Thursday, July 24, 2008

'Touched by the magical and the bizarre'

Back in February 2007 I reported from the hippy reboubt of Waiheke Island on the shambolically magical launch of The Vertical Harp, Mike Johnson's book of translations of poems by the T'ang Dynasty visionary and rebel Li Ho.

Johnson's book soon got the thumbs up from Iain Sharp in the mass-circulation Sunday Star-Times, and now it has had a rave review in the more august surroundings of the New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies. Writing in the June 2008 issue of the journal, poet and Sinologist Diana Bridge has drawn attention to the 'exceptionally attractive' design Titus Books has given The Vertical Harp, as well as Johnson's 'confident and convincing' versions of Li Ho's eerie eighth century lyrics. Here is Bridge's review in full:

Mike Johnson, The Vertical Harp: Selected Poems of Li He, Auckland: Titus
Books, 2006, 69 pp., ISBN 978-1-877441-03-5 (pbk.).

Were there to be a poll of favourite translated versions of Chinese poems, it is my guess that Ezra Pound’s would top the list. The reason, of course, would be that Pound’s English versions work superbly as poems. The question for Sinologists has always been whether these poems also work as translations. Sophisticated examinations of some of Pound’s versions against the original, such as those offered by Zhaoming Qian, suggest an interpretation that bridges the approaches of scholars of Chinese classical poetry and readers of poetry more generally. It goes like this: when the original is inhabited deeply enough by the poet-translator, and when it has become the catalyst to an English version of exceptional quality, much that is true to the meaning of that original will emerge, or remain, regardless of whether the translator has entered the original poem through the work of others.

Mike Johnson calls the poems in his collection, The Vertical Harp: selected poems of Li He, ‘secondary translations’, and ‘re-creations from English sources’ These terms would seem to describe what Pound was famously doing in Cathay, and I approached Johnson’s versions with the not know Chinese, is upfront about what the reader should expect. Whereas translations of the mid-Tang poet Li He (790–816 CE), he tells us, have in the main been scholarly endeavours, his own selection aims at bringing ‘Li He’s poems to life in contemporary English’ and is intended for ‘the wider poetry reading public’.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Johnson’s versions, like those of Pound, are the product of a long and thoughtful consideration of and collaboration with the scholarly sources available to him. Unlike Pound, he uses all the means he appropriately can, without loading down the poems, to provide his reader with a framework for them. A ‘Translator’s introduction’ and notes that give the background to individual poems, as well as operating as guides to interpretation, are supplemented by the decision to expand some of the allusions in the original and integrate them into his versions. He provides a bibliography and is scrupulous in indicating his influences throughout. We are made aware in the foreword of a second element, which might be summed up as the call of one poet to another. Johnson refers to ‘the powerful spirit of Li He himself as evident in his words’ in the work.

The Auckland University Electronic Poetry Centre site begins its entry on Johnson, who has published four collections of his own poetry (as well as a novella and six novels), with the sentence: ‘Mike Johnson is a New Zealand writer whose stories and poems are touched by the magical and the bizarre’ – words which might describe the works of Li He himself. It goes on to say that Johnson ‘first registered on the New Zealand literary scene as a poet with a minimalist Chinese style’. Both of these statements would seem to go some way towards supplying a motivation for his bold and unusual endeavour.

A combination of poetic empathy and the hard yards that Johnson has put in result in poems and a portrait of Li He that accord well with traditional and recent perceptions, although not necessarily estimations, of the work of this guicai, ‘demonic genius’.

The clever decision to break his selection into five categories, poet of protest, of the palace, of the occult, of nature, of war, serves to bring out the dominant themes in Li He’s oeuvre and, as the author notes, has the additional effect of suggesting a likely chronology for the poet’s brief life. It also allows the corresponding facets of this poet’s psychology and poetic personae, which have been the subject of much commentary, to emerge. These personae range from brilliant, embittered, young scholar (debarred, despite the patronage of leading scholar and poet, Han Yu, by a pretext – a taboo on homophones – from sitting the
examinations which were his route to office), to practitioner of the palace style, nature poet, devotee of the shaman-inspired Chu ci [Songs of the South], student of the occult, and jaded realist in the war poems that conclude Johnson’s selection.

Mike Johnson’s grasp of Li He’s imagined world and his reflection of the Tang poet’s unique vision is confident and convincing. His English versions are distinguished by a similar high-voltage lyrical or, as the work demands, demonic, imagery. They are focused with the jolt of contemporary diction, which proves an effective tool for conveying the startling quality of the originals. One example: the eunuch general targeted in one of Li’s ‘Six Satires’ is called a ‘girly half-man’. In his foreword Johnson speaks of the poems being ‘mostly mine and mostly his [Li He’s]’. In terms of the creation of a compelling and singular voice he succeeds extremely well – more consistently overall, perhaps, than previous translators.

Although Johnson’s versions are not primarily aimed at the reader of Chinese classical poetry, if one wants to understand the way in which individual poems work as translations – as well as gain a clearer idea of Johnson’s stylistic strengths and emphases relative to other translators – it is to this reader that his poems must be consigned. In the introduction to his Poems of the Late T’ang (reprinted with additional preface, 1977) eminent classical scholar A.C. Graham cites the first four lines of Li He’s ‘on the frontier’ as an example of the elements (word order, a similar pattern of stresses, the concreteness of the imagery) of a classical Chinese poem likely to lure the English translator. For Graham’s:

A Tartar horn tugs at the North wind,
Thistle Gate shines whiter than the stream.
The sky swallows the road to Kokonor:
On the Great Wall, a thousand miles of moonlight.

Johnson offers:

The clamour of barbarian horns lures the north wind
moon-driven desert sand clangs silver as water
the sky devours the road to the emerald ocean
along the Wall endless metal miles

In place of a compression that catches the order, rhythm and look of the Chinese original, and proper nouns that insist on place, Johnson aims for a more sensuous, crowded lyrical effect and a more vague sense of actual place. Those preferences lie behind his separation (following Frodsham) of Qinghai, the translation for which in pre-modern times is Kokonor, into the two characters that comprise it: ‘emerald ocean’. The insertion of ‘clamour’ and ‘clangs’ and the substitution of the dense ‘moon-driven desert sand’ for ‘Thistle Gate’ (which editor of and commentator on Li He’s works, respected Qing scholar Wang Qi [1696–1774] tells us signifies a geographical area) are there for reasons of added concreteness and for the alliteration. (Alliteration is absent from the original but it enters the fifth line with the onomatopoeic doublet, mengmeng; the line is rendered by Johnson as ‘white dew drifts, banners drip’). By mentioning sound in both lines of his translation Johnson privileges the construction of his own metaphor – sand as metal – over the Chinese tendency to alternate an aural impression in one line of a couplet with visual description in the other.

Li He’s sensuous quality as a poet is likely to be the catalyst to Johnson’s frequent recourse to assonance and alliteration. He uses the devices throughout with a resourcefulness and variety that hark back to his own background as a poet. The poems introduce a wholly contemporary rhythm. When Johnson extends or repeats aspects of the original, his more leisurely versions may represent a conflation of different scholarly readings; or they may supply an extra step, usually aimed at the reader without Chinese background. But as often as not the reason seems to be metrical; for example, the rhythmical two-liner that initiates the poem, ‘the far sky’: ‘Heaven’s river turns, one vast sidereal rotation/ whirling the stars around’ (where the words in italics duplicate meaning).

Johnson has taken seriously Li He’s reputation as a poet renowned for his ‘parts’ or couplets rather than poetic structure overall – to the extent that he has generally opted for a two-line format, overflowing to three, and occasionally four, lines when the English demands. It should be said that his poems look impeccable on the page. His formal choices also help to contribute an impression of stylistic consistency, which, in turn, gives the reader the sense of engaging with an individual voice.

If there is a price to pay for the kind of consistency indicated above, it is to be located in a loss of generic identity. Genre is used by the Chinese poet to place a poem stylistically for the audience or reader. Within genre, the literati poet may play, with or without irony, with the themes and words of an earlier song or poem. An example is Li He’s ‘Tomb of Little Su’. The Tang poet’s version addresses a sixth-century yuefu (ballad) and the story behind it. Opting for the short irregular lines associated with many yuefu, Li He reflects the theme of mutability in a series of startling compressed images. His lines retain the simplicity crucial to the ballad, well caught in Graham’s opening lines: ‘Dew on the secret orchid/ Like crying eyes’.

Johnson is well aware of the poem’s pedigree. He follows Graham in attaching the original ballad (in the latter’s translation) to the head of his poem and also in placing below it the words ‘ascribed to the singing girl, Little Su, 500 AD’. This allows him to locate his poem while adopting a generalised title, ‘tomb of a singing girl’, in line with his strategy of ‘stripp[ing] the poem of its historical cloak’. But Johnson’s version shows what a delicate balancing act translation can be. His diction is in a different register from that of Li He. In his first two lines, ‘covert, dew-crammed orchid/ tear-crazed eyes’, the crowded juxtapositions of images and consonants capture the surprise but not the original’s combination of startling image and limpid simplicity.

In his final couplet, Li anchors his poem to a particular spot, the grave mound associated with a poignant narrative around which a legend or, as Johnson suggests, a ghost story, has grown up. Li concludes with wind-blown rain over Little Su’s tomb. In Johnson’s version, ‘sleety winds shift’, alliteration overloads the composure of the original ending, taking it in a different direction and dissipating the poetic effect of beginning with dew and ending with rain.

The Vertical Harp, as material object, is exceptionally attractive. Pasted across an ox blood-red cover is a strip of elegant calligraphy – the text of the poem from which Johnson’s title is drawn. On the back is a short poem called ‘incarceration’, which I quote in full.

the moat, blood red, reflects
a palace in spectacular decay
wind-seducing leaves
mirror the gestures of palace-girls
how many spring darlings seen
from behind drawn curtains
hair whitening to dust?
ten thousand years of pale days
locked away

The girls referred to here were those brought in to amuse the Emperor Xuan Zong (712-755 CE) when he stayed in the palace which served him for one night as travel lodge. For this privilege they were rewarded with incarceration for the rest of their lives. Johnson’s rendering of the clichés of palace poetry and his imaginative reconstruction of the themes of that genre are livelier and tonally better sustained than any I have read since Anne Birrell’s translations of the sixth century anthology, Yutai xin yong (New Songs from a Jade Terrace), that appeared in 1982. This poem is infused with an energy largely lacking in the original. Nonetheless, the first couplet provides an example of the pitfalls that threaten a translator.

It has been said that language brings its ghosts along with it. A culture brings in its wake a way of reading its particulars. In this case, to bring blood into a palace style poem is to overstep thematic parameters. Johnson’s translation appears to start with Frodsham’s preferred version, ‘vexed red’. ‘Red’ in this poetic context is overwhelmingly likely to be a red flower growing in the moat. (The commentaries, opting unanimously to read both of the characters concerned, hong and fan, as written with the grass radical – the earliest texts are written without – offer several floral options. As in other cultures, the image which most often stands behind a flower is that of a woman, a symbolism picked up on by Li He when he selects the word yong, ‘embraces’ or ‘encircles’, to describe the moat. As it stands, Johnson’s translation evokes some bloody event that is associated with dynastic decline. It therefore reads as if responsibility for the fate of the ‘spring darlings’ lies with that bloody history rather than with the harsh, if conventional, decree of the Emperor.

I have indicated ways in which Johnson’s poems tend to diverge from the ambience, and on occasion the traditional readings, of Li He’s originals. Whereas qualifications of this kind crop up in relation to the translation of individual poems, they do little to disturb the overall achievement. The impression left by this spread of poems is of one poet engaging masterfully with another. These are ‘secondary translations’ that inhabit and re-create even the most difficult of Li He’s originals with imagination and flair. With the added pictorial inducements of its cover and the inclusion of several panels of calligraphy, The Vertical Harp is likely to attract not only readers who have never heard of Li He, but many who have.

Reviewed by DIANA BRIDGE
Victoria University of Wellington

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Til the gin ran out

In the second Reading the Maps blogcast Sinologist, travel writer, and muso Michael Arnold talks to Muzzlehatch and Maps about the Olympics, the Mandarin language, the minimalist rush, and the problems of mixing music with politics. The quality of the discourse declined noticeably after we ran out of beer and switched to gin. Listen here, if you don't believe me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

He's at it again

Back at the beginning of the year I chided the Women's Bookshop for promoting Gavin Menzies' exercise in pseudohistory 1421: the Chinese Discovery of the World. In his book, which began life as a novel, Menzies asserted that a fleet of massive fifteenth century Chinese sailing boats circumnavigated the world, discovering lands and founding civilisations as they went. New Zealand had a bit part in Menzies' fantasy, as a southern staging post on the epic journey of the Chinese fleet. According to Menzies, Maori are descended from fifteenth century Chinese visitors, and the wrecks of junks are scattered up and down the New Zealand coast.

The rise of China as a twenty-first century superpower and the gimmicks of the same publishing company that gave us The Da Vinci Code made 1421 commercially successful, but the book was scorned by every scholar who reviewed it. Critics pointed out that Menzies couldn't read Mandarin, and thus didn't notice that the 'ancient maps' in his book were written in modern script; they also wondered why no memory of the Chinese fleet survived in the places it supposedly visited.

Undeterred by such petty objections, Menzies is ploughing ahead with 1434: the Year a Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance, which the Woman's Bookshop is promoting as 'a stunning reappraisal of history'. The book argues that the Chinese fleet popped in to Italy and dropped off a Chinese encyclopedia, which Leonardo da Vinci and his mates then plagiarised.

I'll leave it to others to slog through and refute Menzies' revision of Renaissance history. What I wanted to comment on, instead, is the total dishonesty of the man's dealings with more serious scholars of the past. When scholars pointed out the implausibility of 1421, he tended to mock them, in terms redolent of the President of the Onehunga Rotary Club, as the fearful guardians of a monolithic academic orthodoxy, and to therefore avoid any serious dialogue.

When he speaks and writes for his large general audience, though, Menzies tries very hard to give the impression that his ramblings enjoy the respect and even the assent of historians, anthropologists, and Sinologists. In 1434, for instance, Menzies lists the names of hundreds of scholars, many of them attached to universities, and thanks them for 'showing interest' in his first book. The type of 'interest' that each of Menzies' interlocutors showed is not, of course, described. Many of Menzies' readers must be in danger of getting the impression that the scholars he lists are supportive of his claims about world history.

Like its predecessor, 1434 drags New Zealand prehistory into its turgid narrative. Menzies claims that his Chinese fleet was on its way home after its triumphant visit to Europe when a massive comet struck the southern ocean, creating a fiery tsunami which washed hundreds of burnt-out junks up on the New Zealand coast. Some of the Chinese survived, and became ancestors of 'the Maoris'. Menzies' 'evidence' for this last claim offers another example of his cynical misuse of the work of serious scholars of history. Menzies claims that biologist Richard Holdaway, who obtained a controversial radiocarbon date for a rat bone found in the Hawkes Bay hill country, and Geoffrey Chambers, who traced Maori DNA back to the vicinity of modern-day Taiwan, have somehow proved that Maori are descended from fifteenth century Chinese. But the bone Holdaway tested came from a Polynesian rat, not the 'Asian rat' Menzies writes about, and it was dated at two thousand years old.

Menzies' invocation of Maori DNA is even sillier: Chambers' tests revealed a connection to South Asia that was five thousand, not five hundred years old. The distant ancestors of the Maori were probably a pre-Chinese people who moved south and east to the western edge of the Pacific, before moving further east to islands like Tonga and Samoa, where Polynesian culture developed slowly over a thousand years. Many Kiwis now understand this story, and are likely to smell a rat when they read Menzies claiming scholarly support for his fairytale, but what about readers in Europe and America, not to mention China?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One thousand (and two)

It's frightening, I know, but last week I made the one thousandth post to this blog. Reading the Maps started back in 2004, but I only really got the hang of things (ie, worked out how to post images and hyperlinks) at the end of 2005.

We - I use the term loosely, in view of the notorious slackness of my co-bloggers - have managed to attract a total of nearly eighty thousand unique visitors since I installed a tracking device a couple of years back. The geocounter on our tracker claims that almost a third of visitors are coming from the good 'ol US of A; a little over a quarter are Kiwis, eleven percent are Poms, and nine percent are Aussies.

Despite or because of my obsequious praise for the flag of Muammar Gadaffi's revolution, only four of that country's inhabitants have paid a visit (or did one person visit four times, on four different days? Such subtle distinctions seem to beyond my tracker). It looks as though my celebration of a wave of Maltese visitors a couple of years back might have been a little premature - only thirty-three of them have made the journey to this blog so far.

Despite the lack of interest in Triploi and Valetta we're clinging to a place in the top fifty of the NZ Blogosphere Hit Parade, a little below Rodney Hide but comfortably above Bill English. Frankly, if I were a populist Tory politico and I couldn't attract ten times as many visitors to my blog as a lefty weirdo who posts about (to quote one critic of this blog) 'bands nobody has heard of, books nobody has read, battles nobody remembers and places nobody visits', then I'd consider chucking in the towel.

The folks who run NZ Blogopshere have given us a special commendation, which is flattering, especially since I had some rather harsh words to say about one of them last year. It's not so flattering, though, that they give the politics of this blog the label 'LEFT?' What's with that question mark, fellas?

Admittedly, there has been a marked decline in the volume of political ranting on this site over the last six months or so. The reasons for this decline are not so much a loss of political fervour on my part, as a change of focus. When I was happily PhDing, I had plenty of time and plenty of opportunities to sound off about political issues in print and on the net. Over the last few months, though, a lot of my ideological fervour has gone into helping to build a stronger union branch at the Auckland museum, where I've been working. Instead of pontificating at a keyboard I've been trying to sign up members, attending committee meetings, and struggling to decode the 'restructuring' plans of museum management.

When the Director unveiled her plans at the beginning of the year only a paper branch of the Public Service Association existed at the museum. Although we have spoken out about the process, gotten a good deal of media attention and public sympathy, and won some important concessions, museum workers have not had the protection of a collective agreement. Now, though, we have built a good-sized branch and gotten into the position where we can - fingers crossed - begin to negotiate an agreement which improves the conditions and security of museum workers.

I spent years slogging through back issues of left-wing journals collecting material for a PhD on EP Thompson, and the experience was at times (but only at times) a little politically dispiriting. The false assumptions, unrecognised prejudices, pointless infighting, and disappointed hopes which are part of the story of Thompson, and of the activist left in general, are all too clear when they appear in smudged print on the yellowing pages of defunct publications. Luckily, the experience of helping build a union in a large workplace, and seeing workers from different backgrounds, walks of life and income brackets sticking up for each other helps to strip away some of the cynicism that academic research can create.

Friday, July 11, 2008

From blueberries to blackberries

My 'Blackberries' is Poem of the Week at the Scoop Review of Books. The piece was written in September 2003, on the tenth anniversary of the premature death of EP Thompson, and it turned up in my 2007 book To the Moon, in Seven Easy Steps, where it had the title 'Blueberries'.

The poem's account of Thompson's death draws on a fine memoir by the left-wing historian and political activist Peter Linebaugh, who was one of the circle of brilliant young Americans who travelled across the Atlantic to study under Thompson at Warwick University in the late '60s and early '70s. In the early stages of my PhD research I discovered Linebaugh's e mail address, and bombarded him with questions about his long friendship with Thompson; the answers I received were invariably generous.

When I was finishing my thesis footnotes earlier this year I reread Linebaugh's memoir, and realised that I'd put the wrong berry in my poem. I don't think Mr Thompson would have taken a very favourable view of such a flagrant historical inaccuracy, so I've rectified my error and retitled the poem.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Yesterday I made the alarming discovery that that Reading the Maps is on the cusp of its one thousandth post. If you've been bored by endless blocks of text about EP Thompson, the obscurer aspects of Kiwi history, the seedy side of the Auckland literary scene and the perfidy of Australian cricketers, then you might be relieved to know that we're now mixing media a little by venturing into the realm of blogcasting. Not that we'll be steering too far from those tried and true topics.

'Who's we?' I hear you asking. I'm all too aware of the tardiness of the two people who are supposed to be co-authors of this blog - I think it's about a year since Muzzlehatch deigned to post, and months since Skyler's last effort - but over the past fortnight I've coerced them to take part in the shambolic recording sessions for a series of blogcasts by buying them both copious amounts of booze and plugging a mike into Muzzlehatch's computer.

Our first blogcast, which I've put online in downloadable format here, is an occasionally coherent discussion of the fortunes of Titus Books and independent publishing in Aotearoa, the alchemical novels of Jack Ross, the tangled forest of Jen Crawford's poetry, and Bill Direen's interpretation of the life of Michael Joseph Savage. We've punctuated proceedings with bootleg Direen and Dead Men Rising recordings, and thrown in a late night interview with Richard 'it's a spot of luck you caught me sober' Taylor for good measure. Don't take it all too seriously.

In a couple of days I'll post our second, somewhat more organised blogcast, which includes a long interview with Sinologist, musicologist and travel writer Michael Arnold about Chinese culture, the Olympics, the proper relation between politics and music, and the hallucinatory effects of African drumming.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

'Low tech', high seas

This is a waka korari, or wash-through raft, built by the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands. The ancestors of the Moriori reached the Chathams from Aotearoa by canoe, but the absence of any trees larger and sturdier than the karaka in their new home meant that their aquatechnology underwent a drastic change.

The waka korari was made of seaweed and reeds, and actually floated partially submerged in water; this made for a chilly journey, but it also ensured stability in the very rough seas around the Chathams. Moriori were able to paddle their strange craft on journeys of over fifty kilometres, to bleak rocks that were albatross and seal colonies. The European and Maori whalers and sealers who arrived in the Chathams early in the nineteenth century made fun of the waka korari, but their own long canoes often rolled or capsized in seas which the Moriori craft calmly negotiated.

I thought about the waka korari when I read the comment an anonymous visitor to this blog made this morning:

Idiot/Savant terms Maori history before the arrival of Cook as 'five hundred years of low-tech existence'. But what does he mean by 'low-tech'? That technology is only computers and washing machines?

Technology is nothing more or less than the means by which humans adapt to their environment. It is illogical to talk of 'low tech' and 'high tech' societies. Every piece of technology in a pre-industrial society is designed to deal with the challenges thrown up by a specific environment. You can't take it out of that environment and compare it to completely different pieces of technology designed to deal with different challenges.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Leicester style

Now pursuing truth
I make new moves
and am more business-like …

I must learn more

I’ll take to interstices

I’ll live in the wall that divides

I’ll watch with my bespectacled unblinking eye

I’ll see all sides

It's two years since the death of Leicester Kyle, who found time to be a botanist, environmental activist, Marx scholar, air force chaplain, family man, missionary, poet and editor during his three score years and ten. I dedicated an issue of the literary journal brief to Leicester's memory, and prefaced it with this account of the man's life and work. At the beginning of the piece, I tried to convey Leicester's originality:

When I met Leicester Kyle for the first time he was wearing a leather jacket and a broad-brimmed leather hat, and stroking a long white beard. He looked like a cross between a religious prophet and a genteel bikie, and neither religious types nor bikies were common sights at the Dead Poets Bookshop's Friday night poetry readings. Leicester soon became a fixture of the late '90s Auckland literary scene, turning up at readings, book launches and conferences, and invariably drawing respectful but bemused attention from Bohemian hipsters and literary politicians alike.

It's not difficult to appreciate the reason for the attention Leicester attracted. Kiwi writers are, by and large, a dull lot...But Leicester Kyle wasn't dull like us: he was emphatically and effortlessly different. He had come to writing late, by a circuitous and sometimes bizarre path...

For me, and I expect for very many other people, Leicester seemed to have stepped out of some alternate New Zealand, a place where many of the dichotomies of our society - the splits between the city and the country, between Maori and Pakeha, between intellectuals and an anti-intellectual majority, between liberals and conservatives - did not exist. Leicester moved effortlessly between worlds that were normally hermetically sealed from one another, and the poems he poured out during the last decade of his life are simultaneously scholarly and populist, vernacular and allusive.

Leicester's poems were eagerly received by Alistair Paterson, Jack Ross and other editors of prestigious literary journals based in New Zealand's big cities, but they were also popular in his adopted homeland of the West Coast. Leicester must be the only poet ever to have had a book part-financed by the Buller District Council. Heteropholis, his bizarre, book-length portrait of late '90s Auckland, has achieved a cult reputation, despite its almost complete unavailability.

Are there any publishers reading this? I can't think of anyone who deserves a posthumous Collected Poems more than Leicester Kyle.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Independent's Night

Late last month Skyler and I posted a few lurid snapshots from the launch party for three new Titus Books. If you prefer text to illustrations, you can read my account of the launch and my readings of Jen Crawford's Bad Appendix, Jack Ross' EMO, and Bill Direen's Enclosures over at the Scoop Review of Books, a site which has been developing impressively since its own launch three months ago.