Archive for September 2009
Lisa Robertson | Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip | Coach House | 2009
Robertson’s books punk baroque mythologies, riff on errant possibilities, tickle traditions. Debbie: An Epic, or The Weather, or The Men, is each a world, a project. This volume gathers shorter poems that are just as ravishing. The back cover shouts in big silver capitals: “MY FIDELITY IS MY OWN DISASTER.” If you read this book in public, you may get curious looks, as I did on the F train. The lyrics are long on capital-R Romance. Each time you ride in the Soul Whip, turn up the stereo, roll down the windows and see stars shining even in hellish places. “Utopia is so emotional. / Then we get used to it.” Blues music Coleridge would download if he could.
Roberto Bolaño | 2666 | Farrar Straus | 2008
Bolaño’s epic, in a symphonic translation by Natasha Wimmer, resists any attempt at summary in the same way that it humanely mocks totalizing interpretations. 2666 inhabits the narrative space Homer’s swineherd summoned when he told Odysseus, “The nights are endless now.”
Hadley Haden Guest, ed. | The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest | Wesleyan | 2008
Barbara Guest | Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing | Kelsey Street | 2003
Guest’s essays, which lay out her conception of imagination as elusive and visionary (“obscure light…the mysterious side of thought”), helped me begin to unlock the Wesleyan collected and see how Guest’s poems collage images. Her poems rarely argue or lead. They provide beautifully designed spaces for thought, to be returned to in all seasons.
Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009
Nichols leaps the gap between one non sequitur and the next with all the grace of Buster Keaton. I guess I was thinking of the news when something musical came from the hard drive, and we were working days again.
Stuart Bailey, ed. | DOT DOT DOT 17 | 2008
Will Holder’s lecture on “the poetics of CONCRETE POETRY and documenting the work of FALKE PISANO” is transcribed and lineated, and though it doesn’t purport to be a poem, strikes me as the most genuinely new work in the genre I’ve read this year. Holder, with this patchwork of citations about concrete poetry (including examples of the form and quotations from his own critical writings), genially takes poetry about poetry to a deadpan reductio ad absurdum. Not for the faint of heart.
Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocte | 2008
Reading Young’s book feels like being admitted to someone else’s daydream. Or getting lost in a Jonas Mekas movie, only digital. A gorgeous sprawl.
Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009
Moxley’s narratives take craft to the limit without losing the easygoing lilt that makes this book such a pleasure. This is poetry as remarkable for its intellectual scope as its generous attempts to imagine and recreate the first person plural in a boldly imaginative variety of guises.
Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck, eds. | The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940 | Cambridge | 2009
The bulk of this selection of letters, including drafts of poems, is addressed to Beckett’s friend Thomas McGreevy, fellow acolyte of Joyce, poet and critic. How amazing to see Beckett’s perspective and humor change and sharpen with the years! He sets himself questions he will attempt forever, such as, “Am I to set my teeth & be disinterested? […] Is one to insist on a crucifixion for which there is no demand?”
Renee Gladman | To After That (Toaf) | Atelos | 2008
In this critical memoir of the process of thinking about writing a novel, Gladman invents a new architectural period of nostalgia and ambition.
Paolo Virno | Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation | Semiotext(e) | 2008
Jokes make a revolution in the workplace. “The joke is a public action that can be accomplished solely by means of words.” File under philosophy.
Chris Hosea is co-editor, with Cecily Iddings, of The Blue Letter.
Eleanor M. Bender, ed. | Open Spaces, Number 29, Spring | 1980
I came across this not long ago, while looking through books at my parents’ home. It’s a 64-page staple-bound poetry magazine. On the cover is a photo my dad took of two young poets. One of them is Harryette Mullen, and it turns out she was poet-in-residence at the Galveston Arts Center, where my dad directed the gallery. I always thought that I’d never met a “poet” until I left Texas and went to college in Oregon, but she was a friend of my parents when I was one year old. More proof that they’re far cooler than I gave them credit for when I was in high school. The magazine also includes work by Ahmos Zu-Bolton II, Marge Piercy, X. J. Kennedy, Susan Ludvigson, Robert Wilkinson, Tess Gallagher, Carolyn Kizer, and Marilyn Hacker.
August Kleinzahler | Sleeping It Off in Rapid City | Farrar, Straus and Giroux | 2008
Kleinzahler keeps me on my toes with his vocabulary, wit, and formal variety, and this book makes me want to write poems in ballparks, streetcars, hotel rooms, and diners. I’ve just moved to the Bay Area, and I’m sure I’ll often wander through the fog with these poems in mind.
Eugene Ionesco, trans. Donald Watson | Rhinoceros | Penguin | 2000
If Beckett had dropped acid and interpreted certain themes in Moby Dick in a play …
Kenneth Rexroth, trans. | One Hundred Poems from the Chinese | New Directions | 1971
For ten months I was in Shanghai, so this anthology of T’ang and Sung Dynasty poets was a constant companion as I tried to figure out what was under the sidewalk besides the subway. Su Tung P’o (a.k.a. Su Dongpo or Su Shi) is represented by some amazing poems.
Kenneth Rexroth, trans. | One Hundred Poems from the Japanese | New Directions | 1977
Kenneth Rexroth & Ikuko Atsumi, trans. | Women Poets of Japan | New Directions | 1977
I was too busy eating during a month-long trip around Japan to read much of anything, but ever since leaving I’ve pulled these classics from the shelf and have been rereading them constantly. Lady Otomo No Sakanoe’s “Have I learned to understand you?” is perhaps the most beautiful rhetorical question I’ve ever read.
Rimbaud, trans. Wallace Fowlie | Complete Works, Selected Letters | The University of Chicago Press | 1966
“Mon triste cœr bave à la poupe” says it all.
Sawako Nakayasu | Hurry Home Honey | Burning Deck | 2009
In the wrong hands love can get old fast, but Sawako Nakayasu’s fantastic and inventive poems are as contemporary as Cupid’s arrows get. This book is a must-read for anyone who has a heart.
Tod Marshall | The Tangled Line | Canarium Books | 2009
Ish Klein | UNION! | Canarium Books | 2009
We were super lucky to get Tod’s and Ish’s books for our first two Canarium single-author titles. I’ve read them both at least a dozen times, and I keep coming back for more.
Haruki Murakami | What I Talk About When I Talk About Running | Knopf | 2008
I like this book but only because I’ve been on a running kick and Murakami makes writing prose seem fun. But overall, it’s poorly organized and often flat—it should have been called something like “Notes Toward a Book About Running.” Still, good for anyone training for a road race or a triathlon, etc., and often funny.
More Joshua Edwards here.
Soma)tic Reading Enhancements
:an introductory note:
(Soma)tic Reading Enhancements are an extension of my (Soma)tic Poetics and exercises, in fact they’re actually not just an extension but are the poetics themselves, as the same praxis applies, for the origin of writing is locked with the origin of reading. As the writing of (Soma)tics is an engagement with the thing of things and the spirit of things, so is (Soma)tic Reading Enhancements.
The enhancements for each book were chosen intuitively, rather than randomly, a structure derived from initial sensations upon receiving a particular book. It is my wish as a poet to encourage the readers to not be passive, and to take credit for a poem’s absorption. After all, we each bring a unique set of experiences and circumstances to filter and digest poems, making them part of ourselves in our own way. Try these (Soma)tic Reading Enhancements, and maybe you will want to alter the enhancement as you read, or create a different one for yourself. Let’s encourage one another to have full participatory poetry reading! These books are some of my favorite books published in 2009, and the year is barely half over. I imagine poetry lovers a hundred years away looking back and saying 2009 was a great year for poetry!
To the muscle that bends language,
Stacy Szymaszek | Hyperglossia | Litmus | 2009
Boil 4 tablespoons of whole cloves in a quart of water. Boil on high flame for 5 minutes. Shut flame off and let the infusion cool to a hot/warm drinkable temperature. Now, VIGOROUSLY brush your teeth and gums for a full five minutes. Brush, brush, brush hard, brush, YEAH, REALLY BRUSH tooth by tooth and GUMS, especially give the gums an intense, hard brushing. Now, sit down and take a mouthful of the clove infusion, but don’t swallow, just let it soak into the freshly brushed teeth and gums. Then SPIT IT INTO an empty pan or bucket. Start reading, feeling the clove treatment TINGLE and soothe, and move your lips deliberately, and tongue, whisper the poems, speak them, whisper. Take another mouthful of your clove infusion, AND THIS TIME VIGOROUSLY swish it in your mouth, between your teeth, and from cheek to cheek, really swish it around, then SPIT IT INTO your bucket. Whisper the next poem, then read it again with a louder voice. Stop midway, maybe at page 55, the poem ending, “hemorrhage / of / air / into everyone’s / sky ” and make some more clove infusion, but this time for a nice footbath. Scrub your feet VIGOROUSLY before dipping them into the hot clove infusion. Ah, now continue. Occasionally flip to the cover and say aloud “BETTY’S REVENGE!” which is the name of the painting on the cover! Are you FILLING with the sensations of poetry and clove infusion? “a threat designated me at birth / attuned to close-calls / and violent eruptions of selfhoods / built on faults / to treat with a homeopathic / sibilant whisper / sssss / achieve / a hatred sealant”
Nathaniel Siegel | Tony | Portable Press @ Yo Yo Labs | 2009
You need a can of whipped cream, as we’re working with the lower chakras. Put a plastic garbage bag under a chair and get naked. Don’t be shy, I’m not asking you to do this on stage, you’re alone, you’re safe, IT’S GREAT! Shake your whipped cream and squirt a good lather of it on the seat of your chair, and the back of the chair. Sit down gently, gently into the whipped cream seat. Did you ever sit on a lather of whipped cream before to read poetry? If not, an entire new file of memory will be created in your brain. Every once in awhile spray a little more whipped cream here and there, and move your limbs and back into it, READ ALOUD while doing so, and READ LOUD AS YOU CAN as a matter of fact. Midway through the book, somewhere near the stanza ending, “manager driving me home / putting music on / not getting he’s trying to tell me something” stand and feel the whipped cream like a luxurious and strange garment. If you’re adventurous, as I hope you are, try gently sticking the whipped cream nozzle into your asshole and inject the creamy dairy product up there. Go ahead, remember, no one’s looking. NOW sit back down. How is that? It’s really good, isn’t it? Admit it, it’s good, right? Whipped cream enema, something everyone would love if they gave it a shot. You’ll never forget this marvelous book, “be caught off guard in a pool hall a naked guy / hold my friend all night until she goes for her AIDS test / hold my friends hand 48 hours in a coma no sleep / a vision of her the sand: light lifting up a reflection a lake”
Frank Sherlock | Over Here | Factory School | 2009
Is there a shopping mall near you? I went to one in Philadelphia called The Gallery for this book. Shopping malls are filled with the strangest opportunities to engage poems anew. The elevator in this mall was clear glass, and I would get on, stand facing the mall below, and read. People would get on, and it would move up, then down, then be still for a little while as I read, “It is difficult to / provide anything / more than skeleton / for the peace / though this skin / is seeded w/ nerve / endings flinching / at the prospect / of touch” Have you ever hid in the middle of a round rack of pants for sale? The busy department store was perfect for hiding, reading, smelling the fresh cotton and polyester, possibly made by very tired hands, “The genocide / comics / are lullabies / a rest / from hearts / from fatigues” In the furniture department there are very comfortable chairs to read in, “The void is here the invisible distance that makes this aesthetic boom / Shatters dispersal of selves figure into a common finger tongue brain” Near the pet food you can always find poisons and traps for other animals, unwanted animals. Have prepared on a roll of tape such messages as STOP THE KILLING AND PET YOUR CAT, and such, then sit on a sparkling new bicycle for sale, and read, “I am a passenger sitting in a suspicious / way w/ a yearn for the new to be older / Strangers become friends even if they are sometimes objects / The white star is on the blue field / There is a black eagle on a red sea / Crates have brought w/ them the dead people & the letters / sent from loved ones when the dead people were alive” Buy some bubble gum and ride the escalator up, up, up, and down, and back around, reading, “So it is decided that / men who pose for pictures w/ guns have terrible taste / in eyewear Some faces reflect the light of others Every lake / tastes different & even at the end the land / remains a place to fall in love”
kathryn l. pringle | Right New Biology | Factory School | 2009
Do this on a hot, humid day, like I did, it’s an especially sublime experience on such a day. Wrap your naked body in maps, atlas pages, or even imaginary maps you draw yourself. Scotch tape your suit of PLACES the lines as highways, lines as borders, takes us by car, plane, solely imagined. THEN put your OTHER clothes on over your DIRECTIONS TO SUIT THE WORLD. Remember to bring drinking water, because if you pass out you’ll miss the best parts of the poems. Don’t pass out. Where do you want to go out there with your fellow citizens? They’re not noticing the bulk under your normal human clothes, don’t worry about it. On your way to your public location to read, if you shoplift, or commit other crimes, and they strip search you: MAPS! Let them find their own way. If you arrive at the location THIS book senses location(s), note she wrote with her own body at the start, “This book could not have been written without the influence of many Presidents of the United States of America and Sigmund Freud.” Are you sweating into your maps? Isn’t it divine? Your sweat permeating mountain chains FEED the Mississippi FEED the sea! What is over your heart? Go to a public restroom to open your shirt if you don’t remember. Reading this poet, rub that artery of highways while reading to send along what you read, “a gift is the city and the setting of work / a gift of the foreherein Organism old also / these phantasms spin / around, they drive / absurd universes” Take the directions when they come INHALE she writes “INHALES / mind is two lines, or stands / a singing oracle / a swinging oracle, able sung” We’re the book, we are. It’s amazing.
Akilah Oliver | A Toast in the House of Friends | Coffee House | 2009
Maybe it was the trees on the cover, or the NEED for something MOVING around me, but I took this book out to the protected wildlife parks around Philadelphia and found a secluded stream, first for my feet, then…. Bring a battery-powered radio, turn it to a talk radio station, but put it far enough away from you that you can hear it, but can’t make out what it is they’re saying. Faint, keep it faint, go and adjust it if you can understand them, as we want the voices to be clearly voices, but the words unattainable with our senses. Get your feet in the moving water and start reading, “language is leaving me: ahhhhh—this victimization shit / is not stable and the victors: / when are we going to safari / we: [astounded exclamation] / nancy reagan out of my head” This is a book, and it feels like it is written right into your skin when you read it. I found an old scuba mask, and if you have one, please wear it and rest your head in the stream, submerging your ears at least for the reading of one poem, “well the point is, things were calm down / here for a while and the world was little. i want to be big like you. or i / want you not vast, not dead, not gone, but human small and here. i am / so selfish. that is what i really want. to see you again. to oil your scalp. to / hear you walk in the door, say ma i’m home. give me a chance to say / welcome home son. or when leaving, don’t forget your hat. what do you wear / out there?” That was the one I read underwater, under running water. This book needs time to be alone between poems. How is the water? How is today for you, reading Akilah’s poems? “i’d like all the stone butches to wave their hands in the air right now, wave em / like they just don’t care / (it seems to be unfortunate but true; corporate spell check does not recognize you / we are all too young to remember this”
Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009
Make A LOT of ice cubes in your freezer the night before. Make an ice sling, it’s very easy: use 2 plastic bags from the grocery store, fill them with ice, put these in a towel, tie the towel around your neck, but make certain that the ice is near your face at all times. Naked is best, of course. So get naked. Put your feet in a bucket of hot water and crushed garlic (4 or 5 cloves). Be ready to add more hot water and ice as you read, “I like the letters of the alphabet that slide downhill / somehow we all expected to become exasperated little gods” WHOA, this book gets you gets you gets you! WHY THE ICE YOU ASK? Why ask?, it’s ice, it’s poetry, it’s all good, no one’s getting hurt, right? Can you TASTE the garlic through your bare feet? It’s nice, it’s like eating through your feet while reading, right? What weird and lovely creatures we are! Rest your chin on the ice, SMELL the ice, inhale the cool air. It’s summer while I’m doing this, now, and lovely, the poems make me happy, “if I’m going to have to bite heads off they / damn well better taste good / it occurs to me” I mean REALLY, can you TASTE IT, “the bad guys were there in their bad guy uniforms / our bus driver was wearing a fake bad guy uniform / so he could go inside to get us food and cigarettes / [commercial break] / back at the mansion water sprinklers / water the lawn in the pouring rain” From time to time it’s good to read, then close your eyes and take a DEEP BREATH of the ice, a big ice sniff. Touch your tongue to them, hold one in your bared teeth through the reading of one poem, then SPIT it back into your ice sling and read the poem aloud, have you ever felt such things while reading? It’s beautiful to feel.
Hoa Nguyen | Hecate Lochia | Hot Whiskey | 2009
There really are patches of grass in Philadelphia where the yuppie pure bred dogs have NOT made their pure bred toilets. That’s where I went for this book, that patch I know of, a DELICIOUS patch of dirt, weeds, bugs, pebbles and bits of glass and metal, plastic bag tumble weeds. Wherever you are, whatever climate, whatever the earth, be in it for this book. I buried my bare feet after digging a hole with a sharp stone. It’s good to have water out there. It is very hot and humid in Philadelphia in August, and I LOVE hot and humid weather, LOVE to FEEL the air, and pour the water into my face while reading. “And I do think it’s true that men stole / the magical instruments of women / & we were too busy / with ordinary life / to worry about this” If eating dirt is too much for you then smell it at least, SMELL the grass. The grass sweats chlorophyll, or I’m smelling myself in the grass, but it’s kind of nice. But I ate a little of the dirt with some water, AH, gritty and weird while reading, “I might literally shut down / like a bug little legs / curled in the air” Feel OK about stopping midway to dig around, digest the poems and dirt, dig around, digest, dig into the earth and make little dirt castles for whoever is small enough to move in. There were enough beer can tabs for me to make a little table with four chairs. Remember this book with the earth covering your feet, “The ‘perfect red king’ / is a man becoming a woman / and bleeding every month / ‘Fixed with a triple nail’ / This is hard work / becoming a woman” and you will believe everything in here with the best parts of you working for it.
Jenn McCreary | : AB OVO : | Dusie | 2009
Bring all of this: bread, nuts, seeds, honey, water with lemon and orange slices. Take a chair some place in your house or apartment where you NEVER sit, some place you would never even CONSIDER sitting. Like in a hallway, in a corner facing the corner, in the bathroom, or UP on a table, let’s do it! This enhancement, and this book, contain a variety of different pregnancies. So sit in a place you would NEVER sit, sit there with your plate of food, and water, make something new of the body you’ve known your home to be. Eat some of the food, drink some of the water, slowly, chew a long, long time. This is about being the poems of this book now, “…what the gardens can / do is import the world outside. when borders / are undefined, lines may be lost or may cease / to be. the ground beneath your feet becomes / or does not.” Let’s let it become beneath our feet. Where you are, put a plant there after you’re finished reading the book. A new plant, a small, young plant. Not a lot of light? A philodendron for low light then. “the walls of this room have become the world / all around.” This book, the plant, the reading, it’s all going to SHIFT you, unless you’re unmovable, but I bet you can be jarred as only good poems can jar. “It’s almost like the ocean. it’s nothing / like the ocean. in that space / where no one else / is. it’s such a long way / down. & strange. / my ears revolve for wolves. I find my footing / & walk across the air / to where you are.”
Joseph Massey | Areas of Fog | Shearsman | 2009
These poems for me came from lower chakras, they’re so marvelously spare they need our flanks to shake the storage of memory files loose. Take a string, not a sewing thread, something a little thicker and more durable, and something which is made of fiber, not plastic. Make certain the string is long enough to reach into your pants, around your crotch and ass, and out the back. You should have a good 12 inches of string hanging out the front of your pants, and the exact same amount hanging out the back of your pants. Make sure you lubricate the string that’s against your skin, and be generous in lubricating it, we don’t want to get rope burns from reading Joe’s book, we want it beautiful instead. NO ONE is going to notice the string, so don’t worry, and even if they do, they’re busy, and won’t let it stay in their minds for more than a minute. Go out into your town or city, or wherever you live where there are people. Test the string before leaving, pull it from the front, then pull it from the back. How is that? Is it nice? Of course it is, it’s perfect for poems! Find a place to lean and read, “There are seasons here / if you squint. And there’s / relief in the landscape’s / sloughed off cusps of color / fallen over the familiar / landmarks, the familiar / trash–things that last.” There’s something beautiful about being with these quiet poems jarring our insides, while in public. Now pull your string, then reach to the other side and pull your string again, and read, “dusk dims / between leaves / on the tree / whose name / I refuse to find.” I put the string RIGHT IN my ass crack, which made me totally aware of my surroundings, “Enough to make / the foliage / flinch, / wind slits. / Music sifts / out of a house.” Music not just coming out of things around us, but from these poems as well, “how the light / makes do. / A thrust of / things– / a world– / words– / crush / against / the margin of you.”
Erica Kaufman | Censory Impulse | Factory School | 2009
Go to the middle of an overpass and stare down at the traffic without blinking for as long as you can. As soon as you blink open the book. Let the traffic and road below frame the book as you read. Open yourself to FEELING urges to spout off words, lines, entire poems as loud as you want whenever you want. You’re reading poetry, you have the world’s permission to feel URGES and FEEL urges. Smells, sounds, even taste’s sensations come up with the cars. The filth of exhaust, do you get it? Stop from time to time, to close your eyes and hum a hummmmming all your own, lifting to high hummmm, low hummm, hummmmmm your hum. It’s getting into you out here, the poems, the pulsing travel of words and cars? “this is a vocabulary of possession / this is why i won’t meet you / in the road a curb under an insect / shaped fountain i bring / a trampoline to the park / offer up a bench / say my blood is somewhere / it’s not important / like distance the how long / of intimate the panic / that shuts any mind down / conquer the hill feel it / please use these anecdotes / as an introduction”
Rob Halpern | Disaster Suites | Palm | 2009
Does it storm where you live? If it doesn’t, try sitting in the shower under an umbrella with a VERY LOUD recording of a thunderstorm playing. In Philadelphia we have the real thing, and I checked the weather reports for the PERFECT SUMMER STORM. Ah, and did I find it! Suites they are, and reading them in the middle of a torrential downpour with frightening lightning and thunder made the music OMNIPRESENT like few experiences of reading have done for me. Sit in an outdoor shelter. I chose the steps of a pre-revolutionary war building near Benjamin Franklin’s house. Bring a recording of a thunderstorm. If you have an MP3 player, ONLY have it playing in one ear. If you have an old fashioned tape recorder like I used, place it so one ear will absorb the bulk of the crackling. At times, when reading, it was as if the storm was answering the recorded storm, “Everyone out there listening knows / My body feels so way off the ground / As all the big stores go reaching for me” And sit a cup JUST OUTSIDE your shelter, let the cup absorb the storm’s water. I brought a metal cup, and set it FAR away from me, hoping to catch more than water. But it only caught water, a delicious cup of storm water. Drink and read, “Of being being sucked absorbed into ever vaster / Networks where history’s still being taped and re / -ality tested oh y’re just suffering the old imperial / Nostalgia he said but the neo-con retards fucked- / Up my spin without me and I guess I don’t know / How to criticize democracy value or to just say no!” And place a slice of bread in the storm to absorb the nitrogen from the lightning, and of course the delicious water; eat, and let them become your body, “Now let’s recount ourselves in terms of crisis dynamics / Depict the ends of state where history and the seas / Choose me since I see you there my dreamy fuck.”
David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm | 2009
Take your laundry to the laundromat, even if you’re fortunate enough to have these machines at home. This is about reading poems while feeling machines in public. Set washer to the longest possible cycle. Sit on it, or have a chair beside it so you can lean into it, press into it. Stare at the book’s cover and stare at it even when you think you’re tired of staring at it, as it’s possible you’re trying to trick yourself into thinking you’re tired when you’re actually disturbed. Imagine those bloody arms and hands belong to someone you love more than anyone else in this world. What’s this person’s name? Say their name out loud while looking at the book cover. Be disturbed, you deserve it. We all deserve it. This is a cover to refer to while reading. PRESS a cheek into the washing machine, then pause while reading to open the lid, and place a hand inside the soapy water. Just keep it there for a few minutes while reading. Reading, your hand in filthy water trying to get clean. Midway through the book, pause to go outside and STRETCH your body, give a good stretch and yawn if you can yawn, this would be around page 54 with the stanzas, “We will be naming / the dead and injured / and reading anti-war / poetry. Email but put / “Anti-War Poetry / Book” in the subject / line to make sure / you’re not deleted.” The dryer, sit in front of it if it’s got a round glass window, sit as close as you can. While reading have the rolling heated clothes with the water sucking from their fibers be the image that frames the book. At some point OPEN THE DRYER and stick your head inside with your eyes closed and FEEL the intense heat and humidity, then close it and go back to reading. You would be surprised that no one really notices you, in case you worry about such things. Everyone’s busy, they don’t even care to know that you’re in the middle of experimenting with your reading. If you feel comfortable enough, invite someone in the laundromat to listen to you read from the book for them, “I think there / are theres here / in my devices / the rigorous buffoonery / the fleshy statistics / the secret minutes / the cathected works.”
Julian Brolaski | Buck in a Corridor | flynpyntar | 2009
Button mushrooms are what I bring to this. Any mushroom you want, but button mushrooms are the only mushrooms I enjoy raw. ENJOYMENT is essential! Please do not wash them, they absorb water. Brush them off with a clean, dry towel, that’s all. Go out into the fresh air and sun. Take these fungus which have grown in quiet darkness, bring them OUT into the lit world with you. Find a place to relax. Lie flat on your back, place a mushroom on crotch of your pants or dress or whatever. If you’re naked, GREAT, but be clean, as you have to eat these morsels. Spend a little time with your eyes closed, meditating on your genitals, on the mushroom on your genitals. Then move that mushroom up to your breast for the heart chakra point. Put a new one on your genitals. Rest and meditate again. Then move the first one to middle of your forehead, the second one to your heart, and yet a third one on your genitals again. Now start reading, but be aware that you are MOVING through the mushrooms a channel of energy UP from your genitals to your mind. Read, “to act in opposition to one’s genitals / turn your cock inside out and get a cunt like a prius / vs. take some cuntflesh and get a cock like the wright flyer I / @ kitty hawk / with adverse yaw / wingwarped / circumnavigated / how to fashion / a canard” After reading a little while, pause and take the mushroom off your forehead. Pull the stem off and eat it. Run your thumbs along the feathery gills on the underside of the cap. Press it inside out a bit. Cuntflesh into Cock, back again, back again, then EAT IT! It’s delicious, right? Move the mushrooms UP, from heart to forehead, etc., with a new one on genitals. Read, “going around adding –ess to nouns / “lion-ess” / “poet-ess” / that’s such a load / so that the daffydill yawns back / the one who taught me grk is dead / you want to put them in your lap” Pause and study the mushroom from your forehead, EAT IT, move them up, and keep reading until the delicious book is finished, the delicious mushrooms are finished, “we’ve all crossed thresholds we don’t brag about / iphigenia oxling / when arbolaf dies / one is hailed to arden / as one goes hitherto / asphyxiating along the gowanus / in spite of that rat light / in the gutted yardland / or where jackadaws coo / in concrete galoshes”
Anselm Berrigan | To Hell with Sleep | Letter Machine Editions | 2009
GET IN THE DARK. Bring a flashlight into a closet and take pillows and shirts and socks and panties and whatever the fuck you can find to CLOSE all the cracks of light from getting IN there. And put a fan in there, and bring water, and put the fan on low. THIS is now the atmosphere for THIS. It’s a good time to praise with utmost gratitude SIGHT! Is anyone going to be looking for you? Make sure you plan on telling everyone you’re going out, to a movie, somewhere, BUT to really have THIS as THIS atmosphere, having it as all your own, don’t tell anyone where you are. It’s none of their business how you absorb poems. These line breaks are more like line cuts, cutting across the page, a good thing the flashlight can trace. Do you have binoculars, do you? I tried this and it was marvelous: so put the book on the other side of the closet, which I did by suspending it with clothes hangers. Then flash the light on the book while reading the page through the binoculars, it’s great. It’s kind of hard actually, which is great. Every once in awhile SHUT OFF the light and sit there in the pool of pitch black quiet. Then SUDDENLY flick the flashlight back on and read quickly for a little while to make the reading in your head THE SOUND that comes, the light, the reading. “I’m glad for waste, its / ascension, its emotional arc / into the prose of governance. / Dumb hostilities issue forth / from all the movements of yester- / morrow; am I liberal when it / comes to prostitution? No.” How is this for you, you know you like dark poetry reading, “At the used frame shop / the cruel chase a world. Dan / Marino from Nutrisystem / tells good carbs from bad.”
Eric Baus | Tuned Droves | Octopus | 2009
Be fully dressed for this one. Fill a tub with a nice hot bath, bubbles TOO, and a good amount of it. Climb in, shoes and all, shirt, pants, even a coat if you want. It’s nice to FEEL the warm water soak into the fabric, and fill the shoes, soak into the socks, then, then it hits the skin, ah, time for poetry. Make yourself pee before doing this by the way or your bladder will pressure you out of the tub, unless of course you just want to pee yourself in the tub, it’s your choice, don’t let me interfere. This book is perfect for a submerged body, but don’t get suds on it, or water, and don’t doze off and drown, I’m sure Eric Baus would feel terrible, and I would have to console him and tell him that it wasn’t his fault you’re so stupid to fall asleep with such a book in hand. In fact you deserve to drown if you fall asleep while reading it. But you’re not stupid, you’re OK, you’re fine, but midway through reading the book STAND UP SUDDENLY, maybe just before “THE CONTINUOUS CORNER” section. Enjoy the water falling out of your clothes, drip drip, it’s dripping off of you, you have a body made MOSTLY OF water, but when it’s outside you it drips off, unless of course you peed yourself in the tub, then it’s dripping out of you. Enjoying this marvelous book? “When the work was finished, there were no chapters. / The name of the child was It Is Not Here. / It is unlikely this is precise. / To reproduce his mother’s voice, hydrogen was added to the body. / For all this activity, the sound was flat.”
More CA Conrad here.
Kit Robinson | The Messianic Trees: Selected Poems 1976-2003 | Adventures in Poetry | 2009
“When I was a musician’s musician / I used to be a poet’s poet / then a black box” is the story of American poetry, postwar to next war to the one after that, rendered to clean Dolchese. ‘76 daps 2003: “Hey, poetry lovers! / It’s good to see you / here on the page.”
Julian T. Brolaski | A Buck in a Corridor | flynpyntar press | 2008
Saunter Gowanus with enough English in your pocket and it curls to its Middle like this, a new-gender’d Cockaigne “wher no bivalves gurgle at our kushing.”
Norma Cole | Where Shadows Will: Selected Poems 1988-2008 | City Lights | 2009
City Lights brought back to life via “the whole story of the light” set to music of “enormous rotating blades.” Poetry as algebra proving the theorem “that dictionary may be a companion to art but life/is the most sentimental thing there is.”
David Larsen | Names of the Lion | Atticus/Finch | 2009
Truth in advertising: all 500 hundred of Ibn Khalawayh’s names for the lion (“Whose Complaint Sets Others Moving,” “Whose Coat is the Color of Papyrus,” “He Who Looks for Trouble in the Night”) shined and seductively annotated “in the procedural spirit of recent avant-garde tradition.” “If Names of the Lion reads like an elegiac text, it is because we of the twenty-first century mourn the lion’s lost mastery over the earth.”
Barbara Guest | The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest | Wesleyan | 2008
Jupiter no longer so invisibly pulling so many of ‘09’s moons.
Douglas Oliver | Whisper ‘Louise’ | Reality Street | 2005
Louise Michel, “Red Virgin” of the Paris Commune, turned Revolution into paper-mâché and held sick horses in the street. Oliver makes her contradictions a piñata for his own life to fit into, the better to study the candy of our shared political dreams.
Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008
Memoir goes to the movies and comes back as Parker Posey in a script by Yvonne Rainer. “That we could come of age inside another person’s coming of age story, or come to political consciousness inside another person’s coming to political consciousness story, haven’t people been doing that forever?”
Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009
Say it forty times fast and watch “little ships / of sensitive data” leave magic dimes behind everyone’s seats.
Michael Gizzi | New Depths of Deadpan | Burning Deck | 2009
Gizzi’s the Moses of tablets turned to sound, then dropped from the cliffs to hit ‘C’. This new Sinai’s pure Barbasol, all wobble and aloe and swing. When “blessings descend but no one knows how to redeem them,” then “grammar cracks eggs as best it can.”
Brandon Downing | bdown68’s Channel | YouTube | 2009
Disjunction soaked in the world’s B-movies and pulled out as syntax again. Jung never looked so harajuku, subtitles so lyrically green.
David Brazil & Sara Larsen, eds. | Try! Magazine | self-published | 2008-2009
Periplum to a party that would never have Pound as a member. Proof positive that toner and staples can make a Bay Area anywhere.
More Rodney Koeneke here.
Charles Baudelaire, trans. Keith Waldrop | The Flowers of Evil | Wesleyan | 2006
Daniel DeFoe | Memoirs of a Cavalier | Shakespeare Head Press | 1928
Rachel Loden | Dick of the Dead | Ahsahta Press | 2009
Eric Hobsbawm | The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848 | Vintage | 1989
Fanny Howe | The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation |Graywolf | 2009
Devin Johnston | Sources | Turtle Point Press | 2008
Flann O’Brien | The Hard Life | Dalkey Archive | 1994
Tom Pickard | The Dark Month of May | Flood | 2004
Winfield Townley Scott | New and Selected Poems | Doubleday | 1967
Genevieve Taggard | Travelling Standing Still | Knopf | 1928
More Daniel Bouchard here.
Stephen Rodefer | Call It Thought: Selected Poems | Carcanet | 2008
This is a generous selection from Rodefer’s work, introduced by Rod Mengham. It’s too short on selections from Four Lectures, but other than that most of what you need is here. Reading the first and presumably earliest poems in the book, which I’d not seen, confirmed my suspicion that Rodefer emerged full-grown from the head of Apollo to set up as the last secretary of modernism. The poet is both hero and anti-hero in that tradition: leave it to Rodefer to remake “lives of the artists” as “lies of the artists.” We already knew that Rodefer is Villon, or might as well be, and some years on he’s translating Baudelaire as Zukofsky. There’s not a better poet alive.
Robert von Hallberg | Lyric Powers | The University of Chicago Press | 2008
This will ruffle a few feathers: “My argument is that the most distinctive authority of lyric rests still on its affirmative function, whereas the intellectual disciplines derive from doubt.” Praise rather than complaint as the central lyric impulse, criticality a subset of rationality, the limits of which lyric reveals. “Musicality authenticates poetry, a crucial function in a discourse that strains against social conventions.” Von Hallberg links poetry or rather an “orphic tradition” with structures of belief that persist beyond irony and skepticism in a secular culture, and answers those concerned that the “affirmative effect of form . . . might discourage an intelligent warrior class from the struggle to preserve the autonomy of the republic” with a question about “whether the pleasures of fully realized art do not encourage one to achieve a peace so well crafted that it seems divinely sanctioned.” Chapters on authority, praise, civility, thought, musicality, and universality: much to ponder throughout. This is a powerful defense of poetry at a moment when the academy could care less.
William Fuller | Three Replies | Barque | 2008
This is a chapbook containing “replies” to Parson Platt, Thomas Traherne, and Experience, dedicated to “the New Mystagogues.” Fuller has been reinventing the prose poem since Sugar Borders (1993), and his recent full-length collections, Sadly and Watchword, contain both prose and verse. But what these new poems are doing with the verse line and prose is pretty wild, a step beyond that earlier work. Does it make sense to speak of it as a prosody? As ever, the writing is both meditative and deadpan, fast as a disappearing proposition, thought emptying itself of pretension: “Compare this statement to the gas pump, seen from behind the steering wheel, late at night.”
Norma Cole | Natural Light | Libellum | 2009
Especially for its first sequence or grouping, “Pluto’s Disgrace,” as it works the Pluto/Persephone myth in fragments about “iron disorders” and everyday violence. Notes on metal and wealth. As ever, Pluto is in the dark, and Persephone altogether beyond him, “nobody”: “the smallest telescope / reveals a golden glow / coming from her neck.” Her presence calls up Cole’s fiercely ethical response: “if you can, wave–a / woman holds / binoculars to / her eyes.”
Joseph Macleod | Cyclic Serial Zeniths from the Flux: Selected Poems | Waterloo Press | 2009
Andrew Duncan selects and introduces the great Anglo-Scottish modernist, author of the book-length The Ecliptic (1930), which was of considerable interest to Pound, Bunting, and Rexroth and has been highly valued by poets in Cambridge (UK) since. Only two sections of that book are here, but there is plenty more poetry until now nearly impossible to find, including works from the 1940s, when Macleod published some of his finest poetry as Adam Drinan, and lengthy selections from Macleod’s verse drama, which Duncan rates highly, as he also views Macleod’s career in the theater as crucial. It’s time we move beyond considering what it is that the strange and (as far as poetry is concerned) sad history of Macleod’s career tells us about modernism and British poetry and start reading his poems closely. The poems are marvelous and the unpacking is worth doing. One strophe from “Enterprise Scotland” (1946): “The hard ingine of a mother love / sorts and snowks, fichers and favours, / wales the best of the braw stuff, / sprushes with carved paper / tissues that scintillate and undulate / into and furth of her bairn-multitudes / that enlighten and illuminate / the minds and eyes of her bairn-multitudes.”
Rodrigo Toscano | Collapsible Poetics Theater | Fence Books | 2008
I have seen a few of the texts collected here performed at conferences: they’re fun to watch. One text, “Eco-Strato-Static,” which might have been written by Albert Camus had Albert Camus Toscano’s sense of humor, is up at the Meshworks YouTube site, in two parts, the first of which is here. This one might as well be—would work well as—radio drama. The physical theater of poetics theater is not always important, I think, though I’m hardly an expert, and it matters more to some of these works than others. A “collapsible” poetics theater might be one that you can fold and carry in your pocket, like a book. Toscano is very funny and his writing lively, playful—Sitwellian or Steinian and shaped by popular and local idioms and several languages—and these texts move easily if sometimes a little self-consciously among the discourses and problems of post-identity and labor politics, philosophy, and (alas) experimental poetry. It’s interesting to think of what the poetics theater format adds on the page, which is where most will find this work, and arguably where it is most realized. Consider the opening of Part 2 of “Truax Inimical,” for instance, where the format allows Toscano to get away with lines he’d never get away with in poems: “I fly in the deep of the night. I fly toward the source of the light.” That’s cheesy but only because I’ve stripped away numbers that precede each word (there’s one word per line) and slow the reading and make it something else. One of the few books I’ve read recently that is truly “innovative.”
Tim Atkins, ed. | Onedit 13 | http://www.onedit.net/issue13/issue13.html | 2009
This is one of my favorite webzines, its selections mixing familiar and less familiar names mostly from the UK and USA, each number short enough to allow for focus, avoiding the sprawl that the web encourages. Austere production nods to the typewriter, and Atkins keeps finding interesting new work. Number 13 includes “Proposals” by Allen Fisher, which features images of Fisher’s paintings (diptychs) giving on to texts (diptychs of verse and prose). There aren’t many images of Fisher’s paintings easy to find, so I was grateful for this simply for the view of Fisher’s practice it allows, and here the web format is perfectly considered. In what ways is Fisher Blakean? “As if anyone really knew what existence links to ecstatic life.” Work by Sophie Robinson, Rebecca Rosier, Emily Critchley, and others.
Caroline Bergvall | Alyson Singes | Belladonna Books | 2008
Pseudo-Chaucerian idioms romp through the history of women and post-feminist discourse: “Everything was different / yet pretty much the same. / Godabove ruled all / & the Franks the rest. / Womenfolk were owned ne trafficked / nor ghosted, and so were / most workfolk enserfed. / Sunsets were redder then, / legs a little shorter.” Light fare and the better for it, at its best when least self-conscious of an avant-garde, where sex trumps theory.
John Wilkinson | Down to Earth | Salt | 2008
The date and title of his last book, Lake Shore Drive, might suggest otherwise, but this is John Wilkinson’s first American book following his arrival at Notre Dame, because of its subject matter and in some ways its prosody. It makes sense that the book takes its epigraph from Ed Dorn. The longer poems catalog the devastation of the psychic and material landscapes encountered: “dawn / recurs with its terrible systems of belief, / whose proceeds kill in all good faith . . . .” The turbines involved are global, but the focus is on local exhaust fumes, which is to say North America. Since landing in the USA Wilkinson has also emerged as one of the sharpest critics writing about poetry, American and British both. A note describes Down to Earth as one book-length project, though there are titles for individual poems: the haunting “Like Feeling” and “The Indiana Toll” are probably my favorites. Anthony Walton’s Mississippi and Luis Urrea’s Across the Wire, together with an exhibition about Mexican migration at Notre Dame’s Snite Museum, are mentioned as important to the work. English idioms (“hoovered up”) survive and Wilkinson’s impressive vocabulary, but the sentence rhythms have been punched up, phrases clipped. Odd to have the burning tires and trashed cars of North America catalogued by such a poet, trimming his impossible eloquence. Traces of the earlier syntax remain, of course, and he’s capable of smuggling in Eliot or Bunting (who would after all make more sense to a new compression as it meets this catalog of horrors: “Words! A light-pen is too /compromised,” which is funny in more ways than one). I might add without pretending that it means very much that it seems to me likely that American readers will find this Wilkinson’s most “accessible” volume.
cris cheek | part: short life housing | The Gig | 2009
An impressive selected poems spanning some twenty-five years, revised and introduced or reframed for this substantial, sharply produced volume. For me the best of it might be the longest, central section, titled fogs, written in Lowestoft, England over ten years: “The initial year’s procedure was to go for a walk in a fog and to talk into a voice recorder whilst walking. Speaking fogs, phatic models for embodied creative consciousness, intensified formal quirks of my curiosity with these engagements.” Here’s the ending of one of the poems in that series, sans format (the poems are all in boxes, for starters) and line and word breaks: “rains for a blithering pink in the shape of collective drunk mated who milks buckled moons from a stick waves a clouding root stun-planted shivering dress of sheet lightning ink plotted witness and span.”
Paul Craig Roberts at Counterpunch, and Nouriel Roubini at his RGE Monitor site, among three or four economists who are worth reading as it all falls down.
More Keith Tuma here.
Laurie Duggan | Crab & Winkle | Shearsman Books | 2009
Robert Purves & Sam Ladkin | Complicities: British Poetry 1945-2007 | Litteraria Pragensia | 2007
Adam Aitken | Eighth Habitation | Giramondo | 2009
George Alexander | Slow Burn | University of Western Australia Press| 2009
George Stanley | Vancouver: A Poem | New Star Books | 2008
Brian Henry | In The Unlikely Event Of A Water | Equipage | 2007
Lisa Robertson | Magenta Soul Whip | Coach House Books | 2009
Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009
Rachel Loden | Dick of the Dead | Ahsahta Press | 2009
Eileen Myles | The Importance of Being Iceland | Semiotexte | 2009
Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood Editions | 2009
More Pam Brown here.