Carlin ("On Other Grounds"); Andrey Gritsman's (Still learning English, did he say?) wry, "This Is A Test," "Area B," who wrote a foreword to that section of the issue which features a group of Russian poets in translation; Mona Molarsky ("What Did We Know?"); young Rivita Poom, who read a fine poem (and amused us older writers by apologizing that it was already three years old); and Barry Wallenstein's satiric and dreamlike "Apostrophe to Doctor Trope" and "Dad At Ninety."
I hope I've left no one out of this list. (Baron Wormser and Peter Redgrave were read by proxy.) If I did, you can find their work and more in this fine international journal which offers a broad political and imaginative scope and sensibility. After a lively reading, there was time for us all to talk with each other in the relaxed surroundings of Poets House.
A quote from Zbignew Herbert appeared in the program and was true of the reading: "Writing—and in this I disagree with everybody—must teach men soberness: to be awake. (Interviewed in The Manhattan Review.)
Philip Fried invited us back for the 90th anniversary of The Manhattan Review at Poets House--and let us know that we would all have the same seats.
[*]Stamp-issuing countries Evans created include: Amis et Amants (series), a Francophone colonial archipelago whose islands denote various kinds of love or friendship (Premiers Amours, Amis des Beaux Jours, Main dans la Main, L'Amour Perdu); lo Stato di Mangiare; Achterdijk; Katibo; Jantar; Yteke; Wiesbecker (chairs found abandoned on New York City streets and used in paintings by Philippe Weisbecker); Pasta; The Islands of the Deaf (names in sign language). Amis et Amants may be viewed at faximum.com, Evans's mushroom series, at chanterellenyc.com.