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The Dancer and the Dance

A Book of Distinctions

Jack Foley

Publication Year: 2008

Jack Foley’s The Dancer and the Dance: A Book of Distinctions deliberately challenges many conventional ways of thinking about poetry. Though extremely scholarly and aware of the “tradition,” Foley offers readings rooted in a consciousness which is simultaneously non academic and open to the new. “The self of this book,” he writes, “is not a unity but a multiplicity. Many people would agree with this idea of selfhood—the self as a ‘multiplicity of voices’—but clarification is still required as to how the concept of the self as multiplicity affects literary criticism, how it affects our actual reading of poems. It may be that the self we postulate as we read a poem contradicts the self we experience in the world; it is also possible that familiar poems may be experienced anew by being read in the light of multiplicity.” Foley’s explorations lead him into radically new readings of “canonic” work by poets such as Keats, Yeats and Mallarmé, into the world of opera, free jazz, New Formalism, and the writing of song lyrics, into “ethnic” literature, theater, and finally into problems of “spoken word” and “slam poetry.” Throughout, his point of view, initially controversial, becomes finally compelling. “It is possible,” he says quietly about the whole of Western culture, “that Plato was wrong, and that we must make an effort to think in a different way if we are to encounter reality at all.”

Published by: Red Hen Press

Title Page, Copyright, Epigraph

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Back before we could Google the worldwide web or access by computer a library’s shelves, we leaned on curiosity, happenstance, ingenuity and footwork to zero in on information. Now, at a time when data and knowledge are routinely misconstrued...

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pp. xv

A book is a mirror in which you see not what you are but what you were. For my sixty-fourth birthday, my son Sean gave me a DVD containing a segment of a 1955 episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. (In 1955, Sullivan’s show was called The Toast of the Town.) Like me, Ed...

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Poetry And The Media

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pp. 1-4

The subject of today’s panel is “Poetry and the Media.” Such a title more or less dictates the subject matter of the response. In one corner, “poetry”—usually encountered in books but sometimes in live performances, in newspapers, or even on television or radio or in films. In the other corner, “the Media”—a term which usually refers...

Section 1. Classics

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pp. 5

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William Butler Yeats: The Tower: A Facsimile Edition

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pp. 7-23

In 1928—the year he turned sixty-three—the world-famous poet William Butler Yeats published a slim, beautifully-produced volume called The Tower. Yeats had received the Nobel Prize in 1923, and the book was awaited with considerable anticipation. The book’s title referred explicitly to “Thoor Ballylee,” a derelict Norman...

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Two Classics Revisited

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pp. 24-38

My friend the artist Matt Phillips told me recently of his great admiration for John Keats. Phillips had written a short essay about Keats to accompany his illustrations to “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Phillips’ comments sent me back to Keats’ great poem and then to a particular edition of Keats’ work published by Signet in 1966 and edited by an old mentor of mine, Paul de Man (1919- 1983). I knew de Man...

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Two Modernists & A Beat

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pp. 39-68

Cummings insists, rightly, that what we encounter in a text is not “words”—the products of our breaths and bodies—but “letters.” (“Language” is something you do with your “langue,” your tongue; reading is something you do with your eyes.) The primary...

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Remains To Be Seen: Robert Duncan: A Poet’s Art

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pp. 69-72

“Robert would come to these parties, and if nothing else was going on, he could always draw. It was a form of play.” So said an artist friend of the poet Robert Duncan (1919-1988), whose graphic works are currently on display in a fascinating exhibition set up at two UC Berkeley locations: the Art...

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The Possibility Of Weldon Kees

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pp. 73-80

Though he was featured at the John Natsoulas Gallery’s 2002 Conference on the Beat Generation, Weldon Kees (1914-1955) was no “beatnik”; he was, however, part of the fabric of his time, as painter, poet, critic, fiction writer, composer, even entertainer...

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Barry Singer: Black and Blue: The Life And Lyrics Of Andy Razaf

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pp. 81-96

In 1945, vaudevillian Harry Fox (1882-1959) sued the producers of the film, The Dolly Sisters, for representing him in the movie as a “lowly songwriter.” Fox, the originator of the “Fox Trot,” felt that such a representation was part of Rosie Dolly’s “conspiracy to injure him.” Once a prominent Broadway...

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Unassimilable: The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth

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pp. 97-116

Copper Canyon Press has just released Kenneth Rexroth’s Complete Poems. It’s a most welcome volume, carefully and lovingly edited by poet Sam Hamill and Bradford Morrow, Rexroth’s literary executor. It contains even more work than the New Directions volumes, The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth...

Section 2. Contemporaries

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pp. 117

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pp. 119-127

My wife Adelle and I hosted the Seattle Teen Slam Team at our home recently. They were in town to compete in the National Teen Poetry Slam Championships, which were held at the Regency Theater on Earth Day— Saturday, April 22, 2000. The trip was arranged by Paul Nelson, who is a poetry dynamo in the Seattle...

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Adrienne Rich: The School Among The Ruins: Poems 2000-2004

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pp. 128-134

The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004 (W.W. Norton) is Adrienne Rich’s most recent volume. It follows Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995-1998 (1999) and Fox: Poems 1998-2000 (2001). None of these volumes is an attempt to produce an individual “masterpiece”; each is a kind of way-station in an ongoing engagement with poetic...

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Shadow of the Vampire: Nosferatu as Literature: Vampires, Vamps, and Volupté

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pp. 135-149

Along with his new book of poetry, Interrogations at Noon, Dana Gioia recently published the libretto to Nosferatu (Graywolf Press, 2001), an opera he wrote in collaboration with composer Alva Henderson. The libretto is based on F.W. Murnau’s classic...

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The Achievement Of Dana Gioia

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pp. 150-156

The title of this talk, “The Achievement of Dana Gioia,” sounds a little as though Dana Gioia’s “achievement” were over, finished. We usually deal with the “achievement” of dead writers such as Robert Frost or T.S. Eliot. Perhaps we should...

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Annie Finch: Calendars, Centering and Decentering

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pp. 157-170

Recently, poet Annie Finch put out a call for “poems in any non-iambic meters—anapests, sapphics, trochees, cretics, dactyls, amphibrachs, alcaics, or others.” Only a short time ago, such a call would have been greeted with bewildered questions about what...

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Diane di Prima: Recollections Of My Life As A Woman: The New York Years

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pp. 171-178

The following quotation is one of the central perceptions of Diane di Prima’s long-awaited, riveting memoir, Recollections of My Life as a Woman: The New York Years (Viking, 2001). The perception is linked to various incidents in di Prima’s life—particularly to her taking peyote and to her clandestine love affair with the married LeRoi Jones (...

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Poems Are Not Tattoos: Francisco X. Alarcón, From the Other Side of Night/ Del Otro Lado De La Noche: New and Selected Poems

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pp. 179-193

In the Afterword to this important collection (University of Arizona Press, 2002), Manuel de Jesús Hernádez-G insists on the “unity” of Francisco X. Alarcón’s life and work. Hernádez-G asserts that this poet presents us with “a unified erotic and activist...

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Glenn Spearman: The Musa-physics: Myth-Science-Poetics

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pp. 194-198

The death in 1998 of tenor saxophonist Glenn Spearman brought to an end his brilliant career as free jazz composer, player, teacher, and all-round energy source. Spearman was only fifty-one when he died, and in the notes to his last CD, Blues for Falasha, his associate Larry...

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A Very Brechty X-mas!: A Theater Review

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pp. 199-202

When a televangelist announced that Christmas was the season of rejoicing, a doubtful spectator remarked, “Oh, so that’s what we’re doing—rejoicing.” Brian Katz, Artistic Director of the Custom Made Theatre Company in San Francisco, clearly doesn’t believe that’s...

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Seven Passages From A Notebook: Plus A Poem

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pp. 203-207

“She’s a Language writer,” said WBAI’s Janet Coleman to me. Coleman was speaking of a writer she liked. In a way, that statement was odd. What we call “Language writing” arose out of a discussion—often a fierce and heated discussion—conducted by a group...

Appearing Ink: Garrison Keillor and The Hudson Review

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pp. 208-231

American Literature

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pp. 232-248

Post Script: The Death of Philomene Long

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pp. 249-250


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pp. 251-260

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About the Author

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pp. 262

Jack Foley’s poetry books, all of which feature accompanying CDs or cassette tapes on which he performs with his wife Adelle, include Letters/Lights — Words for Adelle, Gershwin, Adrift (nominated for a BABRA award), Exiles, and (with Ivan Argüelles) New Poetry from California: Dead / Requiem. His Greatest Hits 1974-2003...

E-ISBN-13: 9781597092005
E-ISBN-10: 1597092002
Print-ISBN-13: 9781597090940
Print-ISBN-10: 1597090948

Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: First