Introduction for Tom Mandel, Bowery Poetry Club, 11/20/04
You probably already know that Tom Mandel, the first generation offspring of Austrian Jews fleeing Hitler and a former student of Hannah Arendt, is the author of a dozen books of poetry. You may be aware that his first book, Ency, published in the legendary Tuumba chapbook series in 1978, has been described as “a foundational work in the early history of Language Poetry.” You may already know some of his other books, including Realism, Four Strange Books, Letters of the Law, Ancestral Cave, and his booklength collaboration with Dan Davidson, poignantly titled, given Dan’s suicide in 1996, Absence Sensorium. You may have heard that Ron Silliman described Tom’s book, Prospect of Release, as “the most intensely felt poems [he had] ever read.” And if you checked his website this morning, as I did, you may even know that Tom has said of himself, ” I’ll be writing my whole life. I wrote a poem on November 20, 2004.”
What you may not know about Tom Mandel is that in addition to being a writer, he is also an entrepreneur and strategist, a maverick leader, and a champion of “new ways to think, write, and work.” He even has his own slogan: (lead with ideas TM)
The tenets central to accomplishing his mission stem from core poetic values:
Broad Reader Connection
Connecting with readers, understanding their needs and how they use intellectual strategies, and providing value through high lyric and philosophical investigations to help them realize their potential.
A Global, Inclusive Approach
Thinking and acting globally, Tom enables a diverse set of references that generates innovative poem-making for a broad spectrum of readers and publishers, innovates to lower the costs of human folly, and shows leadership in supporting the communities in which he works and lives.
In everything he does.
Deepening reader curiosity and trust through the quality of his words and lines, his responsiveness and impetuous dynamism, and his unpredictability in everything he writes.
At Tom Mandel (lead with ideas TM), you’ll find total commitment to his mission of helping his readers scale new heights and achieve thought forms and expansions of verbal experience they never thought possible.
One more thing that you may not know about Tom Mandel is that he used to be my boss. That is, I was his secretary. It was hardly a humdrum working relationship — how many bosses write collaborations with their secretaries? I rooted out of my files today a play we wrote together in perhaps 1987. It involved a lot of sound effects like barking, trumpets, and a waltz played on a cheap Casio. Tom had the following exquisite series of lines:
The world is a broken thing of shards intermixed with sparks of the divine light. Our job is to gather up these sparks and return the world to a wholeness which it never had. But you cannot close the customer if you don’t do a trial close first. Look have I given you the information you need to make a decision. Fine and if it does that for you just let me ask you do you have a budget for this puppy and if so how you gon’ to pay for it [?].
To answer that question today, to pose many more questions, and of course, to lead with ideas, Tom Mandel himself is here today in person. Please welcome…