A product of Third Factory
Guy Davenport & Jonathan Williams | A Garden Carried in a Pocket: Letters 1964-1968, ed. Thomas Meyer | Green Shade | 2004
These forty-year-old epistles between two of the great eccentrics of American writing manage to cast their youngish authors as crusty, ancient men of letters: fascinating stuff, tho clearly products of the left hand.
Jacques Derrida | Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan | Fordham | 2005
Little here that couldn't be hunted down in other venues, & some of it—the great "Shibboleth" essay—marred by pedantic "corrections" of perfectly adequate earlier translations; but nonetheless something of a revelation to have all of Derrida's comments on Celan in one place, demonstrating how central the poet was to some aspects of the philosopher's thought.
Lee Ann Brown | The Sleep That Changed Everything | Wesleyan | 2003
A rich jumble of the highly sophisticated and the movingly faux-naïve: the collection as group upon which the poetics of the Appalachian ballad and the New York School poem swap partners and try on each other's clothes.
Ronald Johnson | RADI OS | Flood | 2005
A book I've owned so long—in its first 1977 Sand Dollar printing—that its angularities have almost become worn down in my mind; this new edition, handsomely and faithfully reset, has made Johnson's rewriting of Milton come alive once again.
Stefan Müller-Doohm | Adorno: A Biography | Polity | 2005
Perhaps as much detail as any reader could ever desire about Adorno's life and career, but surprisingly engrossing in its relentless chronicling; it makes Adorno come alive as nothing short of Adorno's own writing does.
John Peck | Red Strawberry Leaf: Selected Poems, 1994-2002 | Chicago | 2005
Peck, while his work is kept in print by a coterie of loyal enthusiasts, is the most unnoticed great poet of his day; this latest collection is stunning in its musicality & density of thought.
John Wilkinson | Proud Flesh | Salt | 2005
A reissue of the 1986 culmination of Wilkinson's "early" work, astonishingly combining the physiological & the affective: the love poem as vivisection.
Lisa Robertson | Debbie: An Epic | Reality Street | 1997
An index of how out of touch I am, that it's taken me almost a decade to latch onto Robertson's mind-blowing reinvention of the classical epic, a long poem that marries innovative typography, a multiplicity of voices, and deftly handled traditional measures.
Stéphane Mallarmé | Mallarmé in Prose, ed. Mary Ann Caws | New Directions | 2001
The most ample and varied selection of the prose Mallarmé in English, revealing the French poet as far more exploratory, eccentric, & oddly down-to-earth than his verse writings alone would indicate.
Neal Stephenson | The Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World) | William Morrow | 2003-4
Stephenson's version of the historical novel leans more towards the Dumasian than the Pynchonian, but this brilliantly lively 3000-page work is salted with wonderful (& quite intentional) anachronism, & manages to grip this reader on a number of levels: a myriad of vivid characters, a propulsively complex plot, & a philosophically sophisticated underpinning.
John Ruskin | Fors Clavigera | pamphlets in installments | 1871-1884
Like Boswell's life of Johnson, not so much a book to be read thru as
lifetime's reading assignment: a comprehensive, maddeningly circular & eccentric education in architecture, art history, political economy, & moral theory (with dashes of autobiography & literary criticism thrown in along the way).
More Mark Scroggins. Back to directory.
Trying my darnedest to pull together an "annotated" list for Steve Evans's Attention Span "collectively-drawn map of the field," one of the most satisfying collaborative labors of the "age." Trouble is, I look back at a year "in ruins," full up with fictions. And, my books a-jumble, double-shelved everywhere, I am sure to've overlooked something. My big reading jags included everything I could find by Gilbert Adair, a monster-passel of Jonathan Lethem, a growl or two of Edward Dahlberg, some Susan Sontag, culminated (fiercely soared—meaning if I had to pick one single book of the year) with the first volume, recently translated by Joachim Neugroschel, of Peter Weiss's extraordinary trilogy, The Aesthetics of Resistance, and moved lately into the newish Spanish-language writers Roberto Bolaño, Javier Marías, and César Aira. If I review my meagre notes, I see too little poetry—as if the bust-out torrential accumulation of it all'd made me draw back. That, or my aversion to the increasingly predictable and puerile "disjunctive" practices, as if a heap of fragments'd be enough. Nevertheless, I'll squint and spit and consider. (Some of the notes are new, some pulled out ("reframed") of notes at Rue Hazard, or Isola di Rifiuti. No particular order.) Alors:
Merrill Gilfillan | Selected Poems 1965-2000 | Adventures in Poetry | 2005
For the precisions (and imprecisions) of the natural world and all the human debris that impinges on it. "A hem of willows worn basketball orange." Lots of Gilfillan's early work, the originals published by Doones, Angel Hair, Blue Wind, legendary and now hard to find. Poetry less spare and incisive (cut) than Gilfillan's current stuff, though the eye is nearly as infallible. See:
Piss Ant and Peony
The word peony
like the word firefly
held so powerful a charge
for the Japanese
it was used in poems
sparingly, with great care
was Thomas Eakins'
dog. . . .
Bonus: back cover photograph of Gilfillan in Iowa City circa 1968, manual typewriter, pheasant feather stuck in Lancer's bottle, dirty ashtray, paper clutter, tumbler in fist.
Ryan Murphy | Down with the Ship | Otis / Seismicity | 2006
Disparate elements hard-bargained for, and won. "Alka-Seltzer, auburn, / creosote, combine. / I resolve." Murphy's first book, though he's put out a couple chapbooks. He's another (authentic) sucker for the ongoing miasma and effervesce of the natural world, a thing increasingly rare. "We mourn the loss / of our nature poets." Dopey syntactical sleights, Poems for Pitchers ("Dear Gaylord Perry"), a willingness (rare, too) to write feelings plain, or barely daubed with admissible sardonic tinge, enough to complicate the delivery of things:
You're undressing in the dark
You're undressing in the shotgun light of a Coors can
What tides await us
Elizabeth Willis | Meteoric Flowers | Wesleyan | 2006
Though I didn't exactly savage Meteoric Flowers, I did turn a wry eye at its achievement (only if aligned against its ambition), drawing my measure for the latter off Willis's nod to the polymathic over-achiever Erasmus Darwin, late eighteenth-century doctor, botanist, inventor, poet, and intellectual precursor to grandson Charles. Willis, in a "Note on the Text," says Darwin's Botanic Garden (1791) "suggested not so much a form as a sensibility with which to approach a period of political, intellectual, and biological transformation." Of the pieces in the book, Willis admits how "In their unwieldy asymmetries and their sudden leaps between botany, political and aesthetic history, technology, and pastoral romance, this work of the late Enlightenment seemed an eerily apt model for riding out the inter-discursive noise of the early twenty-first century. Poetry, it says, can be at once an account of the physical world, a rethinking of the order of things, and a caprice." I deplore the lack of the "nitty-gritty" in Willis's book, the lack (mostly) of everyday horrors, daily loss and seemingly systemic moral hijinx that passes for government—nevertheless, the book does provide satisfying lyrical displays in prose that sings the synapses alert. "If I appear to play the violin, it's only to keep my head on. Everything heavy falls in September, a fire truck lost on polar seas." "I'm drawn to the warmth of what doesn't belong to me, waking up on the bus with money in my pants."
Ange Mlinko | Starred Wire | Coffee House | 2005
I first encountered Ange Mlinko's poems around the period of Matinées, I don't recall where exactly. Immediately struck by the speed, dash, verve, a kind of headlong full-tilt reminiscent of some of O'Hara's (think of stuff circa "For the Chinese New Year & For Bill Berkson"). That "mode" is still evident in Starred Wire, mighty and insouciant, as in the first poem, "Là":
In a dream grief feels like grief, joy feels like joy, adrenaline in
any case is adrenaline surging through the veins. Why do dreams affect
us so strongly, turning innocents into incubi or worse making us fall
in love and ruin our lives?
In dreams there is communication between interior and exterior, as they
say of labyrinths. That means there's at least one exit. But all the
gates and port may be put on alert.
You may get a malady. . . .
Tracery of a mind's shuttlecock, weaving it in. Other poems in Starred Wire indicate a restlessness, studying beyond to see what else Mlinko is capable of. Plenty. High sassy diction flings: "'Amuse bouche,' she said. 'Now that we're alone in the camp here, / foot caught in the bag handle, impish.' / Whenas she became a Supreme Court Justice, / and 'Ev Geny Believe Dostoevsky, Fyodor,' reverse-engineered / an acronym limpidly decoded on piano. Also, / the coffee stopped working." Deadpan humor bouts: "—is it 'plumage' if it doesn't ostentate?" and "now 'Shellac the lilac', I instruct." Uncanny precision: "A cape of rain hit the horned land." Ludic philanthropic (free, rather than gratuitous) stylings: "It exercises cerise . . ." Exclamatory hyperventilisms: "Screw you, charm!" Good sense scorn: "The argument that year that year was that 'hyacinth' / should not be used where 'flower' suffices." Direct statement (as momentary resting place for excitement): "I was trying to describe the perfect library when I remembered that all you need to know is its etymology, rallying place." And (writ for the twenty-first century) feelings: "You be eros, I'll be pensée.
Kent Johnson | Epigramititis: 118 Living American Poets | BlazeVox | 2006
It is entirely possible that Kent Johnson's Epigramititis'll come to seem the "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" of our age. Guy Davenport: "It is man's ineptitude that he has not remembered his own past." And: "What is most modern in our time frequently turns out to be the most archaic." What Johnson's done, with an amiably sharp wit, and deftly, is to revive (for, particularly the dull originality-scrounging "post-avants") a manner and a form—naming names, taunting (boastfully), pricking the pomposity of the smug, the retrograde, and the earnest. He does it with a roughshod ease, a "friendly" note—if nipping satire can be termed so. "Combative collegiality" is what Johnson himself terms it—in the Greek tradition—a thing "long gone." As Johnson puts it (rightly): "Poetry is a kind of business now," (and such pricking is disallowed). Here's one epigram, placed next to a petulantly toupéed and pouty-looking Donald Trump (the accompanying pictures are impeccably selected, and paired):
In the Preface to the 1999 edition of The Best American Poetry,
he called me "incontrovertibly brilliant" and invited me to read at the KGB.
But then (O bitchy fickleness, thou marrow of all poesy, of the last
even!), he decided he didn't like me.
And, permit me, one more (put next a defiantly bored-looking Telly Savalas, negligently idling a lollipop in mouth, bald):
Shortly after 9/11, he spoke in writing on the listserv Poetics: "If
a terrorist on a plane, you don't politely
request that he return to his seat, you pull out a .45 and you shoot him."
History is unstoppable in its teleological
drive to unity: Pop culture merges
with the humanities; the Talk Show merges with Talk Poetry. And huge
machines fall, like ideologemes, out of the air.
The book's a veritable incendiary device (better stomp on it).
Jeni Olin | Blue Collar Holiday & A Valentine to Frank O'Hara | Hanging Loose | 2005
I find Jeni Olin's work "simply smashing"—and the way that rather Carnaby Street lingo comes up is, I think, directly to the point. She is reckless, omnivorous, veering, pop-culture-savvy, and daring—in "The Correction," ostensibly "about" "corrective lenses," she (halfway through) writes:
But today wherever there are people
There is Stevie Wonder's music, & in the toucan-spattered darkness,
"Living for the City" sparkles like calcium deposits In a pair of
Myself—I have a stigmatism, am Christly smashing & white
I hate the earth so much I miss my wife, that sickly
Night blindness—he lies there gasping—I'm always dehydrated
& I am always alone, & Mohammed is our prophet
He had more "breakaways" than anybody
But me—I does what I pleases, deep in my heart
I am just a guy showing himself a pretty good time.
End of poem. End of carnival rocketship ride, the tautest centrifugality, always "about" to go out of control. "Toucan-spattered": one can only shake one's now-seemingly-Neanderthal head at that. Olin's willing to admit sleaze, and trash, and several degrees and varieties of "hard core" into her poems—with disarming innocence. Rather like the innocence and pathos that soak through Nan Goldin's photographs. And humor, no holds barred and ferocious: "Anything I do will be an abuse of somebody's aesthetics." With color illustrations by Larry Rivers.
Geraldine Monk | Escafeld Hangings | West House | 2005
Out of a parcel titled "She Kept Birds":
our lady's hen
(T. troglodytes being the common winter wren: "a loud and melodious singer . . . Its characteristic call is a single or double note sounding like large pebbles being knocked together . . . It is one of the smallest European birds at about nine centimeters . . . it appears even smaller by its habit of sticking its very short tail up in the air. It has a fairly long, thin bill, a buffy supercilium and dark bars on its wings and flanks. Its name means "cave dweller" and derives from its habit of building its nest in a crevice or hole in walls, trees or steep banks.")
Which (poem) is only a tiny piece of the center of the book, titled "Mary Queen of Scots," who was kept captive in Escafeld (Anglo-Saxon version of Sheffield, where Monk lives) between 1570 and 1584. Monk presents (among other pieces), a series of Mary's letters, funny, pointed, full of contemporary mayhem:
Madam, Goode Sis,
The stone walls steer a distraction then stare back. Can a mind pass my
life by and leave a body wholesome? The meat is bad with rancid fat as
I grow gauche and stringy and a monody of crashworthy ermines sways
from the rafters and furthermore sways to a chanson some stocking-woman
sang as a chit.
This is what a mind does mid mindless onrush.
At first glance the words gave up a system shock on reading 'several
hands' as 'severed heads'—it speaks a maybe sleight of eye or worried
mind or both conspiring on the side of darker plurals. There is nothing
worthwhile I can do: Ask misery to cease? Being punished in a world
like this my portion's in eternal bliss.
God speed the menopause.
Minging May. Query. Scots.
With a terrific accompanying CD, "Mary Through the Looking Glass," performed by Monk and Ligia Roque.
Eugene Ostachevsky | Iterature | Ugly Duckling | 2005
Reminded, off the bat, of the "stance" of O'Hara—that crumple-up-the-English-Literature-anthologies one of, say, "At night Chinamen jump / on Asia with a thump"—in reading Ostashevsky:
I Struck Rhetorical Poses
I struck rhetorical poses
around me rose various roses
they were my frame I their spectacle
Then I walked around very skeptical
Then I sat down, void of thought and emotion
gas was my only motion
I would like to know I would like to know
the difference between yes and no
knight and night, Kurd and curd
what l means in the word world
if a fiend in need is a fiend indeed
what is the maximum number of the dead
O you who are a) love
d) none of the above
you're not going to tell me anything I don't already know
so I'm just gonna wait till my braincells grow
Akin here to the O'Hara of the poem beginning "It is 12:10 in New York": "it is good to be several floors up in the dead of night / wondering if you are any good or not / and the only decision you can make is that you did it / yesterday I looked up the Rue Frémicourt on a map / and was happy to find it flying like a bird over Paris et ses environs / which unfortunately does not include Seine-et-Oise which I don't know / as well as a number of other things" That swarming insouciance, that self-knowledge that knows its excellence (and simply doesn't care), that odd tilt up out of nowhere that exposes (briefly) the dead. I expect he (Ostashevsky)'ll keep doing exactly what he feels like with an ever-malleable American language, brash Play-Doh-like, Oberiu'd.
Lisa Robertson | The Men | BookThug | 2006
Written, or begun, in 2000, if one troubles the numbers ("Robertson, Lisa, 1961-" cut on the bias against a narrator aged 39) and thinks autobiographical seepage is permissible, semi-permeable. Like the Robertson work I most admire—Debbie: An Epic, The Men strikes me, among other things, as sustained argument for a rampant use of adjectives, singly ("my sensuous intuition"), doubly ("To have been forgiven by them is delicious and tawdry" or triply ("The men breathe into me, tender, phallic, kimonoed"). Adjectival clusters for music, for rhythm, for fearless brash ornamentation. O'Hara's "democratic and ordinary and tired" and Ted Berrigan's "feminine marvelous and tough." Too, a full gamut of sexual politics:
With succulence and bigness of deep red.
Happy echoes of Stein ("Hydromel violet hydromel cadmium hydromel apples I am / Ejecting form . . .") pressed up against echoes of the Rolling Stones of Some Girls ("Some smoke as you lick them. Some / So dull, some equivalent, some / Dwindling.")
Big numbers of abstract nouns. Against the palpable: "Nothingness entwined with the mental and the odour of smoke." A kind of double reversal at play of the Pound "Retrospect" dicta—"Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something" and "Go in fear of abstractions." The effect is a kind of landscape purely and indubitably mental, or secondary to the actual world (my terms emerging out of Robertson's own lines here.)
Forrest Gander | Eye Against Eye | New Directions | 2005
For the poem "Present Tense" if for nothing else (and there is plenty): it captures the jittery coagulate that is "the present," irreversible ecological failures beginning to occur (unstopped), the new U. S. imperium-blitzkrieg (unstopped), and, still, one's "private" gratitudes and morasses, one's noticings, unexpected beauty, feral and domestic:
By mid-morning thrushes go quiet
in fingerling birches the hay field
exhales two tons of water
and someone who leaped into your life
like a crown fire blows out
in an ambulance trailing its hee-haw siren
insects called death watches
click behind the wall what happens
to the virtuosity of feeling as it meets
the mineral-hard quiddity of the world
while half a continent of raptors
funnels into the narrow
corridor along Lake Ontario's edge
or sweeps through the gash of Lake Champlain Valley
toward Mount Defiance
with your depression like a retinue of black centipedes
was how you left Arkansas
Gander's poise (think of "weighing" each syllable) is nigh-perfect, the diction worthy a rodomontade (somewhere he writes "two sparrows titter in fescue"—I could repeat that all day), the concerns major. "What I want is simple enough: to combine spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and technical elements into a resistant musical form" is what Gander writes in A Faithful Existence, (Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005). And: "Writing, I pass from time to space, from succession to juxtaposition. I write the poem in all directions at once, emphasizing not the stability of single words but the transition that emanates between them, or between it and its rings of association, rings of silence. My idea of meaning derives from the continuity of the transition, which is, for me, erotic." Eye Against Eye is saturated, too, with photographs by Sally Mann.
William Fuller | Watchword | Flood | 2006
A book in three parts, two of prose poems interlaced with lineated, syntactically fragmentary pieces, and a final poem called "Middleless," with the epigraph "Like to flies upon a plum." (See Edward Lear: "Mrs. Spikky Sparrow said, / 'Spikky, Darling! in my head / 'Many thoughts of trouble come, / 'Like to flies upon a plum!'" A verse that concludes "'Chippy wippy sikky tee! / 'Bikky wikky tikky mee! / 'Spikky chippy wee!'" Stevensesque folderol in disguise.)
I go directly to the prose poems—scanting the fragmentary, longing a little of late for the "age of the fragment" to haul its long locomotive self into the terminal. It's in the prose reveries that I see Fuller's genius at tracing the wayward flow of attention, the way it offers up a shapeliness in spite of itself. When Chaucer says, "After the synne of Enuye and of Ire, now wol I speken of the synne of Accidie," he's in the winterland of torpor and sloth. Here's Fuller:
When to be obsessed not whether is what leads the brain away, buzzing with distortion, encased in a present exempt from increase or decrease and whose image awaits you, its purpose having been realized. Now I'm cold and have to linger. If you don't believe I'm sinking look at the ice—the lights in the darkness extend themselves after the trajectories of your original expression—if anything the cold is worse and steals into my shoes (which are made from small books). My eyes won't close and my breath drifts into leaping snow. You're lucky not to have required I know not what loveless waltz on the river not yet frozen and if I live on, on glass, I will hear those sounds forever . . . o mule in the alley / its / burnt unutterable name—who calls down the jake-leg snake to immobilize it. On the bridge the air stands at needle. Dead skin wraps the whole body of darkness. Then all runs clear—the concrete and the clay are streaming through me, supplemental life forms. Coevals chatter deep. Arise teachers and appropriate the jasmine groves. In glazed winter ditches, river-crusts glitter. Look out Willie Steele, all kinds of creatures inhabit you.
Fuller's version, American accidie, is a restless one—blues-inflected ("don't believe I'm sinking" up against that "mule in the alley"—calling up all those mules that kick in stalls, that illicit love-jam, all up against one Willie Steele, inhabited, a Howlin' Wolf session drummer . . . (At the introduction of Steele in the final sentence, the poem chitters off anew—a mostly depopulated place suddenly creature-full, skitter-prone, marvelously alert, a little mysterious. Lovely.)
Voilà. Of the bigger books, the Collected Ted Berrigan ought surely get mention; of somebody (newish) I look for near-constantly, Jeff Hilson, author of Bird Bird (Gargoyle, 2005) and Stretchers (Reality Street, 2006). Mark Twain: "mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before." Hilson, like Monk, did a piece called "Troglodytes troglodytes (wren)":
Must work without the wren their shiny coats there their fat small hands. They once were kind. Once they all faced the same way and sang. Once. Doubtful bird you have seen. The word that the wren said: "shoes!" A wren doesn't cost any money. There! There! Dipping in Northern Europe. The story of its longer wings from England. Must buy ham. This will not be liked much either. Under the tractor I shoved it in her hard, but each take was spoiled by the king wren. Tit parties in winter, small loose parties erupting westwards sometimes high up. Golden England. Down and down Newington Butts caught moths with the smaller birds, again wren-like. Wren as host, magpie as host, above whose clashing hands, business-like, now a wren costs a few pence.
More John Latta. Back to directory.
Laura Elrick | Fantasies in Permeable Structures | Factory School | 2005
These 16-line pieces are not only permeable, but also asymmetrical, geometrical, historical, anatomical, and political. I saw Elrick read some of them at Belladonna on March 14, where she integrated pre-recorded accompaniments of herself with herself.
Jonathan Skinner | Political Cactus Poems | Palm | 2005
Like Skinner's other creation, ecopoetics, this book is obviously intended to be carried with one into the field, whether the field is made of grass, concrete, cacti or newspapers. The visual pieces by Isabelle Pelissier are great.
James Thomas Stevens | (dis)Orient | Palm | 2005
Another wonder from Sprague's press. I'm a total sucker for books that so sharply integrate geography with love. Oh, "the seduction of delineation"!
Juliana Spahr | This Connection of Everyone with Lungs | California | 2005
Spahr is able to incorporate Now like no one else. This is truly activating poetry.
Jared Diamond | Collapse | Viking | 2005 (pb)
Don't miss the Easter Island and Australia chapters (as well as the chapter on Pitcairn and Henderson islands). "I have often asked myself, 'What did the Easter Islander who cut down the last palm tree say while he was doing it?' Like modern loggers, did he shout 'Jobs, not trees!'?"
Robert Sullivan | Rats | Bloomsbury | 2005 (reprint)
Bizarro-world faux-Thoreau investigation into the unnaturally natural (or naturally unnatural) world of rats, which challenge eco-sensibilities every which way. Great keep-you-up-at-night thrills and chills—all the worse for being "real." You'll never listen to rustling the same way again.
Francesco Colonna | Hypnerotomachia Poliphili | Thames & Hudson | 1999
The translation (done by Jocelyn Godwin) apparently is not anywhere as strange as the original, but reading pages and pages of lengthy, sensuous descriptions of perfectly proportioned architecture in a proto Oz is enjoyable enough. It reminds me of Bernadette Mayer and her hypnagogic journeys.
William Empson | The Complete Poems of William Empson | Florida | 1999
I haven't quite figured out the totality of what Empson was trying to do (and he definitely had some project; the very highly allusive notes outnumber the poems), but poems like "Description of a View" ("Well boiled in acid and then laid on glass/ (A labelled strip) the specimen of building,/ Though concrete, was not sure what size it was,/ And was so large to compare with nothing.") teased enough to keep me reading.
Jim Stratton | Pioneering the Urban Wilderness | Urizen | 1977
Documents the process of squatting in lofts, rebuilding them (good graphic photos of this process), and then having them taken away from you. Also interesting to read about this process at a time when Tribeca was still considered industrial ("look for the single light in a window on a dark street..."). Also covers Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles...
Arthur Rimbaud | Complete Works, Selected Letters | Chicago | 1966
OK, I've read this before many times, but this time I used it as active writing prop and read it alongside Graham Robb's biography, which despite giving barely any historical or social context to the time or the person, is still enjoyable and interesting, especially in that Robb matches Rimbaud's sense of humor (monstrous as it often was). Merde!
About Marcella Durand. Back to directory.
Travis Nichols | Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder | unpublished manuscript
An epistolary novel. The prose here reminds me of an intriguingly odd sort of Steinian terza rima: forward a little, back, differently forward a little more, etc. I've never cried reading Stein, but I did several times while reading this.
Tenney Nathanson | Home on the Range (The Night Sky with Stars in My Mouth) | O | 2005
The most engrossing book of poetry I have read this year, kinetic as hell and nearly epic. Strike that, eerily kinetic—a pell-mell epic, maybe an hellacious kibbling of our epoch. Anyhow: good!
Joshua Clover | The Totality for Kinds | California | 2006
Word is they're teaching this book in the new Frankfurt School MFA Program.
Selah Saterstrom | The Pink Institution | Coffee House | 2004
An experimental novel. File under: Southern literature featuring sweeping historical brush strokes of damaged familial beauty giving way to abridged micro-narrations encrusted with gestural significance.
Rob Halpern | Rumored Place | Krupskaya | 2004
Last year, Graham Foust wrote, "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?" One of the many good things I'd heard about this book & one of the reasons I read it. See: Attention Span really does work!
Mary Burger, editor | An Apparent Event | 2nd Story | 2006
A collection of the chapbooks published by Second Story. Work from: Renee Gladman; Brenda Coultas; Lauren Gudath; Jacques Debrot; Avery Burns; Kristin Prevallet; Gregory Brooker; Camille Roy; and Mary Burger.
Michael Friedman | Martian Dawn | Turtle Point | 2006
Michael Friedman is doing a reading tour in September and October in support of this wonderful novella. You really should go: http://friedmanmichael.com/events.htm
Shanxing Wang | Mad Science in Imperial City | Futurepoem | 2005
See commentary note for Tenney Nathanson's book above.
Charles Altieri | The Art of Twentieth-Century American Poetry | Blackwell | 2006
Pound via Bergson & Williams via Cézanne, what's not to love?
Elizabeth Willis | Meteoric Flowers | Wesleyan | 2006
Who knew Tennessee would one day be littered with so many jars? I love this book because it's always new. Your assignment: write a sentence between every one of its sentences.
Various Authors | Various Titles | Various Publishers | mostly 2004-2006
Chapbooks! Since beginning a new chapbook review column for Rain Taxi, I've read hundreds of chapbooks this year—many wonderful new discoveries, many real stinkers; regardless, onward it goes, a perhaps futile attempt to stay apprised of the field. Send review copies here: Noah Eli Gordon, 1014 E 10th Ave, Denver, CO 80218
More Noah Eli Gordon. Back to directory.
I love the spread of attention in Attention Span but, like Kevin Killian, I find myself caught short on the books I've looked at over the year. I'm up in the Kootenays in SE BC for the summer so I'll just mention some of the books I have with me at the moment. I received a package of Jay Millar's BookThug books just before I left Vancouver in June so those are on the desk right now.
Drum Hadley | Voice of the Borderlands | Rio Nuevo | 2005
This is a large collection from the only poet who survived Charles Olson's intensely critical (and rhetorical) analysis of American poetry in our grad seminar in Buffalo in 1964-65. Drum has lived and worked as a cowboy and rancher along the Mexico-New Mexico-Arizona border for the past 40 years. The poems are a wonderful documentary of story, landscape, and the tangible sensations and rhythms of movement and work. A foreword by Gary Snyder.
David Fujino | Air Pressure | BookThug | 2006
A wonderful display of syllabic attention from one of the most selective ears in Toronto.
Barry McKinnon | Two from In The Millennium | BookThug | 2006
Prince George mainstay. This is a chapbook from a long poem Barry has been working on for several years. Very Williams and Creeley (dedicated to the latter).
Monty Reid | Sweetheart of Mine | BookThug | 2006
Monty worked at the Drumheller Dinosaur Museum for many years, and early on edited the Camrose Review. Lives in Ottawa now, I think. His poetry has always been very honed and particular and this little chapbook is a sweetheart that subtly plays around its song.
Lisa Robertson | The Men | BookThug | 2006
Lisa's big in the States I understand so someone else might mention this one, her latest. Again, that fascinating interplay of poetic diction and intellectuality. Of course I want to know what she thinks of us, just as her twinkle and smile show up in her verse here.
Lyn Hejinian & Leslie Scalapino | Sight | Edge | 1999
I picked up this book in Buffalo a couple of years ago and only this summer have had a close look at it. Two of my favourite writers, at play. Distinct syntaxes expected. Yet I found the back and forth of the collaboration (can it be one?) to be less one and then the other, less "dialogic," but more of a ramble in which large and small rhythms occur. The performance, in other words, is not the double they used in composition but overlapping resonances through a wide range of poetic prose language.
Juliana Spahr | this connection of everyone with lungs | California | 2005
I like the large rhythms, openness of these texts. Really reads like one text. I had been looking for American poetry responses to 9/11 and then heard Juliana read some of these in Vancouver. I think Erin Mouré recommended Fanny Howe's On the Ground to me and I like it too. Juliana's run seems a bit more urgent to me.
Tisa Bryant, Miranda F. Mellis, and Kate Schatz, eds. |Encyclopedia Volume 1 A-E | Providence | 2006
Wonderful sampler and fascinating pecking from a wide range of writing, mostly prose.
Jenny Penberthy, ed. | The Capilano Review Series 2, No.46 | Spring 2005
Another solid issue. Some Erin Mouré, Colin Browne, Michelle Leggott. A very interesting essay by Ted Byrne on "North Atlantic Turbine," a series of readings Kootenay School of Writing staged around a few British poets like Andrea Brady, D.S. Marriott, and Caroline Bergvall.
About Fred Wah. Back to directory.
Eleven is as difficult as any other prescripted prime. Nevertheless one tries to be useful....
Brent Cunningham | Bird & Forest | Ugly Duckling | 2006
John Taggart | Crosses | Stop | 2005
Merrill Gilfillan | Undanceable | Flood | 2005
Friederike Mayrocker, trans. R. Waldrop | Heiligenanstalt | Burning Deck | 1994
Aase Berg, trans. J. Goransson | Remainland | Action | 2005
Anne Carson | Decreation | Knopf | 2005
Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge | I Love Artists | California | 2006
Ander Monson | Other Electricities | Sarabande | 2005
Elizabeth Willis | Meteoric Flowers | Wesleyan | 2006
Jean Grosjean, trans. K. Waldrop | An Earth of Time | Burning Deck | 2006
Brian Teare | "Transcendental Grammar Crown" | Woodland | 2006
Also: Kelly Link, Magic for Beginners (Small Beer, 2005); Jane Unrue, "Dear Mr. Erker," and Nina Shope, "In Urbem" (both in 3rd Bed 11); Robert Quillen Camp, "Timetable: A Libretto" (in Factorial 4); Josh Corey, "Compostition Marble" (Pavement Saw, 2006); Peter Conners, ed., PP/FF: An Anthlogy (Starcherone, 2006); Dan Beachy-Quick, Mulberry (Tupelo, 2006); Anne Boyer, "The Deep" (Anacreon, 2006); Jean Grosjean, An Earth of Time (Burning Deck, 2006); Arthur Sze, Quipu (Copper Canyon, 2005); Peter O'Leary, Depth Theology (Georgia, 2006); Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Lug Your Careless Body Out of the Careful Dusk (Iowa, 2006). And recent issues of Hambone, 1913, Conjunctions, and NO in their entirety. And presumably many others that aren't coming to immediate mind.
And of course fantasy votes for those two perennial books-that-don't-yet-exist, Tan Lin's Ambient Stylistics and Joe Wenderoth's Agony: A Proposal. I dream about them both.
About G.C. Waldrep. Back to directory.
Peter O'Leary | Depth Theology | Georgia | 2006
The poet of my general age group that I'm most consistently startled by.
Andrew Joron | Fathom | Black Square | 2003
A book it seems I'm a little later than many in getting to, but which I keep re-reading. One of a handful of poets (Mary Margaret Sloan, Ronald Johnson, Paul Celan would be others) where an animating force seems to pass through and transform the poems syllable by syllable.
Stacy Szymaszek | Emptied of All Ships | Litmus | 2005
Tempted to jot down some poets who seem to haunt passages of the book (ok, Olson/Samperi/S.Howe), but there's I think a qualitative difference in Stacy's writing; the intelligence behind the writing seems much more amenable to a social existence, which I
think lends the poems a different (maybe more difficult?) complexity than some of the poets whose sensibilities are evoked.
Brian Howe | Guitar Smash | 3rdness | 2006
Cool, calm, disrupted. One of the newer journals that I'm keen to follow is Soft Targets, and Brian's poems seem to exist on the more intellectual side of that journal's kind of Blast-like bravado. He's more Videodrome; some others seem more, I don't know, Rollerball (the remake).
Rosmarie Waldrop | Reluctant Gravities | New Directions | 1999
Again, I don't know why I didn't get to this one sooner. Maybe too much time spent watching Rollerball? This one doesn't have the hauntedness of The Reproduction of Profiles, but is more insistent and pressing. And just unbelievably smart. Who else handles abstraction this well, right now? Maybe Standard Schaefer, maybe Richard Buckner or Cat Power.
Wayne Chambliss | The Travelling Salesman Problem | The Caitlins | 2006
I'd pay money to see Wayne Chambliss and Ben Lerner in some kind of cage match. WC: "Hell's got more rings than Derek Jeter." Your move, Lerner.
Alyssa Wolf | Vaudeville | Otis / Seismicity | 2006
Stunning debut. A kind of manic, angry, playful intelligence, but without any precociousness or comforting cheekiness to help it go down. Even as it is really entertaining. I mean, it goes to a lot of strange places, but there's very little, if any, sublimated codes letting you know, "it's ok, this is just a performance." So, a very different sort of vaudeville, for me. Vaudeville in a little locked room maybe.
Joseph Mali | Mythistory: the Making of a Modern Historiography | Chicago | 2003
Huge book for me right now. I've become fairly obsessed with the turn-of-the-last-century German art historian Aby Warburg, and the way certain stances towards consciousness seem to attach themselves to his histories of mythic forms that re-occur and transform themselves from art period and locale to art period and locale. Great chapters in this book on Warburg, Benjamin and Jacob Burckhardt.
Siegfried Kracauer | The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany | Verso | 1998
A seemingly half-neglected figure (at least on my street) from the Frankfurt School, Kracauer's book is a really compelling anthropological immersion into the emergent white collar culture of pre-WWII Germany. Chilling description of armies of young typists taught to work at superhuman speeds by learning to type while accompanied by a Wagner record that is sped up incrementally until the typists reach their unhuman velocity and can be released onto the job market and displace the older, better paid generation of typists.
Elizabeth Robinson | Under That Silky Roof | Burning Deck | 2006
I'm such a sucker for this. Very lyrical, subtly aphoristic and philisophical.
K. Silem Mohammad | Monsters | Abraham Lincoln | 2006
I know Petroleum Hat is the odds-on favorite to sweep this year's Flarfies, but as Kasey Mohammad's official publicist I have to say this is, again, our Muppet Treasure Island (of American Poetry). Google is the new vibrator. "I beg to differ" only counts in horseshoes.
To Fascicle, edited by Tony Tost. Back to directory.