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Always the Many, Never the One (Paperback)
With a starting point on July 14, 2021, when the Centre national de litt rature hosted Pierre Joris' 75th birthday celebration, Always the Many, Never the One builds upon the initial interview by Florent Toniello that took place that day to go deeper into a major Luxembourg-American poet's reflections on literature, philosophy, and life. Throughout this book Joris develops a core concept of his thinking and writing, "in-betweenness," using both literary examples and life anecdotes, some never shared in Joris's vast bibliography so far.
The form is representative of the "in-between" concept: while it comprises the initial oral interview at the CNL plus seven subsequent interviews conducted virtually, the whole text was reworked in order to complete the thoughts and add necessary or relevant references, thus transforming it also into a literary essay; but the interview-tone remains, making for lively and stimulating reading. Beyond discussing the "in-betweenness" concept, Joris shares his views on a range of subjects related to poetry, translation, music and the arts while linking his work to the theoretical thinking and craft of leading past and present philosophers and writers/poets, in a dazzling literary world tour-de-force.
To complement this first (and major) part of the book, two "bonuses" follow: a reprint of the interview Joris gave for a recent book by Florent Toniello, M lusine au gasoil (in line with Contra Mundum's multilingual ethos, this is provided in the original French version), and the speech Joris gave at the award ceremony for the Batty Weber prize, to also make this talk-essay available to a wider audience.
This generous and engaging book is an album of conversations, including Pierre Joris’s speech in his first country, Luxembourg (“a portable small country”), upon winning its major literary prize. Joris (with Florent Toniello) assembles witty, ranging, informed, and passionate insights on the vectors of contemporary poetics. From translation to nomadism, from “the between” to the scintillation of borders, from his critique of toxic gender/race myths to lively riffs on genre (particularly epic & long poem), Joris’s convictions are telling, & his aphorisms are generative. Always the Many, Never the One is a defining overview of a distinctive poetic career. — Rachel Blau DuPlessis
The duet, lush with resonance and reference, has become a beautiful habit for Pierre Joris. His interviews let you see so far outside that coming around again, but off, is easy. The resulting spiral is a new curriculum and in this “riot of air” it’s almost like we know all that he knows. — Fred Moten
A fascinating collection of conversations that run the gamut from poetry to film, music, philosophy, critical theory, and more. With an encyclopedic knowledge, profound understanding, and sparkling wit, Joris illuminates and elucidates upon Olson, Duncan, Brakhage, Schneeman, Enheduanna, Boulez, Cage, Coltrane, Kurosawa, Godard, Karl May, Ed Dorn, Rothenberg, Ibn Tarafa, Rimbaud, Assia Djebar, Edouard Glissant, Zukofsky, Giordano Bruno, and the art of translating Burroughs, Kerouac, Celan and more. Freewheeling and spontaneous, these are immensely invigorating exchanges between two kindred spirits. — John Zorn
The conversations gathered here, like Joris’s poems and writings over-all, bring a whole world into view, many worlds in fact, in the best tradition of a new American and new World poetry as it has come to him in his lifetime and ours. And like the poetry itself, it is the voice, always, of a man talking and self-exploring, with a casualness of tone amid a loaded plethora of knowledges and day-by-day observations and protocols: the presence too of a comic temperament that’s as serious as it gets – from a master of multiple languages and of language-secrets that he freely shares with us. Much to our enlightenment and downright pleasure. — Jerome Rothenberg