Attention Span 2010 – Craig Dworkin
George Albon | Step | Post-Apollo | 2006
A book-length meditation on the moment between one foot leaving the earth and its back-again fall, or what Marcel Duchamp termed the “inframince”:
“le bruit ou la musique faits par un pantalon de velours côtelé comme celui ci quand on le fait bouger [the noise or music made by corduroy pants like these rubbing when one moves]”; pantalons de velours—/ leur sifflotement (dans la) march par/ frottement des 2 jambes est une/ séparation infra-mince signalée/ par le son [velvet trousers—/ their whistling sound (in) walking by/ brushing of the 2 legs is an/ infra-mince separation signaled/ by sound].”
Following the lead of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Samuel Beckett, and Bruce Nauman, Albon puts the locomotive gesture in the service of philosophy. It’s been out a few years now, but I just came across this book and it’s the most intellectually exciting and sonically exacting poetry I have read in a decade. Absolutely thrilling.
Christian Bök | The Xenotext Experiment | manuscript | forthcoming
I have seen the future of writing, and its name is Deinococcus radiodurans. Bök has encrypted alphabetic letters as amino acids, writing a poem in the medium of genetic nucleotides inscribed in an animate biological substrate. With that sequence implanted in its DNA, the bacterium, through gene expression, manufactures a protein which can then be decoded in turn, using the same cipher, as an equally legible poem. It is not surprising that Bök has set himself an Herculean formal task and a nearly impossible lettristic puzzle. Nor is it surprising that he solved it with aplomb. But what will shock you is the degree to which the alphabetic code generates a style of wispy late-romantic lyricism (with a Steinian twist at the end).
Clark Coolidge | The Act of Providence | Combo | 2010
Just enough sense to encourage referential pursuits, but not enough to let semantics get the upper hand in the contest of percussive sound patterns and the grammatical slap of words in willful categorematic insubordination. Speed along the I-95 overpass of phrasal rhythm (“The city lulls you/ as you farm on by”) or settle down in the Armory district of documentary polaroids (“Having a good time? Lock right down”). Either way, “Providence rates.”
Michael Cross | In Felt Treeling: a libretto | Chax | 2008
This little book suggests tracery in both sense of the word: a delicate interweaving of open-work lines as well as phrases traced from archaic sources. With syllabically based sonic densities and fleeting gossamer hints of sylvan drama, Cross’ perspective shifts between the mottled-shade expanse of the forest and the hardwood singularity of every individual tree. Exquisite.
Larry Eigner, ed. Curtis Faville and Robert Grenier | The Collected Poems of Larry Eigner | Stanford | 2010
I have to confess that I never really understood all the fuss about Eigner. But then, every once in a while, I catch a glimpse. Like the poem first published in Bob Perelman’s journal Hills (Number 4; May, 1977): “Whoppers Whoppers Whoppers!/ memory fails/ these are the days.” I think of it every time I pass a Burger King. Here, that poem is number 952, on page 1267 of Volume III, leaving another 825 poems to go before the end of Volume IV. A luxury production (each book has the heft and gloss of a volume of the Oxford English Dictionary), the set is marketed for institutional sales. Put in an acquisition request with your local library.
Graham Foust | To Anacreon in Heaven | Minus A | 2010
Discursive, chatty, and topical by Foust’s standards, To Anacreon in Heaven is more direct and less wryly torqued than his previous books. But all the pain and precision are there in full. An alternative “Star Spangled Banner,” with an ethics of enmeshment and implication in place of bellicose nationalist fealty, the poem commemorates the battle between a subject who knows it can neither genuinely connect with others nor retreat to an easy unaffected detachment. The work, accordingly, is not Anacreontic in the traditional sense; if this is a drinking song, it has the bitter taste of necessity rather than cheer—“and that’s a vodka bottle full of quiet bees.” Every sentence goes straight into the stanza, but cannot leave the stanza to itself. Signature design by Jeff Clark.
Robert Grenier | Sentences | Whale Cloth | 1978
Long out of print and exceedingly rare, a score or so of Grenier’s legendary boxes were recently discovered; they had been safely stored inside Michael Waltuch’s printing press and completely forgotten for decades. Each of the 500 cards in Sentences offers an understated epiphany—a quick glimpse of the enlightenment that can only come from sustained meditative attention to the tantric forms of the individual alphabetic letters that filter, distort, and permit the linguistic environment of our everyday experiences. Shuffle ’em up and deal ’em out. The few remaining rediscovered copies are priced for accession by library special collections; see whalecloth.org for details.
P. Inman | now/time | Bronze Skull | 2006
Two volumes of Inman’s collected poetry have been announced by James Davies’ imprint If p Then q; for now, it’s time to puzzle over this performance score. The title translates Walter Benjamin’s keyword Jetztzeit: the pressing immediacy of the present moment—or, more striking, the snapshot image of a past moment grasped with all the fullness of the present in an interrupting flash of profane illumination—isolated from the causal narratives constructed by conventional historical views. In Inman’s text, intersecting lines enact the concept at a syntactic level since each word is freed from the subordinations of grammar and separated from neighboring words by full stops. With “time. occupied. of. my. language.” in this way, words—for a moment—can be seen to be replete without the buttressing hierarchies of semantics. A word, in now/time constitutes a lexical plenum of sound and materiality: “a Nunc-stans,” as Hobbes writes in the Leviathan, “which neither they, nor any else understand.”
Kenneth Irby | The Intent On: Collected Poems, 1962-2006 | North Atlantic | 2009
Irby’s Collected is the secret consistory located somewhere between Placitas and Berkeley, somewhere between intellect and orexis, somewhere between Olson and Ponge, where Peter Inman and John Taggart hold council in lyric tribunal. One would do well to pay the kind of attention to the corpus of Irby’s poetry that it pays to the embodied, numinous world around us.
Joseph Massey | Exit North | BookThug | 2010
Microtonal miniatures from a poet able to gauge the precise, graduated degrees of catenarian variance in the tension of the simplest sentences.
Aram Saroyan | Complete Minimal Poems | Ugly Duckling | 2008
Not truly “complete” and certainly not “minimal,” but completely provocative and prescient works of minimalist poetry (UDP must have intended the title in the topological sense of “complete minimal surfaces,” such as catenoids and helicoids). They may have mean curvatures of zero, but the intensities generated by rotating one of Saroyan’s single words can feel infinite. Challenging Clark Coolidge’s conviction that there cannot be a one-word poem, Saroyan moves between visual poetry, the Bolinas goof, and steely proto-conceptual writing. I always hear Robert Grenier’s “JOE JOE” [from Sentences, see above] as a reply to Saroyan’s “Coffee Coffee.”