Cere-ious Collaborations

After publishing the magnificent, limited edition The Traveler and the Hill, and the Hill in 1998, Granary Books is issuing the latest collaboration between poet Lyn Hejinian (who recently was awarded the $35,000 Merrill Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets) and artist Emilie Clark. A "real-time" collaboration undertaken during a stay on Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire, the book "is guesswork, abduction// Wherever there is/ trivia there is// vicissitude and issue/ of emotion." Beautifully printed on thick cardstock, each of these 24 serial watercolor-collage-text pieces is backed by a graded, monochromatic study suggesting the myriad "layers" of the ecosystem into which they had inserted themselves: "If there can be separation/ Sporadically/ A site of shared detonation." (Granary [D.A.P., dist], $19.95 paper 24p ISBN 1-887123-46-6; May 1)

Taking a more archaic approach are poet Susan Howe (My Emily Dickinson, etc.) and artist and critic Susan Bee (The M / E / A / N / I / N / G Book)—"Pensive itinerants and exhorters/ gathering manna in the morning"—in their forebodingly titled Bed Hangings. The book juxtaposes fragmentary texts culled from a variety of early American sources, with Bee's clipped caricatures, altered engravings and slyly reconfigured silhouettes iconically pointing the way back to "ten thousandth truth/ ...as if tumbling were apt/ parable preached in/ hedge-sparrow gospel." (Granary, 14.95 paper 48p ISBN 1-887123-51-2; May 1)

Also from Granary, a New York art book publisher headed by Steve Clay, come two related poems by Edmond Jabès, Desire for a Beginning and Dread of One Single End, presented with digital art work by Ed Epping, director of the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in this small, glossy-paged book. Translated from the French by poet and Burning Deck books publisher Rosmarie Waldrop, Jabès's aphoristic sentences and fragments take us from seeing that "A block of ice is nothing but a limited quantity of water surprised by cold" to the realization that "At death's door, it is not the future of the soul that worries us, but how the body behaves." (Granary [D.A.P., dist], $15 paper 56p 1-887123-38-5; May 1)

The Shortest Distance

From "A Paris Fantasy Transformed" to "America Placed on Trial" poet Clarence Major, in addition to writing nine books of poems (selected in Configurations) and nine novels, has been steadily producing trenchant literary and cultural criticism. The passing years have yielded Necessary Distance: Essays and Criticism, a collection of reviews, polemics, musings and examinations about American art and life. (Coffee House, $15.95 paper 248p ISBN 1-56689-109-4; May)

Ron Padgett didn't know Blaise Cendrars or Vladimir Mayakovsky, but he did know Ted Berrigan—and writes about them all, and many others, in The Straight Line: Writings on Poetry and Poets. Padgett (Selected Poems; Albanian Diary; etc.) joins the more than 50 others poets of the Poets on Poetry Series, founded by Donald Hall and edited by David Lehman. Among many short, miscellaneous pieces, New York School aficionados will savor in particular Padgett's long appreciation of Edwin Denby's work and life. (Univ. of Michigan, $14.95 paper 184p ISBN 0-472-06726-5; $42.50 cloth -09726-1; May)

"The religious poem of a believer has a quality of conviction that still resonates with extraordinary power, especially when one considers the poet has taken to witness, in effect, in a poetic mode that has passed out of fashion." Those who consider the bucking of such trends to be The Secret of Poetry will find Mark Jarman's essays and reviews of value. Jarman, who took up the fate of religious verse poetically in Questions for Ecclesiastes and Unholy Sonnets, here collects his prose statements on the matter and other poetic questions, along with his assessments of contemporaries like Jorie Graham, Andrew Hudgins, David Lehman and Alice Fulton, and of canonical and near-canonical figures from a multitude of eras. (Story Line, $14.95 paper 224p ISBN 1-58654-005-X; May)