edouard de pomiane | soups

18 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 157 | October 18, 2008

Recipes & Writing in Autumn

by
Norbert Blei

When the bright days and brisk nights of October arrive I think of the glowing feast of color, the warmth of food. Autumn leaves, squash soup. My book shelves beckon after midnight…an appetite for words…something to read and eat. (“The “Literature of Food”—another from a list of writing courses I will probably never develop or ever teach. But oh how nourishing.)

Soup alone. A warm bowl cradled in the hands, aroma rising in steam.

“Poet-chef.” What could be more complete?

Pomiane…I think of him. Consider some lines written on the back of one of his books:

As a dietician and a professor at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, Edouard de Pomiane (1875-1964) acquired a profound knowledge of the nutritive and medical values of food, and of its history. He made a study of the chemistry of cooking and explained the reasons behind the methods, enabling his followers to understand just why certain ingredients behaved as they did, to avoid culinary mistakes, wherever humanly possible, and to put things right where, in spite of care, they had gone wrong. Yet his attitude was light-hearted, his delight in good food infectious, and his approach to cookery charmingly carefree. A certain dish, he warned, was disastrous to the figure – ‘but one can always start slimming tomorrow!’ All his life he enjoyed cooking for his family and friends and regarded it as an art with which to express the warmth of human kindness. But he was a very practical cook with many demands on his time and he well understood the need to produce delicious dishes with the minimum amount of fuss, and was also fully aware of the necessity of balancing the housekeeping budget. Dedicated users of the first edition will welcome its return with great pleasure: devotees of de Pomiane’s Cooking In Ten Minutes will turn with delight and with confidence to this wider selection of recipes: new readers have a real treat in store.

I move next to “The King of Chefs,” Georges Auguste Escoffier. A little biography, some anecdotes about Escoffier (1846-1935):

One evening at the turn of the century, the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) came to dine at London’s Savoy and was startled by an offering near the top of the menu. It read: “Cuisses de Nymphes a Vaurore—Nymphs’ Thighs alt Dawn.” Intrigued, the prince nibbled at them, then called for the chef and demanded to know what he was eating. Frogs’ legs, announced the chef. (In this case poached in a white-wine court bouillon, steeped in an aromatic cream sauce, seasoned with paprika, tinted gold, covered by a champagne aspic and served cold.) Aristocratic English circles in those days considered as vulgar an animal as the frog a gastronomic monstrosity, but the prince’s verdict was: delicious. From that time Nymphs’ Thighs became a familiar tidbit in the best London restaurants, and the chef became known as the man who taught Englishmen to eat frogs. The High Cost of Salmon. He was, of course, a Frenchman. He was also a genius. His name: Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), renowned as “the king of chefs and the chef of kings.” He plied King George V with variations of one of the monarch’s favorite dishes, cream cheese. He fed Kaiser Wilhelm salmon steamed in champagne. “How can I repay you?” the Kaiser asked. “Give us back Alsace-Lorraine,” the Frenchman replied. [Source: TIME]

Literature, indeed. Stories. Drama. History. Humor. And of course, poetry.

Ah, there she is. One of my American favorites in the mix of literature and food: M.F.K. Fisher. A pen or a wooden spoon in hand? Perhaps both. Among her many works, fiction and nonfiction, her classic: HOW TO COOK A WOLF. Always a good read. Basic survival, words &food; sugar & salt. And never to forget: “It is impossible to think of any good meal, no matter how plain or elegant, without soup or bread in it”–M.F.K. Fisher. (Read her short stories sometime.)

Finally, how can I forget my experience with the famous Hungarian chef in Chicago, Chef Louis Szathmary, back in the 1970’s? (See CHI TOWN). A man of power, performance, brilliance, humor, history, literature. An artist who spoke and wrote in the true language of food.

“I see no reason why the artists in the kitchen who are creating our daily bread should not be treated academically the way other artists are. To be a good chef, a good culinarian is to be an artist, and a scientist. Our skills are the perfect combination of creative, visual, and performing arts at once.”Chef Louie

October—cool, sunny days, warm, tasty soup. Here’s Pomiane, writer and chef:

Edouard de Pomiane

SOUPS

Pumpkin Soup

Sometimes I feel that I am very old. When I consider all the changes which have occurred over the long years since I was a child, I feel like a stranger even in the Paris where I was born. The din of the traffic has put the street songs to flight. One is no longer woken by the cry of the groundsel sellers. The raucous song of the oyster man no longer reminds one that it is Sunday which must be celebrated round the family table with a feast of oysters.

The shops have changed too. Only the windows of the butter, egg and cheese shops have kept their character, and on the pavement just beside the door one can still admire the giant pumpkin with gaping sides squatting on its wooden stool and seeming to say to passers-by, “Why not make some pumpkin soup ? And you will need some milk for it too. Come inside and buy some.”

Certainly in my young days there was no wooden stool. The pumpkin was balanced on top of two other uncut pump¬kins which were the rendezvous of all the dogs in the neighborhood who stopped there … for a moment or two. The stool is a triumph of modern hygiene.

If you are making pumpkin soup, buy a slice weighing about 1 lb. You will need 1 1/2 pints of milk and 2 ozs of rice as well.

Peel the pumpkin and cut the flesh into small pieces. Put them into a saucepan with a tumblerful of water. Boil for about 15 minutes, then mash the pumpkin to a puree. Add the milk and bring it to the boil. Now pour in the rice and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes.

At this moment the rice should be just cooked. Adjust the seasoning to your taste adding, if you like it, a pinch of caster sugar. I prefer a sprinkling of freshly-milled black pepper.

[from COOKING WITH POMIANE, Faber Paperbacks, 1976]

Edouard Alexandre de Pomiane, sometimes Edouard Pozerski (20 April 1875 – 26 January 1964) was a French scientist, radio broadcaster and food writer. His parents emigrated from Poland in 1863, changed their name from Pozerski to de Pomiane, and became French citizens. De Pomiane worked as a physician at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, where he gave Félix d’Herelle a place to work on bacteriophages.

His best known works to have been translated into English are Cooking in Ten Minutes and Cooking with Pomiane. His writing was remarkable in its time for its directness (he frequently uses a strange second-person voice, telling you—the reader—what you are seeing and smelling as you follow a recipe) and for his general disdain for “traditional” elaborate French cuisine. He travelled widely and quite a few of his recipes are from abroad. His recipes often take pains to demystify cooking by explaining the chemical processes at work.

Books

  • * French cooking in ten minutes : or, Adapting to the rhythm of modern life (1930) ISBN 0-571-13599-4
  • * Cooking with Pomiane ISBN 0-340-59937-5

Georges Auguste Escoffier (28 October 1846–12 February 1935) was a French chef, restaurateur and culinary writer who popularized and updated traditional French cooking methods. He is a near-legendary figure among chefs and gourmets, and was one of the most important leaders in the development of modern French cuisine. Much of Escoffier’s technique was based on that of Antoine Carême, one of the codifiers of French Haute cuisine, but Escoffier’s achievement was to simplify and modernize Carême’s elaborate and ornate style.

Alongside the recipes he recorded and invented, another of Escoffier’s contributions to cooking was to elevate it to the status of a respected profession, introducing organized discipline to his kitchens. He organized his kitchens by the brigade de cuisine system, with each section run by a chef de partie. He also replaced the practice of service à la française (serving all dishes at once) with service à la russe (serving each dish in the order printed on the menu).

Escoffier published Le Guide Culinaire, which is still used as a major reference work, both in the form of a cookbook and a textbook on cooking.

Publications

  • * Le Traité sur L’art de Travailler les Fleurs en Cire (Treatise on the Art of Working with Wax Flowers) (1886)
  • * Le Guide Culinaire (1903)
  • * Les Fleurs en Cire (new edition, 1910)
  • * Le Carnet d’Epicure (A Gourmet’s Notebook) (1911)
  • * Le Livre des Menus (Recipe Book) (1912)
  • * L’Aide-memoire Culinaire (1919)
  • * Le Riz (Rice) (1927)
  • * La Morue (Cod) (1929)
  • * Ma Cuisine (1934)
  • * 2000 French Recipes (1965, Translated to English by Marion Howells) ISBN 1-85051-694-4
  • * Memories of My Life (1996, from his own life souvenirs published by his grandson in 1985 and translated into English by L. Escoffier, his great granddaughter in-law), ISBN 0-471-28803-9
  • * Les Tresors Culinaires de la France (2002, collected by L. Escoffier from the original Carnet d’Epicure)

Louis I. Szathmary, born June 2, 1919, Budapest, Hungary. Graduate, University of Budapest, Masters degree in Journalism; Ph.D., Psychology, 1944. During the war he briefly attended the Hungarian cooks school while in the Hungarian Army. One of his responsibilities as a psychologist was to write the instruction manuals for the troops regarding field artillery as well as any issues of field cookery and proper procedures relating to military rations. Immigrated to United States, 1951. Married Sadako Tanino, of Los Angeles, CA, 1960. Died in Chicago October 4,1996.

1989-1996 Founder/Curator Emeritus Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University (The world’s largest culinary museum. His contribution was over 400,000 pieces from ancient times to the present.) 1989-1996 Chef Laureate, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI 1964-1996 President, Louis Szathmary Associates, Food System Designers and Management Consultants, Chicago 1962-1989 Executive Vice-President, Lou D’Or, Inc., ChicagoOwner-chef, “The Bakery” Restaurant, Chicago 1959-1964 Manager, New Product Development, Armour and Company, Chicago 1958-1959 Plant Superintendent, Reddi Fox Caterers, Darien, CT 1955-1958 Executive Chef, Mutual Broadcasting System, New York 1951-1955 Chef, New England Province, Jesuit Order, Norwalk, CT

Author And Columnist

  • * “The Chef’s Secret Cook Book”
  • * “Sears Gourmet Cooking Forum”
  • * “American Gastronomy”
  • * “The New Chef’s Secret Cook Book,”
  • * “The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook.”
  • * Editor, 15-Volume “Cookery Americana,”
  • * “Antique American Cook Books.”
  • * The Iowa Szathmary Culinary Arts Series; Nelson Algren’s “America Eats.”
  • * Countless books in Hungarian, including several books of poetry.

Over the years, Szathmary has written for the “Skyline,” (a near north newspaper), the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times, Houston Chronicle, and “Inside Lincoln Park.” He has been contributing editor of “Chef” Magazine, published by Talcott Publishing Company. He has authored more than 500 articles in food service, scientific and educational journals, among them the Cornell Hotel Quarterly, Food Service Magazine, Cooking for Profit, American Wine & Food, Food & Wine Society, Travel/Holiday Magazine, Hungarian Heritage Review, In This Issue, Biblio Magazine, as well as and several Hungarian publications in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Over some 50 years, he participated in more than 1,150 television and radio broadcasts, local and national, including Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, Phil Donahue, Kathryn Crosby, Oprah Winfrey, the Pat Sajak Show, “Good Morning America,” “PM Magazine,” “Kup’s Show,” “ABC Network News,” and NBC “Go.”

Lectures and demonstrations at more than 30 colleges, trade and professional associations, including: Cornell, Michigan State, Florida International University, Roosevelt University, Tirton College, Kendall College, Washburn Trade School, California Polytech, Boston University, Oklahoma State, University of Missouri, Penn State, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Oxford University, England, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Chicago, Purdue University, University of Michigan, Culinary Institute of America (New Haven & Hyde Park), University of Southern California, Grand Rapids Junior College, and Johnson & Wales University. Also, The Young Presidents Organization, National Restaurant Association, National Frozen Foods Association, National Festival of American Foods and Cookery, American Culinary Federation, American Academy of Chefs, Honorable Order of Golden Toque, and The Food Service Executives Association.

From 1992 to the present, among the many places he lectured at were the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., National Space Society’s “Treasures of Discovery,” the 11th International Space Development Conference, Penn State, University of Iowa, Johnson & Wales University, and Oxford University in England.

Appeared in numerous broadcast commercials and print advertisements, sponsored by Sears, Charmglow, Chicken Delight, Tum’s, Lipton Tea, Lea & Perrins, Christian Dior, Jim Beam, Armour, American Express, Stewart’s Coffee and many others.

Member of: Society of Professional Management Consultants; Council on Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Education; Board of Governors, National Space Society; Board of Directors, Chicago Academy of Sciences; Screen Actors Guild; American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; International Association of Cooking Schools; Les Amis d’Escoffier; American Culinary Federation; American Academy of Chefs; Honorable Order of the Golden Toque; Chefs de Cuisine Association; Master Chefs Institute; International P.E.N. Club; International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association; International Wine & Food Society of London; Caxton Club of Chicago; Cliff Dwellers Club of Chicago; Groiler Club of New York; Stephen Parmenius Foundation; and American Hungarian Cultural Association of Chicago.

It was at the 1974 American Culinary Federation convention in Cleveland, Ohio, when keynote speaker Chef Louis Szathmary declared that European governments honored their Executive Chefs, but that in America, chefs were officially listed in the same category as “domestics, dog walkers, chamber maids and butlers.” He called on the convention to change this official view and gave the first $500 to hire a professional lobbyist to achieve this goal. In January 1977, at the final Washington, D.C. meeting which included Department of Labor and American Culinary Federation officials, the listing of Executive Chef was advanced in the Dictionary of Official Titles from the “Services” category to the “Professional, Technical, and Managerial Occupations” category. America’s Executive Chefs were officially recognized as professionals!

Awards and Recognitions

  • * Honorary Doctorate in Business – Lincoln College, Lincoln Illinois
  • * Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts – Johnson & Wales University, 1990
  • * 1996 appointed to Editorial Advisory Board of Biblio Magazine, The Magazine for Collectors of Books, Manuscripts, and Ephemera
  • * Living Legend Silver Spoon Award – Food Arts Magazine, 1995
  • * Living Legend – Illinois Restaurant Association, 1993
  • * Living Legend – James Beard Foundation, 1995
  • * Hotel Man of The Year – Penn State Hotel School, 1977
  • * Lifetime Achievement Award – Jozsef Venesz Award from the Hungarian Chefs Association, Hungary, 1996. (The highest honor for a Hungarian chef for promoting Hungarian Cuisine internationally.)
  • * Hall of Fame -Life Time Achievement Award, American Academy of Chefs, 1996
  • * Chef Laureate – Johnson & Wales University, 1989
  • * Outstanding Culinarian – Culinary Institute of America, l974

Works In Progress At The Time of His Death

  • * “The Bakery Restaurant Catering Book”
  • * Hungarian Cookbook (both in English and Hungarian)
  • * “History of The First Stomach” a book to be based on his presidential autograph collection.
  • * A Dutch television crew was to film a television special based on his collecting habits at the end of October.
  • * A traveling Culinary Archives & Museum exhibit at the 81st International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show, November 9-12, l996 Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York City.
  • * In April l997 he was to be awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Penn State Hotel Society.
  • * At Johnson & Wales University, Chef Louis was working with the school’s Advancement Department on fund-raising efforts to build a permanent home for the Culinary Archives & Museum.
  • * He also was planning to lecture to students in The Hospitality College and the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales in November.
  • * After his retirement he devoted himself to working on culinary related exhibits at the Culinary Archives & Museum and traveling exhibits to such places as Oxford University, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Gerald Ford Presidential Library, Villa Terra- Milwaukee, Clements Library University of Michigan, Dartmouth, San Francisco International Airport Museum, Cosmos Club, Roosevelt University, University of Chicago, University of California-Santa Barbara, Hungarian Embassy-Washington D.C., Hungarian Consulate-New York City, etc. etc.
  • * Although he was a retired chef , he came out of retirement to cook for causes close to his heart: The International House of Rhode Island, American Institute of Wine & Food, James Beard Foundation, openings to his book exhibitions and a private dinner for his dear friend and CEO of McDonald’s Fred Turner.
  • * His presidential culinary related autograph collection was to be featured on the upcoming PBS special series “Presidential Palate” featuring former White House Executive Chef Henry Haller.
  • * On election night November 5, 1996 on TV Food Network News his presidential culinary related autograph collection is to be featured in a two- hour special with intermittent election updates — a first in television history.

Chef Louis Szathmary lectured to culinary and hospitalty students all over the world. He would emphasize why he felt it was important for industry leaders to take the time to lecture to the next generation of culinarians and hoteliers. His internationally renowned “The Bakery” Restaurant was located across the street from a funeral home. Chef often remarked that for 26 years he observed those who had passed on being taken in and out of the funeral home. He noted that when they left this world, they were not able to take any worldly possessions with them. After years of observing this he felt an obligation to pass on as much of his knowledge to students because he realized that, when he was gone, he would never have the opportunity to share it with anyone.

Upon his retirement, the administration at Johnson & Wales University, wanted to provide him a house to reside in Providence, Rhode Island. He absolutely refused, citing the funeral home.

The accomplishment he was the most proud of was that he lived among the students he loved, in a residence hall. Among students, he was more recognizable than than the President of the University. He was the only adult on campus who was not a member of the Residential Life Staff who lived in the dorms, “by choice.” He enjoyed eating in the cafeteria with the students, walking in the halls, riding the elevator, and even the 2:30 a.m. false fire alarms — including the evacuations while still in their pajamas.

He felt that the best discussions he had in his life, were the moments he shared with the students — out of a classroom, when he was just one of them.

Szathmaryism:

“I see no reason why the artists in the kitchen who are creating our daily bread should not be treated academically the way other artists are. To be a good chef, a good culinarian is to be an artist, and a scientist. Our skills are the perfect combination of creative, visual and performing arts at once.”

source

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher (July 3, 1908 – June 22, 1992) was a prolific and well-respected writer, writing more than 20 books during her lifetime and also publishing two volumes of journals and correspondence shortly before her death in 1992. Her first book, Serve it Forth, was published in 1937. Her books deal primarily with food, considering it from many aspects: preparation, natural history, culture, and philosophy. Fisher believed that eating well was just one of the “arts of life” and explored the art of living as a secondary theme in her writing. Her style and pacing are noted elements of her short stories and essays.

Fisher was born Mary Frances Kennedy in Albion, Michigan on July 3, 1908. In 1911, her father, Rex Kennedy, moved the family to Whittier, California to pursue a career in journalism. Although Whittier was primarily a Quaker community at that time, Mary Frances was brought up within the Episcopal Church.

While studying at the University of California in 1929, Fisher met her first husband, Alfred Young Fisher. The couple spent the first formative years of their marriage in Europe, primarily at the University of Dijon in France. At the time, Dijon was known as one of the major culinary centers of the world and this certainly had an impact on Fisher, who later went on to become one of the great culinary writers of the twentieth century.

In 1932, the couple returned from France to a country ravaged by the Great Depression. Having lived for years as students on a fixed stipend, they were wholly unprepared for the economic situation that faced them. Al got odd jobs cleaning out houses before finally landing a teaching job at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Fisher did her part teaching a few lessons at an all-girls’ school and working in a frame shop.

In addition to being an author, Fisher was an amateur sculptor working mostly in the realm of wood carving.

During the Fishers’ years in California, they formed a friendship with Dillwyn “Timmy” Parrish and his wife, Gigi. Later, in 1938, Fisher was to leave Alfred for Timmy, referred to as “Chexbres” in many of her books, named after the small Swiss village on Lake Geneva close to where they had lived. The second marriage, while passionate, was short. Only a year into the marriage, Parrish lost his leg due to a circulatory disease, and in 1941 took his own life. Fisher went on to be involved in a number of other turbulent romantic relationships with men and women.

Fisher bore two daughters. Anna, whose father Fisher refused to name, was born in 1943. Mary Kennedy was born in 1946, during Fisher’s marriage to Donald Friede, which lasted from 1945 to 1951.

After Parrish’s death, Fisher considered herself a “ghost” of a person, but went on to live a long and productive life, dying in California in 1992 at the age of 83. She had long suffered from Parkinson’s disease and arthritis, but lived the last twenty years of her life in “Last House,” a house built for her in one of California’s vineyards.

Books

  • * Serve It Forth (1937)
  • * Aix-en-Provence
  • * Consider the Oyster (1941)
  • * How to Cook a Wolf (1942)
  • * The Gastronomical Me (1943)
  • * Here Let Us Feast, A Book of Banquets (1946)
  • * Not Now but Now (1947)
  • * An Alphabet for Gourmets (1949)
  • * The Physiology of Taste [translator] (1949)
  • * The Art of Eating (1954)
  • * A Cordial Water: A Garland of Odd & Old Receipts to Assuage the Ills of Man or Beast (1961)
  • * The Story of Wine in California (1962)
  • * Map of Another Town: A Memoir of Provence (1964)
  • * Recipes: The Cooking of Provincial France (1968) [reprinted in 1969 as The Cooking of Provincial France]
  • * With Bold Knife and Fork (1969)
  • * Among Friends (1971)
  • * A Considerable Town (1978)
  • * Not a Station but a Place (1979)
  • * As They Were (1982)
  • * Sister Age (1983)
  • * Spirits of the Valley (1985)
  • * Fine Preserving: M.F.K. Fisher’s Annotated Edition of Catherine Plagemann’s Cookbook (1986)
  • * Dubious Honors (1988)
  • * The Boss Dog: A Story of Provence (1990)
  • * Long Ago in France: The Years in Dijon (1991)
  • * To Begin Again: Stories and Memoirs 1908-1929 (1992)
  • * Stay Me, Oh Comfort Me: Journals and Stories 1933-1941 (1993)
  • * Last House: Reflections, Dreams and Observations 1943-1991 (1995)
  • * Aphorisms of Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin from His Work, The Physiology of Taste (1998)
  • * From the Journals of M.F.K. Fisher (1999)
  • * Two Kitches in Provence (1999)
  • * Home Cooking: An Excerpt from a Letter to Eleanor Friede, December, 1970 (2000)

source





ed markowski | a poem and a note

11 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 255 | October 11, 2008

ed markowski

(a poem and a note)

Ed Markowski seems to be one of those writers who awakes, walks, eats, drinks, works, plays, loves, sleeps, dreams poems. I don’t know this for sure—but I suspect it. Like the old ad for Jay’s Potato Chips: “You (he)can’t stop eating (writing) them!”

I suspect ed markowski could easily write a poem a day–or more. Most of them pretty damn good poems. Keepers.

Often he’s playful, always thoughtful, occasionally political. I’m sure he prefers the long art of a short poem to the short life (politically) on things. Nevertheless, the poem is where you find it, feel it—at that moment. And put it down.

Granted, there is a ‘momentary’ zone some of us writers are fortunate to enter almost at will. A free zone, inner time zone…the kind of thing that happens when we are consumed by that which we discover to be writing in our heads—all the time, till it finally falls in place on paper.

You nourish that, court it, stay connected with that long enough…and you enter a state of what I compare to ‘zen awareness’ where everything you see becomes a poem. I suspect, here again (and finally), that ed markowski knows and religiously occupies that zen zone on a momentary/daily basis, honoring it all—feeling it flutter inside, alive in the place where words grow into telling images of revelation.

I’m not quite sure what ed does for a living—then again, it doesn’t matter. It’s pretty obvious. He lives to write poems. —Norbert Blei

an american dream

by ed markowski

the garden of eden featured
synchronized dolphins two
roller coasters & fire eating
vigilantes who fashioned each
rosary into a noose while we
pledged allegiance to a flag
that shed its skin & became
a snake beneath an oak where
the guilty women hung their
wombs at one time or another
every raisin used steroids
at the major league level &
bloomed into barry bonds the
baseball mirage who charged
an adoring autograph 15.00 for his
illegible boy before a windstorm
uprooted the virgin who was packing
apples into the pie she crushed
for christ at the church bake sale
last week in alaska every cherry blossom
that drifted down in washington d.c.
exploded while a man cried out the
box was always more nutritious than
the burger before a horse broke loose
from a carousel & won the kentucky
derby by a nose i walked eight years
in the president’s shoes only to
discover
that
the
earth
is
flat.

[Source: Author…new poem, first publication]

norb,

right now as far as print mags go, i’ve got…

8 short poems coming out in a magazine called “labor.” jim daniels, who is a native of detroit & is the chairman of the creative writing department at carnegie mellon in pittsburg is labor’s poetry editor.

this haiku…

[Editor’s note: Sorry, wish I could print it, it’s a beauty, but first rights are elsewhere]

is due out in a british print / haiku mag called presence. presence is a top flight mag in terms of content & production.

have these two poems…

[Ed’s note: Sorry again. Same excuse]

due out in a very tiny but well respected mag called the lilliput review.

have a large number of short poems due out in the next five bottle rockets. the editor, stan forrester has a backlog of my poems. bottle rockets is well done & a lot of fun. the mag comes out of windsor, connecticut.

have two haibun due out in the winter edition of simply haiku.

have a short story due out in the next smokebox. the story is basically a letter from charlie manson to his mother. i’ll forward the piece to you.

so, that’s what’s out there now. i’know this will seem contradictory considering the list above, but i’m not all that bent on sending things out.

it’s like in another life i was a chef & now i prefer to cook for family & friends.

as much as i like print mags, i think poems & stories travel much further on the internet. after all, the most visible magazines (the new yorker etc.) have online editions.

i get invitations all the time from fledgling e mags to send poems. i realized along time ago that it’s not necessary to be published everywhere.

over the weekend i received an invite from an ezine in india called the taj mahal review. turned it down.

stan forrester asked me to write a 10 part piece on my experiences at the naropa institute.

i turned that down too. told stan, “that was 30 years ago, anything i’d have to say would be totally inaccurate. i can’t quote alan ginsberg or gregory corso thirty years after the fact, besides the most interesting part of the trip was the 2 weeks i spent in jail in central city, nebraska. my girlfriend had to live in a pup tent the whole time. she’s the one with the story.”

so , the new yorker would be nice & maybe some day i’ll get there, but if not, that’s ok too. the small press really is the backbone of american arts & letters & that’s gotten me on a bill with billy collins at the national arts club & on a stage at chautauqua & i’ve been discovered by you who i have the utmost respect for. in my book, that’s pretty good. the small press has been very very good to me.
ed

Ed. Note: Other small poems/haiku work by ed markowski to be found on my site devoted to the small poem: Basho’s Road





peter matthiessen | zen master

10 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 156 | October 9, 2008

PETER MATTHIESSEN

(NPR Oct. 8, 2008)

First:

If you have never read him, don’t leave the planet till you do.

Second:

If you’ve never read him; if it’s been a long time since you read him; if you’re surprised he’s still alive (83); if you have children and grandchildren and you feel it’s important that they be left with all the wonders of the natural world; if you think politics and nature are essential to man’s survival; if you think whoever is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this week, it won’t be Peter Matthiessen (but should be); if you have any interest whatsoever in the role of Zen in a man’s life and art; if you feel there is no one left to be trusted, given the culture, the politics of spokespeople and leadership in the world; if you would like to “meet” Matthiessen, the mind and soul of the man, “listen up” to one of the best interviews you will ever experience on NPR, the program “On Point” hosted, just yesterday, by Tom Ashbrook.

Here’s the link. Just click …

Make

a pot of green tea. Have a beer. A snifter or brandy, a glass of Scotch (neat). Tune in….

The

world needs to listen “Zen Master” Matthiessen, while there’s still time. Norbert Blei

Peter Matthiessen (born May 22, 1927, in New York City) is an American novelist and nonfiction writer and an environmental activist. Matthiessen’s work is known for its meticulous approach to research. He frequently focuses on American Indian issues and history, as in his detailed study of the Leonard Peltier case, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

Along with George Plimpton, Harold L. Humes, Thomas Guinzburg and Donald Hall, Matthiessen founded the literary magazine The Paris Review in 1953. At the time he was a young recruit for the CIA.

In 1965, Matthiessen wrote a novel about a group of American missionaries and a South American tribe. The book was later made into a major Hollywood film with the same title, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, in 1991. In 1979, Matthiessen’s nonfiction book The Snow Leopard won the Contemporary Thought category of the National Book Award. His work on oceanographic research, “Blue Meridian,” with photographer Peter A. Lake, documented the making of the film “Blue Water, White Death,” which was directed by Peter Gimbel and Jim Lipscomb. This is widely considered to have inspired Peter Benchley to write Jaws in 1974. Matthiessen has been the official State Author of New York, 1995-1997.

More recently, Matthiessen’s fiction trilogy Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man’s River and Bone by Bone was based on accounts of Florida planter Edgar J. Watson’s death shortly after the Southwest Florida Hurricane of 1910.

Shortly after the 1983 publication of In The Spirit of Crazy Horse, Matthiessen and his publisher Viking Penguin were sued for libel by FBI agent David Price and former South Dakota governor William J. Janklow. The plaintiffs sought over $49 million in damages; Janklow also successfully sued to have all copies of the book withdrawn from bookstores. After four years of litigation, Federal District Court Judge Diana E. Murphy dismissed Price’s lawsuit, upholding Matthiessen’s right “to publish an entirely one-sided view of people and events.” In the Janklow case, a South Dakota court also ruled for Matthiessen. Both cases were appealed. In 1990, the Supreme Court refused to hear Price’s arguments, effectively ending his appeal; the South Dakota Supreme Court dismissed Janklow’s case the same year. With the lawsuits settled, the paperback edition of the book was finally published in 1992.

In his book The Snow Leopard, Matthiessen reports having a somewhat tempestuous on-again off-again relationship with his wife Deborah, culminating in a deep commitment to each other made shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer. She died in New York City near the end of 1972. She and Matthiessen had four children; the youngest of them, Alex Matthiessen, was 7 or 8 years old at the time of her death. In September of the following year, Matthiessen went on an expedition to the Himalayas with field biologist George Schaller.

Matthiessen and Deborah practiced Zen Buddhism. Matthiessen later became a Buddhist priest of the White Plum Asanga. He lives in Sagaponack, New York.

Bibliography

Fiction

  • * Race Rock (1954)
  • * Partisans (1955)
  • * Raditzer (1961)
  • * At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)
  • * Far Tortuga (1975)
  • * On the River Styx and Other Stories (1989)
  • * Killing Mister Watson (1990)
  • * Lost Man’s River (1997)
  • * Bone by Bone (1999)
  • * Shadow Country (2008) (a new rendering of the Watson trilogy)

Nonfiction

  • * Wildlife in America (1959)
  • * The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961)
  • * Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962)
  • * “The Atlantic Coast”, a chapter in The American Heritage Book of Natural Wonders (1963)
  • * The Shorebirds of North America (1967)
  • * Oomingmak (1967)
  • * Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (1969)
  • * Blue Meridian. The Search for the Great White Shark (1971).
  • * The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972)
  • * The Snow Leopard (1978)
  • * Sand Rivers (1981)
  • * In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983) ISBN 0-14-014456-0
  • * Indian Country (1984)
  • * Nine-headed Dragon River: Zen Journals 1969-1982 (1986)
  • * Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Bayen of the South Fork (1986)
  • * African Silences(1991)
  • * Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992)
  • * East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang (1995)
  • * The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959-1961 (2000)
  • * Tigers in the Snow (2000)
  • * The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes (2001)
  • * End of the Earth: Voyage to Antarctica (2003)

Peter Matthiessen (né le 22 mai 1927 à New York) est un naturaliste et écrivain américain, auteur d’œuvres de non-fiction et de fiction.

Les œuvres de Matthiessen sont connues pour être extrêmement bien documentées. Il s’est souvent focalisé sur les problèmes touchant les Indiens d’Amérique et leur histoire, comme par exemple dans son étude détaillée du cas de Leonard Peltier, In the Spirit of the Crazy Horse.

Avec George Plimpton, Harold Humes, Thomas Guinzburg et Donald Hall, il fonda en 1953 le magazine littéraire The Paris Review. À l’époque, c’était une jeune recrue de la CIA, et il utilisa le magazine pour se couvrir.

Dans son livre Le léopard des neiges, Matthiessen parle de sa relation tumultueuse avec sa femme Deborah et de leurs séparations récurrentes, relation qui culmina dans un profond engagement de l’un vers l’autre, après qu’elle a été diagnostiqué d’un cancer. Elle mourut à New-York vers la fin de 1972. Ils eurent 4 enfants, le plus jeune, Alex, ayant 7 ou 8 ans au moment de la mort de sa mère. L’année suivante, en septembre, Matthiessen participa à une expédition en Himalaya avec le biologiste George Schaller, expédition qu’il narra dans le livre Le léopard des neiges.

En 1979, ce livre reçut le prix National Book Award dans la catégorie “Pensée contemporaine”. Son roman En liberté dans les champs du Seigneur, narrant l’histoire d’un missionnaire américain dans une tribu sud-américaine, servit en 1991 de base au scénario d’un film hollywoodien réalisé par Hector Babenco. Blue Meridian, son livre sur la recherche océanographique, présente le tournage du film de Peter Gimbel et de Jim Lipscomb, Blue Water, White Death, qui est généralement considéré comme étant la source d’inspiration de Peter Benchley lorsqu’il écrivit son roman Les dents de la mer en 1974. Matthiessen a été l’auteur officiel de l’État de New York de 1995 à 1997.

Plus récemment, la trilogie de Matthiessen Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Man’s River et Bone by Bone a été basée sur les récits de la mort d’Edgar Watson, un planteur de Floride décédé peu de temps après l’ouragan qui déferla sur le Sud-Est de la Floride en 1910.

Peter Matthiessen et sa femme Deborah étaient des pratiquants du bouddhisme zen. Matthiessen devint plus tard moine bouddhiste. Il vit à Sagaponack, dans l’État de New York.

Bibliographie

Fiction

  • * Race Rock (1954)
  • * Partisans (1955)
  • * Raditzer (1961)
  • * At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1965)
  • * Far Tortuga (1975)
  • * On the River Styx and Other Stories (1989)
  • * Killing Mister Watson (1990)
  • * Lost Man’s River (1997)
  • * Bone by Bone (1999)

Non-fiction

  • * Wildlife in America (1959)
  • * The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness (1961)
  • * Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in the Stone Age (1962)
  • * “The Atlantic Coast”, a chapter in The American Heritage Book of Natural Wonders (1963)
  • * The Shorebirds of North America (1967)
  • * Oomingmak (1967)
  • * Sal Si Puedes: Cesar Chavez and the New American Revolution (1969)
  • * Blue Meridian. The Search for the Great White Shark (1971).
  • * The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972)
  • * The Snow Leopard (1978)
  • * Sand Rivers (1981)
  • * In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983)
  • * Indian Country (1984)
  • * Nine-headed Dragon River: Zen Journals 1969-1982 (1986)
  • * Men’s Lives: The Surfmen and Bayen of the South Fork (1986)
  • * African Silences(1991)
  • * Baikal: Sacred Sea of Siberia (1992)
  • * East of Lo Monthang: In the Land of the Mustang (1995)
  • * The Peter Matthiessen Reader: Nonfiction, 1959-1961 (2000)
  • * Tigers in the Snow (2000)
  • * The Birds of Heaven: Travels With Cranes (2001)
  • * End of the Earth: Voyage to Antarctica (2003)




hayden carruth | silence & prepare

4 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 254 | October 4, 2008

POET/OBIT

(Another chapter of “THE WRITING LIFE”)

HAYDEN CARRUTH 1921 – 2008

Silence

by Hayden Carruth

Sometimes we don’t say anything. Sometimes
we sit on the deck and stare at the masses of
goldenrod where the garden used to be
and watch the color change form day to day,
the high yellow turning to mustard and at last
to tarnish. Starlings flitter in the branches
of the dead hornbeam by the fence. And are these
therefore the procedures of defeat? Why am I
saying all this to you anyway since you already
know it? But of course we always tell
each other what we already know. What else?
It’s the way love is in a late stage of the world.

from “Collected Shorter Poems” Copper Canyon Press, 1992

Hayden Carruth, 87; Poems Reflected Struggles of Life
By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 1, 2008; B05

Hayden Carruth, whose forceful observations of nature, hard work and mental illness brought him late acclaim as one of the most important poets of his generation, died Sept. 29 at his home in Munnsville, N.Y., after a series of strokes. He was 87.

Mr. Carruth (pronounced kuh-RUTH) lived for many years in rural Vermont and New York, where manual labor and an unforgiving climate became part of his daily life and, ultimately, his poetic voice.

Through years of isolation and neglect, he doggedly continued to write, gaining belated recognition for his more than 30 books. A 1996 Virginia Quarterly Review article described him as “certainly one of the most important poets working in this country today.”

His “Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991″ received the 1992 National Book Critics Circle award for poetry, and he won the National Book Award for the collection “Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey” in 1996. After decades of living hand to mouth, he won two prestigious awards, the $25,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 1990 and the $50,000 Lannan Foundation literary award in 1995.

Mr. Carruth began writing at 6 and became a master of poetic diction, from the grandly formal to the bluntly vernacular. He wrote in a deceptively simple style that often evoked nature as he explored philosophical themes of sorrow, loneliness and human dignity.

“His poems take on a variety of voices: the farmers he lived among in Vermont, the jazzmen whose music he reveres, the ancient Chinese poets who taught him,” author Lynne Sharon Schwartz wrote in the Chicago Tribune in 2005. “He has written in the voice of lover, war protester, mental patient, grieving son and father.”

In 1953 and ’54, Mr. Carruth was treated in a New York mental hospital for 18 months for alcoholism and a nervous breakdown. He received electroshock therapy and emerged, he said, “in worse shape” than when he went in. But his prolonged stay gave him a chance to study existential philosophy, which influenced his later writing.
Seldom overtly political in his writing, Mr. Carruth nonetheless had strong views, which he expressed in an angry letter to the New York Times in 1971, after the newspaper’s editorial about the Attica prison riot appeared on the same page as “my stupid poem about the flowers of summer.”

“I think it will be a long time before our civilization will have much use for flowers or poems again,” he concluded.

Hayden Carruth was born Aug. 3, 1921, in Waterbury, Conn. His father and grandfather were journalists, and he learned to write at his grandfather’s knee. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1943 and served in the Army Air Forces in Italy during World War II.

Mr. Carruth received a master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1948. He was the editor of Poetry magazine in Chicago and worked for the University of Chicago Press before his nervous collapse.

Seeking solitude after his hospitalization, Mr. Carruth moved to northern Vermont and worked as a farm laborer, mechanic, freelance writer and editor.

“I had to live a very secluded life, but I’m not sorry that’s the way it turned out,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 1990. “The main disadvantage was poverty.”

In 1966, he had received a $10,000 federal grant, but three years later his gross income was only $600. At times, he had to steal corn intended for cattle. But he was drawn to “the honest country people, the laborers, and people who had real folk habits in their speech. I loved to listen to them, and tried to imitate them in my poems.”

He was also strongly influenced by his love of jazz and tried to imitate its improvisational qualities in his poetry.

Mr. Carruth published his first book of poetry in 1959, but his major critical breakthrough didn’t come until the 1970s. His only novel, a tale of adultery called “Appendix A,” appeared in 1963 to dismissive reviews.

After teaching in Vermont for a few years, Mr. Carruth joined the faculty at Syracuse University in Upstate New York in 1979. He was poetry editor of Harper’s magazine from 1977 to 1982.

Despite his newfound professional security, he suffered another mental setback in 1988 and nearly died after swallowing every pill in his home. He recovered and wrote that his suicide attempt helped “unify my sense of self, the sense which had formerly been so refracted and broken up.”

His marriages to Sara Anderson, Eleanor Ray and Rose Marie Dorn ended in divorce.

Survivors include his fourth wife, poet Joe-Anne McLaughlin of Munnsville; and a son from his third marriage.

A daughter from his first marriage, Martha, died in 1997, prompting him to write a heartfelt elegy published in his 2001 collection, “Doctor Jazz.”

One of Mr. Carruth’s final books, “Letters to Jane” (2004), was a volume of his correspondence with poet Jane Kenyon, who died of cancer in 1995 at 47.
“He wrote her a letter every week,” Kenyon’s husband, poet Donald Hall, said yesterday. “He did not talk to her about her disease. He wrote looking out his window at a bird, at a leaf falling. They were absolutely marvelous.”

Prepare

By Hayden Carruth

“Why don’t you write me a poem that will prepare me for your death? “you said.
It was a rare day here in our climate, bright and sunny. I didn’t feel like dying that
day,
I didn’t even want to think about it – my lovely knees and bold shoulders’ broken
open,
Crawling with maggots. Good Christ! I stood at the window and I saw a strange dog
Running in the field with its nose down, sniffing the snow, zigging and zagging,
And whose dog is that? I asked myself. As if I didn’t know. The limbs of the apple
trees
Were lined with snow, making a bright calligraphy against the world, messages to me
From an enigmatic source in an obscure language. Tell me, how shall I decipher
them?
And a jay slanted down to the feeder and looked at me behind my glass and
squawked.
Prepare, prepare. Fuck you, I said, come back tomorrow. And here he
is in this new gray and gloomy morning.
We’re back to our normal weather. Death in the air, the idea of death
settling around us like mist,
And I am thinking again in despair, in desperation, how will it happen?
Will you wake up
Some morning and find me lying stiff and cold beside you in our bed?
How atrocious!
Or will I fall asleep in the car, as I nearly did a couple of weeks ago,
and drive off the road
Into a tree? The possibilities are endless and not at all fascinating,
except that I can’t stop
Thinking about them, can’t stop envisioning that moment of hideous violence.
Hideous and indescribable as well, because it won’t happen until it’s

over. But not for you.
For you it will go on and on, thirty years or more, since that’s the distance
between us
In our ages. The loss will be a great chasm with no bridge across it
(for we both know
Our life together, so unexpected, is entirely loving and rare). Living on your
own –
Where will you go? what will you do? And the continuing sense of
displacement
From what we’ve had in this little house, our refuge on our green or
snowbound
Hill. Life is not easy and you will be alive. Experience reduces itself to
platitudes always,
Including the one which says that I’ll be with you forever in your
memories and dreams.
I will. And also in hundreds of keepsakes, such as this scrap of a poem
you are reading now.

from SCRAMBLED EGGS & WHISKEY, Poems 1991-1995, Copper Canyon Press

much more on Hayden Carruth on his web site here…





william shakespeare | sonnet XXX

2 10 2008

Poetry Dispatch No. 253 | October 2, 2008

Sonnet XXX

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear times’ waste;
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanéd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

–William Shakespeare





norbert blei | notes on the publishing life…continued

2 10 2008

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 155 | October 1, 2008

“Notes on The Publishing Life” …Continued

I guess it would be in my best interest to put a WARNING LABEL on this one, as the language gets a little rough in places. So those of you who may be uncomfortable with ‘street language’ in print—take a pass on this one. (Or re-read yesterday’s dispatched Underground Notes, #154).

But for readers appreciative of style and cogent content–and writers, especially, who have ever (or too often ) been at the mercy of questionable editing—this little exchange between a writer and his sub-editors is beyond priceless.

Bear in mind as well, that this appeared in the esteemed English publication, the Guardian. And you have to admire the English and their way with words. Norbert Blei

[Exchange]

THE JOKE IS GONE

From two letters published, in July in the Guardian. The first, from Giles Coren restaurant critic for the London Times Magazine on Saturdays since 2001 to his subeditors at the Times, was leaked to the Guardian. The second is a letter to Coren from Times subeditors Mia Aimaro Ogden and Joanna Duckworth.

Chaps,

I am mightily pissed off. I have addressed this to Owen, Amanda, and Ben because I don’t know who I am supposed to be pissed off with (I’m assuming Owen, but I filed to Amanda and Ben, so it’s only fair), and also to Tony, who wasn’t here if he had been, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have happened.

I don’t really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. Owen, we discussed your turning three of my long sentences into six short ones in a single piece, and how that wasn’t going to happen anymore, so I’m really hoping it wasn’t you that fucked up my review on Saturday. It was the final sentence. Final sentences are very, very important. They are the little jingle that the reader takes with him into the weekend.

I wrote: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rose and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh.” It appeared as: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of rose and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh.” There is no length issue. This is someone thinking, “I’ll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and I know best.” Well, you fucking don’t. This was shit, shit subediting for three reasons.

1) “Nosh,” as I’m sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardization of the German naschen. It is a verb, and can be con¬strued into two distinct nouns. One, “nosh,” means simply “food.” You have decided that this is what I meant and removed the “a.” I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun “nosh” means “a session of eating” in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of “scoff.” You can go for a scoff. Or you can buy some scoff. The sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what I meant. Why would you change a sentence .so that it meant something I didn’t mean? I don’t know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck-up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? It’s easy. Not; A. Word. Ever.

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, I was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as “sexually-charged.” I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y. I have used the word “gaily” as a gentle nudge. And “looking for a nosh” has a secondary meaning of looking for a blow job. Not specifically gay, for this is Soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. “Looking for nosh” does not have that ambiguity. The joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you’ve fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a Renaissance fresco and thinking Jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking Christ, don’t you read the copy?

3) And worst of all. Dumbest, deafest, shittiest of all, you have removed the unstressed “a” so that the stress that should have fallen on “nosh” is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you’re winding up a piece of prose, meter is crucial. Can’t you hear? Can’t you hear that it is wrong? It’s not fucking rocket science. It’s fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for the Times, and I have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

I am sorry if this looks petty (last time I mailed a Times sub about the change of a single word I got in all sorts of trouble), but I care deeply about my work and I hate to have it fucked up by shit subbing. I have been away, you’ve been subbing Joe and Hugo, and maybe they just file and fuck off and think, “Hey ho, it’s tomorrow’s fish and chips”— well, not me. I woke up at three in the morning on Sunday and fucking lay there, furious, for two hours. Weird, maybe. But that’s how it is.

It strips me of all confidence in writing for the magazine. No exaggeration. I’ve got a review to write this morning, and I really don’t feel like doing it, for fear that some nuance is going to be removed from the final line, the payoff, and I’m going to have another weekend ruined for me.

I’ve been writing for the Times for fifteen years, and I have never asked this before I have never asked it of anyone I have written for but I must insist, from now on, that I am sent a proof of every review I do, so I can check it for fuck-ups. And I must be sent it in good time in case changes are needed. It is the only way I can carry on in the job.

And, just out of interest, I’d like whoever made that change to email me and tell me why. Tell me the exact reasoning which led you to remove that word from my copy.

Sorry to go on. Anger, real steaming fucking anger, can make a man verbose.
Giles

Dear Giles,

Subediting is a noble profession. It is also a thankless one particularly when your writers call you a “useless cunt.”

There was a sharp intake of breath when your email hit the inbox of subs throughout the in dustry this week that was after we’d stopped laughing. Not that we didn’t think you had a point. Yes, tinkering with copy just for the sake of it and without consultation is wrong. It is disrespectful and arrogant. And we can see why you’d be furious at the loss even of an indefinite article.

There is nothing more irritating than a subeditor who thinks he knows better than a writer, particularly one who cares deeply about his work. But did you really have to be so rude?

If you could only see the state of some of the raw copy we have to knock into shape. It’s badly structured, poorly spelt, appallingly punctuated, lazily researched. We’re not saying your writing falls into that category on the contrary, your journalism is highly accomplished. Never having worked on your copy, we can only take your word for it that it is beyond improvement in its pre-published state. Strange as it may seem, many writers do not possess your grasp of language; indeed, it is sometimes difficult to believe that English is their mother tongue, and they don’t give a damn about what they produce because they know that a good, often highly educated subeditor will correct it, check it, and turn it into readable prose.

None of this can excuse your nasty, bullying, “know your place, you insignificant little fuckwit” email. Yes, it’s funny, in a way that pieces that use “fuck,” “shit,” and “cunt” so liberally often can be, but, please someone made a mistake. He surely had no intention of sabotaging your deathless prose. So you don’t like what happened to your piece have a word with your editor. The hapless sub will no doubt already have been soundly thrashed and had his dictionary privileges removed.

Some years ago, a colleague of ours had a T-shirt printed up with the legend XXXXXXXXX XXXXXXX IS A CUNT, which he wore every week when having to deal with the writer to whom it referred, because he, like you, became so disproportionately abusive when his use of language was questioned. We’d hate that to happen to you, because you can actually write, and having GILES COREN IS A SANCTIMONIOUS LITTLE TWAT WHO NEEDS TO GET OVER HIMSELF could be quite costly in T-shirt lettering. Subs are no more infallible than writers. So let’s all try a little mutual respect, shall we?

All the best, Mia Aimaro Ogden, Joanna Duckworth

from HARPER’S MAGAZINE October, 2008








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