I read a stretch of newish books of poetry criticism over the past couple of weeks, found myself getting excited about my profession once again, as I do whenever I find the time to delve into what bright people are doing in it. I have problems will all of them, to one degree or another – Jennifer Ashton's From Modernism to Postmodernism, Charles Altieri's The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Jahan Ramazani's A Transnational Poetics – but they have a passion that proves infectious. Even more passionate, & more infectious, the last few books of poetry – Caroline Bergvall's Fig, Joan Retallack's Memnoir, K. Lorraine Graham's Terminal Humming (the full-length version). Wish I had the time & energy to add them properly to the "100 poem-books" list. I suspect, as the month grinds along, I'll get around to compiling a "most satisfying reads of 2009" list.
Certainly the most satisfying musical discovery lately has been hatchet-faced Lu Edmonds, player of the oddly minimalist-looking saz with the Mekons (cf. the video in the last post), whom a little detective work has shown to be Uncle Patrel Mustapha bin Mustapha, master cümbüs player of the late lamented 3 Mustaphas 3. Also, golly, a founding member of the Damned & the guitar player for the upcoming Public Image Ltd reunion tour. Yes, that's what I want for Christmas – an electric saz:
Yes, that's also known a "baglama" for you Turkic purists. But, heartened by Jahan Ramazani's paean to all things transnational, I like to think of myself as hybrid to the core, confidently switching cultural codes without bothering much about the details. And if I'm never able to master the Turkish scales, I can console myself with the fact that the most popular tuning of the saz/baglama, it turns out, is something called "buzuk" – identical to the top three strings of the Irish bouzouki. I've already got a leg up.