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Pierre Joris (born July 14, 1946) is a Luxembourg-American poet, translator, anthologist and essayist.
Early life and education
Joris was born in Strasbourg, France on July 14, 1946 and raised in Ettelbruck, Luxembourg. He left Luxembourg at nineteen and since then has lived in the US, Great Britain, North Africa and France. After early studies in medicine in Paris, he decided to devote myself to the literature, especially the writing of poetry, and in 1967 came to the US where he earned a BA (Honors) at Bard College before moving to New York City where he edited the underground arts magazine Corpus from 1969 to 1970. After moving to London, England in 1972, Joris founded the literary magazine Sixpack (with William Prescott) which published a wide range of innovative poetries and translations from the US, Europe and beyond, and was instrumental in helping to create what came to be known as the British Poetry Revival of the 1970s. In 1975, Sixpack received a grant from the CCLM (Coordinating Council of Little Magazines) as well as that year's Fel's Literary Award. Between 1972 and 1975 Joris pursued graduate work, first in Cultural Studies at the University of London's Institute of United States Studies under the direction of Professor Eric Mottram, and then at Essex University where he earned an MA in the Theory and Practice of Literary Translation in 1975 under the guidance of visiting American poet Ted Berrigan. It was also in London, in 1972, that he published my first chapbook of poems (The Fifth Season).
From 1976 to 1979 Joris taught in the English Department at the University of Constantine, Algeria, years that also led him to explore the wider Maghreb and especially the great Sahara desert. He moved back to London & in the early eighties taught in various institutions, such as the University of Maryland’s UK campuses, while expanding his career as a freelance writer and translator, reviewing, for instance, for the New Statesman, for which publication he also briefly wrote a “Letter from Paris,” and working as editor and writer for the Third World weekly al-Zahaf al-Akhdar. Relocating to Paris, Joris started working as author, commentator, actor & editor for France Culture, the National French radio station. During those years he would return annually to the U.S. for poetry readings and work with various collaborators on a range of translation projects. In 1987, invited by the Iowa International Writing Program (the first Luxemburger to be thus invited) to spend the fall in Iowa City, he used the occasion to relocate to the US. He first moved from Iowa to Binghamton, N.Y., where he started a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature he was to complete in 1990; from there he moved to San Diego where he was active as visiting poet in the University of California, San Diego Literature Department. A range of projects started at this time: besides completing several collections of poems & a first volume of essays, Joris started a very fruitful collaboration with poet and anthologist Jerome Rothenberg. In 1993 the pair co-edited and co-translated pppppp : THE SELECTED WRITINGS OF KURT SCHWITTERS (Temple University Press) which received the 1994 Pen Center USA West Award for Translation, and the following year a Selected Poems of Pablo Picasso, under the title The Death of the Count of Orgaz & Other Writings. Joris and Rothenberg also began work on a two volume anthology of 20th Century Avant-Garde writings, POEMS FOR THE MILLENNIUM: A UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BOOK OF MODERN & POSTMODERN POETRY, the first volume of which was published by UCP in 95 and the second in 98. In 1992 Joris returned to the Mid-Hudson valley to take up a teaching post in the Department of English at SUNY-Albany, where he taught until his retirement in 2013. In 2009 he moved to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where he lives with his wife Nicole Peyrafitte, a performance artist, painter & singer. The pair continue to collaborate in a range of ways, including performances with jazz musicians & co-teaching, for example in the summer sessions at the Jack Kerouac Institute at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Peyrafitte has also illustrated and created covers for most of Joris’ books since 1992.
Poetry and translations
Joris has published over 20 books and chapbooks of his own poetry, among these :
- Breccia: Selected Poems 1972-1986 (Editions PHI / Station Hill)
- Poasis: Selected Poems 1986-1999 (Wesleyan University Press)
- h.j.r. (EarthWind Press, Ann Arbor)
- Winnetou Old (Meow Press, Buffalo, NY)
- Turbulence (St. Lazaire Press, Rhinebeck)
- Aljibar (PHI, 2007), a bilingual edition with French translations by Eric Sarner.
- Meditations on the Stations of Mansour Al-Hallaj (Anchorite Press)
- Aljibar II (PHI, 2008), again a bilingual edition with French translations by Eric Sarner.
- Learn The Shadow (UNIT4ART, 2012).
- Meditations on the Stations of Mansur al-Hallaj (Chax Press, 2013).
- Barzakh (Poems 2000-2012" (Black Widow Press 2014).
- An American Suite (Inpatient Press 2016).
He has also written and published many essays, introductions etc. gathered into two volumes with a third one projected for publication in 2015:
- A Nomad Poetics (Wesleyan University Press) 2003.
- Justifying the Margins: Essays 1990-2006 (Salt Publishing) 2009.
Joris has published a wide range of translations, both into English & into French, the most recent being :
- Breathturn into Timestead: The Collected Later Poetry of Paul Celan" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015)
- Exile is my Trade. A Habib Tengour Reader (Black Widow Press)
- 4x1: Translations of Tristan Tzara, Rilke, Jean-Pierre Duprey and Habib Tengour (Inconundrum Press)
- Abdelwahab Meddeb: Malady of Islam (Basic Books)
- Habib Tengour: Empedokles's Sandal (Duration Press)
- Also noteworthy are his translations of Maurice Blanchot's The Unavowable Community and Edmond Jabès's From the Desert to the Book (Station Hill Press).
- As well as his numerous translations from English into French: Jack Kerouac's Mexico City Blues, but also Carl Solomon, Gregory Corso, Pete Townshend, Julian Beck, Sam Shepard and most recently "Hydrogen Jukebox" by Allen Ginsberg (Libretto for 2009 French premiere of Phil Glass’ opera "Hydrogen Jukebox").
- In 2007 his CD Routes, Not Roots appeared, with Munir Beken (oud), Michael Bisio (bass), Ben Chadabe (percussion) & Mitch Elrod (guitar).
Joris has translated all the later poetry by Paul Celan into English (the first three volumes published by Green Integer and Sun&Moon Press); a "Selections" edition of Celan; and most recently his "Meridian" speech with materials:
- Lightduress (received the 2005 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation)(o.p.);
- Threadsuns; (o.p.);
- Breathturn (o.p.);
- Paul Celan: Selections;
- The Meridian: Final Version - Drafts - Materials (Stanford University Press)
- Breathturn into Timestead: The Complete Later Poetry of Paul Celan'' was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in early 2015.
Collaborations with Jerome Rothenberg
With Jerome Rothenberg he has published a two-volume anthology of 20th Century Avant-Garde writings, Poems for the Millennium: The University of California Book of Modern & Postmodern Poetry, (University of California Press) the first volume of which received the 1996 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award.
Rothenberg's & Joris's previous collaboration, pppppp: Selected Writings of Kurt Schwitters (Temple University Press, 1993, reissued in 2002 by Exact Change) was awarded the 1994 PEN Center USA West Literary Award for Translation.
Rothenberg & Joris also co-edited & co-translated The Burial of the Count of Orgaz & Other Writings of Pablo Picasso (Exact Change, 2004).
Joris's first anthology was the bi-lingual Matières d'Angleterre. Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie anglaise, co-edited with Paul Buck. (Les Trois Cailloux, 1984). With Jean Portante he edited Poésie internationale in 1987.
Poems for the Millennium. The University of California Book of North African Poetry, edited by Joris and Habib Tengour was published in December 2012.
In the media
An issue of Samizdat commemorates the Joris/Rothenberg collaboration with original work and translations by both poets, and essays and poems for and about the poets.
In 2011, Peter Cockelbergh edited a book on Joris entitled Pierre Joris--Cartographies of the In-between (Litteraria Pragensia Press), with essays by, among others, Mohammed Bennis, Charles Bernstein, Nicole Brossard, Clayton Eshleman, Allen Fisher, Christine Hume, Regina Keil-Sagawe, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Jennifer Moxley, Carrie Noland, Alice Notley, Marjorie Perloff & Nicole Peyrafitte.
Performance art, theater, and collaborations
- dePLACEments (premiered from 27 June to 2 July 2005 at Cave Poésie, Toulouse, France);
- Manifesto&a (premiered in Luxembourg, July 1998);
- Riding The Lines, (European Tour summer 1997; New York City performance at the Here Inn, Dec 1997).
Other performances include:
- Domopoetics, a multimedia collaborative performance with Nicole Peyrafitte (since 2011).
- Pierre's Words (Toward an Opera), a collaboration with composer Joel Chadabe & the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company (Premiered May 3, 1997, The Egg, Albany);
- Frozen Shadows, a dance & reading performance based on Winnetou Old, choreographed by Ellen Sinopoli & danced by the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company (Union College, Schenectady, NY January 21, 1996 "The Egg," Albany, NY, April 12 & 13, 1995);
- This Morning (part of Music Juggle) a multimedia collaboration with composer Xavier Chabot (Premiered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY February 5, 1997. Chabot presented this work in Japan in late 1997.
- Joris's play The Agony of I.B., is commissioned and produced in June 2016 by the Théatre National du Luxembourg.
- Official website
- Rothenberg-Joris special issue of Samizdat
- Two Poems by Pierre Joris @ Melancholia's Tremulous Dreadlocks
- Pierre Joris on the book 'Heidegger and Fascism'
- Interview with Pierre Joris
- New Inquiry Interview
- Pierre Joris' translations of poetry by Mostafa Nissaboury in New Poetry in Translation
- Pierre Joris' translation of fiction by Abdallah Zrika in Words Without Borders