Jesse Glass

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Jesse Glass began writing and publishing experimental poetry c. 1972. From 1976 he began editing and publishing Goethe’s Notes Magazine and Goethe's Press from his family home in Westminster, Maryland.

Consequently, Glass became known for his writing and publishing in the Baltimore Washington area, as well as for his many underground publications in England. At this time Glass also made contact with the performance poet Rod Summers of VEC in Holland and began to participate in mail art and in voice recordings and alternative music.

Glass attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 1978, where he studied with Howard Nemerov. In 1979, Glass attended the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and obtained his M.A. in English. His teachers there were Richard Howard and Cynthia Macdonald. Fellow students included Michael Martone, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Louise Erdrich. In 1980, Glass moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to attend graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. While in Milwaukee, he edited the Cream City Review, and was constantly in touch with the readings and artistic events at Woodland Pattern Book Center. During this time, Glass began to correspond with Helen Adam, Kathleen Raine, Armand Schwerner, Rosmarie Waldrop, Ronald Johnson, Larry Eigner, Ron Silliman, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Steve McCaffrey, Robert Peters, Bern Porter, Lewis Turco, and others involved in new and experimental literature. Glass graduated with a Ph.D. in English, with an emphasis in American literature, in 1988.

After winning the Deep South Writers Conference award in poetry for two years in a row, Glass was invited by Burton Raffel, poet and translator, for a brief residency at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He met Skip Fox there, and began the magazine Die Young (1991–c.1996).

In 1992 Glass moved to Japan and began to collect bilingual poetry publications, as well as to correspond with Cid Corman, Jon Silkin, Edith Shiffert, and other writers. Glass also revamped the Chiba-based poetry magazine the Abiko Rag, and renamed it the Abiko Quarterly. He served as the poetry editor from 1993–96. Glass became a member of the poetry group/magazine Sei-En (Blue Flame) founded by his friend the poet Yoichi Kawamura.

Glass went on-line in 1997, and joined the Buffalo Poetics List, Poetry, Etc., and British Poets, where he established himself as a presence and corresponded with many many poets. Beginning in 1998, Glass established Ahadada Books, which has had, with the assistance of the Canadian poet Daniel Sendecki, some success with cooperative and e-publishing.

In 2001, Glass was a featured performer at the international Poli-Poetry Festival in Maastricht, Holland as a guest of the Dutch government.

The Passion of Phineas Gage and Selected Poems was published by West House Books in co-operation with Ahadada Books in early 2006.
The Passion of Phineas Gage and Selected Poems was published by West House Books in co-operation with Ahadada Books in early 2006.

Glass’ own work includes The Passion of Phineas Gage and Selected Poems (West House Books, 2006), reviewed extensively by David B. Axelrod in the archived magazine Poetrybay; and many chapbooks and Artists' Books, as well as visual and sound poetry. On yet another front, Glass is a folklorist and historian, focusing on Carroll County, Maryland.

In 1982, Glass' compilation of folklore Ghosts and Legends of Carroll County, Maryland was published by the Carroll County Library System, and has since gone into six printings. In 1998, Ghosts and Legends was updated. In 2001, this book, along with the Carroll County ghost walk, hosted by the Carroll County Library System, was deemed a "Local Legacy" by the Library of Congress. Moreover, his research into the life and death of Joseph Shaw, a Civil War era editor who was murdered in Westminster, Maryland, has resulted in two books as well as a collaboration with the Lithuanian composer Arturas Bumsteinas on a work of electronic music. Ghosts and Legends has become a standard work on Maryland Folklore, and is officially listed by the Maryland Humanities Council as such. In 2004, Glass, in cooperation with the Historical Society of Carroll County, Maryland and Meikai University, Japan, published The Witness; Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Carroll County, Maryland in a free, on-line edition, available as an e-book through Ahadada Books. This publication is the sole resource for the study of this subject.

Jesse Glass' literary papers, as well as his collections of Marylandia, British and American underground publications, Japanese literature and folklore, and visual and sound works are archived at the University of Maryland Libraries Special Collections, College Park. Glass' work can also be found in the Special Collections of Brown University and New York University at Buffalo, among others. The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry also holds a number of Glass' visual compositions. The Tate Gallery, London, took two of Glass' illuminated books for their collection in 2006.

Glass has recently begun to collaborate with the British poet Alan Halsey and the German experimental composer and musician Ralph Lichtensteiger.

Currently Jesse Glass is a full time professor teaching English literature at Meikai (Bright Sea) University in Chiba, Japan.

Jesse Glass' Poetry and Prose

Jesse Glass' poetry plays up to our fascination with the investigatory impulse, where the reader and the writer (as detective) begins to discover new signifiers lurking beneath the text. In this sense, then, Glass is as much detective as he is a poet. He writes a poetry of extrication that invites re-reading. He is like the night attendant of his poem 'A/a', witness to the exhumation of William Blake:

& when the bag was opened an old man wide
of forehead & naked as a babe tumbled upon
the dirty floor. because of the emaciated
condition of the body, and its age, the workers
were given 2 guineas for their efforts by
the night attendant. so one 'Wm. Blake'
came to the dissectionist's table. (Glass, A/a)

Central to the concepts of Glass' poetry is the notion that the modern printed text is representative, in a sense, of finality. The process of print offers a sense of closure and completeness; once a plate is prepared for production, it may no longer accommodate any changes. By contrast, Glass's poems are in dialogue with the world outside their typographic borders. Thus, in 'A/a', William Blake can be read as a specific temporality closed off from the 'outside world', finding its correlative in the closed nature of the printed text, the mass-produced book, etc. It follows then that the author plays the role of dissectionist, wonderfully relegated to the task of extricating meaning from both body and text.

In 'The Life & Death of Peter Stubbe' (Birch Brook Press, 1995), an historical-poetic document occasionally reliant on George Bore's contemporary translation of a 1590 trial transcript concerning Peter Stubbe, Glass illustrates the manner by which poetry determines its position in relation to other discourses. He appropriates the matter of the trial transcript ' text in the public domain ' and reorders it to fit his own inner vision ' a uniquely personal poetic. Glass approaches language like an artist approaches a canvas. Language then, like the tools of the artist, is common property ' only the raw material of art. Or, to use Glass's own metaphor ' a body to be plundered.

Thus, as a dissectionist, Glass seeks to mine a text, to use the painter Tom Phillips' words, to 'make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents and surrealist catastrophes which [seem] to lurk within the wall of words'. This dislocation of text yields new meaning. Whereas texts such as trial transcripts withhold facts from touch, Glass's poetry breaks down the distinction between subject and object. By liberating text from its confines Glass turns the reader from viewer into voyeur. And by placing the reader in the very moment, Glass transmits with overwhelming force a sense of simultaneity. Such an understanding of the moment replaced the semiotics of printed with a semiotics of 'being'. The transmutation of trial transcript into poem provides the words with an 'aesthetic tangibility' meant to outlast the 'ephemerality' of the printed page.

Take, for instance, Glass's aforementioned poem 'A/a'. In a key device of the poem, the noun '[cage]' is wrested from its position within the text, and placed in penultimate relationship to the very powerful concluding image: 'river the color of raw hands beneath the rain'. In this manner, the closed site of the text with its physical typography, ordered into lines, is imbued with colour. The author engages in a dialogue with the outside world, liberated by the dislocation of a key image. As in Delaunay's theory of simultaneity, the juxtaposition of colour (or in Glass's case, language) provides depth, and alters one's perception. Writes Skip Fox in his review of 'The Life & Death of Peter Stubbe' Glass "seeks to create a new poetic grammar befitting his intellect and vision . spelling out the protean relationships between poet, narrator, [and] reader".

If, as the late William Bronk asserts 'Art isn't made, it's in the world almost / unseen but found existent there', Jesse Glass is as much a detective as a poet. As much a dissectionist as an artist.

  • Jesse Glass at Penn Sound
  • Jesse Glass at Ubuweb
  • Library of Congress Local Legacies Page for Carroll County, Maryland
  • Guardian Review of The Passion of Phineas Gage and Selected Poems
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