Attention Span 2012 | Jed Rasula
Lisa Robertson | Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip | Coach House | 2009
This one and R’s Boat (2010) have cornered the poetry voice of this moment: fleet but also on the mark when it counts, hovering neatly over incommensurate historical idioms but somehow torqued into a singular sustenance and elegance of New Millennium prosody. Is Robertson our (“our”?) Lucretius?
Lisa Samuels | Tomorrowland [cd] | Deep Surface | 2012
Samuels on the page can be tough going; I have to read a poem several times to gain basic traction. But released into a sonic environment, they come alive. Her reading voice has tremendous nuance and vernacular agility (with none of the fretful singsong “please like me” cadences that have nearly made me swear off poetry readings altogether). Hers is like a dozen or more voices stitched together, befitting a rhapsode. Tomorrowland sounds like a book length monologue by Miranda on Prospero’s island, albeit a Miranda wiser than the magus, letting her agile fantasies intercept radio waves from oblique semantic menageries, sonic canoodling to tingle-tune the inner ear.
Kimiko Hahn | Toxic Flora | Norton | 2010
Yes, there are faint traces of workshop craftiness, but these fade in the face of Hahn’s determination to compose integrated books rather than just accumulations of poems. Each book is a triumph of creative singularity and ethical determination. The latest feasts on press clippings to introduce off kilter themes that boomerang through and around the personal like a force field of extra-galactic billiards.
Evelyn Reilly | Apocalypso | Roof | 2012
Environmental cataclysm lip synced as bucolic daydream?—that’s the weird mesmerizing elegance Reilly spins in this follow-up to her wizardly multi-mediated provocations in Styrofoam. The festering vocabulary of our media portal access to the new norms (from reward points to security checks) is seamlessly bonded with the stately cadences of Childe Roland.
Place | Jorie Graham | Ecco | 2012
Not having read her work in a decade, I found this latest compulsively readable. Also weirdly resonant with that moment, late Sixties, when I first plunged into poetry: it’s as if Place were a neurological tattoo I’d impulsively gotten at seventeen, long forgotten about, then recovered accidentally by some unsuspected mirror angle. Place is an archaeological archetype of certain wavelengths of a generational psyche.
Kirsten Kaschock | Sleight | Coffee House | 2011
Spellbinding: ostensibly a novel, Sleight reads like a critical theory treatise that’s been Pixared into plot and characters, with all the sentences personally airbrushed with the scrupulousness of Mallarmé.
George Steiner | The Poetry of Thought, from Hellenism to Celan | New Directions | 2012
Philosophy as language art was a founding theme of deconstruction. Steiner, resisting the expository wiles of Derrida, demonstrates that even the most elegantly level headed prose ends up pondering the stylistic audacity of “pure” thought. I always relish Steiner’s vocabulary and syntax, now filtered through a kind of “style of old age” in which these ruminations on the poetics of philosophical expression drift into focus like clouds then dissipate, leaving some indelible impressions.
Kenneth Goldsmith | Uncreative Writing | Columbia | 2011
Given the vaunted unreadability of his “uncreative” conceptual tomes, it’s an intriguing pleasure to find this manifesto is eminently readable. Kenny’s consistently sensible observations reveal that his touring role as agent provocateur could only provoke anguish in the most blinkered and hidebound. Oh they’re out there alright, but probably not reading this.
Jed Rasula teaches at the University of Georgia. He has recently completed two books—The History of a Shiver: Modernism to Wagnerism, and Relentless Metabolism: Modernism and the Pathos of Making It New—and is writing a book on Dada for Basic Books. Of previous titles, The American Poetry Wax Museum and Imagining Language are now out of print, but This Compost is being made available as a print-on-demand paperback.