Chris Ware on French TV

A French TV spot features Chris Ware talking, in part, about Art Spiegelman's influence on him. Spiegelman himself makes an appearance. Thanks to Steve McLaughlin who found this YouTube piece. Below, a New Yorker cover by Chris Ware.


husbands and knives

Spiegelman made a cameo appearance on The Simpsons. You can view part of the episode, called "Husbands and Knives," here.


illustrated Burning Babe

The third section of Rothenberg's Triptych is The Burning Babe, which was originally published by Granary Press in 2005 as a special edition illustrated by Susan Bee. The Penn Electronic Poetry Center (PEPC) recently secured permission from Bee and Rothenberg to reproduce this book as a PDF file. Here is the link.


portrait of the artist as a young %@?*!

The Fall 2006 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review included a special thematic section titled "The Holocaust: Remembrance and Forgetting." This included Tony Kushner's essay on Hans Krasa's opera for children, Brundibar, Lawrence Wechsler's "A Berlin Epiphany: On Peter Eisenman's Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe," and an except from Michael Chabon's novel in which Israel does not exist. And Art Spiegelman's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*!: The Origin of MAUS," which Spiegelman introduces (through a blurb on the contents page): "It all started bakc in '71, when my pal, Justin Green, invited me to do a short strip for an underground comic called Funny Aminals. I had some notion for a story about a cartoon mouse caught in a mouse trap drawn in a 50s horror comic style, but it didn't pan out. I was totally stuck til I sat in one of Ken Jacobs' film classes at Harpur College."


New York in the Fifties

A film was made of Dan Wakefield's book New York in the Fifties, the film (2001) bearing the same title, made by Betsey Blankenbaker who directed it and produced it. These were people who knew that their collective intellect, and their artistic passion, would change the world. The film is dedicated to "James," presumably James Baldwin. Among the people interviewed was Lynn Sharon Schwartz. Others include Gay Talese, Ted Steeg, Helen Weaver, David Amram, Mary Ann Dewees McCoy, Jane Wylie Genth, Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne, Robert Redford, Nat Hentoff, William F. Buckley, Ray Grist, Calvin Trillin, Norman Podhoretz, Harvey Shapiro, Bruce Jay Friedman, Ed Fancher, Steve Allen, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, along with old footage of Jack Kerouac, Mark Van Doren, and C. Wright Mills.

Above, Arthur Leipzig's 1950 photo of the Lower East Side.


a hidden master of our poetry

At a recent benefit, Rothenberg read a short poem by Will Alexander. Alexander (see left) is a poet revered among experimental poets, although not otherwise well known. He has recently become ill and has no insurance--is incurring huge medical costs he can't pay. The Bowery Poetry Club organized the benefit--raising funds that went directly to Alexander in Los Angeles. Among the poets who read, as I say, was Jerry Rothenberg, who had just the day before arrived himself from the west coast. Rothenberg and his wife Diane are taking up several months' re-residence in Brooklyn, R's old haunts - seeing old friends, giving readings, taking in the old neighborhood.

After reading from Alexander's work, Rothenberg read a poem he had, I think, written on the plane ride crossing eastward across the country: it is a "variation," using all the nouns in Alexander's poem (I think the one R had just read) and the writing his own words and lines around these. Here is an mp3 audio recording of Rothenberg's 7-minute presentation.

leaving Brooklyn

Here's a link to Schwartz's own web page on her recent novel, Leaving Brooklyn, a novel with and about double vision: "This is the story of an eye, and how it came into its own," is how it opens. The book travels along the boundaries between the visible and the hidden, between conformity and subversion, between fiction and memoir.

Russell Banks has written: ""I read the book in one sitting, and it has stayed with me... This is Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s best-written book and, to me, her most moving. The blend of lyricism and history, of memory and the imagination—-all shot through with the female erotic-—is wonderful."


how we came into performance

Rothenberg on his relationship to performance art. It's his 2005 essay, "How We Came Into Performance: A Personal Accounting," and it's available as a PDF document on Kenny Goldsmith's invaluable archive of concrete, visual, and sound poetry and poetics, UbuWeb. Here's the essay: PDF.

Of course Rothenberg mentions the performative one-time-only gotta-be-there-art "happenings" of the late Alan Kaprow. As well as Beck and Malina's Living Theatre. Above right: a Kaprow happening.


Spiegelman bibliography

A selection:

| Spiegelman, Art, Signe Wilkinson, Tom Tomorrow, Roz Chast and Diane DiMassa. 1994.

| Mightier than the sorehead [cartoons, stereotypes and politics]. The Nation 258(2; Jan 17):45.

| Spiegelman, Art. 1992. Gloomy Toons [Flood by Eric Drooker review]. New York Times (Dec 27).

|Spiegelman, Art. 1993. 'M' Is for the Many Things She Gave Me. New Yorker (May 10): cover

| Spiegelman, Art. 1993. Valentine's Day [Orthodox Jew kissing black woman]. New Yorker (February 15): cover

| Spiegelman, Art. 1997. Nature vs. Nurture [comic strip]. New Yorker (July 8)

The rest of the bibliography is here.


Swaim interviews Spiegelman

Don Swaim interviewed Spiegelman in 1991 - and there exists RealAudio recording of it (47 minutes long).

Don Swaim has been a journalist, writer, and broadcaster his entire career. He graduated from Ohio University with a degree in broadcast journalism, and worked as an editor, writer, producer, reporter, and anchor at WCBS-AM in New York for many years, and prior to that served at the CBS-TV affiliate in Baltimore. For more than ten years he produced a daily broadcast that focused on books and authors, Book Beat, nationally syndicated by the CBS Radio Stations News Service

you pick up the book and say, "this can't work"

Interview conducted by Stanley Crouch on The Charlie Rose Show in 1996. Watch a video recording of the show. You'll want to know something about the extraordinary Crouch before viewing this.

compression, simplification and devaluation

Robert S. Leventhal's essay "Art Spiegelman's MAUS: Working-Through The Trauma of the Holocaust" is available. Here is a passage about the allegorical quality of the characters:

The reduction of the players to cats (the Nazis), mice (the Jews), pigs (the Poles) and other national stereotypes offers a conscious, intentional miniaturization and reduction, pointing up not merely the process of compression, simplification and devaluation not merely of the Nazis' practices before and during the Holocaust, but the reduction and simplification present in many "responses" to the Holocaust as well. In this way, Spiegelman literalizes the call for petits recits so prevalent in postmodern discourse today, especially in the writings of Jean-Francois Lyotard. On another level, there are multiple narratives and kinds of texts in Maus: in addition to images, dialogue boxes, and commentary, we find maps of Poland and the Camps, diagrams of hideouts, real photographs from the family archive, detailed plans of the crematoria, an exchange table for goods in Auschwitz, and a manual for shoe-repair.

sacred technician

We underestimate what a big breakthrough it was when Jerome Rothenberg in 1972 (one could say this was the height of the American Indian Movement--just to take that cut on the times) decided to say outright that we can "cross[...] the boundaries that separate people of different races & cultures" and indeed set about not only understand but translate American Indian poetic expressions. This is not mild stuff, given the context of that moment: In the face of whatever objections he would meet, he declared that unfortunately "it has become fashionable today to deny the possibility of crossing the boundaries..." etc. But he did just that.

In putting together Shaking the Pumpkin (above I'm quoting from the preface), Rothenberg knew that as an editor, translator and indeed promoter of ethnopoetics, he was "attempt[ing] to restore what has been torn apart." Presumptuous. He could do the mending.

"Come not thus with your gunnes & swords," he quotes Powhatan (speaking to John Smith) in his epigraph, "to invade as foes... What will availe you to take that perforce you may quietly have with love." (Powhatan serves Rothenberg as a Christ figure here.)

Rothenberg was a peacemaker not just in the whites-Native American colloquy. He was making peace (or maybe it's killing with kindness) also with those who would angrily deny the boundary-crossers. Ethnopoetics in this form might seem moderate and even truistic now, but it mapped out (and then made pacific) a real battleground then.

global, archaic, ethnopoetic, anthropological

David Caddy offers a good background to Rothenberg's career and poetics. Go to Caddy's blog and find the text of one of his "So Here We Are" "letters" (go to "Letter 5" dated 9/3/07). You can also hear the audio version of the same, a MiPoRadio podcast. Caddy gives a good introduction to ethnopoetics.

slow to start

Lynne Sharon Schwartz began writing at the age of seven, in her native Brooklyn, New York, and has been writing ever since. But she didn’t begin taking herself seriously as a writer until she was in her early thirties. Up until then she was occupied with attending Barnard College and graduate school at New York University, getting married, having two children, spending a year living in Rome, holding down editorial jobs and working at a fair housing program during the civil rights movement — though not necessarily in that order....

This and much more on Schwartz's web site.

cartooning at 16

Arthur Spiegelman was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and immigrated to the United States with his parents in his early childhood. Spiegelman studied cartooning in high school and started drawing professionally at age sixteen. Despite his parents wanting him to become a dentist, Art Spiegelman majored in art and philosophy at Harpur College. After leaving college in 1968, he joined the underground comix movement.... And more at lambiek.net's entry on Spiegelman.

keep open the channels of renewal

Here is an excerpt from Rothenberg's statement for Contemporary Poets 5th edition, 1991 (pp. 827-28). Notice how he associates the development of an alternative poetics with the post-Holocaust era.

Rothenberg's statement is a good summary of his life-work as a poet and global citizen. The enormity of mass destruction and genocide, during Rothenberg's youth, "created a crisis of expression...for which a poetics must be devised if we were to rise, again, beyond the level of a scream or of a silence more terrible than any scream."