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Posts Tagged ‘Alice Notley

Attention Span 2011 | Michael S. Hennessey

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Ron Padgett | How Long | Coffee House | 2011
Ron Padgett | Tulsa Kid | Z Press | 1979

When Ron Padgett’s latest book, How Long, came in the mail, I happily dropped everything and spent the afternoon reading it cover to cover. I first had the pleasure of hearing some of these poems during the Tulsa School Conference Grant Jenkins organized at the University of Tulsa in November 2009, as part of a career-spanning set of poems focusing on Padgett’s Oklahoma roots, and relished being able to see them in print for the first time. Ron’s one of our greatest everyday elegists—a role in which he’s sadly had far too much practice—and those talents are on full display here, for dear friends both recently and long-since departed, and for Padgett himself, as he faces his own mortality and reflects on his life’s work. Reading these poems against Tulsa Kid, written nearly half a lifetime before, makes this feeling of loss even more acute. Of course, in both books we also find plenty of Padgett’s trademark wit and casual conceptualism, which tempers and sweetens the rawer emotions, and the earlier volume also includes a number of playful collaborations with Joe Brainard and George Schneeman (my personal favorite featuring a tiny cowboy riding a rooster with the caption, “shit on you”).

Alice Notley | Culture of One | Penguin | 2011

Like Padgett’s latest, I first heard excerpts from this book in Tulsa and was grateful to have it as a companion during a very hectic week traveling from Cincinnati to Philadelphia to Cleveland and back, where Notley’s claustrophobic desert environs provided a centering influence. While I’ll always have a soft spot for the “dailiness” of her early New York School-inspired work, the hybrid novelistic forms she’s developed over the last few decades are quite formidable, and in Culture of One they culminate in a work of great empathy and distance, guided by a sharp sociological eye. It’s poetry that’s draws upon every instant of Notley’s tumultuous life; a book that rips your heart out and comforts you at the same time.

John Cage | Silence | M.I.T. | 1961 and A Year from Monday | Wesleyan | 1967
Kyle Gann | No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33” | Yale | 2010

This past fall, I was grateful to have a number of very talented students from our College-Conservatory of Music in my contemporary world poetry class, and while they were enthusiastic to talk about Kate Lilley, Mónica de la Torre, Christian Bök and John Tranter, our conversations, both in class and afterwards, would often drift to contemporary composers, conceptual artists and pop music. Cage was a particularly important figure to them—as he was when I first discovered him as an undergrad—and their enthusiasm sent me back for deeper reading, first to Kyle Gann’s recent book on Cage’s most infamous work and then into the writings themselves. It’s somewhat disorienting to re-immerse yourself in work so central to your aesthetic development, that feels as if it’s written in your bones, and Cage’s disarmingly friendly voice, his Zen-poetic phrasings, his fragmented constructions that invite you to start and stop freely, all serve to heighten this sensation. Judging from the testimony of a great many poets (Ashbery, Bernstein and Berrigan all jump to mind), the “Cage-phase” is a fundamental moment for the young artist, and I couldn’t be happier that my students’ experience gave me the opportunity to reconnect with it and reorient my critical perspective.

CAConrad, ed. | Jupiter88 | http://jupiter88poetry.blogspot.com | 2011

CAConrad’s cinéma vérité “video journal of contemporary poetry” has had an auspicious first eight months, showcasing an astounding array of poets in its fifty-five installments, along with another thirty-one video tributes to Allen Ginsberg curated for this year’s Howl Festival. The common factor uniting these authors is their friendship with Conrad himself—recently hailed by Ron Silliman as “Philly poetry’s modern day Ben Franklin”—and the various episodes are filmed either when these poets visit Philadelphia or when Conrad travels outside of his hometown. Jupiter 88 is a testament to the power of coterie fostered by technology, or better still, technology fostered by coterie: though our viewing experience is nonetheless vicarious and mediated, it’s also an intimate one, bolstered by the host’s affinity for his guests, the brief glimpses of their private spaces and the personalized touches, including the strange props that frequently dominate the frame. Moreover, Jupiter 88’s creative use of technology at the disposal of many (a webcam, Facebook used as a media host, Blogger used as a homepage) not only serves as an idiosyncratic document of a thriving period in contemporary poetics, but also welcomes the remote viewer into that discourse.

Claudia Rankine | Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric | Graywolf | 2004

In last year’s Attention Span list, I praised Maggie Nelson’s Bluets as “a breathtakingly ambitious work that crosses genres and disciplines as it explores its enigmatically ambiguous topic,” and this year I’m glad to have found another book that accomplishes all this and more. While Nelson maintains an essential continuity throughout her diverse investigations, Rankine dwells in the possibilities of fragmentation, allowing the swiftly-scattered subject matter to thread emotional connections at its own leisurely pace. Moreover, while both authors lull readers into a welcome intimacy with the author and take risks in terms of form, Rankine’s metatextual wizardry (including copious illustrations, David Foster Wallace-esque endnotes and found intertexts) achieves the startling effect of placing readers inside and outside of the book simultaneously. Reading Don’t Let Me Be Lonely at a peaceful seaside retreat in North Carolina, I experienced a further distancing from the deeply-felt litany of violence contained therein (the Oklahoma City Bombing, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, and most saliently, September 11th), and was moved to feel lost time and pain return with such great immediacy.

CANADA (Luis Cerveró, Nicolás Méndez & Lope Serrano) | various music videos, shorts, commercials, etc. | http://www.lawebdecanada.com | 2008-present

Like many people, I first encountered this Barcelona-based directors collective last fall through their unforgettable video for El Guincho’s “Bombay”: a dizzying, rapid-fire montage of cinema and sex, evoking Man Ray, Réne Magritte, Erwin Wurm, Michel Gondry, b-movies, and much, much more. Other stunning clips followed (for Scissor Sisters’ “Invisible Light,” Two Door Cinema Club’s “What You Know” and most recently, Battles’ “Ice Cream”) and browsing through their website I was surprised to find an expansive archive of films of all sorts—shorts, screen tests, ads, television bumpers, etc.—underscoring CANADA’s ambitious mission of “creative excellence in projects in a variety of areas: advertising, fashion, music videos, TV and cultural events.” Though the quick and sunny collage style’s emerged as the group’s hallmark, they can also produce gorgeous results from simpler and quieter concepts, and while I experience the same giddy joy as watching a younger generation of music video auteurs (Gondry, Spike Jonze, Mark Romanek, Jonathan Glazer, Anton Corbijn) come into their own, this feels different. Instead of biding their time with music videos until the movie studios come calling, CANADA’s work, though steeped in cinema history, seems perfectly conceived for the 21st century—attention-grabbing art for art’s sake that courts short attention spans and revels in the possibilities of microforms.

Lorine Niedecker | Collected Works | California | 2002

The somewhat accidental launch of PennSound’s Lorine Niedecker author page this past winter—thanks to the intervention of Marcella Durand and Eric Baus (the full story’s here)—sent me back to Jenny Penberthy’s marvelous Collected Works to reconnect. I made my way through her poetic output over the course of a long Megabus ride to Chicago, moved not only by its great variety, but also its continuities: the Objectivist observational minimalisms that lay dormant through her neglected middle years only to flourish again in her marvelous final poems. It’s further testament to Niedecker’s tragic circumstances that there’s so little audio of her, and yet I’m grateful that we have Cid Corman’s brief recording of Harpsichord & Salt Fish poems to present to our listeners.

Charles Bernstein | Attack of the Difficult Poems: Essays and Inventions | Chicago | 2011

Our new decade’s brought with it not only a career-spanning Bernstein retrospective (All the Whiskey in Heaven) but also a new volume of critical work: the long-overdue Attack of the Difficult Poems, his first collection of this sort since 1999’s My Way: Speeches and Poems. Rereading old favorites (“Against National Poetry Month as Such,” “Poetry Bailout Will Restore Confidence of Readers,” “Recantorium [a bachelor machine, after Duchamp after Kafka]”) and discovering hidden gems (“Electronic Pies in the Poetry Skies,” “Making Audio Visible: Poetry’s Coming Digital Presence”), what I’m most struck by is poetry’s rapid techno-cultural evolution, from late-90s days of Usenet, listservs and America Online to our current “wreaderly” quasi-utopia, where open source venues like PennSound, Jacket2, the Electronic Poetry Center, UbuWeb, Eclipse, the aforementioned Jupiter88 and scores more make work available to ever-widening audiences. Conversely, while it’s heartening to realize how far we’ve come, Bernstein’s still-incisive criticism reminds us how this process has only served to widen the chasm between poetry’s progressive wing and “official verse culture.” After so much worthwhile looking backwards in these recent volumes, what I most want is a collection of the new poems that have accumulated in the five years since Girly Man.

Yoko Ono | Grapefruit: a Book of Instructions and Drawings | Simon & Schuster | 1970 Yoko Ono | Onobox | Rykodisc | 1992

Yoko Ono’s work always occupied a respectful, if peripheral, place in my mind. Certainly, I thought her contributions to Double Fantasy were better than John Lennon’s, and happily scorned those making cheap jokes at her expense; however I never really had the chance to immerse myself in her work until this past year. Grapefruit was fascinating, largely for the ways in which its event pieces firmly root her in, yet subvert Fluxus tradition (Ono can be, at times, more whimsical, more poetic, or more emotionally attuned than, say, George Brecht), but also for the way in which its texts served as raw materials for her diverse musical pursuits. While Onobox showcases plenty of what folks might stereotypically expect—namely, challenging avant-garde voice pieces and sound collages—that’s finished after one disc, and the remaining five sides are filled with ridiculously good stuff that even pedestrian listeners couldn’t find fault with: uncompromising feminist anthems, wry social observations, solid grooves, haunting ballads, blistering rockers, New Wave experimentation, and much more. We made a two-disc distillation of the best bits for the car and listened to it nonstop through the new year’s bleak opening months, happily singing along with each track.

Keith Haring: 1978-1982 | Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati | 2011

I’ve loved Haring’s work ever since I was a child and yet in all my years of museum-going, I don’t recall ever seeing his work in person, so you can imagine my delight in discovering that a newly-curated show focusing on the artist’s formative years was debuting downtown at the CAC. To be honest, it’s a somewhat imperfect show, ending just as Haring hit his stride, but the absence of work from his primetime years and his poignant final output is more than made up for by the sheer density of materials archived here—plenty of paintings, but also flyers, video works, sketchbooks, diaries, slideshows and all sorts of other ephemera. What impressed me most was the opportunity to interact with these ancillary artifacts, tracing lines of influence (most notably the Burroughs/Gysin cut-up method) and seeing how Haring’s multifarious student interests were honed into an idiosyncratic style.

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More Michael S. Hennessey here.

Hennessey’s Attention Span for 20102009. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2011 | Johannes Göransson

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Jenny Boully | not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them | Tarpaulin Sky | 2011

A poetic novel that inhabits J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy, or perhaps a novel that is haunted by the older book, or that haunts it. Much like Sara Stridsberg’s novel (see below) inhabits and is haunted by Nabokov’s text. And like Stridsberg, it’s deeply lyrical and beautiful, as well as disturbing.

Blake Butler| There is No Year | Harper Perennial | 2011

Another hallucinatory poem-as-novel, much like the Lonely Christopher (see below), as well as David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” in its striking images and scenes; and like Lynch’s movie, it’s explores the gothic trope of the “haunted house” in an age of media saturation.

Daniel Borzutzky | The Book of Interfering Bodies | Nightboat | 2011

This book begins with an epigraph from the 9/11 Commission Report: “It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratiizing, the exercise of the imagination.” One response to this might be to write poems as far away from bureaucracies as possible (an escape into nature or some such), but Borzutzky decides to go through the giant bureaucracy of the “war on terror,” pushing the clinical, euphemistic discourses of a patriot-act government into beautiful, disturbing hallucinations.

Aimé Césaire, trans. A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman | Solar Throat Slashed | Wesleyan | 2011

This is a new translation of the 1948 unexpurgated edition of this book by the legendary Martinican poet Aimé Césaire, maybe the greatest poet of the 20th century. This was Cesaire’s second book, following the legendary Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, and it extend the disturbing, grotesque, beautiful visions of that book. I’m eternally grateful to Eshleman for not only writing his own fine poems but also for his translations of some of the greatest poets of the 20th century: Césaire, Artaud, Vallejo.

Feng Sun Chen | Ugly Fish | Radioactive Moat | 2011

An extreme case of “ugly feelings,” pushed to the limit and then pushed through the limit. The final section begins with an homage to Plath: “The poet does not survive. / Now she is already dead. / Born for the crate / Pure fat being with ammary and simultaneous craters.” But then she goes through the woman’s body with its insects eggs and ham-iness (in every sense of the term) and ends up in a space overwhelmed by affect, a space of Raúl Zurita carrying “the bodies of Chile like a rattle.” It’s not an epiphany but an intensive state of affect, of meat supersaturated by Art.

Lonely Christopher | The Mechanics of Homosexual Intercourse | Akaschik | 2011

Short stories as prose poems based on relentless modulations of basic sentence structures and vibrant hallucinations. Seems similar to Butler’s book in its haunted, exhaustive, upsetting, poetic aesthetic.

Seyhan Erözcelik, trans. Murat Nemet-Nejat | Rose-Strikes and Coffee Grinds | Talisman | 2010

The language is positively buzzing, words being broken down and recombined in a saturative zone emblematized by that oldest of symbols, the rose: “Rape me. / With my invisible groom. / In your crime bed.” Comes with Nemet-Nejat’s quixotic interpretative framework. He’s an example of a translator whose fidelity to the original takes him so close to it that he comes out the other side, in a place akin to madness.

Polly Jean Harvey | Let England Shake | Vagrant | 2011

I had no idea PJ Harvey could make such a beautiful, poetic record. I had no idea anybody could make a record this beautiful about “England” and its dead sailors and “deformed children.”

Johan Jönson | Efter arbetschema | Bonnier | 2009

This was published a couple of years ago but frankly it’s so long that it has taken me a while to finish it. Jönson is a leading “conceptual poet” in Sweden, a working-class poet whose subject matter is often his job: shoveling shit at an old people’s home. One might say, in line with the typical claim for conceptual poetry, that this 800-page obsessive-desperate poem-as-diary is “unreadable.” But it strikes me as almost “un-write-able.” Jönson made an early debut in the late 80s as a promising poet, but then he disappeared from the Swedish poetry scene, instead writing plays for political gatherings, such as union meetings or information meetings for battered women. These performances were based on interviews with the audience. Since being rediscovered around 2000, he has written many pieces based on samplings of various kinds (Danielle Collobert’s diary in Collobert Orbital, which I translated a while back for Displaced Press). And the shit-shoveling, the sampling, the diary all come together in this paranoid, almost unreadable, unwrite-able 800-pager.

Stina Kajaso | Son of Daddy blog | http://sonofdaddy.blogspot.com/ | 2011

Some of my favorite “poems” of the past year has been the ranty entries on performance artist Stina Kajaso’s ultra-gurlesque blog of roughly biographical writing. If it’s biographical it’s in the best sense: performative, fantastic, ridiculous, excessive, over-the-top. And for people who don’t read Swedish, it’s got hilarious, ridiculous collages and videos (such as the one in which she explains how to put a fake sore on your shoulder and why that’s a pretty thing). She’s as likely to talk about eurovision competition as performance art (which is to say she’s likely to talk a lot about both topics).

Sean Kilpatrick | Fuckscapes | Blue Square | 2011

The violent, sexual zone of television and entertainment is made to saturate that safe-haven, the American Family. The result is a zone of violent ambience, a “fuckscape”: where every object or word can be made to do horrific acts. As when torturers use banal objects on its victims, it is the most banal objects that become the most horrific (and hilarious) in Sean Kilpatrick’s brilliant first book.

Alexander McQueen | Savage Beauty | 2011

I love these dresses (outfits, costumes) made in the mode of what McQueen insightfully called “Romantic Gothic” (my favorite genre), dresses that seem to be in the process of hybridizing with the scuffed-up mannequins, generating horns and leaves. When I first got this book earlier this summer, I was in the midst of translating Swedish poet Aase Berg’s masterpiece Dark Matter and it struck me immediately that McQueen’s outfits are perhaps closer aesthetically to this book than just about any book of American (or Swedish) poetry.

Joyelle McSweeney | The Necropastoral | Spork | 2011

This beautiful book, decorated with Andrew Shuta’s Eazy-E-featured collages, includes McSweeney’s “King Prion” possessions, which are both about and formally based on the “prion” that causes Mad Cow’s Disease, as well as two lyrical essays on McSweeney’s concept of “the necropastoral.”

Alice Notley | Culture of One | Penguin | 2011

Notley is one of my absolute favorite poets and this series of interlinked prose pieces meditating on “mercy” (which I read as “Art” with its “thousand tentacles”) might be my favorite of her many books. It’s also her most grotesque, full of odd monster bodies, such as “the death fish.” Absolutely visionary. As in books like Alma and Descent of Alette, Notley uses narrative in a fascinating way—at times in rants, at times in dramatic monologues. I love this book.

Sara Stridsberg | Darling River | Albert Bonnier Förlag | 2010

I love Stridsberg’s previous book, The Dream Department as well. That one is a kind of dream diary of Valerie Solanis. This one is a dreamy story of a series of “Lolitas,” including Nabokov’s original Lolita (which of course was tragically not an original but based on a memory and Edgar Allen Poe’s “Annabelle Lee,” and also supposedly stolen by Nabokov from a Nazi neighbor). The central Lolita, named after Nabokov’s character, drives around in a hallucinatory landscape of forest fires and prostitutes with her dubious father, who has been abandoned by her mother. Together they shoot target practice on her clothes nailed up on trees in the woods. A visionary, baroque novel as poem. Or poem as novel.

Anja Utler, trans. Kurt Beals | engulf – enkindle | Burning Deck |2010

If the sublime is the intrusion of a foreign object, this books gives a kind of negative sublime: the reader as an intrusion into the text, whish “engulf[s]” the reader with an intensity somewhat reminiscent of Danielle Collobert.

Ronaldo Wilson | Poems of the Black Object | Futurepoem | 2010

Poems not only about America’s “wound culture” but in and of America’s “wound culture.” Out of those wounds leaks Art. Grotesquely beautiful. Wilson’s first book, The Narrative of the Brown Boy and White Man is also a good book. My favorite pieces in the first book recount dreams; the entire second book generates a kind of wounded dream space where Wilson explores the violence and sexuality that surrounds race in our culture.

Uljana Wolf, trans. Nathaniel Otting | My Cadastre | Nor By | 2009

Wolf explores a tension between the hierarchical/Freudian family with an ambient language-scape where fathers and daughters multiply and get rearranged in language. And of course this kind of language-scape is interesting for purposes of translation. Especially with words like “Cadastre” or “flurbuch,” the “ownership” that seems to be “translated” away. The accounts are unsettled.

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Johannes Göransson is the author of four books, most recently Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate as well as several books of Swedish poetry in translation. He teaches at the University of Notre Dame, co-edits Action Books and Action, Yes, and blogs at www.montevidayo.com.

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Attention Span 2011 | Anne Boyer

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Alice Notley | Culture of One | Penguin | 2011 

Bernadette Mayer | Studying Hunger Journal | Station Hill | 2011

China Miéville | Embassytown | Del Rey | 2011

Dana Ward | This Can’t Be Life | Edge | Forthcoming 2011

Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö | The Story of a Crime | Various Publishers | 1965-1975

Maureen McHugh | Nekropolis | Eos | 2002

Patrik Ouedník | The Opportune Moment, 1855 | Dalkey Archive | 2011

Paul Chan | The essential and incomplete Sade for Sade’s sake Ebook | Badlands Unlimited | 2011

Paul Chan | Phaedrus Pron Ebook | Badlands Unlimited | 2011

Rosa Luxemburg | The Letters of Rosa Luxemburg | Verso | 2011

Jacques Rancière | The Philosopher and His Poor | Duke | 2004

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Attention Span 2011 | David Dowker

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Will Alexander | Compression & Purity | City Lights | 2011

Caroline Bergvall | Meddle English | Nightboat | 2011

Michael Boughn | Cosmographia | BookThug | 2010 

Clark Coolidge | This Time We Are Both | Ugly Duckling | 2010

Robert Duncan, ed. Michael Boughn and Victor Coleman | The H.D. Book | California | 2011

William Fuller | Hallucination | Flood | 2011

Carla Harryman & Lyn Hejinian | The Wide Road | Belladonna | 2011

Susan Howe | That This | New Directions | 2010

Alice Notley | Culture of One | Penguin | 2011

George Quasha | Verbal Paradise | Zasterle | 2010

Leslie Scalapino | The Dihedrons Gazelle-Dihedrals Zoom | Post-Apollo | 2010

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Dowker’s Attention Span for 201020092008200720062005. Back to 2011 directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Steve Evans

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Susan Howe | Souls of the Labadie Track | New Directions | 2007
George Stanley | Vancouver | New Star | 2008
Rae Armantrout | Versed | Wesleyan | 2009
Emmanuel Hocquard | Une Grammaire de Tanger, vols. I-II | cipM | 2007 & 2009

This not altogether arbitrary constellation of texts occupied me so thoroughly in the summer and early fall of 2009 that I abandoned my usual custom of trying to “catch up” with the other books I’d missed during the academic year. Now, if I could only salvage the long essay that grew out of this reading—with excursions into social media, Viktor Shklovsky’s “red elephant,” Roland Barthes’s “neutral,” Wallace Stevens’s poem “The Course of a Particular,” and lots of other odds & ends—I’d feel less like a dope.

Thomas Pynchon | V. | Lippincott | 1961

Not sure why I was so slow in coming to Pynchon. Something about the reputation put me off—as did a certain species of (inevitably male) graduate student whose admiration for him awoke the opposite in me back in the nineties. I waited to tackle Gravity’s Rainbow until the summer and fall of 2006, and then had the good luck to join an Against the Day “deathmarch” that a friend of Rodney Koeneke’s organized in the winter and spring of 2007. Last summer I purchased Inherent Vice on its pub date and read it quickly and easily as August waned in a gesture of “contemporaneity”—I wanted to read a book of his while it was new. V. is, in a way, my “favorite”: lexically, it remains startlingly fresh; the syntax, sentence by sentence, is a little simpler than in Gravity’s Rainbow, but it crackles with ingenious combinations and doesn’t “blur” as often as in that masterpiece; and there’s a levity—not withstanding some very dark subject matter—that charms, even at a distance of nearly fifty years.

Bob Dylan | Chronicles, Volume One | Simon & Schuster | 2004
David Hadju | Positively 4th Street | Farrar | 2001
Martin Scorsese, dir. | No Direction Home | Spitfire Pictures | 2005

Because Richard Farina had been Pynchon’s roommate at Cornell, and because I remember Jennifer liking it back nearer to its release date, I decided to interleave Hadju’s Positively Fourth Street with my first pass through V. The Dylan therein portrayed is hard to like, which I confess suits my state of burn out, not so much with Dylan as with his worshipers, just fine, even if the account of the Farinas struck me as unbalanced in the other direction. Dave van Ronk in the present, the British boo-ers, and the historical footage were what I liked best Scorsese’s fan letter, though its recipient-subject’s spoken timbre was nice, too.

Samuel Beckett, ed. Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck | The Letters of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1940 | Cambridge | 2009

In addition to affording me an unexpected apprenticeship to Beckett’s acute eye for visual art— I took advantage of the meticulous footnotes to track down digital images of many of the paintings he mentions—this volume also taught me a lot about cysts, understatement, and friendship. The last chance trip through Hitler’s Germany is a highlight, as are the letters mentioning Beckett’s fateful psychoanalysis with Bion, about whom I’d like to know more. Along the way, I couldn’t help dipping into More Pricks Than Kicks, Gontaski’s edition of The Complete Short Prose, and the relevant chapters in Knowlson’s Damned to Fame, and I now look forward to rereading Murphy for the first time since 1987, though I cringe in handling the battered and slightly smelly paperback that I evidently paid three dollars for used in some Hillcrest bookshop—may be time to invest in a fresh copy (and anyway, I always underline the same passages, no matter how much time has passed between readings).

Handel, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner | Acis & Galatea (1718) | Deutsche Grammophon | 1979

The exquisite symmetry and line-by-line brilliance of the libretto by Alexander Pope and John Gay combine with Handel’s Stein-like mania for repetition (“da capo”!) to produce the best account of desire’s circuitry to reach my ears of late. Saw the Boston Early Music Festival’s production in the fall & have been wearing out the CD, whose Polyphemus (of the “capacious mouth”) I find more convincing, since.

Jacques Lacan | Le Séminaire, Livre XVII: L’envers de la psychanalyse, 1969-1970 | Seuil | 1991
Jacques Lacan, trans. Russell Grigg | The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis | Norton 2007

Weaving between Grigg’s English and the original text as established by J-A Miller, with plenty of swerves back into Freud (esp. the dream of the butcher’s witty wife and the paper “A Child Is Being Beaten”), and out into the archive of historical unrest just following 1968, I slowly—it took most of a year—made it through this perhaps liveliest and timeliest of Lacan’s many seminars. I adore the seminar form (Barthes on The Neutral, Kojève on Hegel, etc.), and am always astonished by Lacan’s perverse inhabitation of its conventions, which he systematically deranges with all the cunning condensations, displacements, and half-sayings of Freud’s “dreamwork,” supplemented by a humor that is dry and Duchampian one moment, hot and “hysterical” the next.

For a while, I enjoyed the ghostly company of some “slacker Lacanians” who joined a Facebook group (called “Selon Lacan” in homage to the Vancouver-based “Lacan Salon”) with the intention of reading Seminar XVII together. Nearly none of us carried through, but it was an interesting experiment in dispersed intellectual community using a platform otherwise devoted mostly to channel-flooding triviality.

Brian Eno | Another Green World | EG | 1975

David Sheppard’s 2008 biography, On Some Faraway Beach, abused the adjective “bespoke,” the verb “essay,” and several synonyms for premature baldness in the course of 450 dutiful, enthusiastic, and well-informed pages. Geeta Dayal’s contribution to Continuum’s 33 1/3 project— which, judging from several posts to the series’ blog, didn’t come easy—is more modest in scope, and though it mutes the note of “idiot glee” without which Eno comes off as just a pretentious ass, it did lead me into a round of close and repeated listens (to Here Come the Warm Jets, too) that solved nicely the problem of what to do with my ears while driving for more than a month.

Denis Diderot, trans. Jacques Barzun | Rameau’s Nephew | Doubleday | 1956

Myself: Gently, dear fellow. Look and tell me—I shan’t take your uncle as an example. He is a hard man, brutal, inhuman, miserly, a bad father, bad husband, and bad uncle. And it is by no means sure that he is a genius who has advanced his art to such a point that ten years from now we shall still discuss his works. Take Racine instead—there was a genius, and his reputation as a man was none too good. Take Voltaire—

He: Don’t press the point too far: I am a man to argue with you.

Myself: Well, which would you prefer—that he should have been a good soul, at one with his ledger, like Briasson, or with his yardstick, like Barbier; legitimately getting his wife with child annually—a good husband, good father, good uncle, good neighbor, fair trader and nothing more; or that he should have been deceitful, disloyal, ambitious, envious, and mean, but also the creator of Andromaque, Britannicus, Iphigénie, Phèdre, and Athalie?

He: For himself I daresay it would have been better to be the former.

Myself: That is infinitely truer than you think.

He: There you go, you fellows! If we say anything good, it’s like lunatics or people possessed—by accident. It’s only people like you who really know what they’re saying. I tell you, Master Philosopher, I know what I say and know it as well as you know what you say. (13-14).

Another “swerve” out of Lacan’s Seminar XVII, with incentive added by the fascinating role this text—in Goethe’s translation—plays in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Highly recommended.

Matthew Weiner, creator and exec. producer | Mad Men | AMC | 2007-

Conjures the taste of the maraschino cherry from my father’s Manhattan on my childhood tongue and all that it intimated about the catastrophe of masculinity. The casting, costuming, scripting, and small-screen mise-en-scène are frequently faultless—pace, for example, “Guy Walks into an Ad Agency,” from season three—and the glance back at an “adult” world long since extinguished by a youth culture that squeezes even geezers into skinny jeans & hoodies is weirdly entrancing. As Noël Coward presciently asked in 1955, “What’s going to happen to the children / When there aren’t any more grown-ups?” Mad Men is a kind of an answer.

Alice Notley | Reason and Other Women | Chax | 2010
Andrew Joron | Trance Archive | City Lights | 2010
Aaron Kunin | The Sore Throat | Fence | 2010

My quick take on “trance” poetics is here. Even a squib can take months of reading!

Bob Perelman & Michael Golston, organizers | Rethinking Poetics | Columbia & University of Pennsylvania | 2010
Anne Waldman et al., organizers | Summer Writing Program | Naropa | 2010

I went directly from one (Columbia) to the other (Naropa) and so had more poetry-centric personal contact in a ten day stretch in June than I would normally experience in a year. Both spaces were fraught with anxiety, and even antagonism, but I found them exhilarating anyway, especially in the interstices, where kindness, curiosity, and a shared commitment to making language do unexpected things tended to dispel the negativity that the “official proceedings” (especially at Columbia) so often generated. Joanne Kyger’s ability to transform a drab hotel room in Boulder into an oasis of sociability through the deft placement of a very few but beautiful objects holds the place here for all the other pleasures I experienced during those ten days—that and her wonderful advice, frequently sung, “Don’t explain!”

More Steve Evans here. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – Anselm Berrigan

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Thomas Bernhard, trans. Sophie Wilkins | Correction | Vintage | 1975

Thomas Bernhard, trans. Ewald Osers | Old Masters | Chicago | 1985

Hoa Nguyen | Hecate Lochia | Hot Whiskey | 2009

Allison Cobb | Green-Wood | Heretical Texts | 2010

Murat Nemet-Nejat | The Structure of Escape | Talisman | forthcoming

David Markson | Reader’s Block | Dalkey Archive | 1996

Ralph Waldo Emerson | “Experience” | various | 1844

Robert Bresson, trans. Jonathan Griffin | Notes on the Cinematographer | Green Integer | 1975

Eleni Stecopoulos | Armies of Compassion | Palm | 2010

Lorine Niedecker | “Wintergreen Ridge,” in Collected Works, ed. Jenny Penberthy | California | 2002

Fred Moten | B Jenkins | Duke | 2010

Pattie McCarthy | Table Alphabetical of Hard Words | Apogee | 2010

Jean Fremon | The Paradoxes of Robert Ryman | Burning Square/Brooklyn Rail | 2008

Jess Mynes | Sky Brightly Picked | Skysill | 2009

Alice Notley | Reason & Other Women | Chax | 2010

Karen Weiser | To Light Out | Ugly Duckling | 2010

Stanislaw Lem | Fiasco | Harvest/HBJ | 1987

Ann Lauterbach | “Or To Begin Again” | Penguin | 2009

Robert Fitterman | “This Window Makes Me Feel,” in Rob the Plagiarist | Roof | 2009

More Anselm Berrigan here. His Attention Span for 2009, 2007, 2004. Back to directory.

Attention Span 2010 – David Dowker

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Will Alexander | The Sri Lankan Loxodrome | New Directions | 2009

Laynie Browne | The Desires of Letters | Counterpath | 2010

Mark Goldstein | Tracelanguage | BookThug | 2010

Karen Mac Cormack | Tale Light | BookThug / West House | 2010

Camille Martin | Sonnets | Shearsman | 2010

Steve McCaffery | Verse and Worse | Wilfrid Laurier University | 2010

Laura Moriarty | A Tonalist | Nightboat | 2010

Alice Notley | Reason and Other Women | Chax | 2010

Lisa Robertson | R’s Boat | California | 2010

Leslie Scalapino | Floats Horse-Floats or Horse-Flows | Starcherone | 2010

Lissa Wolsak | Squeezed Light | Station Hill | 2010

More David Dowker here. His Attention Span for 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005. Back to directory.