Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

art is autonomous

Attention Span 2012 | John Yau

leave a comment »

Frank Kuenstler | LENS | Film Culture | 1964

It took Kuenstler more than a decade to accumulate the paired words by paired words that make up this single work. In one of the most radical books of poetry published during the 1960s—something which has still to be recognized—Kuenstler takes apart and rejoins words. This is writing that comes out of reading and listening. Canticle becomes “can.Tickle.” Tornado becomes “torn.NATO.” Kuenstler sustains this level of hyper-precise attention for pages.

Frank Kuenstler | In Which | Cairn | 1994

This book was the last to appear during Kuenstler’s lifetime. The poet Michael O’Brien, who has championed his friend for more than four decades, published it. Every sentence in the book begins with, “In which…” Example: “In which the garter belt & the Bible Belt.”

John Taggart | Is Music: New and Selected Poems | Copper Canyon | 2010

Made up of new poems and poems culled from Taggart’s fourteen books, many of which are out of print, this selection contains the full range of Taggart’s genius. Read “The Marvin Gaye Suite” and you will see what I mean.

John Koethe | Ninety-fifth Street: Poems| Harper Perennial | 2009

Koethe remains remarkably open to the vagaries of time, place, and memory, often combining all three in a single poem. In this book, he writes about being in Potsdam and Berlin (places he had not been before), Lagos (where he has never been), and New York and Milwaukee (places he knows well). Contradictorily as this might sound, Koethe’s poems are simultaneously purposeful and meandering reflections upon the individual borne along by time. For those coming to Koethe for the first time, I would suggest “North Point North: New and Selected” (2002).

Susan Stewart | The Open Studio: Essays on Art and Aesthetics | Chicago | 2005

All critics ought to aspire to the condition of sympathy, insight, and learning that informs Stewart’s essays on art and artists such as Ann Hamilton, Tacita Dean and Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Michel de Certeau | The Practice of Everyday Life | California | 2011

I have found this book particularly useful in thinking about the need to get beyond, as Robert Creeley said, “the habits of one’s own thinking.” Both individually and collectively, are we to simply accept the legacies that have been packaged and handed to us as if they are the final say. De Certeau has a lot to say about this.

T. J. Clark | The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers | Princeton | 1989

This book got a lot of negative reviews when it came out. Don’t believe them. Read this book and make up your own mind.

T.J. Clark | The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing | Yale | 2008

Clark keeps a diary of his impressions of two paintings by Poussin, “Landscape With a Man Killed by a Snake” and “Landscape With a Calm,” that were facing each other at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles when he was there for what he calls ‘a six-month stint’ in January 2000. Clark states: ‘We should think about why some visual configurations are harder to put into words than others. And about whether there is an ethical, or even political, point to that elusiveness’. Certainly, it is something to remember when looking at art or reading a poem.

James Meyer | Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties | Yale | 2004

This is the smartest book I’ve read about a well-known, well-documented, often considered period. The research Meyer has done into the period, as well as his writing about Ann Truitt is nothing short of brilliant. This was a book that needed to be written and we are lucky to have gotten it.

Robert Walser, trans. Christopher Middleton | Selected Stories | NYRB Classics | 2002

Both Middleton and Susan Bernofsky’s translations of Walser are essential reading.


This is John Yau’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 24, 2012 at 8:00 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: