Monday, February 16, 2009

Cleaving Rexroth and Bolano

Rexroth and Bolaño — Two Political Poets

Thank you, Hoffman, for sending me the Rodrigo Fresan essay “The Savage Detective—The Only Protagonist of Roberto Bolaño’s Work—The Authentic Heroine of His Books—Is Literature Itself,” translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer.

It’s probably one of the best Bolaño essays I’ve read. Some of the topics discussed have helped me a great deal in understanding this excellent writer and poet: Barcelona, Borges, the Tlatelolco Massacre, Philip K. Dick, Pinochet, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Big Brother, The Boom, Blade Runner, etc.

What I like about Bolaño is that he’s more contemporary than Borges or Pessoa or Paz. I’ve enjoyed reading the poetry of Pessoa thanks to Mringel and I understand certain technical aspects of Pessoa poetics such as his use of heteronyms.

The same with Paz—the poem I posted for the Latin American Literature Forum is technically very close to the “cleave” form we’re publishing with The Cleave Anthology.,36.msg141356.html#msg141356

Both Paz and Pessoa are interesting poets to study from a technical point of view—something that may not interest all Latin American Literature or Poetry readers.

There is definitely a political POV to poetry as well—there always has been. It goes back much further than Ginsberg’s “Howl” or Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” or Pound’s “Cantos.”

And it continues into the future with poets like Roberto Bolaño and his excellent “The Romantic Dogs” New Directions (2006).

Speaking of Poetry—we’re having a fascinating discussion over in the Poetry Forum about Kenneth Rexroth’s poetry published by James Laughlin’s New Directions. The same Press publishing Bolaño today.

As I read more of Rexroth’s poetry—the more “political” his POV becomes. The similarities between Rexroth and Bolaño’s “political poetry” are quite startling and it’s amazing how much Rexroth saw into the future of Big Brother and the Pinochet Planet we live in today.

Thanks to Madupont, Incadove as well as "The Selected Letters of Kenneth Rexroth and James Laughlin," Morgan Gibson’s online Letters from Rexroth and Linda Hamalian’s fascinating biography “Kenneth Rexroth: A Life” (Norton: 1991)—I now see Rexroth and Bolaño as two of the most radical political poets of the Twentieth Century.

Thus, comparing and contrasting Rexroth and Bolaño—studying them and moving back and forth from the Poetry Forum to the Latin American Forum—has for me been very enlightening and gratifying.

To have been a close friend of Bolaño like Rodrigo Fresan to the very end and to have known the poet intimately during that time must have been an incredible experience for Fresan.

I’m sure it was something very similar to being Kenneth Rexroth’s personal secretary Dianne Jarreau or his 4th wife and executor Carol Tinker.

The UC-Santa Barbara Archives with Morgan Gibson’s files, letters and Rexroth’s material is something Hoffman and I are researching now.

Politics and Poetry are like two sides of the same coin. How does Bolaño and Rexroth’s political poetry compare and contrast?

No comments: