Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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Archive for September 2009

Attention Span 2009 – John Palattella

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C.P. Cavafy, trans. Daniel Mendelsohn  | Collected Poems | Knopf | 2009

Edmund and Jules de Goncourt, trans. Robert Baldick | Pages from the Goncourt Journals | New York Review | 2006

Fanny Howe | The Winter Sun | Graywolf | 2009

Devin Johnston | Creaturely and Other Essays | Turtle Hill | 2009

Devin Johnston | Sources | Turtle Hill | 2009

Jim Linderman | Take Me to the Water | Dust-to-Digital | 2009

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Marilynne Robinson | The Death of Adam | Houghton Mifflin | 1998

Andrew Rice | The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget | Metropolitan | 2009

Ned Sublette | The Year Before the Flood | Lawrence Hill | 2009

Jefffrey Yang | An Aquarium | Graywolf | 2008

More John Palattella here.

Attention Span 2009 – Joel Bettridge

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Linh Dinh | Jam Alerts | Chax | 2007

Tom Bissell | The Father of All Things | Pantheon | 2007

Michael Frayn | Copenhagen | Anchor Books |1998

Lyn Hejinian | Saga/Circus |
Omnidawn | 2008

Devin Johnston | Sources | Turtle Point Press | 2008

Hank Lazer | Lyric & Spirit | Omnidawn | 2008

Nathaniel Mackey | Splay Anthem | New Directions | 2006

Marilynne Robinson | Gilead | FSG | 2004

Cole Swensen | Ours | University of California Press | 2008

Rodrigo Toscano | Collapsible Poetics Theater | Fence | 2008

Andrew Zawacki | Petals of Zero Petals of One  | Talisman House | 2009

More Joel Bettridge here.

Attention Span 2009 – Don Share

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Basil Bunting | Briggflatts | Bloodaxe | 2009

A conflict-of-interest choice, as I had a hand, or at least a few fingers, in it. But you get Bunting’s great poem, a trove of info about him including pictures, a DVD and an audio CD. No excuse for not owning this.

Janet Frame | Storms Will Tell: Selected Poems | Bloodaxe | 2008

She stored the drafts of her poems in a disused goose bath rather than become a famous poet on a list like this one.

Jerome Rothenberg and Jeffrey Robinson, eds. | Poems for the Millennium, Volume Three: The University of California Book of Romantic & Postromantic Poetry | University of California Press | 2009

We always knew that the roots of postmodernism reached way down to the Romantic; here’s ample and amplifying proof. Beyond that, there are astonishing things here you won’t find anywhere else, juxtaposed with work you thought you knew.

Cecilia Vicuna and Ernesto Livon Grosman, eds. |  The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology | Oxford University Press | 2009

Not just another anthology, but a sourcebook and storehouse of amazing value.

Bill Knott | Poems for Death | Lulu | 2009

Just one of many books Bill makes available for free; Bill is one of the best poets in the country. I guess we’re not supposed to say so.

Francisco de Quevedo, trans. Christopher Johnson | Selected Poetry of Francisco de Quevedo: A Bilingual Edition | University of Chicago Press | 2009

Back when poetry feuds meant something, Quevedo and Gongora were in something of a death match; now they’re both immortal, and with the publication of this book we’re lucky to have easily available translations of each.

Algernon Charles Swinburne | Major Poems and Selected Prose | Yale University Press | 2004

You think you know Swinburne?  Nah. This is some of the wildest, wackiest poetry ever written. Jerome McGann, who co-edited this selection, makes a great case for Swinburne as proto-modernist.

Eilean Ni Chuilleanain | Selected Poems | Wake Forest University Press | 2009

Like Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, a woman whose work reduces me to my piddly male essentials, leaving me to shiver in my shrinking skin.

Robin Blaser | The Fire: Collected Essays of Robin Blaser | University of California Press | 2006

Blaser’s poetics was talked about yet seldom taken to heart. This book collects some brave stuff, and sent me back to Arendt a changed and humble soul. Oh, and made me want to read Mary Butts.

Paul Blackburn | The Selected Poems of Paul Blackburn | Persea Books | 1984

One of the first poets I ever fell in love with. I’ve fallen in love with him again.

Mark Weiss, ed. | The Whole Island: Six Decades of Cuban Poetry | University of California Press | 2009

It’s amazing to consider that without this book we’d know of scarcely a single one of the poets Weiss has gathered here, any one of whom would be famous were he or she a white North American.

More about Don Share here.

Attention Span 2009 – Charles Alexander

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Full disclosure: In part I’m playing Chax’s horn, but mostly because I REALLY love those books!

CA Conrad | The Book of Frank | Chax Press

Steve McCaffery | Slightly Left of Thinking | Chax Press

Karen Mac Cormack  | Implexures — complete edition | Chax Press

Jacque Vaught Brogan | ta(l)king eyes | Chax Press

Michael Cross | in felt treeling | Chax Press

Barbara Guest | The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest | Wesleyan

Jack Spicer | My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poems of Jack Spicer | Wesleyan

Ron Silliman | The Alphabet | Univ of Alabama Press

Myung Mi Kim | Penury | Univ of California Press

Hank Lazer | Portions | Lavender Ink

Lyn Hejinian | Saga/Circus | Omnidawn

Charles Alexander publishes Chax Books.

Attention Span 2009 – Stan Apps

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Harold Abramowitz | Dear Dearly Departed | Palm Press | 2008

A book about the difficulty and sadness of speaking to someone who is no longer present. Somewhere between an elegy and a guide to epistolary conventions, it contains every emotion that could possibly go in a letter:  “And that was looking around. It was a very serious business and tomorrow was another day, but not a day of torment. Not a day of torment.”

Steve Aylett | Lint | Thunder’s Mouth Press | 2005

An absurdist biography of a fictional science-fiction writer (based loosely on Philip Dick). This book is very funny and written in a complexly mannered and overloaded prose that resembles poetry:  “His very awareness of words’ limitations made him run around like some nutter with a blowpipe, creating a career described variously as a triumph, a benchmark for defeat, a systemized kitsch torus, hell on a stick, a ferocious bluff, the revenge of the Alexandrian library, a strange honking sound, not too shabby, glyph contraband, nutty slack, exhausting, a catalog of fevers, and ‘gear.’”

Micah Ballard | Parish Krewes | Bootstrap Press | 2009

Lyric poems about the beauty of those who are dead. A displaced erotic energy takes the shape of mysterious ritual:  “the theme of death is our thiefhood.”

David Buuck | The Shunt | Palm Press | 2009

Ten years of poems charting the ups and downs of our collective crisis mentality. A poetry of puns and outrage, prying at the scab of our public discourse:  “thus – this – these – / Stanzas in Medication // (spits) // whose side / effects are you / — on?”

Lawrence Giffin | Get the Fuck Back into that Burning Plane | Ugly Duckling Press  | 2009

A prison-house of linguistic complexity. Giffin studies how consumerist discourse encloses and subordinates other discursive modes:  “your comprehensiveness is undercut / by the purchasing power of others.”

Renee Gladman | To After That (Toaf) | Atelos | 2008

The story of an unfinished book, carefully chronicling the book’s drafts and why it was repeatedly dropped and abandoned. Ultimately, the book-about-the-book takes the place of the book per se. A wonderful articulation of the rhythms of a writer’s life and the sensation of nursing along an inchoate book:  “it was devastating. . . to have written a book and to have lost it and to be holding it there all at once.”

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood Editions | 2009

This poetry has the political intensity and representational clarity of mid-career Auden. Moxley uses allegorical tableau to frame her progressive critique of liberal political orthodoxy. I admire her embrace of direct statement:  “I remember feeling / a hollow failure at the particularity / of these pleasures.”  Or “The / private-sector mercenaries / ride roughshod over espousers / of eroded nobility as well as the / merely weak.”

Julien Poirier | Back On Rooster | Gneiss Press | 2007

A chapbook length poem, published in an edition of 52. A study of mental process, the inexorable bob-and-weave of consciousness carrying on:  “it’s an accident / when it / happens I like it / it changes me / I appear”

Michael Nicoloff and Alli Warren | Bruised Dick | no press | no date (probably 2007)

A polymorphously perverse collaborative collection. I think it’s sold out but hopefully will be re-released someday with the same silly picture of the two author’s faces blended on the cover. This is probably the most fun book on my list—I read it probably 20 times:  “stake a claim in there / where the damp and emotional / rust builds up all disco / on your balls and ass”

Erika Staiti | Verse/Switch & Stop-Motion | no press | 2008

Just a Xeroxed booklet of very good poems. I expect these will be published in a less ephemeral form eventually. A loving study of aggression as a social dynamic. “when you’ve got nothing to give, you give someone a shiner // dot blogspot dot com”

Stephanie Young | Picture Palace | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

A fascinating dislocation of the biographical impulse. Work that charts subjectivity’s accumulation and erosion:  “Many things must be made new for a tonal shift to stick.”

More Stan Apps here.

Attention Span 2009 – Michael Scharf

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Ange Mlinko | assorted reviews in The Nation

Best Seidel takedown ever.  Better than the Possum Pouch essay claiming Seidel for Flarf.

Douglas Rothschild | Theogony | subpress | 2009

Truer than Williams or Olson. Half a Hesiodic Janus-face (with Luoma’s Works & Days). The great book of turn-of-the-century New York.

Jane Dark’s sugarhigh! | October 1, 2008 thru June 13, 2009 | janedark.com

Joshua Clover | poems read on May 13, 2008 at Princeton

Compiled the above set of entries into a PDF (minus a few things), resulting in le livre de la crise, a book of exquisite exposition. The poems, some written before Fall 2008, promise definitiveness of a different order.

Jeet Thayil, ed. | The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets | Bloodaxe | 2008

Great love and side-taking. Can sense many poems behind the choices even if I can’t see them, and can also catch sight of the social formations behind them (in a way that I haven’t for 20th C. Canada, Britain, Australia and related diasporim). Not the place to read Kolatkar and others for the first time, but for me the place, transformatively, to read Gopal Honnalgere for the first time.

John Ashbery | Collected Poems 1956-1987 | Library of America | 2008

The 12 poems of Rivers and Mountains take on a momentous scale and aspect, with “Clepsydra” and “The Skaters” as oeuvre prisms: light enters them in spectra, and leaves in lines (of what is to come). Double Dream as the best book of Fall 2008 (“Soonest Mended”; “Decoy”; “Definition of Blue”).

Jordan Davis | Reading at the Zinc Bar with George Stanley and Chris Nealon | May 15, 2009

This seemed to take place in bullet time.

Josef Kaplan | Our Heavies | chapbook | 2009

T-Pain presents The 1990s, a bildungsroman.

Juliana Spahr | “The Incinerator” | Lana Turner | 2008

Total destruction of the pathetic fallacy.

Kevin Killian | Action Kylie | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

She stands, at 5′ 1”, like Donatello’s David, hand on cocked hip, sword resting at waist, hat pulled low. Seconds until the voice comes in, on, over. Each death and loss adds to its saturate. It sings through (“spell it ‘galaxie'”) life, this unbearably beautiful book its form. Icon incarnations as multiply era-synechdochic; metamorphoses as mirror; close encounters as abrasions, as identifications, interstices, and interpellations (“the magnificent instability of the sign”). Attack, Sustain, Decay, Release.

Kunwar Narayan, trans. from Hindi by Apurva Narayan | No Other World: Selected Poems | Rupa | 2008

Xi Chuan, trans. from Mandarin by Arthur Sze | “On Wang Ximeng’s Blue and Green Horizontal Landscape Scroll, A Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains” | Boston Review 34.3 | May-June 2009

Hans Varghese Mathews | “Words and Picturables: Image and Perlocution in English Verse” | Phalanx 3 | http://www.phalanx.in

The Almost Island conference in Delhi this past February (curated by Bei Dao, Sharmistha Mohanty, and Vivek Narayanan) brought together poets from China and India for a multi-day set of dialogues, visits, and retreats. (Gist: movement, led by Ashis Nandy, toward some meanings for India and China as “civilizations,” in senses that avoided much that is either discursively co-opted or out-of-bounds.) Kunwar Narayan and Xi Chuan read together the first night. I’ve lent away my copies of No Other World, but Narayan is considered to be, and felt like, a Stevens-caliber figure, a poet whose subtlety matches the stakes of the Hindutva era. Xi Chuan, part of the circle of poets associated with Bei Dao’s journal Jintian (founded in 1978), read a selection of poems that included “Wang Ximeng”; the poem seemed a reply to “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror” with society as self. I agreed with Hans Mathews, one of the respondents, that it seemed to destroy the framing of the event; Mathews’s own essay contains a phenomenal phenomenology of the poetic image.

Roberto Calasso | The Forty-Nine Steps | Minnesota | 2001

Brilliant on Nietzsche. Devastating on Brecht (while preserving the poems). Stirner, Schreber, Wedekind all also here, and Benjamin. The best possible antidote for George Steiner. Calasso’s Ka also a great restorative following unreadable translations of the Mahabharata.

More Michael Scharf here.

Attention Span 2009 – Philip Metres

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At the end of a long summer of reading, listening, and watching, I found myself wondering whether I actually like poetry; I felt as if I luxuriated in the mythic capaciousness of novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude or Don Quixote, the vivid strangeness of films like “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” the documentary power of “When the Levees Broke,” the magical low comedy and strange frames within frames of Arabian Nights, the surreal collage soundscapes of Guided by Voices, the martial punk radicalism of the Minutemen, the sultry ache of Cat Power.

Perhaps the “90% Rule” is in effect, even for poetry—that 90% of anything is bound to be forgettable. Perhaps, too, I find myself dissatisfied with the boundaries we have placed upon our art, its odd professionalisms and its professional oddnesses. But it’s probably also true that the 10% are worth living for. Here are a few books that I’m glad to have read, and have been compelled to re-read, review (excerpted here and there herein), and reiterate.

Mark Nowak | Coal Mountain Elementary | Coffee House | 2009

Whitman’s notion, in his Preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, that “poems distilled from other poems will likely pass away,” feels salient to Nowak’s vital anti-poetic stance. Coal Mountain Elementary draws upon and extends resources, voices, and narratives of the Sago mining disaster (and ongoing disasters in Chinese mines) that are—in the hothouse of contemporary poetry—richly unusual, and feel more akin to the projects of the field recordings of the WPA in the 1930s, the interviews of Studs Terkel, the history of Eric Foner and Howard Zinn, etc. It’s also not afraid to learn us something. Coal Mountain Elementary, even in its title, foregrounds strongly the pedagogical/didactic—the “elementary” refers to the project as a primer on the experience of coal miners and their families, at the same time that it interrogates the use and manipulation of education and mass media journalism—in particular, through the sampling of the exercises generated by the U.S. coal industry and the Xinhua wire stories (a numbing catalogue of Chinese mining accidents). Historian Howard Zinn calls the book “a stunning educational tool.”  A beautiful book, with haunting photographs to boot.

Jules Boykoff and Kaia Sand | Landscapes of Dissent: Guerrilla Poetry & Public Space | Palm Press | 2008

Landscapes of Dissent provides a forceful reminder of the critical need to reclaim public space as a site of political action, symbolic exchange, and collective being. In the words of geographer Don Mitchell, “public spaces are decisive, for it is here the desires and needs of individuals can be seen, and therefore recognized, resisted, or… wiped out.” (7). Drawing upon the theories and practices of poets engaged in articulating and building a poetics in and of public space, Landscapes of Dissent offers itself both as a microsurvey of guerrilla poetry in the avant-garde tradition, and a how-to manual for future deployments of such locational verse. Accompanied by photos documenting guerrilla poetics in action, the book makes participating in such homespun actions seem more than possible — it makes them seem inviting and necessary.

Peter Cole | Things on Which I’ve Stumbled | New Directions | 2008

The cover image of poet, translator and publisher Peter Cole’s third volume of verse, Things On Which I’ve Stumbled, a woodcut by Joel Shapiro entitled “5748,” anticipates the central poetic concerns of this erudite, politically charged, and often dazzling collection. “5748,” of course, refers to the Jewish calendar year (September 1987-1988) which commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, as well as the advent of the First Palestinian Intifada—the popular uprising against military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The woodcut itself, in its concatenation of blocky rectangles, evokes (at least to these eyes) both a broken swastika and a person mid-stumble. Such is the bifocality of Cole’s project—it is at once a dilatory celebration of the rich mystical and sensual traditions of Jewish life—which has survived despite a history of oppression and marginalization—and an unsparing look at the politics of Israel/Palestine. In this way, Cole’s work offers us nothing less than a poetics of coexistence, in a time when a future of coexistence seems more distant than ever, and never more necessary.

Susan Schultz | Dementia Blog | 2009

Susan Schultz’s moving Dementia Blog, a book of poetic prose chronicling the personal crisis of her mother’s rapid descent into dementia and increasing need for full-time care, is a remarkable and exemplary chapter in that struggle. But simultaneously, it is a reminder of why we still need an avant-garde practice, and how avant-garde procedures can be as homely and unheimlich as the process of grieving a mother’s decline, set against the backdrop of a nation’s decline.

The 1970s: NPF Conference | authors various | Orono | 2008

Hands down, the best poetry conferences are in Orono, Maine. 2008 merely continued the streak of greatness. Intellectually and artistically stimulating to the point of circuit-overload, but without the smarmy self-promotional aspect of some other well-known literary conferences.

Armand Schwerner | The Tablets | NPF | 1999

A winning, at times hilarious pastiche of scholarly translation of ancient and indigenous texts (fabricated, of course, by Schwerner himself). “The Waste Land” if Eliot had a bawdy sense of humor. Every time “pig” is mentioned, the translator notes it can also mean “god.”

Kazim Ali | “Orange Alert” | U Michigan Press | forthcoming, 2010

Though I sometimes sour on the rhetoric of mysticism, though I sometimes find the rhetoric of political engagement obvious or stultifying, though I roll my eyes at the bathos of identity investigation, Ali’s ability in these essays to bob and weave through these ways of being and writing in the world so effectively quite simply blew my circuits. It helped me not only understand Ali’s poetry in a new way, but also all the work that surrounds his work, and to have a greater feeling for his final reach, that reach toward the ineffable—that which great poetry marks by its limits.

Rachel Loden | Dick of the Dead | Ahsahta | 2009

Rachel Loden’s new collection, Dick of the Dead (Ahsahta, 2009), vibrates with the same parodic music that so energizes her previous collections; I consider her among the pantheon of contemporary poets working the vein of parody (along with Kent Johnson, the flarf collective, conceptualism, etc.), though hers is closest to Johnson’s in its acid take on our imperial politics and our complicity as citizen-poets. I love the music of her poetry, their sheer joie de vivre, their secret rhymes, their snarl and snap.

Kent Johnson | Homage to the Last Avant-Garde | Shearsman 2008

Kent Johnson’s Homage to the Last Avant-Garde, a full-length poetry collection that gathers work from previous chapbooks such as the excoriating Lyric Poetry After Auschwitz, extends Johnson’s ongoing parodic provocation of (and through) poetry. Organized in packets of “submissions” to various journals with experimental reputations, beginning with the experimental Evergreen Review (where Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” first appeared in the 1950s) to The World, the book is a subversive talkback to various generations of the avant-garde, and moves in ways that feel both admiring and admonitory. It’s that ambivalence toward the self-appointed avant-garde–and the ways it seems to fall short of its admirable aims to narrow the gap between art and life, to engage in art as social change, to innovate in ways that make revolution possible–that drives Johnson’s project.

Fady Joudah | The Earth in the Attic | Yale | 2008

Joudah’s The Earth in the Attic is the sort of book that shows its textures and layers after re-reading—I’m tempted to say (so I will) the way in which a seemingly wild landscape comes to reveal evidence of human habitation only after careful attention. Joudah, who expertly translated the inimitable Mahmoud Darwish in The Butterfly’s Burden, composes a narrative poetry that defies the linearity of dull narration; instead, his is a braided technique, full of returns, fragments, and veerings-off before inevitable conclusions. This is a kind of story-telling that seems most suited to poetry—where image, texture, and intimation infuse the forms rather than get locked into the inevitabilities of character and plot.

Sharon Mesmer | Annoying Diabetic Bitch | Combo / Zasterle | 2007

There’s something to be said for a book that makes a teacher feel like hurling before having to teach it. Annoying Diabetic Bitch is by turns offensive and hilarious, and instigated some interesting conversation about the definitions and limits of poetry. For a workshop full of undergraduate poets charmed by the dry urbanity of Billy Collins and confused by everything else, Mesmer’s flarf was a necessarily messy hurricane. I’m not even sure I “like” this book, but I like that it exists.

Philip Metres’ recent books include To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008) and Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront, since 1941 (University of Iowa 2007). He’s working on “Sand Opera” and “Imperial Eye: A Petersburg Album.” More here.

Attention Span 2009 – Brandon Brown

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K. Silem Mohammad | Sonnagrams | Unpublished

Kasey’s most recent work complicates any orthodox aesthetics of Flarf. While it surely deploys the twin, cardinal rules of computer aid and histrionically “bad” content, the “Sonnagrams” are for me also work of conceptual translation, doubly or triply nuanced by Mohammad’s own training as a Shakespearean scholar. And this is Shakespeare 2009: “Then do I pray this adage may hold tight / Mohammad sweetens seagull panties right.”

Vanessa Place and Robert Fitterman | Notes on Conceptualism| Ugly Duckling Presse | 2009

The “Notes” themselves an experiment in conceptual collaboration, the NOC were as controversial in summer 2009 as “The Call” Don Denkinger made correctly in the 1985 World Series. I found them extremely generative, useful, and profound.

Sara Larsen and David Brazil | Try!| stapled magazine | 2008-2009

Try! is heir to the rich tradition of Xeroxed, stapled, hand-delivered, often-appearing magazines in the Bay Area. Try! comes out every two weeks—and it really does! It also manages to collect the newest, most vibrant writings that surpass the alienating categories of genre and xenophobic (read: your given “local poetry community” xenophobia) coterie-or-nuthin’ loyalties. I love it. You love it.

Kevin Killian | Action Kylie | In Girum | 2008

I spent the oughts waiting for this book to come out and thanks to In Girum Nocte etc. press it has.

Rob Halpern | Disaster Suites | Palm Press | 2009

Disaster Suites is an outrageous work, the word that has accompanied my living adjacent to and with Rob over the last few years of his writing and reading these magnificent polemics against complicity and the tonal shifts of global capital.

Madeline Gins | What The President Will Say And Do!! | Station Hill | 1984

Not quite a neglectorina and certainly not a new release, but since this is my first “Attention Span” I’ve got to include one of my all-time favorites.

Anne Tardos | I Am You | Salt | 2008

Woah. Seriously. The high point for me probably the sudden photograph of Anne glaring at the reader into the ostensible Macbook camera, literalizing the transgression of the lyric already at work through the bloodbath and beyond.

Dana Ward | The Drought | Open 24 Hours Press | 2009

The drought is over thanks to O24HPress. Fundamentally an advancement of the lyric impulse as mediated not only by “post-avant” poetics (including contemporary post-avant manifestations—Ward’s work stands not as an emblem of some categorical “other” or “hybridity” to some bicameral hegemony of flarfists and conceptualists, but for me it is one of the finest proofs of a world out there) but fulsome ecologies of pop prosody and interpenetrations.

T.I. | Paper Trail | Grand Hustle / Atlantic | 2008

T.I.P.’s sixth studio effort is the shining mainstream hip hop LP of the fiscal year. The classic Clifford approach (the breathless Whitmanian line, the essential Atlantan drawl) inflected by his impending jail sentence—the record’s carpe diem message amplified by its anthemic choruses.

Anne Boyer | odalisqued.blogspot.com | Internet | 2008-2009

The thresholds between Anne’s “books” and her activity on the blog are constantly threatened and renewed. What you get in both places is a contemporary lyric, made in the place where web-based simulacra meets the real-time alienated worker, all the while expressive of Anne’s sui generis aesthetic and integrity.

More Brandon Brown here.

Attention Span 2009 – G.C. Waldrep

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Alice Notley | Alma, or The Dead Women | Granary Books | 2006

Geoffrey Hill | Selected Poems | Yale University Press | 2009

Jack Spicer | My Vocabulary Did This to Me | Wesleyan University Press | 2008

Roberto Bolaño, trans. Natasha Wimmer | 2666 | Farrar, Straus & Giroux | 2008

Wallace Stevens | Collected Poetry & Prose | Library of America | 1997

Fanny Howe | The Winter Sun | Graywolf Press | 2009

Asher Ghaffar | Wasps in a Golden Dream Hum a Strange Music | ECW Press | 2009

Lisa Robertson | Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip | Coach House Books | 2009

Carla Harryman | Adorno’s Noise | Essay Press | 2008

Alice Oswald | A Sleepwalk on the Severn | Faber | 2009

Ismail Kadare, trans. David Bellos | The Siege | Canongate | 2008

Some other titles I’ve spent time thinking about this past year, in no particular order and for many different reasons: Ulf Stolterfoht, Lingos I-IX (trans. Rosmarie Waldrop); Emily Wilson, Micrographia; Cal Bedient, Days of Unwilling; Michael Dickman, The End of the West; Katy Lederer, The Heaven-Sent Leaf; Cole Swensen, Ours; Susan Stewart, Red Rover; Kevin Prufer, National Anthem; Lyn Hejinian, Saga/Circus; Robyn Schiff, Revolver; Laynie Browne, Daily Sonnets; Jacqueline Risset, Sleep’s Powers (trans. Jennifer Moxley); Eric Baus, Tuned Droves; Dan Beachy-Quick, This Nest, Swift Passerine; Mark Cunningham, Body Language; Brian Teare, Sight Map; Sandy Florian, The Tree of No; Jedediah Berry, The Manual of Detection; J. Robert Lennon, Castle & Pieces for the Left Hand; John Felstiner, Can Poetry Save the Earth?

More G.C. Waldrep here.

Attention Span 2009 – Stephen Cope

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Joseph Donohue | Terra Lucida | Talisman House | 2009

Donohue’s singular economy of reticence and revelation is in evidence here throughout. Why is he not more widely read and celebrated?

Kenneth Goldsmith, ed. | Poetry Magazine: July/August 2009 | Poetry Foundation | 2009

Still trying to find the right acronym for Flarf: Faux Libertines Against Real Feeling, perhaps? Feminists, Libertarians, Antinomians, Revolutionaries, and Fakes? False Lyricists Appropriating Real Fascism?  Finally Liberated Artists. Recouping… etc. These are not the most interesting Flarf poems I’ve encountered, but still remain more interesting than the vast majority of poems published in this esteemed organ over the last, say, two decades. As for conceptual poetry: I recently ran across a copy of Goldsmith’s “Baseball” in the “sports” section of a used bookstore. Nuff said.

Fanny Howe | The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation | Greywolf | 2009

Perhaps the most important piece of advice I received in graduate school was the simple exhortation: “you should listen to Fanny.”

Adonis | Sufism & Surrealism | Saqi | 2005

Been a concern of mine for awhile – seems time may be ripe to explore Sufic modernisms (and explode thereby the oft exclusively Eurocentric – even when colonial or postcolonial – narratives of modernism still so prevalent). Plus, I’ve needed a lucid discussion of ‘ibn Arabi since I first went through Corbin’s book a decade ago.

Carl Rakosi | The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi | NPF | 1986

The least critically acclaimed—or critically attended-to anyway—of the Objectivists. Having had occasion to revisit this collection for a seminar, I found myself by turns delighted, enlightened, bedazzled, bewildered, inspired—and at every turn engaged. Rakosi still awaits his full share of critical reception and recognition: I wonder why?

Lytle Shaw | Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie | Iowa | 2006

Someone had to write this book, and I suspect Shaw’s discussion of “coterie” will have applications beyond this particular poet—beyond, perhaps, the New York School—for some time to come.

Ariana Reines | The Cow | Flood Editions | 2006

This one floored me. Visceral, vital, clinical, conceptual—it strikes a dissonant chord in the nerves. Precisely, I think, what I’ve been needing.

C. T. Funkhouser | Prehistoric Digital Poetry: An Archeology of Forms | Alabama | 2007

Best book on the subject, bar none.

Mark Scroggins | Louis Zukofsky: The Poem of a Life | Counterpoint | 2007

Scroggins’s approach is novel, as he mixes narrative with criticism in alternating chapters. Biographies rarely capture my attention the way that this one did, and I found myself repeatedly returning to the poems to find resonance and resource where before I encountered only the opacity of technique. An absolutely necessary book.

Ming-Qian Ma | Poetry as Re-Reading: American Avant-Garde Poetry and the Poetics of Counter-Method | Northwestern | 2008

A dense and pleasurably complex book. Following on Bruce Andrews’s theory of “re-reading,” Ma suggests that “poetry, to the extent that it is a critical-analytical reengagement with method as a problem, is the “rereading [of] the reading that a social status quo puts us through.” But this is no mere rehashing of stock-in-trade Lang Po theory; Ma’s trajectory is unique in engaging philosophical (and not just literary or aesthetic) modernism (and not just that of the trendy sort), At this point, I’m content to have my mind in the book, if not fully wrapped around it.

Wildcard selection: I’ve been known to add music to my lists before—this time I’ll offer relevant text instead. Liner notes to the following recording:

Balla et Ses Balldins |  The Syliphone Years | Stern’s | 2008

In this era of iTunes digital downloads, the inclusion of such booklets as this may become more and more necessary. It’s nothing new, of course, and I could name dozens of other collections with equally impressive notes—this is only the most recent. But as cds go the way of lps before them, one can only hope that the paratext doesn’t vanish with them…(a note on this: I recently downloaded my first two albums in MP3 format. Great sound, easier storage, certainly—but the lack of detailed information on instrumentation, composition, context, etc. has me leaning towards purchasing the actual cd at some later date (i.e. when I can afford the $50 or so…)).

More Stephen Cope here and here.