Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span 2012 | Virginia Konchan

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Emily Pettit | Goat in the Snow | Birds, LLC | 2012

Our culture is obsessed with DIY projects, specifically the rhetoric that surrounds them (“How to lose 30 pounds in 30 days! How to build a gazebo from junkyard scraps!”), many of which pledge to impart specialized knowledge in a few easy steps. With titles such as “How to Hide an Elephant,” “How to Control a Blackout,” and “How to Know the Worth of What,” Goat in the Snow stages a necessary—and often quite hilarious—intervention in this discourse. Full of both wild divagations and focused obsessions, a human reader meets, in this collection, a human writer, one who adroitly and unsentimentally names the actual dangers of the technological age (“Becoming information/ is not necessarily a choice”) while admitting her implication in same.

Karen An-Hwei Lee | Phyla of Joy | Tupelo | 2012

Lee has spoken of her process as involving “hybridizations, displacements, migration,” a practice of interrogating the grammar of a language, whose taxonomic logic represents a mirror image—in Lee’s capable hands, eyes, and ears—of the world.

Lily Brown | Rust or Go Missing | Cleveland State University Poetry Center | 2011

“How easy to be giddy:/ when faced with nightmare, stare it down.” A gracefully protean meditation on power, speech, and the Stevensian geographies of consciousness and desire.

Ish Klein | Moving Day | Canarium | 2011

Dying and acting are all there is, says the speaker of this collection. What else to hold out for other than a miracle, posited herein as “the voice beyond the screen.”

Emily Kendal Frey | The Grief Performance | Cleveland State University Poetry Center | 2011

Proof positive that Julia Kristeva’s theory of successful mourning is possible, this gut-wrenching assembly of poems was the deserving recipient of the 2012 Norma Farber First Book Award. More on how this collection makes vulnerability (formal and otherwise) possible again here.

Paige Ackerson-Kiely | My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer | Ahsahta | 2012

Begun as a book-length response to Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s memoir, Alone, this collection (Ackerson-Kiely’s second) gains strength from the collective mythos surrounding creation and exploration, and makes the often macabre dance between elegy and eros sweet again. More here.

Brian Spears | A Witness in Exile | Louisiana Literature Press | 2011

A brilliant debut collection in deep sympathy with the maker’s rage to order words of the self, and sea. More reflections, particularly on this collection’s deft handling of place, here.

Darcie Dennigan | Madame X | Canarium | 2012

If the substance of the soul really is “the terrible libidinal whatever,” as Dennigan says, the return of its repressed contents are contained and made bearable through this collection’s sustained break with, and reconstitution of, the line. (More on the book’s form here).

Anthony Madrid | I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say | Canarium | 2012

Original musings here, to which I would add: this collection cuts a swath through contemporary poetry collections of the past twenty years. I blame it on this book’s wholehearted dedication to returning language to the pleasure principle.

Mary Biddinger | St. Monica | Black Lawrence | 2011

 St. Monica (framed as a contemporary epic on the Lacanian process of “becoming-woman” here), Biddinger’s second poetry collection, leaves me breathless upon each re-read, and shores up my belief that the world needs more literary heroines for whom auto mechanics, forensic science, and baking a mean cherry cobbler, is all in a day’s work. Biddinger’s follow-up collections O Holy Insurgency, and A Sunny Place with Adequate Water, also forthcoming on Black Lawrence Press in September 2012 and 2014, respectively, can’t come soon enough.

Kathleen Rooney | Robinson Alone | Gold Wake | 2012

Forthcoming in October 2012, this poetry collection tackles through the means of persona and poems of witness, the conflicted legacy of Nebraska-born poet, artist, and critic Weldon Kees (1914-1955). While the narrative (unsparing in its rigor) focuses on Kees, Robinson Alone is also, writ large, a lyric meditation on the art made—and the souls forged—in the social imaginary of the mid-century American West: “A monochromatic series in the harshest/ light.”


Virginia Konchan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Best New Poets 2011, the Believer, and The New Republic, among other places. A recipient of grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Ox-Bow, and Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, she lives in Chicago, where she is a Ph.D student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This is Virginia Konchan’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm

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