“Our gestures have taken us farther into the day
Than tomorrow will understand.
They live us.”
—John Ashbery (1927–2017), “All Kinds of Caresses,” CR 27:04, 1976
Chicago Review mourns the passing of John Ashbery, one of the greatest American poets of the twentieth century and an ever-generous contributor to this journal. His first poem in CR was “The Mysterious X” (1974), followed by “The Thief of Poetry” and “All Kinds of Caresses” (1976). Of “All Kinds of Caresses,” which was reprinted in CR‘s Fifty Years: A Retrospective Issue, the editors noted: “[Ashbery’s] poetry is famously difficult; as he writes in the following poem, ‘it isn’t absolutely clear.'”
In the coming years, CR would go on to publish four more of Ashbery’s poems (in our 2006 sixtieth-anniversary issue), a letter he wrote in response to poet Eileen Myles (2008), and his correspondence with Elliott Carter regarding their collaboration on “Syringa” (2014). Photographs of Carter’s manuscript sketches alongside Ashbery’s poem text were featured in that special issue, 58:34.
In memory of John Ashbery, we have made all of his contributions to CR (1974–2006) available here.
“Let poetry be like a key / That opens a thousand doors.”
—Vicente Huidobro, “Ars Poetica,” CR 27:02 (1975), tr. Eliot Weinberger.
“Perhaps all compelling works of art engage the eye differently over time, and expand one’s capacity to see. For me, this is certainly true of Cortor’s work.”
In Chicago Review 59:4/60:1, Liesl Olson covers the visual artist Eldzier Cortor, whose work is on permanent display at the Art Institute of Chicago. Read the full essay and interview online!
“The question forms of contemporary poetry in the ‘tradition of what is unanswerable’ perform the unanswerable as a specimen of resistance to the logic of commensurability, identity, and equivalence.”
In “Unanswerable Questions,” Joe Luna examines the erotetic in contemporary British and American poetry. Read the full piece here.
The tragic loss came in 2016. Stop-motion images of death compete unnaturally with his poetics: his poems swivel, cycle, gesticulate, perform.
After death the poems hold their ground in an aesthetic awareness of home, one marked with speciﬁcs of life in Cuba, where Juan Carlos Flores lived in a public housing community that rose out of the ground in a way that could only have happened in certain decades following the 1959 Revolution.
But his poems still move.
Read more in Commentary.
Reviewed by Jeremy Noel-Tod
Every poetic community knows “that guy.” He—and it is usually he—is the gadﬂy in the ointment, the satirist or critic who mocks the pretensions of the leading figures of the day. “That guy” is not so much an individual talent as a singular pain in the ass. In early eighteenth-century England, he also happened to be the era’s ﬁnest poet, Alexander Pope, who in The Dunciad and the spoof essay “Peri Bathous” laid mock-heroic waste to his contemporaries. Three centuries later, he is known to Internet sociology as a “troll,” lurking below the line as once below the bridge.
Kent Johnson, as this second expanded edition of his “partial memoir,” I Once Met, acknowledges, has long been “that guy” at the avant end of American poetry. Each short section is structured around the conceit of a remembered meeting in the “Poetry Field.” The ﬁfth reads in full:
I once met Marjorie Perloff. This was at the MLA, though I can’t remember the city; it was long ago, I think it was D.C. She is a great critic and an extraordinarily generous person. Kent, this is Bob Perelman, said Marjorie. Bob, this is Kent Johnson. Oh, so you’re that guy, said Bob. What guy? I said.
Read more here: http://chicagoreview.org/reviews/
Chicago Review and the Regenstein Library proudly present a reading by Harmony Holiday:
Regenstein Library, Room 122
1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
6:00 – 8:00PM
Harmony Holiday is the author of Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/ A Famous Blues and most recently Hollywood Forever. She is also the founder of Mythscience, an arts collective devoted to cross-disciplinary work that helps artists re-engage with their bodies and the physical world in this so-called digital age, and the Afrosonics archive of jazz and everyday diaspora poetics. She studied rhetoric and at the University of California, Berkeley and taught for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She received her MFA from Columbia University. She is currently working on a book of poems and lyric essays on reparations, called Reparations and a biography of jazz singer Abbey Lincoln. She lives in Los Angeles.
Please see and share the flyer linked here featuring the cover of Harmony Holiday’s latest book Hollywood Forever.
“To live high, up among the cornices, from exception to exception, hearing an earthly music.” Since Michael O’Brien died on November 10, 2016, these words, from his elegy for his friend George Quinan, have been on my mind. Now that Michael is gone, they seem somehow to elegize him, too—to describe a way of life he sought in poetry, a state of heightened attention, mobile and light, on the wing yet always down-to-earth, every syllable attuned to the music. Not the poetry of extraordinary sights and elevated feeling, but rather a poetry uncannily alert to the most ordinary details: Michael’s attention could make anything exceptional.
Read more in Commentary.
A captivating look at the poet Helen Adam and her circle of collaborators
Guest-edited by Alison Fraser
In this issue Chicago Review features a special portfolio of documents surrounding Helen Adam and her closest collaborators in the San Francisco Renaissance: the visual artist Jess Collins and the poet Robert Duncan. Published here is an expansive selection of letters between Adam and Jess, accompanied by reproductions of photographs and scrapbooks in which they explored a shared “mystical” aesthetic. These letters and artifacts span more than a quarter century, providing a never-before-seen glimpse into their collaborative process.
Completing the feature are two essays in which Adam and Duncan admire each other’s work and express their affinity for a late twentieth-century visionary poetics, along with “The Nurse Speaks for R. D.,” Adam’s previously unpublished poem for Duncan.
This special portfolio places Helen Adam back in the center of the postwar San Francisco and New York avant-gardes. Preview the feature here.