Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span – Brad Flis

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Aihwa Ong | Neoliberalism as Exception | Duke | 2006

Ong’s, if only for its wide divergence from common iterations, is a refreshing theoretical reconsideration of the concept of neoliberalism. Instead of as a quasi-form of government, Ong suggests neoliberalism ought to be thought of as a technology of governing that can be used variously by an array of acting powers.  She provocatively claims that neoliberalism’s new configurations of territoriality, nationality, and identity, though motivated by market logics and self-interest, inevitably create new (hopeful) “spaces” from which populations can make claims to citizenship, human rights, benefits, and recognition previously excluded by state power. A take-to-the-beach kind of book.

Ted Greenwald | 3 | Cuneiform | 2008

Greenwald’s work tends to arrive in waves, but this past year it’s coming in torrents, with 3 being perhaps the most meaty sampling (another Cuneiform Press and a forthcoming BlazeVOX publication flank it). Three separate poems, built out of sonnets, quartets, tercets in series, each creating a centrifugal music by forging the ghosts of common speech out of the chambers of repetitive and modulating line structures. “Day in blue/ Stone in my passway/ Rehumanize/ Day in blue”  This is a much more personal, reflective Greenwald then I think we’re used to. Flawless and resonant, another career achievement in his long history of chart toppers.

Stan Apps | info ration | Make Now | 2007

I fully endorse this totally awesome, gnarly, and radical poetic explosion. All the things you wanted to say about capitalism and American imperialism but were afraid to sound like Keith Olbermann. As the title suggests, Apps dismantles and re-encrusts the critical desire of contemporary infotainment mediaspeak into a stained-glass Voltron of dystopic/ utopic language. “The oppressor was inside everyone/ I was fascinated by the chance to observe.”  Comes with neat Gary Sullivan cover.

John Keene & Christopher Stackhouse | Seismosis | 1913 | 2006

One of those books you keep picking up because new ideas in the interim force you back in. A text-drawing collab between these two artists, it’s the most fascinating argument for a reconsideration of Formalism in recent years, which works against the exploitable grain, from Kant to the New Critics, where the more isolated the presentation of something like ‘pure form,’ the more the mark of its contextual making breaks through. Stackhouse’s hand-drawings, frenzied and organic, are set against Keene’s amazing range of poetic forms, the latter of which concern themselves with the nature of form and abstraction, but restricted to a generally categorical palette of language itself. The result is the long creaking of history, the voice, and communal touching of art production and reception that breaks surface. “Injuring it, when I look./ What am I opening?/ Unlocking or loosing movement, the query of intent./ To enter the fail, the medium falling// in marks and strokes.”

Rob Halpern | Rumored Place | Krupskaya | 2004

Completely incredible. I almost put the book down by the end of the first section, being generally unenthused. So glad I didn’t. By the end of the second section, my understanding of and attitude toward the first completely pivoted. And then again through the next section, and then again, and again. The book roundelays the desire for collective history with a need for collective space. “Desire is a detour”  A masterful display in five parts of narrative reorienting through poetic mutation to wholly gratifying effect. “These shapes in us, negating figures like ‘future findings’—tracing rents in the general intelligence.”

kari edwards | having been blue for charity | BlazeVox [books] | 2007

This is a very strong, very lush book of resistances of all sorts, and a call to question the forms of resistance as it does so. Though its wild carnival of digital and formal interference will disappoint the avant techno novaphile, edwards explicitly theorizes a retreat away from the periphery of absolute break to address the point behind the lines where recognition and resource are not guaranteed but must be recycled from this behind-space. Too much going on in this book to encapsulate here justly, but certainly a record of and sustained demand for constructive presence. Though her last book, I know I will be rereading having been blue for charity for decades more.

Dudley Randall, ed. | Black Poetry | Broadside | 1969

Its full title is Black Poetry: A Supplement, To Anthologies Which Exclude Black Poets, easily the best title of any publication of all time with the exception of Trotsky’s Their Morals and Ours. 24 mostly familiar poets spanning two generations, from Hughes to Nikki Giovanni, packed into fewer than 50 pages, all post-war selections, which includes some exceptionally great poems by (then) Leroi Jones, Giovanni (at 25!), Clarence Major, Ahmed Alhamisi, & Sonia Sanchez. Malcolm X, recently assassinated, is taken up as figure and theme in much of the younger works. I’ve lately been looking for some texts with which to seriously yoke the persistent (insistent) critical hoopla around the New American Poetry Anthology, and this seems like a productive book to begin that retelling.

Hannah Weiner, ed. Patrick Durgin  | Hannah Weiner’s Open House | Kenning Editions | 2007

Not much to add to what oft’s been thought and mostly already been said about this needed book. A phenomenal display of Weiner’s talent and capability. Surely everyone should have read this by now, or else you’re the most unhip gluon. Major kudos to Durgin and the press.

Brian Kim Stefans | Before Starting Over | Salt | 2006

I love this book of essays, (digital) poetics, and reviews more than sin itself. A constant reference for what we need to be talking about and how we might go about it, like a poet’s little red book except kind of chunky (350p plus) and yellowish. Highlights include his letters to editors which are magically explosive given their brevity, while his spats with Silliman prove more than just entertaining, they get under the skin as nano-imperatives.  Overall Stefans is furiously scooping up from the vocabulary bin new ideas, concepts, and language and presenting it, however wet and dripping with goop, in the most generous and advanceable manner. The writing is impeccable, piercing, mellifluous, without a pixel of irony. N00bs & neuro-aesthetes take note.

Lesley Yalen | This Elizabeth | minus house | 2007

“At the end, the husband is strictly scientific.// At the end, someone is mopping like a mommy.// At the end, the glaring absences are back.// The background is ground.” Yalen’s  ten-part poem powerfully and uniquely scrutinizes the domestitcat(ed/ing) liberal fantasies of identity by forcing parodying and paradoxical figures upon a shallow stage. Husbands and moms, street people and lawyers, blondes and doctors all bolster the central figure, this Elizabeth, in a backward unpeeling of race and gender codes which the anti-hero of the poem, the Poet, is forced to reckon with, failingly, with all her aesthetic theory. Formally akin to Deborah Richards’ Last One Out, a solid read and an exquisite chapbook production by the press.

Martha Dandridge Custis, Lawrence Giffin (ed.) | Comment is Free, Vol. 2: Imperialism at Home | Lil Norton | 2008

This will be the book to replace Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader for decades to come. The ad copy reads like this: “Taking the government buyout of Bear Stearns, Custis deftly weaves a wondrous tapestry of the abuse of power and the potential for resistance.” The book’s contents read like this: “There is no accountability left in the ‘system’, only the rich and well connected make up the rules and we all slave to their gains.// I don’t understand why ‘we’ are at fault. ‘We’ are powerless to stop anything.” Imagine your entire collegiate graduating class invited to your house to discuss the economy. Better than the movie.

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More Brad Flis here.

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