Volume 52 Numbers 2/3/4
That a self-portrait of Kenneth Rexroth looks out from the cover of this sixtieth anniversary issue is à propos as its first 180 pages celebrate the centenary of Rexroth’s birth.
That a self-portrait of Kenneth Rexroth looks out from the cover of this sixtieth anniversary issue is à propos as its first 180 pages celebrate the centenary of Rexroth’s birth. Following 80 pages of previously unpublished letters are poems, remembrances, and appreciations, as well as a late interview—all mandatory reading for amateurs of Rexroth’s verse. Rexroth aside, the theme of collectivity informs this issue. Living in a country and an age of stalwart individualism, where the concept of collective authorship is anathema, I found particularly fascinating the two stories and an interview with a member of the Wu Ming Foundation (Wu Ming means “anonymous”), a collective band of novelists based in Italy. “We are a band, and our books are spontaneous compositions, results of a collective improvisation in which individual colorful leads and contributions are enthusiastically followed, not repressed in the pursuit of homogeneity,” explained Wu Ming 1. Furthermore, in their correspondence and poems, Christian Hawkey and Tomaz Salamun discuss the current explore-the-poetic attitude equated with the New York School. More contemplation of this topic arrives via a quartet of new poems by John Ashbery and reviews of the collected works of Kenneth Koch and Ted Berrigan. Also illuminating is John Matthias’s commentary on his “Thirty-nine among the Sands, His Steps . . . ,” which was published in the previous issue of Chicago Review. The two interactive poems by Jesse Seldess (“End” and “Thesis on the Ground”) will intrigue many readers, if only in puzzling out the instructions for reading them.