Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why Tony Barnstone Rules

I first met Tony at the West Chester poetry conference, and was struck by what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he was. Reading Sad Jazz, I was struck all the more by how those qualities come together in his sonnets, and bring a host of challenging topics along with them, into a constant, loose-fitting music. When I called him to ask all kinds of questions about his writing process, he talked with me for a good hour. After giving me a lot of great advice about sonnets' rhetoric and history, he showed the amazing kindness of including one of my Batman sonnets in his Cortland Review essay.

Then, the other day, he e-mailed with the possibility of an AWP panel on comic books in poetry, and, within the day, we had assembled the awesome superhero lit team of Bryan Dietrich, Sarah Weinman, and Steve Burt to complete the panel. All of that is to say that his generosity of heart and knowledge is a real inspiration, and I was struck by that while looking again at Sad Jazz a day or three ago.

Aliki has been a huge help, too, offering a lot of great advice about translation, which I definitely need. Translation, like sonnet composition, is the best kind of challenge so far, and incredible fun. I hope that both of those qualities describe your day.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Last Week's Amazing News

The first cool news came today, when I got INK from The New Yorker. It was amazing; first, I opened up the envelope to take out the normal rejection slip. When I saw the writing on the other side, I think the hair on my arms might have actually stood up.

The most interesting poetry development may be that my sequence, "Weston's Unsent Letters to Modotti," is now on the online portion of the Italian photo magazine, Private. I found an issue of theirs at Borders one day, and realized how great of a place it might be for poems from the sequence, if they were put together with the photos that Shannon is doing as part of our collaboration. Now, I'm realizing that such a collaboration would be a great fit for Aperture, and hope to find ways of making that happen.

My Fulbright application is going amazingly--my e-mail to Stephen Greenblatt got a warm and helpful response, that has led, in turn, to great places. He recommended talking to Tom Conley, in Harvard's French department, and Tom responded with the same warmth and generosity, saying that Jean Parmentier, whose work I'm translating, could use more exposure. He's also a friend of Frank Lestringant, the Sorbonne professor who has done such amazing work in linking Renaissance travel narratives to geography with the rhizomatic approach that Deleuze and Guattari articulated so brilliantly. It looks like my dream, of Frank mentoring me during the Fulbright, may come true.

It's amazing to have this project also act as a searchlight into my family's past. Any historical research into Jean ends up being genealogical research as well, and lets me see the amazing line of my family stretching back into time--Antoine Auguste, who introduced the potato to the French diet by setting up soup kitchens in Paris, all the way down to my grandfather, Alan, whose skill with a Flying Fortress in WWII helped to keep him and his crew alive. What an awesome blessing to have theory and poetry converge in the figures of these amazing men, and to be descended from them.