Attention Span 2012 | Evie Shockley
Lillian-Yvonne Bertram | But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise | Red Hen | 2012
From “Hinterland Ham Radio Signals”: “I believe the car as jettajetta the body is what makes America great // Did you say savage over jettajetta or civil over.” Every poem in this collection has a line (if not more than one) that takes you somewhere you didn’t imagine you were going.
Amy Sara Carroll | Secession | Hyperbole / San Diego State | 2012
These poems come with “A Critical/Theoretical Portfolio,” no less. Quoting my own essay therein: “The work enacts and embodies the destabilized self, I should say, insofar as Carroll’s speaker never allows us to forget the speaking body, whipping through lines that beg to be read aloud only to tease the reader’s tripped tongue and dance along just ahead of panting lungs: ‘Home is a hassle, home’s a drone, home’s where the hearth is, home is alone in its conviction that nice girls come home. Home is a brothel, home is a loan, home is a castle, home is a crone. Home is a heart (break), home is its own. Sonar, solar system—home—hook, small heaven. Heavens, we’re home. So soon? So soon. We just left the phone. Off the hook for a moment. . . .’” The collection would be worth your time for “A Good Bad-Girl’s Alphabet” alone—gorgeously quirky poem-prints in full color.
Eduardo Corral | Slow Lightning | Yale | 2012
Look for lines like these: “each time she’d break up / a skirmish she’d yell / this is nothing but a temple / in a teapot.” English and Spanish drink each other’s blood in poems that make many different borders flash red-alert, waver, and dissolve.
C. S. Giscombe | Prairie Style | Dalkey Archive | 2008
From “The Dear Old Northwest”: “The advantage property gives you takes the place of eros. Love would mime predicament. Some are descendants of their own property; for others history is one miracle after another.” If I could eat this book, I would have it for dinner every Sunday.
Kate Greenstreet | our weakness no stranger | Red Glass | 2012
“On the legend, must the blue be the sea? / It’s a story about this. // Fill in the blank: People are always _________. // Missing. / One way or another.” The latest collection from Greenstreet is a lovely chapbook of poetry in her always-welcome, spare, matter-of-fact, yet piercing language.
Cathy Park Hong | Engine Empire | Norton | 2012
From “Ballad of Unbidding”: “Our Jim’s gone deadmouthed, won’t respond / to our bit, his head’s a petrified den tree— / and some ursine beast from tarnation / is holed up inside it.” From “A Little Tête-à-tête”: “Coleridge, it is me, your affectionate friend! / Might I interrupt you from your compositions, for a little tête-à-tête, / lure you even, to a tee-off on our emerald / swath of water, manicured sward?” From “A Visitation”: “You look at the toaster and think taco. / An ad pops up in the air for a trip to Cabo San Lucas. / The snow is still beta. / You feel the smart snow monitoring you, / uploading your mind so anyone can access your content.” Three sections, three discursive registers, three frontiers—one amazing book, full of language you’ve never heard before, though its echoes are uncannily familiar.
Meta DuEwa Jones | The Muse Is Music: Jazz Poetry from the Harlem Renaissance to Spoken Word | Illinois | 2011
From the introduction: “The variety of poems and performances analyzed throughout this book enable me to ask and answer the questions: What is this ‘black’ in black poetics? What enables us to hear its multivocal sounds and see its multivalent signs? I contend that black poetry, as an ultra-discursive field of signification, enables some of the most compelling articulations of the politics and poetics of representation, imagination, and the improvisatory performance of identities. Poetry provides a unique vehicle for exploring blackness and jazz, because both are discursively constructed, innovatively performed, as well as strategically ‘practiced’ and ‘appropriated’ across a range of locales and bodies, including individuals and institutions. In the chapters that follow, I have chosen jazz-resonant poems whose performance of what I frame as rituals of recital participate in and complicate our understanding of how gender and sexuality are racialized through particular tropes and forms of repetition, collaboration, and improvisation.” This monograph is school. Go there to learn.
Michael Leong | The Philosophy of Decomposition / Re-Composition as Explanation: A Poe and Stein Mash-Up | Delete | 2011
“Adopting an especial tone of utmost seriousness, the raven then explained the important subject of opportunity as it is suggested by artistic composition—’I am fond of poetical effects. I heart my beloved. At present, I prefer to heighten a word that is not directly derivable from either analyzed incident or the brief and repeating history of myself. I have a lover’s soul and a fowl’s disposition.’” A more felicitous and compelling commingling of voices/texts would be hard to imagine. This is mash-up done with a surgeon’s skill.
Mark McMorris | Entrepôt | Coffee House | 2010
This book impressed itself on my mind while I was preparing to write about sound in McMorris’s poetry; I was ensorcelled by the repetition that winds through this book. “Everything falls, to pieces, to the victor, to someone’s lot / falls like a girl falls or a blossom, falls head over heels / like a city or water and like darkness falls, a dynast / a government can fall, or an apple, a cadence, the side of a hill. The road can fall to the sea, the land in the ascent, o sky.”
Anna Moschovakis | You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake | Coffee House | 2011
From “The Tragedy of Waste”: “Human wants: // First the necklace of bone / then the shift of leather // tea, tobacco, and gambling // in other words // ten men could live on the corn / where only one can live on the beef.” Not a word wasted.
Sawako Nakayasu | Texture Notes | Letter Machine | 2010
From 6.18.2003: “Start with the stuff on the ground I mean start with the nasty, then get very very good, the process of getting very very good. See, notice, witness that pile of puke over there in that corner and pick up a spoonful of it and shovel it in. Swallow. A few minutes and it shall return, now a pile of pleasure, some of us call it dinner.” I am magnetized to this book. Absolute texture of investigative language with fearless curiosity smeared across it like jelly or oil or the saliva exchanged in a kiss.
Khadijah Queen | Black Peculiar | Noemi | 2011
From “Black Peculiar :: Energy Complex”: “prayerful fang :: willingness / brush painting :: fatback // Dear Seer, / I couldn’t stop hugging the leftovers.” These poems pick the seeds of strangeness from the teeth of everyday life.
giovanni singleton | Ascension | Counterpath | 2012
From “Ear of the Behearer”: “jars marked and mislabeled for / proper identification / enjambment is a way of doing it. // standing room only.” It is hard to isolate a passage from this work, which is both fragmented and (w)holistic at once. Its guiding spirit is Alice Coltrane. Its inspirited dance is all singleton. I waited a long time for this beautiful book.
Extras! One book I recently blurbed: Danielle Pafunda, Manhater (Dusie, 2012). Five books I’m reading now or excitedly anticipating: Renee Gladman, The Ravickians (Dorothy, 2011); Lyn Hejinian, The Book of a Thousand Eyes (Omnidawn, 2012); Jennifer Tamayo, Red Missed Aches / Read Missed Aches / Red Mistakes / Read Mistakes (Switchback, 2011); Tyrone Williams, Howell (Atelos, 2011); and Kevin Young, The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness (Graywolf, 2012).
Evie Shockley is an associate professor of English at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. She is the author, most recently, of the new black (Wesleyan, 2011) and Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (Iowa, 2011).
This is Evie Shockley’s first contribution to Attention Span. Back to 2012 directory.