TWO VOICES: Joshua Beckman Presents Micrograms by Jorge Carrera Andrade

Posted on October 13, 2011 by Scott Esposito

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"The purpose of this book is to send readers off to new places--new places of the mind." So began Joshua Beckman's Two voices presentation of Micrograms by Jorge Carrera Andrade, described, in part, as the Japanese concept of haiku translated into the Latin America of the 20th century.

As Beckman explained, the microgram is a very postmodern idea. Andrade would frequently "discover" micrograms in the work of Japanese haiku poets, like Basho and his innumerable followers. Andrade also discovered them in the great epic Spanish poetry, as well as in poetry from many of the world's other traditions. As Beckman explained, Andrade saw poetry as "an act of attention," with micrograms being one form that such attention toward poetry can take. He stressed that micrograms are a combination of various times and aesthetics, they are cultural overlaps.

During the event Beckman also placed Andrade's micrograms into a larger context, calling them a "synthesis of literary history, imaginative reading, and manifesto." Beckman explained that Andrade was influenced by the Surrealists, as well as the many French literary manifestos circulating in the early 20th century. Andrade's hope was that, in addition to working as poetry, his book would function as a sort of manifesto. He wanted to inspire others to create micrograms, and he saw his work with the form as part of a larger the tradition of which he was but one practitioner. In fact, to inspire future microgramists he begins Micrograms with a curious essay/manifesto outlining these ideas.

In addition to exploring Micrograms, Beckman talked about his own idea of himself as a translator. He explained that he often sees his work as that of an "editor," as he frequently collaborates with others who have greater expertise in a given language. This idea of translation as a collaborative process was underlined by Beckman's remarks on haiku and micrograms being collaborative processes in their own ways. He explained that haiku relies on collaboration both in terms of poets working together to draw the familiar 5-7-5 haiku from larger poems and poets being in tune with the social and cultural currents around them.In a similar way, microgramists—and their translators—must be deeply aware of context and tradition.

Beckman also read numerous micrograms throughout the event.