Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span – K. Silem Mohammad

with 2 comments

Jasper Bernes | Starsdown | ingirumimusnocteetcomsumimurigni | 2007

A dazzling book of poetry that achieves the experiential inventiveness and elaborative density of a novel without sacrificing its lyric autonomy.

Joe Brainard | The Nancy Book | Siglio | 2008

A much-anticipated event, heightened even further for me by getting to see the exhibit at Colby College, Maine, at which many of these works were on display, earlier this summer.

Jack Collom | Red Car Goes By: Selected Poems 1955–2000 | Tuumba | 2001

I wrote about Collom’s wonderful collaboration with Lyn Hejinian, Situations, Sings (Adventures in Poetry 2008) earlier this year for The Constant Critic. That book could easily have gone on this list as well. But I want to draw attention to this indispensable collection, which I picked up in June at Naropa, where Collom performs poetic miracles on a regular basis.

Patrick Durgin and Jen Hofer | The Route | Atelos | 2008

We’ve had a windfall of engrossing poetic memoirs and epistolary exchanges lately by Jennifer Moxley, Juliana Spahr, Bernadette Mayer and Bill Berkson, and others. Here’s another vibrant chronicle of the contemporary, in which two razor-sharp poets’ minds use each other as theoretical, political, and aesthetic sounding boards, and in so doing reveal the moving, living mechanisms that sustain a deep friendship.

Jennifer Knox | Drunk By Noon | Bloof | 2007

Knox is one of the few poets I can think of who still writes with great success in the familiar mode of the “dramatic monologue”: she makes it work partly by inhabiting its conventions like a kind of squatter and vandalizing them from the inside out, rendering the form unfit for occupancy by anyone else thereafter. Alternately and/or simultaneously sensitive, mean, elegant, smart, stoopid, and most of all, funny.

Jackson Mac Low | Thing of Beauty: New and Selected Works | California | 2008

The title says it all.

Sharon Mesmer | Annoying Diabetic Bitch | Combo Books | 2007

This book is like cherry-flavored anthrax in a Pixie Stix straw. Mesmer breaks all the rules of decorum, craft, and form—she even invents some new rules just to break them. I would like to see her and Jennifer Knox have a poetic slapdown in a big hockey arena somewhere. My guess is that it would end in a tie with the audience dead from hemorrhaging.

Sianne Ngai | Ugly Feelings | Harvard UP | 2005

Incisive takes on Melville, Stein, Hitchcock, Bruce Andrews, Nella Larsen, and much more. A key text for entering into many of the most lively and controversial discussions in poetics over the last few years.

Alice Notley | In the Pines | Penguin |2007

Dark, uncomfortable, haunting dream-speech. Recalls for me Spicer’s medium-like approach in works like Heads of the Town Up to the Ether.

Ara Shirinyan | Your Country Is Great: Afghanistan–Guyana | Futurepoem | 2008

Not Flarf, but that more “conceptual” vein of Google-collage practiced very interestingly in various ways by writers like Linh Dinh, Juliana Spahr, and Rob Fitterman. Shirinyan’s text does court flarfiness, however, with its inclusion of many of the unedited, offensive, and sometimes just silly things that turn up in searches for web text containing the phrase “[name of country] is great” (“Guam is great. really it is / shit, this is the place where i / found myself”). The minimal amount of shaping Shirinyan performs (mostly adding line and stanza breaks, I think) is just enough to induce that uncanny “subjectivity effect” which is one of the things that makes reading the book so compelling.

Various Authors | DRUNK |  ongoing

A lot of the poetry these days that I find the freshest and most full of expressive innovation happens on this blog and its outlying zones. The all-caps convention is really just a surface device that (along with the alcohol, one imagines) enables invention—although the monotone “shouting” effect does convey a sort of defamiliarized emotive urgency.

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  1. […] This book is like cherry-flavored anthrax in a Pixie Stix straw. Mesmer breaks all the rules of decorum, craft, and form—she even invents some new rules just to break them. I would like to see her and Jennifer Knox have a poetic slapdown in a big hockey arena somewhere. My guess is that it would end in a tie with the audience dead from hemorrhaging. (K. Silem Mohammad) […]

  2. […] A much-anticipated event, heightened even further for me by getting to see the exhibit at Colby College, Maine, at which many of these works were on display, earlier this summer. (K. Silem Mohammad) […]


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