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Attention Span 2011 | Craig Dworkin

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Derek Beaulieu | Seen of the Crime | Snare | 2011 (forthcoming)

Collected short essays from the fearlessly indefatigable, inquisitive, and generous poet, letraset master, micro-press publisher, and collector of literary curiosities. I haven’t seen the final manuscript, but an early draft suggests that this will be the practical, earnest compliment to the abstruse theoretical wink of Notes on Conceptualisms.

Gregg Biglieri | Little Richard the Second | Ugly Duckling | 2011

A gorgeous new book by my favorite poet. Little Richard offers a lyric meditation on doubling (echo), words (and letters), and the +ow (/wo) effect. Wow. The philosophical aviary of these post-objectivist stanzas resound with all the interlingual puns that can pass in the augenblicke of Minerva’s insomniac bird (which blinks rarely, and has two eyelids, but is the only bird to blink like humans do). Printed letterpress on luxuriously doubled sheets of laid Neenah paper, with elegant hand-sewn Japanese stab-binding and a device evoking the culture ministry of some central asian dictatorship.

Kieran Daly | Plays/ For Theater | bas-books | 2011

I’ve been genuinely surprised and excited by everything I’ve seen from Daly, which suggests that there is still some room left for both the reduction and expansion of conceptual writing before the mode is played out (and Daly pushes in both directions simultaneously). This is hard-core conceptual theatre in which bibliography takes center stage. Gertrude Stein meets Jarrod Fowler.

Judith Goldman | l.b.; or, catenaries | Krupskaya | 2011 (forthcoming)

The concatenated series of poems in Judith Goldman’s l.b chart the narratives formed by texts of uniform density hanging freely from two fixed readings not in the same semantic line. On the one hand, the book dramatizes language under the regimes of contemporary communication—the protocols and phatics of privatized and publicly traded language—with all the false and inescapable sociality of networked media and commercial memoranda. On the other hand, the motivated material play of the signifier points to the paths of greatest resistance: chance, ludic laughter, and the recalcitrant residuum of the body.

At the level of composition, l.b is also a kind of catena patrum: a series of extracts from earlier writings, forming a commentary on some portion of scripture. Goldman’s finely sutured microcollage of forms and phrases moves from Aristotle to Andy Warhol, Kathy Acker to William Wordsworth, Abu Ghraib to Thomas Wyatt. Where the traditional catena is also a chronological series of extracts to prove the existence of a continuous tradition on some point of doctrine, here the discrepant result is a more thoroughly, honestly, chronic text: not the false time of doctrine and tradition, but something more true to its own time, and to linguistic time itself.

Helen Hajnoczky | Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising | Snare | 2010

As if Rob Fitterman wrote a season of Mad Men, Hajnoczky gives us the life story of a character told exclusively through the language of corporate advertising, with the publication date of the (actual) found text keyed to the corresponding year of his (fictional) life. Given the degree to which North Americans are all shaped by the interpellating hail of commercial media, this is also the biography of many of its readers as well. The book, sporting a handsomely textured purple cover decorated with ‘pataphysical gidouilles, contains a generous and considered Afterword. Snare, run by Jon Paul Fiorentino in Montréal, has rapidly established itself as a press to watch and a venue of envy for conceptual writers.

Yedda Morrison | Darkness | Make Now | 2011 (forthcoming)

Morrison has produced an edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in which only references to the natural world remain. But what counts as “natural” is far from self-evident, and Morrison’s erasures open onto a range of philosophical and ethical questions. At one extreme, the reader begins to suspect that perhaps we can never recognize a truly natural world, one uncoloured by our human perspective, at all. And at the same time, at the other extreme, one begins to suspect that maybe there is nothing—including our own artifice—that is not in fact a part of an all-encompassing natural world after all.

The test of conceptual writing is the degree to which the distance between the concept and the execution creates enough friction to generate a spark across that gap. Here, the ethereous space between the idea and the text—between mind and body, artifice and nature, erasure and source—ionizes with violent disruption and report.

Joseph Mosconi | Galvanized Iron on the Citizen’s Band | Poetic Research Bureau | 2009

Each poem here is a mash-up of euphemistic cant, with one half taken from the slang of soldiers and the other from the code of truckers (the G.I. and C.B. of the deacronymized title). The results come across like eroticized slogans, often with an uncomfortable and vaguely aggressive comedy. The thin, oversize hardback is bound like a primer for early readers, with the text set in an enormous 25-point Times New Roman, as if Jenny Holzer were excerpting lines from mid-career Bruce Andrews’ poems, to be printed on billboards or bumperstickers. Conceptual, wry cultural critique, with one ear to the art world and one ear to the microphonemics of the best Language writing. Two poems, just to give a taste: “Gucci/ Kit/ Diesel/ Cop”; “Shamurai/ Cash/ Box.”

Travis Ortiz | Variously, Not Then | Tuumba | 2011 (forthcoming)

The book I have been most anticipating for the longest time. Ortiz has taken a finely polished series of prose poems (originally composed in a west-coast, post-language, ‘90s mode of socially motivated radical parataxis) and written through them both lexically and typographically. The result simultaneously displays both the remixes, with their delicious lines like “geography towers is narrative,” and also the original texts. Those originals are the epitome of their genre, and so opening Variously is like discovering a forgotten time-capsule containing a pristine print from a lost, never-screened film documenting its own vanished golden-age. A treasure chest, in other words. Luxuriously designed, and a rare issue from Lyn Hejinian’s revamped Tuumba press.

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven | Body Sweats | MIT | 2011 (forthcoming)

Edited by Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo (an interesting poet in her own right – see Parlance [Coach House, 2003]), this long-needed collection remaps the frontiers of Modernism by allowing us to fully see, for the first time, just how radical von Freytag-Loringhoven’s writing was. We know her performative persona was something to be reckoned with (she scared the shit out of William Carlos Williams, offering to infect him with her syphilis in order to help free up his poetry – they ended up more than once in fistfights on his suburban front lawn), but her linguistic fearlessness puts her in the same league as Mina Loy, Gertrude Stein, and Abraham Lincoln-Gillespie. Moreover, these poems will be a wake-up-call to many contemporary poets: a century later the Baroness’ work is still as drastic as anything being published today.

Eric Zboya | Translations | Avantacular | 2010

Two volumes, in collaboration with Andrew Topel, of “algorithmic” translations, which transform the letters of a poem into extruded dendrites of exploded non-lexical exclamation. Abstract, illegible geometric patterns in a densely inked but subtly-shaded blue-black sheen, each shape is determined by an alphabetic logic that human viewers can appreciate but cannot reconstruct. A new idiom for digital poetry, visual poetry, and appropriation.

Steven Zultanski | Pad | Make Now | 2010

Ultimately more about the tension between the literal and the figural imagination than the Beavis and Butthead idée fixe of its domestic inventory (the book purports to catalogue every object in Zultanski’s apartment and whether or not his dick can lift it), PAD nonetheless suggests a new kind of confessional autobiography, filtered through the strategy of a clinically deodorized conceptualism. In the process it creates a new meter, and gives a parodic send-up of the charge that Conceptual writing is a phallocentric guy-thing. Zultanski’s premise begs its anatomical sequel—whether every object in an apartment fits in a writer’s vagina—which would offer yet another a new scale for classifying possessions but with a radically different psychological twist. I’m looking forward to that book, which I trust is being written as I type, if it’s not already in press. In the meantime, the bottom line: I can lift Steven Zultanski’s PAD with my dick.

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Dworkin’s Attention Span for 201020092007 . Back to 2011 directory.

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