Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span 2012 | Stephen McLaughlin

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J. Gordon Faylor | Docking, Rust Archon | bas-books | 2012

This is Faylor’s best book yet: an adventure novel crafted from what I’ll call “dark spam”—texts composed by computers out of human writing to fool other computers into thinking they were truly written by people so they can influence the decisions of yet other computers. This stuff is rarely seen by sentient peepers, much less picked and arranged with Gordon’s sense of texture and timing. It also has a particularly beautiful cover, designed by bas-books proprietor Lanny Jordan Jackson.

Fragment: “Emie picked up a stone, crept away into the past, and severely hit the North Face the snake head on. The shadow snake blew up and faded away, rung up, slammed, hit Kerry’s face, caught Wade off-guard, almost broke his back on Groger, but Idunn got up just in time, tore up the snake with her sticks and grabbed Wade.”

Cecilia Corrigan | Titanic | &NOW | 2013 (forthcoming)

Titanic is a broadband yawp from a young woman living a double life—entangled and invested in both the entertainment-industrial complex (via a writing job at HBO) and the warm, fuzzy non-economy of academic experimentalism. Corrigan’s style here is scattered and multivalent yet clear-eyed and hilarious. How’d she do that?

Fragment: “The baby’s face takes on a sudden breathtaking prescience, staring towards the horizon and trembling with energy, as if preparing to shoot through space and time itself. You’ll also notice the cruelly sharp blade in the baby’s hand, gleaming with potency. At this point, you’re all identifying with the baby. Meanwhile, atavistic symbols blaze forth from the baby’s eyes, supernaturally bright and powerful, confronting the vampire’s energy of pure evil.”

Josef Kaplan | Democracy is Not for the People | Truck | 2012

Josef Kaplan speaks in the voices of assassins, martyrs, and self-immolators—those who have made the sober decision to pursue serious fucking non-metaphorical revolution. Kaplan—a dedicated Occupier last fall—is fed up with the politeness of “radical” political discourse, and in this book he follows that thread (/fuse) to its end. Does the FBI have a file on Josef Kaplan? I dunno, but maybe they should think about it.

Fragment: “The best way for exploitation to be communicated to the wealthy is through violence. / If poets and artists were willing to corner, beat and mug rich people, and take their money, then poets and artists would no longer appear to the wealthy as a worthwhile investment strategy.”

Chris Sylvester | Total Walkthrough | Troll Thread | 2011

Chris Sylvester one-ups Goldsmith’s Fidget by listing all possible actions in alphabetical order. Bravo, buddy.

Fragment: “Use a Bomb on it to blow a hole and fall down to reach a ledge along the side of a previous room we have already explored. / Use a Bomb on the faulty wall to blow a hole in it, and enter this icy cave. / Use a Bomb on the faulty wall, and enter into the hidden room beyond it, which holds three treasure chests, with bombs and a total of 100 rupees!”

Marc Fisher | Something in the Air | Random House | 2007

I love pleasant pop nonfiction, and this is one such book I can recommend unreservedly. Fisher follows the history of American radio from the late 1940s through the aughts, devoting chapters along the way to Jean Shepherd (my #1 hero) and Bob Fass (the granddaddy of WFMU and its kin).

Fragment: “This was the era of deejays swallowing goldfish and locking themselves in the studio, refusing to come out until they’d played their favorite new song a thousand times in a row.”

Trevor Wishart | Audible Design: A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Sound Composition | Orpheus the Pantomime Ltd. | 1994

I’m still reeling from how thoroughly this book has changed the way I think about sound. It’s a pretty technical piece of work, but it’s written for musicians—so his focus is on broadening and refining one’s practical intuitions rather than “simply” giving technical advice or explicating a set of mathematical principles. Difficult to find but worth it.

Fragment: “Furthermore, sounds are a multi-dimensional phenomena. Almost all sounds can be described in terms of grain (particularly onset-grain), pitch or pitch-band, pitch motion, spectral harmonicity-inharmonicity and its evolution, spectral contour and formants (see Chapter 3) and their evolution, spectral stability and its evolution, and dispersive, undulating and/or forced continuation (see Chapter 4), all at the same time.”

Sandor Ellix Katz | The Art of Fermentation | Chelsea Green | 2012

When I consider the past year in sum, it occurs to me that I’ve spent more time preparing food than reading poetry. So I’d be remiss not to mention this long-awaited collection from Sandor Katz: a cookbook with no recipes and a reference book that reads like a friend’s blog.

Fragment: “I call refrigeration a historical bubble because it has been available for only a few generations, predominantly in more affluent regions of the world where electrical power is readily available, and yet has powerfully distorted our perspectives on food perishability, instilling in us a fear of its absence; and given its high energy requirements, it seems uncertain whether refrigeration will always be so widely available and affordable.”

Kenneth Goldsmith | Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age | Columbia | 2011

Someday I think I’ll write a book about this book.

Fragment: “Careers and canons won’t be established in traditional ways. I’m not so sure that we’ll still have careers in the same way we used to.”


Stephen McLaughlin is a poetry worker and podcaster currently living in Philadelphia. He curates PennSound Radio, a 24-hour online poetry stream, and hosts the interview series Into the Field for His monthly reading series is called Principal Hand Presents.

This is Stephen McLaughlin’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 13, 2012 at 8:30 am

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