Saturday, August 28, 2010

Psst: Hocquard, Dickman, Eels, Neil Young, and more!

Half a smile then, as there's no book to hold up and wave. Alas.

So, a few little things for Saturday:

1. Cole Swensen's La Presse has just published Jean-Jacques Poucel’s translation of Emmanuel Hocquard’s Conditions of Light. This is a moment to celebrate.

2. The Academy of American Poets has awarded Michael Dickman the James Laughlin Award. I don’t know if this is a moment to celebrate or not, as this is the first I’ve heard of this book. I can’t find anything about it coming out. My guess is that it’ll come out next spring. What’s interesting about this, is that the announcement calls the James Laughlin Award one that “gives $5,000 to the most outstanding second book by an American poet in the previous year.” That “in the previous year” bit should be clarified, because it makes one think that it’s for a book that’s already out, and it’s not. Well, it could be. The rules state that books under consideration have to be accepted for publication in the previous year, and by “previous year” they mean, in this case, April 09 to March 2010. Anyway, it made for a fun moment for the conspiracy theorist in us all, didn’t it? The award committee was composed of Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Major Jackson, and Michael Ryan. And there you have it.

3. Sufjan Stevens has a new EP out (All Delighted People) and there’s also a track circulating (“I Walked”) from his upcoming album (The Age of Adz). Celebrate if you want. I’m neutral on this one.

4. Eels have their third album out in a little over a year. This one is called Tomorrow Morning, and it’s excellent. I’m celebrating. It sounds a bit more like “classic” Eels than the last couple albums did. And it’s certainly the closest to hopeful they (really it’s just a he, called E) have ever sounded, while retaining all the cleverness and dark wit we’ve come to expect and love.

5. Neil Young. What can I say? I admire Neil Young even as I’m very critical of most of his recent albums. And it looks like I’m going to be critical of his new one (it comes out Sept 28) even as I celebrate his restlessness and creative energy. It’s a sonic endeavor, according to reports. He recorded it solo on acoustic guitar on some songs and solo electric guitar on others (and maybe solo organ on others?) and it was produced by Daniel Lanois. Apparently there are all sorts of sound loops and vocal and guitar effects circling through the songs. “Solo” doesn’t mean minimal. It sounds fascinating, but from tour bootlegs I’ve heard, where he premiered several of the songs from it (It’s going to be called Le Noise [get it? Lanois / Le Noise?]), much of the lyrics were along the lines of the sorts of false nostalgia and platitudes about “unconditional love” that have dragged much of his recent music down. There’s no such thing as “unconditional love,” by the way. All love has conditions. Anyway, my hope is that the sound is so amazing I can glaze over the lyric cringe moments.

6. AWP is in DC this coming February and Rae Armantrout will be reading. Cause to celebrate! And she’ll have a new book (Money Shot: another cause to celebrate!) making its premiere there. I can’t wait. AWP has put the full list of presenters and panels online. In case you haven't seen it, you can find it here:

7. New books from Timothy Donnelly (The Cloud Corporation: it’s excellent, but I’ve only read three or so pages in) and Gustaf Sobin (the MASSIVE and excellent Collected Poems, which I’ve gotten about halfway through) are sitting beside my computer right now, waiting for me to get back to them. It reminds me that for some reason all the new books I have to read are all from boys. As is all the music I’m interested in right now, apparently. I'm looking forward to the next wave.

We'll never know what's in there. And if or not this man is singing to it. It must be the future.


At 8/28/2010 5:53 PM, Blogger Johannes said...

I can't understand the Dickman thing. I mean I know the establishment fogies love the Dickmans, but isn't this totally not legit? Shouldn't there be cause of great debate? Or am I minsunderstanding this?


At 8/28/2010 6:11 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


The short answer is you have it wrong. The Laughlin Award is for a book that doesn’t need to be published yet, but it must be on the publishing calendar of a press. You could have submitted something from Action Books that hasn’t yet come out, but that was under contract between April 2009 and March 2010, even if it’s not going to come out until 2011 or whenever.

But the press release, by saying “in the previous year” makes it sound like it’s for a book that’s already out. If there’s a controversy, it’s because the Academy created it through misleading language. They didn’t need to do that, you know? It’s like they want us to think the book was published last year or something.

Oh well.

At 8/29/2010 1:34 PM, Blogger Johannes said...

Oh I see. Well I don't see that crowd picking any Action Books, so that's not a concern.


At 8/29/2010 1:40 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

It all depends on the year. In 2008, the judges were Rae Armantrout, Claudia Rankine, and Bruce Smith. And in 2007 it was Peter Gizzi, Matthea Harvey, and Caroline Knox.

One never knows.

At 8/29/2010 3:33 PM, Anonymous Greg said...

2009: Matthea Harvey and Matthew Dickman win the Kingsley/Kate Tufts Awards. 2010: Matthea Harvey, as a judge for the Oregon Book Awards, picks Matthew Dickman in the poetry category. His book has been blurbed by Major Jackson. Jackson has described the Dickmans as "Artful Dodgers" in The New Yorker. 2010: Major Jackson is one of the judges on a panel that awards an Academy of American Poets prize to Michael Dickman for a book that's not even published. The Dickmans are Sharon Olds's nephews. It wouldn't be so bad but the whole Dickman thing is looking more and more like a marketing scheme to sell books. Copper Canyon just wants the money. I can't wait 'til Michael's 50 American Plays drops. Pulitzer?

At 8/29/2010 4:15 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

By and large it’s a very small crowd passing the ball back and forth.

At 8/29/2010 9:18 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

I believe Major and the Dickmans all came through the University of Oregon program. I do wish po-friends wouldn't pick their friends in situations like this.

At 8/30/2010 5:56 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...


I know, and agree with you, that po-pals shouldn’t give each other awards. Even if there’s no impropriety, there’s the look of impropriety.

On the other hand, it’s a complex slope, though, as we all know so many people over time. Not to make an excuse for this time, though. I don’t know any of the people involved in this, or their webs of connection.

I like the NBCC ethical guidelines as Kevin Prufer told me about them once years ago. You aren’t allowed to be in the room when they talk about books by your friends, and a friend is someone who you either know their street address, the names of their children or spouse, or their pets (or something like that—I might be misremembering), which gets people out of strictly “professional” associations.

At 9/02/2010 1:46 AM, Anonymous Greg said...

And Dickman's aunt, Sharon Olds, is a chancellor of the Academy. Forget Jorie and Foetry. This is something entirely beyond that.


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