Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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Attention Span 2012 | Joel Lewis

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Andrew Crozier, ed. Ian Brinton | An Andrew Crozier Reader | Carcanet | 2012

Comprehensive collection of the English poet who rediscovered Carl Rakosi and introduced many Post-Modern American poets to British readers. Even if you have the collected, “All Where Each Is” (Allardyce, Barnett, 1985), this volume is equally essential as it contains otherwise hard-to-find essays and reviews.

Heimrad Backer, trans. Patrick Greaney & Vincent Kling | Transcript | Dalkey Archives | 2010 (original German publication 1986) 

Remarkable book length Holocaust poem which seems to have flown under the English language radar, no doubt because the author was both Austrian & had a leadership role in the Hitler Youth then joined the Nazi Party when he turned 18. Backer published 6 books of concrete & visual poetry & used these techniques to tell the story of the Holocaust through sources ranging from victim’s letters to the bureaucratic minutiae of Auschwitz telephone records.

George Perec, trans. Marc Lowenthal | An Attempt At Exhausting A Place in Paris | Wakefield | 2010 (original French edition: 1975)

The infraordinary in all its glory. On a weekend in October ’74, Perec set out to document “what happens when nothing happens”. All those buses! A remarkably readable writerly text. “I’m eating a Camembert sandwich.”

Harris Schiff | One More Beat | Accent | 2012

A sorta selected poems by an underpublished member of the 2nd Generation of the NY School. A close companero of Ted Berrigan, Schiff’s politically charged & streetwise poetry was a big influence around the Poetry Project in the early 80s & deserve a look by younger eyes. A bonus to this book is a generous selection of Monica Antonie’s photographic documentation of the Project during that period.

Ted Greenwald | Clearview/LIE | United Artists | 2011

One of my favorite books of the year. The title of Greenwald’s outer-borough kind-of-bildungsroman refers to both the two highways near his Queens home turf (Long Island Expressway, get it?) and the two poles of realism from which these stories unroll.

Audun Mortensen | Alle forteller meg hvor bra jeg er I tilfelle jeg blir det | Flamme Forlag | 2010

Found this book a few weeks ago while visiting Oslo’s Literary Center. I picked it up because the typography and layout screamed “avant-garde”—is this a brunost version of Flarf or an inscrutable waking dream of Bruce Andrews, circa 1981? And is that first name real? According to his web site, the title of this book translates as “everyone tells me how great i am in case i turn out to be”. I sent him a salutary e-mail and am waiting for a response.

Rosa Alcala | Undocumentaries | Shearsman | 2010

I met Rosa while she a student at our mutual alma mater, William Paterson University, in the hills above Paterson, NJ. I was there giving a reading with Alice Notley & Joe Ceravolo (in what was to be his last public reading) & she was on the verge of being accepted to Brown’s MFA program. In her first book-length collection, this Silk City daughter of Spanish immigrants delivers both modern realism & a cutting edge poetic to keep the reader reading. Not to mention: “spare consonants”.

Jason Weiss | Always in Trouble, An Oral History of ESP-Disk’, the Most Outrageous Record Label in America | Wesleyan | 2012

Face it, every innovative-type poet has at least one ESP Disk in her collection. Usually its an Albert Ayler album, but sometimes it’s a Fugs record or the astounding “Call Me Burroughs”, with the novelist intoning passages of Naked Lunch & Nova Express from a Bauhaus version of a haunted house. Was label boss Bernard Stollman merely a lousy businessman pursued by the government for his anti-Vietnam views or just avisionary goniff? Stollman’s many wooly tales are counterpointed with the been there/done it all voices of the musicians who recorded for the label. A real 60s documentation.

Amelia Rosselli, ed. and trans. Jennifer Scappettone | Locomotrix: Selected Poetry & Prose | Chicago | 2012

A truly radical poet who deserves a wider hearing in the Anglophone poetry community. Scappettone provides an extensive introduction that helps contextualize Rosselli’s poetry.

Joe Brainard | The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard | Library of America | 2012

I like the idea that Brainard joins Melville, Twain and Fenimoore Cooper in the distinguished Library of America series. But no black wrapper for Joe—instead we get a beautiful powder blue cover designed to look like one of his many book covers he designed for friends. The book is both a delight and an eye-opener for those who only know him through his classic “I Remember”. “People of the World: Relax”


Joel Lewis’s most recent book is Surrender When Leaving Coach (Hanging Loose, 2012) He edited Bluestones and Salt Hay, an anthology of contemporary NJ poets, as well as editing Reality Prime, the selected poems of Walter Lowenfels and On The Level Everyday, the selected talks of Ted Berrigan. A social worker by day, he has taught creative writing at the Poetry Project, The Writer’s Voice and Rutgers University. And, for better or worse, he initiated the ill-fated New Jersey Poet Laureate position that was such a headache for Amiri Baraka. With his wife, film scholar Sandy Flitterman-Lewis, he resides in Hoboken.

This is Joel Lewis’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm

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