Attention Span 2010 – Peter Quartermain
Victor Coleman | Icon Tact: Poems 1984-2001 | Book Thug | 2006
Sardonic and sometimes savagely funny, other times just plain pissed-off; now and again tender, or screwball. Coleman, who reads widely, should be better known and warrants wide readership—and if the last three words make me sound like Elmer Fudd, well, Coleman would enjoy that.
George Deem | Let George Do It | Post-Apollo | 2009
Paintings and drawings; prose and verse. George Deem, who died in 2008, was a language artist, as well as a painter. As Ulla Dydo says in her introduction, this book “is not about painting, it is about writing.” A modest treasure. I’ve turned to it more than once, since I got it a few months back.
Lorne Dufour | Jacob’s Prayer | Caitlin | 2009
Simple prose is hard to write, and even harder to sustain. Dufour does it brilliantly, evoking the hardships of life in a British Columbia aboriginal village where he was schoolteacher, and the people who saved his life during and after a freak storm on hallowe’en in 1975. Sheer unpretentious good writing; generous, warm, loving—and political as Dickens.
George Economou | Ananios of Kleitor: Poems & Fragments and Their Reception from Antiquity to the Present | Shearsman | 2009
A wonderful romp through the petty, predatory and even campy squabbles and pedantry of certain scholars of Ancient Greek texts, at the same time funny and informative. Economou has a terrific parodic ear for the grave tones of scholarship, and an equally terrific poetic ear for the real delights of ancient Greek lyric. A tour de force.
Susan Holbrook and Thomas Dilworth, ed. | The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson: Composition as Conversation | Oxford | 2010
Long needed, superbly edited, indispensible.
Kevin Killian and David Brazil, ed. | The Kenning Anthology of Poet’s Theatre1945-1985 | 2010
Generous (so many plays! so many really good ones!). Eye-opening. Inspiring. Useful. A great read. Let’s hope for a follow-up volume.
Ammiel Alcalay, general editor | Lost And Found: The CUNY Poetics Documentary Initiative Series I | CUNY | 2009
Five issues, each with a different editor, issued in seven fascicles: selected correspondence of Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn; selected correspondence of Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara; Muriel Rukeyser on Darwin; selections from Philip Whalen’s Journals; Robert Creeley and Daphne Marlatt at the Vancouver Poetry Conference 1963. Series II, promised for Fall 2010, will include Muriel Rukeyser, Jack Spicer, and others. Need I say more?
Gérard de Nerval, trans. Richard Sieburth | The Salt Smugglers: History of the Abbé de Bucquoy | Archipelago | 2009
Nerval’s cheeky and indeed risky Tristram-Shandyish response to the crazy law in the Second French Republic (July 1850) which through exorbitant stamp-tax made impossible the publication of fiction in newspapers. Nerval’s quest, serialized in Le National, for the memoir of the man who actually escaped from the Bastille, which he once glimpsed on a bookstall but did not buy, has its occasional longueurs, but the whole thing is a nicely comic demolition of easy distinctions between fact and fiction. Not previously published in English, in excellent translation, with valuable introduction and relevant annotations.
Jacques Roubaud, trans. Jeff Fort | The Loop | Dalkey Archive | 2009
The second installment of The Great Fire of London, Roubaud’s highly resourceful and deeply moving Oulipean struggle with memory and loss; to read this is to skirt terrible despair, yet strangely enough to come out of it refreshed, strengthened.
José Saramago, trans. Margaret Jull Costa | Death With Interruptions | Houghton Mifflin | 2009
“The following day no one died” opens this story in which Death takes a vacation. Saramago’s gift here is a clear-sighted logic which exposes and ridicules (with hilarious ingenuity) the profound and absurd ineptitude of all expediency. The novel turns out to be a passionate defence and celebration of love and compassion—but to say that is to sound clichetic. If there is a cliché in the book, then it’s a fresh one.