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CUNY: Lost and Found

Thanks to Hoa Nguyen I found out about the CUNY Poetics: Lost and Found series of chapbooks, now in the third series, but you can still get ones from all.

It’s one of those cases where I wonder how others knew about this and I managed to be so late to the table.

I dove first into the reproduction of Lorine Niedecker’s handwritten 1964 chapbook which she sent to Cid Corman. It, included in this package of chapbooks, pays the price of admission alone. I admire her work above just about anyone. Her careful step, grace with fury is fascinating. Her energies balance and push in such an interesting way.

There’s something about handwriting. It’s something like seeing the face of someone you only know thru text.

Having it in hands is strange and wonderful. It’s as I have keen poem envy for what is already in my hands and mine.

The original chapbook in Corman’s papers was falling apart in its original binding. As the editor of this reproduction, John Harkey, rightly said there’s something about the small subset as it was in its original context, not rolled into a remix of larger unit of poems.

Books where each section is an unrelated chapbook is convenient for alphabetizing spines but have something of the quality of homogenized milk. To keep separate is more like warm Jersey milk. Her first poem starts:

Consider at the outset:
to be thin for thought
or thick cream blossoming

To start in with food metaphor, savoring life. To consider How much to go full-tilt and dense or dilute, parse, chunk. It’s as if made for me.

There’s also a chapbook within the chapbook, a separately stapled afterword of her life and the making of the project.

Besides it there are over 400 more pages of rich neat stuff including Diane di Prima’s memories/memoir of meeting Charles Olsen in 1966. She remembers him lifting a sheet of plate glass and being struck by how the glass sunk into the flesh of his hand despite his size and strength, it was still just skin. She pondered on “his size that everyone spoke of — overwhelming when they first met him — but they spoke of it as if it could explain something.” (p. 11)

When cash flow flows again, going to have to look at getting Series II too.

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