Attention Span 2009 – Chris Hosea
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.