Third Factory/Notes to Poetry

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Attention Span 2012 | Joseph Massey

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Sally Delehant | A Real Time of It | Cultural Society | 2012

“Pull the oar and scrape / beneath the break.”

Craig Dworkin | in the dark wood / nella selva oscura | privately printed | 2012 

“who hears the sound in the dark wood damping?”

Benjamin Friedlander | One Hundred Etudes | Edge | 2012

“…I // Change my mind / The way an / Ocean changes color, // Giving little glimmers / Of what’s under. / A machine without // Replacement parts, a / Urine-rusted radiator / Can express me.”

Peter Gizzi | Threshold Songs | Wesleyan | 2011

“what does it mean / to be tough / or to write a poem / I mean the whole / vortex of home / buckling inside / a deep sea whine / flash lightning / birth storms / weather of pale / blinding life”

Andrew Grace | Sancta | Ahsahta | 2012

“Am I a citizen of these images? Or an interloper? Or just a voice?”

Megan Kaminski | Desiring Map | Coconut | 2012

“heavy with blossom and time / I put the words on the page”

James Meetze | Dayglo | Ahsahta | 2010

“The big sky we are under, / a portal without law. / Even poetry can’t sample it.”

Ernst Meister, trans. Graham Foust and Samuel Frederick | Avenue | Wave | 2012

“I look at a window / square of sky.”

Michael O’Brien | Avenue | Flood | 2012

“Blade of the sea / that clouds withdraw // a glimpse, a flash / of the world without us // eye counting its rooms / in the imageless dark.”

Pam Rehm | The Larger Nature | Flood | 2011

“Looking in / looking is seeking / that gets absorbed // Here are rivers / their depth like / private speech”

Shannon Tharp | The Cost of Walking | Skysill | 2011

“Given your heart’s ardor, / a field is not a choice.”

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Joseph Massey is the author of Areas of Fog (Shearsman, 2009) and At the Point (Shearsman, 2011) as well as many chapbooks. His work has appeared in The Nation, Verse, Western Humanities Review, Ping Pong and in the anthologies For the Time Being: The Bootstrap Book of Poetic Journals (Bootstrap, 2007), Visiting Dr. Williams: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of William Carlos Williams (Iowa, 2011), and Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years (Norton, forthcoming).

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

Written by Steve Evans

November 3, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Elizabeth Treadwell

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Joanna Kavenna | The Birth of Love | Holt | 2010 

Shannon Hayes | Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture | Left to Write | 2010

Donna de la Perriere | Saint Erasure | Talisman | 2010

Dana Teen Lomax | Disclosure | Black Radish | 2011

Leslie Marmon Silko | The Turquoise Ledge | Viking | 2010

Laura Grace Weldon | Free Range Learning | Hohm | 2010

“While a cursory look at history shows a swath of bloodshed across the centuries, this is hardly a balanced perspective. Tales of conquest and destruction never mention the real underpinning of civilization. Cooperation. Every minute of every day people take care of one another and uphold one another’s interests, as they have throughout time. Without careful tending, the sick would not heal, babies would not grow, and humanity would not flourish. Infinite acts of kindness and generosity have brought us to this moment in time.”

Scott Thurston, ed. | Talking Poetics | Shearsman | 2011

“Recently, yes, I have been trying to engage with the ethics of happiness. I think it’s much more difficult to write about happiness and from the position of happiness than it is to write from a position of sorrow and mourning and anger because, whilst sorrow can always be projected onto the whole population, happiness can’t be. So happiness feels like an indulgence of a private attitude which ought not interest anyone, whereas misery can elevate the personal into a universal condition. And yet, when you go back and you read Plato and Aristotle, they declare that happiness is the end of all politics, the pursuit of happiness is the aim and the goal of all political arrangements. It has an incredibly dense political meaning and history.”—Andrea Brady

Jeanette Winterson | Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? | Grove | 2011

For me this is her best thing since early days. “There was a time when record-keeping wasn’t an act of administration; it was an art form.”

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Elizabeth Treadwell‘s contributions to Attention Span for 201020092008. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Peter O’Leary

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Joseph Donahue | The Dissolves | Talisman | 2011

With this book and its prequel, Terra Lucida, Donahue joins the ranks of the inviolate holy in American poetry. Who else is writing with such audacity and uncanny ease? This sequence of poems, still ongoing, detonates in an unseen epicenter pendant in a mesocosm of lucid ground from which it undulates to us its mysteries, part visionary recital, part apocalyptic hunch, part immodest soothsaying. Words with power, page after page.

Chris Glomski | The Nineteenth Century | Cultural Society | 2011

The modesty of Glomski’s output—this is only his second full-length book—belies the total mastery of the craft his work displays. The title poem is a masterpiece, a lyric equivalent of an antique camera capturing its namesake zeitgeist, the platter of a phonograph cranking in the background as soundtrack. The line in these poems tenses and flexes through high speech and sung fluencies, always inventive click after click. The book concludes with a long poem, “The Archive of a Work-In-Progress” that belongs in the company of the great autobiographical collage poems, including O’Hara’s “Ode to Michael Goldberg(‘s Birth and Other Births)” and Creeley’s “Mazatlán: Sea.”

Michael Heller | This Constellation Is a Name | Nightboat | 2012

Heller’s book collects forty-five years of his poetry. What an amazing output! I once heard Heller give a reading in which he parsed out some of the literary references in a poem he was about to read. At the end of this preface, he shrugged, “What can I say? I’m a literary fellow.” Writing of Lurianic Kabbalah, the scholar Joseph Dan has said, “Everything is a metaphor for everything else.” A mystical world of near-permanent reflection. In Heller’s work we catch those flashes. As he has it in a title for a recent poem, “Commentary Is The Concept Of Order For The Spiritual World.”

Susan Howe | That This | New Directions | 2010

Among poets, Howe must surely be one of the greatest prose writers, in terms of impact, magnitude, and style. The essential integration of a kind of hybrid essay-memoir into her recent books has been, for me, one of the marvels of American poetry: I can’t separate her high-style, cryptic poetry from these haunting, bracingly intelligent prose-memoirs. That This begins with the “The Disappearance Approach,” a treatment of the death of Howe’s husband, the philosopher Peter H. Hare, and the family life and death of Jonathan Edwards. The centerpiece of the book, “Frolic Architecture,” expands where “Fragments of the Wedding Dress of Sarah Pierpont Edwards,” the last poem in Souls of the Labadie Tract, concluded: poems like archaeological radio static, hissing fragmentarily on the page.

Devin Johnston | Traveler | FSG | 2011

The last poem in the book, “The Rough Bounds,” begins: “I like the sort of track that passes / out of English altogether / as through the Bronze Age bowl / of Glen Moidart, its edges cracked / by forces flooding the drove road / with wee lochans.” These lines could serve as a Johnstonian ars poetica for what poetry can do – passing out of English altogether but not until it notices everything in its path and gathers an encompassing sense of its history. Johnston’s lyric subjectivity avoids the personal pronoun except when necessary; instead, his poems are like little fables written by Dickens and Neil Young—great characters with reverb, feedback, and static as needed. “Iona,” Johnston’s abecedarian version of the medieval Hiberno-Latin “Altus Prosator,” is an utter tour-de-force: “Sunlight beams across this beehive cell: / a socket for the skull, a hissing shell / or cochlea, inverted coracle, / it amplies the laughter of a gull. / This blank stone on which a blanket curled / has heard confession from a savage world.” Among my peers, he’s the poet from whose work I regularly learn the most.

The Kalevala, two vols., trans. by W. F. Kirby | Everyman’s | 1907
The Kalevala, trans. by Keith Bosley | Oxford | 1989

The Finnish national epic, compiled by the great folklorist and philologist (and district health officer) Elias Lönnrot in the first half of the nineteenth century from material he collected on visits to Karelia, which occupies the present-day borderland between eastern Finland and Russia. Stories and lore were gathered from the people then assembled and crafted into fifty coherent runes by Lönnrot, recording deeds of foray and theft, magic and battle, smithcraft and wizardry all conducted in the frosty North Country. The epic centers on the forging, theft, and battle for a mysterious object called the Sampo, a thing wrought with earth power, an object of coveted life force. Väinämoïnen, the wizard rune-lord, is said to have been a model for Gandalf. Lönnrot modeled his Finnish text on the trochaic tetrameter Goethe used in the second part of Faust. Encountering the poem not long after its appearance, Longfellow sought to create an indigenous American equivalent, and wrote The Song of Hiawatha using the same meter (and like the Finnish original foregoing rhyme). Kirby’s translation picks up Longfellow’s pulsations – I find it excellent if a little repetitive. Bosley’s translation is more open, though still very rhythmic, but oddly gives less of a sense of the original’s combined weirdness and stateliness than the Kirby. The whole is a kind of Orphic wonder trove in a land of spruce and birch, bears and giant pikes.

George R.R. Martin | The Song of Ice and Fire | Bantam | 1995-present

Two summers ago, I read four hundred pages into The Savage Detectives before admitting I found the book hopelessly horrible. Because of a class I was teaching, I had to re-read William Gibson’s superb novel Idoru, which I read in two great gulps and from which I felt instantly refreshed. Several students of mine over the years had pressed Martin’s fantasy series on me, the first volume of which, A Game of Thrones, is now the name of a lucrative soft-core HBO franchise. I decided I’d give it a try. I finished volume four of the series, A Feast for Crows, eight months and over four thousand pages later. A time of total, giddy immersion. Volume five, A Dance with Dragons, was published days after I left the country for five weeks last summer. I resisted the urge to acquire an electronic copy, fearing I wouldn’t do any of the writing I was hoping to do. Instead, I bought it the day after I returned, and nursed it for two months, knowing I’d be obliged, like all the rest of Martin’s fans, to wait for him to write the final two volumes of the series. And there’s risk at stake. As Martin has described himself, “I’m fat and old.” Not a formula for longevity. Whatever you’ve heard about these books is true, I’m guessing. Martin’s sense of plotting is outstanding, just as his love of lavish medieval detail is outlandish. The books are propelled by an obvious but nevertheless ingenious narrative device that never ceases to generate interest: all the chapters are written from the perspective of a rotating set of characters, some of them “good” and some of them not so good. As a result, incredible sympathies are generated page after page. I was speaking to a literary fiction writer I know who said simply, “I’m in awe of those books.” Hands down five of the best books I’ve ever read. Killer!

Michael O’Brien | Avenue | Flood | 2012

A perfect little book. To be read in an interval, between just about anything. Fifty-two psycho-emotional penetrations of the Vortex, transient images ideally captured. One of O’Brien’s special talents arises from his trust in the value of liminal states – the threshold of sleep, the moment of sudden awareness, the unexplainable richness of dreams, the street right when you step out onto it: these he translates into enviable, sometimes spooky moments, modest in conception (perhaps) but hard to let go of once encountered. “Before dawn the Anxieties / troop to her bed, / attend her waking, vie / with each other to / tell the worst news / / pictures developing / like a baby / in the dark”.

Alice Oswald | Memorial | Faber | 2011

A largely successful experiment by one of the poets of the British mainstream. The intelligence driving this poem feels foreign. (American poems are differently intelligent; or, more often, simply unintelligent.) In some senses, its companion is Logue’s War Music, which is all the action of Homer distilled. Memorial ingeniously inverts that prospect to record the names of all the dead in The Iliad with the scenes of their deaths. These scenes are intercut by the great Homeric similes, stripped of any reference, and repeated. The language is unpunctuated, attaining at times an incantatory aspect. The repetitions of the similes fail, I think, but not unfortunately. There are a lot of gripping moments in the poem – the great scything action of death draws the gaze always – but the memory of the poem, the idea propelling it, lingers longest.

Pam Rehm | The Larger Nature | Flood | 2011

A poet of subtlest intensities and unremitting substance. The aura of the work – this is her eighth collection—densifies with each new work. Here, the title is drawn from Duncan’s H.D. Book; the centerpiece, “The Depths of the World,” is ostensibly an erasure poem of Blake’s Milton—Rehm claims that much in the notes to the volume. But the truth is that it is an act of incisive reading and incitation—a form of ancestral, poetic dowsing, in which the audacity of Blake’s vision of Milton (entering his left foot) authorizes her own dazzling and rarefied encounter with her forebears, in a poetry of penetrating clarities. Her best book yet.

Lissa Wolsak | Squeezed Light | Station Hill | 2010

One of the hidden masters, a poet of great imaginative proprioception and kinesthesia. Titled a collected poems, the book is really three books of poetry—The Garcia Family Co-Mercy, Pen-chants, and A Defence of Being (in two sections, previously uncollected)—matched with a masterful prose manifesto (“An Heuristic Prolusion”) and some shorter, fugitive poems, concluded by a brief, revealing interview. Even as the poetry draws from some of the abstractive lyric traits of its era, Wolsak’s poetry feels singular, a kind of spiritual sonogram whose echoes Shelley would recognize. An essential book.

*

Additionally, I can mention these two books, about which I wrote extensive reviews:

Thomas Meyer | Kintsugi | Flood | 2011

Reviewed here.

Gustaf Sobin | Collected Poems | Talisman | 2010

Reviewed here.

Plus, these two books, the former for which I wrote an endorsement and the latter for which I am one of the dedicatees:

Whit Griffin | The Sixth Great Extinction | SkySill Books | 2012

Patrick Pritchett | Gnostic Frequencies | Spuyten Duyvil | 2011

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Peter O’Leary has published three books of poetry: Watchfulness, Depth Theology, and Luminous Epinoia. In 2012, the Cultural Society will publish a new book, The Phosphorescence of Thought. As Ronald Johnson’s literary executor, he has edited several volumes of Johnson’s poetry, including The Shrubberies and Radi os. A new edition of Johnson’s masterpiece, ARK, is forthcoming in 2013 from Flood Editions. Recently, he also edited Is Music: Selected Poems by John Taggart. In 2002, his critical study, Gnostic Contagion: Robert Duncan & the Poetry of Illness, was published. He lives in Berwyn, Illinois and teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and for the Committee on Creative Writing at the University of Chicago. With John Tipton, he directs the small poetry press Verge Books.

This is Peter O’Leary’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Attention Span 2012 | David Buuck

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Kristin Ross | The Emergence of Social Space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune | Minnesota | 1988

Works against the romantic/biographic readings of Rimbaud to get at the social-spatial politics of 1871. Recommended for anyone trying their twinkle fingers at some Occupo.

Sean Bonney | Happiness: poems after Rimbaud | Unkant | 2011

B/w the Ross and Bonney’s (online) open letters, esp “Letter on Riot as Prosody.” Punk-drunk anti-austere anti-austerity.

Laurie Weeks | Zippermouth | Feminist Press | 2011

What Eileen Myles does for the 70s downtown scene in Inferno, Weeks does for the LES in the 80/90s. I hate the adjective, but the sentences truly are breathless.

Pacific Standard Time exhibits | LA, San Diego, & environs | 2011 | link

Incredible range of well-curated shows covering the last fifty years of SoCal scenes. Resisted focusing only on the big names to emphasize under-appreciated feminists, conceptualists, and artists of color that were doing work just as avant-garde (& generally more politically inflected) as the UCLA and CalArts boys.

Black Took Collective | &Now Festival | San Diego | 2011

Explosive balance between biting comedy and discomforting (not-post-but-past-and-ever-present) racial performance, with improvised writing and movement, masks, and video. Wow.

Faustin Linyekula & Studios Kabako | Yerba Buena Center for the Arts | SF | 2011

Linyekula is one of a handful of younger African choreographers who are reinventing all the tired notions of “African dance” without simply adapting to the Western canon/market. Unrelentingly fierce work that never lets you forget what’s at stake, be it the cultural politics of the postcolony or ecstatic black bodies working out the consequences.

Laura Kipnis | Marx: The Video (A Politics of Revolting Bodies) | 1990

Who knew that a feminist politics could hinge on Marx’s carbunkles. Brilliant.

Fiona Banner | Heart of Darkness | A Room for London | 2012 | link

Brian Cox doing a dramatic reading of Orson Welles’ never-filmed screenplay of Heart of Darkness, in Banner’s exacting replication of the boat Conrad took down the Congo, perched above the London River. Over Cox’s shoulders and through the windows you can watch the sun set on Empire.

Eirik Steinhoff | Fiery Flying Roules | 2011-12 | link

Along with numerous non-institutional writing coming out of Occupy Oakland and Occupy Cal. As most academics and ‘expert commentators’ seem to think OWS is the only social movement worth pontificating about, activists out west have produced incisive theorizations from within the tensed present of the more militant confrontations with the capitalist police state. All hail the pamphleteers.

Occupy Oakland & its post-Mayday offshoots | (ongoing)

Shout outs to the Oakland Poets Brigade.

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More David Buuck here.

David Buuck’s contribution to Attention Span for 2009. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

November 2, 2012 at 11:21 am

Attention Span 2012 | Paul Stephens

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Takahiro Kurashima | Poemotion | Lars Müller | 2012

Craig Dworkin, Simon Morris and Nick Thurston | Do or DIY | Information as Material | 2012

René Daumal, trans. Thomas Vosteen | Pataphysical Essays | Wakefield | 2012

Mieke Gerritzen et al., eds. | I Read Where I Am: Exploring New Information Cultures |  Graphic Design Museum (Amsterdam) | 2011

Julieta Aranda, Anton Vidokle and Brian Kuan Wood | Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity and the Labor of Art | Sternberg | 2011

Richard Kostelanetz, ed. | Essaying Essays: Alternative Forms of Composition | Out of London (1975) | AC Institute | 2012

Natalie Czech | Je n’ai rien à dire. Seulement à montrer. Ich hab nichts zu sagen. Nur zu zeigen. I Have Nothing to Say. Only to Show. | Spector | 2012

Jen Bervin and Marta Werner | The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems | Granary | 2012

Various Eds. | [Selected Print Journals:] Fillip, Petunia, CLOG, ment, Bulletins of the Serving Library | Various Publishers | Ongoing

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Paul Stephens’ recent critical essays have appeared in Social Text, Arizona Quarterly, Postmodern Culture, Digital Humanities Quarterly and Paideuma; he has articles forthcoming in Twentieth-Century Literature and Contemporary Literature. He is co-editor of the journal Convolution, and has just completed a book manuscript titled “The Poetics of Information Overload: From Gertrude Stein to Conceptual Writing.” He teaches in the English department at Columbia University.

Paul Stephens’s contributions to Attention Span for 2011, 2010. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 31, 2012 at 10:48 am

Attention Span 2012 | Rob Stanton

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Chris Goode, ed. | Better than Language: An Anthology of New Modernist Poetries | Ganzfield | 2011

Chris Goode’s excellent overview of what must be now at the least 4th (?) generation ‘Cambridge’ school (actually largely, if anywhere, Sussex-based). As ever with these things, one can quibble about exclusions and excisions—Amy De’Ath, Marianne Morris and Luke Roberts all come to mind immediately—but this is still a thrilling, cogent assemblage anyone interested in ‘what next?’ should read. Makes me feel old (in a good way).

Benjamin Friedlander | One Hundred Etudes | Edge | 2012

The most purely pleasurable reading experience I’ve had all year, this goes down so easily it’s easy at first to miss the sharp edges—‘a / Game of cat / And mouse played / By a cat // And mouse isn’t / A game’—but they do come back unbidden. Nice contrast with Friedlander’s other recent book, Citizen Cain (Salt, 2011): that was all flarf-y fun, freewheeling and mad-jabbing; this is all tooled, precise, laboured-over, incisive.

John Kinsella | Jam Tree Gully: Poems | Norton | 2011

Of the two fine poetry collections Kinsella put out over the last year (Armour—Picador, 2011—is the other), this one probably has the edge: a set of journal-like fever-dreams in which Kinsella and family ‘circle the wagons’ in face of imminent-seeming social and ecological collapse. Even in Thoreau-like retreat–alternately wistful, resigned, enraged–Kinsella never stops looking, looking, looking: his curiosity alone could power the grid.

Lyn Hejinian | The Book of a Thousand Eyes | Omnidawn | 2012

I’m still mid-stream with this long-gestating and comprehensive dream-book, but it already feels like a boon companion. Is there another poet out there today as consistently, thought-provokingly thoughtful as Hejinian? (I do wish she’d kept the original title though: Sleeps.)

Geoffrey Hill | Odi Barbare | Clutag | 2012

Easily the best of the recent (uneven) ‘Daybook’ volumes, Odi Barbare sees Hill attempting to cram his ruminative ire into 312 Sapphic stanzas. The result is even more ‘telegraphic’—blurb courtesy Rowan Williams, out-going Archbishop of Canterbury (!)—than his other late works, making this probably  his most ‘avant-garde’ sequence to date. No mean feat.

Osip Mandelstam, trans. Christian Wiman | Stolen Air | Ecco | 2012

The first Mandelstam versions I’ve seen, if I’m honest, that really make him read and sound like a genius. Wiman excels himself, as he admits in his intro.

Alice Oswald | Memorial | Faber | 2011

A lyricist’s Homer, cutting out the narrative of The Iliad and leaving, on one hand, similes describing the action and nature of death (which Oswald then repeats for good measure) and, on the other, brief accounts of the deaths of the various characters, famous lumped in unceremoniously with the cannon-fodder. Stripped of context, death becomes the default hero: rapacious, implacable and—due to the roving range of those famous similes—everywhere.  The text opens with a capitalised list of the victim’s names: a near-literal memorial wall, positing the book (as the title implies) as a work of universal lament and protest. To date, Oswald’s work presented her as a skillful dark pastoralist with traces of Hopkins, Heaney, Hill and Hughes in her veins and something of a specialist interest in rivers (see Dart and A Sleepwalk on the Severn, Faber, 2002 and 2009 respectively); this book re-invents her as something altogether stranger and more exciting.

J.H. Prynne | Kazoo Dreamboats; Or, On What There Is | Critical Documents | 2011

Hard to fathom, even for a latter-day Prynne text: a seeming, sprawling return to the teleology- and totality-driven Prynne of early books like The White Stones, but with all the accumulated baggage of a lifetime’s career of  unprecedented language-abuse in tow. The subtitle—On What There Is—is not I think meant ironically: this encyclopedic work (ranging all the way from the Pre-Socratics to Condensed Matter Field Theory, via Piers Plowman and Mao Zedong) makes a concerted attempt to get at things. Good title too.

Keston Sutherland | Stupefaction: A Radical Anatomy of Phantoms | Seagull | 2011

Much more than a mere stopgap on the way to the Odes to TL61P (next year’s book of the year,  unless something unexpectedly  mind-blowing arrives out of even-further-leftfield), Stupefaction is a model of deep critical involvement and interpenetration, a series of close, loving yet unwavering forensic studies of Marx, Pope and Wordsworth (a heady bunch!). Trenchant, tenacious, far-reaching and sublimely, subtly radical.

Shannon Tharp | The Cost of Walking | Skysill | 2011

Occupying (definitively) a point somewhere equidistant from the neo-Objectivism of a Joseph Massey and the micro-expressionism of a Graham Foust, but even weirder, Shannon Tharp offers up her own stark-lush take on Pound’s ‘direct treatment of the thing’: ‘Evasion’s an angel’s / legacy. / I look // at alarm / as / a // wife.’ The vowel-music of the spheres. . . .

Jonty Tiplady | Zam Bonk Dip | Salt | 2010

That too-often over-simplified confluence of impossibly compressed thought and inscribed intonation that makes for a genuinely new ‘voice’. Oddly deep, deeply odd & oddly, deeply beautiful. Makes me want to cry under a rock AND punch the air at the same time.

‘Bubbling Under’ (a second 11): works by Yves Bonnefoy (trans. Hoyt Rogers); Anne Carson; Paul Celan (trans. Pierre Joris); Nick Courtright; Edward St. Aubyn; Francesca Lisette*; Joseph Massey; Eugenio Montale (trans. William Arrowsmith); Luke Roberts*; W.G. Sebald; and Timothy Thornton.*

* With these three excellent collections out from younger poets and the epoch-archiving Certain Prose of the English Intelligencer under its belt, the to-date-impeccable Mountain Press is my press of the year.

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Rob Stanton, wife, daughter & cats now live in Austin, Texas. Details of his debut collection, The Method, can be found here.

Rob Stanton’s contributions to Attention Span for 2011, 2010. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 30, 2012 at 9:11 am

Attention Span 2012 | Virginia Konchan

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Emily Pettit | Goat in the Snow | Birds, LLC | 2012

Our culture is obsessed with DIY projects, specifically the rhetoric that surrounds them (“How to lose 30 pounds in 30 days! How to build a gazebo from junkyard scraps!”), many of which pledge to impart specialized knowledge in a few easy steps. With titles such as “How to Hide an Elephant,” “How to Control a Blackout,” and “How to Know the Worth of What,” Goat in the Snow stages a necessary—and often quite hilarious—intervention in this discourse. Full of both wild divagations and focused obsessions, a human reader meets, in this collection, a human writer, one who adroitly and unsentimentally names the actual dangers of the technological age (“Becoming information/ is not necessarily a choice”) while admitting her implication in same.

Karen An-Hwei Lee | Phyla of Joy | Tupelo | 2012

Lee has spoken of her process as involving “hybridizations, displacements, migration,” a practice of interrogating the grammar of a language, whose taxonomic logic represents a mirror image—in Lee’s capable hands, eyes, and ears—of the world.

Lily Brown | Rust or Go Missing | Cleveland State University Poetry Center | 2011

“How easy to be giddy:/ when faced with nightmare, stare it down.” A gracefully protean meditation on power, speech, and the Stevensian geographies of consciousness and desire.

Ish Klein | Moving Day | Canarium | 2011

Dying and acting are all there is, says the speaker of this collection. What else to hold out for other than a miracle, posited herein as “the voice beyond the screen.”

Emily Kendal Frey | The Grief Performance | Cleveland State University Poetry Center | 2011

Proof positive that Julia Kristeva’s theory of successful mourning is possible, this gut-wrenching assembly of poems was the deserving recipient of the 2012 Norma Farber First Book Award. More on how this collection makes vulnerability (formal and otherwise) possible again here.

Paige Ackerson-Kiely | My Love is a Dead Arctic Explorer | Ahsahta | 2012

Begun as a book-length response to Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s memoir, Alone, this collection (Ackerson-Kiely’s second) gains strength from the collective mythos surrounding creation and exploration, and makes the often macabre dance between elegy and eros sweet again. More here.

Brian Spears | A Witness in Exile | Louisiana Literature Press | 2011

A brilliant debut collection in deep sympathy with the maker’s rage to order words of the self, and sea. More reflections, particularly on this collection’s deft handling of place, here.

Darcie Dennigan | Madame X | Canarium | 2012

If the substance of the soul really is “the terrible libidinal whatever,” as Dennigan says, the return of its repressed contents are contained and made bearable through this collection’s sustained break with, and reconstitution of, the line. (More on the book’s form here).

Anthony Madrid | I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say | Canarium | 2012

Original musings here, to which I would add: this collection cuts a swath through contemporary poetry collections of the past twenty years. I blame it on this book’s wholehearted dedication to returning language to the pleasure principle.

Mary Biddinger | St. Monica | Black Lawrence | 2011

 St. Monica (framed as a contemporary epic on the Lacanian process of “becoming-woman” here), Biddinger’s second poetry collection, leaves me breathless upon each re-read, and shores up my belief that the world needs more literary heroines for whom auto mechanics, forensic science, and baking a mean cherry cobbler, is all in a day’s work. Biddinger’s follow-up collections O Holy Insurgency, and A Sunny Place with Adequate Water, also forthcoming on Black Lawrence Press in September 2012 and 2014, respectively, can’t come soon enough.

Kathleen Rooney | Robinson Alone | Gold Wake | 2012

Forthcoming in October 2012, this poetry collection tackles through the means of persona and poems of witness, the conflicted legacy of Nebraska-born poet, artist, and critic Weldon Kees (1914-1955). While the narrative (unsparing in its rigor) focuses on Kees, Robinson Alone is also, writ large, a lyric meditation on the art made—and the souls forged—in the social imaginary of the mid-century American West: “A monochromatic series in the harshest/ light.”

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Virginia Konchan’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Best New Poets 2011, the Believer, and The New Republic, among other places. A recipient of grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Ox-Bow, and Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, she lives in Chicago, where she is a Ph.D student in the Program for Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This is Virginia Konchan’s first contribution to Attention Span. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Attention Span 2012 | Brenda Coultas

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The Last Whole Earth Catalog | 1971

Coveted this catalog for years for the big deep blue portrait of our home planet (NASA photo). Bought for 10 buck at the Edna St. Vincent Millay Society bargain bin. Dated in many ways, still an interesting and relevant resource for building a sustainable society off the grid. Quotes from Kenneth Patchen, Kerouac, and other beats.

Catherine Taylor | Apart | Ugly Duckling | 2012

Knocked out by Taylor’s amazing memoir on race, responsibility, and family. A memoir in the John D’Agata sense, in its non-traditional interpretation of the essay form. Maybe more in the spirit of Chris Marker. Taylor’s book is a brave contemplation and investigation of South African history and of her mother’s activism against apartheid.

Ed Sanders | Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts | online edition

So legendary that I never was able to read due to its rarity. Mostly and sadly, I saw it wrapped in cellophane priced at a 100 bucks or more. Ecstatic when it came online. I almost die laughing at absurdity of the humor and nearly cry at the beauty of Sander’s audacity and vision of a nonviolent protest against the uptight authority of the state and the church. Still vibrant, the work holds up. Great primer for all of humanity.

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

On many lists but deservingly so for Spahr’s relentlessness and innovation. She goes at it again and again, trying out new ways to talk about human impact on the environment by incorporating lost (extinct) and invasive species into narratives that show the depth of that impact on ecosystems.

Gail Scott | the obituary | Nightboat | 2012

First world novel set in Montreal that teaches us a new way to read fiction. Through fracturing the narrative one hears the layers of voices, the cadences inside the language and come away with a sense of Canada’s uncomfortable past.

Lisa Robertson | R’s Boat | California | 2010

 Brought this at The Bookstore in Lennox, MA., from one of the best curated poetry sections in this country. I needed brainy and beauty language to open up my headspace.

C.A. Conrad | A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon new (soma)tics | Wave | 2012

I love the energy of this big joyous book. I find that Conrad’s (soma)tics ground me in the present and in my body. They make me aware that I am a physical and spiritual being. Conrad and Kristin Prevallet are both serious pioneers in developing the field of poetry and the body-mind connection. Exciting to see where their techniques for unblocking our minds will lead. I will certainly be paying attention.

Dawn Lundy Martin | Discipline | Nightboat | 2011

Elegy about a troubled and troubling father. About discomfort, about cracked bodies and lives, written in taut prose blocks. Simultaneously direct and indirect story telling in dense and fragmented narrative.

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Brenda Coultas lives and works in New York City. She is currently writing an elegy for the end of paper and print.

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

Written by Steve Evans

October 27, 2012 at 11:18 am

Attention Span 2012 | Tim Conley

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Frans G. Bengtsson, trans. Michael Meyer | The Long Ships | NYRB Classics | 2010

A ripping yarn, all right, but can you imagine Vikings as written by Jane Austen? Well, neither can I; but the archness of Bengtsson’s novel compels the imagination to try harder.

Phil Hall | Killdeer | BookThug | 2011

It’s autobiographical and intimate, but not a memoir and not confessional poetry. It gets down its knees, but it’s not about abjection: the gestures are fuller than that, inclusive. Communal poetry.

Daniel Heller-Roazen | The Fifth Hammer: Pythagoras and the Disharmony of the World | Zone | 2011

Irene Gammel and Suzanne Zelazo, eds. | Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven | MIT | 2011

“Eternityshit!” The Baroness gets her due at last. A beautiful production, too.

Donna Stonecipher | The Cosmopolitan | Coffee House | 2008

A nice book to stay put and travel with.

Philip Dray | There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America | Random | 2010

A solid overview of the ups and downs in the ongoing struggle for workers’ rights in the United States. Needless to say, the book has pressing relevance now, though perhaps not for that one percent.

Matthew Rohrer | Destroyer and Preserver | Wave | 2011

The weird sensation that the Beach Boys would make a terrific album out of this book gradually overtook my reading to the point that I’m convinced that the reading involved wearing headphones. Just let it drift: “and dreams that complicate / things their velocity / is a mystery but if we / stay there you don’t / have to leave in the morning”

Ingeborg Bachmann, trans. Peter Filkins | Darkness Spoken: The Collected Poems | Zephyr | 2006

Bertrand Russell | History of Western Philosophy | Routledge | 1946, rpt. 2005

“It is strange that the last men of intellectual eminence before the dark ages were concerned, not with saving civilization or expelling barbarians or reforming the abuses of the administration, but with preaching the merit of virginity and the damnation of unbaptized infants. Seeing that these were the preoccupations that the Church handed on to the converted barbarians, it is no wonder that the succeeding age surpassed almost all other fully historical periods in cruelty and superstition.” That’s Russell writing in the last years of the second world war, with one eye clearly fixed on the present while recounting the past.

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Tim Conley is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Brock University in Canada. His most recent books are Nothing Could Be Further (2011), a collection of short fiction, and the anthology Burning City: Poems of Metropolitan Modernity (co-edited with Jed Rasula, forthcoming in 2012).

Tim Conley’s contributions to Attention Span for 2011201020092008. Return to 2012 directory.

Written by Steve Evans

October 25, 2012 at 9:26 am

Attention Span 2012 | Maya Weeks

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Maggie Nelson | Bluets | Wave Books | 2009

To go out from the point of a colour.

Gaston Bachelard, trans. Maria Jolas | The Poetics of Space | Beacon Press | 1994

Reading this aloud on the wooden floor of a one-room apartment in Sweden furnished with only a coffee table and four old grammar school chairs. Trying not to fall in love.

Jean Baudrillard, trans. James Benedict | The System of Objects | Verso | 2005

Addresses the positive space to Bachelard’s negative, with a complementary regard for sublimation. What makes a world?

Marcel Proust, trans. C. K. Scott Moncrief and Terence Kilmartin, revised by D. J. Enright | Swann In Love | Modern Library | 1998

Mitigate time, space, sensation. “An anguish the present assuagement of which was so agreeable that it might almost be called happiness.”

Joan Retallack | The Poethical Wager | California | 2004

Yelling from this on the steps at Occupy Oakland. Witnessing closed membranes become more permeable.

Anaïs Nin | Diary Volume I 1931-1934 | Mariner | 1969

“I am not committed to any of the political movements which I find full of fanaticism and injustice, but in the face of each human being, I act democratically and humanly. I give each human being his due. I disregard class and possessions. It is the value of their spirit, of their human qualities I pay my respect to, and to their needs as far as I am able to fulfill them. If all of us acted in unison as I act individually, there would be no wars and no poverty.”

Gertrude Stein | The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas | Vintage | 1990

Did not begin again, just began.

Arthur Rimbaud, trans. Bernard Mathieu | A Season in Hell / Illuminations | BOA | 1991

“It’s the vision of numbers. We’re going towards the spirit. What I’m saying is absolutely sure, it’s oracular. I understand and, not knowing how to explain myself without using pagan words, I’d rather shut up.”

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha | Dictee | California | 2001

Three generations, four languages, unreckonable stories.

John Ashbery | Flow Chart | Farrar | 1998

Every time I’ve gone swimming this week I’ve found myself bleeding when I’ve gotten out of the water without knowing what’s scraped me. Until I was two-thirds of the way through this book I didn’t have any idea what I was reading, then I felt like I was on an endless beach walk.

Inger Christensen, trans. Susanna Nied | It | New Directions | 2006

Life is holy. While the Danish language emphasizes location, English relies on time. How does this play out in the coda? the pronoun? us?

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Maya Weeks’s obsession is and has been and probably will continue to be the intersection of systemic + intimate. Based in Oakland, California, her endeavors are in merging worlds.

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

Written by Steve Evans

October 24, 2012 at 10:36 am