norbert blei | a packet from henry denander | kamini press

29 01 2011

PoetryDispatch No. 341 | January 28, 2011

A PACKET FROM HENRY DENANDER
KAMINI PRESS

by
Norbert Blei

This makes my day, something new in the mail from Henry’s extraordinary small press, Kamini Press. www.kaminipress.com

One notices immediately the care he takes in the tight packaging alone. The parcel (usually cardboard, sometimes paper) a minor work of art in itself, enhanced with beautiful Swedish stamps, his own unique rubber stamps (planes, jazz musicians, musical instruments, the KAMINI PRESS logo, etc.); the blue foreign label: PRIORITAIRE 1:a-klassbrev… All of it. Everything, a joy to behold. You’re almost afraid to open it, mess it up in any way. It’s so satisfying as it is.

Should I look to see what little beauty of a book he’s put together now? Wait till later…this afternoon? Maybe tonight…treat myself in the late hours? Save it for tomorrow…or the next time I need a particular lift, since I know whatever Kamini Press does will make my day, my night…make everything in my writing world worthwhile?

Like that time one night I opened a packet from Henry and held BIRD EFFORT by Ronald Baatz in my hand…read it once, twice…three times, four times, five times…God, how many times? Till I fell asleep with a warm feeling like good red wine in me, the poet’s words still murmuring in my mouth:

So much light
so much darkness—
the earth crying out
like a clarinet
left behind

O lord
let me
stay drunk somehow
without all this drinking
now and forever amen

Digging
the canary’s grave
she catches the reflection
of lovely orange feathers
in the spoon

The stars over the lake
so old and brittle looking—
I stop rowing, rest my back
and think of how soft
my ashes will be.

Henry Denander…a one-man band. A singular focus. A testament to just how good, conscientious, a little press publisher can be if he has the vision, passion, energy, direction to publish a book for someone that he, the publisher-writer, would want for himself. It all comes down to that. The secret to successful small press publishing not enough publishers grasp. Would I want my name on this book? Would I love the way it looks, feels? Would I be anxious to put it in the hands of friends and strangers with a bit of a glow on my face? Would it hold a reader’s attention cover to cover in design, content, form?

Instinct. Insight. Style. Aesthetics. Not to publish anybody or anything for whatever or no reason except to be considered a publisher…slap any old crappy art or photo on the cover that says nothing. Some books, poorly envisioned, you almost don’t want to touch, let alone open and try to read. Contrary to old beliefs, you can judge a book by its cover… especially a Kamini Press cover, usually graced by one of Henry’s throbbing little watercolors.

Once you finally invade the perfect packaging I described, once you find each book carefully wrapped and taped tightly in white paper, once you unfold the paper in your hands…and hold the little book (all of them about 4”x6”) it seems to come alive to one’s touch. And there you have it: from Henry in Sweden to wherever you are in the world…the book feels like a good handshake. Welcome. Thank you. How beautiful the cover. Now, what’s going on inside?

How to Make a Rainbow on a Rainy Day

Locate, in the overcast, some thread of
involvement with backlit sheets of crayoned
manila paper vacuum sealed to the yellow
eyes of an elementary school. Open up the
floodgates to the eccentricities of leaves; find
an alcove, an unused entrance, to lean in,
noting the widening concentric circles in
standing water on pavements commissioned
by raindrops. Take the coins out of your
pocket and throw them, one at a time,
into the fountains of Trevi made by the
intersecting arcs of traffic and rainfall; permit
silver spray to have its way with your face.
Wonder at the beaded pearlescence at the
sides of warm Styrofoam. Internalize
windshield wipers and the lift of umbrellas.
Without going overboard, initiate eye
contact, return the wave.

–Tom Kryss

[from SKETCH BOOK]

72nd Birthday

Sitting on
the hill at
sunrise with
my coffee &
cigarettes
thinking
fond thoughts
of all those who
hate my guts.

–John Bennett

[from BATTLE SCARS]

Two Torch Singers (excerpt)

In high school, when I was discovering
That music could be sexy,
There were two torch singers
(Besides Judy Garland, of course)
Whose albums I played until the vinyl wore thin
And the needles went blunt
I don’t know whether I was more riveted
By Julie London’s throaty rendition
Of “Cry Me a River”
Or by her incredible rocket-launcher, film-noir,
Tightly sweatered bust on the album cover,
Not to mention her wasp-cinctured waist.
But she was too much woman for me,
Even in my fantasies. Scary!

–Gerald Locklin

[from TWO TORCH SINGERS]

False Starts

The birds have
already begun
their morning song
and I haven’t
yet been to sleep
the night
a series of false
starts, like the
many journals
I’ve kept over
the years—
one after another
abandoned before
anything was
ever said.

–Glenn W. Cooper

[from SOME NATURAL THINGS]

Childhood

Something out of childhood –
orange streetcars on
Ellsworth Avenue,
and every fifteen minutes an
orange earthquake
rattling my unsteady bed.

–Samuel Charters

[from THE POET SEES HIS FAMILY SLEEPING]

last clarksville train

washing down aspirins
warm blue ribbon suds
damp gray first light
jerry lee’s cassettes silent
black terminal loneliness
yesterday wife saying
“things got to change’
squeeze the trigger
gain methodist salvation
promised better life

–t. kilgore splake

[from THE POET TREE]

Unwritten poems—
so many of them
hanging like bats
inside the darkness
of me

–Ronald Baatz

[from BIRD EFFORT]

Confession. I truly envy what Henry Denander is doing. This is the way I intended to go when I got into small press publishing back in 1995. Do the little book, the little work, and do it well. Make is beautiful to behold. Something to glow in the dark.

Then I reflected on all the new and old writers with bigger appetites seeking, needing pages and pages for larger works. Novelists, short story writers, poets with books of poems…essayists, experimental writers, artists, photographers. They needed to be honored as well. There was not enough attention paid them.

Lately, given all I’ve done so far, thirty-four books, given my present circumstances–age factor, health issues, financial circumstances, limited time to write my own stories and books–I see again the beauty and attraction of publishing the little gift, and may in time (“simplify, simplify…”) honor that first dream…find my way down that road of small, fluttering white pages, words enough to lift the spirit in short, deep breaths. –Norbert Blei

Finally
winter is losing its grip—
in my sleep
I hear the pond’s spine
cracking

–Ronald Baatz, BIRD EFFORT





norbert blei | mark twain revised

10 01 2011

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 211 | January 10, 2011

MARK TWAIN——-REVISED

by
Norbert Blei

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”—Mark Twain

If he’s not our greatest American writer, he’s certainly our most beloved. His legacy to American letters runs deep. Old Hem drew the line in the sand in his beautiful book, GREEN HILLS OF AFRICA (1935) when he stated in chapter one: “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There’s been nothing as good since.”

Enter the academics of today, the ‘politically correct’ to revise our literary history. Make it safe. Twain dealt with enough stupidity of this sort in his own time and made a career of mocking it in talks and print, in a style uniquely his own. Tell it as it is (and have fun telling it).

Midwestern. American. Real.

(No bullshit.)

His defense rests—in all his works.

On the plus side of this new, revised edition of “Huckleberry Finn” that substitutes the word “slave” for “nigger” (edited by Prof. Alan Gribben for NewSouth Books, to be released in February) is that no school yet has expressed an interest in teaching it. On the minus side, the publisher’s comment that Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other bookstores have registered advanced orders—and that she was expecting orders from schools and libraries.

Here’s hoping the book bombs. Here’s hoping schools and libraries, especially, see the light of day: the truth of Twain.
Here’s hoping Prof. Gribben finds work editing romance novels.

If academia deems it necessary to protect our culture from Mark Twain, just imagine who? what? next.

And if a high school English teacher (who admires Twain) declines to teach “Huckleberry Finn”… “because it is too long” I suggest she relieve herself from the serious work of educating our youth.

Mr. Twain, I leave you the last word:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.,”—Mark Twain

Norbert Blei

A recent, short, and best biography of Twain in a long time. Packed with pertinent information, reads like a novel. From: The Library of American Biography. Author, David W. Levy, Prentice Hall, 2010.

PUBLISHER TINKERS WITH TWAIN

by
Julie Bosman (with Tamar Lewin)

A new edition of “Adven¬tures of Huckleberry Finn” is missing something: the n-word.

In its place, 219 times throughout the book, is the word “slave,” a substitution that was made by NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Alabama, which plans to release the edition in February.

Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery, approached the publisher with the idea in July. Mr. Gribben said Tuesday that he had been teaching Mark Twain for decades and always hesitated before reading aloud the common racial epithet, which is used liberally throughout the book, a reflection of social attitudes in the mid-19th century.

“I found myself right out of graduate school at Berkeley not wanting to pronounce that word when I was teaching either ‘Huckleberry Finn’ or ‘Tom Sawyer’ ” he said. “And I don’t think I’m alone.”

Mr. Gribben, who combined “Huckleberry Finn” with “Tom Sawyer” in a single volume and also supplied an introduction, said he worried that “Huckleberry Finn” had fallen off reading lists, and wanted to offer an edition that is not for scholars, but for younger people and general readers.

“I’m by no means sanitizing Mark Twain,” Mr. Gribben said. “The sharp social critiques are in there. The humor is intact. I just had the idea to get us away from obsessing about this one word, and just let the stories stand alone.” (The book also substitutes “Indian” for “injun.”)

Since the publisher discussed plans for the book this week with Publishers Weekly, it has been “assaulted” with negative e-mails and phone calls, said Suzanne La Rosa, the co-founder and publisher of NewSouth Books.

“We didn’t undertake this lightly,” Ms. La Rosa said. “If our publication fosters good discussion about how language affects learning and certainly the nature of censorship, then difficult as it is likely to be, it’s a good thing.”

The news set off a storm of angry online commentary, scolding the publisher for “censorship” and “political correctness,” or simply for the perceived sin of altering the words of a literary icon. Twain admirers have turned his hefty “Autobiography of Mark Twain,” published last year, into a best seller.

An initial print run of 7,500 copies has been planned for the revised “Huckleberry Finn.” The print edition is scheduled for publication in February, and a digital edition could go on sale as early as next week.

Mr. Gribben said no schools had expressed interest yet in teaching the book — nor did he say what ages he thought the edition appropriate for. In his introduction, however, he writes that “even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative.”

Ms. La Rosa said the publisher has had advance orders from Barnes & Noble, Borders and other bookstores, and she expected more orders from schools and libraries.

Some English teachers were less than thrilled about the idea of cleaning up a classic.

“I’m not offended by anything in ‘Huck Finn” said Elizabeth Absher, an English teacher at South Mountain High School in Arizona. “I am a big fan of Mark Twain, and I hear a lot worse in the hallway in front of my class.”

Ms. Absher teaches Twain short stories and makes “Huck Finn” available but does not teach it because it is too long — not because of the language.

“I think authors’ language should be left alone,” she said. “If it’s too offensive, it doesn’t belong in school, but if it expresses the way people felt about race or slavery in the context of their time, that’s something I’d talk about in teaching it.”

[from THE NEW YORK TIMES Jan. 5, 2011]

THAT’S NOT TWAIN

Next month, you will be able to buy the single-volume NewSouth Edition of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” edited by Professor Alan Gribben of Auburn University at Montgomery. It differs from other editions o those books because Mr. Gribben has turned the word “nigger” — as used by Tom and Huck — into “slave.” Mr. Gribben has also changed “Injun” to Indian, Mr. Gribben says he wants to make these American classics readable again — for young readers and for anyone who is hurt by the use of an epithet that would have been ubiquitous in Missouri in the 1830s and 1840s, which is when both books are set. He says he discovered how much Twain’s language offended readers when he began giving talks about “Tom Sawyer” all across Alabama in 2009. He has also acknowledged that what he calls “textual purists” will be horrified by his sanitized versions of the two classics.

We are horrified, and we think most readers, textual purists or not, will be horrified too. The trouble isn’t merely adulterating Twain’s text. It’s also adulterating social, economic and linguistic history. Substituting the word “slave” makes it sound as though all the offense lies in the “n-word” and has nothing to do with the institution of slavery. Worse, it suggests that understanding the truth of the past corrupts modern readers, when, in fact, this new edition is busy corrupting the past.

When “Huckleberry Finn” was published, Mark Twain appended a note on his effort to reproduce “painstakingly” the dialects in the book, including several backwoods dialects and “the Missouri negro dialect.” What makes “Huckleberry Finn” so important in American literature isn’t just the story, it’s the richness, the detail, the unprecedented accuracy of its spoken language. There is no way to “clean up” Twain without doing irreparable harm to the truth of his work. I

[from: The editorial page of The New York Times, January 6, 2011]





norbert blei | readings by norbert blei & music by jim spector

12 05 2010

Readings by Norb Blei & Music by Jim Spector

Tracklist: Door in Winter: December Entries: 1. 29th Going for Milk 2. 30th A Remberance of Red 3. 31th The White Path 4. Christmas Eve in Door

All selections from DOOR STEPS © 1996 ELLIS PRESS, P.O. Box 6, Granite Falls, MN 56241

The Quiet Time: Door County in Winter. Readings from Norb Blei’s DOOR STEPS (The Days, The Seasons) Original music for guitar by Jim Spector.

In five seasonal essays and a daybook of 365 entries, Norbert Blei records the passing of days and seasons in Door County, in his life, in our lives.

A delicate balance between the rugged Door terrain and the author’s inner landscape, the entries of DOOR STEPS (the second book in Blei’s Door County trilogy, which also includes DOOR WAY and DOOR TO DOOR) range from objective, almost naturalistic observations to pure poetry.

Jim Spector is best known for his passionate solo flamenco recordings and his inspired concert performances. He has arranged, composed and recorded the soundtracks to award-winning documentary films and music from his compact disc recording “Flamenco Passions” (DCV002, Door Couniy Voices) has been featured on American Airlines. In this collaboration with Norbert Blei, the text provided the images to inspire a musical setting for sensitive, evocative readings.

Produced by Door County Voices, a division of Open Door Productions, Inc., P.O. Box 517, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235. Readings performed by Norbert Blei. Original music composed and recorded by Jim Spector. Recorded at Sound Fanners, Sturgeon Bay, WI. Produced by Mark Thiede. Executive Producer: Cy Rosenthal. Photography by Dan Hatton.

Much more on Norbert Blei can be found on his web sites: Norbert Blei & Basho’s Road & N.B. Coop News

Editors note: This recording was originally released as cassette and is not longer available. Norbert Blei was so kind to send me one of the very last un-played tapes. Digitalized as mp3 in 320kps | 44100hz | Stereo quality by Markus Mayer in Vienna, Austria.

If you are interested in buying this digitalized tape, please click here…





norbert blei | variations on the theme of april

19 04 2010

Poetry Dispatch No. 319 | April 19, 2010

Variations on the Theme of April

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the
roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

(excerpt from Chaucer’s General Prologue to THE CANTERBURY TALES)

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

(excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s, THE WASTE LAND)

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and
the
goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

(from e.e. cummings, a selection of poems)





norbert blei | die mauer

9 11 2009

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 201 | November 9, 2009

Die Mauer
The 20th Anniversary of The Berlin Wall
IN MEMORIAM

46 Meditations on the Berlin Wall
by
Norbert Blei

LewAllen Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1993





norbert blei | minding faulkner | part 2 | writer-at-work

7 10 2009

William Faulkner’s Underwood Universal Portable typewriter in his office at Rowan Oak, which is now maintained by the University of Mississippi in Oxford as a museum.

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 201 | October 7, 2009

WILLIAM FAULKNER

Part ll
“Writer-at-Work”

by
Norbert Blei

To take a full measure of a writer’s life, work, character, I relish the possibility and surprise of looking beyond the book, the style, the body of work he or she is most noted for.

Yes, Faulkner IS Sanctuary, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying… (Hemingway IS The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea; Tolstoy IS War and Peace, etc.) but could there be something else that might prove revealing?

I see within most serious writers both ‘the dancer’ and ‘the walker”–or the pedestrian. The dancer, in Faulkner’s case, is exemplified in the passage I quoted from his story “The Bear” in the previous entry (#200), Part I.

The dancer is where the art lies, where discovery lives, where everything comes together, words and ideas in a swirl…there is form, rhythm, movement…there is meaning and beauty and immense satisfaction. It’s the magic act, right before the writer’s eyes. He can hardly believe his own words—coming from where? He is in that zone again, where time has no meaning, the day disappears.

The ‘walker’ is more careful, deliberate, perhaps a little unsure of his steps … casting an eye before, around, glimpsing back at times. Leisurely. He checks his watch. Moves in a straight line. Time may be of the essence, but there is no hurry. He’s fairly certain where he is headed, that he will accomplish what he set out to do. He slows to examine a plant, stops to turn over stone, pick up a stick, check a bird in a tree…all the while proceeding toward his destination, almost within sight. Just ahead.

Here’s Faulkner, in that ‘pedestrian’ mode. Faulkner on Camus… Hemingway…Melville.

Great stuff. Insightful.

Albert Camus

CAMUS said that the only true function of man, born into an absurd world, is to live, be aware of one’s life, one’s revolt, one’s freedom. He said that if the only solution to the human dilemma is death, then we are on the wrong road. The right track is the one that leads to life, to the sunlight. One cannot unceasingly suffer from the cold.

So he did revolt. He did refuse to suffer from the unceasing cold. He did refuse to follow a track which led only to death. The track he followed was the only possible one which could not lead only to death. The track he followed led into the sunlight in being that one devoted to making with our frail powers and our absurd material, something which had not existed in life until we made it.

He said, ‘I do not like to believe that death opens upon another life. To me, it is a door that shuts.’ That is, he tried to believe that. But he failed. Despite himself, as all artists are, he spent that life searching himself and demanding of himself answers which only God could know; when he became the Nobel laureate of his year, I wired him ‘On salut l’ame qui constamment se cherche et se demande’; why did he not quit then, if he did not want to believe in God?

At the very instant he struck the tree, he was still searching and demanding of himself; I do not believe that in that bright instant he found them. I do not believe they are to be found. I believe they are only to be searched for, constantly, always by some fragile member of the human absurdity. Of which there are never many, but always somewhere at least one, and one will always be enough.

People will say He was too young; he did not have time to finish. But it is not How long, it is not How much; it is, simply What. When the door shut for him, he had already written on this side of it that which every artist who also carries through life with him that one same foreknowledge and hatred of death, is hoping to do: I was here. He was doing that, and perhaps in that bright second he even knew he had succeeded. What more could he want?

[from: ESSAYS SPEECHES & PUBIC LETTERS by William Faulkner, edited by James B. Meriwether, Random House, 1965. Originally published in Transatlantic Review, Spring 1961; the text printed here has been taken from Faulkner's typescript.]

Review
OF
The Old Man and the Sea
BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY

His BEST. Time may show it to be the best single piece of any of us, I mean his and my contemporaries. This time, he discovered God, a Creator. Until now, his men and women had made themselves, shaped themselves out of their own clay; their victories and defeats were at the hands of each other, just to prove to themselves or one another how tough they could be. But this time, he wrote about pity: about something somewhere that made them all: the old man who had to catch the fish and then lose it, the fish that had to be caught and then lost, the sharks which had to rob the old man of his fish; made them all and loved them all and pitied them all. It’s all right. Praise God that whatever made and loves and pities Hemingway and me kept him from touching it any further.

[from: ESSAYS, SPEECHES & PUBLIC LETTERS…Originally published in Shenandoah, III (Autumn 1952)]

TO THE BOOK EDITOR OF THE Chicago Tribune*

It is a difficult question. I can name offhand several books which I should like to have written, if only for the privilege of rewriting parts of them. But I dare say there are any number of angels in heaven today (particularly recent American arrivals) who look down upon the world and muse with a little regret on how much neater they would have done the job than the Lord, in the fine heat of His creative fury, did.

I think that the book which I put down with the unqualified thought “I wish I had written that” is Moby Dick. The Greek-like simplicity of it: a man of forceful character driven by his sombre nature and his bleak heritage, bent on his own destruction and dragging his immediate world down with him with a despotic and utter disregard of them as individuals; the fine point to which the various natures caught (and passive as though with a foreknowledge of unalterable doom) in the fatality of his blind course are swept—a sort of Golgotha of the heart become immutable as bronze in the sonority of its plunging ruin; all against the grave and tragic rhythm of the earth in its most timeless phase: the sea. And the symbol of their doom: a White Whale. There’s a death for a man, now; none of your patient pasturage for little grazing beasts you can’t even see with the naked eye. There’s magic in the very word. A White Whale. White is a grand word, like a crash of massed trumpets; and leviathan himself has a kind of placid blundering majesty in his name. And then put them together!!! A death for Achilles, and the divine maidens of Patmos to mourn him, to harp white-handed sorrow on their golden hair.

And yet, when I remember Moll Flanders and all her teeming and rich fecundity like a market-place where all that had survived up to that time must bide and pass; or when I recall When We Were Very Young, I can wish without any effort at all that I had thought of that before Mr. Milne did.

WILLIAM FAULKNER

* Faulkner was one of a number of authors asked what book they would most like to have written.

[from: ESSAYS, SPEECHES & PUBLIC LETTERS…Originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune, July 16,1927]








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