The Last Books was founded by Phil Baber and Snejanka Mihaylova in 2012.
The Yellow Papers is a pamphlet series edited by Phil Baber. It features – or will feature – various forms of writing on contemporary and historical poetry and poetics, including essays, commentaries, bibliographies, indexes, transcripts, scores, and archival gleanings.
See also: Don’t Pay Your Rent, an occasional poetry reading series organized by TLB and Rietlanden Women’s Office.
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The third event in a sporadic reading series hosted at Rietlanden Women’s Office, featuring Artun Alaska Arasli, Joe Luna, Mia You, and Will Pollard. Thursday 13 April 2023 at Minahassastraat 1, Amsterdam. From 7.30 p.m., all welcome.
Don’t Pay Your Rent #2
The second event in a sporadic reading series hosted at Rietlanden Women’s Office, featuring Cassandra Troyan, Dom Hale, Halla Einarsdóttir, and Nadia de Vries. Tuesday 21 June 2022 at Minahassastraat 1, Amsterdam. From 6 p.m., all welcome.
Connie Scozzaro has reviewed Scherzos Benjyosos for the Chicago Review:
“For all the ecstatic disjuncture and aggression, Scherzos Benjyosos was intended to be an excruciating comedy, as Sutherland once remarked, ‘a kind of Vita Nuova, and an extended elegy.’ I interpret this to mean that Scherzos Benjyosos’s sublime love poetry is seared with intractable kinds of pain for losses both real and symbolic. Art can’t really transform what hurts us, or it shouldn’t. Rather than save your life – the deliquescent promise of so much contemporary verse – Scherzos Benjyosos lets us hear near-death, again, and more, as reverberations of love and pain that do not need us to survive and to transmute wildly.”
Wood Circle and Scherzos Benjyosos
A review by Mark Scroggins of John Wilkinson’s Wood Circle and Keston Sutherland’s Scherzos Benjyosos has been published on Hyperallergic.
On Wood Circle: “Wilkinson’s … distortions of syntax and vocabulary continue to jolt readers into an awareness of how slick and commodified the language of most self-expression has become in what Adorno called an ‘administered world’. … Wood Circle balances a delicate lyrical sensibility with an acute awareness of the responsibilities that the poet, as denizen of late capitalism, cannot escape through a vacation in the woods.”
On Scherzos Benjyosos: “These poems are a hard, wild ride … through the bowels of our commodified society. They end, however, in a remarkable burst of lyricism, a surprising profession of faith in poetry’s ability to provide solace, as well as critique.”
Joe Luna on Scherzos Benjyosos
Two letters by Joe Luna discussing Scherzos Benjyosos have been published at SPAM Plaza:
“Maybe what I hate – certainly, I do hate it, I want to reassure myself – is the absence in myself of a shred of hope that any speck of world will ever come into view that leaves no-one hungry. On certain nights I might imagine the network of the poem churning me up in knots, as I imagine it has done for you, through the toils of its creation and incessant recreation. I think what I’m getting at is that I think there is an incredible risk here, a virtually magical one, that is itself the condition of a child, a beautiful envy, full of trust, in the good, that might be. I think that’s beautiful, I must do, even as I’m still trying this out.”
And an interview with Keston has been published in BOMB Magazine:
“I tried to find ways through language into various states of immersion: immersion in anxiety, fear, regret, desire, hope. Often this meant cutting away at a passage of writing repeatedly, for nights or even years on end, until the whole thing was a knot of scar tissue and there was nothing left to open up or find; and then if I was lucky, right at the point of giving up and just amputating the whole thing, some new sound would ring out, and I’d keep that: a few words, normally. It also meant – and this is a problem that the book confronts directly and even ventures to narrativize – sounding out by a kind of echolocation the limits of whatever refuge or retreat for thought and sensation I was stuck in at the time, some sanctuary for paralyzed life where I was hiding out without knowing it, mutely screaming about how I couldn’t get out.”
Middleton’s Hölderlin in the TLS
A review by Charlie Louth of Christopher Middleton’s Hölderlin translations has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement (November 13, 2020). Here’s an excerpt:
“It is wonderful to have all this ‘bound by love in one volume,’ as Dante said in a different context, allowing us to see more clearly the nature of Middleton’s long engagement with Hölderlin and to appreciate the close relationship between his roles as a translator, as a critic and, more obliquely, as a poet.
[…] A sense of risk and acuity, sharp stabs of intellectual venture, can be felt in everything [Middleton] wrote. The translations are reliable, modest and intense. Middleton’s sensitivity to formal questions, to the way the shape and timbre of the poem modulate with the development of its preoccupations, is present in both his translating and his critical writing, and joins them together. […] We are taken right into the sense-making heart of the writing, and witness not the transposition of meaning but its reconstitution on the page, in the different conditions of the new language and time. […]
[This] volume – beautifully produced – is a model of imaginative and committed publishing, and its value is self‑evident.”
“There is a temptation to isolate either the textual or the oral quality of verse; to refer to ‘texts’ or scorn the written. But the special nature is equivocal/textual, it is in love with the signified in the mouth yet finds it detestable. This starts with the lalling infant, sucking, spitting, and gargling sound, but to become poetic, must be expelled and made other and manipulable, there to be taken up. In fact, the poem becomes a transitional object, put out-there to become a comforter in-here. It forever moves towards estrangement and is retrieved. It can never come fully to symbolise though that is how in my first moment I would urge it, or it loses its physical shape in the mouth, and achieves no more than an inscription, witty or affecting, whichever, but decisively external and fixed. But given the head of its true ambiguity, to a deep mark it remains unthought; it is both propounded and understood, yet never amenable to insight. Its coherence, such as it is, gels round moods, whose own coherences are evanescent and of unknown principle. Because I am shameful and cowardly, I am forever trying to write clear, discursive text, or something free-standing and opening out in its meaning-horizon; it is only with the self-deceiving aim of clarity that I can coax a mood successfully, rather than a psychotic babble. And since I have no wish to die. Night-vision, into the dazzle of the dark that surrounds me and would seize even the skull’s space for its slogans. Neonate goes into neon.” (From “Imperfect Pitch,” The Following, p. 11)