Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aimless Reading: The L's, Part 20 (Alan Loney)

& The Ampersand
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Loney, Alan
& The Ampersand

Given to me by the author. Inscribed:

For Mike--

With warmest wishes
and many regards

Alan Loney

Around the time that Robert Creeley was getting ready to leave Buffalo to teach at Brown in 2003, he called to ask a favor. Before he'd taken the job, he'd promised readings to three poets that he now would not be around to attend to and would I be willing to handle their visits using the money from his chair. I agreed on the condition that the non-academic portion of their visits, i.e., their poetry readings, take place off campus at Just Buffalo.

The first poet was Clayton Eshleman, the second was Tomaž Šalamun, and the third was Alan Loney. Loney is a poet and printer from New Zealand, where he and Creeley had met many years before. Though if memory serves he now lives in Australia.

Anyhow, this book is an essay on the use of the ampersand, and is very much the work of a professional printer/poet. It's also quite witty.

from & The Ampersand

The ampersand has had a bad press in this country in recent years, particularly in literary reviews in the so-called 'popular press' or worse, 'the media.' But even sophisticated commentators are capable of being deeply moved, if negatively, by the appearance of an ampersand in a poem (which, sadly, 'we' have come to expect these days), or, heaven forbid, in a piece of literary prose, or even, horror beyond mortal imagination, in a piece of literary criticism. It is interesting, as an aside, to watch this sliding scale of disapproval, and its parallel in a sort of 'acceptance' of the view that a poet, because of some presumed link with a further presumed 'frenzy of creativity', can legitimately be frequently drunk, or drugged, or behave badly towards others, whereas the critic, because assumed to be 'holding down' (itself an interesting phrase with its connotations of power) a responsible job in a responsible institution, usually educational, may not so misbehave in person or in print. The use of the ampersand in print is a sure sign of literary decadence, and a vivid indicator of a writer's socio-cultural unacceptability.

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