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Attention Span 2005


§ 47 contributors

§ More than 510 mentions in all

§ More than 391 separate titles mentioned

§ (number) to right of pub info = total mentions

§ Publication information is sometimes partial: online author / title searches will in most cases provide further information. A great many of the titles mentioned here are carried by Small Press Distribution.

Participants (in order received): Michael Davidson, James Wagner, Daniel Bouchard, Jerrold Shiroma, Rosmarie Waldrop, Pam Brown, Michael Kelleher, Graham Foust, Ammiel Alcalay, Brenda Iijima, Kevin Killian, John Palattella, Marcella Durand, Crag Hill, Gary Sullivan, Michael Scharf, John Sakkis, Noah Eli Gordon, Benjamin Friedlander, David Dowker, Jeff Hamilton, K. Silem Mohammad, Franklin Bruno, Joseph Mosconi, David Hess, Janet Holmes, Robin Brox, Dana Ward, Tony Tost, Laura Carter, Joanna Fuhrman, Heather Jovanelli, Meredith Quartermain, John Latta, Christopher Nealon, Jennifer Scappettone, Joshua Clover, Juliana Spahr, Nada Gordon, Jonathan Skinner, Shanna Compton, Patrick Durgin, Cole Swensen, Stephanie Young, Nick Piombino, Lee Ann Brown, and Katherine Lederer.

A list of all titles mentioned, ranked by frequency, can be found here.

Signed Lists, many with commentary (in order received)

Michael Davidson

Note: As a "list" person, I found the idea of limiting mine to eleven books almost incomprehensible. The criterion I settled on is that these titles be books that I have recommended to at least three people during the year (in no ranked order):

Dorothy Trujillo Lusk | Ogress Oblige | Krupskaya, 2001

Ian Hacking | Mad Travelers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses | Harvard U Press, 1998

An amazing account of fugue states and mobility in modernism.

Lisa Robertson | Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office for Soft Architecture | Clear Cut, 2003

A post-situationist view of Vancouver and a manifesto for the poem as "walk."

Jim Yong Kim, et al | Dying for Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor | Common Courage Press, 2000

A pretty depressing, yet compelling, look at the ways that globalization is producing, not solving, problems of world health.

Susan Wheeler | Ledger | U of Iowa Press, 2005

Henning Mankell | Faceless Killers | Random, 1997

Any of Mankell's mysteries equally list-worthy. Other current favorites include Peter Dickinson, Michael Connolly, and Ian Rankin.

Mark Nowak | Shut Up Shut Down | Coffee House, 2004

In the great tradition of Rukeyser's "Book of the Dead" and Reznikoff's Testimony, the documentary haibun meets de-industrialization and union-busting Washington.

Jen Hofer, trans. | Sin puertas visibles: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by Mexican Women | U of Pittsburgh, 2003

Wonderful translations of wonderful poets.

David Serlin | Replaceable You: Engineering the Body in Postwar America | U of Chicago, 2004

An amazing study of cold war American medicine and new prosthetic identities (the Hiroshima Maidens, hormone therapy, Christine Jorgensen, etc.).

Evgen Bavcar | Le voyeur absolu | Seuil, 1992

The memoir of a blind photographer with a selection of his photographs.

Albert Gelpi and Robert Bertholf, eds. | The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov | Stanford U Press, 2004

The best introduction to cold war gender politics from within the poetry community.

About Michael Davidson. Back to directory.

James Wagner

Jennifer Moxley | Often Capital | Flood Editions, 2005

Daniel Bouchard | Some Mountains Removed | Subpress, 2005

Ronald Johnson | Radi os | Flood Editions, 2005

Elizabeth Willis | Turneresque | Burning Deck, 2003

Taylor Brady | Yesterday’s News | Factory School, 2005

Steve Timm | Averrage | Answer Tag Home Press, 2004

Tom Clark | Charles Olson: The Allegory Of A Poet’s
| Norton, 1991

Bei Dao | Midnight’s Gate | New Directions | 2005

William Greider | Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs The Country | Simon & Schuster, 1989

Miklos D. F. Udvardy | The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds—Western Edition | Knopf, 1977

Various authors | Antennae, Issues 6 & 7 | Ed. by Jesse Seldess | 2004, 2005

About James Wagner. Back to directory.

Daniel Bouchard

Arthur Hugh Clough | Selected Poems | Penguin Books, 1991

Patrick Kavanagh | No Earthly Estate: God and Kavanagh. | Edited by Tom Stack | Columba (Dublin), 2004

Philip Jenks | My First Painting Will be “The Accuser” | Zephyr Press, 2005

Janet Rodney | Moon On an Oarblade Rowing | First Intensity, 2005

Kaia Sand | Interval | Edge Books, 2004

Juliana Spahr | This Connection of Everyone with Lungs | U of California P, 2005

Keith Waldrop | The Real Subject: Queries and Conjectures of Jacob Delafon | Omnidawn, 2004

Kim Lyons | Saline | Instance Press, 2005
Andrew Joron  | Fathom | Black Square Editions, 2003
Howard McCord | Gnomonology |  Sand Dollar Press, 1971

Lead to this book via Jed Rasula’s This Compost (U Georgia, 2002).
Cedar Sigo |  Selected Writings | Second Edition | Ugly Duckling Press, 2005
Dale Smith | Notes No Answers |  Habenicht Press , 2005

About Union Square Poetry Series, co-curated by Daniel Bouchard. Back to directory.

Jerrold Shiroma

Michael Palmer | The Company of Moths | New Directions, 2005

Bei Dao | Midnight's Gate | New Directions, 2005

The Yale Anthology of Twentieth-Century French Poetry | Ed. Mary Ann Caws | Yale University Press, 2004

Aleksandr Rodchenko | Experiments for the Future | Museum of Modern Art, 2005

Adonis | A Time Between Roses | Syracuse University Press, 2004

João Cabral de Melo Neto | Education By Stone | Archipelago Books, 2005

Amelia Rosselli | War Variations | Green Integer, 2005

Stephane Mallarmé | A Tomb for Anatole | New Directions, 2005

Michel Deguy | Recumbents | Wesleyan University Press, 2005

Dunya Mikhail | The War Works Hard | New Directions, 2005

Max Ernst: A Retrospective | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005

About Jerrold Shiroma. Back to directory.

Rosmarie Waldrop

Recent delights in American poetry...

Ben Lerner | The Lichtenberg Figures |Copper Canyon, 2004

Damon Krukowski | The Memory Theater Burned |Turtle Point, 2004

Elizabeth Willis | Meteoric Flowers | Atticus/Finch, 2004

Devin Johnston | Telepathy | Paper Bark Press, 2001

Laura Moriarty | Self-Destruction | Post-Apollo, 2004

Kerri Sonnenberg | The Mudra | Litmus, 2004

...and in French

David Lespiau | La poursuite de Tom | Farrago, 2003
David Lespiau | La poule est un oiseau autodidacte | Farrago, 2005

Anne Portugal | voyer en l'air | L'Attente, 2001

Suzanne Doppelt | Quelque chose cloche | POL, 2004

Caroline Dubois | c’est toi le business | POL, 2005
Caroline Dubois | Arrete maintenant | Eds. de l’Attente, 2001

Dominique Fourcade | en laisse | POL, 2005
Dominique Fourcade | sans lasso et sans flash | POL, 2005
Dominique Fourcade
| éponges modèle 2003 | POL, 2005

Michelle Grangaud | Souvenirs de ma vie collective | POL, 2000

Isabelle Garron | Face devant contre | Flammarion, 2002

About Rosmarie Waldrop. Return to directory.

Pam Brown

Justin Clemens | The Mundiad | Black Inc., 2004

A mock epic modelled on classical poems à la Virgil or Milton. A fabulously irreverent rant, the story of the lusty liaison between Juliano Parataxis and Sophy Vesperal and the conception and eventual premature birth of their daughter, Mundia. Scholarly without being ponderous, beautifully elegiac about popular culture and witty to boot. Justin Clemens revives the ancient poetic ambition to speak differently about the world.

Dirk van Bastelaere | The Last To Leave : Selected Poems | Shearsman Books, 2005

Flemish postmodernist brought into English here by three translators – an intertextualist in pursuit of the limit-experience. Unfastened and fast.

Laurie Duggan | Compared To What : Selected Poems | Shearsman Books, 2005

Poems collected here from a span of over thirty years reveal Laurie Duggan’s immense technical, emotional and intellectual range. This excellent selection’s publication in the northern hemisphere has been long-overdue. Laurie Duggan is one of the few ‘greats’ in Australian poetry.

Samuel Wagan Watson | smoke encrypted whispers | UQP, 2004

More a walkabout than a fashionable white flâneur’s stroll. Sam Wagan-Watson’s poems drift like smoke though worlds of encrypted urban experience. Already estranged by indigenality, this poet takes his ‘itinerant blues’ on the road (from Brisbane to Berlin) and, on the way, decodes and seeks a transforming, connecting language.

John Kinsella | Doppler Effect | Salt Publishing, 2004

Super-conscious lines of flight, a tour de force of innovation : conceptual and various - beyond categorisation. The experimental side of John Kinsella’s poetry assisted by Marjorie Perloff’s introduction – this book is ‘out there’.

Lutz Seiler | In the year one | Giramondo, 2005

Selected poetry describing life in an irradiated mining area in Thuringia in Germany - an attempt to deal with the damage without ecological tub-thumping. The poems are in both English and German. Lutz Seiler is the founding editor of the Berlin little magazine ‘moosbrand’.

Lidija Cvetkovic | War Is Not The Season For Figs | UQP, 2004

A gifted newcomer to Australian poetry, Lidija Cvetkovic writes with sustained elegance even in the face of the solemn complexities of lives deeply affected and displaced by political events in the collapsed world of the war-torn Balkans. These poems are grounded in the space of the migrant, where memory of family and place intersects with a new life in Australia. The poems also mourn the loss of childhood and grieve for the destruction of her former homeland. Serious yet never sombre, sometimes startling yet never histrionic, they are imbued with a minimalist clarity in the midst of descriptions of hugely human troubles and triumphs.

Rachel Loden | The Richard Nixon Snow Globe | Wild Honey Press, 2005

A continuation of her poetic dissection of what made (the Cold War) &/or makes (the Iraq war) the politics of the U.S. presidencies and other authoritative social institutions so blatantly corrupt. Sceptical, witty, incisive, clear-as-well-as-ironic. Is Rachel Loden an anarchist ? Is the Pope a Catholic ?

Michele Leggott | milk & honey | AUP, 2005

Sensual rhapsodies or celebratory litanies probably influenced by and definitely reminiscent of Portuguese fado (never as sorrowful). A poetry of feeling with grace and sensitivity making for compelling beauty and strength. Possibly aiming for transcendence.

Donald Kuspit | The End Of Art | Cambridge University Press, 2004

Postart – the elevation of the mediocre via the banal – has replaced art. Art’s finished because (unlike Michele Leggott’s poetry) it has lost its aesthetic. What happened to art in the twentieth century – culminating in a final stage of anti-aesthetic and ideological post-modernity. This book heralds a reaction, a back-to-the-future revitalization, via New Old Masters this century. It reminds me to remember memory.

William Corbett (ed.) | Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-1991 | Turtle Point Press, 2004

As wonderful, as funny, as graceful and as sentient as the poems and novels.

About Pam Brown. Back to directory.

Michael Kelleher

Robert Creeley | For Love, Poems 1950-1960; Words; Pieces; Echoes; Life and Death; If I were writing this | Scribner, 1962; Scribner, 1967; Scribner, 1968; New Directions, 1994; New Directions, 1998; New Directions, 2003

Returned to the early books that first blew my mind, still do, then on again to the later, which repeated the action. Late poems like “Conversion to Her” and “Histoire de Florida” have the same power to confound and amaze, not to mention frighten, as the early work.  Now that the worldwide obit-hatchet-job is over with, critics should start to wake to the fact of late Creeley. It’s much like late Yeats: a great flower burst forth in its dying.

Phillip K. Dick | Time Out of Joint; The Man in the High Castle; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch; The Simulacra; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; Valis; The Transmigration of Timothy Archer | Vintage (all but “Androids," by Del Rey), 1959; 1962; 1964; 1964; 1968; 1969; 1981; 1982

Something of a one-trick pony, Dick’s trick’s a good one: setting up a believable alternate reality and then creating a narrative that slowly rips through the fabric of said reality.  Each book’s pleasure comes at just the moment the fabric tears. Though the late stuff gets a bit convoluted and overly religious for my taste, the paranoia is timely and entertaining as ever.

Jennifer Moxley | Imagination Verses; The Sense Record and other poems; Often Capital | Tender Buttons, 1996; Edge Books, 2002; Flood Editions, 2005

When Jennifer visited Buffalo this year, I decided to review her most recent book in my weekly newspaper column. In so doing, I discovered a poet whose work I greatly admire. My favorite of the three books is The Sense Record, which combines technical virtuosity at the level of the line with a rich depth of field suited to the longish form many of the poems take.

Benjamin Friedlander | Simulcast; A Knot is Not a Tangle | University of Alabama, 2004; Krupskaya, 2000

First of all, let me say I don’t generally enjoy literary criticism, though for some reason I’ve read a lot of late.  Second, let me say that Simulcast, in addition to being literary criticism, is also one of the most entertaining books I’ve read in years. Ben’s acid humor and surpassing intellect combine to create a unique social history that is ultimately more subversive than the subject under scrutiny. Lead me to finally buy “Knot”: I’d read all the chapbooks leading up to the collection, but never the collection as a whole. Ben’s ear is Creeley’s true heir.

Robert Duncan and Levertov, Denise | The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov | Ed. Robert J Bertholf and Albert Gelpi | Stanford, 2004

The meat of the matter is the rift that opens over the role of the poet in relation to the Vietnam War protest movement, but the entertainment value lies in the earlier letters, which are peppered with often biting criticisms of publishers, editors, anthologists, contemporaries and friends. A gossipmonger’s delight!

Takashi Miike | Black Society Trilogy; The Bird People in China; Andromedia; Audition; Dead or Alive Trilogy; Visitor Q; Ichi the Killer; The Happiness of the Katakuris; Gozu; Izo | 1995-Present | DVD

Takashi Miike is by far the most prolific (65 films directed since 1991), most daring, most wide-ranging filmmaker in modern times. His work utilizes and subverts many genres of filmmaking—fantasy, film noir, Yakuza films, manga comic adaptations, teenybopper music videos, sci-fi, horror, even a full-length musical—often combining two or three at a time.  Not for the faint of heart, these films often violently violate more taboos in 90 minutes than anything I’ve ever seen. However, the blistering, often poetic cinematography and truly surprising (at times bizarre and incoherent) twists and turns these films take make suffering the disgusting parts well worth the trip.

iPod | Apple Computer | 2004

When I was a teenager, my parents forbad me a good record collection for fear rock n’ roll would make me a devil worshipper. I have bitter memories of being sent back to the record store with the latest AC/DC album in my hands and asking for a refund because they had seen the song “Hell’s Bells” listed on the back. So I spent my allowance on cigarettes, booze and drugs, depending on friends and late night sessions with a clock radio to know what was happening.  It is an understatement to say I felt deprived.  The iPod is sweet revenge.

Jonathan Skinner | Political Cactus Poems | Palm Press, 2005

A thinking poetry by Mr. ecopoetics himself. By turns funny, serious, mournful, and plain happy to be “mining” the world the poems explore and we inhabit. Humanity no longer at the center of activity, language opens to the other systems at work in our ecosphere. The title pieces are my favs.

Semezdin Mehmedinovic | Nine Alexandrias | Trans. Ammiel Alcalay | City Lights, 2003

Short, direct, haunting, beautiful poems. Great translation by Alcalay.

Ammiel Alcalay | CUNY Grad Center Course Syllabi and Reading Lists | PDF | Now

Ammiel Alcalay puts together long, detailed reading lists for his courses at City College. They cover the intellectual landscape in a manner that can, encouragingly, be termed “Olsonian.” Worth requesting from Ammiel if you are looking for interesting books to read on a wide range of cultural topics, but more importantly because it places all the poetry books on the list one has already read into a much more radical historical and cultural context than one had previously imagined for them.

Buster Olney | Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, The Team and the Cost of Greatness | Ecco, 2004

What can I say? It’s been hard watching the Yankees come up short the last few years after the glory days of the late 90’s. This book documents the dynastic era within the entertaining if somewhat strained structural conceit of an inning-by-inning analysis of game 7 of the 2001 World Series – the “last night,” as it were. Kind of builds toward nothing, but the payoff’s in the details that pepper the path.

About Michael Kelleher. Back to directory.

Graham Foust

Merle Haggard | The Peer Sessions | Audium Entertainment, 2002

I once heard that Joe Strummer said something like: “If you don’t like Bruce Springsteen, you’re a heartless, pretentious Martian.” I’d agree, and I’d say the same thing of Merle. There are few records on which you are able to hear someone smiling, thinking “God, this is fucking fun.” Joe Strummer made one (cf. London Calling); this one’s Haggard’s.

Emily Wilson | The Keep | University of Iowa Press, 2001

This book is endlessly smart, beautifully weird and incredibly addictive. I sit down to write about it nearly every other month, and I always end up just giving in and reading it again.

The National | Alligator | Beggars Banquet, 2005

The third album by the best band in the world. Don’t like The National? You’re wrong. (See also “Driver, Surprise Me,” the B-side to their “Abel” single.)

James McMichael | The World at Large: New and Selected Poems, 1971-1996 | University of Chicago Press, 1996

Had someone asked me six months ago whether or not I liked James McMichael, I probably would have said something like “Oh, I don’t really follow NASCAR” or “Hmm, I think he was a senior when I was a freshman” or, if I’d been feeling more honest, “Who the hell is James McMichael and what are you doing in my shower?” I’ve now rectified this potentially embarrassing state of being. I very much love this book’s objects, food, rooms.

Steve Langan | Freezing | New Issues, 2001

Growing up in the Midwest, I heard records by Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, Uncle Tupelo, and other heartland bands in a particular way, a way that taught me (for better and for worse) how to live—and how not to live—in my given surroundings, as well as how to love those surroundings even when I loathed them. Lately, the hard, dark poems in Freezing, a book largely set in Omaha, Nebraska (or someplace very much like it), have been doing the same thing for me that those records once did. Apparently, I still have a lot of growing up to do.

Philip Jenks | My first painting will be “The Accuser” | Zephyr Press, 2005

Sold. And it damn sure won’t look pretty over the sofa.

Taylor Brady | Yesterday’s News | Factory School, 2005

As the Whiskeytown song of the same name says: “It’s a lot like falling down, standing up.”

Richard Siken | Crush | Yale University Press, 2005

A bully in junior high once told me he was going to pull my lungs out through my asshole. I don’t think he realized the implications of what he was saying, but Richard Siken probably would. There’s a thing in my stomach about this book.

Rob Halpern | Rumored Place | Krupskaya, 2004

Is it just me, or is this the book that many, many books prior to it were trying so hard—which is to say way too hard—to be?

Percival Everett | Cutting Lisa | Ticknor & Fields, 1986

I read this novel in one sitting, and when I was finished, I threw up. And when I was done throwing up, I sat down and read it again. I guess there’s a thing in my stomach—or perhaps not in my stomach—about this book, too.

Melissa Hotchkiss | Storm Damage | Tupelo Press, 2002

Like Bronk or Oppen sans some of the pomp; like Niedecker without the particular circumstance. A clear, modest and funny volume in a time of much muddled, self-absorbed moping.

For the last three years, Graham Foust has made it policy to live only in states that end with the letter “a.” In the early 1990’s, he played lead guitar for Johnny Negative and His Ark of Hate. Back to directory.

Ammiel Alcalay

Wanda Coleman | The Riot Inside Me: More Trials & Tremors | Black Sparrow, David R. Godine, 2005

An antidote to the humorless world of theory and political correctness: essential and inimitable.

Cheryl Clarke | "After Mecca": Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement | Rutgers University Press, 2005

Important alternative history.

Laura Elrick | sKincerity | Krupskaya, 2003

Perfectly calibrated: unafraid to feel and think at the same time.

Four Arrows and Jim Fetzer | American Assassination: The Strange Death of Senator Paul Wellstone | Vox Pop, 2004

Essential reading; published by Sander Hicks's new bookstore, cafe, print-on-demand and press in Brooklyn.

David Graeber | Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology | Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004

Graeber has recently taken some academic heat at Yale where he professes; author of the important Toward An Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (Palgrave, 2001), a quite successful attempt to merge the thought of Karl Marx and Marcel Mauss and come up with something else, this short essay is extremely useful for thinking about all kinds of things, in theory, practice and action.

David Ray Griffin | The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions | Olive Branch Press, 2005

Jack Spicer talked about the "real" while the government has expended enormous energy since the end of WWII on dissassociating its citizenry from the real, whenever and wherever it might be found. With 9/11, new vistas in obfuscation have been reached. Griffin is one of the best and clearest out there at getting through the rubble. This latest book might best be prefaced by his earlier The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 (Olive Branch Press, 2004).

K. Curtis Lyle | Electric Church | Beyond Baroque, 2003

Legendary founding member of the important Watts Writing Workshop, Lyle's work has been exceedingly difficult to come by until this fantastic collection, introduced by Will Alexander.

Aldon Lynn Nielsen | Integral Music: Languages of African American Innovation | University of Alabama, 2004

The section on the Baraka / Olson relationship alone is worth the price of admission. Filled with insight and neglected intersections.

Ilario Salucci | A People's History If Iraq: The Iraqi Communist Party, Workers' Movements, and the Left 1924-2004 | Haymarket Books, 2005

The great big gaping hole in books about the Middle East, particularly in the United States, is the willed ignorance and suppression of information on leftist movements throughout the 20th century. Concise and thorough, this mini-history is greatly indebted to the work of the great, great, great scholar Hanna Batatu, whose encyclopedic and deeply human epic study The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq: A Study of Iraq's Old Landed and Commercial Classes and Its Communists, Ba'thists, and Free Officers (Princeton University Press, 1978), remains one of the most important works of 20th c. social and political history. Both books are of particular interest to me as they form the background to a novel that I just finished co-translating (with novelist Oz Shelach); the novel, Outcast, by Shimon Ballas (due out from City Lights in 2006) narrates the story of an Iraqi Jew who converts to Islam and writes A History of the Jews; the novel opens with the protagonist getting a medal of honor from Sadaam Hussein at the beginning of the Iran/Iraq war and follows his memories back through various revolutions, coups, world wars, and friendships.

Richard F. Townsend, General Editor | Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South | Art Institute of Chicago, Yale University Press, 2004

A stunning, groundbreaking presentation of ancient American art in its contexts. The visuals are astonishing.

About Ammiel Alcalay. Back to directory.

Brenda Iijima

Thalia Field | Incarnate: Story Material | New Directions, 2004

Peter Larkin | Terrain Seed Scarcity | Salt, 2001

Madeline Gins and Arakawa | Architectural Body | The University of Alabama Press, 2002

Evelyn Reilly | Hiatus | Barrow Street, 2004

Danielle Collobert | Notebooks 1956-1978 | Litmus Press, 2003

Gilles Deleuze | Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974 | 2004

Norma Cole | Spinoza in Her Youth | Omnidawn, 2002

Nicole Brossard | LOVHERS | Guernica, 1986

David Levi Strauss | Between the Eyes | Aperture, 2003

Peter Lamborn Wilson | Cross-Dressing in the Anti-Rent War | manuscript soon to be a PORTABLE PRESS AT YO-YO LABS publication

Jill Magi | Cadastral Map | manuscript soon to be a PORTABLE PRESS AT YO-YO LABS publication

About Brenda Iijima. Back to directory.

Kevin Killian

Note: Steve, you should have this perhaps four times a year, for I feel I have just skimmed the surface.  These are just the books I’ve been reading in the past couple weeks; oodles of titles have escaped me, lost to me from early spring, from New Years, winter, etc.  But, thanks for giving me the chance to express my enthusiasm for:

Steve Benson | Open Clothes | Atelos, 2005

A welcome return by one of the poets most important to me as I came of age.  In this category I might also mention I Never Knew What Time It Was, by David Antin (University of California Press, 2005), a book I find myself going back, back, back to, even with its stupid title.

Taylor Brady | Yesterday’s News | Factory School, 2005

Oh!  I should just disqualify myself right now.  I’m no fit judge of this book’s merits.  I opened it up and saw that this was some kind of day book of poetry written during the year 2003, and I saw a poem for me that Taylor wrote when I was in the hospital way back when, and very sick and no one knew what would become of me!  Now, when I read it again, in this context, feelings that beggar my powers to describe overwhelm and dissolve me.  Like Alice, I’m in a pool of tears.  But others have found this book most worthy, others, with stonier constitutions than mine.

Brent Cunningham | Bird & Forest | Ugly Duckling Presse | 2005

Ugly Duckling Presse has put out some terrific books. Cedar Sigo, whose Selected Writings I recommended to you last year, has a new (#2) book of them, also from UDP.  Cunningham’s book has its rough edges and soft spots, but I think he wanted it that way, to take the sheen off the poetry and return it to a tactile state.  At the same time the presentation is lovely, as though they had brought back MC Escher and MC Hammer and had them duke it out to make the book jacket.

Kenneth Goldsmith, ed. | I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews | Carroll & Graf, 2004

Not a book of poetry per se, but the font of poetry.  Just about everything he said turns out to have some application to our work.  It’s funny how intellectual he seems written down, compared to the way he spoke, where his pronouncements all seemed vapid.  He could have read aloud from Wittgenstein and made him sound like Lorelei Lee.  Goldsmith presents us with a provocative, assured (except where tormented), king of cool who has something like a poem in every page.

Carla Harryman | Baby | Zephyr Press, 2005

Every time she finishes a book it’s an occasion, and this one has arrived, almost sneaking up into my line of vision, without my even knowing it.  How long has this been out?  Already it feels like a classic.  Every time she releases a project it’s so different from the previous ones you feel the poles shifting as in The Day After Tomorrow.  And here it is, at last, the distinguished thing.

Aaron Kunin | Folding Ruler Star | Fence Books, 2005

I won’t pretend I understand everything that’s happening in Aaron Kunin’s book, because I have the feeling I’m walking along escaping procedural dangers at every step I take through the pages of Folding Ruler Star.  I get that when you open the book, two pages mirror each other left and right, and that somehow if you read this work syllable by syllable, another book emerges backwards, like the song that told us that John buried Paul.  It’s an immensely quotable book, the kind of thing that makes you feel you’ve read it in your youth and loved it back then too.

David Larsen | The Thorn | Faux Press, 2005

A book of anger, the fury that sweeps through the plain, the Abolitionist anger that made John Brown steal that ferry.  When you see him perform this book you wonder for his health, as you do seeing Kenward Elmslie read his work, for both of them put so much energy into inhabiting these visions and making us see, forcibly, the horror of existence.

Jennifer Moxley | Often Capital | Flood Editions, 2005

Gee, Steve, I shouldn’t be recommending this book to you of all people, but what the hey, she’s got something that comes along once every hundred years or 250 years or so, like Seabiscuit. 

Standard Schaefer | Water & Power | Agincourt Press, 2005

The variety of Schaefer’s poems, that shows up on the page, each piece completely different than the others, as though the Fairy of Forms had sprinkled Standard Schaefer with confetti at his christening.  Together they mount up and investigate, like, the poetic matter of Southern California.  I didn’t think this would be good but it is awesome!  This book puts you into a different world so that when you put it down, you bump into the furniture.  Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.

Jonathan Skinner | Political Cactus Poems | Palm Press, 2005

Here’s another poet whose work I first heard, I think at Orono, and then later seeing it in the book opened for me a new savanna.  Even the section I thought wasn’t working last week, well, today I get it.  I’m a slow learner!  This was the one with the pictures of cactuses in it.  Anyhow reading Skinner’s poetry led me on to further adventures in ecology and in poetry.  I bought a “Bird Song Ear Training Guide” which tells you the different words the birds sing, “Poor Sam Peabody” by the white-throated sparrow, and “Who’s Awake?  Me too” by the great horned owl, nearly the kind of things Skinner’s poetry teaches us.  Then I find out the handbook is only for the birds of the north!

Alli Warren | Hounds | Privately published, 2005

“To Those That Would Deny Poetry” is one of the titles in this small book of poems, and if you ask me, Alli Warren has a defiant word or two for the Philistines, like Christ shaking the money changers out of the Bible.  Her writing is exciting, it reminds me of a time, long ago, when I first read Kim Rosenfield’s poetry as an adult and how astounded I was.  Okay, the book is pretty slight, but she gives every sign of becoming one of those poets you don’t know how to live without.

About Kevin Killian. Back to directory.

John Palattella

John Ashbery | Selected Prose | Michigan, 2004

Peter Gizzi | Periplum and Other Poems | Salt, 2004

Jorie Graham | Overlord | Ecco, 2005

The Hat #6 | Edited by Jordan Davis and Chris Edgar | Spring 2005

Robert Lowell | The Letters of Robert Lowell | Ed. Sashkia Hamilton | Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005

Olivier Roy | L'Islam mondialisé (2nd edition) | Seuil, 2004

Michael Palmer | Company of Moths | New Directions, 2005

Claudia Rankine | Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric | Graywolf, 2004

Juliana Spahr | This Connection of Everyone with Lungs: Poems | California, 2005

Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff | War and The Iliad | Ed. Christopher Benfey | New York Review Books, 2005

About John Palattella. Back to directory.

Marcella Durand

Nicole Brossard | Intimate Journals | The Mercury Press, 2004

"Every day, I have to risk new mental positions otherwise I founder in the anecdotal or else I linger over facile equations of the type this equals that or that does not equal that."

Gail Scott | My Paris | Dalkey, 2003

Read this after Edmund White's The Flaneur and then throw The Flaneur away in total disgust, as I did.

Kimberly Lyons | Saline | Instance Press, 2005

71 precious pages to feed hungry fans.

Shanxing Wang | Mad Science in Imperial City | Futurepoem, 2005

The table of elements meets ping-pong in astonishing narrative.

Will Alexander | Towards the Primeval Lightning Field | O Books, 1998

The book "says" it was published in 1998, but I think it was actually published in 20,008 (AD or BC, take your choice).

Lorine Niedecker | Paean to Place | Light & Dust/Woodland Pattern, 2003
Lorine Niedecker | North Central | Fulcrum Press, 1968

I've been accumulating all her smaller books in a futile effort to avoid the siren call of the huge, beautiful, and very expensive new collection from U. of California.

Clark Coolidge | Space | Harper & Row, 1970

In preparation for Coolidge's great reading with Michael Gizzi at the Poetry Project on May 4, 2005.

Talk by Vija Celmins on Agnes Martin on Oct. 4, 2004, at DIA

Notes taken: "Using the entire plane of the painting/stillness, listing of constellations thru 4 seasons/ It's all about composition—Martin/ It's all about form—Celmins."

James Schuyler | Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-1991 | Turtle Point Press, 2004

To Joe Brainard, 6/28/70: "It's a bright pale blue morning and what I think is called a spanking breeze is blowing. Wait a minute while I put my ass out the window. Yes, it is a spanking breeze."

Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Drafts 1-38, Toll | Wesleyan | 2001

Her poem in issue 2 of the Poker ("Draft 57: Workplace: Nekuia") led me to this (thank you Dan B, very much).

About Marcella Durand. Back to directory.

Crag Hill

Rodrigo Toscano | To Leveling Swerve | Krupskaya, 2004

Catherine Wagner | Macular Hole | Fence Books, 2004

Thom Gunn | Boss Cupid | Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000

Harryette Mullen | Muse & Drudge | Singing Horse Press, 1995

C. D. Wright | Steal Away | Copper Canyon Press, 2003

Lisa Lubasch | To Tell The Lamp | Avec Books, 2004

Jonathan Brannen | deaccessioned landscapes | Chax Press, 2005

Maria Damon & mIEKAL aND | Literature Nation | Potes & Poets Press, 2003

Bob Perelman and Francie Shaw | Playing Bodies | Granary Books, 2004

John Perlman | Self Portrait | The Elizabeth Press, 1976

Forrest Gander | Science & Steepleflower | New Directions, 1997

More Crag Hill. Back to directory.

Gary Sullivan

Jordan Davis | Million Poems | | 2002-2005

The scope of the project—however doomed its stated "goal"—puts Jordan into an interesting situation. He must simply produce, factory like, by whatever means possible, using as many various springboards, models, and new ideas that he can come up with, and continue to make the product, and the overall project, at least entertaining and instructive enough for him to want to keep doing it. As with the Flarflist, which Jordan has not been quite so active on since he started this blog, Million Poems has begun to warp its sole participant's usual practice so as to consider—and be pulled along by—the medium and situation. (Witness the increasing number of poems Jordan has written in response to specific Internet searches that have led various people to his site.) The longer he keeps this project going, the more various and inventive he's going to have to be—I almost can't wait to see what he'll be posting to it in five years.

Brandon Downing | Dark Brandon | Faux Press, 2005

The number of poet-responses to the medium of film are legion, ranging from single poems to book-length projects. Dark Brandon is one of the more innovative and certainly the most consistently entertaining uses of film-as-springboard that I've read to date. I doubt, however, that each and every one of these poems is really a specific response to a film, although I could be wrong. (The GWB poems, for instance, although there might be a film, unstated, that serves as jumping off point.) If you can catch Brandon live, do so: I was fortunate enough to have seen him last year read his "Phantasm" response to a sped-up version of the film itself—a singularly wonderful experience. "Too many figures? I don't. I think it's/ Something, like a seesaw under a bell."

Benjamin Friedlander | Simulcast | University of Alabama Press, 2004

The sharpest, funniest, most relevant book about our neck of the poetry world that we're ever likely to see. Surprisingly little has been written about it, despite the fact that Ben does not seem to be without a significant following of readers appreciative of his work, both poetic and critical. There is not even so much as a publisher's press release—not to mention the usual clip from Publishers Weekly—on its page. That's gotta be fixed. This isn't one of the best of the year; it's one of the best of our era.

Nada Gordon | Folly | manuscript

My single favorite writer of her generation—in fact, my favorite living writer period—and one whose impressive, astonishing, and unique body of work is long overdue for serious, critical examination. Sadly, her best book to date, V. Imp, is out of print less than three years after publication. Folly, when it's published—with work showing her at the top of her expressive, sonic, and inventive powers—should bring her singular writing to the attention of many new readers.

Rodney Koeneke | Rouge State | Pavement Saw, 2003

The oldest book on this list because it's one I keep going back to with increasing levels of interest. It's the centerpiece for a multimedia talk Nada and I will be giving at SPT this October on The Autré, a term we coined together for the purpose of this event, and which came in part out of our mutual admiration for this book. I notice that everyone I've written about so far can be said to lack the critical attention due to him or her; Nada and I are getting ready to remedy at least this one instance of critical neglect.

David Larsen | The Thorn | Faux Press, 2005

A strong, emotionally raw first outing from a much-loved, but heretofore underpublished Bay Area poet and artist. You see David's drawings everywhere: on magazine covers, in books and on their covers, in the Poetry Project Newsletter, but how often do you come across any of his poetry? Not often enough to prepare anyone for how much this book is going to matter to them when they pick it up. Thanks must go to the forward-looking Jack Kimball for making it happen.

Nick Piombino | Fait Accompli | htttp:// | 2003-2005

The single best, most consistently entertaining, risky, and innovative blog project by a poet to date. Like Jordan, Nick has allowed the medium itself to determine the most crucial elements of his blog; unlike Jordan, Nick does not post exclusively new material. Much of the blog is made up from his journal entries, which go back to the late 60s. He doesn't post them randomly: I always have the sense that the journal entries are put there for the purpose of entering into a dialog with other threads going on in blogland. A book of selections from Nick's blog will never hope to do the blog itself justice, but I still want the first copy that anyone prints—it'll be that good.

Jerome Sala | Look Slimmer Instantly! | Soft Skull, 2005

I felt, reading this book, that Jerome has become the great poet that Lew Welch might have been had he continued at his ad gig and fully explored everything he put on the table with his prescient, satirical "Din Poem." I was waiting for Jerome to put out a new book for a very long time and it more than exceeded my rather high expectations for it. I will be studying this book—not to mention laughing with it—for years to come. "We don't know much about the end/ except that it's usually pretty mean."

Ron Silliman | Under Albany | Salt, 2005

"The single best," "it'll be that good," "that we're ever likely to see," "for years to come"— my god, when did Ron Silliman take over my mind? If I was Ron, I'd say, "The moment I picked up Ron Silliman's Under Albany, simply the best book to come out of the post-language era from one of the pioneers of the movement." If I was Gary, I'd say the same thing, but would distance myself from it using some lame device like pretending that Ron—well, you get the point. The truth is, I've been a genuine fan of Ron's poetry for many years, and none of it prepared me for this book. In a year of outstanding memoirs (Ron Padgett's Joe being a good example), Under Albany—a personal history built from single lines in Silliman's poem, "Albany"—stood out as the most innovative, interesting, and entertaining example.

Chris Stroffolino | Speculative Primitive | Tougher Disguises, 2005

Comprised of work mostly written before Chris left New York for the Bay Area, the follow-up to Stealer's Wheel is intense, raw, introspective, digressive, chatty, funny, infuriating—everything that Chris is in person, but honed down into these outrageous and addictive poems. Even if you hated Chris's poetry—and I happen to love it—you could never mistake it for anyone else's.

Various Authors | The Flarflist | private listserv | 2001-2005

The last year has seen a turn from listward to outward, as increasing numbers of participants ready collections of work first posted to the list into book form. Everyone seems to have an opinion about whatever they suppose goes on on the flarflist—and as a flurry of books from individual listmembers is on the brink of publication, it looks as though a collection of posts to the list, highlighting the interplay between participants, will not be too far behind. In private, the list does not currently have the oomph it had, say, two years ago, but listmembers are still generating hilarious, outrageous, innovative, and surprising new work, and I expect the list will be going strong for some time into the future.

More Gary Sullivan. Back to directory.

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