Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anselm Hollo, R.I.P.

Photo of Hollo by Jane Dalrymple-Hollo

I am very sad to have heard from Mark Johnson that Anselm Hollo died this morning.

give up your ampersands & lowercase ‘i’s
they still won’t like you
the bosses of official verse culture
(U.S. branch)    but kidding aside
I motored off that map a long time ago

Those lines come from one of two poems from Anselm Hollo's "Where if Not Here" we published in Samizdat back in the 1990s, and they capture some of my favorite things about Hollo's viewpoint: his lack of pretense, and his complete disregard for the laurels, prizes, and jockeying-for-position that had already become endemic in the little demimonde of American poetry.

Hollo's grasp of the gulf between the sublimity of which poetry is capable, and the absurdities into which poets fall in pursuit of that chimera, a "career in poetry," made him the ideal person to hold the title of United States Anti-Laureate, to which he was elected by the Buffalo POETICS list back at the turn of the century.

Here is the announcement of his election to that position, originally posted to the POETICS list, along with his response, written to accompany the announcement when Andrei Codrescu (who happened to be visiting us at Lake Forest College when the election results came in) reprinted it in Exquisite Corpse.


Presenting the award for United States Anti-Laureate is Miss Suzanne Somers...

And the winner is...


(Wild applause, accompanied by a murmur of discontent coming from 
Barrett Watten's table). 

Mr. Anselm Hollo 

is hereby appointed 


for the year 2001 

with all the ironies and contradictions

appertaining there unto 

And remember, kids — all the real dadas are against dada.

With Great Sobriety and Dignity, 

Robert Archambeau 

High Commissioner 
United States Anti-Laureate Commission 


9 july ("from the desk of the anti-laureate")

"With all the ironies and contradictions appertaining thereunto" (High 
Commissioner Robert Archambeau of the United States Anti-Laureate 
Commission), I am delighted to accept my appointment as US Anti-Laureate for the year 2001.

While I agree with several of Barrett Watten's points regarding the "Iowa 
exclusion" and the "system of representation on which the [US] Poet 
Laureate[ship] is based," I prefer to read the title as simply representing a 
"Big No" (as in George Grosz's remarkable autobiography, Ein kleines Ja und 
ein grosses Nein -- A Small Yes and a Big No) to the "laurels" bestowed by some librarian and his cronies in the (increasingly) provincial capital of 
the world.

A "No," as well, to the tiresome hype (put out by publishers, arrangers of literary events, etc.) of all the "award-winning" So-and-sos -- a hype to which perhaps only "arts administration" bureaucrats still pay any attention.

As for the Iowa Exclusion [anyone with an Iowa MFA was disqualified from consideration for the title of anti-laureate] , and the Exclusion of the Great Dead, I may, upon 
further Pataphysical Reflection and Discussion with The High Commissioner and other interested parties, decide to suggest waiving these in years to come. The Anti- and Alternative Laureates are legion, and include many more than those nominated this time around. I agree with Watten that Robert Grenier's indomitable US American lyricism deserves recognition, as does the dynamic, visionary, linguistically and philosophically innovative work of Alice Notley (my nominee).

Since the Anti-Laureateship is not funded by taxpayers, I cannot invite 
Notley, or Grenier, or Watten, or any of you, to come and read at the Library 
of Congress. I have, however, acted as an advisor to the illustrious Left 
Hand Reading Series in Boulder, Colorado, for the past couple of years, and 
intend to continue to do so. The organizers of the series, poets Laura E. 
Wright and Mark DuCharme, pass a Venerable Hat for Honorarium, which thus varies according to the number of solvent persons in the audience. In its modest way, this series has been, is, and will be working toward "undoing the system of representation on which the [US] Poet Laureate[ship] is based" (Watten). For my personal record of efforts in that direction, see my book Caws and Causeries: Around Poetry and Poets. 

And in case Bob Grumman, and anyone else, truly wants to refresh his or her 
memory of any of my work, s/he now has an opportunity to do so by asking the local public librarian to obtain a copy of my Notes on the Possibilities and 
Attractions of Existence: Selected Poems 1965-2000.

Allow me to end this message with the poem "Piano Solo" by Chile's Anti-Poet Nicanor Parra (translated by Jorge Elliott): 

Since Man's life is nothing but an action at a distance, 
A bit of foam shining in a glass; 
Since trees are nothing but agitated furniture,

Mere chairs and tables in perpetual motion; 
Since we ourselves are merely beings 
(Just as god himself is no more than god); 
Since we don't talk to be listened to 
But merely to get others to talk, 

And since an echo precedes the voices that produce it; 
And since we haven't even the consolation of chaos 
In a garden that yawns and fills with air, 
A puzzle we have to solve before dying 
So that we can be tranquilly resuscitated 
After we've over-indulged in women; 
And since there's also a heaven in hell, 
Allow me to do a thing or two: 
I want to make a shuffling noise with my feet, 
I want my soul to find its body.

Photo of Hollo by Tom Raworth, 2012