Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span 2009 – Andrew Epstein

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Roberto Bolano | The Savage Detectives | FSG | 2007

As many others have said, this novel has to be one of the most exhilarating, devastating, exhausting, and revealing accounts to be found of avant-garde poetry and the movements that sustain it – the avant-garde as dream, as farce, as tragedy, as inspiring coterie and impossible community, tantalizing possibility and heart-breaking, inevitable failure. “The problem with literature, like life, said Don Crispín, is that in the end people always turn into bastards.”

Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian | My Vocabulary Did This To Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer | Wesleyan University Press | 2008

“I gave you my imaginary hand and you give me your imaginary hand and we walk together (in imagination) over the earthly ground.” Such a beautiful, and beautifully edited, book. The early work, like Spicer himself, feels suddenly indispensable. “Plague took us and the land from under us, / Rose like a boil, enclosing us within.”

Lisa Robertson | The Weather | New Star Books | 2001

“Days heap upon us,” Robertson writes. As do words, well-turned, elusive, gorgeous, consistently surprising, like days themselves. “A slight cloud drifts contrary to the planet; the day might be used formally to contain a record of idleness… It is the clear, magnificent, misunderstood morning; we pick up the connections.”

David Shapiro | New and Selected Poems (1965-2006) | Overlook Press | 2007.

A radiant gathering: always surprising and strange, mournful, playful, and wise. “Thus, in presenting sleep // The poem must leap over the cut-offs. / You see clearly in a revolution, // Look down and notice how you have slept.” … “Out of the pills and the pencils, out of toothbrushes and night guards, out of CDs and Altoids, out of feathers and staplers, out of time clocks and syllabi, out of tissues and scissors, nothing straight has ever been made.”

Gabriel Gudding | Rhode Island Notebook | Dalkey Archive Press | 2007

This is a seriously big, seriously funny book: ambitious and capacious, sharp-eyed and dangerous (at least to other drivers on the road). “Very hazy / the bug splats collect & remark / upon the butterscotch light / of the sun directly / ahead. The corn stands in lines of / musketeers row upon rank / : It is late corn. It is late. / At 5:47 PM the sun is a / sharper orange, juicier. Then it pales.// What strange fate light is here: as if / a pig is coming out of the sun instead of / sunlight. what white, fat, changing light.”

Alice Notley | Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems: 1970-2005 | Wesleyan University Press | 2006.

Like the other large selecteds here, this volume is such a welcome, generous bringing together. “Your Dailiness, / I guess I must address you / begin and progress somewhat peculiarly, wanting / not afraid to be anonymous, to love what’s at hand / I put out a hand, it’s sewn & pasted hingewise & / enclosed in cover. I’m 27 and booked …”

Katie Degentesh | The Anger Scale | Combo Books | 2006

Flarf is trying to break your heart. “I hated my mother for hating cats / but I wanted her to live, and I knew that // in this era of navel gazing, / it was my navel she was always gazing at. // After mastering the rules of grammar / she was like a ghost to all my friends // No one felt they had the right to have her committed / while baking cookies.”

Ron Silliman | The Age of Huts (compleat) | University of California Press | 2007
Ron Silliman |
The Alphabet | University of Alabama Press | 2008.

A remarkable, inexhaustible achievement. “Ketjak,” like the rest of the works in these books, has a rare quality: addictive and good for you at the same time. “The form itself is the model of a city, extension, addition, modification.”

Carole Maso | The Art Lover | New Directions | 2006 [reprint, 1991]

“I am a lover of detail, a marker—it’s a way of keeping the world in place. One documents, makes lists to avoid becoming simply petals. I am like you, Max: a looker, an accountant, a record keeper, a creator of categories, a documenter. For evidence, I rip flyers from telephone poles, save every scrap of paper I get. Listen carefully. Organize. Reorganize.”

James Schuyler | Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler, 1951-1991 | Turtle Point Press | 2004

A wonderful trove of chatter, wit, news, and aperçus. “December in New York is one big mess. Everybody gets drunk too much: Mike Goldberg looks gray and shaky; New York looks bright and shaky; Frank, I’m sorry to say, looks gray and shaky. Write him plenty heap big buck-up notes and postals; Xmas is depressing for some of us deracine Christians.”

Joshua Clover | The Totality for Kids | University of California Press | 2006

Under the paving stones, the city! But it’s another city, a shattered and shattering place which Clover discovers to be where we already are living: “City which is / A love letter. Interior to that, / City emerging naked from the white / Indifferences of winter. City / Once hidden in the library and now / Drowsing in the sleep of the collective.” “Say hello to the generation that burned itself in effigy.”

More Andrew Epstein here.

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