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Attention Span 2011 | Jed Rasula

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Donna Stonecipher | The Cosmopolitan | Coffee House | 2008

Prose poems composed in Cornell-box-like “inlays,” nudging minutiae of found materials into an arresting cosmology, like peering into a Jess collage made strictly of words. One paragraph can resemble a building permit, while the next dips a thermometer into your hippocampus. It starts eerie and ends that way, having scooped its exponential insinuations over, under, and around you until you’re a bonfafide citizen of Stonecipher’s cosmopolis.

Julie Carr | 100 Notes on Violence | Ahsahta | 2010

No single book of poetry absorbed me as much last year as Carr’s, its impact reducing me to that owl gaze of a word, “Wow.” It felt like witnessing Poetry emerging from the primal cauldron, every line a masterstroke from the original smithy. Harrowing, heartening, threatening, fortifying and unnerving all at once. It will take years to absorb.

David Meltzer | Beat Thing | La Alameda | 2004 

The “beat thing” has been done to a crisp, done in, done to death, yet somehow Meltzer does it again with deep dish dazzle, heartfelt allover glow and wry surmise, recounting “all those guys / all those disguises.” A bop prosodic sprawling riff sails along unchecked for 150 pages, graced with a handful of delectable photos, putting hipster “moves & mudras” in a context where Hitler, Joe McCarthy and Bird rub haunches in what’s inexorably public yet somehow privately recalled: “how impulsively memory organizes into a choir,” the poet reflects at the end.

Joanne Kyger | About Now: Collected Poems | National Poetry Foundation | 2007

In the domain of titles, Kyger nails it time and again. Going On, Just Space, Again and As Ever are her four ‘selected’ books preceding this collection, its 769 pages unfurling the poems in six chronological sections. Wonder after wonder, though I can’t help but wonder about the missing structures. Consecutive arrangement obliterates the fetching portfolios of All This Every Day and The Wonderful Focus of You, books Harvey Brown introduced me to thirty years ago with his characteristic right on reverence. Still, why harp about such a lodestone, humming with sapience, sentience, exigence, and devotion.

Kenneth Irby | The Intent On: Collected Poems, 1962-2006 | North Atlantic | 2009

Another New World wonder, documenting Irby’s consistency from the get go. His gnarly syntax and unique polymathic sensibility radiate throughout a body of work as essential and unrepeatable as that of Thelonious Monk. It’s a relief to find the arrangements of the (very scarce) original books are preserved here, augmented with nearly 100 pages of unpublished poems.

Jonathan Williams | Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems | Copper Canyon | 2005

Now that he’s gone, it’s chastening to realize how much he took with him, not least his wizened curiosity for hijinx and mayhem scraped off every gurgle of the American vernacular, transcribed resourcefully in eagle eye poems that read like reports from an unfunded intergalactic voyage. “Start as near the end of a poem as you can” is an adage he quotes: an unfailing guide to his invariable skill at hitting every bullseye in sight.

Andrew Schelling | From the Arapaho Songbook | La Alameda | 2011

Between the tale of a broken foot and prolonged close encounter with the Arapaho language, Schelling has managed to get useful kinks working inside these serpentine poems. The book, his best, feels open ended yet also compacted. Numinous ruffles abound, and the fur on the back of the neck bristles.

H.D. | Tribute to Freud | Godine | 1974

Reread after thirty years, then reread again the same week—it was that gripping. Struck this time by the bifocal power of this edition, which includes “Writing on the Wall” (the original book published in 1956) and “Advent,” the earlier notes written while H.D. was seeing Freud. A nimbus of creative love suffuses the whole, revealing a very different Freud than the stern Viennese magus of . This magus—with H.D. as privileged initiate—was host of a study was filled with heraldic figurines from antiquity: “a museum, a temple,” she calls it, venturing into a unique pas de deux.

Juan Bonilla, ed. | Aviones Plateados: 15 Poetas Futuristas Latinoamericanos, 2nd ed. | Puerta del Mar | 2009

A revelation, leading me to some mesmerizing (if very period-dated) works in which modernolatria wears its enthusiasm on its sleeve, its forelocks, and everywhere else it can pin a decal celebrating speed, airborne loop-the-loops, and the futurist program transposed along the spine of the Andes. Juan Marín, Marcos Fingerit, Luis Vidales, Luis Aranha, and Luis Cardoza y Aragón are now fixtures in my constellation of modernist poetry, plunging me into feverish bouts of translation over consecutive summers (some of which will soon appear in my anthology Burning City, in press with Action Books, co-edited with Tim Conley, whose new book, Nothing Could Be Further [Emmerson Street Press] is a wealth of minute fictions inscribed with the care of a tattoo artist working on an eyelid; think, Lydia Davis on helium.)

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More Jed Rasula here.

Rasula’s Attention Span for 20082006. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Dan Thomas-Glass

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Andrew Zawacki | Glassscape | Projective Industries | 2010

As I wrote on the 30 Word Review of this one: “I love the ‘tendons & tensions’ of the line/break, [Andrew] Zawacki’s attention to “global capital                    ’s local / cater- / waul.” I’ll admit to a minor Andrew Zawacki obsession. Dude can write.

Brian Ang | Paradise Now | Grey Book | 2011
Brian Ang | Communism | Berkeley Neo-Baroque | 2011

Brian Ang is moving toward something big & loud & unapologetic. He is diving into something. I do not always understand the tracks he leaves but I relish the motion.

Dana Ward | Typing Wild Speech | Summer BF | 2010
Dana Ward | The Squeakquel | The Song Cave | 2011

Someone (I can’t remember who) said Dana Ward is picking up where Bruce Boone left off. Nada Gordon recently said: “where Sartre gets nauseated, Dana sees kinetics and light.” Those kids are all right, but what grabs me & won’t let go, what’s uniquely him, is the abundant love of people in there. Dana Ward loves us, people, get up.

VA | Displaced Press | 2011

I bought the subscription. $50 for books by Thom Donovan, Brandon Brown, Suzanne Stein, Samantha Giles, Taylor Brady & Rob Halpern. This is so exciting. Brian Whitener et. al. are doing such awesome work, it deserves its own entry.

erica lewis | camera obscura | BlazeVOX | 2010

Taught this book to seventeen eighth-grade girls. It prompted reams of writing, turning a classroom into a camera obscura, questions about time, experience, memory, photography, & a bunch more. Can’t wait to do it again.

Joseph Lease | Testify | Coffee House | 2011
Joseph Lease | X Angel City | Sacrifice | 2010

Before this year I hadn’t read Joseph Lease. The fact that that fact changed is one of the things I will remember about this year. These dreamy & intensely felt poems believe so hard they make you believe along with them.

Juliana Spahr | Well Then There Now | Black Sparrow | 2011

“Gentle Now, Don’t Add to Heartache” is in my personal top-ten of best poems of the naughts. It’s found a beautiful new home among a range of other previously published work here; the whole is an impressive statement of Juliana Spahr’s aesthetic & concerns. 

Lauren Levin | Keenan | Lame House | 2011
Lauren Levin | Not Time | Boxwood | 2009

Lauren Levin’s chaps were big for me this year. She is doing something that not even the hyper-gendered hyperbole of Ron Silliman’s excitement a couple years back does justice to. These rad clashy ping-pong lines, big loops of sound & thinking. Watch out world.

Michael Cross | Haecceities | Cuneiform | 2010

Big but also tight. Constrained but so effusive. Every time I pick this book up I hear a new angle of language, some lost repose of history. Michael Cross has a project that is so different from most; I’m very happy he’s doing it.

Phoebe Wayne | Lovejoy | c_L Books | 2010

Phoebe Wayne is a librarian by trade, so she thinks about cataloguing & preserving. That kind of thinking becomes very interesting in the world of public art on freeway pillars set to be demolished, as in the case of Lovejoy. It is also very interesting in the context of poetry itself, & chapbook publishing in particular. The ephemera that this list is part of the project of cataloguing, too—& the beautiful phrases we get to sculpt of our hours.

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Dan Thomas-Glass is a poet and teacher in the East SF Bay Area. He edits With + Stand.

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Attention Span 2011 | Melanie Neilson

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Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009

Anne Boyer | The Romance of Happy Workers | Coffee House | 2008

Rod Smith | Deed | Iowa | 2007

CA Conrad | The Book of Frank | Chax | 2009

Jennifer Moxley | Clampdown | Flood | 2009

Steve Farmer | Glowball | Theenk | 2010

Eileen Myles | The Importance of Being Iceland | Semiotext(e) | 2009

Sianne Ngai | Ugly Feelings | Harvard | 2005

Jerry Lewis | The Total Film-Maker | Random | 1971

Kevin Killian | Impossible Princess | City Lights | 2009

Monica de la Torre | Public Domain | Roof | 2008

Mel Nichols | Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon | Edge | 2009

Gertrude Stein | Lucy Church Amiably | Something Else | 1930 reissued 1969

Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian | My Vocabulary Did This to Me | Wesleyan | 2008

Philip Whalen, ed. Michael Rothenberg | The Collected Poems | Wesleyan | 2007

Lew Welch, ed. Donald Allen | Ring of Bone: Collected 1950-1970 | Grey Fox | 1979

Donald Bogle | Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters | Harper Collins | 2011

Guthrie P. Ramsey, Jr. | Race Music | California |2003

Bern Porter | Found Poems | Nightboat | 2011

Jessica B. Harris | High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America | Bloomsbury | 2011

James Lee Burke | Detective Dave Robicheaux series of 18 thrillers set in Louisiana: The Neon Rain to The Glass Rainbow | Pocket | 1989-2010

Lewis Klahr, Engram Sepals | Melodramas (sequence of seven 16mm films, 75 minutes) | 1994-2000

Elvis Presley | The Country Side of Elvis | RCA | 2001

Raymond Chandler, performed by Elliott Gould | Red Wind (1938) | New Millennium Audio | 2002

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More Melanie Neilson here.

Neilson’s Attention Span for 2009. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Jeffrey Pethybridge

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Jaime Saenz, trans. Forrest Gander and Kent Johnson | The Night | Princeton | 2007

Somewhere there must be a list or book full of permanent poems on permanent things like the ocean or the night, and sometimes you say to yourself: man, I want to write one of those poems, but how? “And then a very odd thing happens: // at a certain moment you begin to see the other side of the night, // and you realize with a start it is already inside you. // But this, of course happens only with the great drunks.”

Walt Whitman, ed. Edward F. Grier | Notebooks and Unpublished Prose Manuscripts: Volume II Washington | NYU | 1984

Focused reading on the hospital diaries, which in the context of documentary poetics read like a serial poem and all the more powerful for how it’s notational music plays against the eloquent prose of Specimen Days. The diaries might be a perfect test case for Spicer assertion that the poet has to be tricked into writing a serial poem. Interesting also how certain impressions or images––notably the capitol dome statue––stay with him and move from the notebooks to letters, sometimes to poems and how they change in each textual appearance.

Anthony Madrid | The 580 Strophes | manuscript

Crackling thru or under all the verve, humor, élan and wit of the Madrid persona is something else, a form of (momentary) liberty, maybe, yeah that’s it, and isn’t that one of the things Wilde said about masks. “You see, Horatio, I find it easy enough to play both parts in this comedy. / Like every self-righteous rebel, I have internalized the seminal tyrant.”

Kristin Ross | The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune | Verso | 2008

After reading this I dreamt I started distributing a free text––partly a collage partly not––entitled “The Right to Laziness” all thru Austin.

Arthur Rimbaud, trans. John Ashbery | Illuminations | Norton | 2011
Arthur Rimbaud, trans. Donald Revell | Illuminations | Omnidawn | 2009
Arthur Rimbaud, trans. Donald Revell | A Season in Hell | Omnidawn | 2007

Every time I read Rimbaud (in translation) I feel like I’m reading his poems for the first time: it’s full of surprises and that sense of the new, but I don’t feel my reading takes hold or deepens. No other reading experience has ever been elusive in precisely this way. The Ashbery is a great addition to the composite of Rimbaud in English.

Michael Cross | Haeccities | Cuneiform | 2010

Limned by their epigraphs, more even so than their titles, the poems make a terrific music that is at once specifically sensuous and generally allusive, and the result is a powerful form of the lyric. Or rather, maybe it’s better to hear these poems as issuing from that obscurer tradition––devolved from the epic––of wandering philosophers with their strange and beautiful hexameters: “in Pisa say, for Twombly, the frame maintains its course of shape / the frame-abyss, Apollo in the woods, lake-red for sacrifice and use.”

Karen J. Greenberg and Joshua L. Dratel, eds. | The Torture Papers | Cambridge | 2005

Since the crimes detailed in these papers (and in subsequent documents) will never come before a court or a truth commission, what then? Can what we call cultural forms such as history or poetry embody an alternative, albeit lesser, form of accountability, and if so what will that reckoning look like? For me the start of the answer to this question has been to see within the torture memos the epic poem of American empire at the start of the 21st century.

Walter Benjamin, trans Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin | The Arcades Project | Harvard | 1999

Rereading this for the pleasure of wandering and it’s flashing methodology.

Hoa Nguyen | As Long As Trees Last | manuscript

Note-taking rhythms and syntax prevail, but are punctuated by a kind of cinematic image, and all of it is highly condensed and tuned to the mixture of textures (familial, economic, environmental) of daily living: “What can’t stay / late in the month: // dolphin fetus not birds / washing up in numbers.”

Robert J. Bertholf and Albert Gelpi, eds. | The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov | Stanford | 2004

Of all the letters of poets that poets read, these should be first on the list, sorry Keats.

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More Jeffrey Pethybridge here.

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Attention Span 2011 | Román Luján

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Raúl Zurita | Purgatory: A Bilingual Edition | California | 2009

Raúl Zurita | Song for His Disappeared Love / Canto a su amor desaparecido | Action | 2010

Manuel Maples Arce | City : A Bolshevik Superpoem in 5 Cantos / Urbe : Poema bolchevique en 5 cantos | Ugly Duckling | 2010

Myriam Moscona | Negro marfil / Ivory Black | Les Figues | 2011

Uljana Wolf | False Friends | Ugly Duckling | 2011

Carlos Oquendo de Amat  | 5 Meters of Poems / 5 metros de poemas | Ugly Duckling | 2010

Michael Palmer | Thread | New Directions | 2011

Marosa di Giorgio | The History of Violets / La historia de las violetas | Ugly Duckling | 2010

Jose Kozer | Stet: Selected Poems | Junction | 2006

Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith, eds. | Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing | Northwestern | 2011

Jen Hofer | One | Palm | 2009

Caroline Bergvall | Meddle English | Nightboat | 2011

Charles Bernstein | Attack of the Difficult Poems | Chicago | 2011

Gonzalo Rojas | From the Lightning: Selected Poems | Green Integer | 2006

Juliana Spahr | Well Then There Now | Black Sparrow | 2011

Robert Walser | Microscripts | New Directions / Christine Burgin | 2010

Cecilia Vicuña and Ernesto Livon Grosman, eds. | The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry  | Oxford | 2009

Brian Kim Stefans  | Viva Miscegenation | Make Now | Forthcoming 2011

Marjorie Perloff | Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century | Chicago | 2010

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Román Luján is a Mexican poet and translator currently living in Los Angeles, where he is studying for his Ph.D. in Latin American Literature at UCLA. His books of poetry include Drâstel (Bonobos, 2010), Deshuesadero (FETA, 2006), Aspa Viento in collaboration with painter Jordi Boldó (FONCA, 2003) and Instrucciones para hacerse el valiente (CONACULTA, 2000). Some of his poems and translations can be found at Eleven Eleven, Mandorla, Aufgabe, and Jacket2.

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Attention Span 2011 | Mathew Timmons

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Stan Apps | The World as Phone Bill | Combo | 2010

Allison Carter | Sum Total | eohippus labs | 2011

Harold Abramowitz | Not Blessed | Les Figues | 2010

Amanda Ackerman | The Seasons Cemented | Hex | 2010

Steven Zultanski | Cop Kisser | BookThug | 2010

Matvei Yankelevich | The Nature Poetry of Matvei Yankelevich | Ugly Duckling | 2010

Mairéad Byrne | The Best Of (What’s Left Of) Heaven | Publishing Genius | 2010

Donato Mancini | Fact ‘N’ Value | Fillip | 2011

Gregory Betts | The Others Raisd in Me | Pedlar | 2009

Janice Lee | Kerotakis | Dog Horn | 2010

Brian Getnick & Zemula Barr, eds. | Native Strategies: So Funny It Hurts. The performance art journal of Los Angeles, No. 1 | Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions | Spring-Summer 2011

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Los Angeles based artist, writer, curator and critic Mathew Timmons‘ books include The New Poetics (Les Figues), Sound Noise (Little Red Leaves), CREDIT (Blanc Press) & Lip Service (Slack Buddha); and forthcoming projects include Lip Service / Sound Noise / Basic Hearing (Jaded Ibis Press), Where is it Written? (Imipolex Press), and After Darío (Phoneme Books).

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Attention Span 2011 | Jeanine Webb

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Joshua Clover | Fragment on the Machine | Handmade chapbook, 4 poems plus translations into French by Abigail Lang | 2011

“Gilded Age”’s throwdown aphorisms: “The best poetry will have contempt for its era but so will the worst” ; “it must align itself with work—meaning hatred/of work—it must desire/change so much it is accused of being in love/with annihilation.” Dante’s Francesca in the whirlwind of the Inferno’s 5th Canto illumed as the subject of circulation of capital, of love’s inability to fully remove us from this peregrination (Yeats, yes), where we are caught “sweet with longing” as “downwards to darkness/on extended credit” we fall, the industries of the empire abandoned massively still shining on the farther shore of the crisis—

Brian Ang | Paradise Now | grey book | 2011

Lenin horizontal, orgies on acid, free education Pavlovas, FLCL metabeer, bankrupt Chocobos anniliate the banks, and you know, cats. Receive +3 Intellect. Bitey. Ang,: “My poems disturb myself.” Perhaps an increasingly worthy aspiration.

Claude Closky | Les miens suivi de Biennales | Éditions Al Dante | 2009

Conceptual French poet uses celebrity names as raw material for sonnets in alexandrines, then juxtaposes them to poems formed in the same way from the names of artists from the Biennales. Surprising wit and pleasure quotient gained in reading them.

Uyen Hua | a/s/l | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2011

Age, sex, location. Melancholy, dendrital, funny-ass remix that understands our divided hearts, and keeps our constellations while avoiding mere glibdom (Lil Wayne approached like a pietà, heartfelt dreams involving Kevin Spacey, bombs in Kandahar mixed with tabloid hot or not sorrows). The “fee” one “pays to Mary J. Blige.” These are “songs about us.” “sometimes you just have to shrug/ put the record on repeat.” Dude, it’s so like that. Everyone I know is already imitating her, she’s that good. ❤

Chris Nealon | Plummet | Edge | 2009

Dear Chris Nealon, I can read this book again and again. And have this year. You make my trips to the drugstore so much better because I think of your lines on “pure despair.” It’s a groove. “If you treat the day as a melody, is that a kind of friendliness? Or text – is genre friendly?” I’m happy to dance to this workable theory up in da club. “Future anterior, hey/I’m running a little late” The system (thankfully) is still breaking down.

Juliana Spahr & Stephanie Young | A Megaphone | ChainLinks | 2011

Welcome outpouring of shiny ludic incisiveness and awful fact. Rhizomatic tentacled global hybridity and voices of women on their poetry communities and projects. Expansive, best read in doses, to my mind. Feels productively circular. Includes Spahr’s and Young’s great essay from 2007, “Numbers Trouble,” the importance of which 2010’s VIDA study again affirmed, to our dismay and ongoing critique.

K. Lorraine Graham | Terminal Humming | Edge | 2009

Honeycombs of zircon bureaucracy and power beeswax in the passive servomechanisms and pentagons. “I was a very minor missionary, actually a heretic, but I toiled/wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was funfunfun.” Ready to bloodlet (blow up) through lacrosse (soup and salad) and an axe (automatic shredder) and go with produce bounce (get potassium). “Schizoid and hermetic.” Incandescent anger illuminates a lot for the ALIVE. “Missing trains, feeling wild in empty transit gates.”; “Female/until further notice.”

Tu Fu, tr. David Hinton | The Selected Poems of Tu Fu | New Directions | 1989

For when the crows come in from far capitals and tumbleweeds skip over the wells. “Mountain yellows fall. Startled I call out to my son Are there northern winds?” We are facing snow. “There isn’t time for new dikes. Enlisting /Mu Wang’s turtles and crocodiles is impossible.” The moaning of painted horns, will it ever stop? “Let’s talk things over, little buds—open delicately, sparingly.”

Frank O’Hara | manuscript translation of Mallarmé’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance) | unknown date

Wouldn’t you like to know! The text’s a continuous block with no forced carriage returns or lineation, though Mallarmé’s capitals are retained. It is my conviction that this intrapoet formal denial experiment produces a new kind of beauty all compact. Writing about it, when I can. It’s like two of the hot poets I love having sex in my mind because and well furthermore that’s what is IS.

Kevin Killian | Action Kylie | ingirumimusnocteetconsumimurigni | 2008

Glitter hymn and invocation to the “secret understanding” of fan and diva, touched by “cold, hard” tears. A “secret understanding” that is also like “E.M. Forster’s concept of homosexuality as a willed gift.” Also, more, you know, cats.

Sandra Simonds | Warsaw Bikini | Bloof | 2008

I read at least one half of this on the beach in Kona in a bikini. The semantics are aggregrated gloriously and constantly threaten to deforest themselves. Or hammerhead shark-attack themselves. Plathian and Beckettish in the most brainy and sinister sense: manic nursery rhymes and the social contaminations, water wasps, the awful Doctor Dura Mater undercarriage.

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Jeanine Webb’s poems have appeared in many journals, most recently in ARMED CELL, with two poems forthcoming in Lana Turner. Her essay on celebrity and poetics will appear in Tripwire. She helps organize San Diego’s Agitprop reading series and edits the cartonera-style journal TACOCAT. 

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Attention Span 2011 | Susana Gardner

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David Kirschenbaum, ed. | The Portable BOOG Reader | BOOG LITERATURE | 2000

I acquired this anthology recently in an after reading pints and swap. From the stunning cover photo of Lee Ann Brown (taken by Allen Ginsberg no less) to the vast multitude of interior work by NYC based poets. Featuring Julie Patton, Wanda Phipps, Betsy Fagin, Sharon Mesmer and many, many more.

Dodie Bellamy | CUNTUPS | Tender Buttons | USA | 2001

This is a book I should have read right away, ten years ago today, actually. Ten years ago we all should have read it, but only now did I come to it. It is daring, a modern sort of nod to Lifting Belly. Modern and dual, bi-and all-BECOMING. It makes me WANT, it will make you WANT too. All MEN should read it NOW, all WOMEN too. Read it in one go, read it in two. Dodie Bellamy will bewitch you as she has me. Bewitched, betwixt, and tricked, all done up with all that lovely goo! An erotic love poem manifests each page. She will badger you, she will eschew you, as she wants you and you and you. So little! So Wild!!!

Sean Cole | Itty City | Pressed Wafer | 2003
Sean Cole | The December Project | BOOG | 2005

Like unexpected sound bites in rapid succession…

The moon is night alert. It’s half-nigh, strafing. Like an Alewife it slaps against the black movement of the sky. Every year I write about the moon, it’s ambitious, as if it did anything but whip the surf into dumb caps, as if it did anything but laps around the Earth.

Emily Critchley Love / All That / & OK by Emily Critchley | Penned in the Margins | UK | 2011

This is an amazing, thorough collection of British poet Emily Critchley’s publications to date. You need to read this book!

(The Avaunt Garde)

speaking in logic (or Greek) where nothing’s divided everything’s
dug up out of the dirt, bomb or butterfly, but such dirt gets stuck
(like red paint) under the nails & the world after all is not for such
violent admiring. the archaeological point may be us at the drinking
bowl us as the clouds part us offering ourselves up to ourselves in
graphic violence.to get the beauty of it hot

Frances Cruk | DOWN YOU GO OR Négation de Bruit | Punch | USA | 2011

Just in! This is a beautiful letterpress book, total gorgeousness all around. This is an amazing I-XX sequence, which begins:

Swarms!
We will bang
Into the sun Blinded
thirsty,
howling

(and continues in IX)

Again the fake garden, motionless plastic curves.
This time we are Great in our Smart
Bomb Time Machine device.
We come to fuck the mutants
We go to mutant them
I am with the mutant
firing limbs

I want to quote more. No, I want to type the whole sequence here for you now, but resist doing that…you need to order this book. And since I just received my copy, I want to digest its negation, its lyrical dreamy chasms before me.

Amy De’Ath | Erec & Enid | Salt | UK | 2010

From the title poem of De’ath’s impressive first collection:

Said Erec to Enide, the sun burst
down on my sails and glowing tore
my winnow North.
Said Enide to Erec, I don’t know how
to soothe you.

Said Erec to Enide,
Enide dozed, & her lips gently
popped as they parted. Erec sat on
the grass, the horse chestnut on his
chest, and the salmon who jumped,
and the curvature of his intense
guilt, his ergonomic fantasy office
and the parameter of his suburb.

j/j hastain | myrhh to re all myth | Furniture | forthcoming

‘This is a romance of fractals,’ an invigorating linguistic panoply which refuses to be any one thing. myrhh to re all myth gives us a vivid transdifferentiated poethic state—a sonic inquiry—thus feral post-gendered embodiment of ‘the infinitely ferric dress’. Multiple, layered, disarming and hauntingly worthwhile. Hastain spins a fine vocalic lyric gossamer about us, a future ethos and new grammatical treatise of fracture, rediscovery, and retelling, a myrhh re(garding) all myth.

Bhanu Kapil | Humanimal: A Project For Future Children | Kelsey St. | 2009

Kapil threads together a now nearly forgotten story, as she realizes the tale of the two feral ‘wolf’ girls poetically as it is heart wrenching and hopeful.

“Lucidly, holographically, your heart pulsed in the air next to your body; then my eyes clicked the photo into place. Future child, in the time you lived in, your arms always itched and flaked. To write this, the memoir of your body, I slip my arms into the sleeves of your shirt. I slip my arms into yours, to become four-limbed.”

Marianne Morris | SolacePoem (afterParvine‘Tesami) | Tusk Records | UK | 2011

Listen to this link and be bewitched by this UK/CAN sylph in her gorgeous words and sound work. Seeing Morris perform is the only way to trump the poetic sound experience.

Tom Pickard | MORE PRICKS THAN PRIZES | Pressed Wafer | USA | 2010

This little book is packed with kicks & punches as it delivers a great poetic memoir of sorts, seriously small enough to fit in your pocket! While recounting a particular period of his experiences as a young poet, Pickard’s story also recounts the difficulty of ‘being’ a poet, father and citizen in the 60’s. Also, just received some beautiful postcards from Tom. He is an amazing photographer as well, and now I have many images of his far off corner in ‘Blighty’ (he taught me that!) The pic of him and Allen Ginsberg is tacked to my study wall.

Douglas Rothschild | Theogony | Subpress | USA | 2009

I was pleased to meet Douglas this past summer at the Boston Poetry Marathon and then again in NYC for a Zinc reading. I am still digging into Dug’s Theogony. For some reason, when I meet poets I instantly fabricate (in my dense head) what kind of poems they write…Rothschild, for me was a poet of the long poem category…so at first I was surprised to see all of these small(ish) poems throughout the book…but then I realized it is all one poem we are all writing, right? One long fabulous poem! Here is one I particularly like… I also want to quote UNEXPOSED here, but no, I will not expose it. No, I will not expose it! Go find it!

PANZY 

& then another
first one & then a flock
of snow bells

Jaime Robles | foundlings | EXETER | UK | 2011

Receiving this book was a real treat—like a foundling itself, beautiful and austere in its form. And heart-wrenchingly prescient! It is works like this that bring me to poetry. It is many things, an inventory, a recalling of the past, an articulation of sorrow and even the beauty therein…a book of lost children, lost mothers, of hope.

from foundling 2275, a boy

                        This Silver Ribbon is
                            Desired to be preserved as
          The Childs mark for distinction

This ribbon binds but also reaches,
Observes the shortest distance between me and her,
Maps the call of a bird—
Tinsel and silky: each stitch a feather.

Michael Ruby | Window on the City | BlazeVOX | 2006

This is a beautiful book, another fabulous contribution to publishing from BlazeVOX! & a Dusie Kollektiv participant at that! It was also a great pleasure to hear Michael read his work at the Dusie Zinc Reading this past summer, I sent him away with his pockets full of chocolate.

Kathrin Schaeppi | Sonja Sekula: Grace in a Cow’s Eye: a memoir | Black Radish | 2011

An amazing book project convergence, re-seeing / investigation, and collaboration with the late Swiss visual artist and writer Sonja Sekula. When Schaeppi performs works from this book, I am inspired to write it to the score of one-woman musical. Vielleicht einmal!

Gertrude Stein | Lifting Belly | The Naiad Press Inc. | 1989

Lifting belly confounds me, entrances and enchants me.
Lifting belly what is earnest. Expecting an arena to be monumental.
Lifting belly is recognized to be the only spectacle present. Do you mean that.
Lifting belly is a language. It says island. Island a strata. Lifting belly is a repetition. (17)

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Susana Gardner‘s Herso: An Heirship in Waves was published earlier this year by Black Radish.

Gardner’s Attention Span for 2010, 2007. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Keith Tuma

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Steven Zultanski | Cop Kisser | Book Thug | Toronto | 2010

“Workers of the world, come on already.” 32 brands of beer matched by 32 Zultanski personalities, Lenin a deck of identity cards, Mao with Zultanski’s mother: this is a collection of long tail poetry taking on the banality of information with insight and wit, its idioms absolutely contemporary, its prosody deadpan, its cover brighter than canary yellow. Rod Smith wouldn’t let me out of Bridge Street Books without it. He was right to insist.

Rae Armantrout | Money Shot | Wesleyan | 2011

“All we ask / is that our thinking / sustain momentum, / identify targets.” I don’t know a poet who thinks more in her poems, via analogy, juxtaposition, definition, and otherwise. Armantrout begins the first poem with a line from the Book of Revelation promising a new world, noting that new worlds are always with us—and also not with us—in “The spray / of all possible paths.” But thinking can’t stop with recognition or contemplation: “Define possible.” Several of the poems think about the collapse of the economy, e.g. “Money Shot” and “Soft Money,” where one notorious phrase from the pornoculture—“so hot”—deflates those who would eroticize social inequality.

Jeff Hilson | In The Assarts | Veer | 2010

A comic sonnet sequence and something of a clearing in the dark wood of recent experimental English poetry, no less serious or engaged for its light touch. The kitsch of England from crossbows to Kinks, Anne Boleyn to Jeremy Irons. “I am sick of the banks of England” in a mix of faux-archaic and contemporary registers where Wyatt meets Berrigan: “I was lost in doe a deer.” Stephen Rodefer gets a cameo, and there’s passing reference to In the American Tree and The Reality Street Book of Sonnets. One poem opens with what is probably a joke about a recent book by Jean-Luc Nancy. That one takes us back to the book’s first poem, where the reader is asked to “Give them thy finger in the Forêt de Nancy.”

William Fuller | Hallucination | Flood Editions | 2011

It’s not only poetry that almost successfully resists the intelligence—try banking: “Several times a day someone passes by the door holding a report.” That’s the first sentence of the book’s last poem, a prose poem called “The Circuit.” Maybe it’s best to indicate the texture and quality of these prose poems making for more than half of Fuller’s book by quoting first lines from a few others: “More numbness from less pain, I heard the preacher say. When does apprehension become extinction? Of what omitted act is it the fruit?” (“Flaming”). “It dreamt that it spoke as it dreamt and wrote down what it spoke in echoes of situations dreamt about which its mind wondered at” (“The Will”). “For the period of thirty lunar days after the receipt of appropriate notice [undefined], the parties [not specified] shall attempt in good faith to resolve whatever dispute has (evidently) arisen by employing the advanced measurement approach, which computes a given event’s penumbra as it tumbles into the lap of someone who studies it.” Seeing as if through fog events apprehended only after the fact constitutes most worlds; these poems map our life “in the dark” while admitting—not always as ominously as “The Circuit” does—the “imperceptible” as fact.

Frances Kruk | Down You Go / Négation de Bruit | Punch | 2011

A series of fragments after Danielle Collobert, two or three lines or clusters of lines per page, white space the silence between them and allowing for their little explosions —“I revolt / project.” “Swarms! We will bang / into the sun Blinded.” Bitterness distilled to an essence: “I ordered a hurricane & I am still / on this island I am still / on this island.” I had to look up “crkl,” which appears twice, and so courtesy of Wikipedia: “Crk-like protein is a protein that in humans is encoded by the CRKL gene…. CRKL has oncogenic potential.” I don’t know Collobert’s work well enough to suggest the most pertinent comparisons, having seen only two books translated by Norma Cole, but I do know that this is a powerful and defiant book—“We come to fuck the mutants / We go to mutant them / I am with the mutant / firing limbs.” One of the best young British poets is Polish-Canadian.

Mina Loy, ed. Sara Crangle | Stories and Essays of Mina Loy | Dalkey Archive | 2011

As Crangle notes in her introduction, this first book-length collection of Loy’s short stories, drama, and commentary is not a “definitive” or “critical” edition, but its apparatus includes a smart and readable introduction and 100 plus pages of notes briefly situating and glossing the work while detailing the nature of the manuscripts involved and listing Loy’s editorial corrections. The book ought to make for the best news of the year in modernist studies, though you can ignore modernist studies and just read it.

Tom Pickard | More Pricks Than Prizes | Pressed Wafer | 2010

A brief memoir of the 1970s that has Pickard’s arrest, imprisonment, and eventual acquittal on charges of selling marijuana as its central story, with glimpses of Eric Mottram and Jeff Nuttall and a more extensive account of Basil Bunting and what he did for Pickard as mentor and character witness at the trial. I wish we had more of this kind of thing about the days of the so-called British Poetry Revival. I’d trade it for a dozen academic studies. Written in a no-nonsense prose, with one moment where Pickard puts his foot on the gas. That’s where he’s detailing a scheme to use books as ballast in crates previously emptied of “almost one ton of Ugandan bush” and writes of selling the people who were doing this all of his copies of The Strand Magazine, his sets of The Times History of World War I and Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s not enough to make the weight so he starts buying up crap books all over London. Here’s the Homeric moment: “The ancient bookseller was blissful as we bought much of his space wasting dust gathering, back breaking, spirit deadening unread and unreadable religious and military texts; all those pounds of printed pages by puffing parsons, anaemic academics, bloated bishops, geriatric generals, corpulent combatants and high ranking haemorrhoidal heroes. All that catechistic cataplasm, the militarist mucus, that pedantic pus from festering farts. The engaging entrails of emetic ambassadors, pestiferous papers by prudish pedagogues. I struggled to the wagon with arms full of books, and still he wasn’t satisfied—so I purchased conquering chronicles by conceited commanders….” This goes on for another 40 or fifty lines and ends as follows: “And it still wasn’t enough so I bought the works of talk show hosts, canting sofa cunts coughing up chintzy chunder, bloated volumes by toady poets who sit in circles blowing prizes up each other’s arseholes with straws—until we’d filled the crates.”

Jed Birmingham and Kyle Schlesinger, eds. | Mimeo Mimeo 4 | Winter 2010

Like Pickard’s memoir, a valuable resource for those who want to catch up with the British poetry that matters most, including the “only known essay” by Asa Benveniste, whose poems ought to have more readers, interviews about small press publishing with Tom Raworth and David Meltzer, essays by Ken Edwards and Alan Halsey (on the mimeo editions of Bill Griffiths), and selections from Eric Mottram’s correspondence with Jeff Nuttall. It concludes with Miles Champion’s interview with Trevor Winkfield.

Gizelle Gajelonia | Thirteen Ways of Looking at TheBus | Tinfish Press | 2010

The modernist canon as read and written through in Hawaii—Stevens, Bishop, Crane, Ashbery, and Eliot’s “The Waste Land” for starters. Here’s the Eliot poem’s opening lines:

He Do Da Kine in Different Voices

January February March April May June
July August September October November
December is the cruelest month, mass breeding
Plumeria leis out of homestead land, mixing
Exoticism with desire, stirring
Dull roots with windward and mauka showers….

The chapbook ends with prose titled “The Day I Overthrew The Kingdom of Hawai‘i”: “I remember filling out the application form. Gajelonia, Gizelle, Evangelista. My middle name is my mother’s maiden name because I’m Filipino. ‘Are you an American citizen?’ the form asked. No, I told you I’m Filipino. Technically. I have a green card. And a green passport. But I’m an American. I’ve been here 4 years. I got my period here. My first love was an American boy named David Powers. My favorite boy band was N Sync, not Backstreet Boys. I’m in the ninth grade. In the Philippines there’s no such thing as a ninth grade. I’m not sure what I am. Is that an option? Call my mother in case of an emergency….”

Rachel Warriner | Eleven Days | RunAmok | 2011

One poem each day between the IMF’s arrival in Ireland and the agreement signed: “burn me up / in anonymous austerity / your fat face / lies / in last sovereign days” is how it begins and “sold out and done” is how it ends. For now. Promising work from a new press in Cork.

Ron Silliman | Wharf Hypothesis | LINESchapbooks | 2011

I’d lost track of Silliman’s poetry since the The Alphabet was published entire and found it pleasant and interesting to look over his shoulder on the train from Victoria to the Text Festival in Bury, England, noticing him noticing this and that (missing baseball diamonds) and thinking about writing and about kissing while punning along (“feeling blurby—Simon / mit Garfunkel”). Like Dickens in America—maybe—and Dickens ends the poem, which is said to belong to “Northern Soul,” which is in turn said to be a part of Universe. Beautifully produced, with a cover photograph by Tom Raworth.

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Keith Tuma‘s On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes is due from Salt later this year.

Tuma’s Attention Span for 2010, 2009 . Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Michael Nicoloff

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Brandon Brown | The Poems of Gaius Valerius Catullus | Krupskaya | 2011

It’s vaguely embarrassing to me that, having compiled this list, this is really the only book of poetry on it but that it hasn’t yet been released and I’m sure I haven’t even read the final version of it. But I think it’s a testament to the strength of this work that even in the fragmentary form in which it’s come to me, I still think of it as pretty much everything I want in a book of poetry. This “translation” manages to at once be a very emotionally raw and moving work and a sort of metacognitive essay on translation and its process, one that pulls that very awesome, Letters of Mina Harker-esque trick of making us unsure of whose voice we’re hearing—BB himself, BB’s rendering of Catullus’s voice, or BB inhabiting (or being inhabited by) Catullus as a mode to exercise something like his own speaking voice in addressing the beloved. I frankly can’t wait to tackle it again in its final form and add another layer to the rich experience I’ve had in reading it.

Leonie Sandercock | Cosmopolis II: Mongrel Cities of the 21st Century | Continuum | 2003
Judith Innes and David Booher | Planning with Complexity | Routledge | 2011
Oren Yiftachel | “Re-engaging Planning Theory? Toward ‘South-Eastern’ Perspectives” | in Planning Theory 5 | 2006

Urban planning and its discontents have been holding a lot of my attention in the past couple of years, and it’s largely poetry’s fault—all the talk about ourselves as arts communities wouldn’t get out of my head, and trying to answer the questions that came up in the process led me to all these broader spatial and community development concerns that, in turn, won’t get out of my head either. So here’s my mini-essay on a few touchstones in my current mega-preoccupation:

1. Leonie Sandercock’s (best name ever, right?) book is a half-update/half-sequel to her own Towards Cosmopolis, and it acts as a kind of opinionated textbook/idea clearinghouse of all the difficulties of urban planning in an era where the Robert Moses-style “godlike planner machete-ing cities with utopia in mind” has been thoroughly discredited but still makes its eternal return. Between tackling of modernist ideas of planning and excavation of various planning/anti-planning heterodoxies, analyzing the way fear gets spatialized and sanitizes the supposedly “cosmopolitan,” and digging into the nitty-gritty of planning methodologies with an eye on social justice—whew—Sandercock’s book makes for a really good place to start for anyone with an interest in the variety of planning work out there.

2. Innes and Booher’s book delves more into collaborative planning method and for my money really puts the meat on agonism’s theoretical bones, and I like the way that they draw on complexity science in opposition to logical positivism. Sidestepping planning’s (implicit or explicit) focus on using data to come up with “correct” analysis and “final” answers to urban problems, analysis/answers that can’t take into account unanticipated second/third/infinity-order side effects, Innes and Booher instead focus on strengthening participatory political processes. Relationship building and collaborative learning are the name of the game here, but with the recognition that no network or alliance or structure is ever final—the best we can do is learn how to strengthen and surf the participatory process and come up with contingent solutions that’ll give way in time to further complications.

3. Yiftachel’s essay, while written before Planning with Complexity, can be read in response to the “communicative” turn in planning that Innes has long been identified with. Innes and Booher briefly point to the limitations of the collaborative methods they discuss, but Yiftachel’s drawing out of those limitations is particularly detailed and trenchant. Those “south-eastern” perspectives are of course referring to the global South-East; Yiftachel says that the sociopolitical situations and different dynamics in how concepts of “nation” and “ethnicity” (blind spots, he says, for many planning theorists) function in the South-East can preclude the kind of techniques associated with the communicative turn. He further argues that the communicative turn can create a focus on planners instead of planning itself and that this can result in losing sight of the kind of critique of spatial policy planning should be (and sometimes is, in its critical geography wing) known for. This might seem an obvious topic that no planner should miss, but planning theory’s frequent North-West focus has meant that lip service gets paid more often than the kind of analysis that expands the toolkit of oppositional planners functioning in the midst of varying degrees of repressive activity. Yiftachel fires a pretty powerful shot in the name of this kind of expansion.

Samuel R. Delany | Return to Nevèrÿon series | Various publishers | 1979-1987 (republished 1993-1994)

Delany is probably my favorite essayist out there, but I’d never read any of the sci-fi/fantasy that represents the lion’s portion of his work. Listening to Wagner (see below) and watching Game of Thrones coincided with me picking up Delany’s Silent Interviews, where the Nevèrÿon series is lengthily discussed, and voila, perfect storm for me to rekindle my youthful love of fantasy novels. Nevèrÿon is in many ways an excuse for Delany to have fun / fuck with the conventions of the sword-and-sorcery genre and fit in discursive explorations of money, caste, slavery, and S&M (the monologues in the series, which meander over all this subject matter, are pretty awesome), but what’s captured my attention most is his explorations of the way narratives are formed. I think this in part has something to do with the role storytelling plays in collaborative planning processes, but beyond that I’m not quite sure, and it’s surprising to me, because the shifty sociocultural nuts and bolts of narrative haven’t been an overriding interest for me. But apparently it is now, and the fact that I can get a genre fix in the process seals the deal. (I was originally going to include the reality TV show The Bachelor/The Bachelorette here both for trashy and similar exploration-of-stock-narrative reasons—the romance, in this case—but I figured I could use my space more wisely than by big-upping the ABC network.)

Richard Wagner | The first act of Siegfried, conducted by Georg Solti | Decca | 1997 [1962]
Robert Ashley | Perfect Lives | Lovely Music | 1992

There are debates out there regarding everything having to do with Wagner, apparently (I’m new to Wagner crit), including whether this notorious anti-Semite in fact intended the Nibelung dwarves Alberich and Mime to represent his own ugly take on Jews. Wagner’s intention is kind of beside the point given the amount of Nazi mythological baggage the Ring Cycle carries with it—these operas aren’t getting rid of their association with that whole Aryans-must-throw-off-their-bonds nonsense any time soon. So it’s with a degree of ambivalence that I write that through all of the Ring Cycle it’s Mime that I find most compelling, at least in the performance by Gerhard Stolze on the Solti record. There’s something in his sinister/sniveling delivery of Mime’s abject but complicated emotions that I just find far more human and real than what we see in Siegfried, the supposed hero of the tale, whom Tony Kushner describes as a kind of stupid teenage jock, and who, I’d add, has some major Prince Valiant/Mighty Mouse vibes to him from his opening notes. I don’t sympathize with “evil” per se, but the air of desperation in his will to power seems a lot more relatable to the smaller-scale, perhaps misguided desperation many of us run into on a regular basis. Perfect Lives, that “opera for television,” feels approachable and familiar in its own way too, in that its libretto is mainly Robert Ashley himself reciting meandering philosophical narratives with some very odd tinkly piano playing and two-person chorus backing him up. Frankly, I don’t know if I have much more to say about it beyond stating that I really enjoy listening to it and that I find it really exciting that Dalkey Archive is republishing the libretto in book form this fall, allowing me to read lines like “driving under the influence of succotash” forever and ever.

Lindsey Boldt and Steve Orth, eds. | Various titles | Summer BF Press | ongoing

I’m glad to count Lindsey and Steve among my good friends, but I also think they’re carving out a really smart and useful space in the small press realm. Many of us know and love Dana Ward’s Typing Wild Speech, but between publishing work by Dodie Bellamy and republishing Bruce Boone’s The Truth About Ted, Summer BF seems to be emerging as a go-to source for experimental nonfiction past and present. I think the “past” part is what makes it especially exciting, because while we do end up with republications of perfect bound lost classics from time to time, it’s nice when smaller, shorter, perhaps less lucrative but superb work that’s fallen out of circulation can find a new place in the conversation alongside equally exciting new work.

Miles Davis | Bitches Brew | Columbia | 1970

Between this and Perfect Lives and Wagner, I feel like I’m the epitome of old news here, but I continually find this record to be a rich source for compositional ideas—less in the direct sense of, oh, I’m going to do what Miles did here in my poem, but more so in that something with such density, intelligence, and fun functions as creative juice. Space is just packed full on this record, and so while there are “solos,” there’s so much other rhythmically dense activity (and sensitive listening by its players) going on that it feels like an ensemble piece. It’s given another layer knowing that Davis was operating under the influence of Stockhausen, piecing together of minimally structured group improvisations into more structured compositions via cutting, editing, and looping tape. The push-pull between structure and something unhinged, or between clearly traceable melodic lines that are given a dense collaborative bed to float on top of—well, that balance between complexity and listenability, and thus, re-listenability, is something that I strive for, and that I can always be reminded of here. Also, Bennie Maupin’s clarinet playing—damn.

VA | Third Coast International Audio Festival archive | http://www.thirdcoastfestival.org | ongoing
Almost anything | Link+ | at Berkeley Public Library | ongoing

These are important information sources for me, the first being an archive of good radio that I can listen to while doing the more menial parts of my job, and the second being effectively a regional interlibrary loan system. Of particular interest to me was hearing audio from various parts years of the Third Coast conference, which was intriguing for its insight into the compositional techniques of a medium I love but don’t know much about, and also because I got to hear various producers’ favorite pieces, which pointed me towards things that I’m really taken with, like “Bells in Europe” or work by Scott Carrier and the Kitchen Sisters. Link+ is an incredible resource for the institutionally unaffiliated like me, because via the public library I can get a hold of the more specialized texts in the holdings of academic libraries. It seems obvious what a boon this system is for anyone trying to piece together a continuing education, in preparation for further formal study or not, and thankfully, it’s free.

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More Michael Nicoloff here.

Nicoloff’s Attention Span for 2006. Back to 2011 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 25, 2011 at 9:00 am