Review: Vincent Katz’s Vanitas 1: The State


Steve Dalachinsky

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 110 in 2005.

Vincent Katz, ed
Vanitas 1: The State
(New York: Libellum, 2005).

"The curtain goes up" as Carter Ratcliff puts it on page 86 & to quote Jack Smith who magically appears in this high profile, highly polished & produced journal edited by Vincent Katz, "this" is "a bounty of .." "equals" of "economic language." AsSala says in "juice," "it's more than a mere magazine…" "it's going to take readers to a whole new level". "This is the writing dance" claims Anne Waldman. "I have not read a book in days,/it's making me edgy" writesDaniel Bouchard, but now I have Vanitas to take care of my immediate needs. This first issue is a cornucopia of poets, musicians, and visual artists creating as Alvin Curran states an "ever present choral hum" or as Jim Dine puts it "a juggling act" "between image &".."technique". It has everything, including a beautifully reproduced full color portfolio of Dine's written visuals.

This first issue is titled State, ("each issue will have a theme or thrust" as Katz states in his afterward) & deals with just that: the state as in state of things.

"Melville tells us that there is nothing/more insignificant/than having a book of poems published" announces Bouchard. Well all I can say to that is there is nothing more significant than having a new publication out there amongst the swarm of publications that presents new slants, old icons & varied textures

Vanitas, which also boasts a cover by Dine will feature a different visual artist every issue. Its aim, in part, is to deal with "politics." Not party politics but more of a body "POLITIC" as the French might see it. One that has less to do with political parties & more to do with humanity & human ideals or as Katz himself puts it "politics must be an actual functioning approach to changing or avoiding governmental policies" & I'm all for avoidance. He also states that one function of Vanitas will be "to open"..up"“to current voices from around the world." In this instance, France & Brazil.

On most levels this large book, akin to A Gathering of Tribes magazine, fulfills one’s needs as far as contemporary artistic thinking goes though I'd like to see more people of color amongst its vast pages. 140 to be exact. & to undo Richard Hell, just to be able to "see the light/ look into the hole" & then "eat it," along with "the wack, the tang.." & "the poop eye candle flame.." is enough to satisfy all areas of the intellect & emotions no matter how timid or perverse

To also completely fragment lines from Jordan Davis' opening essay, Vanitas "makes a case for….qualities of work", "leaves the reader….experienced", while "capturing legendarily various personalities" & possibly emerging as a new central publication within literary history.

I find myself anxiously awaiting, anticipating & hopefully participating in future issues of Vanitas. It is a well crafted, well thought out, vital addition to the zine scene. A book that "walks softly" but casts "a big shadow" (Charles Borkhuis, page 100).

So do yourself a favor
Cut your mind on this pen-sword
Savor its every flavor.