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Attention Span 2012 | Pattie McCarthy

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Julia Bloch | Letters to Kelly Clarkson | Sidebrow | 2012

“Dear Kelly, // I was moving one square of air from one corner of the country to another, / I held that square in my mouth or cheek so I could still talk, breathe, even / sing while holding it.”

CA Conrad | A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon | Wave | 2012

“what I really want / is to scatter / my own / ashes”

Rachel Blau DuPlessis | Draft 96: Velocity | Little Red Leaves | 2011

“tight astride the no of Yes, / inside a stranger, starker yes of No.”

Susana Gardner | Herso | Black Radish | 2011

“what was once unwanted / so wavering     was now so — this new I, / small hero.”

Jenn McCreary | Odyssey & Oracle | Least Weasel | 2011

“I don’t think / of a white bear so hard, I can’t think of a wish.”

Lisa Robertson | Nilling | Bookthug | 2012

“26. Thus the interdiction against reading — it was Rousseau who said that any girl who reads is already a lost girl. The codex has lent her its secrecy. She will read in spite of any law.”

Elizabeth Robinson | Three Novels | Omnidawn | 2011

“The soft, mathematical breath of a nocturne. The fresh paint on the doorsill / clings to the nightclothes of this apparition.”

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

“The fourth time I saw her I was on the bus and she was standing on the corner. I watched her from the rear window until she disappeared. A month later I was the one standing on the corner while she passed on the bus. Then I didn’t see her for several months, and finally I forgot about her.”

Cole Swensen | Gravesend | California | 2012

“actually exists      the proper name of an excised space”

Laura Walker | Follow-Haswed | Apogee | 2012

“pencils / exhaust / all of the sentences of Engish”

Matvei Yankelevich | Alpha Donut | United Artist | 2012

“BUSTER: The novel will be about Paris / because no one will let me go to Paris / where love is free. VLADIMIR: Everyone gets / their just desserts. BUSTER: All I get is jello.”


Pattie McCarthy is the author of bk of (h)rs, Verso, Table Alphabetical of Hard Words, and Marybones (forthcoming), all from Apogee Press. Her most recent chapbook is L&O, published by Little Red Leaves. A 2011 Pew Fellow in the Arts, she teaches literature and creative writing at Temple University.

Pattie McCarthy’s contributions to Attention Span for 2011, 2010. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 20, 2012 at 8:30 am

Attention Span 2012 | Erika Staiti

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Clark Coolidge | The Crystal Text | Sun and Moon | 1995

One morning in June, I pulled this off a bookshelf and read parts of it while lying on the living room couch. I do this every couple of years. Someday I would like to read the whole book in one sitting, though I think that might be impossible. It’s crystalline—you can’t see the whole thing at once, you can only take partial views into its center. It’s too bright. Not bright, sharp. It is dull but luminous. The language is like white noise, unassuming but persistent.

Samuel R. Delany | Dhalgren | Vintage | 2001 (orig pub 1974)

This is the central book of my year. Always throw a big ass crazy novel into the mix. I’ve often thought I would like to live in a place that was cut off from the rest of the world, but now I’m not so sure. Bellona is dirty and alluring. Dhalgren has been haunting me since the day I picked it up and it continues to linger. 801 pages and I’m about 500 in. I have to take breaks. When I first started, I read it every morning and night for many days in a row and I almost went insane. I might always remember Oakland 2012 as DHALGREN.

Eiko and Koma with the Kronos Quartet | Yerba Buena Center for the Arts | 2012

Performance as text. I sat transfixed while Eiko and Koma lay naked on a bed of dirt with the Kronos Quartet playing behind them, their movements so slow I could hardly track them. I watched with painful attentiveness, like a close reading of movement and stillness, rhythm and structure and syntax. Four hours later, walking out onto Mission and 3rd was a jarring shock to the senses. When art transports you to a different universe, it is a rare thing. This was an epic.

Samantha Giles | deadfalls and snares | Futurepoem | forthcoming 2013

Bold enough to go places that most people can’t, or don’t want to. SG’s first book (Hurdis Addo, Displaced Press, 2011) is an elegy for every person murdered in the city of Oakland, CA in 2006. deadfalls and snares deals with Abu Ghraib tortures. I often find the writing on such issues of public trauma to be cliché or sensationalist or just plain bad, but Giles opens up a space that not only complicates an issue, but also challenges readers to consider their relationship to it as victims, perpetrators, and onlookers.

Ariel Goldberg | The Estrangement Principle | 2012

Staggering number of references in this chapbook-length text, a series of musings by Ariel Goldberg on the label “queer” as used by and applied to artists and writers. Expanded aphorisms threading slantwise through a conclusion that has yet to be reached, that is perhaps unreachable. The thing I love about this piece is that some of it perfectly articulates thoughts of my own, while other parts cause me to shake my head or cringe with disagreement. This is an honest text. It’s raw. It preserves the juiciness of its subjects. It doesn’t attempt mastery. It is not making a corpse out of the art or culture it critiques. The questions it asks have immediacy and vitality. This is an evolving program and I can’t wait for the next version.

Pamela Lu | Ambient Parking Lot | Kenning Editions | 2011

The long-awaited Ambient Parking Lot arrives, toting with it an amorphous group of ambient musicians exuding smugness and self-satisfaction, anxiety and paranoia, revelry and disillusionment. They are a singular character embodying a WE. In the center of the book, an anecdote spans 50 pages–a sustained bravado, a tale of adventure and heartache, an individual belting his story out beyond the backdrop of the Ambient Parkers. Then, a radio interview with a dancer and former collaborator of the Ambient Parkers enfolds them in a new self-consciousness–the sudden realization that they have been seen and judged by others, not merely by themselves.

kathryn l. pringle | Fault Tree | Omnidawn | 2012

One of the obsessions of this book is TIME. The narrator cannot escape time, and cannot make sense of it. I believe kathryn l. pringle has invoked a narrator so powerful that he influenced the actual text to resist conventions of temporality as well. There is no beginning, middle, or end. It is circular in a way that makes me feel almost as paranoid as the narrator. I have read this book many times, heard it read many times, I even lived alongside its creation, and yet every page, though familiar in the moment I encounter it, seems to appear in a different place each time I return. The entirety of the book takes place in one moment. The MOMENT. I encourage you to revisit KP’s first book RIGHT NEW BIOLOGY (Factory School, 2009), as it might make a little more sense now, or if not now, it will soon.

Viktor Shklovsky, trans. Shushan Avagyan | Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar | Dalkey Archive | 2011 (orig. pub 1970)

Hadn’t read anything by Shklovsky besides Zoo but now that will change. I am already having intense feelings about this book and I only just started reading it. Trying to fathom Shklovsky’s life in the Soviet Union through the greater part of the 20th century. Looking at his style, words, anecdotes, and criticisms with enthusiasm and relief. He is offering me alternatives to the mundane. He offers new questions. I think being moved to consider new questions is a good thing. Potentially life saving.

Suzanne Stein | Tout va bien | Displaced | 2012

The excitement I felt upon reading through this book I cannot say I feel very often. I see this work/collection as its own living and breathing organism that I can hold, have conversations with, listen to, grapple with, consider and reconsider. I deeply appreciate its architecture. I appreciate the moves it makes, its gestures. It is free, literally.

Cecilia Vicuña | SABORAMI | Chain Links | 2012

The re-release of this collection of writing, drawings, painting, and ephemera by Cecilia Vicuña after the death of Salvador Allende couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Her live performance in February of SABORAMI at Small Press Traffic in San Francisco included text, voice (in song/words/whispers), projected visual imagery, storytelling, and inspiration from this luminous spirit that is Cecilia Vicuña.


This is Erika Staiti’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 19, 2012 at 10:30 am

Attention Span 2012 | Corina Copp

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Georg Büchner, trans. Michael Hamburger | Lenz | Frontier | 1969

Read last summer in one go on a yellow metal bench, and again this. The tear of self-preservation and hopelessness…night torments…pages of descript on the crumbling of a natural composition…read after I got up from the bench that a key term from Celan’s Meridian speech is “majestas,” Latin for “sovereignty,” “Medusa’s head”; after this is the crumbling bit: “I saw two girls sitting on a stone; one of them was unfastening her hair, the other was helping her. Her golden hair hung down; a grave, pale face, and yet so young, and the black dress and the other one so anxiously busying herself. The finest, most intimate pieces of the German school can hardly give us an idea of what this scene was like. Sometimes one would like to be a Medusa’s head, so as to be able to transform such a group into stone and show it to people.” So, to recognize that motive, artistic impulse as a will to power. But the face of stone as it actually shifts through light and dark throughout Lenz’s wandering/madness/”atheism” is the ultimate, quietist joke.

Tina Darragh | A(Gain)2st the Odds | Potes & Poets | 1989

So late I know! Hadn’t read this one, and Erica Kaufman corrected that, gifting it to me in Jan. Love Darragh, and thinking about her especially now in proto-concept literary climate (of course and glad to see her in the Les Figues I’ll Drown My Book) and re: intensified (for some) political engagement. “late 1800s | with the specialization of / labor, ‘unemployment’ is / seen as distinct from ‘idle,’ / except during worker strikes.” […] “you must have a machine to think,” then, “you think better with a machine”. Her nonfiction and science sources distilled to great effect…and of course all related in her thoughtful and light-handed way; reminds me of some WPA/Federal Theatre Project plays…e.g., entire scripts made in the 1930s from newspaper clippings on farm policy. Darragh is less pointed, questioning user passivity and collisions of self and culture production.

Marguerite Duras | Duras by Duras | City Lights | 1987
Marguerite Duras, trans. Richard Seaver | The Ravishing of Lol Stein | Pantheon | 1986
Marguerite Duras, trans. Barbara Bray | The Malady of Death | Grove | 1994

I’m deep in a Marguerite Duras kind of way. Working on three performance texts based on her work (might take some years!), and am calling the trilogy The Whole Tragedy of the Inability to Love, which is lifted from a Le Monde blurb on the back of The Malady of Death. Duras by Duras I came across at Unnameable Books—it was pleasantly waiting for me on the table where Adam Tobin & co. subtly set a rotating collection of seemingly whatever strikes. Duras by Duras as a title is a slight misnomer—the book includes critical essays on her work from Blanchot and Lacan, among others, and script fragments of India Song and notes both on that film and her relationship to crossing/inhabiting form(s) in general—this all occurs way outside the “mimetic stage” (or cinema)—making place a condition for listening. Lol Stein also works this way, a character as a doubled space, and she also acts a bit like the stone for Lenz, though more impossible. I can get past (and completely in) the melodramatic tenor/constant despair of Duras (as one of her editors said, “The avant-garde in recent times has had no love story” [hmm])—because she also wrote very basic things like, “A lot of people left the cinema a long time ago. That is why it still goes on” and she worked from that nothing, from standstill.

Lisa Robertson | Nilling | BookThug | 2012

I’m hung up on the first essay, “Time in the Codex.” For some reason in my reading (“leaning into chiaroscuro”), I kept replacing terms—”the small inconspicuous track of no-time” renders time as qualified by what’s visibly left pretty moot, perhaps what she means by “invisible.” I thought “unowned” for “inconspicuous,” though not the same. “Her autonomy undoes itself and disperses into a devotedly plural materiality. Her identifications are small revolutions and also the potent failures of revolutions. She is free to not appear.” (Rather than a resistance to subjectivity.) I think by “revolutions,” LR means “turning in the ruin” and by “potent” she means potential. And overall feel that it’s not the object (a book) I should be so afraid of, though the “material infinite of the fold” is a nice reminder that maybe I should be. But a misread. “When will desire replace identification?” Hopefully soon, personally. Later I reread The Men with all of this in mind…learning to read Robertson is to be less entranced (by the language, the permission, the agility) and to see it all as more reasonable, and by reasonable I mean accurate. So often we/I look at accuracy in close relation to more minimalist or compressed texts, so a luxurious break.

Keith Tuma | On Leave: A Book of Anecdotes | Salt | 2011

Absolutely enjoyable read from Tuma, who seems to conceive of gossip as a space to mine for integrity, can you imagine—written on sabbatical, On Leave looks at the history and meaningfulness of the anecdote, and is personal without any cloy whatsoever. Anecdotes used to be strings of facts! We were interested in their material! There was no wit! (My exclamations.)

Lorine Niedecker | Homemade Poems | CUNY Lost & Found Poetics Document Initiative | 2012

Chuck Stebleton bought me a copy of this at the CUNY Chapbook Festival, after he saw my empty pockets, and somehow it was all I took home. So grateful for these poems’ newfound tangibility that I might even try writing one by hand sometime.

Denise Riley | “A Part Song” | London Review of Books (link – sub only) | 2012

Must champion Riley’s first publication of poetry in a decade (has since been followed by a book-length essay about the death of her son, Time Lived, Without Its Flow [Capsule Editions]).

Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez | The Femicide Machine | Semiotext(e) | 2012

I saw Rodriguez give a talk after I read this book, and realized that a formal intention of The Femicide Machine was to stall a differentiation between journalism and literature, something I didn’t pick up while reading it. Certainly it’s all fact, what’s going on in terms of institutionalized oppression, public space as hunting ground, electoral-level aggression against women, and on and on in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Bodies of women are being reduced to a medium between cartels and police; rather than average daily violence against women being committed by people they know, we’re dealing with second-tier violence—crimes against women being committed by people in power. Discusses state responses, art-world response, border-town associations with contraband, how arms, drugs, people, become equivalent. And importantly in a broader sense, how to counter morbid fascination and engage with culture as space for solidarity.

Doris Lessing | The Golden Notebook | Harper Collins | 1962

The leveling of formations of political thought with banal personal desires on Lessing’s part…a constant enacting of talk about writing and composition itself, even as the narrative circles a familiar base feeling…the primary fondness for hyperreal behavior and perspective…the ongoing joke about which friend would have killed the other if only ten years prior or which fresh young revolutionary will be first to fossilize, a nearing to love but never quite…”I feel what I felt with sleeping Michael, a need to laugh out in triumph, because of this marvelous, precarious, immortal human being, in spite of the weight of death”; it’s all a somewhat-gorgeous ruse—as complex and dark philosophically, maybe, as the doubling in a Duras story but structured to be comprehensible—fuck, it’s almost alienating (in the best theoretical way); at the least it’s clever. Again late to the party, by about fifty years.


Corina Copp is most recently the author of Pro Magenta/Be Met(Ugly Duckling, 2011), with publications forthcoming from Bad Press, Minutes Books, and Trafficker. An excerpt of her play The Whole Tragedy of the Inability to Love, Part 1: SUSANSWERPHONE can be read at The Claudius App 3 and will be presented in October at the PRELUDE.12 Festival. She lives in Brooklyn.

This is Corina Copp’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 19, 2012 at 8:30 am

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

Attention Span 2012 | John Sakkis

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Kevin Killian | Selected Amazon Reviews Part II | Push | 2011

Kyle Schlesinger, ed.  | Mimeo Mimeo #4 | Cuneiform | 2011

Brett Easton Ellis | American Psycho | Vintage | 1991

Lindsey Boldt | Overboard | Publication Studios | 2012

Frank Miller | Batman The Dark Knight Returns | DC Comics | 1986

Steve Orth, ed. | Where Eagles Dare

Dana Ward | Typing Wild Speech | Summer BF | 2010

Armand Schwerner | The Tables I-XV | Grossman | 1971

Jaime Hernandez | Locas The Maggie And Hopey Stories | Fantagraphics | 2004

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

Sunnylyn Thibodeaux | Palm To Pine | Bootstrap | 2011


John Sakkis is the author of Rude Girl, and with Angelos Sakkis he has translated three books by Athenian poet and multi-media artist Demosthenes Agrafiotis: Maribor (Post-Apollo), awarded the 2011 Northern California Book Award for Poetry in Translation; Chinese Notebook (Ugly Duckling); and the just released “now, 1/3” and thepoem (BlazeVOX). The author of numerous chapbooks, pamphlets, mixtapes and ephemera, most recently White Castle Skateboard Stunts and RAVE ON!. Under the moniker BOTH BOTH he has curated/ edited various projects including: blog, “band,” reading series, and since 2005 a magazine.

John Sakkis’s contributions to Attention Span for 20112010200720062005. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 12, 2012 at 10:46 am

Posted in Attention Span 2012, List Only

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Attention Span 2012 | Sara Wintz

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Chris Kraus | Where Art Belongs | Semiotext(e)| 2011

Roel Arkesteijn, ed. | CODEX SPERO: Nancy Spero- Selected Writings and Interviews 1950-2008 | de Appel + ROMA Publications | 2008

One of the perks of doing “bad mail,” a task performed by the Visitor Services Department at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in which mail addressed to curators and employees who no longer work at the Institute is re-directed back to sender, is that we received books from art organizations around the world. When I was working in the Visitor Services Department at P.S.1., we received several copies of CODEX SPERO from de Appel Art Centre, in the Netherlands. It’s such a beautifully edited book of Spero’s gorgeous oeuvre, that I brought it everywhere I lived in Brooklyn, to my parents’ house in New Jersey, to Berkeley, Oakland: everywhere after my co-worker gave it to me. I read the entire book this winter and loved every part.

Ingrid Schaffner, John Ashbery (prologue), Lisa Jarnot (essay) | Jess: To and From the Printed Page | iCI | 2007

Norma Cole | Mars | Listening Chamber | 1994

William Saroyan, ed. and pref. by Aram Saroyan | The William Saroyan Reader | Barricade | 1994

Julia Brown, ed. | Betye Saar | The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles | 1984

Josephine Miles | Local Measures | Reynal + Hitchcock | 1946

Mm. I’ve been reading more about California this year. I read Josephine Miles’ poem, “Flag Level,” and imagined the American flag waving on the moon, then was knocked out by realizing that her poems in this collection were written before humans had even ventured to the moon. And then I thought about how many poets thought about the moon and stared at the moon, the surface of the moon, wrote about it before we even landed on the moon: Elizabeth Bishop, “The moon in the bureau mirror/looks out a million miles/(and perhaps with pride, at herself,/but she never, never smiles)/far and away beyond sleep, or/perhaps she’s a daytime sleeper.” Marianne Moore, “Sun and moon and day and night and man and beast/each with a splendor”


Sara Wintz is the author of Walking across a Field We Are Focused on this Time Now, forthcoming from Ugly Duckling. She curated the Segue Reading Series from 2009-2011 and is on the Board of Directors of Small Press Traffic, in San Francisco.

Sara Wintz’s contribution to Attention Span for 2011. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Kevin Killian

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Demosthenes Agrafiotis, trans. John Sakkis and Angelos Sakkis | “Now, 1/3” and thepoem | BlazeVOX | 2012

On the face of it the two newly translated books by Agrafiotis couldn’t be more different: your fingers can practically spell out the difference in the textuality, the broken lines in “Now” and the prosy blocks of words that make up most of “thepoem.” He’s got a way with titles, that Agrafiotis; maybe Ford should hire him today the way they hired Marianne Moore in the 1950s to come up with new names for automobiles. (How about, “thecar”?) But the longer I read and re-read these poems, the more they come to resemble each other, and perhaps that is a compliment to his US translators, nephew and uncle team John and Angelos Sakkis, each an accomplished poet himself in the Bay Area. There are Duncanesque stumpers here (“the tongue holds the word / the word holds the pleasure / the pleasure holds the flesh / the flesh holds the word”) but the most impressive aspect for me is Agrafiotis’ near total control over language’s material, its heft, here subject to a lyric teleportation.

Lindsey Boldt | Overboard | Publication Studio Berkeley | 2012

Colter Jacobsen’s stunning design makes Lindsey Boldt’s debut book an art event as well as a poetry event, so run out and get yours now, but even if it came on tickertape the achievement of Overboard is pretty statuesque. Boldt has been haunted by two movies she saw as a toddler, the Richie Valens biopic La Bamba, and the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell black comedy Overboard, and she has spent the past few years remaking them into a sort of American childspeak which I find utterly captivating. Overboard the movie was about Hawn as a spoiled heiress who gets amnesia in a boating accident; rescued and sort of enslaved by Captain Kurt and his motherless family, she gets to become a woman (sic). And Boldt seizes on this cloying element and goes mad with it. Her Goldie Hawn is hundreds of feet tall and becomes a veritable sea goddess, destroying cities like Godzilla, her ageless body sprouting destruction a la Kali. As Jack Smith felt towards Cobra Woman, there’s something of the devotional lunatic in Lindsey Boldt’s very canny projects.

Julia Drescher | Hands Chalk the Walls | Further Other Book Works | 2012

Drescher is a new writer to me but apparently she’s been writing quite a bit in Texas, where, she writes, “vulture [is] // the first / new word // learned here.” Her writing is enough to strip flesh from a bone, and in this book at any rate she is concentrating on surfaces, what’s behind them, what obscures them—like the old Pentimento concept that Lillian Hellman wrote about in her memoir. The back cover presents a typical Cy Twomblyesque abstracted drip of pinks and grays and ochres, and the front cover carves words out of it by framing its colors with a maquette of white cut to reveal the letters hidden within. “Hands chalk the walls”—reportage of revolutionary graffiti event, or H.D.-War Trilogy affirmation of alwaysness? “Slick wreck I // weathered // longing / swell / a sea / in pencil.” I’m reading the evidence both ways, including the possibility that it’s the game we used to play as kids, challenged to turn (say) “face” into “head” in five moves.

Evan Kennedy | Shoo-Ins to Ruin | Gold Wake Press | 2011

I became interested in Kennedy’s work when he moved from New York to San Francisco with an agenda, a mission if you prefer. Later on I acted a part in a play he wrote (with Brandon Brown) based on the confessions of St. Augustine. I played a mean old bishop, and Dodie was the angel of charity or something. The poem is in the present book, “Recollections from the Adolescence of St. Augustine,” is very much a young man’s poem, a stuttering mix tape of Djuna Barnes psalmspeak, Grindr body English, nouns in parade sans verbs. Each sort-of-serial poem in the book is written in a different techne—”lovely, all composed,” as Zukofsky wrote of Gerald Malanga’s photographs. But warning, this is a book heavy on radical disjunction. If that is not for you, read on, skip ahead to the next book.

Nicole Markotic| Bent at the Spine | Bookthug | 2012

You get to hear a lot of registers in Nicole Markotic’s poetry, sometimes within a single poem, or within a single line you snap! Like falling off a tree, and the rest of the line takes place down on the snowy forest floor. Maybe the images of leaping and falling that brighten the book stem from a single impulse, a romantic or somatic drive to oh, just get rid of it all, but they do wonders for the writing, and I think free up the poet to introduce, without making a big deal of it, the theme of failure, crossed wires, the senselessness of what happens to us, and something of our own moral failures. Wasn’t it Eliot who wrote about the skull beneath the skin”? Elsewhere the sheer Pig Cupid gorgeousness of the lines will float you over page after page in torrents of pleasure. “white peaches in Paris / hats off to partial aches // rogue Achilles throws arrows at that hate-queen / go figure, the figure of Hades bequeaths mask insignia”—no, that’s the problem with quoting, I just don’t want to stop.

Jennifer Moxley | There are Things We Live Among: Essays on the Object World | Flood | 2012

Moxley’s delight in hitting on just the right title for her book is just the beginning of her voyage into what she terms the object world. At first I had to lean on my trust in her, for otherwise the object world sounded alien and sort of scary, like the “Blazing World” in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comics. Then I learned that it was her shorthand instead for a whole system of complicated relations between subject, reading, and thing—sometimes a thing seen, or unseen, sometimes a thing heard or even smelled. It is an analysis curiously pre-Socratic and post-Socratic, and she goes right to the source in an early essay, the grave of Emerson in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, pondering Emerson and friction, Emerson’s curious pan-Asian sympathy and his ambivalence regarding possessions—like, why have such a huge, Jackson Pollock sort of grave marker anyhow? Moxley’s new style is not a French Max Beerbohm nor a New England Roland Barthes, but it rivals the best of both; I meant to say that the little essays grow as they agglomerate, into a veritable convincery.

Hoa Nguyen | As Long As Trees Last | Wave | 2012

A mystical mother presides over these poems from a chinaberry tree, alternately bossy and mellow, like mine. I first read about this book in The Boston Globe, and when the reviewer said that “her poems ache for rain—you sometimes get the sense they’re so spare for lack of it,” I decided to get the book to verify these claims. Indeed there is a rain poem, but the book ends on a l’envoi sort of note about the sun. “Please / just open the door / to the sun.” I was wondering, maybe this is a misprint for “the rain.” Nguyen has written some good books before but this one tops the others; perhaps her recent transplant to Canada has done her soul good. Wave Books, you have America’s greatest designer working for you, but don’t limit his palette to cream and black, it’s soul-destroying, and if you don’t return to color you will have poetry fans protesting for as long as trees last!

Lisa Robertson | Nilling | Bookthug | 2012

These seven essays were written between 2006 and 2010, and will please some who’ve been looking for a sequel to Robertson’s Soft Architecture book, but there are some of us who will follow her anywhere and that’s where I plant my flag, in that cohort. I hardly know how to explain it. I tend to grow tongue-tied and frenetic when reading Robertson, largely because the methods by which her essays grow and swell defies strict linguistic analysis. It’s a combination of realistic insight (that’s why she is so good with artists whose work, like hers, is grounded in the solid—like Eugene Atget, here, or Eva Hesse) and an insistence on the eternal mutability of all things. Everything changes all the time in her writing; there are no more static subjects, she avers. The sheer variety of the occasional pieces in this collection is, to me, like a wonderful potpourri of flowers and scents, and if some might find little direction in the volume, they will not deny that by the time it’s over, one has been vanquished and exists now only in a pool of plasmatic consciousness, like the Thing in the Howard Hawks film.

Samuel Solomon | Life of Riley | Bad Press | 2012

Like Discrete Series, Life of Riley is but a mere handful of poems thrown down onto a septet of flaring white squares, and yet I imagine people will be talking about it eighty years later, just as we are still trying to parse out what Oppen meant by the “pruderies of the Frigidaire.” First off, dust off your knowledge of 1950s radio and TV history for the ancient Jackie Gleason-William Bendix blue collar sitcom Life of Riley, I enjoy reading the poems of Life of Riley, even the slightest, but most of all I am enjoying the title poem in the sequence, a multipart piece that keep stopping and starting once it reaches a point of ecstasy—political will—disappointment—romantic grousing—encouragement—trenchant look at a generation blighted with hopes—it’s a peculiar way to construct a poem, like he or she who would build a house of cards atop the Bermuda Triangle, and yet strangely enough I find it madly affecting—as I do Tantric yoga and other forms of excitement spiced by deferral. I dreamed a dream in which poet Sam Solomon, and Simeon Solomon (the pre-Raphaelite painter, the friend of Swinburne) met, young and unafraid, and dreams were made and used and wasted. There was no ransom to be paid; no song unsung; no wine untasted.

S.J. Seidenberg | Verge | Hidebound | 2012

At first he reminds me of those authors like Jones Very whom my old teacher Yvor Winters used to champion, with a clotted vocabulary drawn from classical authors and Shakespeare’s late romances, and a severe disposition that leads, presently, to a breathless new revelation. “What surge of gurry chafes the furrows,” asks Seidenberg, “of your gill folds into gullet, / what chimeric pinhole drains / your hovel rot of skies?” Yes, you heard me right, that was “surge of gurry” and that was “hovel rot of skies.” It can take awhile to bend your mind around such questions, and your tongue and throat will get workouts when you read these poems aloud, just like Edwardians heading into World War I were going gaga over the tortured syllables of Gerald Manley Hopkins, I’m hooked on Verge, nicely designed by Lara Durback and Andrew Kenower, who got swept up as I am by Seidenberg’s steampunk energies.

Matthew Zapruder | Come On All You Ghosts | Copper Canyon | 2010

Zapruder moved to San Francisco for love, he says, in his handsome book Come On All You Ghosts from Copper Canyon, and although he may not have been here long he has already made himself part of the fabric of the city, so that whenever I trawl past one particular strip of San Francisco Bay I always think, Matt and Sarah live somewhere near here. I love the way it shows up in his writing as I love the way Union square, for example, shows up in Vertigo and The Birds. Here there’s a poem where the speaker hobbles down the street to a café where he reads the Times and spots Ferlinghetti nearby, in another chair. At least he’s pretty sure it’s Ferlinghetti. I like the fanboy aspect, I guess, is what I’m saying. That aspect that engraves the casual chitchat he shares with the Ferlinghetti possibility, and wields it into a poem called, “Poem for Ferlinghetti.” And so it is appropriate that his book ends in a torrential invocation of the ghostly side of things—the other side of the coin, for this is a city I imagine flush with them on every corner. “There is one great bridge / at the edge of the city falling asleep. And another / humming an orange welcoming song.”


Kevin Killian‘s contributions to Attention Span for 20112010200920072006200520042003. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Sarah Rosenthal

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giovanni singleton | Ascension | Counterpath | 2012

Ascension by giovanni singleton tracks the passing of musician and spiritual leader Alice Coltrane through the bardo—the Tibetan Buddhist state between death and rebirth. Grounded in African American history and artistic achievement, Ascension provokes readers to reexamine facile notions of identity, race, and perception: “black is not / a shade but rather / an impression.” Through short, lyric poems, concrete poetry, an acrostic, recipes, and other forms, singleton attends to the details of the everyday (“the sound / of gravel / underfoot”), our shadow side (“some things / we’ll deny / ever knowing”), and our most generous dreams (“to cry / a litter each day // until all of hers / and the world’s / sorrows dissolved”). The book ultimately is, in singleton’s own words, an “ecstatic song” dedicated “to love.”

Carrie Hunter | The Incompossible | Black Radish | 2011

If you’re going to write sentences that evoke the New Sentence, you’d best find a fresh way in. Carrie Hunter does just this in The Incompossible, a collection of paragraph-poems that hover in an energized zone between disjunction and connection. Hunter doesn’t mind revealing that there’s a particular self generating these sentences. But her capacity to rub the personal up against the impersonally philosophical, often via humor, reveals that she isn’t entranced by the self either. “Leaving theory in the doorway. It is only neurosis that makes me plug everything back in. I’d rather just sit here for now.”

Amber DiPietra and Denise Leto | Waveform | Kenning | 2011

In Waveform by Denise Leto and Amber DiPietra, the reader is invited to eavesdrop on a liberated conversation about living with disability. Through a collage of poems, email exchanges, scientific studies, equipment manuals, and excerpts from various authors’ essays and blogs, the two poets readily release the authority of the single self in order to engage the power of hybridity. “It doesn’t matter whose voice. It is slamming against a thin paper wall and breaks so that what comes through cannot be owned.” The “difficulty” of this writing enacts the condition of living in bodies on intimate terms with pain and discomfort, bodies that do not necessarily execute the wishes of the mind—as well as the challenge of conveying this experience. For those weary of the cult of superficiality and eager to reflect on issues of embodiment and form, this is a vital text.

Micah Ballard | Waifs and Strays | City Lights | 2011

In Micah Ballard’s Waifs and Strays the here and now—daily life in San Francisco among poet friends—is infiltrated at every turn with an over there, an otherwise—including dead poets and blood ancestors—providing the rush of contact and the mystery of absence in the same intoxicating cocktail: “I was told to lay down my song / & make use of my past / lush marshes and a walk across Aquatic Park.” The lines in this volume typically end rather bluntly, which, along with an often casual diction, makes the work feel appealingly unaffected—even as, O’Hara-like, it references dozens of living and dead poets and other artists. Is this the work of a poets’ poet, or is it a set of contemporary song lyrics? It’s both of those, and more.

Denise Newman | The New Make Believe | Post-Apollo | 2010

Denise Newman’s The New Make Believe evokes Leslie Scalapino and Gertrude Stein. Both writers would celebrate this book that plunges deep into the schism between the need to speak and the impossibility of ever getting it right, and in the bowels of that potentially frustrating and scary place builds dazzling pink palaces of language at once earthy and ephemeral, somber and blithe. “[N]othing is simply as one can say, in other words / I go out through the middle of missing // like the waters of Lake Poverty heading for the / lowest point in exchange with / the flowering light of / childhead.”

Cheryl Pallant | Continental Drifts | BlazeVOX | 2012

The long lines in Cheryl Pallant’s Continental Drifts dash, dip, twist, double back and leap ahead, enacting simultaneously the groundedness gravity demands and the instability wrought by the law of constant change. “Adrift I am sands to shore, fire to ice, bones tendoning tendencies.” Pallant’s background in dance feels evident here; these poems are ready for a session of seasoned, rough-and-tumble contact improv between a constantly filling and emptying “I” and “you”: “Who follows whom can or may situate her or himself. Together or alone lifts cup to drink. We or I romp in a field or flatter yet, a pain.” A heightened awareness of limits—”After this there is no other”—leads to a fearlessness that invigorates: “Space opens like a book yet to be written.”


This is Sarah Rosenthal‘s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Michael Scharf

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Adil Jusawalla | Trying to Say Goodbye | Almost Island | 2011

“Trapped land, your stunning stash
in patched-up hideaways,
may you find an out.”

Benjamin Friedlander | One Hundred Etudes | Edge | 2012

“But who

Rhymes ‘pain’ for
Loaf of bread’?
No revolution ever

Caught my finger
In history’s cardoor,
But I hear

Your key turn
In my head.”

The ‘ardor’ in ‘cardoor’ = part of BF’s genius

Bill Luoma | Some Math | Kenning | 2011

The landfall of a continental glacier

Cecelia Vicuña | SABORAMI | ChainLinks | 2011

Publishing that redefines the Anglophone 70s

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

No tenable position to take within what’s given (global transactionalism; collective action vs. the military/militarized police; bourgeois literary apparatus/print response) and what one is forced to become

Not the same thing as nihilism


Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih | The Yearning of Seeds | HarperCollinsIndia | 2011

“I hate the season when my thoughts
bend to leaders like the wind.”

Lisa Robertson | the venus problem, Or “On Physical Real Beginning and What Happens Next by T. Lucretius Carus: An Essay on Translation.” Poetry and prose | Triple Canopy | 2011

“go Venus go vernal”

Regan Good | The Atlantic House | Harry Tankoos | 2011

“I thought: Here is the surface on which to see Nature,
but as I turned it to regard me, my face was nil, nihil.”

Sonam Kachru | The Last Embrace of Color and Leaf: Introducing Aśvaghoṣa’s Disjunctive Style | Almost Island | 2012

“In these two feet, after a flurried denial of activity, a verbal root (sthā; meaning, to stand) is folded into a nominal form, the past passive participle, and rhymed with an arresting word that precedes it, likhitā, meaning painted: likhitāivasthitāh: thus, ‘drained of action,’ the verse seems to say, ‘they stood, as if painted.'”

Vahni Capildeo | Dark & Unaccustomed Words | Eggbox | 2012

“This needs time: that goes far:
wait, a whole work, like heaven.

And radiant intersections give up sight.

Drop day.

Admit I hold more light.”


Michael Scharf is the author of For Kid Rock/Total Freedom. His collection of critical work, The Res Poetica, is forthcoming. He lives in New York, where he works in natural language processing, and in Shillong.

Michael Scharf’s contributions to Attention Span for 201120102009200820072006200520042003. Return to directory for 2012.

Written by Steve Evans

November 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Attention Span 2012 | David Lau

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Karen Villeda, Myriam Moscona, Mónica Nepote, Pura Lopez Colome, Carla Faesler, Claudina Domingo, trans. Jen Hofer | En las maravillas | Libros Antena | 2012

Hand-sewn chapbook of recent Jen Hofer translations from the Spanish (en face) of contemporary Mexican poets. Ekphrastic work produced in conjunction with In Wonder: the Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, an exhibition that recently concluded at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Hofer also curates art reproductions in the short marvel of a book, including work by Jennifer Tamayo, Renee Gladman, Jessi Wahnetah, and Kaia Sand among others.

Jeffrey Yang | Vanishing-Line | Graywolf | 2011

Second collection by the mercurial poet, editor, essayist, translator. Comprised of seven variable long poems including history of the lost Alexandrine variety. An expansive, textured departure in each section. A diagrammatic quotation aesthetic worthy of words themselves.

Jasper Bernes | We Are Nothing and So Can You | Tenured Ninja | 2012

Chapbook of poems or a section from an ongoing serial poem. Meditative, cerebral, political, even “post-human PCP poems” that occupy everything. Wittily and emotionally infused with the left movement or communization tendency in Oakland before, during, and after Occupy.

Ondine Chavoya and Rita Gonzalez, eds. | Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972-1987 | Hatje Cantz Verlag | 2011

Catalog for the much heralded Los Angeles County Museum of Art show, Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972-1987, itself a long overdue tribute to experimental collective of Chicano artists, Gronk, Patssi Valdez, Willie F. Herron III, Harry Gamboa Jr. The four punk spirits, who famously turned LACMA into their own readymade by tagging it, have their work across many media reproduced and scrupulously explicated in scholarly essays by the editors and others. For Chavoya and Gonzalez, a life’s work.

Rod Smith | You Bête | Abraham Lincoln Books | 2011

More from the master of the stoniest of high Flarf (“I like to read chihuahua porn and watch abortion stories”). This chapbook is a high-water mark of the insurgency.

Norman O. Brown | The Challenge of Islam: Lectures | New Pacific | 2009

Treatment of the world-historical faith from a world-civilizational perspective. Transcript of a series of lectures given at UC Santa Cruz in 1980. Religious history, literary analysis of the Qur’an, explanation of the Sunni / Shi’ite split, in addition to a passage on revolutionary and political Islam. Its task is nothing less than the antidote for American ignorance.

Evie Shockley | Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry | Iowa | 2011

Sagacious and challenging essays on a range specific works by “renegade” black poets, from Gwendolyn Brooks’s “The Anniad” to Will Alexander’s Exobiology as Goddess.

Cole Swensen | Gravesend | California | 2012

Poet of diverse topics, Swensen lets the ghosts descend. Specters and ghosts haunted modernity and here appear in an array of forms: the 1890s Native American Ghost Dance alongside Tolstoy in one poem. Interviews about ghosts layered into several other poems.

Nathaniel Mackey | From a Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate | New Directions | 2010

Collects the first three volumes of Mackey’s ongoing epistolary novel about a Los Angeles-based experimental jazz ensemble. There’s nothing quite like it. Includes a corresponding discography of considerable note as well.

‘Annah Sobelman | In the Bee Latitudes | California | 2012

“A Physics of Desire” as the title of one poem puts it in this strong collection of visually evocative, phenomenologically themed, and syntactically innovative poems.

Sandra Simonds | Mother Was a Tragic Girl | Cleveland State | 2012

The rule here is imaginative leap, register shift—and, despite it all, consistency of voice. Maternal tragedy and sacrifice are flattened out and effaced by a blank or toneless irony: “Buddha, bring me another / slice of pineapple.”

Michael Palmer | Thread | New Directions | 2011

The master of shadows and indeterminate latitudes himself has produced a remarkable book of short poems and sequences. The shipwreck of beautiful agitation seen serenely from below disaster, beyond the future. “Stanzas in Counterlight,” as subtitle of the title sequence has it.

Barbara Jane Reyes | Diwata | BOA | 2010

Third collection and follow up to her acclaimed Poeta en San Francisco (Tinfish). A departure from that work, but one full of continuities: including a polyglot’s music, performance swagger, stories, and songs. Juan Felipe Herrera refers to the volume’s “dialectics and elements.” Book as a whole reads like a creation story, a distinctive genesis of motifs from cultural and political history.

Geoff Eley | Forging Democracy: The History of the Left in Europe, 1850-2000 | Oxford | 2002

Sweeping left-Social-Democratic account of the history of the European workers’ movement. Revolutionary movements, modern state formation, party development, and the historical dialectic of revolution and reform all teased out by largely impartial analysis. Emphasis on the situation of women and feminism in the workers’ movement.

Steve Wright | Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism | Pluto | 2002

Something like a history of the post-war extra-parliamentary left in Italy. Antonio Negri is the most familiar figure in this work on the historical and theoretical situation of Workerism or Operaismo.

Benjamin Noys, ed. | Communization and Its Discontents: Contestation, Critique, and Contemporary Struggles | Minor Compositions | 2011

A stimulating if uneven collection of theoretical essays clustered around the communization tendency in contemporary radical politics. Notable contributions from Theorie Communiste, Jasper Bernes, Maya Gonzalez, Evan Calder Williams, and Endnotes.


Poet, essayist and film-maker David Lau is the coeditor of Lana Turner: A Magazine of Poetry and Opinion.

This is his first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm