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  • Ambulatory Criticism
  • Amanda Montei (bio)
Pierre Joris: Cartographies of the In-Between. Peter Cockelbergh, ed. Litteraria Pragensia. 420 pages; €12.00.

Pierre Joris is perhaps best recognized for his work as a translator, particularly for his award-winning translations of Paul Celan’s poetry, though he has also authored more than two-dozen books of poetry and has collaborated on numerous editorial projects and multimedia performances. Cartographies—the first edition to examine the ambulatory career of “nomadic” poet Pierre Joris as a poet, performer, critic, translator, and editor—does not anthologize Joris’s work nor seek to compose a larger totalizing argument about Joris’s polyvalent intellectual labor. Instead, this book, edited by Belgian poet and translator Peter Cockelbergh, is a compilation of essays about Joris and the legacy of his diverse body of work. The anthology takes its queue not only from Joris’s multilingual poetic practice, but also from Joris’s theoretical concerns. In the 2003 treatise A Nomad Poetics, Joris outlines a conceptual framework deeply invested in Deleuze and Guattari’s model of the rhizome. Nomad poetics, Joris’s signature praxis, emphasizes the alienation of language (“One always writes in a foreign language,” he writes in “A Glottal Choice”), the liminal or in-between or collaged subject, and “a poetico-political engagement with questions of linguistic migration, colonial and counter-colonial histories.”

True to this peripatetic approach, the book organizes itself around “meridians” that Cockelbergh insists “do not divide a landscape in strict and separated areas (or time zones), but rather serve as loosely drawn, multiple middles rubbing through different essays, and connecting these with different aspects of the poet’s oeuvre.” Obviously, the landscape here is the poet’s oeuvre, but the performative and often playful introduction also attends to the transnational (indeed, nomadic) aspect of Joris’s career. In fact, the embodied, unsystematic nature of the book’s section headings—which take their titles from Joris’s poetry—suggest that, like his poetics, the compilation’s organizing framework challenges normative spatial-temporal relations. The essays collage and manipulate genre, and tend to use Joris as an entry-point into their own critical conversations, legitimating the claim that Cockelbergh makes in the introduction, that Joris is a kind of “nomad travelling between languages & continents,” and certainly between various theoretical and literary models.

The five sections, which give a good indication of the editorial fever at work in the book, are titled as followed: “filiations, “ “en route,” “spaces,” “trans|,” and “PoPoPo.”

“Filiations” traces some of the major influences and forebearers to Joris’s poetry, and outlines Joris’s own literary reverberations. Jennifer Moxley draws a lineage ranging from Mallarme to Robert Duncan, with special emphasis on Joris’s Canto Diurno (2010) and Hearth-Work (1977). Franco Bellarsi gives credence to the influence of the Beat Generation, while Christopher Rizzo deploys Charles Olson as a frame. Dale Smith furthers this literary constellation, exploring Joris’s influence on poets Ed Dorn and Robert Creeley, as well as other poets associated with the New American Poetics of the 1970s.

“En route,” the section that follows, attends more explicitly to Joris’s poetics, with special attention to nomadicity and rhizomatics. Perhaps the most exciting vein in this section, and a connection/contestation that persists in several essays in the book, is the link Louis Armand furthers between the work of Charles Olson and Pierre Joris. For Armand, Joris’s post-collage “nomadology” and “the struggle to articulate a poetics not bound by historical paradigms” present an answer to the limitations of Olson’s well known concept of “projective verse.” Also included in this section is a panoramic interview of Joris by Charles Bernstein that touches on American monoculturalism, non-American poetry, and Joris’s experiences translating the post-9/11 critical work The Malady of Islam (2003) by Abdelwahab Meddab from the French. Particularly worthy of note is a timely discussion of the subsequent co-opting of this text by right-wingers in America.

In “Spaces,” Christine Hume meditates on Joris’s “traffics in multi-media,” with specific attention to the track “Aegean Shortwave,” which appears on Joris’s CD recording Routes, Not Routes (2006). Hume...