March 24, 2010

Advance Praise for ROBOT RILKE:

“Perhaps the most beautiful group of translations this century has produced.” — Chicago Tribune

“The best single-volume edition of Rilke available in English.” Boston Review

“Robert Lowell once wrote that it was hard to imagine Rilke first written in English, that the poems were sealed in German. These robots are unsealing them." — Robert Phillips, Houston Chronicle

“The robots have rendered with great skill and accuracy a work both familiar and unknown, more complicated and more immediate than many have suspected, at once grave, mysterious, and beautiful.” — Edward Hirsch

“With these sorrowing and luminous poems . . . it is possible to gain, for the first time in English, a consistent perspective of Rilke’s difficult canon, restored and disclosed by the robots to stunning effect.” — Richard Howard

“Something of the non-vatic Rilke, poet of perception and sensation, is best conveyed in English by these algorithmic mediations.” —Harold Bloom

“The robot translations of Rilke’s most demandingly difficult and loveliest work instantly make every other rendering obsolete. No doubt about it, Rilke has at last found, in the robot version, the ideal poetics and the perfect translator.” — William Arrowsmith

“Excellent . . . it is easy to feel that if Rilke had written in English, he would have written in this English.” — Denis Donoghue, The New York Times

“These robot translations bring the qualities that I most cherish in the originals into English with new intimacy and authority. Rilke’s voice, with its extraordinary combination of formality, power, speed, and lightness, can be heard in the robot versions more clearly than in any others. This work is masterful.” — W.S. Merwin


Archaischer Torso Apollos

Wir kannten nicht sein unerhörtes Haupt,

darin die Augenäpfel reiften. Aber

sein Torso glüht noch wie ein Kandelaber,

in dem sein Schauen, nur zurückgeschraubt,

sich hält und glänzt. Sonst könnte nicht der Bug

der Brust dich blenden, und im leisen Drehen

der Lenden könnte nicht ein Lächeln gehen

zu jener Mitte, die die Zeugung trug.

Sonst stünde dieser Stein entstellt und kurz

unter der Schultern durchsichtigem Sturz

und flimmerte nicht so wie Raubtierfelle;

und bräche nicht aus allen seinen Rändern

aus wie ein Stern: denn da ist keine Stelle,

die dich nicht sieht. Du musst dein Leben ändern.

Apollo’s Antiquated Box

We did not know its dishonorable title,
the matured apples of the eye. But its box
always turns red such as candelabras,
in that its looking, only back-screwed,

holds themselves and shines. Otherwise the nose
of the cable you could not shine, and in the calm
rotation lumbar could not go a smile
in this center, which carried the generation.

Otherwise this stone one disfigured and one continued
briefly under the transparent case of the shoulders
and not like animal skins of the unstable flight;

and not all on his board like an asterisk
would break: because there is no workstation
it does not see you. They must modify your life span.


“Priceless . . . exquisite . . . fine-grained . . . luminescent . . . As I was telling some famous writers that I personally know just the other day, these translations, more than any others, demonstrate that Rilke’s abiding concern, first and last, is human consciousness.” —James Wood, The New Yorker

“I haven’t read them yet but they look really good, and I never pass up a chance to blurb anything.” — Mark Strand

“Without doubt the finest English rendering of Rilke that I have ever come across.” — Ron Jeremy

“They ring with authenticity.” — Araki Yasusada

“Boring . . . unoriginal . . . ” — Kenneth Goldsmith

“As a robot myself, I really appreciate this.” — Charles Simic

“If I don’t link to you, you don’t exist.” — Ron Silliman

Hosted by

With a special biographical introduction cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia. Pre-order your copy now!

March 17, 2010

New Fiction at Harp & Altar

The hill on which the hotel stood was like an island, except instead of the sea it was surrounded by tarmac. There was the little tarmac of the motorways and the big tarmac of the runways of the Charles de Gaulle Airport, and like the sea there was hissing and roaring, audible from this distance, among the hotels of the hill . . .

My story, "Return to the Chateau," is now live in the latest issue of one of my favorite online literary journals, Harp & Altar. The issue also includes new work by Cynthia Arrieu-King, Ana Božičević, Matthew Klane, Michael O’Brien, Alejandra Pizarnik translated by Jason Stumpf, Brett Price, Jared White, Susan Daitch, Luca Dipierro, Craig Foltz, A.D. Jameson, Matthew Kirkpatrick, and Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi, and more. My story includes rabbits, ravening dogs, shuttle-buses, Ukranian housekeepers, a French person in Italian shoes, an American woman with feral powers of concentration, a distinctive sans serif typeface created by Adrian Frutiger, and erotic clothing as the last refuge of the sacred in a secular age. It's a chapter from an experimental novel-in-stories, HUMAN WISHES / ENEMY COMBATANT, which explores the ambiance and anti-narrative possibilities of contemporary "non-places" such as airport baggage-claim terminals, highway rest-stops, shopping malls, and Gitmo cells. If you like it half as much as I do, then I like it twice as much as you do.

March 1, 2010

New Fiction at Cavalier Literary Couture

In 1973 Michael Craig-Martin created a work of art he called "An Oak Tree." Because to many it appeared to be a glass of water on a shelf, the work was accompanied with a helpful text in Q&A form. Here is an excerpt:

Q. To begin with, could you describe this work?

A. Yes, of course. What I've done is change a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the accidents of the glass of water.

Q. The accidents?

A. Yes. The colour, feel, weight, size ...

Q. Do you mean that the glass of water is a symbol of an oak tree?

A. No. It's not a symbol. I've changed the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree.

Q. It looks like a glass of water.

A. Of course it does. I didn't change its appearance. But it's not a glass of water, it's an oak tree.

Q. Can you prove what you've claimed to have done?

A. Well, yes and no. I claim to have maintained the physical form of the glass of water and, as you can see, I have. However, as one normally looks for evidence of physical change in terms of altered form, no such proof exists.

Q. Haven't you simply called this glass of water an oak tree?

A. Absolutely not. It is not a glass of water anymore. I have changed its actual substance. It would no longer be accurate to call it a glass of water. One could call it anything one wished but that would not alter the fact that it is an oak tree.

So impressed was playwright Tim Crouch with the liberating possibilities of Craig-Martin's oak tree that he made himself a promise: His next work would be called "An Oak Tree," no matter what it was about. Here is an excerpt of Tim Crouch's 2005 play, "An Oak Tree":

Last fall, I had the great fortune to attend a writing workshop run by Tim Crouch at the Boston ICA. So impressed was I with Tim Crouch's workshop that I made myself a promise: My next story would be called "An Oak Tree," no matter what it was about. The following morning I woke up with an idea and wrote the story, "An Oak Tree," which you can now read here, at Cavalier Literary Couture.