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In this collection of essays, poet, translator, anthologist and critic Pierre Joris extends his “nomad poetics” to a remarkable zigzagging on the margins of twentieth and twenty-first century poetry and poetics. For Justifying the Margins refuses, precisely, to fill out spaces neatly to yield (to) straightened out, pre-set margins, be they cultural, literary, linguistic or political; Joris rather wanders through those spaces, and thereby “justifies” the margins properly speaking.
His travel/travails set off with absorbing explorations of writing as such – traversing languages and crossing genres –, and seem to turn this collection into a marvelous group improvisation of texts, which range from journal entries, over lectures, essayistic writing, (auto)biographical notes, translation, obits and interview, to Joris’s outstanding and characteristically intense readings. The author, moreover, brilliantly moves across – and vindicates – multiple fringes. Joris’s observation with respect to French literature, for instance, namely that “the most interesting and explorative literary writing in French of the last fifty years has not come from Paris, but from the periphery of the old colonial empire,” not only leads him to continually resurfacing meditations on North African and Arabic literature, or the rerouted Surrealism of Unica Zürn’s anagrams, it also allows him to investigate the margins of English and American poetry, in Douglas Oliver and Ronald Johnson, or even to deftly (re)consider core figures such as Antonin Artaud, Charles Olson and Paul Celan – with, in turn, new offshoots in Jacques Derrida’s pipe or Irving Petlin’s paintings.
A fascinating “travelogue,” and a truly valuable read, Justifying the Margins is highly recommended to both the specialist and general reader interested in experimental art, thought, poetry and poetics!
‘Poet, translator, traveler, and above all friend of the world. This is the sense (and more, the savor) of the deeply felt distillations Pierre Joris has steeped in this brew-pot book. It’s a work that vindicates and animates everything honorable about so-called occasional writing : living up to the occasion is the perennial challenge. He’s been there, he’s going there, so welcome the companionship, with its impeccable lesson of life as “perpetual translation.”’ —Jed Rasula, author of Syncopations and This Compost: Ecological Imperatives in American Poetry