Dana Ward | This Can’t Be Life | Edge | 2011
Sure it can.
Anne Boyer | My Common Heart | Spooky Girlfriend | 2011
Totally opened up when I read it back to front, which set me up more acutely for the logics of its arrangement. The voicing structures morph under their surfaces in all these odd ways.
Hoa Nguyen | As Long As Trees Last | Wave | 2012
As the dude in Masked & Anonymous said, “sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean. Sometimes you gotta know what things don’t mean”
Joe Brainard | Collected Writings | Library of America | 2012
“Everything that has ever existed has been reproduced in miniature by someone, at sometime.”
Leslie Scalapino | Way | North Point | 1988
Read this along with The Descent of Alette (A. Notley) and Douglas Oliver’s The Infant & The Pearl in the late fall. All long poems coming out of the $$-bleak mid-late eighties. Major shit. Condescension-free ambition for the work to be large.
Fred Moten | B Jenkins | Duke | 2009
The last time I did one of these lists I put this book on it. But I keep reading it and reading it, probably more than anything else in the past few years, and every time I open it up again, it totally opens up again. So there’s that.
Maged Zaher | Thank You for the Window Office | Ugly Duckling | 2012
The main reason I’m doing this list is because I’m reading this book right now.
Lunar Chandelier Press
Lunar Chandelier has put out books by John Godfrey, Toni Simon, Lynn Behrendt, Vyt Bakaitis, and Joe Elliot since it started up in 2010. High quality reads and objects. No bullshit, no program. You can tell the work is cared for.
Camille Roy | Sherwood Forest | Futurepoem | 2011
Dynamic diction triggering layers of invitation. Makes me want to write.
Mary Burger | Then Go On | Litmus | 2012
Lent this to someone who won’t give it back.
Murat Nemet-Nejat | The Spiritual Life of Replicants | Talisman | 2011
I put down something about this book being a total breakthrough for the present art, on the levels of feeling bringing about events and speculative sensory observation, and that’s the way I feel about it.
Arlo Quint | Death to Explosions | Skysill | forthcoming 2013
Wrote about Quint for the Boston Review not so long ago. Now his first book should be out sometime soon. The thing I’m wanting the most to be in the world. I love listening to Quint’s work.
Michael Robbins | Alien Vs. Predator | Penguin | 2012
The only thing this book is missing is a Tebow moment, and maybe a podcast on betting lines with Cousin Sal.
Corina Copp | Pro Magenta/Be Met | Ugly Duckling | 2011
Note: all of Kevin Varrone’s baseball poem Box Score: An Autobiography is amazing. There’s a chapbook, but I can’t find it, because some kid hid it somewhere.
Sergio Chejfec, tr. Margaret Carson | My Two Worlds | Open Letter | 2008
I just found out about Chejfec at the ALTA conference this October, and am very pleased. This is a writer’s writer, translated by a translator’s translator. I strolled through this “novel” as slowly as the novelist recounts his walk, feeling each comma as a cobblestone in the park of prose. It’s a beautiful, understated work; likewise the translation.
Paul Stephens, Jenelle Troxell, Robert Hardwick Weston, eds. | Convolution No. 1 | Fall 2011
This magazine, the magazine of my dreams, situates itself in the trajectory of the Evergreen Review (of the ‘Pataphysics issue), The New Freewoman, and The Little Review. But it’s an update to something modern, beautifully produced, designed to enhance thought. This issue, if you can find it, has weird stuff on Duchamp, a Bob Brown reproduction, a fascinating essay by Nancy Tewksbury on Xu Bing, an interview with Charles Bernstein, a cool manifesto on “Patacriticism by Paul Stephens, and some really cool looking essays and art that I still have to get my head around. The editors have an incredible vision for what a magazine could be. It may be a little too hip in places (slight pieces by Sarah Crowner, Craig Dworkin); but it’s super relevant for the moment and engaging as hell—both conceptually and materially—to sit with and thumb through.
Steven Zultanski | Agony | Book Thug | 2012
This is a long lyric poem, a kind of sur-literal autobiography, from the author of Pad and Cop Kisser. My blurb couldn’t fit on the back of the book, nor even here, so here is just a part of it:
In a manner that parodies and surpasses the lunacy of American pundits, Zultanski leads us on a mathematical journey into the volume of humanity’s tears and saliva exchange in kisses, and the square-footage of breasts and pet-intestines to explore the Markson-esqe, Mobius sociality of the solipsistic self. […] Call it conceptualism, lyricism, the new literality, or agonic financial planning—whatever it is, Agony is not for the faint of heart.
Thom Donovan | The Hole | Displaced | 2012
Through epistolary poems and lots of back-matter (responses, essays, etc.) Donovan engages some current issues raised (very differently) in conceptual works. There’s actual poetry in this, taking up the bulk of it even. I love the whimsy of Michael Cross’s design and the way all the design choices support the process of digging the book as one digs a hole in the ground.
Alan Loney | The Books to Come | Cuneiform | 2012
This is one of the best books I’ve read about books—the reading of books, the making of books, the distribution of books, the hoarding of books, the etc. of books. The writing is precise, modest, laconic, easy. The thoughts are useful, provocative but without pushing any buttons. If you can find the earlier first edition (hard-cover), that’d make it even better.
Fred Moten | Hughson’s Tavern | Leon Works | 2008
This summer, I finally got this book and was very glad I did. Read the music. Note: it’s a thinking music.
1. Alain Badiou | The Rebirth of History: Times of Riots and Uprisings | Verso | 2012
2. Perry Anderson | Considerations on Western Marxism | Verso | 1976
3. Ian Bogost | Alien Phenomenology, or What is it Like to be a Thing | Minnesota | 2012
4. George Berkeley | Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous | Hackett | 1979 
5. James Warren | The Presocratics: Natural Philosophers before Socrates | California | 2007
6. Mikhail Bakunin | Statism and Anarchy | Cambridge | 1990 
7. Quentin Meillassoux | After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency | Continuum | 2010
8. Tiqqun | Raw Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl | Translator/publisher unknown | 2001 
9. Ring T. Cardé and Vincent H. Resh, eds. | A World of Insects: The Harvard University Press Reader | 2012
10. Kathy Acker | Blood and Guts in High School | Grove | 1978
11. David Chalmers | The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory | Oxford | 1997
I don’t have time to annotate all of these, but basically I’m just doing a lot of reading in idealist philosophy (inspired by the Speculative Realists’ desire to imagine a metaphysics in a pre-Kantian fashion and Badiou’s call for a controlling “Idea” in future political activism or protest), pre-Marxist (or co-Marxist) political theory, and cognitive theory (including that of animals!) in terms of its possible relationship to Speculative Realism (otherwise known as Object-Oriented Ontology). The Acker book might seem random in that context, but I assigned it for my Experimental Fiction class and haven’t read it yet.
The first section is anthologies, letters and art/performance work. The second is single author poetry (collections and pamphlets).
Peter Hughes, ed.| Sea Pie: A Shearsman Anthology of Oystercatcher Poetry | Shearsman | 2012
Harriet Tarlo, ed. | The Ground Aslant: An Anthology of Radical Landscape Poetry | Shearsman | 2011
Kenneth Rexroth and James Laughlin, ed. Lee Bartlett | Selected Letters | Norton | 1991
ifpthenq, illustrated by Simon Taylor of Joy As Tiresome Vandalism | Top Trumps: 34 poet playing cards (“inspired by City Lights edition”) | August 2012
Robert Duncan | Poems 1952: for Jess [facsimile of a chapbook hand-made by Robert Duncan] | A shuffaloff / Eternal Network Joint (149 copies) | 2012
Robert Duncan, ed. Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman | The H.D. Book | California | 2011
Ana Cavic and Renee O’Drobinak | Myopic Violence: Poetry exchange/intervention between the Ladies of the Press | Pamphlet of faxed drawings and poetry created during lunch breaks at the office, contribution to Maintenant series event at the Rich Mix, Brick Lane, London | March 30, 2012
Richard Parker | The Traveller & The Defence of Heaven | Veer | May 2012
Jeff Hilson | In The Assarts | Veer | July 2010
H.D. | Notes on Thought and Vision & The Wise Sappho | City Lights | 2001
Lisa Robertson | On Physical Real Beginning and What Happens Next | above/ground press | April 2012
Michael McClure | Rain Mirror: New Poems | New Directions | 1999
Michael McClure | Plum Stones | O Books | 2002
Geraldine Monk | Lobe Scarps & Finials | Leafe | 2011
Luke Roberts | False Flags | Mountain | 2011
Marcus Slease | Godzenie | BlazeVOX | 2009
[Justin Katko], Megan Sword, Timpani Skullface | SUPERIOR CITY SONG | Critical Documents (100 copies) | February 2012
Michael Palmer | Thread | New Directions | 2011
Tim Atkins | Petrarch | Crater Press / Crater VI | August 2010
Kenneth Patchen | Selected Poems | New Directions | 1957
Denise Riley | Selected Poems | Reality Street | 2000
Gregory Woods | We Have the Melon | Carcanet, 1992 – and looking forward to reading: An Ordinary Dog | Carcanet | 2011
Timothy Thornton | Jocund Day | Mountain | 2011
Bill Griffiths | Durham & Other Sequences | West House | 2002
Sophie Mayer | Kiss Off | Oystercatcher | 2011
Tom Pickard | Hole in the Wall: New & Selected Poems | Flood | 2002
Tom Pickard | Ballad of Jamie Allan | Flood | 2007
George Oppen, ed. Michael Davidson | New Collected Poems | New Directions | 2002
Lisa Jarnot | Black Dog Songs | Flood | 2003
Ulli Freer | Recovery (Incomplete) | Rot Direkt | 2011
Sean Bonney | Happiness. Poems After Rimbaud | Unkant | 2011
Simon Perril | A Clutch of Odes | Oystercatcher | 2009
Carol Watts | When blue light falls 3 | Oystercatcher | 2012
John James | Cloud Breaking Sun | Oystercatcher | 2012
Tony Lopez | Works on Paper | Crate Press / Crater 15 | 2011
Edith Sitwell | “Some Notes on My Own Poetry” | in Collected Poems | Duckworth Overlook | 2006
Amy Evans is the co-author of Viersome #01 (Veer, 2012) and the author of Collecting Shells (Oystercatcher, 2011). This year, her work appears in Women’s Studies Quarterly and the following forthcoming anthologies: Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK (Bloodaxe); Sea Pie (Shearsman); and In Place of Love and Country: Poetry at the Pound Conference (University of New Orleans Press). She is co-editor with Shamoon Zamir of The Unruly Garden: Robert Duncan and Eric Mottram, Letters & Essays (Peter Lang). She lives in London.
This is Amy Evans’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.
Lisa Jarnot | Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography | California | 2012
Nate Klug | Consent | Pressed Wafer | 2012
Chris Marker | Letter from Siberia | film | 1957
Thomas Meyer | Kintsugi | Flood | 2011
Amanda Nadelberg | Bright Brave Phenomena | Coffee House | 2012
Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. Nathan Houser and Christian Kloesel | The Essential Peirce vol. 1 | Indiana UP | 1992
Ariana Reines | Mercury | Fence | 2011
Mary Ruefle | Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures | Wave | 2012
Rusty Morrison | After Urgency | Tupelo | 2012
Louis Simpson | At the End of the Open Road | Wesleyan | 1963
David Foster Wallace | Infinite Jest | Little, Brown | 1996
Alan Felsenthal edits The Song Cave with Ben Estes. They have edited the forthcoming A Dark Dreambox of Another Kind: The Poems of Alfred Starr Hamilton.
This is Alan Felsenthal’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.
Jerome Rothenberg | 25 Caprichos a partir de Goya | Calamus Poesia
Mark Liedner| Beauty Was the Case that They Gave Me | Factory Hollow
Joshua Edwards and Van Edwards | Campeche: Poems & Photographs | Noemi
Kim Gek Lin Short | China Cowboy | Tarpaulin Sky
Mary Jo Bang, trans. | Dante’s Inferno: A New Translation | Graywolf
Gina Abelkop | Darling Beastlettes | Apostrophe
Sommer Browning | Either Way I’m Celebrating | Birds LLC
Roger Sedarat | Ghazal Games | Ohio
Julian T. Brolaski | gowanus atropolis | Ugly Duckling
Andrea Rexilius | Half of What They Carried Flew Away | Letter Machine
Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson | I Take Back the Sponge Cake | Rose Metal
Caroline Bergvall, Laynie Browne, Teresa Carmody, and Vanessa Place, eds. | I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women | Les Figues
Julia Bloch | Letters to Kelly Clarkson | Sidebrow
Rebecca Lindenberg | Love, An Index | McSweeney’s
Brandon Shimoda | O Bon | Litmus
Tomaz Salamun | On the Tracks of Wild Game | Ugly Duckling
Matthew Henriksen | Ordinary Sun | Black Ocean
Dan Magers | Party Knife | Birds LLC | #
Eric Baus | Scared Text | Center for Literary Publishing
Raúl Zurita | Songs For His Disappeared Love | Action
Joshua Corey and G.C. Waldrep, eds. | The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral | Ahsahta
Dot Devota | The Eternal Wall | Cannibal
Héctor Viel Temperley, trans. Stuart Krimko | The Last Four Books of Héctor Viel Temperley | Sand Paper
Joyelle McSweeney | The Necropastoral | spork
Frances Richard | The Phonemes | Les Figues
Joseph Harrington | Things Come On: An Amneoir | Wesleyan
Dana Ward | This Can’t Be Life | Edge| $
Farid Matuk | This Isa Nice Neighborhood | Letter Machine
Noel Black Uselysses | Ugly Duckling | *
Anna Moschovakis | You and Three Others are Approaching A Lake | Coffee House
These titles were selected by
C. Violet Eaton
Chris Martin *
Douglas Hahn #
Mary Austin Speaker $
Robert Alan Wendeborn
* Microreview of Noel Black’s Uselysses (Ugly Duckling) by Chris Martin
A much anticipated full-length debut, Black’s book enfolds libraries within its wings, which flap about on sonar-taut lines. It’s a book of friendship and derangement, hope and domestic adventure. It concludes with the New Narrative’s newest classic, “Prophecies for the Past,” which Kevin Killian called “the sort of reading experience they must have invented poetry for.” And Noel wrote that shit in prose.
Chris Martin is the author of American Music (Copper Canyon 2007) and Becoming Weather (Coffee House 2011).
# Microreview of Dan Magers’ Party Knife (Birds LLC) by Doug Hahn
Party Knife‘s poems are boiling with dark humor, quiet rage, and poignant sadness. They weave the conscious and unconscious with an Ashberian intensity that verges on schadenfreude, but in the end we glimpse the everyday sublime. On the surface level, these poems are very funny and very bizarre, but they are also fine examples of poetic form and do indeed have a profound overall meaning—this is what makes the book special to me: in a world filled with either self-important or glib post-MFA projects, here is a poet who excels at both entertainment and instruction. On a more personal note, I worked and lived as a poet in post-9/11 New York City for many years, and this is a book that embodies the artist’s experience in that horrible and amazing place in American time.
$ Microreview of Dana Ward’s This Can’t Be Life (Edge) by Mary Austin Speaker
The book that I anticipated most this year is Dana Ward’s This Can’t Be Life, published by Edge Books. Typing Wild Speech, Dana’s excellent chapbook, is included here in full and bowled me over just as much as it did the first time I heard him read from it. To hear Dana read, or to read him on the page, is to hear the unflinching inner monologue of someone who prizes social interaction as much as the drive to make art and is as exploratory in each endeavor. “Take for instance the notion of ‘poet.’ I’ve allowed a lot of myth to hold sway over how I perform that for myself. . . . How to be ‘poet,’ ‘partner,’ ‘good friend,’ on & on. How resolve all this practical alienation,” he writes, fully aware of both the banalities (with which he quickly dispatches) and the moral consequences of asking such a question. It’s brave, totally compelling writing, and beyond that, it is joyful and anxious and stylish and very, very smart.
Mary Austin Speaker is the author of the chapbooks The Bridge (Push Press, 2011) and 20 Love Poems for 10 Months (forthcoming from Ugly Duckling); a collaborative play, I am You This Morning You Are Me Tonight, written with her husband, poet Chris Martin; and the forthcoming full-length collection, Ceremony, due out in 2013 from Slope Editions.
Return to 2012 directory.
Matthew Cooperman | Still | Counterpath | 2011
This year I began reading Walter Savage Landor’s Imaginary Conversations. In one of them, Landor has Michelangelo say, “In our days, poetry is a vehicle which does not carry much within it, but is top-heavy with what is corded on.” Cooperman’s Still yields a retort: “Counterpoint: never the vessel for what’s inside, it’s tidings of thought and who’s drinking with you.” Which sums Landor’s appeal as well as Cooperman’s own, since the play of voices (or really, pronouncements) in Landor’s prose owes all to its ease and flow, a conviviality of form. Cooperman, for his part, has mastered the secret of the list poem—a cording on of things that drift by. His details are keepsakes, not provisions. There’s no stopping to unpack along the way—interiority is a given, but for ballast alone. Meanwhile, the movement forward is incessant, and speedy when needed, even when the vessel grows top-heavy.
Aris Fioretos, trans. Tomas Tranaeus | Nelly Sachs, Flight and Metamorphosis: An Illustrated Biography | Stanford | 2012
Because of her Nobel Prize—and Holocaust connection—Sachs’s first Schocken collection, O the Chimneys, was the only book of poetry in our house when I was growing up, which means I came to her in the order of most readers before 1980: prior to Paul Celan. Since the order of reading is a chemical process, transformative and irreversible, I count myself lucky for finding Sachs first, undimmed by comparison, and then Celan in light of her. That said, my knowledge of Sachs remained pretty thin over the years. This thick description, produced by the editor of the four-volume Werke (which slipped into print in 2011), gives us a poet celebrated and forgotten before we really learned—by way of Celan—how to read her.
Lawrence P. Jackson | The Indignant Generation: A Narrative of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 | Princeton | 2011
As it happens, two of the poets most important to me—Robert Hayden and Gwendolyn Brooks—belong to the generation in question, or began there, so I was overjoyed to find a book so rich and readable on those years, which literary histories generally pass over as mere interval. And certainly the Harlem Renaissance and Black Power eras are more exciting. They’re also more copiously understood and documented—or were. I hope Jackson’s sequels and prequels are under contract.
Henry James | William Wetmore Story and His Friends | Grove | 1957, original edition 1904
Written for money, with much complaining, and little respect for its subject, the Storys, whose children urged on the task, this lapidary account of expatriate life in Italy is far more enjoyable—and more peculiar—than its neglect ever led me to expect. If I’d expected anything: I was hunting down a reference and couldn’t stop. The fretful syntax is typical of late James, but how strange, if not comical, to find it in the service of so pedestrian a genre: the two-volume Victorian “Memoir,” told through letters and diaries, with brief stretches of narrative to carry things forward when the documents tucker out. As a rule, these books have an honorable plainness, setting forth the facts to speak for themselves. But how could such an approach do for James? Investing discretion—that most sociable of virtues—with an antisocial charge, he dulls the shock to a stimulating burr, brushing us with the velvet he draped around his kind.
Paul Legault | The Emily Dickinson Reader | McSweeney’s | 2012
Every Emily Dickinson poem reduced to a single line. These are often wisecracks, material for the back of a class (zombies, really?), but the rest has an acuteness that puts scholarship to shame. And the whole has a destructive ambition worthy of its subject—though Dickinson’s ambition was of course trained higher. But she too relied on the reductio ad absurdum, and she too was given to wisecracks (some of which, drum roll, are now recited in class).
Haki R. Madhubuti | YellowBlack: The First Twenty-One Years of a Poet’s Life | Third World | 2005
The segregation of taste that our warped institutions promote, with our unthinking help, has kept me for too long from appreciating Madhubuti’s importance. Which is all the more revealing—and mortifying—when I recall my high school enthusiasm for Don L. Lee, as Madhubuti was known before 1975. This book is very much Lee’s story, a tale that rivals Iceberg Slim or Michael Gold in its pulp power. And that would be enough! But it’s also Madhubiti’s tale, which means the story is told with a wisdom pulp only achieves in the hands of a Dostoevsky or Richard Wright—shaped with a gentleness all Madhubuti’s own.
Denise Riley | Time Lived, Without Its Flow | Capsule Editions | 2012
My childhood was a study in parental mourning, with methodical care preferred to expressions of grief, analysis to elegy, perhaps because the quickening of the mind was how grief was let go, temporarily—interest forgetting its struggle with depression. I wouldn’t presume to say the same is true of Riley, only that this remarkable book (not a memoir; a record of interest in one aspect of mourning, its temporality) sustains its care so methodically, grief itself is moved; not to tears, but a clearer perspective.
Lisa Robertson | Nilling: Prose Essays on Noise, Pornography, the Codex, Melancholy, Lucretius, Folds, Cities and Related Aporias | BookThug | 2012
The dependence of sense on the senses has never been more evident to me than in these essays, which let loose the mind in a world of color and perfume, texture and sound, a world so dizzying, only words can comprehend it unstunned. Making comprehension itself a sensual experience, interrupted now and again by a pang: how dull my own words feel in comparison.
George Saintsbury | A History of English Prosody: From the Twelfth Century to the Present Day | 3 vols. | Macmillan | 1906
Marianne Moore gave Saintsbury two places in her ideal library, as many as Coleridge, more than Plato. So why not, I thought, and requested these volumes from storage. Soon enough, the need to mark passages overcame me, and I acquired a set of my own: age-softened library discards, which I can’t take to bed on account of their smell. How pristine, in contrast, the prose. Bright and liquid as a stream, bubbling over the pebbles of opinion. Which do make for a slippery footing. Better, perhaps, to reach down and take away a charm, cutting one’s own path through the history of verse. Returning, of course, when thirsty.
Gertrude Stein, ed. Logan Esdale | Ida A Novel | Yale | 2012
Stein’s fictions are her flyover states, with Ida my preferred hub. This “workshop edition” (a corrected text with drafts, letters, related pieces, and reviews) took me out of the terminal, into the city. A destination after all!
Rachel Zolf | Neighbour Procedure | Coach House | 2010
There is a madness in thinking the problem of Israel and Palestine can be thought through or sorted out, a philosophical conundrum or puzzle of language; and there’s a despair in thinking that reason has lost its right, leaving all to violence. In Neighbour Procedure, Zolf chooses madness, but yields to despair her suspicion that reason never had a right—only a discourse of ruins, monuments and counter-monuments to hope.