Attention Span – Philip Metres
Walt Whitman | Leaves of Grass | Norton Critical Edition | 2002
This summer, I read the 1892 Leaves from cover to cover, and then the 1855 version, and did not want either to end. Despite its repetitiousness, its occasionally reprehensible poems, and its many awful lines— (“limitless limpid jets of love” being one of the most hilariously bad representations of male orgasm)—I found myself completely in love with Whitman’s project—its grandiosity, its attunement to his time, its largesse.
Mahmoud Darwish, trans. Fady Joudah | The Butterfly’s Burden | Copper Canyon | 2007
A collection of his most recent books translated by Fady Joudah into a supple and lush English — The Stranger’s Bed (1998), A State of Siege (2002), and Don’t Apologize for What You’ve Done (2003) — aptly represents the range of Darwish’s mature style. From the courtly and ecstatic love lyrics of The Stranger’s Bed, to the diaristic and penetrating political poem of A State of Siege, to the colloquial meditations on mortality, history, and the future in Don’t Apologize, The Butterfly’s Burden bears witness to the generous breadth of Darwish’s poetic and cultural achievement.
Marisol Limon Martinez | After You, Dearest Language | Ugly Duckling Presse | 2005
I can’t shake this book, composed as an index. Little haunter, dream house, index of night.
C.D. Wright | One Big Self | Copper Canyon | 2007
Wright culls statements and stories from the poet’s interviews of Louisiana prison inmates, conducted with photographer Deborah Luster (following in the tradition of Muriel Rukeyser’s trip to Gauley Junction with photographer Nancy Naumburg). Wright juggles these voices and images in ways that create “one big self” that contains author, reader, and prisoner.
Michael Magee | My Angie Dickinson | Zasterle | 2006
What happens with Flarf finds/fights traditional form, when Emily meets Angie. Ron Silliman has already called it a classic, but this is no museum piece.
H.L. Hix | God Bless: A Political/Poetic Discourse | Etruscan Press | 2007
God Bless comes almost entirely from speeches made by George Bush and Osama Bin Laden, which Hix transforms into poems in various traditional Western and non-Western forms, from the sestina to the ghazal. It is a fascinating project, demonstrating an aesthetic attention that becomes a kind of ethical and political attention, a close reading of the first order. A document of close listening, God Bless aptly demonstrates the profound lack of listening at the heart of this administration’s decision-making process. Documentary poetry, in Hix’s rendering, becomes a kind of history lesson for the poet and his readers, a way of reading into the archive and thus extending the archive into poetry, poetry as “extending the document.”
Katie Degentesh | The Anger Scale | Combo Books | 2005
Flarf meets the MMPI, and they have a baby. If lyric tends toward the neurotic, and flarf toward the psychotic, then this book demonstrates a healthy split-personality.
Bob Perelman | Iflife | Roof | 2006
Rangy both formally and tonally, Perelman’s latest is framed by poems that situate us in the War on Terror, this book by a langpo vet moves us through elegies, investigations, re-considerations, muddlings of all sorts. He’s still lost his avant-garde card somewhere in the wash; I hope he never finds it.
Robert Hass | Time and Materials | Ecco | 2007
I’ve always had something of a lover’s quarrel with Hass’ poetry, for the ways in which it occasionally luxuriates in its own pleasures, and veers into the prose of privilege. Yet poems like “Winged and Acid Dark”—among some others here—demonstrate the terrifying limits of poetry in the face of the dark side of human imagination. In the tradition of a narrative lyric poetry conscious of its own imperial leanings.
Hayan Charara, ed. | Inclined to Speak: Contemporary Arab American Poetry | U of Arkansas Press | 2008
Charara gathers the new and established voices of Arab American poetry confronting the post-9/11 landscape. Poets like Lawrence Joseph and Fady Joudah shake me to the core; poets like Khaled Mattawa and Naomi Shihab Nye bring me comfort.
Daniil Kharms, ed. and trans. Matvei Yankelevich | Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms | Overlook | 2007
Named by Marjorie Perloff as one of the books of the year in the Times Literary Supplement, reviewed in The New York Times by George Saunders, and with poems published in The New Yorker, Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms (translated by Matvei Yankelevich) doesn’t need my negligible imprimatur. It is unnecessary for me to say that everyone must own a copy of this book, but I will. You should. An anti-poet of the first order.
More Philip Metres here.