Rick London: poem

  Rick London

  Bach Reviews The Newly Discovered
  Mingus / Dolphy Session

  JPR 09

Bach Reviews The Newly Discovered Mingus / Dolphy Session

I hate this, this — offal
The ensemble fancies nerve

as the medium of design
We can’t conclude anything

about the soloist
His statements are mostly

a frenzy of digression
What’s he saying?

If this were a garden
we couldn’t tell a footpath

from a ditch
There’s no accumulated time

in which to think
or serene interval

to lift up our passions
How are we to understand

that place in the order
of things

for the sacrament
of a breath?

This is the syncopation of ruin
Everything keeps happening

U. S. poet Rick London

Rick London is the author of the poetry collection The Materialist (Doorjamb Press, 2008). He is co-translator (with Omnia Amin) of works by Mahmoud Darwish, Ibrahim Nasrallah, and Nawal El Saadawi. He lives in Oakland, CA.


John Bethune: A Visit with Ward Ritchie, 8112

  John Bethune

  A Visit with
  Ward Ritchie

  From The Sewanee News, April 1986, p. 31.
  JPR 08

Introduction: [Sewanee — University of the South, in Tennessee, is a private institution that was founded in 1857. It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,731, its setting is rural, and the campus size is 13,000 acres. It utilizes a semester-based academic calendar.]

Paragraph One follows 1:

On the western edge of the continent, a few steps from the Pacific, Ward Ritchie, C[lass of 19]28, lives in busy retirement, designing books, writing essays and lectures, and — when he finds the time — printing small books on the antique hand press he keeps in his basement.


I visited Ritchie in his Laguna Beach home in late December on a quintessentially Californian day, warm and sunny, with a mild breeze rising from the ocean — precisely the inspiring climate that Ritchie, in one of his lyrical memoirs, has credited for his successful career. “It was just the environment,” he writes, “to foster self-assurance and confidence, and when I recollect the successful careers as doctors, lawyers, and businessmen of most of those with whom I shared my youth in grammar school, I conclude that they too must have shared in my legacy of youthful self-confidence and faith.”


How this Southern Californian came to study at Sewanee illustrates his optimism and spirit of adventure. “When I was a senior in high school,” he explains, “I wanted to go east to school, and I applied to Amherst, Williams, and Yale. But in those days you had to have four years of Latin and Greek to go to those schools, so I couldn’t get into any of them.” After a year at Occidental College, near his South Pasadena home, he transferred to Stanford, where he remained for several terms.


In the winter of 1927 he was invited to spend the summer visiting relatives in the East and “all of a sudden” realized that this was his opportunity to go east to college. Limiting himself to the few schools that, like Stanford, were on the quarter system, Ritchie applied to Cornell, North Carolina, and the University of the South. His interest in Sewanee was piqued when he came across a copy of the Sewanee Review. The Review “had quite a long article about the college, and I was fascinated by it. When spring vacation came I hopped into my little Chrysler and drove back east.”


Ritchie arrived in Sewanee one evening in March and happened to encounter some fraternity brothers, who took him in and showed him the campus the next morning. He liked what he saw: “I was so intrigued that I immediately signed up.”


Part of the charm of Sewanee was its difference. “I was a Westerner among Southerners. Their mode of life was completely different from what I had experienced in California.” During the four months he was at Sewanee, he received many letters from his Occidental classmate Lawrence Clark Powell (later the distinguished writer and UCLA librarian), which finally persuaded him to return to Occidental for his senior year.


After graduating from Occidental, Ritchie went on to law school, but his intense love for literature and art made law seem comparatively dull. During this period of dissatisfaction he attended the opening of the Huntington Library, where he came across a case of bindings by Cobden-Sanderson, the turn-of-the-century printer and binder. “I was fascinated by the beautiful work that he did,” Ritchie says. “It seemed to me that this was right in my field.”


Soon thereafter he took some courses in printing at a Los Angeles trade school. “They didn’t know what to do with a college graduate,” he recalls with a laugh, “so they let me create my own curriculum and do what I wanted.”


With his characteristic self-confidence, Ritchie went straight to the top for material to print, writing to Carl Sandburg, Archibald Macleish, Marianne Moore, and others for poems. Nearly all of his famous correspondents sent him something to print.


Some months later, he read that the outstanding creator of the modern book was a Frenchman named Francois-Louis Schmied. So, as Ritchie says matter-of-factly, “I naturally decided to go to Paris and work for Schmied — which I did.” After a year of working for Schmied and knocking about Europe, Ritchie returned to California and, after founding the Ward Ritchie Press, embarked on his distinguished career.


In the years since, he has designed many hundreds of books. More than twenty-five them have been selected, as recently as 1982, for inclusion in the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ prestigious Fifty Best Books of the Year.


At eighty years of age, Ritchie is still an active book designer, much in demand. The Huntington Library Press relies on him to design most of its publications; currently he is designing centennial histories of South Pasadena and Occidental College.


Ritchie is also a popular lecturer. In October, he lectured on the history of printing in Southern California at the Library of Congress and this spring will give a talk at Whittier College on artists he has known — Rockwell Kent and Paul Landacre among them.


And, he says, “when I get a chance, I work on the hand press downstairs.” Since “retiring” — as he calls it — in 1972 and creating a new imprint, Laguna Verde Imprenta, he has printed twenty-five titles on his 1835 Albion hand press. Ritchie prints only a few copies of each book, which become instant collector’s items.


Since twenty-five is a milestone number, he thinks his next hand-press project — when his schedule allows him the time — will be a bibliography of Laguna Verde Imprenta.


The many essays about Ward Ritchie tend to describe him simply as a printer or designer, but his career is not so easily categorized. He has also been a publisher, a scholar and bibliographer, a memoirist, and a poet. Of all these careers, he takes a special delight in the poetic one, to judge by the pleasure with which he shows visitors his Quince, etc. This chapbook, which he printed in 1976, exposes, as the subtitle explains, “the several disguises of Ward Ritchie, poet.”


The few collectors who own this pamphlet have the exceedingly rare signatures of James Beattie Pitwood, Davie Dicker, Betsey Ann Bristol, Peter Lum Quince, and Peter Mallory — a strange but resonant assortment of names, and all of them Ward Ritchie’s.


Sewanee is fortunate in having a copy of Quince, etc., along with nearly 150 other Ward Ritchie books donated by the generous Frank Gilliam, C’46. Such a collection is an eloquent tribute to this master of the book arts who, nearly six eventful decades later, still remembers his brief stay in Sewanee as one of the highlights of his life.


John Bethune, an assistant professor of English, is teaching this semester in the College[Sewanee College]. He is also a free-lance writer and has an interest in book collecting.

© 2009-2018 John Bethune – All rights reserved.


Norman MacAfee: Pound, Till, The Cantos and Intolerance

  Norman MacAfee

  Ezra Pound, Emmett Till, The Cantos, and

  JPR 08

(Note: The first half of “Ezra Pound, Emmett Till, The Cantos, and Intolerance,” originally titled “Ezra Pound in Patria Mia,” was delivered on July 10, 2015 at the 26th Ezra Pound International Conference (EPIC), held at Brunnenburg Castle, Dorf Tirol, Italy. Then my twenty minutes were up. The following text is an elaboration of “Ezra Pound in Patria Mia,” made since then.)

to the memory of Emmett Till
“We have found a universal language, a power that can make men brothers and end war forever.” — D. W. Griffith on Intolerance (1916) [See Endnote 1]

“I don’t know how humanity stands it”
— Ezra Pound, Canto LXXIV, line 389 [See Endnote 2]

The Great War, it was called. Arcadia before, desert after. D. W. Griffith, Karl Kraus, Ezra Pound grappled with it in epic ways.

In Vienna, Karl Kraus was writing his 800-page play to be performed on Mars, The Last Days of Mankind. In Hollywood, D. W. Griffith made Intolerance, which told four stories from different epochs — most memorably the fall of Babylon — and repeatedly intercut them. Ezra Pound was commencing his lifework, his “poem containing history,” The Cantos, intercuttings galore.

From the early 1960s, I have read and revisited Pound: The Cantos, the translations, Hugh Kenner’s The Pound Era and Mary de Rachewiltz’s Discretions, and more recent biographies. Pound’s epic, The Cantos, is a challenge to all poets who write about the world, culture, politics, history, as opposed to just the poet’s daily life. The Cantos and Pound’s translations, from the Chinese, Japanese, Anglo-Saxon, Provençal, Hindi, Latin, Italian, French, and ancient Egyptian, open worlds to us.

Though I never met Pound, I grieved at his death in 1972. Then in 1980, at Yale, at a conference on Pier Paolo Pasolini, five years after his assassination, I met Pound’s daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz. She lived in Italy, but her father’s papers are at Yale and she was working on them there.

It was an incomparable moment for me. [See Endnote 3.] Since 1975, I had been translating, with Luciano Martinengo, Pasolini’s major poems: “The Ashes of Gramsci,” “The Tears of the Excavator,” “The Religion of My Time,” “Reality,” “A Desperate Vitality,” “Plan of Future Works,” and “Victory.” They — and the films, The Gospel According to Matthew, Arabian Nights, Salò, Hawks and Sparrows, Teorema, Medea, Decameron — are very great, up there with The Cantos. At Yale in 1980, I delivered my first-ever paper at my first-ever academic conference, on Pasolini, its title quoting a line from “Reality”: “‘I Am a Free Man’: Pasolini’s Poetry in America.” (Two years later, Random House’s Jonathan Galassi would publish our Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poems. John Calder would publish it in London in 1984, and twelve years later Jon Galassi would bring out a new edition at Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)

And now in 1980 at a Pasolini conference the daughter of one of the two poets most important in my tradition was before me. I told her how much I loved Pound’s poetry and translations, and her book Discretions. She quoted her father that the great virtue is curiosity. I would not know until much later that there had been bad blood between Mary and Pasolini.

In 2015, I found myself in the Pound castle, Brunnenburg, near Merano, in Italy, at the invitation of Mary, now 90, to deliver my only second-ever academic paper, “Ezra Pound in Patria Mia.” In 1912-13, Pound wrote the essay “Patria Mia” to grapple with the problems of creating an America culture.

I dedicated my paper to Emmett Till, on whom more later.

As I was writing “Ezra Pound in Patria Mia” in New York City, where I live, I was watching the Franklin and Eleanor hours of The Roosevelts documentary by Ken Burns on Public TV.

Pound hated FDR. My Pennsylvania Republican family really disliked him, too, but then they voted for him in 1936, as nearly everyone else did, because “that man in the White House” had saved the country from the worst of the Depression, as they and nearly everyone else felt. As a leftist Democrat, I love Franklin and Eleanor.

FDR, Churchill, and Stalin saved the world from Hitler. Pound was disastrously on the wrong side, for Mussolini, Hitler’s ally. And disastrously he harbored anti-Semitic feelings and broadcast his anti-Semitism for all to hear on Italian radio.

In 2002 Pound was to be honored in New York City with a plaque in the Poet’s Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the cathedral that the Episcopal diocese had stopped building until the Vietnam War ended.

But this man who wrote

I don’t know how humanity stands it
with a painted paradise at the end of it
without a painted paradise at the end of it
Canto LXXIV, lines 389-91

— this man’s often insane rants broadcast on Mussolini’s Italian fascist radio during World War II with countless anti-Semitic slurs as Jews were being exterminated, made his inclusion in the Cathedral impossible. Parishioners who were converts from Judaism and who had lost family in the Holocaust protested, as did others, and the Cathedral canceled the plaque.

A fellow poet in New York, Roland Legiardi-Laura (1953-2016), told me of his father, a GI in 1945 in Rome, who loved Pound’s poetry but hated his prejudices. Roland’s father found some of the Pound broadcast discs at Italian radio and destroyed them, trying in the only way he could to protect the great poet.

In the 1960s in Venice, Pound apologized to the gay Jewish Buddhist American universal poet Allen Ginsberg for his “stupid suburban prejudice” of anti-Semitism, and the younger poet blessed him. Anti-Semitism was pervasive in Pound’s generation among non-Jews, but usually spoken in whispers. The war gave Pound a microphone and a radio show so the whispers became shouts. Beyond the anti-Semitism, and overriding it, Pound’s official crime was that as a U.S. citizen, he had propagandised for the war-time enemy. He paid with internment at St. Elizabeth’s Federal Hospital for the Insane in Washington, DC from 1945 to 1958.

In 1946, in San Francisco, Eleanor Roosevelt crafted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, which she intended would become the International Magna Carta for all people everywhere. But no Roosevelt-administration poet like minor-league Archibald MacLeish (who was on the right side of World War II) could soar like Pound, who was on the wrong side.

A Mexican Communist, Diego Rivera, in some ways redeems Pound with his murals and especially the one commissioned, nearly completed, then destroyed by the Rockefellers. They founded Standard Oil, which became Exxon Mobil, which hid its research on climate change and funded climate change deniers, leading to the worst and worsening existential crisis for life as we know it on our planet. The mural, Man at the Crossroads, was at Rockefeller Center and was destroyed because Lenin was in it.

Never inside the country to raise the standard of living,
but always abroad to increase the profits of usurers
                                          dixit Lenin
Canto LXXIV, lines 164–166

Diego, a year younger than Pound, filled North America’s walls with atheist earthly paradises and hells and with meaning, for meaning is energy.

The destruction of Man at the Crossroads (making Lenin a nonperson) led to President Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Project Adminstration painting murals on tens of thousands of walls across the nation. And inspiring Philadelphia — home city of Pound and me and Penn (Friend William and University, Pound’s and my alma mater), to become, decades later, with more outdoor murals than any other city in the world, via the Mural Arts Program founded in the 1980s and directed by Jane Golden, housed in Thomas Eakins’ house — inspiring Philadelphia to become the Mural Capital of the World.

At Penn, in 1964, English professor Morse Peckham said, “The three greatest US artists are Martha Graham, Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Ives.”

But what of a fourth, under Peckham’s nose, Pound, long ago of Penn?

Brilliant teacher of English Romantic literature, Peckham went on to edit the Variorum edition of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, anathema to climate change deniers. [See Endnote 4].

Pound shared the sense of injustice and outrage that today we invoke when we speak of the 1 per cent owning almost all. In 1968, in the United States, the average president of a company made 20 times what the average worker makes. Today it is 400 to 1. [See Endnote 5] Pound advocated the evaporation of money. It would have a shelf life of a month or so. Use it or lose it and never hoard it.

Ezra bound in jail, for 13 years in St. Elizabeth’s Federal Hospital for the Insane in Washington, DC. Gosh! says the title character in the recognition scene in Pound’s translation of Sophokles’ Elektra made at St. Elizabeth’s. Gosh! the living language made in the madhouse cell and stuffed in a drawer. Gosh! How could a madman make so sublime a translation of Sophocles? But hide it he must, and mad he must remain else he could still be executed for treason. Gosh!

Lucky me, in 1989 Pound’s publisher New Directions asked me to consolidate the two variant manuscript versions of his Elektra into one for publication. I am a clumsy typist, but I made a new amalgam edition, the published, acting version, for ND and published by them. [See Endnote 6] I had seen one of the premier performances a year earlier at the Classic Stage Company in New York City’s East Village directed by Carey Perloff [Editor’s note: literary critic Marjorie Perloff’s daughter].

Like Pound going to live in London, in the early teens of the century, to witness the collapse of the British Empire, I came to New York City in 1967 to witness the consummation of our democratic republic, but alas the next year saw the collapse of peace and democracy, with the assassinations of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy. In that momentous year, I invented the term “nostalgia for the future.”

Pound’s poetry mirrors the age of the cinema: so The
compares with D. W. Griffith’s pacifist experimental epic Intolerance of 1916 while, alas, Pound’s fascist ranting bears comparison, alas, with The Birth of a Nation from the previous year, with its conclusion, alas, that the Ku Klux Klan is the savior of the nation. Dead before, now reborn, its history whitewashed by Griffith’s fabulously popular and persuasive film, the Klan embarked on new phases of terror and lynching.

Intolerance is often called Griffith’s apology, though he considered it his rebuke to his critics. In it, four separate stories — about the evils of industrialism in early twentieth-century America, the fall of Babylon, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the French Protestant Huguenots, and Jesus’ last days — are repeatedly intercut: beginning, wrote Griffith, like four separate rivers that converge to become finally one mighty torrent. In a recurring linking device, a woman (played by Lillian Gish) in ancient garb rocks a cradle — illustrating the title card “Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,” words of Walt Whitman — linking the first great American poet to the American Father of Cinema to the next generation’s great American poet, Pound.

In Intolerance’s utopian coda, jails vanish, War ends, white people frolic in peace, and a superimposed cross joins hillside multitude to heavenly host. Griffith on Intolerance: “We have found a universal language, a power that can make men brothers and end war forever.”

I have made preliminary investigation and cannot discover if Pound saw or heard about Intolerance. [See Endnote 7] The film’s London premiere on April 7, 1917, was a great success, helped enormously because the day before, the United States had entered the war. Pound was living in London. The symphony orchestra conductor Sir Thomas Beecham attended the premiere; Pound worked with Beecham in 1917, making a translation of Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon. [See Endnote 8] So it is likely that Pound saw or knew about Intolerance. There are similarities between The Cantos and Intolerance. Griffith, though, after Intolerance, abandoned the intercutting of epochs. Pound made his half-century-long epic on just such intercutting, the mind leaping among epochs and continents. [See Endnote 9]

Now: Till, the Tills: father Louis, son Emmett:

1945: Pisa

and Till was hung yesterday
for murder and rape with trimmings…
— Canto 74, lines 171–172

In late August 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Mississippi, when he dared speak to a local white woman. Because of this violation of insane Jim Crow etiquette, he was kidnapped, tortured, and beaten to death. It was from the martyred body of Emmett Till that the civil rights movement took root, grew, and flourished against overwhelming odds.

Born 1922, Emmett’s father, Louis, had had a restraining order taken out on him for beating his wife. A judge, a white judge, in Jim Crow Missouri gave him a choice: jail or the army. He chose the latter. While serving in Italy, he was accused of the rape and murder of an Italian woman, was court-martialed, and hanged in Pisa in 1945. For a time, Pound and Till were fellow prisoners in the detention camp at Pisa.

Was Louis unjustly executed? It appears he may have been, as another Penn graduate John Edgar Wideman speculates in Writing to Save a Life: The Louis Till File.[See Endnote 10]

During the period of Italian fascism, 1922 to 1945, Pound’s soul became poisoned with anti-Semitism.

Where — oh Ezra, named surely for the Old Testament scribe — where would we be without those Jews invoked by Pasolini in “Plan of Future Works”? [See Endnote 11]

Oh Marx — all is gold — oh Freud — all
is love — oh Proust — all is memory —
oh Einstein — all is end — oh Chaplin — all

is man — oh Kafka — all is terror

I would add:

oh Chomsky and the Chomskometer
oh Karl Kraus and The Last Days of Mankind
oh Charles Reznikoff and Testimony: The United States (1885-1890)
oh Eliot Weinberger — all is 9/12
oh Naomi Klein — all is disaster capitalism
oh Susan Sontag — all is the Republic of the Serious
oh Amy Goodman — all is Democracy Now
oh Mahler and your songs of the earth
oh Claude Cahun and your Heroines
oh Bob Holman and your Bowery Poetry Dreams
oh Nancy Miller Elliott, you Bowery Rembrandt
oh Masha Gessen, all is migration
oh gay Jewish Buddhist American universal poet Allen Ginsberg

Still, Pound is eternal. After his death I wrote these lines:

Ghosts in a grove of bonsai maples,
tiny Linnaeus, Mozart, Pound.

In these years of the Black Lives Matter movement, I dedicate my words to Emmett Till.

Copyright © 2018 by Norman MacAfee

Norman MacAfee in August 2017 in Mexico City at Diego Rivera’s Anahuacalli museum, in front of recently discovered studies for the Rockefeller Center mural. Photo by Miguel Cervantes-Cervantes. Copyright © 2017 Miguel Cervantes-Cervantes.

Norman MacAfee is working on a poem-opera, Man at the Crossroads, about Diego Rivera’s mural of that title, painted at Rockefeller Center in 1934, then destroyed because it included Lenin among its 236 figures. He is also translating, with Luciano Martinengo, the poetry of Piera Oppezzo (1934–2005).


Three pages of drawings of Pound and Pasolini: As part of a month-long retrospective of his films and other works, “Pier Paolo Pasolini: The Eyes of a Poet,” the Italian actress Laura Betti and I presented a reading on May 3, 1990, of his poems in the Museum of Modern Art’s Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1. Besides us, the other readers included Isabella Rossellini, Jennifer Beals, Judith Malina, William Allen, Hanon Reznikov, and Tomás Milián.

Around this time, I was able to view at MoMA’s Film Library something I had only heard about: the to me two most important 20th-century poets together, Pasolini interviewing Pound for Italian television. As I watched them onscreen, I sketched them without looking at the paper. The interview is now available on YouTube. It was broadcast in 1968, but my noting “1967” probably means that it was filmed that year. At: Here.

The scribbling:

“Here error is all in the not done.”
Confession of a poet 1967 —
begins with “Ashes of Gramsci” —
Guido was what he wanted to be.
& continues


PPP and EP
Sublime meeting
Perhaps only PPP could understand EP
You honor me with your trust

Guido was Pasolini’s only sibling, three years younger, more athletic, straight, killed at nineteen in the war.

Pound Pasolini, image 1
Pound Pasolini, image 2
Pound Pasolini, image 3

Drawings copyright © 1990, 2018 by Norman MacAfee


Endnote links: If you click on the number that identifies the endnote, you will be taken back to the point in the text where the endnote anchor occurs;
and vice versa.

[Endnote 1] Lillian Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith, and Me (Prentice-Hall 1969), p. 183.

[Endnote 2] Ezra Pound, The Pisan Cantos, edited and annotated with an introduction by Richard Sieburth (New Directions 2003).

[Endnote 3] Pier Paolo Pasolini, Poems, selected and translated by Norman MacAfee with Luciano Martinengo (Farrar Straus & Giroux 1994).

[Endnote 4] Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species : A Variorum Text, Morse Peckham, editor (University of Pennsylvania Press 2006)

[Endnote 5] Jim Webb, “Class Struggle,” Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2006; Alyssa Davis and Lawrence Mishel, “CEO Pay Continues to Rise as Typical Workers Are Paid Less,” Economic Policy Institute Report, June 12, 2014.

[Endnote 6] Sophokles, Elektra, a version by Ezra Pound and Rudd Fleming, with an introduction and production notes by Carey Perloff (New Directions 1990).

[Endnote 7] Richard Schickel, D. W. Griffith: An American Life (Simon and Schuster 1984), pp. 344-5.

[Endnote 8] A. David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet, Volume I (Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 284, 299.

[Endnote 9] D. W. Griffith, Intolerance (Cohen Film Collection, 2013).

[Endnote 10] Scribner, 2016.

[Endnote 11] Pasolini, Poems, p. 197.


Chris Tysh: Turnstile

  Chris Tysh

  Turnstile: the Postcard
  from Socrates to Freud
  a n d       B e y o n d

  JPR 08

Jagged edge of evening like unevenly spaced streetlights, fewer cars, elongates

An already long sentence beyond recognition, its referent laissé pour compte, forlorn and off-

Center yet again reluctant to carry meaning’s cashbox anywhere near your native tongue

Quasi stranded against the sender’s folly to write in bed as if on a sea voyage, whitecaps

Unfurl flags of surrender, a brise marine sweeps upper decks where the addressee

Ends up pressing her face against a love letter like a fiancée in a silent film

Strange to think of that interminable post now passing through mailman’s hand like a mirror


Destined to shatter old idioms in their mouths over their heads deep in the weeds

Everywhere the smallest difference hails us poorly spelled yet making sense in the bitter

Realm of the word we’d follow fumbling or skipping between sense barrier and its sound

Receding now that we are at the station so little time to decipher your lips’ vernacular

I’ll leave en tête de train as you slip away in the crowded morning mass a photograph

Did not record this moment’s oddities nor our forgetting to smile: “It don’t mean a thing if it

Ain’t got that… (Duke Ellington, 1943); one at a time, a likeness of tears, vanishing


The reader’s task collapses ‘round her skull, hours squandered pounding on a door, words

Hard to pronounce or buffeted by strange syntax, the eloquence of chance, an amulet to guard

Everything buried from reaching its point de bascule in the machinery of the text


Prior versions deleted without ever totally gone from the hard drive, a bardo of sorts

Other than a precaution in the face of ghosts having something to say against their naked selves

Single sheet apt to slide along a narrow bed where each broie son noir like a muddy cup of woe

There will be mornings turned toward clouds passing beside us, documentary yet fictive at once

Crypt or trace, drift or graft it’s always already, as you like to say, an impossible beginning

A margin on the wet sand we tread on erasing signs in order of appearance as if the sea foam

Repositions a line’s tonic stresses, measure by measure, à la rencontre des courants

Depending on the agitation of the waves, cursive letters a little wobbly, a little different


Freudian slip it’s called or parapraxis like misreading whorl for whore or rogue for rouge

Rumored to let our trickster unconscious its portion of gaffes, sitting behind a prompter’s box

Once tongues leave the inverted groove, cuing each word across a tangle of roots and cords

Massacring what we meant in the first place, a kind of roulette that spins the ball awry


Socrates lies in reader’s lap, a spot of skin inked there mid-inner thigh, half-forgotten script

Once holding such clout, whole paragraphs with blue highlights remind her she’d understood

Crushed it, as the kid said about a Nietzsche oral, now she daydreams on the banc des amoureux

Recomposing every passing face that retains another arabesque a whole corps de ballet

Above the ramparts, tent city, some protesters’ slack limbs extend every which way

To supplant alternative facts we are rerouted, brought back to a language of insurrection

Ever so inevitable for all of its fiery summons, this is the coin we speak of when we find

So many pièges à cons within the daily accordion, its pleats grown slicker with each squeeze


The benign obsolescence of address, outmoded charm of the baisemain

Once de rigueur in certain spheres, a mere appendix now to the sex archive


From then on the store of drives stays open round the clock hoisting its iron shutters —

Rideau de fer to us francophones — only to let in ego’s other tenant just shy of a vertigo

Episode, always a suspect groping one’s mind for the proper switch to revive old memories

Unaugmented and bereft, really rows of sorrow the viewer’s eye takes for puddles and mongrel

Dogs: left to wonder how one could dream up such a ghastly little shoppe of rubbish


Amid the supposed drama of wrenching a tale from its framing device, assassin hand

Never far off a paternal function — nom-du-père — sets the stage for what’s to come

Down the ramp: in the faint glimmer one drops a pin between an event and its imaginary end


By the time you jump a turnstile, the train’s long gone and la salle des pas perdus

Echoes voyagers’ disquiet collapsed on the quay in a cinematic pan we read as

Yet another disappearance inherent to a certain text — a box of wiles sprung

Open over the scrap heap of gender lines evanescing as if swallowed by a fog machine

Night descends upon the world’s blurry pronouns, a rim of lights all flushed and newly bright

Down to dolly tracks that glide across the set like a band of hoboes across the continent


Lindsay Tuggle: The Autopsy Elegies

  Lindsay Tuggle

  The Autopsy Elegies

  JPR 08

Paragraph One follows: 1:

On Wednesday, July 15, 1868, Mary Lynch was admitted to Philadelphia’s almshouse, suffering from tuberculosis.[See Endnote 1A]


Adjacent to the University of Pennsylvania, the almshouse operated under the auspices of Philadelphia General Hospital, a charity facility. Then, as now, American medicine was a private, for-profit system. A closed system. Charity hospitals are still the last resort for patients who cannot afford to pay for treatment.


The women’s receiving register recorded precious little information on Mary. She was 28 years old, an Irish widow of ‘temperate habits’ (she did not drink to excess). That is all we know of her private life. Her medical afterlife tells another story entirely. One that blurs the boundaries between body and book, doctor and patient, author and subject, ghost and host.


I write elegies for women. I can’t seem to stop. It started with my sister, but that’s another, longer story. A story for another day, as my sister would say. The women I love, whose blood I share, often die young. I have no illusions that this is extraordinary outside of the relatively privileged milieu I find myself occupying, these days. It’s a far cry from where I grew up, but that too is another story for another day. Every elegy needs an author. And then, an autopsy. Mary’s autopsy rendered her first a medical curiosity, then a bibliophilic oddity, then a museum artefact. Her elegy has been an long time coming.


Mary spent six months in the almshouse prior to her death. She was admitted to Ward 27, where one of the attending physicians was John Stockton Hough, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, five years Mary’s junior, with a research interest in intestinal parasites. By a strange convergence of fate, while convalescing Mary contracted trichinosis, a parasite that passes from host to host via ingestion. [See Endnote 1B]


Perhaps, if you have a the sort of imagination I do, you may think that it was not, after all, a coincidence. Nineteenth-century medical archives abound with tales of doctors in so-called charity hospitals experimenting on patients, or hastening their deaths in order to obtain their corpses for anatomy demonstrations.[See Endnote 1] Almshouses and their adjacent cemeteries were the primary source of cadavers, fuelling the black market that supplied medical colleges in constant shortage of “anatomical material”. [See Endnote 2]


Due to the wasting nature of both tuberculosis and trichinosis, Mary, who was 5 feet 2 inches tall, weighed only 60 pounds (27.2 kg) at the time of her death. [See Endnote 3] She was buried in an unmarked grave in the almshouse cemetery. Hough autopsied Mary’s corpse sometime before her burial (the exact date is unknown). To say that he discovered a parasitic infestation would be putting it mildly.[4] But the parasites Mary hosted were not only internal. The medical appropriation of her body had only just begun.


Hough’s graphic account of Mary’s case history was published in the American Journal of Medical Sciences (1869). The article marked his debut appearance in medical literature. Hough bestowed upon Mary a more lasting textual fame. Sometime during the autopsy, he excised a piece of skin from her thigh. After removing this specimen, he went down to the almshouse basement and tanned it in a chamber pot. Hough held onto this macabre souvenir for thirty years, during which time he became a wealthy bibliophile. In 1870, Hough entered private practice, drawing his patients from Philadelphia’s most elite circles. He travelled throughout Europe and America seeking artefacts for the fledgling book collection that became his lifelong obsession and posthumous legacy. In the following decades, Hough published widely and diversely in the arenas of hygiene, biology, gynaecology, speculative physiology, social science, vital statistics, population and political economy. He was regarded as an authority on “human monsters”, the unfortunate term then used to describe severe foetal abnormalities. Hough also attained notoriety for his invention of a dual-use vaginal / rectal speculum. [5]


In January 1874, Hough married Philadelphia heiress Sarah M. Wetherill, who died less than a year after their wedding, following complications in childbirth. [6] As a wealthy widower, Hough ceased practicing medicine and devoted himself to three main passions: expanding his collection of rare manuscripts, authoring a history of pre-modern medical literature, and meticulously curating his own autobiographical archive. Following his second marriage in 1887 to Edith Reilly of New York City, Hough became a “gentleman farmer”, ran for political office, and relentlessly pursued acquisitions for his library. [7] His books and papers now reside in Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum and Historical Medical Library, where I encountered them during a research fellowship.


In 1887, almost 20 years after he initially collected the specimen, Hough used Mary’s preserved skin to bind three medical texts on the subject of female reproduction: Robert Couper’s Speculations on the Mode and Appearances of Impregnation in the Human Female (1789); Louis Barles’s Le Nouvelles Decouvertes sur Toutes les Parties Principales de L’Homme et de la Femme (1680); and Louise Bourgeois’s Recueil des Secrets de Louyse Bourgeois (1650). This was not an isolated, macabre fetish. Nineteenth-century medical bibliophiles often collected books bound in human skin, a technique known as anthropodermic bibliopegy. Like Hough, the creators of such volumes were usually doctors who obtained human leather from the autopsied bodies of their most vulnerable patients, often women.[8] Outwardly, these books keep their secrets well; human leatherwork does not immediately betray its origins to the naked eye. Handwritten inscriptions reveal their sources. The front flyleaf Hough’s copy of Couper’s Speculations contains a note on the binding’s origins, including its preservation in a ‘pot de chambre’ by his own hand. The book assumes the body’s protective sheath, binding this anatomical treatise to one specific cadaver. Opposite the inscription, Hough pasted his article from American Journal of Medical Sciences detailing Mary’s case history.


As Carolyn Marvin’s history of human-leather books establishes, like the cadavers used for medical dissection, skin bindings were almost always sourced from marginal bodies:


The human hide-bound book was situated in the scholar’s library and the museum, entitled private places… What made it morally defensible to use the poor in this fashion… was the social construction of the indigent and outcast as surplus people… useful at least for medical science, or, in the case of the bound book, for indulging the esoteric intellectual interests of medical practitioners… Like medical body snatching, it made of the poor a resource for the production of physicians.[9]


Throughout the nineteenth century, when anatomical specimens were in high demand but notoriously difficult to acquire, a black market trafficked in human remains. Medical body snatching was rampant in antebellum America.[10] The bodies of African Americans, immigrants, prostitutes, Native Americans, and the poor, who crowded almshouses in life and potter’s fields in death, were ideal targets.[11] A disproportionate number of immigrants fuelled the illicit cadaver trade. By 1880, only one eighth of the US population was foreign-born, yet immigrants (like Mary) made up one third of the patients in almshouses.[12] Their bodies were buried anonymously in ‘potter’s fields’the name historically given to cemeteries for the indigent and unknown.[13] ‘Those in charge of morgues, the dead rooms of hospitals, and potter’s fields, could tell some startling things about how bodies disappear from those places,’ a whistle-blowing doctor asserted in an 1879 issue of Penn Monthly. ‘The number of bodies that are allowed to go into the potter’s fields throughout the country is very small, and the majority of those that reach them are not allowed to rest in them many hours.’[14] In 1880, the anatomy demonstrator at the University of Michigan promised the university trustees that ‘better people’ could rest assured. Although the legal supply of corpses fell drastically short, he sourced additional cadavers from the ‘paupers and friendless dead’ of the ‘county houses and asylums.’[15] Antebellum decedents were as segregated as the living: those whose disenfranchisement rendered them commodities, and those protected by power and privilege that extended beyond the grave.


Couper’s treatise opens with a compellingly opaque declaration: ‘There is frequently ambiguity in words.’ He goes on to describe the female body from the perspective of an ‘ancient’ anatomist, who has ‘rise[n] from his grave’ to dissect her cadaver.[16] Significantly, neither party is alive. The scalpel is wielded by a ghost, resurrected from his tomb for the purposes of conducting this dissection. His haunted autopsy uncannily foreshadows the professional title adopted by nineteenth-century medical grave robbers, who called themselves ‘resurrectionists.’[17] The phantom’s post-mortem includes vivid descriptions of the female reproductive organs during copulation.[18] In this sense, the medical treatise doubles as a necrophilia fantasy (although the taboo is at least partially subverted by the fact that both parties are dead). As the anatomist’s scalpel pierces blood and bone, he describes the woman’s organs in various states of sexual flux:


[A]natomists generally favour us with accurate measurements of the uterine system, as an antiquarian does of a piece of nice architecture. Before coition has disturbed its proportions, the canal of the uterus may be about five or six inches long… and when its walls are thrown into violent distension… its diameter may be about a sixth a part of its length… After frequent coition, the vagina becomes considerably shorter, but at the same time its diameter is more than proportionally increased… We shall pass on with the physiologist to his examination of the uterus, which meets with more of his respect, as he considers every aspect of the female genital system chiefly subservient to it.[19]


Throughout Couper’s treatise, readers ‘follow’ the ‘ancient’ narrator as he ‘establishes communication’ with each of the sexual organs.[20] In his hands, the female body is reduced to ‘a piece of nice architecture,’ in which the genitals are ‘subservient’ to the womb. The vagina is merely ornamental, while the uterus is functionally ‘respect[ed]’ for its role in procreation. Yet, despite his dismissals, it is not only pregnancy that fascinates this surgeon-spectre, but also the catalytic sex act that precedes it.[21] Although the vagina does not command the anatomist’s ‘respect,’ he dwells at length on its ‘coalescence’:


From its structure, its sides surely coalesce in its natural state; though from its texture and elasticity, these sides may be thrown into such a figure as may constitute a cavity. In coition, with all its uncommon phænomena, what charm have we now left to overcome this coalescence?… Though females may entertain sanguine ideas of these things, we must suppose the physiologist, toiling through the unalarming and chilly organs of the dead, can furnish us with more substantial reasons.[22]


Couper dismisses whatever ‘sanguine ideas’ women hold about their own anatomies, endorsing as superior the physiologist’s conclusions, based on experiments conducted on the ‘unalarming and chilly’ cadaver. By inversion, we conclude that the living woman is not only warm-bodied and red-blooded (an alternate meaning of ‘sanguine’ is the colour blood-red), she is also alarming, unlike her passively inert doppelganger.


Such erotic anatomy demonstrations were far from unique. Couper was part of a medical culture that unified anatomical investigation and sexual fetishization of the female body. It was a condition of theoretical enquiry that the woman about to be dissected must first be seen as beautiful.[23] Consider Couper’s Speculations alongside another medical fetish object, created less than a decade before his text was published. in 1782, Italian sculptor Clemente Susini unveiled his Anatomical Venus, a life-sized wax mannequin designed as a medical teaching tool. Cadavers were in short supply due to the widespread belief that the body must be buried intact in order for resurrection to occur. ‘The Demountable Venus,’ as she was also called, was made to be dismembered. Each organ was removed in a prescribed order until the final reveal: a tiny foetus resting in her womb.[24] From the moment of her debut, the Venus and her subsequent sisters — a series of anatomical models commissioned under Susini’s supervision — embodied the somnambulant allure of necrophilia: a wounded icon whose dissection was eerily presided over by her own ecstatic face. Collectively called the ‘Slashed Beauties’ and the ‘Dissected Graces,’ they fused religious iconography, erotic pathos, aesthetic symmetry and anatomical precision.[25] Their modern descendants are the scream queens of the horror genre (who remain beautiful despite their bloodbaths), and the uncanny valley girls of the flourishing erotic doll industry. The 18th-century medical equivalent of Stepford Wives, these beauty queens are unfazed by their own bloodless dissections. The original Venus wears a string of pearls. One of her younger sisters is crowned with a golden tiara. Another wears a silk ribbon looped in a bow around her own entrails. All are adorned with glass eyes and real human hair. Inert in their glass and rosewood coffins, they smile demurely with downcast, unseeing eyes.


Female aesthetic beauty was vital to anatomical illustrations for centuries before the arrival of the ‘dissected graces.’[26] As though, before investigating the biological workings of the female body, medical men must first be attracted to it. Yet, unlike the gruesome realities of the autopsy theatre, students of the Venus and her sisters both invoked and overturned the necrophilia taboo. A key element of the Venus’s charm is that, unlike her human counterparts, she can be reconstructed. Even her autopsy is ephemeral. Like Prometheus, she must endure her own dismemberment, eternally (and silently).


Viewing the ‘Slashed Beauties’ through the lens of our current reckoning with systemic gender violence, two questions linger and will not leave me:


1) What does it mean to desire a body that remains supine and lovely even as she is torn apart?
2) What drives this form posthumous desire, where beauty is seen as a prerequisite to wounding? Is it attraction to the corpse’s inertia, or rejection of the living woman’s alterity?


During my residency at the Museum, the country of my birth inaugurated a man as President of the United States of America, who, by his own (involuntary) admission, has a long history of genital violence. My time in the archive was punctuated by protests. First, the Women’s March. Then, the Republican Party held a convention in Philadelphia. The city erupted. Everywhere the delegates went, hundreds of protesters followed, streaming a virtual map of their movements as politicians were sighted. While I examined Hough’s sketches of specula designs, Planned Parenthood reported an escalating demand for IUDs as women sought a form of birth control that could outlast this administration’s assaults on their bodies and their psyches.[27]


In the year that followed, I too became a case study. I spent hours inside Magnetic Resonance Imaging tunnels, listening to the whirling dervish of machinery mapping my insides, while I lay strapped to a pool of cold water to avoid radiation contact burns. I thought of Mary, whose face I’ve never seen, though I’ve touched her skin a thousand times. Whose interior I imagine I know as well as I now know the shapes of my own organs. In words and pictures, if not in flesh. I filled out many forms soliciting my consent. I thought about the unspoken debt modern medicine owes to women like Mary, to countless experiments conducted on dispossessed bodies. I thought about consent and its absence. Does human agency end when we take our last breath, leaving behind only anatomical material, as John Stockton Hough and his contemporaries presumed? Or is such appropriation a form of posthumous violence, of corporeal theft? How do we reckon with the legacies we owe to the anonymous beings whose autopsies created our current understanding of the human body, in all its fragile resilience, its hewn grace?


One day, as I walked home from the clinic, I saw an advertisement for some kind of lavish face serum: ‘leave behind a ‘beautiful corpse.’[28] I recalled Poe’s conviction that ‘the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.’[29] I don’t want it to be true, but here we are. I thought of all the beautiful cadavers in my own ossuary of ghosts. And of Mary, the bookbound Anatomical Venus.


The following poems are my articulated elegies not only for Mary, but also for an infinite chorus of unnamed women, past and present: fragmented specimens that play host to a haunted palimpsest — a dialogue between male and female, body and soul, doctor and patient — that slips between their century and ours. Their ending is unwritten. A story for another day.

John Stockton Hough’s library, circa 1888. Courtesy of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.


Fugitive Sheets

There is often ambiguity in wounds.

Her cursive history guards
against whatever lies

he affixed to its conception,

that unkempt state from which
we date material origins.

General laws of the animal economy
fail us, even now.

Once again, we cease to fathom
the progress of a vein.

A specimen, lavished in enquiry,
tortured by every effort of ingenuity.

Her train of peculiar symptoms
bestowed manifold gifts under the knife.

All were encysted.

Let this medium be what it is.
Leave her room to evade

the diagnosis, where nothing coheres.

A tragic stranger, treading on bacteria,
triaged in the mouths of absorbents.

All that is left is a name I can’t recognize;
Disorderly capillaries in an otherwise poised face.

Fugitive anatomical sheets,
male and female, superimposed.

A seriality nested in fascia
her spectral limbs, unmoored.

John Stockton Hough’s sketches for a speculum design, 1878. Courtesy of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.


Kinship Studies

Even in death,
she belonged to the house.

A wife is the worst historian.

Her eyes could not abide, awake,
husbands in the mouths of every man.

With her skirts awry
and a distaste for shipboard games,

widowed, but not yet bookish.
The kind of woman who causes suicides.

Limned in green,
glasses heavy on her cheek

unmarked by either tar or creosote.
Deemed worthy, but only just.

Tunic-sleeved, the taste of dust
still narrow in her mouth.

She belonged to that class of women
he called ‘floaters’
who drift through hospitals        (as in debris)

Later, there will be horses
and old-fashioned pornography.

Silver-fissured celluloids atop
crimson overlays of collagen.

The binding gives out
in manifold kinships.

No one is safe, here.

angry as asphodels,

we rebel against the whims
of some minor god.

The sort with a line for every occasion
who never learns not to look back.

Always pillaging in the garden.

His wife hiding, just shy of peripheral.
She likes to watch from afar.

It is never banal to see someone unfurl.

As in the agonies of pressed flowers
or birds nailed to wooden doors.

She never was attracted to severance
but desire is a pre-existing condition.

Consent is not.
Written in breastbones. Not written at all.

Her story now bound between her own thighs.
Curatorial skin gold-vellumed

and embossed with his name.
Sleep comes not in the grave
                      but the stacks.

Photograph of Hough’s speculum. Courtesy of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.


Anatomical Venus

At first, she ate ravenously.
Nothing strange but the subject.

A widow of temperate habits
confined to disjointed reveries.

The anatomist, long content
to number human bones,

traced with edifying precision
the decline of evanescent arteries.

Eminent men have long decorated
the usual maladies with scalpeled cadence.

Many whims have been treated
meeting the lifted sword with a glove.

In her almanac of thrift store
couture and anime organs,

mementos light wounds.
Open cavities host

jacquard-loomed larvae
shelved in gilt.

Sieged glands unmothered,
mouths portals to carrion.

Our teeth gave us cause to tear
the flesh of living creatures.

Still, there are rules
to which we must abide.

Misery requires conditions.
Cleaving to suburban biologies,

the beleaguered fortunes
of anatomical loveliness.

An unblemished specimen, aglow
                    in formaldehyde.

Her well-heeled symptoms
                    burnished in gauze.


Camera Obscura

Diet her fever
as you might tend an heirloom.

Only strangers arrive by the front door.
Sterile belles hold rallies for twilight sleep.

The future belongs to obsolescent devices,
a looselimbed cabal of drugstore blondes.

Where launderette submissives wait to assume
some other, less brutal, pastoral.

The final girl will always prevail.

With violence bouqueted in her hair,
bedroomy combs fastened at the temple.

Her skull is a dream.

The anonymous ones cut their teeth
on plastic diadems and hourglasses.

It’s safer this way,
though still fraught with the usual maladies.

The road home
is littered with wooden limbs.

Detail of anthropodermic bookbinding on Joseph Leidy’s An Elementary Treatise on Human Anatomy (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1861). Courtesy of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.


Dead Blondes

Shape the eye in silt irises
that tiny organ rendered in glass and glow.

After a cavalcade of scandals, his
rodeo girls blush into lissom pinups.

Under waning florescence the taxidermist
clothes mouths in perpetual desire.

Cadence scalpeled, tracing
ghost on faceless ghost.

False idols are fetish proof,
but telegrams arrive faster.

In case you need anything
don’t hesitate to reverse the charges.

Leave her clothing dishevelled;
photograph only flattering angles.

Catalogue the location of scars and sunburns.
These will enter the permanent collection.

There’s always a spare room in our elastic house

while we cloak relics in half-morocco quarto,
waiting for the day her wound will become a womb.


Diorama, retrospective

Drunken ghosts downpour maledictions.
When will we put an end to mourning?

When we hunt machines of our own creation,
make cathedrals of our bitten selves.

Just imagine the bruises the fall must have caused.

That afternoon I saw another doctor
to milk a wound for all it’s worth.

No pretty utterances on the couch
only gutter glass and all my best vintage

the clothes that guard against your eyes.
A girl’s got to eat. Or not. Alterity is underwhelming.

Sometimes ‘no’ is the only word a mouth can shape.

My criminal record includes truancy
which is simply a refusal to remain in the designated place.

Always this compulsion to run until the femur cracks.

When I was thirteen I lived in the woods for four nights.
When hunger was a bloom on animal husbandry

When we slept on beds of needles
ribs curled into barren limbs.

Before the bridal elegy began.

Detail of John Stockton Hough’s copy of Robert Couper’s Speculations on the Mode and Appearances of Impregnation in the Human Female (1789), bound in Mary Lynch’s skin. Courtesy of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.
 Author’s Note

This project has been generously supported by a series of grants from the Mütter Museum and College of Physicians of Philadelphia, home to the largest collection of confirmed anthropodermic books in the world. My poems include numerous quotes altered from Hough’s papers and from Couper’s Speculations.


Endnote [1A] During the nineteenth century, tuberculosis (TB) was the leading cause of death in the United States. Also termed “consumption,” primary symptoms include fatigue, night sweats, and a general “wasting away” of the victim. “Typically but not exclusively a disease of the lungs, TB is also marked by a persistent coughing-up of thick white phlegm, sometimes blood.” Prior to 1943, when Selman Waksman discovered the antibiotic streptomycin, there was no reliable treatment for TB. Physicians sometimes prescribed bleedings and purgings, but most commonly, doctors simply advised their patients to rest, eat well, and exercise outdoors. Very few patients recovered. “Tuberculosis was primarily a disease of the city, where crowded and often filthy living conditions provided an ideal environment for the spread of the disease. The urban poor represented the vast majority of TB victims.” “Early Research and Treatment of Tuberculosis in the Nineteenth Century,” Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia, 2007, Web, March 17, 2018.

Endnote [1B] Mary consumed meat tainted with Trichinella spiralis, a parasitic roundworm often found in pigs. Trichinella is transmited from host to host via “ingestion of muscle tissue that has been infected with the encysted larval stage of the parasite.” Inside the new host’s small intestine, larvae progress into their adult stage. Then, after mating and reproduction, newborn larvae exit the intestine and “migrate through the circulatory system to muscles throughout the body. The total time for this cycle to occur is 17 to 21 days.” Beth Lander, “The Skin She Lived In: Anthropodermic Books in the Historical Medical Library,” Fugitive Leaves: A Blog from the Historical Medical Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, October 1, 2015, Web, March 17, 2018.

[1] There is no direct evidence to support this supposition. In his article on Mary’s case in American Journal of Medical Science, Hough asserted that the contaminated meat came from visiting family and friends who ‘invariably brought her ham and Bologna sausage, of which she ate ravenously.’ ‘Two Cases of Trichinosis observed at the Philadelphia Hospital, Blockley,’ The American Journal of the Medical Sciences 57 (April 1869): 565-566.

[2] Lindsay Tuggle, The Afterlives of Specimens: Science, Mourning and Whitman’s Civil War (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2017) 33-34. [See This page]

[3] Hough, ‘Two Cases of Trichinosis’ 565.

[4] ‘From the data, counting the number in 1 gram of muscle, the whole number of cysts were estimated to be about 8 million.’ Hough, ‘Two Cases of Trichinosis’ 565.

[5] Fred B. Rogers and Thomas A. Horrocks, ‘John Stockton Hough: Medical Bibliophile and Bibliographer,’ Transactions and Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia Ser. 5 Vol. 11. No. 4 (1989): 355-361.

[6] Rogers and Horrocks 356; John W. Jordan, Colonial Families of Philadelphia vol. 1 (New York: Lewis Publishing, 1911) 1006.

[7] Rogers and Horrocks 357.

[8] Carolyn Marvin, ‘The Body of the Text: Literacy’s Corporeal Constant,’ The Quarterly Journal of Speech 80.2 (1994): 129-149.

[9] Marvin 142.

[10] Michael Sappol, A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002) 2.

[11] Sappol 2-5

[12] David C. Humphrey, ‘Dissection and Discrimination: The Social Origins of Cadavers in America, 1760-1915,’ Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 49.9 (1973): 822.

[13] The legend of the name dates back to Judas Iscariot, who as an act of repentance returned to the temple the thirty pieces of silver he was paid for the betrayal of Christ. The priests decreed that the blood money could not enter the treasury, and instead used it to purchase a plot for the burial of strangers who died in the city of Jerusalem. They acquired an abandoned field, formerly the site of a pottery, which was known locally as the potter’s field. Frederick C.Waite, ‘Grave Robbing in New England,’ Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 33.3 (1945) 279-281.

[14] Thomas S. Sozinsky, ‘Grave Robbing and Dissection,’ Penn Monthly 10 (1879) 217.

[15] Humphrey 822.

[16] Robert Couper’s Speculations on the Mode and Appearances of Impregnation in the Human Female (Edinburgh: Elliot and Kay, 1789) 10-11, emphasis mine.

[17] Tuggle 31.

[18] Couper 11.

[19] Couper 16-17.

[20] Couper 11, 20.

[21] Couper 16-21.

[22] Couper 33-34.

[23] In practice, medical cadavers were a rare commodity and physical beauty was not necessary. However, when creating models or textbooks aesthetic conventions were paramount. See Joanna Ebenstein, ‘Ode to an Anatomical Venus’, WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 40, nos. 3 and 4 (2012): 349.

[24] Ebenstein, ‘Ode to an Anatomical Venus’ 348-50.

[25] Joanna Ebenstein, The Anatomical Venus (London: Thames and Hudson, 2016) 14-20.

[26] Joanna Ebenstein, The Anatomical Venus 15-16.

[27] Erin Ross, ‘Women Rush To Get Long-Acting Birth Control After Trump Wins,’ NPR, November 11, 2016, Web, March 1, 2018.

[28] The origin of this quote is the 1949 film Knock on Any Door, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Humphrey Bogart.

[29] ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ (1846), The Poetry Foundation, Web, March 1, 2018.


Owen Bullock: 3 poems

  Owen Bullock

  3 poems

  JPR 08


that woman I like at the supermarket
had a new hairdo

I said
‘you look different’

she seemed embarrassed
perhaps offended

I added
‘it looks very nice
as well as different’

she looked displeased

when she handed me my change
she said quietly
‘you have a nice day’


a line and a smudge

Craig’s a very jealous person

                    there’s training for desk politics

                              did Andy Warhol have a comb-over?

                                        angels play table tennis…

kunst kunst

no one forgoes the lyric

                    Vegan lip balm

                                      Dear Burglar
                                      We Forgive You

 Pancakes for Neptune
inspired by the documentary ‘Maidentrip
I’m making pancakes for Neptune —

his funding was cut in the last round
and I wanted to show support
for his long term commitment
to the maritime community

142 scholarships in the last twelve years alone —
some deprived souls
wouldn’t have run away from home
and never been found
if not for his intervention

he’s an acerbic character
but his smile makes me tender
he has a subtle, congenial handshake —
I’m making him some pancakes

Australian poet Owen Bullock.

Owen Bullock’s most recent publications are Work & Play (Recent Work Press, 2017) and Semi (Puncher & Wattmann, 2017). He teaches creative writing at the University of Canberra.


Michael Basinski: Dobranoc

  Michael Basinski


  JPR 08

Ending at dawn, matins is the monastic night-time liturgy of the canonical hours. In the Roman Catholic pre-Vatican-II breviary, it is divided into three nocturns. The name matins originally referred to the morning office also known as lauds.

near morning Mars usually appears distinctly red or yellow
eggs over easy, sunny, yellow, appear tits up
white moony sides, up, side effects infections
greasy blue of thee sea tides outside
why not like an orange as her wild and wide her Nile phase interrupted
leaves floated green floating delta
upside down around round like a body
air lines lined up all stranded here waiting
squeezed neat bakery hairnet in a row robes of roe
blue always waiting at the terminal portal
across the street slowly up roses
where the buses turn around and head down bushes
Bernadette to reach her Lourdes

The intact body in the reliquary of the Convent of St. Gildard of Nevers. “I would have liked to open her left side of the thorax to steel each rib and then remove the heart. However, it would have been rather difficult to try and get at my heart without doing too much noticeable damage.”


she humidity
and a hungry effervescence
withering the green fatigue of allowance
at early Lamas it rained off and on
I listen summon me I into a being
beg like the falling, fallen, sun on her knees
into the mouth, gape Lake Erie
burned, communion, dark yellow teeth like yolks
the sky’s red her lips red
the Mass hips in an other language
they kneel and pray, and need


July is another very hot month in Luxor, Egypt and with an average temperature of 33°C it is the hottest month of the year. The average high temperature is the same as June at 41°C, and the average low is a still-warm 24°C, so cold drinks can be enjoyed on a warm terrace in a late evening. July shares much the same weather as June, with 10mm rain, 30% humidity, 13 hours of sunshine per day.

being at night at the beginning
repeats a new kind, knot knew, what was coming
has was as have incantations, inclinations
decant in red carnations red
white pink ink again end

? Long ago and far away…


yours Nut my snuff
heart empty net my
liver a net of fish a stuck
my knot a crow
eating popcorn nuclear
and yellow as mine eyes
uranium Nestles chocolate
Honey Nut Cheerios
as night Nut
I popped a nut
blue, numb, and at Nun’s
Nut yours my lungs
brood witch
of congested desire


Restraint device.
travels the smoke further vespers trousers a fire poisonous
illness Lochness sicken me ail me something fruit sickened forest
sickle sickest most Freya ill eel ailing sic kitty alewife
kitty in thee well more stricken bad poor lied liver
sicken sick illing cast laid-up taken illest less
without well plucked net pill
ill fell fall spell pulled spill feathers
thee maid make up felon on upon me
no fallen falls dis come down with witchfell
pull plesiosaurs drawn with their necks drawn
swan position up upwards in a swan on picture
necked swam swimming decay disease easy a naked
                vulnerable cup bleed someone by using a glass in which a partial vacuum is formed by heating. Link cuffs, which have buttonholes on both sides and are meant to be closed with cufflinks or silk knots. They are most commonly fastened in either the “kissing” style, where the insides of both sides are pressed together, or very unusually with the outer face touching the inner face.

In July the average monthly rainfall in Buffalo is 1.96 inches with rain usually falling on 12 days. In July 1969 there was a total of 0.00 inches of rain that fell on 10 days.
I entered entertained encountered her druids applying the blood of doves to their skin could maintain beauty myself
with what wem lack of order or predictability entrance in hands all I ever wanted with empty handed hands up enter July empty handle with care
handed with a new summer on hand handed to me
safety pins
from behind the skirt of July outskirt
go around or past the edge of legs
give to exit hands on plum tomatoes
home grown nightshade dishes sauces tomayto toe
all to harvest I left reap leave with empty hands emptying nothing in nothing on
nothing to be gained
opaque from tip to toe tiptoe tip your toe in did dip nip
collapse in my arms declined into disorder of endless resurrection
calligraphy corpse metacarpal grasping organ oven
this Sobek, laid eggs on the bank of the waters of Nun. Crocodiles independently evolved a four-chambered heart, as did birds and mammals mainly fish, but it will attack almost anything unfortunate enough to cross its path, including zebras, small hippos, porcupines, birds, wildebeest, turtles, so sweet oval or cylindrical in shape, ghosts with significantly fewer seed compartments.


A conical or cylindrical roll of thread wound onto a spindle.
innocence innocented I’m run, a run, ruined
already ran to pick a pick-up had was
he’s touched touching letter any letter by letter
from the torches a sensitive glandular hair
my choice choose vegetables
chorus trees are enough choirs
injection who may slips the fabric
threads slingbacks a peacock of Salem
slip crime upon on off slip pack silk
slip sing shod the dark slings sink
innocent of morning gorgeous
once and night touch, club
a person employed to take care of horses.


He Said:
she, 7 poems untitled or [unidentified]
unfolds a National Geographic map
poems appear in I lose my hair
and my minds, full
All. Full of concentrated cleaning power, All® Fresh Rain now contains In-Wash Pre-Treaters for improved scent. Safe for all washing machines
all spell
she is like a simile: STOP
Ford Taurus
Spelling bee, Exit 3 / Clarence Center / 17 miles
her legs are perfect rose bushes
she is blue and red and Berber Carpet
Coca Cola couplets her breasts like racoon
raccoons have remarkably sensitive hands
what they’re doing when they wet and rub an object is “seeing” it
it’s thought that water contact increases a raccoon’s tactile ability
in the expensive darkness Oreo filling
a cricket forest


Storm brought power outages to Niagara and drenching rain flooded streets in Lockport. Lightning also struck four homes and a church in Amherst but damage was light.

opening open the peanut butter Peter Pan
an wheel encircles to fit a mirror sea of fay mercy musical
Carousel “here there *is* no time; this is the beginning and the end”
West Side Story “I a victim of disappointment”
lawn fete fate chose to have phased out
passed had will wont worn kestos
cannot have undue will not
gone did gone here, home
opened into negation
the different dishes into a fit perfect fit, had one
who what hem her shoe where unformed deformed
fit the sound of choice toward to too Tu Fu
crept into find went left

used with a past participle to form the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect spirits, and the conditional mood Tresemmé
I in perpetuity have finished washing my hair
or whatever.


Ulan Bator. Thunderstorms are the most severe precipitation observed during 51% of those days with precipitation. They are most likely around July 25, when it is observed during 28% of all days.
I wish upon vacant stores to be simplified
love Simplicity a pattern sew
lama silk or yak
an ladder that didn’t not didn’t do
done in did
drain one up in need to
or rungs
rugs the champagne changing room
I became Lon Chaney’s desire
I had Cochise cheese
my choice unchanged unchained
to be change for the bus
in the old days of yak coin were used
was of use to me I
thunderstormed under
said his is the new moon a tomato
creeping caution from the cult
cottonwood woods at night time
Missa, the Mystery and air-mass thunderstorms are associated with warm, moist and thus unstable air-masses in the summer months. They develop locally during the afternoon or late in the day in response to insolation through convective heating from the surface. Thus they are also known as single-cell thunderstorms. Typically they do not persist very long — usually an hour or so — and disappoint rather quickly after sunrise. Gradually, I pour a liquid Shelley, ’s, heart did not burn


The Morton Salt Umbrella Girl and slogan first appeared on the blue package of table salt in 1914. Throughout the years the ageless girl has changed dresses and hairstyles to stay fashionable.
the spy of his morning you are closer to the end
close in the end of the spiders a washcloth at hand
clothed in all balled up and all ready to go
for thy body in August Anubis with priests unclothed begun
already begin then thee process
my make ready sea wrapping
must be a birthday I have been
webbed about by wounds
strings strange embalmed
between these inflamed fingered upon
I am balled in silk split am sweet
and tasted table salt
sodium carbonate decahydrate
the August the, the body are the spidered webs
time out
enough is enough
my spider bites me
while I sleep spiders equal angels
they are everywhere in my harvested haunted
and her treat traveled about
from my hunting inside deep with I depth where
on my thunkskull up of it an shore
than I am cast


as in the beginning of September
is now was were wear where
and ever shell be
the curled nautilus lush
emptied glass
I know less
now than whens now and again
I knew less


feed upon her ever-regenerating liver
over Sais most wanton wanting Lent
stop wanted watch for let’s went
I’m gone far
was I was weres
I went go going
going gone got
on with it ghost in infection upon
wanted orange Queen-O
gonad ghost in a with a witch
summer an wadka in unison wikka
all glassed fit intox
Imhotep hoped

Art Beck: A Poem that Sleeps
with the Fishes

  Art Beck

  A Poem that Sleeps
  with the Fishes

  JPR 08

the angler catches a trout
the poet gently returns it
same fish, same fellow

— John Thomas

Paragraph One Follows ^:

There’s something both ageless and ancient about Thomas’ lines. They feel as if they could as well have been written in the 1880s or 1780s as the 1980s they date from. But researching a bit, that doesn’t seem to be the case. While fishing as a leisure sport is as old a pastime as hunting for sport, the concept of “catch and release” is, by most accounts, a twentieth century innovation. Not that it didn’t exist as a personal preference, but more as oddity than movement. And in that sense, yes, Thomas’ poem invokes the primordial pleasure of that quirky impulse.


I emphasize that quality, because I think it relates to the ability of poems to migrate out of the cultures that spawned them. We usually think about this in terms of translating forward in time. But it intrigues me to imagine a First century Roman poet, say Martial, trying to translate Thomas’ Twentieth Century century lines into Latin. They’re epigrammatic enough, right up Martial’s aesthetic alley. Wiggly and alive in the way they combine the joy of a suddenly taut line in both fishing and poetry. And for Martial, the exoticism of catch and release might well be a bonus rather than barrier.


I think Thomas’ haiku / epigram also serves as a metaphor for translating poetry in general. With an interjected implication that the fish / poem is released to make its way in another stream — or maybe a lake, or a rushing river racing to the sea. Raising the thorny, but fertile, question — how can it be the same old fish after the shock of new waters? Is a Manhattan taxi driver from Karachi a New Yorker or Pakistani? To revisit the first century: was Martial a Spaniard in Rome, or a Roman from Spain? If there’s any one answer it may be that: “You are what you eat.” That the city and culture you navigate to live usually defines who you are more insistently than nostalgia for where you’ve been.

II. A Fishpond by the Sea


All the above is by way of introduction to a poem of Martial’s that still seems wiggly and alive even though he released it some 2000 years ago in his eleventh book of Epigrams. For those partial to his more explicit poems, Epigrams XI, 21 might be right up their alley. It exemplifies his ability to weave elegant verse from obscene words and grandiloquent sexual imagery. Personally, as a translator trying to shop a representative Martial selection to academic small presses in the sudden era of #MeToo, it also seemed a poem I could congratulate myself for excluding. “At least I haven’t translated the fishpond poem” I told myself.


So, of course my perverse other self just had to try to bring it across from Latin to English. And to again remind myself of the familiar lesson: Never prejudge a poem based on someone else’s translation until you’ve translated it yourself. In this case, there aren’t that many recent translations besides David Shackleton-Bailey’s Loeb. Garry Wills has a highly adapted and stylized version in his 2007 Martial selection. And I found a verse reworking of the current Loeb prose version on a Latinist hobbyist blog. But the various late 20th century Martial verse selections, Michie, Matthews, Humphries, Whigham etal, seem to take a pass on this one. With some 1500 poems in the Martial canon, that’s understandable.


So why, perversely, did I feel compelled to try to make up for this neglect by translating it twice and including an alternate version in my selection? Here’s the original:

Martial Epigrams XI, 21


Lydia tam laxa est equitis quam culus aeni,
      quam celer arguto qui sonat aere trochus,
quam rota transmisso totiens inpacta petauro,
      quam vetus a crassa calceus udus aqua,
quam quae rara vagos expectant retia turdos,
      quam Pompeiano vela negata Noto,
quam quae de pthisico lapsa est armilla cinaedo,
      culcita Leuconico quam viduata suo,
quam veteres bracae Brittonis pauperis, et quam
      urpe Ravennatis guttur onocrotali.
Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
      Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.

And here’s my first version:


Lydia, as spacious as the ass of a bronze statue’s horse,
    as open as the copper hoops kids whip down the street
or one of those wheels acrobats dive through. She’s
    a roomy old shoe soaked in squishy rainwater. A wide
net set to snag stray robins. As vast as the canvas that blocks
    the summer wind at Pompey’s Theater. Or an armlet
that’s grown too big for a wheezing tubercular queen.
        A mattress with all its wool stuffing gone.
That grizzled British beggar’s drooping britches.
        A Ravenna wharf pelican’s hungry pouch.
Someone told me I fucked her in the fishpond.
        I don’t know. I think I fucked the fishpond.


It was while commenting on — if not the misogyny — at least the over the top maleness of the poem to Paul Vangelisti that he stopped me. He pointed out that what he was picking up seemed an almost mythic, primordial femaleness. The female counterpart, if you will, of the Priapus that guarded Roman gardens and orchards with his huge stiff member.


In this case, I said I might agree with his take on Lydia except for the poem’s ending lines. The epigram does trot out an initial series of extravagant but strong images, almost like waves rolling in. Then, in its second half, these change to images that evoke aging and sadness, in a helplessly ebbing tide. But the final image, at least as I translated it, sputters and extinguishes itself in a blacked-out drunken screw in a garden fishpond.


Vangelisti, who lives half the year in Italy, has been an ongoing sounding board as I translate Martial. And he owns a Loeb-similar complete Martial, based on the Shackleton-Bailey vetted Latin text. I asked him to see how the Italian translation handled the fishpond ending. Lo and behold, in his edition there’s no fishpond. The Italian translation simply brings Martial’s piscina… marina across intact, because the term still exists in contemporary Italian. An Italian piscina is a pool, generally artificial, for swimming or wading. Modified by marina, a pool fed by seawater.


Piscina was a broad enough term in Latin to include “fishpond”, “tank”, “spa”, “swimming pool”, “vat”, “bath”, “basin” etc. Polyvalence is common in antique speech, but language tends to become more granular as vocabularies grow. Vangelisti assures me piscina has lost all fishpond connotations in Italian. This doesn’t mean Martial didn’t intend “fishpond”. Piscina marina may indeed be a “false friend” here. It just means the Italian classicist translator doesn’t agree with the Loeb English classicists. Shackleton Bailey renders the lines as “I am said to have fucked her in a marine fishpond. I don’t know, I think I fucked the fishpond”. Walter Ker’s 1919 Loeb translation was: “This woman I am said to have poked in a marine fishpond. I don’t know; I think I poked the fishpond itself.”


This points up an adjective I’d omitted as superfluous from my version — marina (of the sea). And also the question of just what a “marine fishpond” is. Because neither Ker nor Shackleton-Bailey really provide an image you can visualize. There’s no such term in conversational English. It could well just be a pond for saltwater fish. But if it’s an ornamental or garden pond, marina seems as superficial to the image in Latin as English. And what kind of sea fish or shell fish would be kept in such a pond? It seems a risky place for dalliance. And if it’s a holding tank for edible sea fish, well, coition seems even more problematic and unlikely.


On the other hand, a Google image search rewards the browser with some stunning piscina marinas in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese resort destinations. Both artificial and natural seawater fed pools for swimming or bathing. Some in places as ancient as this poem, such as the natural Piscina Marina at Serra. And while I don’t think Martial’s describing that particular pool, something like the Blue Grotto might also fit the phrase.

III. Some Fishless Versions


Web searching to see how this epigram may have been translated prior to Walter Ker’s interpretation, I came across a 1868 privately printed “Index Expurgatorius of Martial, literally translated: comprising all the epigrams hitherto omitted by English translators, to which is added a metrical version and copious explanatory notes.” The 166 page volume appears to be purposely anonymously authored but seriously erudite. As noted it provides both a “literal” and “metrical” translation of XI, 21. In the former, its last lines are rendered:


Tis said I had her in a tank of sea
water; I know not, I believe I had the tank.

The more poetic version reads:


Tis said, while bathing we trod love’s path,
I know not, but I seemed to fuck the bath.


The notes on this poem also call attention to the last two lines of a 1782 version by James Elphinston with the characterization that “Elphinston is quite happy here.” I think it’s worthwhile to look at the entire Elphinston translation (the emphasis in the last line is mine):


Little Lydia, more loose than a brazen horse-tail;
Than the hoop, where each jingler bejostles the nail:
Than the wheel, that untoucht the slim vaulter whips thro’:
Than, besoakt with foul water, the yielding old shoe:
Than the flimsiest net, giddy thrushes inhales;
Than the awning of Pompey; deni’d to the gales:
Than the brasslet, from pthisical catamite dropt;
Than the bolster, no more her Leuconic has propt:
Than the trousers, that long the poor Briton has wor’n:
Than the throat, that Ravenna’s bird-brayer has tor’n:
Her I’m said to have caught in a pond of the sea:
The wide pond is the whole recollected by me.


Beyond Elphinston’s singular characterization of Lydia as “little” and his somewhat forced end-line rhyme, I wonder if the real groaner of a pun he ends on may have been what prompted Robert Burns’ stinging response to his efforts:


O Thou whom Poetry abhors,
Whom Prose has turned out of doors,
Heard’st thou yon groan? — proceed no further,
’Twas laurel’d Martial calling murther.


Garry Wills, in this century, also omits the fish from the pond, while somehow managing to out-gross Martial:

They claim I fucked her in a pond?
Not so, since her cunt is the pond!


But the purpose of these quotes is to illustrate that “fishpond” is only one way of imagining Martial’s piscina. Nothing in the poem itself precludes us from exploring other by-ways.

IV: An Out of the Way Detour


In Latin piscina can be used to refer to a pool for light swimming or wading in the baths. And Martial’s Lydia poem does seem a bit evocative of an earlier short squib that infers a bathhouse sexual encounter.


II, 52

Novit loturos Dasius numerare: poposcit
      mammosam Spatalen pro tribus; illa dedit.


Dasius, the bath attendant, knows his numbers. He told Spatala
    her bazooms were so big she owed for three. She came across.


But XI, 21 also vaguely reminded me of a very un-Martial like, venerable poem from Horace’s first book of Odes.

Horace, Odes I, 5


Here’s John Milton’s classic translation:


What slender Youth bedew’d with liquid odours
Courts thee on Roses in some pleasant Cave,
      Pyrrha, for whom bind’st thou
      In wreaths thy golden Hair,

Plain in thy neatness; O how oft shall he
On Faith and changed Gods complain: and Seas
      Rough with black winds and storms
      Unwonted shall admire:

Who now enjoyes thee credulous, all Gold,
Who alwayes vacant alwayes amiable
      Hopes thee; of flattering gales
      Unmindful. Hapless they

To whom thou untry’d seem’st fair. Me in my vow’d
Picture the sacred wall declares t’ have hung
      My dank and dropping weeds
      To the stern God of [The] Sea.


Horace’s ode (and Milton’s translation) are as refined as Martial’s epigram is coarse. But stepping back a bit, both poems describe a sexual encounter in which the sea figuratively (and / or literally) figures. There’s no overt piscina in Horace’s ode, but the implication is that the lovers are trysting in a seaside grotto. With Horace, an image something like the Blue Grotto pool definitely comes to mind. And while Martial’s persona and Lydia were probably discreetly making do at the baths, it seems important to the epigram, that it be a seawater bath.


It would be wildly speculative and pointless to wonder if Martial had Horace’s, then century old, classic in mind. But what drew me to revisit Horace were what seemed thematic echoes. The rhythms of the tide, first granting, then taking away as it flows and ebbs. The “dank and dropping” clothes of the speaker of the Odes and the British pauper’s worn, drooping trousers. The young open, but merry and muscular, Lydia, becoming flaccid and tragic with age. The thrill of what seemed an eternal Eden of young love in the Horace ode, expelled by the storms of the divinity-personified sea. All this served to re-orient me to think that, translating poetically, the emphasis in Martial’s closing lines is better served by being as much, or more, on marina as the repeated piscina.

V. So Here’s Where I’m Swimming Now:


in different waters than First century Latin, cultural as well as linguistic. I’ve tried to maintain the illusion of a trip to Imperial Rome, but it’s still a pretend journey in a Twenty-First century imagination. I’ve rendered piscina marina as broadly as possible in order to let the reader supply the specifics. That’s not too different than in Martial’s Latin, or for that matter in Horace’s love nest grato.


Is my alternate version more “accurate” or less than the Loebs’? As I’ve said “fishpond” is a valid way, among others, of reading piscina. And my second version also takes an arguably questionable final leap. Even if you read piscina as “swimming pool”, Martial may just be cynically saying that Lydia, who’s generally characterized as a prostitute, has been a very busy lady. That he fucked not only her, but everyone else in the pool by proxy. That’s why I’m labelling this version as “alternate”.


On the other hand, the final image of my second version may very well have been harmonically implicit to the First Century Latin reader. Whatever any poet sets out to say, at some point the text finds a mind of its own. How else could Martial’s epigram outlive him? And his Latin released in English waters can’t seem to resist yet another leap at life. For me, my first version came to resemble an anadromous fish, a salmon making its way back upriver to spawn, then die. But a poem always wants to keep swimming.

Lydia tam laxa est equitis quam culus aeni,
    quam celer arguto qui sonat aere trochus,
quam rota transmisso totiens inpacta petauro,
    quam vetus a crassa calceus udus aqua,
quam quae rara vagos expectant retia turdos,
    quam Pompeiano vela negata Noto,
quam quae de pthisico lapsa est armilla cinaedo,
    culcita Leuconico quam viduata suo,
quam veteres bracae Brittonis pauperis, et quam
    urpe Ravennatis guttur onocrotali.
Hanc in piscina dicor futuisse marina.
    Nescio; piscinam me futuisse puto.

Lydia, as spacious as the ass of a bronze statue’s horse,
        as open as the tinkling hoops boys whip down the street,
or one of those wheels acrobats dive through. She’s
        a comfy old shoe soaked in squishy rainwater. A wide
net set to snag stray robins. As vast as the canvas that blocks
        the summer wind at Pompey’s Theater. Or an armlet
that’s grown too big for a wheezing tubercular queen.
        A lambswool mattress whose stuffing has gone.
That grizzled British beggar’s drooping britches.
        A Ravenna wharf pelican’s gulping pouch.
Someone reminded me I fucked her in the seawater
        pool. I don’t know, I think I fucked the sea.


Art Beck

US West Coast poet and translator Art Beck, detail.


The manuscript for Art Beck’s Mea Roma was one of two finalists awarded Honorable Mention in the American Literary Translators Association 2018 Cliff Becker Book Prize, along with a very nice citation:
This 130 poem “meditative selection” of Martial will be published by Shearsman Books late this year.


Jill Jones: 3 poems

  Jill Jones

  3 poems

  JPR 08

 My Daylight Savings

It’s that time of year
                                                but gardens continue.
Here I am with a bucket and hose
                                                in the front yard
as another train passes to Seaford or Tonsley.
Even poets and friends sometimes pass here, in various directions:
                                          Peter and Lisa, on bikes,
or today Ken strolls by, walking Pola
                                            and she’s into the hedge
sniffing a dead bird, a bit of one.
Ken looks good, they’ve been
                                                    in Tasmania.
The EAF has some performance art happening:
“You should check it out. They
                                                    paid a lot of money for it.”

A garden is performance art
                              part conceptual, part organic.
You could see STC and Duchamp
                                          arguing over the dying lawn:
“best grass in the best order”, “but grass
                        doesn’t interest me, here’s a suitcase”.
The bees don’t care, flowers are ready-mades always
                                                  for their not-so-secret ministry.

                        “All Nature seems at work.”
But I’m erasing aphids with my thumb
                                          and ants with my boots
or spilling precious water onto the path.
                          I am not a good soul even on Sunday.
Another killer, just like the birds
                            cute and useless like a lot of exotics.

They say it’s cold in Sydney, and raining.
                                                Well, bully for them.
We water by the bucketload
                                      and the dams dry up
                                                    under high blue skies.
But, nope, here’s the clouds again
                that covered up much of the eclipse last night,
                              the plum tree rains down
its mellow fruitfulness
                            its dark red leaves – it’s a turning.

We perform tasks
                          turn back clocks, the wind
                                      moves things around.
We move things around.
Does anyone really know what time it is?

It all sounds like paper
                    mixing language with
                                        sounds of Sunday.
Gábor Szabó mixes his
                            60s gipsy pop jazz through
                                                    my tinny speakers
reminding me of clothes
                                      I could never wear
                                                      attitudes I somehow never believed.

And though it’s Easter, the chocolate’s gone
                  so has the blood moon
                                and the air’s lost its heat.
Yusuf Lateef’s flute sounds as if
                            it’s got it right
                                                airy performance, a kind
of dance, fingers across bamboo
                    conceptual bamboo, but also organic
                                making sounds
improvising but in tune
                                          and in time with
                                                            so many things.

 Impossible Spaces

You arrive with blank prescriptions
loaves, green papers, popcorn

You cling like all colonials
to the enigma of lawns and fences

You crash across salt and pepper shakers
cheesecake, fake wood panelling, bitter crumpled dark

You growl into corridors, into tiny impossible spaces
of sway, of hollows, of souvenirs, you’re in two places at once

You run up against these things, breaking plain truth
harsh, nasty, as tired, hurt as the rest

You contort between flashes of flight
wide awake, shaking

You crunch, you become
you heave, you panic, you start to consider

You start to weep
in the middle of the road

 Everything Hurts

Animals try to hide from the gaze, and the light
People run around with nets and syringes

The voiceovers mean things are hidden
The filming is secretive

It seems important and inhumane
Everything hurts — so, maybe that’s the case

Things are not so much objects
Maybe they will simplify or die

Besides, what breath creates light each day
On what surfaces does the wind blow

There’s mist over the trees
There’s no comfort, as if there ever was

But I still have fur and skin
which seems painful, pretentious and fabulously stupid


  John Kinsella’s Graphology

  Robert Wood

  John Kinsella’s Graphology

  JPR 08

[»»] 0. Introducing Poetics for ‘Australia’

[»»] 1. Closer to Home: Omar Sakr’s These Wild Houses and the new suburbanism

[»»] 2. The Avant Garde in ‘Australia’: after Eddie Paterson, Philip Mead and Caitlin Maling

[»»] 3. From Wembley: Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Carrying the World

[»»] 4. The Boys in Cambridge: Clive James’ Injury Time

[»»] 5. The Boys in Cambridge: John Kinsella’s Graphology

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Paragraph One follows: 1:

If one wanted to, one could find antecedents for Suburbanism anywhere in the network — Romanticism, Modernism, Negritude, Tabi, Sangaam have all mattered as cohesive bodies of poetic thought. But it is important to look closer to home, to interrogate a discourse that matters in ‘Australia’, namely John Kinsella’s ‘international regionalism’. In an interview with The Griffith Review, Kinsella stated that:


International regionalism is a way of discussing and viewing the local in an international context. It’s a means of exchange, of sharing knowledge and awareness. The integrity of the immediate, of the regional, is my primary concern — if you can’t respect the ecology of the place you’re in at a given time, the biosphere as a whole will suffer. I feel the regional is enhanced by an understanding of what happens elsewhere, but in the end it’s what happens where I am standing that seems most vital to what I have to write. But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and there are many ways of seeing. In essence, I like to look at things up close, over a period of time, from different angles, but in wider contexts — social, historical, cultural, political — as well.


There are a few things going on in this passage — one is the sense that the international is coterminous with the natural world (‘biosphere’) but also that context is coterminous with intellectual fields or disciplines (‘historical, cultural, political’). This is not local in a world of mere nations. Expanding further, in Spatial Relations Kinsella suggests that international regionalism:


sounds like a contradiction, an oxymoron really, but the two factors can coexist and, I feel, need to. A concept of regional identity, retaining a sense of immediate spatiality, doesn’t mean we should — or really can — close ourselves off from what happens in the world at large.


But perhaps, we need to ask where is a place that is not regional? Where can one be unlocated? After all, one is always in a unique place and one is always part of the world. If you read, for instance, the letters of Rex Ingamells, an avowed nationalist, it becomes obvious that he existed in a dynamic, transnational literary milieu as well as having a firm sense of his immediate surrounds.


In his letters there is mention of Frederico Garcia Lorca, Maxim Gorky, Stephen Spender, Alfred Tennyson, W. H. Auden, Longfellow’s Hiawatha, Whitman’s ‘A Clear Midnight’, Clifford Whittington Beers’ ‘A Mind that Found Itself’ and Mark van Doren’s An Anthology of World Poetry yet there is also attention to where his body is at the present moment.[12] At its most basic then, every specific place is part of the globe considered as a whole and although Kinsella suggests that ‘these [Graphology] are all poems of resistance and protest, even when affirming’ it is hard to know what the negation of the international regionalist is.


Ironically then, international regionalism lacks a clear sense of what it opposes even as we can guess that might be a type of parochial universalism that flattens out distinctions of different ecologies — of the potato not the mardirra. Kinsella ends up being a defender for regional places, meant here in the sense that they are not the metropole, that York is not New York. This view is there when Kinsella writes that international regionalism:


comes out of a pacifist anarchism, though its application is general and increasingly adaptable (or so I’m finding!). It’s about language and cultural preservation in the face of globalism: creating a universal language of resistance, on the one hand, but a language of interaction and cooperation, on the other.


Globalisation, that historical movement of the 1990s, is what Kinsella is working against. Think NAFTA, think WTO, think World Bank, think President Clinton, think end of history. And in that resistance, Kinsella finds a kind of faith. As he says, ‘letters of protest are also ways of saying thanks. To protest against the destruction of bushland is to affirm the necessity or sanctity of that bushland.’ But,


In promoting an internationalism, I feel that one should be wary of ignoring responsibilities in one’s own backyard. This is the regionalism issue again. In my case, the degradation of land, the ecological disaster that is modern farming in the Avon Valley, a murderous history of displacement of the Nyungar people, and the obligation to actively support the pursuit of land rights, are just some of the issues that inform whatever I do or say, in whatever context.


The Avon Valley does belong next to or within or besides ‘Australia’ somehow, the latter simply being a frame of reference even as it is not located or local enough. The other discourses that structured thought in 1990s ‘Australia’ when Kinsella coined his phrase included the Keating-led rhetoric of multiculturalism, republic and reconciliation. Yet Kinsella seems not to offer a utopian model of how we might cultivate a self-determining sensibility that builds from that moment. There is slippage then between his located location of the Avon Valley and the narrative myths of ‘Australia’ when he can write in ‘International Regionalism and Poetry etc.’ of ‘Aboriginal literature’, itself a colonial invention, that:


I am strongly against the publication of Aboriginal song-cycles that have been collected by white anthropologists. It’s simply not the non-indigenous publisher’s right to access such materials at will.


In no passage in this piece does Kinsella define his terms. Kinsella might be right when it comes to private and sacred songcycles, but he essentialises all Indigenous songs as well as assumes that all relations between people cannot be complex or continue to unfold in situations where people do not definitively articulate how they identify. Those things are contested and it is incumbent to see through conservatism towards community forms of acceptance and identity rather than remaining indebted to outdated models that reify an identity politics.


In other words — how would Kinsella critique the work I have done with my brother-in-law who is Ngarluma on tabi (an open song poetry genre from the Western Pilbara)? Does Kinsella not simply festishise authorial identity without recourse to collaboration or the fact that one can be conversant and expert in traditions that aren’t one’s ‘own’? Should Kinsella himself be working on Jack Davis, Kevin Gilbert, Lionel Fogarty or does he judge himself by a different standard? To think that one cannot be a fellow traveler to struggles one is not ‘essentially’ part of denies imagination, empathy and poetry itself.


These are some of the vexing questions for international regionalism, but what are we to make of Kinsella’s poetic expressions of it in Graphology?


I agree, in general terms, with Thom Sullivan’s reading of Graphology in Plumwood Mountain, which stated:


The energies and impulses of the poems, or clusterings of poems, remain in flux, creating a sense of impermanence or capriciousness. It requires some trust that an individual poem, or clustering of poems, is of-a-piece with the sequence, and creates a sustained tension in the work. A resistance to closure also allows the sequence’s inclusiveness of reference, from the organic to the cultural, which is itself an exploration and substantiation of identity.


These are poems that are in flux, that are open, that sustain tension, but I think the referents are the opposite of what Sullivan claims, namely that they are ‘inclusive’. In its three pages, ‘Graphology: Canto 2’ states the names of Engels, Beauchataud, Governor Macquarie, Prynne, Yeats, Bismarck, Klages, Pulver, Virgil, Nadjamerrek. The apparent eclecticism of Kinsella’s signposted referents appears superficially impressive, like any suburbanite namedropping, but what it cultivates is a readership that might, on a good day, get less than everything intended.


Thus, at a constitutive level his poem is a code that relies on a historical celebrity of dead men and a liberal cult of personality for the speaking poet himself. I do not mean that one might not know who this roll call is, but that to know the roll call and to also know Kinsella’s region seems difficult despite the prolix description of the latter by the poet himself. In other words, we do not know what the synthesis between the international and the regional is other than through Kinsella alone, which might explain the dearth of truly attentive criticism to his oeuvre as a whole — Kelmscott is a long way from Klages and to yoke them together critically would take admirable skill that avoided the undialectical quality of the poetry alone, or indeed the unreconciled phrase of ‘international regionalism’ itself.


However, like all poets, Kinsella has his backers (David McCooey who launched this collection for example but also Harold Bloom, J.H. Prynne and Jacques Derrida) and his attackers (Ivor Indyk), but he has worked in so many different ways that we must play the ball and not the man. It is a case of choosing which Kinsella we like, not should we like him at all. From Graphology, there were several passages that approached the suburbanist, and it is there even in the précis, when it states:


But yesterday I was nearer
a potential epicentre, wandering the eastern outskirts
of Northam town, noting newbuilds uneasy
alongside lozenges of haybales, a dry downslant
creek storm-drain rehabilitation where trees
lose title deed, and a pitbull and bull terrier
rise up in their half-wired verandah pen to rip
my proverbials out — I ritualise smile and move on,
interiorise compassion, like the plaster-concrete
white-swan planter peering up into the high hooks
of power poles, the pressure of rural services –
revelations of locality and self.


Although we are located in Northam, not far from Kinsella’s property Wheatlands, we are in the unfolding suburbs that spring up all over the world. There are of course local variations, such as the ‘lozenges of haybales’, that locate us. Yet, I recognise the ‘plaster-concrete / white-swan planter’ from visits to my aunty’s home in Noranda in suburban Perth as well as the Mainline suburbs of where I was educated in Philadelphia.


In other words, the scene is recognisable to me precisely because I think of the suburbs as a type of internationalism here. And yet, for Kinsella it becomes a poem about place and the rural, about ‘locality and self’, the body being the place he writes from in order to speak of the ecologies of his immediate surrounds, of ‘what happens where I am standing that seems most vital to what I have to write.’ This is anarchism as a type of ecological liberalism against the nation that refuses to see the possibility of the state and its popular style of life, which must always be engaged with and negotiated.


The persistence of land, meant here as nature, is marked in Australian poetry and poetics with less attention paid to the city and even less to suburbia. Kinsella himself is part of that, part of a frame that has been determined by globalisation’s gaze that projects onto the continent what it assumes must be frontier, nature, outback rather than apprehending the ways in which a style of life here is distinct. In that way, it is a recurrent trope of commentary to look to an idea of ‘Australia’ rather than apprehend it immanently.


This is not to lament the passing of the farm like Les Murray or to rail against the superphosphates as Kinsella has, but to suggest that even in my country patch (Redgate) this outdated idea of land is constantly being remade, either to furnish the suburban majority with commodities or to accommodate them in a literal way. This is the sprawl as it comes from a regional town, which is surely what the long-term future has in store for Bunyah and York as well.


Suburbanism, however, does not preclude either the possibility of international regionalism nor post-Negritude creolisation as it applies to colonised people as a whole, nor even the aesthetics demanded by updated and remixed imagism as a precursor to conceptualism in a digital age. But it comes after them all.


What might matter for reading Kinsella however is that we continue to rebel, as he himself has, including against his very influence. That might not only mean situating ourselves in a geography from where he comes from, but regarding that as a country within a nation, country being, of course, not the same geographic sensibility precisely because it is based in land and not the attempted monopolisation of violence, which defines the modern state.


This would allow us to engage with Kinsella’s anarchism beyond mere negation and towards a creative act that seeks a new polis in a philosophy that has Indigenised itself and offers a reality check to the fantasies that the landmass of ‘Australia’ is simply a colonial outpost. What that means is less a reification of the pastoral, including its internal antitheses, and more the establishment of a tradition that sits beyond ‘the West’ as an organising principle. That might be the suburbanist rebuttal of an international regionalism that has become stale.


This file contains Endnotes. In the Endnote, if you click on the number that identifies the endnote, you will be taken back to the point in the text where the endnote anchor occurs; and vice versa.

[12] All taken from Ingamell’s correspondence archived at the State Library of Victoria: Lorca in Mudie 18/1/25, Box 1469; Gorky in Vance Palmer 11/12/44, Box 1469; Spender and Auden in Ballantyne, 3/10/42, Box 1467; Tennyson in Deveney, 17/11/45, Box 1466; Shaw Nielsen in Robinson, 6/6/44, Box 1470; Longfellow in Ewers, 8/8/41, Box 1466; Whitman, undated from Robinson, (5/76-78), Box 1470; Beers and van Doren in Hart Smith, 2/8/43, Box 1467.