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Archive for October 2012

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

Attention Span 2012 | Marc Lowenthal

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Nikolai Gogol, trans. Bernard Guilbert Guerney, rev. and ed. Susanne Fusso | Dead Souls | Yale | 1996

I actually prefer Gogol’s short stories, and found myself having to force my way through my first reading of this classic (in the translation that earned Nabokov’s approval, though I haven’t checked out the newer ones). Some memorably grotesque characters and episodes, but the real reason this is on my list is that I keep finding myself translating the book into a contemporary context, and thinking about “dead souls” in today’s regions of cyberspace, debt, and biopolitics. It appears that Gogol has a Facebook account, for example, and is sharing links and getting “liked,” which conjures up an intriguing Dead Souls 2.0, with Mark Zuckerberg as today’s Chichikov, collecting deceased “profiles” for economic gains I can only guess at…

Wayne Koestenbaum | Humiliation | Picador | 2011

The way the concept of “abjection” got valorized in the art world in the 1990s, something similar seems to have happened with the concept of “failure” in more recent years. (Self-loathing is difficult enough to confront without having to feel like one is being trendy on top of it.) But perhaps “humiliation” is a rubric that has a better chance of not being absorbed into art world/academic discourses: this little book really felt to me like an honest, gutsy take on everything I, myself, try (and fail) to never, ever think about.

Éric Losfeld | Endetté comme une mule ou La passion d’éditer | Pierre Belfond | 1979

While my fascination with Surrealism’s glory years of the 1920s–30s is now a part of what I would be forced to call my youth, my interest in the later period of the 1950s–1960s and the movement’s third and fourth generations has begun to grow. Surrealism itself always had a predilection for the “minor” Romantics (they more than anyone lifted once “minor” poets like Lautréamont into “major” status), so it only seems right to reciprocate and explore some of its own “minor” participants: Jean Schuster, Ado Kyrou, José Pierre, Gérard Legrand, etc. Among this contingent was the movement’s colleague, Eric Losfeld, Surrealism’s unofficial (and relentlessly beleaguered) publisher: he published all but one of their erratic postwar journals, along with everything else subversive in France after WWII (the list of his books that encountered legal and censorship woes would go on for pages). André Breton’s writings of the same period did get uncomfortably heavy-handed and pretentious, and there is a somewhat impotent seriousness to it all, but this was interestingly balanced by an open engagement with pop culture. There is a very enticing region in pre-’68 French publishing where science fiction, Surrealism, and smut overlapped, and that region can be labeled “Losfeld” (his name translates from the Flemish as “wasteland,” which is what he published under—Le Terrain Vague—after his first incarnation as Arcanes went under). These memoirs (reputedly not 100% reliable) are thoroughly enjoyable, with anecdotes on many of his authors, from Breton to Benjamin Péret to Isidore Isou (the egomaniacal Isou introduced himself to Losfeld in the street by trying to convince him that he was God). Losfeld is usually (and superficially) summarized as being the man behind the soft-core heroines Barbarella and Emannuelle, but the fact is that there are very few publishers whose complete backlist would be something I’d like for my shelves, and Losfeld is one of them. (Though whether all of his under-the-counter publications will ever be traced back to him to actually establish a complete backlist seems uncertain.)

Nescio, trans. Damion Searls | Amsterdam Stories | New York Review of Books | 2012

Nescio (penname of J. H. F. Grönloh) was new to me, and this slim volume apparently gathers almost all of his prose together. The sparseness of his output adds to his work’s wistfulness. Those who like the Swiss Robert Walser will want to check out this Dutchman: they both manage to pull off—in the midst of their quiet humor, bumbling young characters, and fuddy-duddy bucolic raptures—a similar sort of unexpected quiet devastation almost without changing register. The stories are essentially about how the dreams of one’s youth don’t so much collapse, decay, or self-destruct, but just gently wear down into smooth, lovely little stones. Which can still be very easily thrown through the fragile facades supporting whatever it is we happen to be calling our lives.

Patrik Ouredník, trans. Alex Zucker | The Opportune Moment, 1855 | Dalkey | 2011

The very versatile and smart Czech author Ouredník is one of my favorites right now. This is his third book to appear in English. (I would actually recommend one of the other two first, though, such as his justly celebrated—in other languages if not to the same degree in English—Europeana, a 120-page summation of the twentieth century at turns brutally funny and just brutal.) Describing the subject matter of this recently translated novel ends up making it sound pedantic and dull, whereas Ouredník is anything but. It basically depicts the absurd horror of any ideological effort at a utopia—and thus, by extension, the absurd horror of modernity. Reading the diarist reports of the little isolated utopian group it depicts is a bit like reading Lost, but in 136 satirical pages instead of 6 bloated seasons that ended up devolving into farce.

Thomas de Quincey | The Last Days of Immanuel Kant | Blackwood’s | 1827

A short biography that can be easily found online in the second volume of De Quincey’s Narrative and Miscellaneous Papers through Project Gutenberg. I picked this up out of curiosity as to what had led Marcel Schwob to translate it into French, and discovered that in many ways, De Quincey’s portrait of Kant must have offered something of a template for the portraits Schwob himself collected together in his masterpiece Imaginary Lives (which itself then provided the template to Borges’s Universal History of Infamy). De Quincey’s focus on the strange details of Kant’s life (the fact that Kant never perspired, for example)—his biographical “science of the particular”—can be taken as one of the roots to Schwob’s own science of the particular that would in turn influence Alfred Jarry—who would eventually formulate said science as his increasingly ballyhooed Pataphysics.

Juan José Saer, trans. Steve Dolph | Scars | Open Letter | 2011

This was my introduction to Juan José Saer. It was a brutal, monotonous, and hypnotic read. I feel like I need to read some more of his novels before committing myself to saying anything (there are at least five others that have been translated into English), as this one put me in a bit too much of a dark mood to think about it clearly.

Marcel Schwob | Le livre de Monelle | Éditions Allia | 2005 (1894)

I perhaps shouldn’t be including Schwob in my list because I am involved in bringing out a new translation of The Book of Monelle this year, which would seem to make for a bit of a conflict of interest. But it is for that same reason that I’ve reread this little book at least five times this past year, and not to include it would prevent me from stating, unequivocally, what I’ve grown to realize with each repeated reading: Marcel Schwob’s Le livre de Monelle is one of the most beautiful books ever written. Equal parts Thus Spoke Zarathustra and the Brothers Grimm, this symbolist masterpiece of mourning deserves to be better known in English.

Robert Walser, trans. Christopher Middleton | Thirty Poems | Christine Burgin / New Directions | 2012

My first encounter with Walser some twenty years ago (through Christopher Middleton’s translated Selected Stories, which must have seen print now through at least four different publishers) deeply affected me. His ambulatory voice, his radical modesty, his disengaging humor speckled with pinpricks of incredibly understated pathos was just unlike anything else I had ever read. Today we have a plethora of Walser in English (three new books just this year), and I have to confess that my enthusiasm has waned with every new one since I first read him, to the extent that I’ve been unable to finish any of the most recent translated volumes I’ve picked up. I’ve come to think that quantity perhaps doesn’t ultimately serve Walser well. All of which is to say that I find his voice and his writings most effective in small (modest) packages, and that this slim book of his verse essentially reintroduced me to him. Another lovely package from Christine Burgin Gallery.

Donald E. Westlake | The Ax | Mysterious Press | 1997

This noir novel has only grown more timely in the fifteen years since it came out: Westlake turns what should be an absurd plot into the perfect parable for our neoliberalist times. A laid-off manager at a paper mill realizes that the only way he is ever going to get rehired anywhere is by physically eliminating (literally murdering) his competition. The debilitating and emasculating humiliation of unemployment, the incompatibility of morality and survival in a corporate-run world are very convincingly captured as Westlake unfolds a plot out of Cornell Woolrich (it’s pacing and unfolding reminded of older pulp fiction like Rendezvous in Black). For anyone working in the publishing world, the fact that the murderous dog-eat-dog struggle he depicts is over a position in the paper manufacturing industry will add an extra layer of cruel irony to the book that it didn’t yet have in the late 1990s. (Though the first round of attempts at digital books was already taking place at that point, even if without success, so I’m sure Westlake’s choice of industry backdrop wasn’t total coincidence.)

Denis Wood | Everything Sings: Maps for a Narrative Atlas | Siglio | 2010

There has been a small avalanche of “mapping” books over the last number of years. Of the ones I have perused, this one has been my favorite, perhaps because of Wood’s DIY modus operandi, and because the project at its heart goes back a good number of years and is something of a collective, lifelong undertaking. How to measure distance with heartstrings: the mapping out of a neighborhood via the placement of its jack o’ lanterns on a Halloween evening, the blobs of lights between its trees, its local rents and absentee landlords, its sidewalk graffiti, or its aural spacing of wind chimes.


Marc Lowenthal runs Wakefield Press. He also has a day job.

This is Marc Lowenthal’s first contribution to Attention Span. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 18, 2012 at 8:30 am

Attention Span 2012 | Dan Thomas-Glass

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Marilynne Robinson | Gilead | Farrar | 2004

‘It all means more than I can tell you. So you must not judge what I know by what I find words for.’ It took me almost four years to read this book—my mother gave it to my siblings and me in the summer of 2008, when she was dying of stomach cancer. At the time I couldn’t face a book about a dying parent given by my dying parent; it was too much. But there’s a longer history to it: after my parents divorced in 1983, my ‘mom’s house’ was a Radical Christian Discipleship Community in West Berkeley, a kind of Xian commune. It was a place for war tax resisters and revolutionaries, a farm in the ghetto. I learned the lord’s prayer and listened to talk about Jesus over dinners at a huge table made from the floorboards of a gym. In my adolescence though I was drawn more to the intellectual Jewish tradition of my dad’s side of the family, reading my Marx and Zukofsky and Bernstein and Spiegelman. (Notice a gender bias in that list?) Anyway, I finally picked it up despite the weight it created in my stomach. This novel brought me so deeply and directly to the root of my mother’s love for the world, for a kind of Xianity that spoke to the parent and the optimist in me. Marilynne Robinson’s prose is spare, very visual, and full of warmth. It was a powerful and undeniable reading experience, one that shook me pretty good.

Brenda Hillman | Fortress | Wesleyan | 1989

I used to sit on that gym-floor table and stare out our second-story window, looking out at the chickens or barbed wire. Berkeley in the 80s was a place where people still believed in possibility, still believed that owning chickens might somehow impact all those barbed wire fences. But it was a sad kind of hope, a moment in between: before the horrors of the Reagan-Thatcher-Bush-Clinton-Bush (continuing) neoliberal era fully washed over everyone, with the taste of the revolutionary fervor of the late 60s still lingering on the tongues of the would-be world changers that were my parents and their communities. I came across this early book of Brenda Hillman’s at Moe’s Books in Berkeley this year, resonant of its own 80s and its own betweens: between marriages, before the formal inventiveness that defines her best-known books, after parenthood had come to reshape her life, still obsessed with the Northern California landscapes that define my own life experience. This book, a window into an earlier moment for a poet I have already read in depth, became a cornerstone of a turn to lyric approaches in my reading and thinking this year.

Joseph Massey | Areas of Fog | Shearsman | 2009

‘Northern’ California is a relative term, of course. Most of us Bay Areans think of ourselves as Northern, as opposed to the oversaturated and interstated Southern stretches of Los Angeles and San Diego; but like my cousin Andy, Joseph Massey lives in that upper third of the state that some of us forget isn’t actually part of Oregon. I first came across Massey courtesy of Ryan Murphy’s one-off press Fault Line, which put out a beautiful blue chapbook called Within Hours. That was in 2008 I think—the same year my mom died, and Sonia was born. The hush of Massey’s aesthetic here in that book, collected with others in Areas of Fog, was a balm to me then and now—another year in which we lost a parent (my wife’s stepfather David) and had a daughter (Alma) within a month of each other. Somehow Joseph Massey’s North feels appropriate to that depth of hurt and happy; it feels older, in addition to quieter—as though the timeline of trees were somehow the dominant marker up there. The scale of his line—so small as to barely register its weight—has been much remarked upon. I would only add that its courage, in its existing despite not having much evidence that it should, helped me believe that I could just write.

Megan Kaminski | Desiring Map | Coconut | 2012

In the years before I had children, and before I felt the ‘plummet’ from the German etymology of lead as I dragged my feet up the aisle at my mom’s memorial, before I was rooted back in the world by that plummeting, before I found myself needing to find new words and forms for those words to do service to that world, I was a graduate student at UC Davis among many talented poets, and we were all in the air of ideas. I had the pleasure of reading and reconnecting with two of those poets this year, Phoebe Wayne and Megan Kaminski, in Portland and Berkeley. All of us were more in the land—Phoebe, a painterly poet full of her natal Pacific Northwest, and Megan—whose poems have always leapt from place to place—had found the prairies in Kansas. Desiring Map is full of that land’s stillnesses, but still includes buzzing lines like ‘Summer starred night mints sleep new again,’ which has bounced around my head since I first heard it years back, resonant of the green of absinthe and airy possibilities of some long ago. A jet set’s excesses and the bleak horizontals of the mid-country clash to great effect, and in a manner reminiscent of Ange Mlinko’s first couple books Megan Kaminski revels in what bodies or landscapes we might inhabit if we gave away ‘all this information.’

Suzanne Stein | Tout Va Bien | Displaced | 2012
Thom Donovan | The Hole | Displaced | 2012

There is another kind of courage—a word I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, its core from the French for heart—the courage of standing naked in front of people, not as a line of poetry but as a poetics of the body. I think of the importance of the body in politics—my mother throwing pig blood on the statue of Columbus outside Coit Tower on Columbus Day 1980-something. Suzanne Stein’s Tout Va Bien and Thom Donovan’s The Hole, two Displaced titles that fuck with the notion of the book as such, each foreground the relationship between book and body, often with discomfiting results. What does it mean to read a book of emails about a book, emails written to but not by the author of the book, as in The Hole? Thom Donovan’s ‘community as practice,’ as Michael Cross put it once—in which reading becomes situated in the dailiness of lived experience that is or is not your own, in varying degrees. Or Suzanne Stein’s opening salvo, a transcription of a performance in which she explains her intention to transcribe the performance, which will consist of answering random questions from the audience. The iterative uhs and ums produce, in me at least, a kind of embodied nervousness—reading it, subvocalizing those tics of speech, I felt the experience of uncertainty—and possibility—that the performance insisted upon. That Tout Va Bien ‘sells’ for $0 at SPD is another facet of all of this—like Suzanne Stein’s now-defunct TAXT press, the book stands as a tiny bulwark against commodity logic as such, in which objects live a life of exchange and sociality in place of actual human bodies. I found both of these books—their belief in the body and the book as a site of resistance—to be incredibly moving.

erica lewis | murmur in the inventory | Shearsman | forthcoming 2013

Sometimes it gets hard to remember the musculature of childhood—the fierce vigor of the days, running place to place, pulling up onto beds or buildings head height or higher, jumping and rolling. Muscle is a funny word—comes from the Latin for mouse, because those early physicians thought the shape and movement of biceps in particular resembled field mice. In Middle English the word lacerte was used, from the Latin for lizard—these animals of our bodies, never more visible than in our children. I watch Sonia dancing, twirling. ‘She’s a dancing star / she loves to twirl all day’ she likes to sing, from Angelina Ballerina—though in her universe performance means that many sounds become ‘ah’s—so ‘star’ becomes ‘stah,’ like ‘sky’ becomes ‘ska’ in another favorite song. It makes me think of Green Day’s affected British accent in the early 90s—the way our language alters in song, in front of people, to mark its new social context. Often when Sonia dances I think I should record this, to remember it, for posterity, and I grab my iPhone to do just that. But as erica lewis notes in this beautiful book that I was lucky to read this year, that you all should read next year, everything is ‘at the edge of everything’ now—and so my recording becomes my emailing or Facebooking and suddenly I’m seeing that Joseph Massey is planning to leave Northern California or Dana Ward is sitting in a garden, performing some unearthly poem with birds and a cigarette. And what does a moment become? Sometimes I want to cry, at the splendor of these seconds that are spinning past my eyes, and I wonder how I could ever hold it all in my heart.

Lauren Levin | Nightwork | manuscript | 2012

At Tilden Park, at a picnic, Lauren Levin played with Sonia and we talked about what it means, what impact it has on your writing, to be a parent. We acknowledged the important gender difference—that the impact of children on writers/writing would not be the same on a woman as on a man, necessarily. Domestic and childrearing labor does not fall equally, even in our would-be-feminist cities. And yet she and I share certain things already—as non-academic poets, or poets with day jobs that are not about writing poetry, poetry and creative labor becomes the titular nightwork. (Lauren is part of the team documenting these presents of poet’s labor at The Poetic Labor Project.) I wonder about the relationship between creative and childrearing labor—it’s a relationship I obsess over, and sometimes I feel as though I only write my children anymore, and usually I am grateful for that. But Lauren Levin’s Nightwork is its own beast: a muscular collection of long poems that push and stretch against the confines of gender labor and language, seeking to sculpt their own authority. The long poem, as the form is explored here, creates its own topographies that I want to read as moonlit autonomous spaces in which we embrace our own weaknesses and hold them for strengths. ‘I have found pieces of you / in all of myself / and so I want to make the place I am / shot through with a glinting thread / eyes closed maybe,’ she writes, in the alienated night of our uncollected lives, but with an eye toward how community is like family and how we all might look toward birthing some new now, together. Her labor for, and faith in, connectedness, is one of the many reasons that I hold Lauren Levin and her writing in such high esteem.

Dana Ward | The Crisis of Infinite Worlds | Futurepoem | forthcoming 2013
Dana Ward | This Can’t Be Life | Edge | 2012

‘The connections felt / besieged or like a mask / for separation,’ and yet, in all of his beautiful, sincere work, Dana Ward refuses the separation—of culture, people, language, lives. He holds us in his heart in a way that I find overwhelming and inspirational—that does not resent the intrusion of one life or image of life into the other, but embraces them and is still so whole. It’s a glow that he has an editor too—working with him for my Beatjack project at Perfect Lovers, and then reading Yvette Nepper’s radiant chapbook from the press, confirmed that he extends that generosity of spirit in all directions. Someone somewhere said once that history will remember this as the Dana Ward era and more and more that seems to be true, and more and more I hope that person was right. On days when I feel the hollowness in time that is my mom’s absence and wish that I could sit on the edge of her bed and talk to her about how brilliantly hard it is to be a parent, I am so thankful for Dana Ward, that he has this one true obsession on his mind, ‘to demystify the world so as to / fortify its permanent enchantment.’ May it be so!

Lucy Alibar and Benh Zietlen | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Court13 Pictures | 2012

‘When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces.’ There comes a time sometimes when something that is not a book of poems achieves everything that I hope for from a book of poems—an ability to connect the everyday mythologies of lived experience to those great catastrophes and narratives that define ‘our time,’ with genuine grace and love. I was in awe at this movie, for its range, from the scope of the day in the life of a child to the geological time of the planet, and for the depth of emotion it provoked in me, and in Kate. She’ll tell you—I am not a cryer at the movies, but I was weeping, weeping. ‘Everybody loses the thing that made them. The brave men stay and watch it happen. They don’t run.’ I think that kind of bravery, that Hushpuppy reaches so desperately for, is what it means to try and create art, of which this movie was the highest sort, for me. That we all might not run is a worthy wish.

CA Conrad | ‘the only failure is no love’ | PennSound | Studio 111 Session, October 3, 2007 |

 In a year of Frank Ocean and Azealia Banks and Birdy, a year of tUnE-yArDs and Fleet Foxes, the sound that hummed for the longest in my ears was CA Conrad’s sibilant and buzzing ending to this tiny poem: ‘his naked body quiets bomberrr enginesszzzz I am gliding frommmmm,’ if you’ll pardon the phonetic transcription. It’s actually a kind of almost glottal fry/humming sound that is somehow echoed on Frank Ocean’s ‘Songs for Women,’ now that I think about it. The hum quiets the frenetically optimistic opening to the poem (‘Wait for me! Wait for me! Plenty! Plenty!’), where CA Conrad manages to somehow make his singular voice into a chorus. Then that buzzing, the buzzing of unbridled beauty unflinchingly tethered at once to all our horrors. It’s the kind of flickering greatness and insistent joy that brings me back again and again to poetry and history, to my body and my children’s bodies, and to the world.


Dan Thomas-Glass lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife Kate and their daughters Sonia and Alma. He is the author of The Great American Beatjack Volume I (Perfect Lovers Press), Kate & Sonia (in the months before our second daughter’s birth) (Little Red Leaves Textile Series), Seaming (Furniture Press), and 880 (Deep Oakland Editions). He edits With + Stand and various other projects. You can find links to this and that at

Dan Thomas-Glass’s contribution to Attention Span for 2011. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Camille Martin

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Robert Majzels | Apikoros Sleuth | Mercury | 2004

Ostensibly a poetic detective story written in the form (literally) of Talmudic inquiry, Majzels’ murder mystery poses an alternative to the genre’s pre-occupation with logical maneuvers inevitably leading to a climactic solution. On another level, the book unfolds as a profound philosophical and ethical exploration of the relationship between self and Other. This doesn’t even begin to describe the beauty and inventiveness of the writing and its formal design. Much praise to Mercury Press for this epic undertaking. Unfortunately out of print but well worth tracking down.

Maxine Chernoff | Without | Shearsman | 2012

Timely and timeless elegies of impermanence, these short-lined poems sing, echo, dwindle, and sing again. Their skeletal appearance is deceptive: the swiveling syntax creates rich ambiguities that complements the feeling of bereftness that pervades the book.

Meredith Quartermain | Recipes from the Red Planet | BookThug | 2010

Perhaps it’s apropos that poetry claiming, tongue in cheek, alien provenance doesn’t come across as traditional lyrical, meditative poetry. In Recipes from the Red Planet, there’s a wildness, often breathlessness, to the voices that broadcast dramatic and narrative speech celebrating the free, unfettered riffing of imagination.

Click here to read more from my review on Rogue Embryo.

Anton Vander Zee, ed. | A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line | Iowa | 2011

Schools and camps come and go, but the line endures; we haven’t come close to running out of things to say about it. A Broken Thing gathers essays by poets on the venerable unit. The myriad of perspectives in this volume assures its place on my shelves as a lasting resource of poetics.

Ken Babstock | Methodist Hatchet | Anansi | 2011

Linguistically dazzling, syntactically rich. A sense of timing to die for. Did it merit the Griffin Poetry Prize? I think it did, but don’t take my word for it: get a copy and see for yourself. That sounded cheesy, but then so would more superlatives.

Lissa Wolsak | Squeezed Light: Collected Poems 1994 – 2005 | Station Hill | 2010

I love Madeline Gins’ description of Wolsak’s work as “porous”—not at all the same as “transparent” and preferable to “opaque.” To continue the metaphor of liquidity in a different way, when I read this poetry I feel engulfed in quiet yet teeming linguistic enigma. A remarkable collected that keeps on giving.

Tony Lopez | False Memory | Shearsman | 2012

Wonderful to see this new edition of interwoven sonnets by Lopez, in part collaged from cultural detritus yet also carefully spun, to devastating effect. And who can pass up a book of poetry with an index that tells you that “star-gazy pie” may be located on p. 13?

Ish Klein | Moving Day | Canarium | 2011

Klein’s poems exude personality, and that inimitable voice of hers makes them fun to read. It’s what Frank O’Hara might have sounded like if he had texted his poems.

Click here to read more from my review on Rogue Embryo.

Jeramy Dodds | Crabwise to the Hounds | Coach House | 2004

Dodd’s first book of poems is a show-stopper. Like Babstock’s Methodist Hatchet, the acuity of the language doesn’t settle for mere description—though some poems read like an exploded view of a nano-second. In fact, the poetry doesn’t so much settle as unsettle, and it does so with the most musical feeling for language that I’ve had the pleasure to read. Deservedly nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Nicole Markotic | Bent at the Spine | BookThug | 2012

Like arias on amphetamines (in a good way), the poems in Bent at the Spine warble and shape-shift with the virtuosity of an aviary magician. Dizzyingly playful and highly recommended.

Adam Seelig | Every Day in the Morning (Slow) | New Star | 2010

Seelig’s striking use of space on the page places the text in a liminal genre between prose narrative and poem. The lineation and zigzagging left margin might seem daunting at first—quite a bit of eye hockey required—but an expressive rhythm emerges that, like a song by Janacek, aligns with speech patterns and with the emotional hesitations and associative streams of thought characteristic of the internal monologue.

Click here to read more from my review on Rogue Embryo.


Camille Martin’s fourth book of poetry, Looms, will appear from Shearsman in October 2012. Her previous books are Sonnets (Shearsman, 2010), Codes of Public Sleep (BookThug, 2007), and Sesame Kiosk (Potes & Poets, 2001). Martin earned an MFA in Poetry from the University of New Orleans and a PhD in English from Louisiana State University. She lives in Toronto.

This is Camille Martin’s first contribution to Attention Span. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 13, 2012 at 10:54 am

Attention Span 2012 | Stacy Szymaszek

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Etel Adnan | Sea and Fog | Nightboat | 2012

Rebecca Brown | American Romances: Essays | City Lights |2009

Cynthia Carr | Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz | Bloomsbury | 2012

Diana Hamilton | Okay, Okay | Truck | 2012

Lisa Jarnot | Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography | California | 2012

P. Inman | per se | Burning Deck | 2012

Habib Tengour, ed. and trans. Pierre Joris | Exile Is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader | Black Widow | 2012


Stacy Szymaszek is Artistic Director at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery. She is the author of Emptied of All Ships and Hyperglossia (both with Litmus Press). She is the editor of Gam, coeditor of Instance Press, and was one of the editors of the “Queering Language” issue of EOAGH.

Stacy Szymaszek’s contribution to Attention Span for 2011. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 10, 2012 at 3:26 pm

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Attention Span 2012 | Cedar Sigo

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Bill Berkson & John Zurier | Repeat After Me | Gallery Paule Anglim | 2011

Zurier’s slightly changing watercolors (on lined filler paper) sit heroically beside Berkson’s constant uprooting of the straight melody. The book contains many gorgeous new translations including a take on Mallarmé’s “Brise Marine.”

James Yeary, ed. | Caliphabet | Portland | 2012

An experimental miscellany out of Portland, Oregon. The closest thing to 0-9 in a while. I’m always glad to find it in the mailbox.

Dana Ward | This Can’t Be Life | Edge | 2012

Deft variety in talking with oneself or directly with friends. Dana is my brother from another mother.

Herbert Huncke | Huncke’s Journal | Poets Press | 1965

A gorgeous (blue) production. Very gay and entrancing tales with flat, childlike, alchemical drawing (by Erin Matson) throughout. I paid $50 for this in NYC.

Steve Orth, ed. | Where Eagles Dare | Oakland | 2012

The most exciting new magazine out of Oakland. Steve will score your best four pages as if through magic.

Philip Guston, Clark Coolidge, ed. | Collected Writings, Lectures and Conversations | California | 2011

Possibly my favorite book on this list. Guston handles all the huge questions back to back with charming candor and eternal patience.

Lindsay Boldt | Overboard | Publication Studio (Alone Co. Editions) | 2012

A clever, interactive, hilarious (prose?) book. You haven’t lived until you have heard this read aloud.

Bob Kaufman | The Ancient Rain | New Directions | 1981

Edited by the great Raymond Foye, the sequence of poems written after his long vow of silence are to be found here, (New Poems 1973-78) Essential reading for real poets. More work should be done around Kaufman’s writings.

Valery Larbaud, trans. Ron Padgett & Bill Zavatsky | The Poems of A.O. Barnabooth | Black Widow | 2008

Poems written by Larbaud under the persona of detective A.O. Barnabooth (a sort of wacky Maigret). The poems are perfect laid back time machines, beautiful lines, wider than the streets.

Veronica De Jesus | Hello Now from Everywhere | Publication Studio | 2010

The second (and first perfect bound) edition of Veronica’s memorial drawings. Some of my favorites include Robert Creeley, John Wieners, Sol Le Witt and Gordon Parks.


Cedar Sigo is a poet and sometime teacher, active in the art and literary worlds since 1999. He studied writing and poetics at the Naropa Institute. He is the author of seven books and pamphlets of poetry, including two editions of Selected Writings (Ugly Duckling Presse , 2003 and 2005) Expensive Magic (House Press, 2008) and most recently, Stranger In Town (City Lights, 2010). He lives in San Francisco.

Cedar Sigo’s contribution to Attention Span for 2009. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 10, 2012 at 9:48 am

Attention Span 2012 | Star Black

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Michael Lewis | The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine | Norton | 2011

Reporting the subprime mortgage industry before its collapse but written like a novel about weird geniuses scattered around the country, the hero being a medical student with a glass eye named Mike Burry.

Joseph K. Perloff | A Commonplace Book 2012 | Printed by author | 2012

For years, Marjorie Perloff’s husband, Joe, a cardiologist who writes about medicine, currently Sumerian medicine, has released wonderful Commonplace Books with quotations ranging from Van Gogh—”To the hungry, even the sunrise is without beauty”—to Yogi Berra—”When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Johnson O’Connor | English Vocabulary Builder | Human Engineering Laboratory | 1939

A found book left in a box outside the Dominican Sisters Thrift Shop in Sag Harbor containing words ranging from “sacerdotal” to “poltroon” and interesting observations about them, such as, under “escutcheon”: “…the escutcheon of a widow or spinster is lozenge-shaped…”

Ovid, trans. Rolfe Humphries | Metamorphoses | Indiana UP | l964

Got homesick for college and wanted to re-read Ovid. I admire the current work that Vincent Katz does in translating Latin poetry but needed to return to an introductory volume I had handy from years ago.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran | Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan | Knopf | 2012.

Chandrasekaran’s book about the Green Zone in Iraq, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, so well captured the cluelessness of the well-meaning American occupiers of Baghdad that I wanted to catch up with the Washington Post correspondent in Afghanistan to see why, once again, a U.S. war in a far-flung country is winding down.


This is Star Black’s first contribution to Attention Span. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 9, 2012 at 11:00 am

Attention Span 2012 | David Dowker

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Will Alexander | Mirach Speaks To His Grammatical Transparents | Oyster Moon | 2011

Clint Burnham | The Only Poetry That Matters | Arsenal Pulp | 2011

Stacy Doris | Knot | Georgia | 2006

Bill Luoma | Some Math | Kenning | 2011

Geraldine Monk | Lobe Scarps & Finials | Leafe | 2011

Maggie O’Sullivan | Waterfalls | Reality Street | 2012

Vanessa Place / Robert Fitterman | Notes On Conceptualisms | Ugly Duckling | 2009

Lisa Robertson | Nilling | BookThug | 2012

Lisa Samuels | Gender City | Shearsman | 2011

Charles Stein | From Mimir’s Head | Station Hill | 2011

Craig Watson | Sleepwalking with Orpheus | Shearsman | 2011


David Dowker‘s contributions to Attention Span for 2011201020092008200720062005. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 9, 2012 at 10:07 am

Attention Span 2012 | Ron Silliman

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Only when I finished writing this did I realize that six of these seven books are by women, that only one was published solely in the United States, and that all are at least partly the work of independent publishers, plus one of the very few university presses that mattered, the University of New Orleans Press. One press, Shearsman, has had a hand in a majority of these books. In an epoch in which over one million titles are published each year, how does one small press corner this much of the market of the very best?

Tony Lopez | Only More So | Shearsman / University of New Orleans | 2011

I cannot imagine a book of poetry that I have gained more from coming out of England since The Prelude, and I’ve said as much on the book’s rear cover. Lopez is an extraordinary observer not just of life (and lives), but likewise language (and languages). This book also is an instance–as are three of the Chus Pato volumes below–of what becomes feasible globally when independent presses collaborate across borders. We don’t have to wait 50 or 100 years (or forever) for trade presses to play catch up (and then pretend they promoted this work from day one). Only More So is also the capstone of the great, but short-lived publishing venture that is / was the University of New Orleans Press, headed up by Bill Lavender. UNO Press showed what becomes possible when Uni presses think and act like independent publishers, something that happens all too rarely alas.

Rae Armantrout | Custom | above/ground | 2012
Lyn Hejinian | The Book of a Thousand Eyes | Omnidawn | 2012

It will be no surprise that Hejinian & Armantrout are two of my favorite writers. Both poets have long, important relationships with small presses. While Armantrout has published mostly with Wesleyan in recent years, Custom, from rob mclennan’s stellar micropress in Ottawa is a reminder that Armantrout’s roots are not in the academy. Although being with Wesleyan enabled Armantrout to collect the Pulitzer, the sameness of Wesleyan’s books, year to year, author to author, serves none of their writers very well. I can assure you that these poems will look tonier, but not any better, when they appear in Just Saying in ought-13. Hejinian on the other hand has published only one collection of essays with a university press, none with trade houses, 36 volumes with independent presses, including self-publishing several via her own Tuumba Press. Eyes is Hejinian’s masterpiece, a series of literary interventions that invoke the great Russian novels of the 19th & early 20th centuries. I never want it to end. & I hope Omnidawn sells copies of this book forever.

Chus Pato, trans. Erín Moure | Secession | Zat-So | 2012
Chus Pato, trans. Erín Moure | Hordes of Writing | Shearsman / Buschekbooks | 2011
Chus Pato, trans. Erín Moure | m-Talá | Shearsman / Buschekbooks | 2009
Chus Pato, trans. Erín Moure | Charenton | Shearsman / Buschekbooks | 2007

My Big Aha for 2012 is this Galician separatist adult education teacher producing the most intense literature on a world scale in a language most Americans have never even heard about. In Pato’s work, Sade, Kafka, Benjamin & the working poor of northwest Spain come face to face in ways that are totally surprising & feel completely right. Imagine what Roberto Bolaño might have been like had he believed in his own politics or taken feminism (or poetry) seriously! Pato is extraordinarily fortunate–and so are we–to have Erín Moure as her English language translator. These are masterful volumes, thoughtful, funny, thoroughly political & superbly conceived. And again, the majority of these books are global collaborations between Shearsman & publishers in the West. Still to be translated: five early books and 2010’s Nacer é unha república de árbores.


Ron Silliman was a Kelly Writers House Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, and has given readings, talks & classes in the past year in Philadelphia, Chicago, Ottawa, Detroit, Windsor (Ontario), San Francisco, Berkeley, Long Beach, San Diego, Rotterdam & Antwerp. He holds the record for the longest gap between appearances in Poetry, some 41 years. The excerpt from his poem Revelator that appeared there in 2010 garnered him the Levinson Award for that year, an honor he shares with Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost, HD & Hart Crane, among others. Silliman’s Blog reached its tenth anniversary at the end of August.

This is Ron Silliman’s first contribution to Attention Span. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 8, 2012 at 11:43 am

Attention Span 2012 | Lynn Xu

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Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, trans. Anne Carson | An Oresteia | Faber | 2009

Cao Xueqin, trans. David Hawks | The Dream of the Red Chamber (vol. 1-5) | Penguin | (1974, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1986)

D. W. Winnicott | Playing and Reality | Routledge | 2005

Emily Dickinson | Open Me Carefully | Paris P | 1998

Erasmus Darwin | The Temple of Nature | Echo Library | 2009

George Bataille, trans. Allan Stoekl | Visions of Excess | Minnesota | 1985

Samuel Beckett | Endgame | Grove | 1957

Suzanne Guerlac | Literary Polemics | Stanford | 1997

Susan Stewart | The Poet’s Freedom | Chicago | 2011

Yoshimasu Gozo, trans. Richard Arno, Brenda Barrows and Takako Lento | A Thousand Steps . . . and More | KATYDID | 1987


Lynn Xu’s Debts & Lessons is forthcoming from Omnidawn in 2013.

This is her first contribution to Attention Span. Back to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 8, 2012 at 10:46 am